Friday, December 26, 2014

Drying Out

How happy are we to see the sun here in the Bay Area? Let me count the ways. Wait, I don't have enough fingers! It's a bit of blue heaven for us sun lovers and for everyone else, we get to finally dry out. On the down side, no more kayaking down main street.
Our gardens have loved the rain, though I suspect enough is enough for the moment. And we're in for a good dry spell now so that's a bit of relief. For those of us who are not 'ducks' it's a chance to get out in our gardens and get back to work. The combo of rain and warmth has caused everything to grow way too quickly and that means trimming and weeding. I know, I know. Weeding at Christmas time is an odd concept but until the weeds go to Hawaii for the winter I'll be out there yanking them out.
Here are a few new photos, most of them taken on Christmas day. The first two shots are of a new Ladyslipper orchid and I post them to illustrate how dramatically the light conditions can affect the look of the photo. The first photo is taken indoors, the second outdoors. Partly it's the flash that brightens the indoor photo. Elementary principles to be sure.
Hope everyone had a marvelous Christmas!

Paphiopedilum 'Be Happy Dots.' I love Ladyslipper orchids for their large, dramatic flowers but also for the tremendous variety of colors and the spotted or not spotted leaves. This color combo here is one that's less common.

Edgeworthia chrysantha. It's interesting to me, the way certain plants like Edgeworthias or Pieris show their hand early, offering tightly held clusters of unopened flowers for an extended period before they finally open. I walk by my Edgeworthia every day and then one day the first little bursts of bright yellow will appear, bringing with them a heavenly fragrance.

Dianthus. Outside of roses, there may be no common plant that's been "messed around with" more than carnations. They've been cross bred to infinity (and beyond!), giving us just about every color and pattern. But, hey, who's complaining?

Luculia. Now in its third year, my Luculia pinceana has really put on a growth spurt. And it's blooming prolifically as you can see here. This is one plant that's not confused. It's naturally a late fall and winter bloomer so it's in its element. Still one of the most intensely fragrant plants I've ever encountered.

Well, after the seven year wait my Melianthus pectinatus has finally bloomed and ... well ... not exactly a big show. Red flower buds open to small rust-colored flowers. Still, just to finally see it bloom offers a good deal of satisfaction. 

My new succulent bowl. Very simple but these bowls are a great way to display one's favorite new little succulent treasures.

Daphne odora marginata. Everyone's favorite daphne (or at least the most commonly available one). This year I've noticed how pleasingly dark the leaves are. These are the first flowers. This is one of my "success" stories, having nurtured this plant along from a 4" pot size. As I tell our Ace customers about daphnes -- think sun! Mine has very much responded to getting a good amount of late morning/early afternoon sun.

Echeveria 'Pappy's Rose.' Simply put, great color!

Speaking of color here's your winter dose of chartreuse! Amazing how this Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' retains its golden/chartreuse colors, sun or not, summer or winter. A great way to brighten an area, in this case the walkway back to my apartment.

This shot isn't mine but my Mimulus 'Jeff's Tangerine' is still in bloom -- in December going on January -- and even for a mimulus that's pretty brave. Love that color!

Lepechinia hastata. For some reason this photo stayed large. Oh well, that's sort of appropriateas my specimen is now huge, requiring me to keep pruning it back. This salvia relative offers the loveliest burgundy flowers and the bloom season is a long one!

Finally, my long absent Camellia 'Buttermint' has begun to bloom. This is a shot taken last year at about this time. It's in a new location, at the back of a shady raised bed, and I've kept an eye on it, wondering why I didn't see any flower buds. I'd forgotten that this camellia is different in that due to its flowers being substantially smaller, the buds are slender and don't show much color before suddenly bursting open.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Not this Nature

So, we live with bugs of every kind, many of them in our gardens. But it's a different bug -- the common cold -- that's got me under the weather today. So, no enlightening comments in the foreward here and probably not too many pithy comments describing the photos either but I hope the photos themselves will bring a bit of joy to you on such a wintry day.
About today's photos. The first seven were taken yesterday; the rest are from my archives.

Here's my Paphiopedilum in full bloom. I'm so very happy that is decided to rebloom and this was from it being outside year round. There's nothing quite like Ladyslipper orchids!

Here's another shot of my Lachenalia aloides 'orange.' It's proving especially prolific this year, even though it's still in a container. Lachenalias make good container plants as it's easier to give them the dry summer they need. I still don't see any orange in this aloides variety but no matter, it's certainly pretty enough.

Trachelium caeruleum 'Hamer Pandora.'  The Hamer Pandora variety is the one with the purplish tint to the leaves, as you might spot here. Though this guy is still small, he'll get bigger and most likely bloom well before spring. Tough and versatile. And floriferous.

I've attempted to stump readers before with this plant. Not sure how many of you recognized it as a Melianthus. It's the little known M. pectinatus. It hasn't done as well as I would have liked and I attributed that to poor soil. Just read that it actually likes lots of water so the recent rains have made it very happy indeed. And I think I spotted a few tiny flower buds, big news since it has yet to flower after 8 years! I know what you're thinking "Wait, a melianthus that doesn't simply go wild?" Ahh, but that would be the vigorous Melianthus major.

Begonia 'Gene Daniels.' Partly damaged by the storm, I had to pin it back with a small trellis and in doing that it propped one of the leaves upright. And that showed off its glorious burgundy underside as well as -- look closely -- a small cluster of pink flowers. 

And now the prize of prizes. Russell Wagner, noted propagator, brought in a F1 cross of Lachenalia viridiflora and L. quadricolor. The aquamarine of the former is better seen in the photo below, whereas the four colors of the latter are on better display above. This is such a new cross that there are only a handful around. Beautiful isn't it?

My Impatiens congolense (syn. niamniamensis) is still in bloom, though this is a shot from last year. Bi-colored waxy flowers are curious enough but see how they sprout from the stems not the leaf axils? Intriguing.

Another shot from my archives, I liked how the unusual angle of this dianthus (carnation), afforded one a different perspective. It almost looks like a pinwheel or a very, very tiny carousel.

My Justicia brandegeeana just never seems to go out of bloom. Okay here's a groaner joke. Which plant that you know is polyamorous? Why it's this plant of course, having three girlfriends named Brandy, Gee (a Filipina name) and Ana.Your job is to come up with a plant that has three 'boyfriends!'

Salvia splendens 'Sao Borja.' I'm loving my new Salvia splendens and crossing my fingers it will survive the winter. This photo is borrowed from Annie's Annuals. Such a pretty photo, doing justice to a vibrant flower.

This is a shot of my Choisya ternata from the spring. But wait, it's budding up for a second show, with quite few intensely fragrant flowers already open. In my mind, this 'Mock orange' is the most fragrant of the three plants called by this name. Very heady perfume!

This isn't the best shot of my black bamboo but it's looking especially full these days, after all the rains. Bamboo really is happiest when it gets regular water, though once established it's tough enough to survive dry spells.

Lastly, a shot of my Tiger's Jaws (Faucaria tigrina). Though it's finished blooming, there's still the fun, tactile effects of its nubs. Kind of like a tiger that's had his teeth removed and is gumming it. That awkward image aside, this little guy is one of the most prolific bloomers in the succulent world.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ahoy, mateys!

Yes, for all you friends outside of the weird and wonderful Bay Area, those really were people kayaking down city streets yesterday! Indeed it did come down in buckets. I had a few near casualties in my garden but it mostly survived intact. Speaking of survival, that brings me to today's spontaneous topic -- Great Garden Victories (known as GGVs). Veteren gardeners will know immediately what this refers to -- the wonderful experience of getting something struggling to finally do well or in some cases, bringing plants back from the dead. While we all love each and every plant in our garden (except maybe the weedy ones), there is a special satisfaction to plants that fall under the GGV category.
Example # 21 in my garden is represented in today's first photo -- Agapetes serpens. It's a long sad story but hey I've got the time here so ... Just kidding. It was doing fine in a large pot on a sunny porch; had to be moved so was put 'temporarily' in a shady corner; no preferable place opened up; thrips set in; it nearly died; sprayed for the thrips and saved it only to have thrips come back; finally I fed the heck out of it, a pruned brugmansia opened up more light, I got rid of the thrips for good and voila! So, don't let anyone tell you that this plant isn't tough. We could start a new saying "Tough as agapetes!"
A word about today's photos. Due to the rains and things being a bit beaten down, I make an exception and raid my archives for photos of plants that I would otherwise have photographed today.
With that caveat, here they are:

Hopefully you'll be spared the above plagues when growing Agapetes. And it's worth it, as not only are the individual urn-shaped flowers very pretty, but they develop in rows beneath the branches and have a papery feel. As the Orbit gum woman says in the commercials - "fabulous!"

From difficult to super easy, meet Anomatheca laxa. This genus is so closely related to Freesias that it was once classified as such. It however appreciates some shade and is a prolific self-seeder. There are subtle variations in color (and there is a white form) but the straight species offers charming coral-red flowers. 

This is a 'blue hibiscus.' No, you're not color blind and it's not really a "blue hibiscus" but its species mate, Alyogyne huegelii, is commonly referred to by that common name. This is the harder-to-come-by A. hakeafolia, which as you can see has yellow flowers. My specimen seems to bloom whenever it feels like it though in theory it's a summer and fall bloomer.

Who you calling a wallflower? Put up your dukes! Okay, wait, I am a wallflower, otherwise known as Erysimum. This is E. 'Winter Sorbet' with its delightful mix of purple and orange flowers. It is aptly named, as this variety seems to bloom later than most others.

My Shiny Bristle fern has filled in since this photo was taken (last year) but wanted to showcase one of the loveliest if not well known ferns that do well in our area. 

I'm making one exception in including this Dianthus 'Chomley Farran' photo. It normally blooms in the late summer/early fall but is late this year. Still hoping it makes it. There is some disagreement on whether this variety is one of the famous 'Bizarres' from the 1800s. They were especially showy, variegated types that fell out of favor. Hard to understand why when you see this madam's beauty.

Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Lutea.' One of the denizens in my dwarf conifer bed. It's a personal favorite of mine and I somehow imagine its twisting 'panels' as DNA strands. In any case, it's been one of the stars of this bed and has nary a brown leaf.

Salvia 'Vanhouttei.' Thought to be a S. splendens type, meaning it likely won't survive the winter, it's nonetheless very showy right now. What you see aren't the flowers but the rich, burgundy-red bracts.

Borage officinalis. This is the simple borage that self-seeds like crazy but I love its pure blue nodding flowers almost as much as the bees (note the bumblebee on the lower right).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

After the flood

To change that old saying -- "Rain, rain come again another day (like tomorrow)." It goes without saying that gardens are one of the most immediate beneficiaries of the rains. Where I notice that especially in my own garden is with bulbs. Just the last three days of rain has pushed so many to the surface. On the other side, the rains caused my top heavy Plectranthus zuluensis to become partly uprooted. The good with the bad. The rains are a reminder to make sure your beds have excellent drainage. Pooling water can cause roots to rot.
The rains combined with the warm daytimes have caused certain plants in my garden to think it's a sort of quasi-spring. Strangely, I saw my first snowdrops this morning, with their first flowers! The garden has its own mind and so we tend to it and enjoy!
A few words about the joys of conifers. I was slow to appreciate them, having grown up in B.C. surrounded by (literally) a million Douglas firs. Boring. And my garden doesn't lend itself to planting trees, with no single large area. I've introduced some Japanese maples but they're a manageable size. It wasn't until I visited the Oregon Botanical Garden and saw their collection of dwarf conifers, mostly from Japan and China, that the light bulb went off. And lo and behold there are quite a few dwarf conifers readily available in the trade, especially those in the Chamaecyparis and Cryptomeria genera. I finally took the plunge three years ago and planted my own little dwarf conifer bed. A part of me still feels like I'm 'cheating,' having created a little 'forest' in a 6' x 10' space. And because they grow exceedingly slowly, you can place the species pretty close together. I've included a photo here of one of my favorites in this area, the Chamaecyparis 'Barry's Silver.' So, for those of you who don't happen to own half an acre, there's still a way to enjoy the varied charms of conifers!
And now the photos ...

Although it's not completely open, I was thrilled to find that my Ladyslipper orchid (Paphiopedilum) has put forward a new bloom. As everyone knows, getting orchids to re-bloom outside of a greenhouse is tricky. The rain beading on top gives an element of freshness to the flower.

I have better shots of my Lachenalia viridiflora in my files but this is a "live" shot of the first few flowers to emerge. There's nothing quite like this aquamarine blue. 

Cooler weather and the rains have done the trick for my Oxalis penduncularis. It has the unique habit of making these large 'balls' of leaves, with flowers springing out from these globes. Ain't Nature grand?

 Lachenalia aloides 'Orange.' Though these are again the very first flowers and somewhat obscured, I still decided to give readers a peek at its lovely colors. BTW, Lachenalias are one of the easiest South African bulbs to grow, as long as you can give them a dry summer period. Ironically, they make good dry garden denizens, our natural dry summers and winter rains being ideal for them.

Furry flower buds on my Magnolia 'Butterflies.' Not colorful or traditionally showy but to me they're beautiful, being a "promise" of spring flowers to come.

But if it's color you want, how about the vivid red flowers of Monardella micrantha, set against the rich blues of the ceramic pot in back. This is a type of Coyote mint, also a CA native, but a low growing spreading type. The flowers are unusually large given how small the plant is.And of course the tubular flowers are a favorite of local hummingbirds.

Here's my world famous Luculia pinceana. Okay, not world famous, but those of you that have this shrub in your garden raise your hand. Nobody? There you go. It's a mystery to me why this pretty, tough and intensely fragrant shrub isn't widely available. One of the sweetest smelling flowers you'll ever smell.

My Cotinus 'Royal Purple' has done something odd this fall. First the leaves turned red, as is commonly the case. But now many of them have followed that up by turning a golden-orange. Odd but lovely.

Here's my latest succulent, the rubbery Kalanchoe bryophyllum. I wanted to keep it simple with this bowl so just surrounded it with a lovely, purple viola.

This Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is making one last push to flower. They have some of the most dramatic gold anthered red stamens.

Although the light somewhat bleached out this shot, I wanted to share a shot of my Camellia reticulata 'Frank Hauser.' One of the showiest of all retics, which is saying something since reticulatas are the queens of the camellia world.The flowers are often quite large, with some featuring wavy, fluted petals (like this variety).

Here's a curving swoop of one of my Salvia discolor branches. Note the silvery-lime bracts and the dark as midnight flowers. That, the white undersides to the leaves and the white sticky stems make this possibly the most unique salvia around. And it's vigorous.


Just simple leaves on my Euphorbia atropurpurea but I liked the way the beaded water glistened on the bluish leaves. 

Another shot of my ever evolving Kalanchoe sexangularis. It's now a rich coppery color, nicely offset by the bluish Echeveria.

Here's the aforementioned Chamaecyparis lawsonii 'Barry's Silver.' This 'false cypress' has kept its silvery caste and is holding court in the very center of my dwarf conifer bed. One nice option with a bed such as this is the ability to vary textures, colors and forms of the various conifers, all within a very limited space.

Another guy that seemingly can't wait for spring is my Chamelaucium 'Purple Pride.' It's not only already budding up well in advance of its usual spring blooming but if you look closely one flower has already opened. It's one of the stars of my Australian natives bed.

Just a common Pelargonium but 'Raspberry Twizzle' is such a cool name (and accurate description) that I had to include a photo.
01 09 10