Thursday, November 7, 2013

"A garden is a circle enclosed"

I'm not sure where I heard the title's quote but I know it refers to the garden as sanctuary. Exactly. Whether it is in times of joy or sorrow, the garden is a private place to lose oneself in, even as one shares it with birds, butterflies, bees, squirrels and the occasional curious animal visitor. I sometimes feel the garden offers me communion, in the sense of communing with deep, primal rhythms. It matters not whether I'm planting, weeding or fertilizing, it's all within "the circle."
After the loss of my beloved cat Jet, I've once again taken solace in my garden, finding much beauty there. Here are a few photos that remind me how blessed I am to have this ever faithful companion.

Camellia 'Buttermint.' It's very strange but this first flower opening on my sweet Buttermint camellia follows a first flower on my Camellia 'Black Magic' and my Rhododendron 'Sappho' being in bloom. Normally these are all spring bloomers. Perhaps the cold we've had lately followed by 70 degree days? Anyway, it's such a November treat, seeing these shrubs in bloom.

Also blooming out of season is my Azalea 'Mangetsu.' This pretty little guy is a "phoenix,' a plant I brought back from an almost certain thrips death. That gives me an additional appreciation for its efforts.

Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious.' The subject of a recent Pick of the Week column, my specimen was late getting going but is now beginning to flower. The crimson flowers really pop against the chartreuse foliage.

Here's an unusual shot of a dianthus flower, taken from the backside. It looks kind of cool, almost like a taffeta skirt or a pinwheel of some sort.

My Agastache 'Grapefruit Nectar' (these people coming up with variety names really need to eat lunch first before naming varieties) continues to bloom, offering up an endless mix of pastel blooms.

Pansies may be common but that doesn't make them any less pretty. This red and gold one has always been one of my faves.

Here's a small tree that many have not heard of -- Cunonia capensis, also known as Butterknife tree. That's in reference to the young stipules that resemble butter knives. It also features foot long, white bottlebrush-like flowers and along with reddish-copper new growth seen here it has a lot going for it! It seems to be flourishing, growing quickly from a 4" pot.

Here's the statuary piece I brought home for Jet's final resting spot. I really like it and there's somehow some of Jet's spirit in her pose.

A wider shot shows Jet's final resting spot being next to the ceramic bird bath. One of the little things that will stay with me was Jet's habit, when I was out watering in this plot, to stand on her hind legs and stick her head over the rim of the bird bath and get a drink. She had real personality and was always doing quirky little things.

Here's a closeup of the cat's face. Jet could be a little Buddha when she was sunning herself, her eyes half closed, even as she was alert to any goings on.

Crassula falcata flowers. I never fail to find it amusing when customers come in to Ace and say "The most amazing thing happened; my succulent has bloomed!" Ahh, yeah, they do that. In fact, succulents have some of the most colorful and dazzling flowers of any plant grouping.

Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' My favorite pincushion shrub is just now producing tiny little flowers, held deep in the cup of its leaves. The leaves are pretty cool too, having not only a lovely bluish cast but sporting red tips on the perimeter.

Edgeworthia chrysantha. Another spring blooming plant confused by the recent warm weather. As many of you know, these "paper bushes" set their bloom buds in the fall but then usually wait until late winter/early spring to open, releasing that intoxicating fragrance. I guess this couldn't wait, at least for a few of the flower clusters.

Another shot of my ever evolving Japanese bed. Everything here is a dwarf conifer, with the one exception being the Osmanthus 'Goshiki' in the right rear. I went for contrasting colors and textures and even sought out rocks from American Soils that had moss growing on them for that aged look.

Ever had a piece of important mail that you were waiting on. Each day that passes and it's not there just drives you crazy. Well, enter my Puya berteroniana, now 8 years old and yet to flower. It will and the wait will be worth it. The flowers are an other-worldly turquoise blue and on very mature plants the flower spikes can be huge.

How cool is this Euphorbia polyacantha? It's common name, Fishtail cactus, must owe to the delicate rows of spines on each spire. And eventually the tops of those branches will sport cheerful yellow flowers.

Doryopteris pedata. Dory what? Indeed, this fern is so rare in our region that it is just now being made available to the trade. One look makes its common name (Digit fern) immediately obvious. I decided to do a column on this fern the moment I laid eyes on it. Hailing from tropical regions of S. America, its modest size (15"), means you can tuck it in to a variety of shady places.

Leycesteria formosa. The aptly named Himalayan honeysuckle bush is one of my favorites, not only for the sweet fragrance of its flowers but also for the way the flower bracts resemble little pagodas that dangle one below the other.

Here's a shot of my "I don't care what the calendar says I feel like blooming" Rhododendron 'Sappho.' Sonoma Hort nursery has several mature specimens of this gorgeous rhodie and that's what inspired me to bring it home. It's survived being planted in too shallow a bed and a serious case of thrips and seems ready to flourish.

Davallia mariesii, better known as Squirrel's Foot fern. One of my faves, in no small part because its rhizomes are covered with fine white hairs. I've always thought these 'legs' look more like tarantulas, a remark that often brings a customer's "Yes, they do!"

Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' I recommend this plant to those seeking a fall blooming perennial for a sunny spot but the truth is, mine blooms from late spring continuously through till XMas. It's a favorite destination for bees and butterflies too.

Grevillea rosmarinifolia 'Dwarf form.' Sometimes you have to grow a plant to really know what it will do. The grower's label said this grevillea would get 4 feet tall but one look at it seemed to suggest it was more a low growing spreader. So I took one home, planted it and indeed, it has stayed low and spread. I love the way the buds dance like little flames along the length of the branches! So many grevilleas, so little time ...

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