Thursday, February 20, 2014

Carrying On

As those of us in the Bay Area face the prospect of a drought, it is understandable to become cautious about what -- and how much -- to plant. Where you fall on that curve is an individual matter. For myself, I'm still adding plants but taking every measure possible to save and preserve water. And of course, I'm not pulling out existing plants. That said, I will renew my efforts to get plants out of pots and into the ground, where they can make do with less water.
Like many Bay Area gardens, mine is beginning to burst with pre-spring color. That's aided by my surfeit of late winter/early spring bulbs. I love bulbs of all kinds, if only because they appear of their own making, offer dazzling color (and fragrance for some), bursting through the perennials above them like fun and friendly girls crashing the party.
So, here are some photos of my garden taken on this lovely mid-February day, as I somewhat guiltily rejoice in the unseasonably warm weather, trying my best to send some of it to people on the East coast.

Arisaema nepenthoides. This is one of the most vigorous, and earliest blooming, of the Jack-in-the-Pulpits. Two of my five species aren't even up and the other two are just nubs. Arisaemas have that 'it' factor for me.

Speaking of the 'it' factor, the weird flowers of Asarum maximum are, well, really weird. It's common name is Panda Face ginger (imagination required to see that). The flowers are stiff and sort of rubbery. I have the best crop of them ever this year.

Here's a shot of my Japanese painted fern and the Plectranthus Sapphire Dream kind of sticking his nose into the photo. These ferns may look delicate but they're tough as nails.

Despite being only 15" tall, this Hardenbergia is full of flowers. I had a hard time getting it in perfect focus, as I had to brush aside a camellia branch obstructing the view. It will have a tall and wide wall on which to climb. I can't wait.

Another of my Lachenalias, this one L. orchioides var. glaucina. Love the colors on this one!

Another shot of my Echeveria 'Black Prince' and the silver Tillandsia. I love the contrast in color and texture.

Speaking of bulbs, here's my favorite sparaxis, S. elegans. Vivid colors and like other Harlequin flowers, it's reliable. 

Remember the old days, when Hellebores were considered a utility plant for shade. Something tough that kept its foliage nearly year round, something to plant in that tough spot where you couldn't get much to grow? Now, the hellebore world is filled with fabulous colors and petal designs. Here's a new burgundy one called Penny's Pink. Very lovely. 

Freesias are very common but that doesn't mean they're not pretty. You can buy them in nearly every color imaginable these days. I've taken an unofficial poll and freesias ranked #1 on people's lists. One sniff and that seals the deal ...

Here's another one. They're so colorful and fragrant you sometimes overlook that they are actually very pretty, many with unique markings.

I can't believe I ever had trouble growing Lotus but after seeing it used as a ground cover in my neighbor's garden and how vigorous it was I planted one for the same purpose. Lo and behold, it's gone wild and just in the last week has burst into bloom. Is there a more cheerful ground cover out there?

Magnolia 'Butterflies.' Speaking of cheerful, are the flowers on this tulip tree lovely or what? There's something about yellow (and white) magnolias that is magical.

Speaking of magical, there's something magical about the flowers of Papaver atlanticum. Described as 'taffeta' and possessing a one of a kind orange hue, it's hard to believe this perennial poppy is tough, long blooming and nearly impossible to kill. This is the subject of an upcoming column and there's always a big response to the plants I jokingly call 'black thumb' plants.

Back to the department of odd and unique flowers,one near the top of the list is the South African bulb, Ferraria crispa. This is the "chocolate" ferraria (F. crispa ssp nortieri) and the colors and crinkled edges are just wondrous to contemplate!

If you wondering why I've included a picture of lily shoots, well ... let me check my calendar ... oh, yeah it's FEBRUARY! These are Lilium trebbiano and I guess they just couldn't, you know, wait!

This flower may look sort of familiar to some. Cistus maybe? Nope. Oh, maybe that recently popular Halimiocistus? Nope. It's the first half of that cross, Halimium lasianthum. Very pretty and a small shrub that couldn't wait to get a jump start on spring.

Snapdragons may be common but this inexpensive 6 pack has recently burst into glorious bloom. Behind it is a Sunspot arctotis and to the right a variegated Felicia amelloides.

They don't call them King proteas for nothing. This closeup shows the amazing collection of white styles. The outer 'petals' are of course the bracts.

My Melaleuca incana is bursting with flowerheads and open flowers this month. The little cream-colored flowers resemble miniature bottle brushes. Native to Australia, it is tough and drought tolerant.

Though this plant doesn't look a jasmine, it is indeed a tri-colored species of bush or star jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaiticum). There's no pink as yet but it seems to have gotten its sea legs. 

You can be forgiven for looking at the leaves of this plant and thinking "It looks like a Euphorbia but it has red flowers so it can't be." Let me introduce you to Euphorbia atropurpurea. I nursed this plant from a tiny, weak 4" plant through thick and thin and I'm thrilled it is about to open a cluster of red flowers. Stay tuned!

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