One of the very nice things about Spring is that we see the return of "old friends," be that bulbs returning to offer their show of color, the flowering of late winter shrubs or the re-emergence of deciduous perennials. Call it a Rite of Spring if you will but for me it's like seeing old friends again. I walk through my garden and reacquaint myself with these floral companions. Except for those plants that go completely dormant and that have re-emerged from bare earth, it's like the other shrubs and perennials are slowly waking from a slumber. Their 'bare bones' have been there all along but their leafing out is like someone opening their eyes and starting to stretch. There is a particular joy in watching plants leaf out in the spring. The fact you know they're going to do that doesn't diminish the joy one feels in seeing them burst forth.
Here is a sampling of the color in my garden these days.
Dutch Iris are always a lovely sight and lately I've been planting yellow ones.
Speaking of yellow, here's a photo of my Halimium, now fully recovered after surviving a near death experience in a pot. It's planted in a median strip with other yellow bloomers -- a Butterflies magnolia, yellow daylilies, an Alyogyne hakeafolia and Bidens as a ground cover.
Calothamnus villosus. This is my plant of the month. This Aussie native has one of the most interesting flowers you've ever seen. First off, they sprout from the stems themselves, not at the tips of branches. The flowers look like fan coral and the main tubes are surprisingly stiff, with only the fringed edges being soft. Fabulous.
This lavender freesia is new this year and the individual flowers are especially large and fragrant.
Selaginella kraussiana. This variegated form of Club moss is to me one of the prettiest of all ground covers. It really does prefer shade so if you're looking for something pretty for full shade and you can give it a little regular water, Selaginella is your guy. Good for terrariums too.
I know nasturtiums are common but many are particularly beautiful. This one is growing up the base of my Porcelain berry vine.
Arisaema thunbergii var. Urashima. If you've been reading my blog you know I love Arisaemas and here is why. Love the markings on the "tube" and then there is the deep chocolate color of the spathe head. The Arum family contains so many strange and wonderful species!
From the unusual to the common. Here's the first flower on what I refer to as my "Original rhodie," as it was the first one I planted many moons ago. It's variety name is long lost but it's usually the first one to bloom.
Speaking of Rhodies, here's a shot of my lovely R."Sappho." It has been acting very strangely, first producing blooms back in November. Its true blooming period is April to June so even mid-March is early for it.
Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate.' This golden tradescantia sits below a deciduous hibiscus, adding a little color to this small bed. Its eventual deep purple flowers are a lovely contrast to the yellow foliage.
Azalea 'Mangetsu.' Nearly killed by thrips, this uncommon azalea has rebounded nicely. Here's a shot of it partly in shade, adding a nice texture to the photo, as if one were walking through a wooded area and suddenly came across this azalea beginning to flower.
Streptocarpella saxorum. Although the flowers on this shade-loving, semi-deciduous perennial are certainly pretty enough, one thing I particularly love about the plant is its nearly translucent stems. Very unusual and cool. Another great plant for a very shady area.
Extra bonus points if you can name this bulb. It's a South African cutie named Homeria ochroleuca. There's something about them I find enormously charming. They're very hard to find in the trade but our nursery (Ace Garden Center in Oakland) has managed to find some in 4" pots and I couldn't resist taking one home.
This daffodil (N. Orangery) has a neat rick. The corolla starts out a bright golden color but then ages to a peach color. I've always wondered how it does that ... and why?
Phacelia viscida. My favorite 'bluebell,' this species has the most vivid, gentian-blue flowers. And the patterning in the nectary is so beautiful.
While this pansy is certainly pretty enough to warrant a photo, it was the visitor that made me snap this picture. Ladybugs (or Ladybirds as they're called in England) may be cute but they're also voracious aphid eaters. Yea!
Justicia brandegeeana. The aptly named "Shrimp bush" is one of my favorite plants. Despite listed as a part shade plant, I find that here in Oakland it likes quite a bit of sun. And where the heck did that long species name come from? Looking at it yesterday, I realized that one humorous interpretation could be that it combines three girl's names: Brandy, Gee (a Filipina name) and Ana. I guess the person who discovered this species couldn't choose just one name!
Ornithogalum umbellatum. This cute little Star of Bethlehem makes for a great ground cover for a sunny bed. Sweet!
While it's hard to get a good shot of Pulmonaria, here are the first flowers on my specimen. I thought it was dead last year as I saw no sign of it. So gave up on it. To my surprise it reappeared in January and has been blooming again. Some plants you just have to ignore.
Calluna 'Firefly.' This great little heather had the most brilliant red foliage in the winter but now that the weather has warmed up, it has lovely, golden new growth.
This isn't the best shot but I couldn't resist posting a photo of my Physocarpus 'Nugget' producing its first flowers. Something about the delicate white flowers against the rich golden textured leaves makes for a nice photo.
For those familiar with Trachelospermum asiaticum the very fact that I have something to photograph will be recognized as a victory. Extremely slow growing, mine has taken four years to get to 30" wide. Still, the coppery new growth mixed in with the greens and whites makes for a lovely sight.
The hard won victories are the sweetest, isn't that what they say? This Iris 'Joyce Terry' was in bloom when I bought it but then didn't flower the last two years. Bearded irises can be finicky and I'd almost given up when I saw a bloom spike this year. You can see why I was overjoyed to have it back.
Speaking of survivors, this Halimiocistus 'Merrist Wood Cream,' which I have planted in a median strip, has suffered all manner of ignomies. Branches kept getting broken, it seemed unhappy and I was about to throw in the towel when I thought "Okay, I'll cut it back hard and see what happens." That pruning has prompted much healthier new growth and last week its first flowers.
Dicentra scandens. As I've mentioned I have no idea why this yellow Bleeding heart is largely no longer in production. Beautiful, vigorous and very long blooming, it's much more reliable than most pink dicentras.
My favorite Salvia, S. discolor has the blackest flowers of any salvia and one of the darkest of any flower. In the light, you can see that it's actually a very deep purple and the pale lime bracts offset it very nicely. One of the toughest sages to boot.
It's a bit of a mystery to me why deciduous azaleas aren't more popular. The best known ones, Exbury hybrids, feature a fabulous array of golds, oranges and reds. Sun lovers, they add a splash of bright color where it can best be enjoyed.
Speaking of color, my indefatigable Streptosolen is back blooming. Being in my front yard and in bloom much of the year, it probably draws more attention from passersby than any other plant. Hummingbirds and titmice love it and the hummers will come over for nectar even if I'm two feet away.
Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' My favorite cane-type begonia, in part for the extravagantly lobed and burgundy-red backed leaves. Easy to grow and very floriferous, it makes a great addition to my morning sun raised bed.
Viburnum plicatum. It amazes me every year how quickly this deciduous viburnum leafs out then begins producing flowers. As you can see, the buds open to greenish flowers, which then mature to a lovely white.