Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's all Greek, er Latin, to Us

To those of us who pay attention to the botanical names of plants (which are of course Latin, at least down to the genus and most species names), we are used to this ages old language to refer to plant identities. I've always taken them for granted but in the last few years it dawned on me that certain terms were repeating in species' names and that these had a particular meaning that stayed the same no matter which genus they were attached to. But it wasn't until I saw an abbreviated list of these that the proverbial lightbulb went off. So I thought it might be fun to share some of these with you, with examples to clarify their floral meanings. I'll spread them out over several posts so as not to deluge those with a short attention span for such things. Also, I've posted some new photos of my garden for those who prefer to skip directly to them. Okay, here goes.

"album" or "albus" -- having white flowers. As in Pandorea jasminoides 'Alba,' the white flowering form of the Bower vine.
"arborescens" -- woody or becoming tree-like. As with, Fuchsia arborescens, the nearly tree-like species that is multi-branching and eventually woody.
"aurantiacus" -- having orange flowers. Good examples are Mimulus aurantiacus and Cestrum aurantiacum, both featuring orange flowers.
"barbatus" -- bearded. One example would be Plectranthus barbatus, with its 'fuzzy' leaves.
"caeruleum" or "caeruleus" -- deep blue. Variants of this species name show up with regularity, especially for plants with blue flowers such Passiflora caerulea and Allium careuleum.
"capitatus" -- forming a head. This can be seen in the lovely Gilia capitata, which forms round blue flower heads.
"chrysantha" -- golden flowered. One of my favorites is Edgeworthia chrysantha, having pure golden and very fragrant flowers. Or Aquilegia chrysantha, a columbine with large yellow flowers.
"decumbens" -- trailing but with upright tips. Such as Trillium decumbens, the tall, airy Gomphrena decumbens and an Erigeron species native to Oregon - E. decumbens.
"foetidus" -- foul smelling. That would be Helleborus foetidus. The common name for this Lenten Rose is 'stinking hellebore.' This Latin term yields the English term "fetid."
"frutescens" -- shrub-like. So, no, nothing to do with fruit but referring to the form that a plant takes, as with Teucrium fruticans, which unlike most low growing teucriums forms a six foot high shrub.

Okay, I think everybody's eyes are glazing over by now (including mine). Here are some pretty pictures!

Heavenly Blue morning glory with coleus. Anybody who loves blue HAS to grow this annual morning glory. Huge pure blue flowers just are a sight to behold!

Dug out this nice ceramic half moon planter and decided to put a lovely bronze Sweet Potato vine in it. We'll see if it trails or tries to climb on the window ledge.

I'm a sucker for lilies and Tiger lilies are one of my faves. They tend to be prolific, another endearing quality they possess.

Speaking of orange, here's a closer shot of my Mimulus Jelly Bean Orange plant. Love that color and it's a California native to boot. The sticky part of their common name I get. But Monkey? Hmm ...

Chaenomeles 'Cameo.' So many ornamental quince, so little space. This coral colored cultivar is particularly lovely.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope.' This variegated, white flowering abelia is a new entry to my garden. I reluctantly dug out a perfectly good spirea to make room for it. It's still low now but when it fills out it should be fab.

I do love clematis, I now have eight of them, but I have a special place in my heart for this C. integrifolia. First of all, vivid purplish-blue flowers! Then there's the nodding habit. This one has finally gotten a toehold and is more floriferous this year.

Clematis viorna seedhead. Another nodding clematis, this one produces seedheads that are a little different than most clematis.

Clethra alnifolia. Summersweet, as it's known, earns its rep. I couldn't really pin down its distinctive & unusual scent then realized it smells like sarsaparilla! Hmm, I wonder if there's a botanical term that means "smells like sarsaparilla."

Iochroma coccinea. Amazing what a little (okay a lot at one time) water can do to get iochromas to bloom. This one is on my narrow west side strip that doesn't get a whole lot of regular water. Things still grow (it earns its name Jungle) but look so much better with a little water.

Iochroma burgundy. This one does get regular water and it has rewarded me with bunches of burgundy blooms.

Habranthus tubispathos. Many thanks to Kiamara for gifting me this little S. American member of the Amaryllis family. I didn't expect it to bloom this year but lo and behold it put forward this gorgeous gold bloom.

Calibrachoa mini-famous Peach. Just the loveliest speckled rosy-peach colors!

Mandevillea 'Giant Crimson.' Crimson indeed. These flowers are SO red that I can't shoot an extreme closeup as the saturated color throws the camera into a tizzy. Okay, freakout.

Gloriosa lily. I tried several times in the past to get this bulb to grow with little success. I guess the third time is the charm. Now it's very happy, as you can see from this 'perfect' bloom. And the first of the two flowering stems has six flower buds, way more than last year.

Okay, it's just a day lily but that red is so vivid. Thick waxy petals too.

Thursday, July 18, 2013


The above numbers aren't some obscure code but in fact what our Bay Area temperatures have jumped to in the space of two weeks. The weather poses certain challenges for gardens, especially watering. As if we gardeners didn't have enough challenges.
Here are a few more photos from my mid-July garden. Mid-July? Wasn't it just May last week? How time flies by when you're weeding, pruning, re-planting and fertilizing non-stop, n'est-ce pas? Don't forget to stop and smell the ... well, in my case that would be fragrant herbs, which I've been adding to my garden. There's the wonderful citrus aroma of lemon verbena and the sweet smells of the cascading Yerba Buena. I have those in a pot with a non-herb that is curiously referred to as Cuban oregano. Then there's the 7-Up plant, Stachys albotomentosa. And yes, damn if it doesn't smell like 7-Up. I keep these all at the base of my stairs so I can smell them every day if I choose.

Ensete 'Maurelii.' This ornamental red banana is a great way to add foliage to a tropical area (as I've done). I though this backlit shot showed off the beauty of its foliage rather well.

Ladybug on leucospermum. Okay, I love ladybugs but this IS a cute shot. In England they're called Ladybirds.

Lilium citronelle. A yellow tiger lily! Love it!

Abelmoschus. Another shot of this hibiscus relative. Love that butter yellow and the burgundy eye.

The silver and yellow plant is Chrysocephalum (Sweet Everlasting) and the reddish-purple flowering one beside it is my oh-so-happy Cuphea Vienco. Great color combo.

Hydrangea quercifolia. This photo shows the newer white sterile flowers, which age to pink. Everything about this plant is just so fabulous and it's very happy in its new home.

Another shot of my colorful and exuberant Lonicera sempervirens, an East coast honeysuckle. It's being trained over a metal arch, to meet up with my Clematis viorna on the other side.

I can't ever quite get a good shot of this vigorous orchid. It's has four flowering stems  out now and that's the most it's ever done. I'm not a big 'white' fan but love it here.

Here's a bee hard at work harvesting nectar on my Dracocephalum argunense. It's a mystery to me why this plant isn't more readily available in the trade as it's too lovely for words. Plus, hooded flowers are too cool.

"I'm ready for my closeup Mr. Mayer." This Scabiosa ochroleuca looks particularly dramatic against the black background caused by the extreme closeup.

Speaking of bees, they're all over my Eriogonum grande rubescens, a native CA buckwheat. It's nice knowing that this plant is super nutritious for our pollinator friends.

Mandevilla 'Giant Crimson.' These flowers are so intensely red that it actually throws off the camera settings, making it hard to get a good photo. This'll give you an idea.

Again with the bees ... There's no keeping them off my floriferous Helenium Mardi Gras. They are rich in nectar so there's always a small swarm on them on sunny days.

Trachymene caerulea. This blue lace flower has been popular with bees too. Not sure what what this little guy is.

I've had this ceramic fish for some time, tried planting things in it but it simply doesn't hold enough soil. Then I had an 'aha' moment. So now its home to a tillandsia.

Roscoea. This charming shade-loving bulb hailing from the Himalayas is not well known. I got mine at a UCBG sale. It comes up faithfully every summer.

Though the sun sort of washed out this shot, here's my exuberant Dicentra scandens, with a Salvia patens to the left and a red salpiglossis to the right.

Another shot of my Helenium Mardi Gras and behind it a stand of Tiger lilies getting ready to unfurl.

I thought the silvery foliage of Centaurea gymnocarpa looked nice as a foreground to the big flowerheads of Eriogonum giganteum. 

How many golfers have a lily named after them? Well, I guess someone was a big Tiger Woods fan cause s(he) named this fragrant beauty after Tiger.

Crocosmia Emily MacKenzie. One of the showiest of all crocosmias, this burnt orange variety has of course self-seeded in this median strip. It provides a nice splash of color amongst the green foliage.

Although this shot is a bit overexposed, and the red mandevilla isn't in sharp focus, I was focusing on the immature form of the Grevillea Moonlight flower cone. Still, you can almost imagine that the mandevilla is calling to the grevillea flower.

My front walkway strip. It's in full riotous color mode, with a number of fragrant agastache, the eriogonum, lilies and finally the helenium.

Red painted tongue. No words necessary ...

I love Pineapple lilies (Eucomis) and here's one with deep wine-colored flowers. There's something primeval about them. 

Fuchsia Autumnale. A very pretty variety, as shown here. But the fuchsia mite always eventually gets it ...

Felicia amelloides variegata. A very pretty 'Blue daisy,' in this case the variegated form. Despite its delicate appearance it's tough and long blooming.

Thursday, July 11, 2013


It isn't exactly earth shattering news to say that one's garden is a teacher but in between two hours of weeding and pruning this morning, I found time to listen to what my own corner of paradise was whispering to me. The first, and possibly the most valuable, is simply to live in the moment while out in the garden. Even if that moment is yanking out a tone of spent love-in-a-mist plants. As a photographer, I'm used to considering perspective. There is basic perspective in gardening too, as even the onerous weeding changes the visual experience of a particular bed. Weeding allows certain plants to get a toehold, or to flourish, which also changes the overall visual appearance of a bed. That in turn may attract certain pollinators to that plant. Gardening is, in a way, a constant event of little dominoes, one event changing or affecting others. I find this process delightful, in part because I have an active curiosity. Mind you, most of my beds are densely planted, so they are in constant flux.
Those observations aside, here are a few photos taken today. It may just be my garden but, compared to previous years, there seem to be many more plants that have flowered later than usual, even while many others bloomed early.

Clematis viorna. When we think of clematis, we tend to picture the single, large-flowered types. The lovely C. viorna, a tubular type, reminds us of the many forms clematis takes. In fact, there are nine altogether. I've become a fan, with seven varieties and counting.  

Another shot of my variegated Porcelain berry vine. It's just so pretty I can't help capturing on film its many moods.

Salpiglossis 'Royal Red.' Easy to see why these dramatic flowers are called Painted Tongue. For a bright splash of color nothing beats salpiglossis.

Lupinus pilosus seedpod. Sometimes beauty can be found in unusual places. Here the unusually large seedpods of this blue flowering lupine are coated with lovely white hairs.

Agastache Red Fortune. The fab colors and heavenly scent of this hyssop bring good fortune indeed to the lucky gardener.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' I swear, these flowers just keep changing color. This flower started off orangey-red, with pink lower petals but now it's a blazing deep red. For those of us used to pink or white single-form coneflowers, this showoff takes some getting used to!

Trachymene coerulea. This blue lace flower has attracted the attention of the nefarious cucumber beetle. But his green body and black spots just jumped off the flower's subtle lavender colors.

Pilosella aurantiacum. Formerly known as Hieracium, this hawkweed gets its common name from the Greek word 'hierax' meaning hawk. If it looks like an orange dandelion you're not far off. Both belong to the Asteraceae family. You can also see its resemblance to the blue chicory flower. Hawkweed is a tough ground cover with bright green leaves, spreading by underground stolons.

Dahlia 'Seattle.' Though not perfectly in focus, this shot gives a different perspective, showing the still tightly held flower bud, with just a few outer petals having opened.

Neomarica caerulea. Quite possibly the loveliest of all Iris family members, this Central & South American genus has a sly trick up its sleeve. Long, weighted flowering stems tend to fall over, laying on the ground. If so, they often root on the spot, leading to one of this plant's common names -- Walking Iris. The flowers often only last a day but maybe that's Mother Nature's way of having us appreciate the ephemeral nature of beauty.

Here's a different vantage point of the neomarica, bringing to the fore the curving, upper petals.

Mimulus 'Jelly Bean Orange.' If that sounds like a funny name (okay, it is), there's more varieties in the Jelly Bean series. Hard to beat this sunny, exuberant color. So many mimulus, so little time ...

Crocosmia 'Emily McKenzie.' One of the most popular crocosmias, my patch has just now burst into bloom. When the earth ends, there will be cockroaches, ravens and ... crocosmias. 

Alpinia 'Zerumbet.' This Southeast member of the ginger family is grown mostly for its lovely variegated foliage, each leaf a little different than the others. It does flower of course, with sweet, shell-shaped fragrant flowers, leading to one of its common names (Shell ginger).

Chamaecyparis 'Nana Lutea.' Part of my dwarf conifer bed, this lovely dwarf false cypress has a fascinating way of displaying twisted panels of foliage. 

Sedum Jelly Beans. Well, I guess it's a jelly bean kind of day. I love this sedum for its ultra-shiny beaded foliage. I freed it from a too shady spot (and pot) and it's rewarded me with its most vibrant color to date.

Aloe striata. Better known as Coral aloe (for its coral flowers), the species name owes to the subtle striations on each leaf. My favorite aloe (for now), I can't wait to put it in the ground and let it get full sized.

Origanum 'Pilgrim.' Not sure where this variety got its name, but I encourage everyone to investigate the wonderful world of ornamental oreganos. Some are familiar with O. 'Kent Beauty,' but there are many others to seek out.

Rabbit's Foot fern. It's not often that one is photographing ferns in summer, with so much color to choose from, but consider this a bit of soothing green amongst all the vibrant flowers. Plus, this unique fern has the most interesting creeping surface rhizomes. Coated with white hairs, they look for all the world like tarantula legs!

Finally, a new Asclepius I got from Barb Siegel, called A. 'Apollo Orange.' Very exciting, especially since I like orange. Now I just need to find a place for it ...
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