Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Autumn 'harvest'

Many of you are back from summer vacations or time away and that gives you time to be back in your garden. The leaves may be starting to turn on the East coast but here we're into our warmer months. Which means of course that our gardens are a tad confused. Is it Autumn or still summer? Vines and fall perennials like salvias in bloom say it's autumn but all our summer flowers say "Wait a minute, we're not done." I was sure that my garden was winding down from the blaze of color in summer and certain that there wasn't much new that I could share via photo in this blog. Lo and behold, there are still a few new surprises. Here they are, a kind of floral harvest.

Fuchjsia 'Firecracker'. Two of this charming variegated fuchsia bookend a much taller Fuchsia denticulata, in a raised bed populated with fuchsias, ferns and an early blooming Camellia Buttermint.

Ribes aureum. A nice shot with the patterned light on this bush ribes. I'm training it up against a fence, behind my always vigorous Hydrangea Nikko Blue.

One of my favorite plants, this Geranium phaeum isn't well known. I love the 'matte finish' of its purple flowers. Prolific and tough.

A new Sphaeralcea addition to my garden. This S. incana has as you can see soft orange colored flowers. Count me as a fan of globe mallows.

Here's another shot of my fun Gomphrena 'Fireworks,' catching the sun and throwing off dazzling color.

The first flower on my King Protea has opened to stage two, the red outer bracts contrasting with the white petals at the center (which here are still tightly closed).

Passiflora citrina. The simplest but one of the loveliest of all passion flowers. Love that lemon yellow!

Here's my Sphaeralcea munroana being visited by a Agapostemon texanus, better known as Ultra Green Sweat Bee. When I consulted my bee calendar to verify the bee species, lo and behold the author had a photo of this bee inside a sphaeralcea flower! 

Another shot of my Tweedia caerulea. I collected the seedpods of this milkweed member and wouldn't you know it, it's begun a second bloom season. No beating that color.

Echinacea Summer Sky. My collection of coneflowers continue to prosper. They bloom nearly year round now, offering passersby a flowering treat. Not to mention a parade of bees.

Dicentra scandens. Speaking of a long bloom season, this vigorous bleeding heart is still going strong, after first blooming in April.

Hebe evansii. Well, it's about time this guy began flowering. Jeez, I was getting worried. As you can see, it offers solid purple flowers, which look particularly lovely against the grey stucco wall.

Lastly, a different viewpoint of my Mimulus aurantiacus Jelly Bean Orange. It's proving a tough guy and a regular bloomer. Hard to beat that color!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rain Man

Or should the title read 'Rain, man.' Looking out at the rain, something people in the Bay Area don't see much of between June and November. Though I'm more of a sun person myself (and I've lived in rainy areas like Vancouver), there is something lovely about the rain. Plus it nourishes the garden in ways that I just don't think hose water does.
Rain Man also makes me think of the Dustin Hoffman movie and the mathematical savant that Hoffman plays. I was a math major and interested in all things mathematical (which is a pretty big list since numbers underlie just about everything in our life). That has faded and in some senses replaced by an interest in horticulture. I've just scratched the surface but I still get asked occasionally "How do you know all this stuff?" And really the simple answer is -- obsession. My knowledge of plants is no more remarkable than someone who knows a lot about stamps, just a little more useful. As has often been pointed out, we are a nation of enthusiasts. Like many other gardening enthusiasts, I'm fascinated by plants. Add to that my writerly interest in Etymology and the knowledge can pile up faster than you think. So, I raise a glass to gardening enthusiasts the world over. Long may they prosper. (See this is what happens when you're cooped up indoors during the rain. The mind rambles.)

Here are a few more photos from my garden, taken yesterday before the rain arrives.

Impatiens niamniamensis. Otherwise known as Congo cockatoo for its colorful beak-like flowers. One of the unique aspects of this colorful species Impatiens is the fact that the flowers appear along the stems, not at the tips of the branches as is the case with most plants. The flowers are stiff and waxy, something that always delights children (or the kid in all of us).

Cobaea scandens. Otherwise known as 'Cup and Saucer' vine. The flatter green part of the flower in the rear is the saucer. The cup has a neat trick. It starts out the same shade of green as the saucer then gradually colors in to the lovely burgundy you see here.Very vigorous! (which is a kind way of saying it can take over anything near it).

Though no longer in bloom, the lovely silvery foliage of Eriophyllum lanatum is well worth adding this CA native to your garden. Tough too.

These pots at the entrance to our front walkway are usually reserved for sun loving color. Right now that's an Autumn Colors rudbeckia, a red Calibrachoa and my new fave, Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' Not just a hint, this "Bluebeard" has remained a vibrant golden since I brought it home two months ago.

Tweedia caerulea. I've said it before, how can anyone who likes true blue flowers possibly resist the charms of this milkweed? Here they seem to float in the ether, with the silvery backdrop of Centaurea gymnocarpa.

Tomato variety. A friend gave a tiny seedling to my studio neighbor and I helped her out by planting it a much larger pot. Though I don't recognize the variety, I love the marbling. Very yummy.

Viburnum x burkwoodii. Although it's supposed to bloom in spring, this fragrant viburnum is producing a few flowers here in September. A tough, smaller viburnum, x burkwoodii is a great addition to a fragrant garden.

Although I'd previously shown a photograph of my King protea, I just love the color, the perfect geometry (remember my math background) of the petals and the realization of how spectacular the open flower will be.

Passiflora citrina. This charming and simple passiflora is climbing up into a fir tree and I think creates a beautiful 'woodland' look.

Tecoma x smithii. I couldn't resist bringing home this Tecoma, even though I had no room for it. The flower colors are just too vibrant. It's in a median strip where I hope to train it up a tree (and keep it from wandering onto the street or sidewalk, something I've been unable to stop my Passiflora 'Blue-eyed Susan from doing.

Right across the sidewalk from the Tecoma is a nice patch of Calandrinia. Sometimes I bemusedly think of the flowers as waving to passersby. "Hi, how are you doing on such a fine day!" they'd say.

Bonus points for those who recognize this guy. It's a Dyckia marnier-lapostollei and that's no optical illusion. It really is that silvery. Some Dyckias can be deadly thorny but this guy isn't too bad. VERY slow growing but hey, I'm not going anywhere.

And finally my new favorite fern -- Doryopteris pedata. Otherwise known as Digit fern for its hand-like leaves. This is the first I'd heard of it and I couldn't resist adding it to my fern collection.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Garden Dramas

It's somewhat the nature of gardens, at least those that hold a great variety of plants, that it is hard to play favorites. At least for very long. Photographing one's garden, where you have a permanent record of a moment in time, makes you realize that there are so many things to appreciate about plants. Beyond the obvious (flowers), or even the foliage of certain plants, you gradually get drawn into the continuing drama of individual plants, of the beds they're in, of certain larger sections. Each week I walk out into the garden, there are an abundance of stories. As wonderful as photos are, they freeze that drama at a moment in time, somehow hitting the pause button on these mini-dramas.
This is the time of year for salvias -- I have nine different kinds -- but I thought I'd take a moment to draw your attention to a salvia relative, Lepechinia. There are two notable species, L. calycina and L. hastata. The former is a CA native (known as California Pitcher plant). It features white down-turning flowers, emerging from green calyces. Both the leaves and flowers have a minty kind of fragrance. It can reach 6-8' and is exceptionally hardy. Lepechinia hastata hails from Hawaii, yet is surprisingly hardy (to 0 degrees). It features large, textured silvery leaves, equally as minty as L. calycina, and clouds of large, exquisite, burgundy flowers come fall. Both are vigorous and a joy to have in one's garden. I'd do a column on them if not for the difficulty in finding them in Bay Area retail nurseries.
All of that said, here's some new photos.

Clematis viorna seedpods. As mentioned above, it;s not always the flowers that are the attraction and nowhere is that more apparent than with this tubular type clematis. Curiously, the seedpods are larger than the flowers themselves.

I like to say that Hedychium greenii is the most beautiful ginger many people have never heard of. Apart from the fabulous color of the flowers, sort of a coral red, the petals have a noticeable texture to them. I did a column on this Flame ginger as it's called and Ace was swamped with requests.

Philodendron species. This was intentionally planted at the curve of the gravel path but is so vigorous that I have to keep trimming off the larger leaves. Still, philodendrons occupy a special place in my gardening heart, being somehow quite prehistoric.

Though this shot isn't in focus, I couldn't resist a quick shot of a chickadee coming to nibble on my suet feeder. They're quite possibly the most charming common bird ever, full of life and personality and not shy around humans.

Calceolaria Kentish Hero. Despite its odd variety name, this pocketbook is so dazzling in its color that I can't imagine anyone who likes orange not having one in their garden. Unlike the floppy annual types, this guy forms a sturdy bush and comes to life in late summer.

Centaurea 'Black Sprite.' Black indeed! This flower is SO black that light just seems to fall into it, like a black hole in space. Here, with the closeup focus, it hovers like some alien borg spaceship.It's so very weird it almost doesn't even look like a flower.

In contrast to the 'Death Star' Black Sprite centaurea, here's a fun little guy, Gomphrena 'Fireworks.' The variety name refers to how the individual petals just seem to explode outwards from the center and then you have the contrast of the bright yellow stamen.

Another shot of my front yard color, with the golden Caryopteris hogging the limelight. Right behind is the green-leaved C. incana. I keep my these pots for seasonal color, though many are perennials. It's my contribution to passersby, a little flower power to hopefully brighten their day.

Speaking of flowers that bring forth a smile, here's a new addition. Arctotis 'Sunspot' features a variety of oranges, peaches and golds and if that isn't sunshine in a pot I don't know what is!

Here's a mystery Euphorbia that was a gift.  It joins another new Euphorbia, E. atropurpurea. Both will be a bit of a surprise as to what they finally do.

Luculia pinceana. A shrub with the most intoxicatingly fragrant flowers, this was a recent addition from Barb Siegel's collection. Can't wait for it to bloom (late fall/winter). Here, what looks like flower buds are actually leaf buds. The top down shot helps to suspend the illusion.

Many of you are familiar with 'Blue hisbiscus,' (Alyogyne huegelii) but this yellow flowering species A. hakeafolia is also a lovely member. I love the rotating star pattern at its center.

A new addition to my Dwarf conifer bed, Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea' (whew, that's quite a mouthful!) is a cascading type false cypress. Love it! I'm having a hard time not adding more plants to this Japanese-themed bed.

Here's a better shot of the other new addition to the Japanese bed, Osmanthus 'Goshiki.' Love the variegation; love the holly-like leaves and can't wait for it to produce its fragrant flowers.

Tecoma x smithii. The new star attraction in my garden, I just adore the peachy-orange flowers, now beginning to appear in clusters. Delicate green foliage makes a complementary backdrop.

Yep, these are 'Naked ladies.' I love calling out in our indoor shop "Hey, have the naked ladies arrived?" These popped up in my neighbor's yard but couldn't resist snapping a shop.

Here's a shot from the backside of my Japanese bed, featuring the statuary surrounded by several dwarf shrubs.

Finally an interesting angle on the Caryopteris incana, showing the flower 'balls' as they 'run' along the branch. Caryopteris are renowned for being butterfly plants but the bees find them equally delightful.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Fall, not Fall

Well, because we folks in the Bay Area have to march to our own drummer, we have fall in July & August followed by summer in September & October.
I'm taking a break from the Rocking the Garden entries (okay, here's one: Begonia rex -- T Rex (Bang a Gong). Okay, now you're going to have that song going around in your head all day). Instead it's just photos today. My garden being confused as to exactly what season it is hasn't stopped it from continuing to offer delightful new surprises every week.

Begonia rex 'Escargot'  Another shot of this intriguing  begonia. Apart from the obvious snail form, I love the two greens on the foliage and the way the border repeats the dark green from the center.

This season's wonderful surprise. These are berries on my Amorphophallus kiusianus. They sat on the flowering stem as rows of little green buttons and then all of a sudden they've begun to ripen from the top down. They're giving my porcelain berry vine berries a run for their money.

From the "ain't Nature grand" department, my Cuphea vienco 'Burgundy' has suddenly begun producing vivid red flowers. Please discuss among yourselves.

Callirhoe. My specimen of Wine Cups is just now flowering. There's nothing quite anything to match this vigorous spreading plant's flower color. 

Kudos to those who can guess what this is. It's an unopened flower bud on a Catananche caerulea (Amor White in this case). These almost translucent, papery flower buds are as pretty as the flowers themselves.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki.' Hard to believe this is a sweet olive plant but this species, known as False Holly for its serrated holly-like leaves, has the same fragrant white flowers and eventually small black fruits. Beautiful!

Ruellia elegans. This plant isn't as well known as it deserves to be. Start with the vivid red flowers. In fact the flowers are so intensely red that, like my red mandevilla, it creates havoc with the camera's ability to process the color.

Hedychium gardnerianum. The last shot I posted had the unopened flower spike. Here are the creamy yellow flowers and large, reddish-orange  stamen. Count me as a fan of gingers (I have four in my garden).

Dorycnium hirsutum. This 'Hairy Canary Clover' has become one of my favorite plants. It has the softest foliage imaginable and it's great for spilling over a rock wall.

Here's another plant that needs a better press agent -- Zephyranthes, better known as Zephyr lily or Rain lily. I love its simplicity and its delicacy. 

Plectranthus argentatus. I call this 'Silver' plectranthus because, well, this photo shows why. It likes a bit more sun than other plectranthus. The flowers are mostly white and small but still offer a delicate contrast to the thick texture of the leaves.

Japanese anemone. Walking out this morning I noticed one of my Japanese anemones had poked a flower up through my Oakleaf hydrangea. It almost looks intentional, the big leaves expertly framing the delicate white flower.

This was my most recent project and though it looks nicely planted now, a lot of work went into getting it this way. It's not the perfect photo but it gives a view of the bed's infancy.

Impatiens niamniamensis flower. Also called Congo cockatoo for the brightly colored, beak-like flowers. It may not be obvious here but one odd feature of this plant is that its flowers grow directly off the main trunk.

My table-top succulent collection. In front is the irrepressible Sedum 'Sea Urchin.' Behind it is the charming Crassula alba var. parvisepala. To its right is an Echeveria 'Black Prince' and then in front of it my favorite tillandsia.

I love orange, peach and apricot colors  and the newest addition is a Tecoma x smithii. Exuberant!

Swainsona. This bush blooms ten months out of the year and is a magnet for bees. It's the star of my Australian natives bed.

Another shot of my new Caryopteris incana 'Hint of Gold.' Behind it, and starting to intermingle, is the Felicia amelloides variegata. Blue & gold!

Chrysocephalum 'Silver & Gold'  Known as Common Everlasting due in part to its long blooming and the fact that the flowers 'dry' right on the plant, this Helichrysum relative has proven to be quite the sturdy little performer. 

Spotted this ladybug as I was heading indoors. I hadn't noticed the rather curious black & white markings on its head before. I guess we normally just see the orange and black body. Little known fact -- in England they call this girl a Ladybird.
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