Thursday, July 4, 2013

A Gardener's July 4th fireworks

As cities and the nation celebrate the Fourth with fireworks displays, I'd like to suggest that our gardens offer their own 'fireworks' on this day of independence. With colors galore and certain flowers doing their best to shine, even dazzle, we have our own floral shows. The show isn't lost on several of my garden denizens -- the collection of local bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
Here are a few photos from my July garden, which shows no sign of slowing down.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' Speaking of fireworks, this double coneflower has them in spades. In fact, you're forgiven for thinking "That's a coneflower?!"

Stokesia laevis. This Stokes' aster might be the prettiest flower no one's ever heard of. And that's a shame because it is durable and incredibly floriferous. 

Masdevallia. Love these guys and they're about the easiest orchid to grow. I love the two tone colors on this one.

Ampelopsis. Anyone who's ever seen the "ripe" berries on a porcelain berry vine never forgets the experience! If ever a common name nailed it, it's for this plant. The speckled turquoise berries really do look like they have been glazed and fired in a kiln. My specimen is finally settling in and this year has loads of tiny white flowers. Can't wait!

Filipendula ulmaria. Known as Meadowsweet, owing to its habitat (moist meadows, stream sides) and its delicate, sweet fragrance, this is a plant that is also not commonly grown. Once classified as a spirea, it shares that genus's delicate foliage and wispy flowers.

Eriogonum grande rubescens. Everyone's favorite CA buckwheat. They have a well deserved rep for being great habitat plants, attracting a variety of pollinators and birds. I also have an E. giganteum (St. Catherine's Lace) in bloom,a very popular destination for bees.

Michauxia campanuloides. Speaking of plants that many have yet to discover, here's a photo of my industrious Michauxia. A Mediterranean member of the Campanulaceae family, it features peculiar nodding white flowers that look like dive bombing birds to me!

Echinacea 'Summer Sky. I could say I waited for hours to get a shot of this coneflower with a bee harvesting nectar but nah, they're on it all the time. Beautiful, prolific and nectar-rich, what's not to like about echinaceas?

Sauromatum venosum. Extra points for those of you who know what the heck this plant is. Yep, it's a Voodoo lily (got to be one of the all time great common names). This vigorous Arum is on round two and even though the spathe only opens for a day or two, it's weird, wonderful and yes a bit stinky.

Campanula punctata. I just discovered a list of species definitions and that was for this plant geek very exciting. Qualities I'd always associated with a commonly used species name turned out to largely be true. Here 'punctata' is a variation of 'punctatus,' which means 'dotted.' That's true of this bellflower; it has speckles on the insides of its flowers.

Tillandsia sp. A gift from a friend, this glowing silver air plant is my favorite new plant. There's "silver-ish" and then there's this pure whitish silver.

Fuchsia denticulata. The subject of a recent column, this parent of F. 'Fanfare' is a dazzling and hardy species. You want fireworks? When this species is in full bloom, it sports massive cascading clusters of these colorful blooms. So many fuchsias, so little time ...

Abelmoschus manihot. I'm not intentionally focusing on hard to find plants but here's another one. If your first thought is "That looks like a hibiscus flower" you'd be right. This 'Musk mallow' produces large cream-colored flowers with a small dark burgundy center. I cut mine back nearly to the ground after its first flowering and it's bounced back.

Hibiscus stamen. I think the stamens on hibiscus can be almost as pretty as the petals. Vibrant!

Lilium citronelle. Although this isn't the best shot, I'm posting it anyway. I'm a lily junkie -- they're my favorite common bulb -- and this yellow tiger lily is particularly lovely.

Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem.' I went for a different shot here. I noticed a local bee harvesting nectar off of fallen stamen in the "bowl" of a flower petal and it looked kind of neat. I couldn't get the damn shot in perfect focus but this comes close.

Bromeliad sp. This unidentified bromeliad has the loveliest orange flowers with dark brownish-purple tips. The shot is a bit dark but here it is anyway.

And saving the best fireworks shot for last, here's my Begonia 'Dazzler.' It's a B. boliviensis hybrid and it's a riot of color. One can almost imagine the flowers 'exploding' out of the hanging pot.

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