Friday, June 14, 2013

Beguiling Begonias

Count me as someone who used to ignore begonias, that is until I discovered just how varied and beautiful, even spectacular, begonias can be. Yes, I knew about the wonderful colors of tuberous varieties and I have those in my garden. Discovering cane begonias opened my eyes to a wider world, that group containing such gems as B. 'Irene Nuss.' There are the Angelwings types, which feature dramatically spotted leaves. Then there are the Rex begonias, with their fabulous reds & silvers. One of the most curious hybrids in this latter group is B. Escargot. One look at its spiraling leaves and you immediately get its common name. My mind turned to begonias this week as my B. rex 'Escargot' is looking better than ever, along with the sensational Begonia 'Sparkler,' which looks to be a B. boliviensis hybrid. Same fabulous reddish-orange tubular flowers. Speaking of orange, my completely charming B. sutherlandii is starting to bloom, producing its first orange-sherbert flowers. It's a low growing, petite tuberous type. This is all to say I've become a bit of a fan of begonias, that much misunderstood garden "staple."
So, here are a few photos of my begonia collection and other photos of my mid-June garden.

Begonia sutherlandii. Utterly charming and sort of unassuming. Not as showy as some but makes up for it with a one of a kind flower color and its spilling habit.

Begonia 'Sparkler.' This B. boliviensis hybrid IS showy, in fact, it's in-your-face showy. And prolific. This shot is from last year but this year it's back to its old tricks, blazing with color.

 Begonia 'Escargot.' Simply one of the coolest plants found in our neck of the woods. Why it has the nautilus shape is Nature's own secret but no one ever mistakes it, that's for sure.

Begonia rex variety. Here's a more conventional rex hybrid, with its intricate patterns and silver dusting.

Fuchsia variety. Though prone to the dreaded fuchsia mite, this guy has battled back and is producing some of the largest flowers among common cascading hybrids. They look cool when they're in their pure white unopened phase, as well as when they're open.

Two calibrachoas, the left being a mini-double type and the one on the right a new selection called Lemon Slice. Pleasing color combination to the eye.

Cuphea Vienco Burgundy. Wasn't sure this one would return -- it was late -- but here it is in all its blazing glory.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' I know what you're thinking -- "That's an echinacea!!?" Yep. It's a new double variety now available in the trade and damned if it doesn't look some underwater crimson jellyfish! Wild.

Okay, three guesses what this is. Nope, not that. Nor that. It's a closeup of sunflower buds. I was aiming for this look (kind of otherworldly) but sometimes a shot doesn't come out as planned. We don't normally think of sunflowers as having this much down but then closeups reveal a whole other level of reality.

Catananche 'Amor White.' Not as easily found as the purple Cupid's Dart, this white variety has its own charm. Papery flower buds add to its intrigue.

Bromeliad species. Not even the owner at The Pond Place near Petaluma knew the exact identity of this guy. But it's sent up a new flower spike and I can't wait to see those spectacular orange flowers again.

Davallia mariesii. Better known as Squirrel's Foot fern (related to Rabbit's Foot fern), this lovely fern not only has dense, delicate foliage but curious hair-lined creeping rhizomes that look an awful lot like tarantula legs to this eye. My favorite fern.

 Ten guesses what ... No, I won't make you guess. It's Amorphophallus kiusianus and if the genus name sounds vaguely familiar that's because its more famous species mate is A. titanum, known affectionately as Corpse flower. The latter is thought to possess the largest flower on earth (actually the spathe & spadix combo). A. kiusianus is of course much smaller but almost as cool. It can take them a long time to bloom but I was lucky that mine did so in my first year of owning it.

Tropical corner. Another shot of my evolving tropical corner, which contains a red banana, three gingers, two cannas, a black bamboo and the ever sprawling Hydrangea quercifolia.

Helenium Mardi Gras. It's not uncommon to see a bee on one of this long blooming plant's flowers. I'm just not usually in the right place at the right time.

 Leucophyta brownii. Curiously known as Cushion bush, this singular small bush is a real delight.

And now announcing her Highness 'Lady Granville!' Dianthus Lady Granville that is, one of my favorite carnations. Maybe I'm just hungry while gardening but it often looks exactly like Raspberry Swirl ice cream!

Speaking of food, shrimp anyone? Well, not exactly but this Justicia brandegeeana is sometimes commonly called Shrimp plant. Hmm, where's my cocktail sauce? 

Iochroma 'Burgundy Wine.' The same plant as the purple iochroma but with a lovely burgundy bloom. Like I. cyanea, it grows so quickly you can practically pull up a chair and see it grow.

Thalictrum rochebrunianum. My favorite meadow rue and though I couldn't quite get this shot in perfect focus (the flower is so small), it's kind of a cool shot, especially the soft focus on the unopened flowers.

Cestrum aurantiacum. Mine has gotten huge (forget 10' tall, mine is probably 20') but when it's filled with tiny orange star-shaped flowers it's awe-inspiring.

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