Friday, March 28, 2014

Bulb Heaven

Among the many pleasures of Spring gardens is the advent of colorful bulbs popping up to display their cheerful charms. My garden is filled with them, covering a wide range of types. Outside of tulips, crocus and hyacinths, which need more of a winter than those of us living in a mild zone can provide, most other bulbs return faithfully each year. I've utilized every bit of my gardening space for perennials, leaving the bulbs to push up through them in spring. This multi-level planting isn't just an efficient use of space; it creates a bit of a natural or wild look to those beds (which I like). It's also fun to first spot their appearance in the garden, not always recognizable at first until they clear the plants around them. Right now it's freesias, sparaxis, daffodils and iris in bloom. And the first of my lilies have already pushed their heads up. One little tip about bulbs. They really benefit from regular water as they're first growing, then blooming (there's a reason they are spurred by spring rains). During dry spring seasons make sure to water them. I also fertilize mine with a bloom fertilizer once they get ready to flower.
Here are more photos from the bounty of my spring garden, starting with a second photo of my clivia. For reasons I don't understand, this year the flowers were especially vivid, and with more red than in years past.

Speaking of bulbs, Bearded iris rank right up there with people's favorite bulbs. Not just the large, extravagant flowers but many are fragrant (as is the case with this I. Joyce Terry).

Clematis 'Belle of Woking.' Double form clematis aren't common but they certainly are showy. This variety has one other nice attribute -- it begins a greenish-white then colors in, becoming a soft lavender color.

There's a lobelia called 'Waterfall' and even though this is a Magadi Blue, it does rather resemble a blue waterfall.

Physocarpus 'Nugget.' I'm always amazed that certain shrubs (Physocarpus, Viburnums, Spireas to name a few) can progress from bare to leafing out to flowering in such a condensed period of time. This 'Ninebark' is in full bloom, smothered in corymbs of pure white flowers.

Scabiosa lavender. Pincushion flowers, as they're sometimes known, may be common but that doesn't make them less pretty. And they're a favorite destination for butterflies and bees in my garden.

Iris 'Eye of the Tiger.' I'm particularly fond of the colors on this Dutch iris. And with a few drops of rain from the previous night still clinging to its petals it looks especially lovely.

Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' Whenever I'm telling a nursery customer about this fabulous Leuco and I show them the closeup photo in our Proteas book (Leucospermum is part of the Protea family), I know what they're thinking ("Mine will never look like that"). Au contraire. Here's living proof that this species does have the most outrageously beautiful flowers. I actually like this stage, before the flower has fully opened, the best. Love that 'fur.'

One of the prettiest Aussie shrubs that nobody has heard of, this Verticordia plumosa is in full bloom right now. Tough, drought tolerant, floriferous. End of discussion.

This Aeonium species is getting ready to open a 'shooting star' head of flowers and I thought a top-down photo offered an interesting view.

Grevillea 'Moonlight.' I took this shot to illustrate the four stages of flowering on this showy variety. Center-right is the budded panicle; to the far right is the open flower in all its glory; center-left is the flower as it's fading and far left is the final seed-pod. One of the most distinctive and spectacular of all grevilleas, Moonlight is my favorite.

New succulent bowl. An empty bowl is a dangerous thing for me and it led to me doing a third succulent bowl. I'm taking a different approach here. The larger item is an Aeonium escobarii, which in time will take over the entire bowl. In the meantime, the bowl is acting as a "nursery" to grow the other little guys, to be moved at a later stage.

Here's an example of a bulb bursting up through a perennial bed. This is a top down shot of a Lilium regale, making its way skyward through a surrounding plectranthus and low growing abelia.

Though in front of my neighbor's house, this median strip is a joint effort of my planting, their planting and Mother Nature. It has a pleasingly wild look, with self-seeded CA poppies already in bloom, plus a red arctotis and a red euphorbia.

Berberis 'Orange Rocket.' A soon-to-be addition to my little Japanese Garden plot, this lovely barberry is about to burst into bloom. Can't wait!

This peach-colored Heuchera almost died out, at one point smothered by daylilies in the same bed, not to mention weedy grasses. After a good weeding, the sunshine has spurred new growth. It's part of a 'sunshine' bed, featuring golden colors.

Sedum 'Jelly Beans.' Okay, I'll admit to just loving this sedum. Great color and great name. I'm at work right now on an article for Pacific Horticulture Magazine on sedums. Stay tuned for that.

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender.' I have to laugh at myself sometimes. When I've run out of ideas in recommending shade-loving plants to a customer I often fall back on suggesting plectranthus. There's a reason for that. The lot of them are tough, drought tolerant, easy to grow, plus they have pretty salvia-like  lavender flowers.  

My unidentified fern has sent up a new 'fiddlestick.' Kind of cool and very prehistoric (ferns were already here during the time of the dinosaurs).

Geranium phaeum. I call this tough little species the Monet of  geranium world. It has soft, expressive forest-green leaves, distinguished by purple markings on the new leaves. The flowers are a soft purple, the look more "matte" than glossy (thus the Monet reference). Lovely.

Scrophularia auriculata variegata. Quite a mouthful for a simple plant that has been known for centuries as Figwort (or Water figwort owing to it liking moist environments). The flowers are small but it does lighten up a dappled shade location.

Rhododendron 'Sappho.' Back from the dead, this rhodie is now making itself at home in the back yard, where it gets a decent amount of morning sun. The flowers remind me of Raspberry Swirl ice cream!

I love viburnums -- I have four different species in my garden -- and this V. plicatum might still be my favorite. Love the pleated leaves and their fresh green look and then the white flowers really pop. I'm keeping it well trimmed to keep the walkway clear, giving it a kind of large bonzai look.

I was very excited to see brink bracts emerge on this tillandsia a few weeks ago and lo and behold here are its first purple flowers. Lesson? Don't give up on them flowering and do fertilize them!

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