Friday, February 7, 2014

A Pause that Refreshes

Well, we might want to cancel that move to Seattle after all. Just when you thought we'd never see rain again in our lifetime, we get rain yesterday and today and they're talking about Oakland getting 2-3" of rain on the weekend. And the North Bay may get up to 6." Yikes. Oh, ye of little faith. Our High front has said Hi and goodbye! And I know the thought many of us gardeners are thinking -- I can't wait to see what the rains will cause to sprout, be that dormant bulbs or returning perennials. My own garden has hundreds of bulbs so I'm expecting quite the harvest come Monday morning, once the rains have past.
All of that said, I'd like to share a little about one of my favorite plants. I sometimes use this blog space to discuss a plant that due to availability issues I won't use as a subject of one of my columns (if you cain't buy it, I won't write it). That's the case for one of the most fragrant plants I've probably ever had the pleasure to smell. It's Luculia pinceana. It hails from East Asia but seems to thrive in the milder zones of our Bay Area. It is an evergreen bush growing to at least 8,' though it can reach 12.' If the leaves remind some of gardenias, it's because this shrub belongs to the same family (Rubiaceae). The leaves get to be a good size, up to 9" in length. Unlike gardenias, this shrub blooms in the late fall through the early spring period. The simple, round, light pink inch wide flowers appear in hydrangea-like clusters measuring up to 10" across. That sight alone would be reason enough to grow this handsome shrub. But it's the heavenly fragrance that will make anyone who has smelled this shrub in bloom run out and buy it straight away. Heavenly fragrance doesn't begin to describe the intoxicating scent of the flowers. Almost overpowering close-up, plants waft the jasmine-like scent to anyone passing by. Plants have a temperature range that they're most comfortable with -- below 85 in the summer but above freezing in the winter. They are reportedly hardy down to 28 degrees.
There are a few growers here in the Bay Area and as one of the buyers at Grand Lake Ace Garden Center in Oakland, I'm going to do my best to bring some plants in. Here's one photo, not really the very best but giving an idea, Stay posted.

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