Friday, April 25, 2014

Wildflower meadows

April always makes me think of the Bay Area wildflowers season. Though it is short, mainly late March through early May, and reliant on spring rains which we know can be in short supply at times, it's really the best season to be out hiking. Whether at sea level or on any number of low hills, this is the season when such natives as blue-eyed grass, lupines, checkermallow, California buttercups, Cow parsley, native columbines, gilias and baby blue eyes are to be found adding color to local grasses. Some, like the California buttercups, can clothe entire meadows, making for a spectacular show. So, find a friend and get out on your favorite trail or hilly park.
Here are a few photos taken of my garden yesterday. A word about the photos I post on this blog. I try not to repeat photos of the same species from post to post. To get an idea of what's in bloom in my nursery, umm garden, you may want to scroll back several posts (that is if you aren't a regular reader). And of course don't forget to click on the thumbnails to view photos in full screen mode. Enjoy.

It's not much of an exaggeration that you can stand in front of Iochromas and watch them grow. This I. Burgundy has the prettiest deep red flowers which, like other iochromas, appear in nodding clusters.

Sarracenia sp. This flower is just beginning to open, but already its sun-dappled lime color is a beautiful thing to behold. Not a Little Shop of Horrors but a little garden of wonders.

Clematis Belle of Woking. The double, large flowered clematis types are particularly intriguing and the lavender color of Belle offers a subtle hue. It may surprise some to know that there are ten flowering types for Clematis: Single large, double large, Montana, Viticella, saucer-shaped, star-shaped, open bell-shaped, bell-shaped, tulip-shaped and tubular. Ahh, Virgin's Bower, we thought we knew ye ...

Speaking of vines, here's the charming (and still relatively unknown) Eccremocarpus. Nicknamed Chilean Glory Flower, this vigorous vine with delicate leaves is tougher than it looks. This one here is a new variety called "Pink Lemonade." 

Sometimes it's the leaf not the flower and that might be the case with Cerinthe major. No this is not a diseased leaf. The raised, almost puckered, white spots are a natural occurrence.Though the cerinthe everyone knows has purple flowers, this Yellow Delight has a pure yellow flower.

If you looked up the word 'extravagant' in the Gardening dictionary you might well find a photo of Peony style breadseed poppies. This one is Flemish Antique and, well, someone has a good imagination to give it such a name. Mind you I don't watch Antiques Roadshow ...

One more shot of the charming Tweedia caerulea. To quote myself "Beautiful, tough, deer resistant, what's not to like?"

Though this shot isn't going to win any photography awards, it does give you an inkling of the persuasive beauty of the "it" plant this year -- Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame.'

To paraphrase that famous movie quote "Show me the monellii!" In this case, it's Anagallis monellii, a lovely annual with striking gentian-blue flowers. Blue Pimpernel? I have no idea where that common name is from.

True, this top down photo is a bit strange but I had to get as much of this Papaver Orange Chiffon's blinding orange color into the shot as possible. If I had a dollar for every time an Ace customer came in and said "What is that fabulous orange poppy you have planted out front?" well, I could probably retire.

Speaking of fabulous, it's hard not to go gaga (no not with the Lady) over the huge, nectar-rich flowers of Grevillea 'Moonlight.' It's been in bloom nonstop for four months, with more on the way.

Tidytips with variegated Plectranthus and Lilium regale shoots. A triptych worthy of a canvas.

I have my own little Phoenix collection of plants, ones that were all but dead and somehow made it back. This Penstemon 'Raven' is one of them and so to now see it blooming and happy is very satisfying. 

Louisiana iris species. Though not as striking as my Iris pseudacorus Holden Clough, this sweet little iris has gradually multiplied and blooms faithfully every year.

Though still tiny, this Rhodochiton vine has already produced its first flowers. The burgundy calyxes yield dark purple flowers.  Can't wait for it to really get going!

Nasturtiums may be common but they are nonetheless lovely. I like the soft hues of this one, offset by the bright red markings.

Rhododendron CA Blue. Another of my Phoenix plants and along with the Agapetes one of the most satisfying rescue projects. The lovely flowers explain why.

Veteran gardeners will recognize this plant as Alyogyne hakeafolia. So, yes a species mate of Alyogyne huegelii (Blue hibiscus) though it does seem like an entirely different genus until you see the flowers open.

This photo isn't mine (it's borrowed from the Annie's Annuals website) but it's such a beautiful photo of this sweet pea that has started to bloom in my garden. It's Lathyrus 'Blue Vein' and its veins look all the world like blood vessels in the human body.

One last shot of my Scabiosa, which took a couple years off before returning to full splendor this year. And what's not to like about Pincushion flowers? Floriferous, tough and pollinators love them.

Begonia sutherlandii. Subtle, especially compared to showier begonias, but that simple red veining and the charming orange flowers make it one of my favorites.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Longer Days

For those of us who like to be outdoors, be it in our garden or in nature, the lengthening of days in late spring is the true gift of the season. Rather than coming in at 5 pm, we can if our schedules allow, putter in our gardens till six, seven or even eventually eight. Apart from that joyful addition, it allows us to get things done indoors, and wander out in the garden later in the day, even if that's just to water.
Here are more photos from my mid-April garden. For me, April is kind of a magical month. I still have some late spring bulbs in bloom, as well as late winter blooming shrubs like grevilleas. But as well, it's the high season for spring annuals, especially natives. And deciduous perennials have reappeared. It is a gourmet feast almost too overwhelming. Almost.

Here's a more representative shot of what is so charming about Agapetes serpens. The papery flowers hang like little red icicles underneath the branches. Not sure why this tough shrub isn't more popular in the trade.

The 'birth' of a leaf. Here a new leaf emerges, all crinkly edges, on a Begonia 'Gene Daniels.'

Though it doesn't regularly flower, the variegated form of Philadelphus coronarius is still awfully pretty. Very 'fresh' looking!

Campanula punctata. These lovely bell-shaped campanulas have a pink spotting on the inside, which for some reason to me looks like someone sprayed pink confectioner's sugar inside.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope.' Some variegated varieties can be weak compared to the species but no such problem with this Abelia. It's been vigorous and in only its second year is well established and filling out.

What the heck is this, some may ask? It's a Centaurea montana 'Black Sprite.' One of the oddest and yet most beautiful flowers in my garden.

Plant lovers will instantly recognize this Salpiglossis. Although this genus isn't a reliable perennial, this variety has come back strong from last year. Red and gold - very royal!

Here's visual proof that Dicentra scandens is not a "fragile" plant. Now in its third year in the ground, it's in the process of taking over the East facing house wall. Pure yellow flowers are already appearing and soon it will be smothered in them.

One of my favorite plants (and I have over 500), this Stachys albotomentosa is better known as the 7-Up plant. It's true, the leaves do smell remarkably like the refreshing drink. And the coral flowers are exceptionally pretty too.

Laurentia axillaris. Known as Blue Stars for, well, the bluish star-shaped flowers. Prolific and tougher than it looks, this semi-deciduous perennial is just a pure delight. Very airy and scandent.

Though I haven't got it in the ground yet, this Eriogonum 'Shasta Sulphur' is already blooming. Like other CA Buckwheats it is tough and a terrific plant for pollinators.

Wild onion. What's that saying -- "A weed is only a plant you don't want in the garden?" That would be true for this common weed. I leave a few to flower, loving the clusters of simple white flowers.

Breadseed poppy fans will recognize this variety as one of the 'peonies.' This one is Papaver 'Flemish Antique.' Just ridiculously crammed with petals and a close examination reveals the patterning on each leaf. Exhibit 4834 of how grand Nature is.

Here's another shot of my variegated Nicandra, this time showing the flower. I honestly don't know why gardeners don't go bonkers over this plant. Beautiful variegated foliage, pretty lavender flowers. Tough. Easy to grow. Reseeds.

What was once lost has now been found. That saying could apply to Tweedia caerulea. It's slowly finding its way back into the market. It's also tough, deer resistant (part of the milkweed family, including those distinctive seedpods) and very pretty.

Here's my specimen of the latest sensation, Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame.' It's just getting going, this is its first spike after starting as a 4" plant. I'll need to repot it soon!

Mollie Rinestone sweet pea. More pink and less pearly than Annie's photo has it but nonetheless still pretty.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple.' I have it planted as a street tree and it's made itself at home. There's nothing quite like the "puffs of smoke" flower clusters.

Clematis 'HF Young.' One of the larger clematis flowers, mine has struggled to survive as a street vine. I keep accidentally pruning away an older branch and it's planted in crappy soil but somehow it's survived.

Calandrinia flowers are just such a ridiculously saturated fuchsia color that the camera just freaks out trying to capture the flower correctly. Have a friend with a black thumb? Buy and plant a Calandrinia for them and watch it amaze them.

Berberis 'Orange Rocket.' I never was much of a barberry fan but this specimen has won me over.

Bees love Gilias and so I didn't need to herd a honeybee over to this G. capitata flower. Industrious little guys.

Papaver atlanticum. This Moroccan poppy has been as advertised. Tough, long blooming and drought tolerant. Nothing quite its crinkled tangerine flowers!

Lathyrus 'Blue Vein.' Umm, no blue veins but that doesn't detract from the coral beauty of its flowers.

My Choisya 'Sundance' has lived up to its name, flushing out pure golden new growth. And it's finally going to bloom in its third year. 

Though the sun in this shot somewhat robs these Anomatheca flowers of their true color, you get an idea here of their reddish-coral color. An iris relative, it likes moist shade. It's a prolific reseeder, which is perfect for my shady raised bed.

Speaking of golden foliage, Jasminum 'Fiona Sunrise' offers the most lovely golden yellow tones in spring. Still haven't been able to get it to flower though.

Finally, my Lime Sarracenia has put up new flowers. This one has yet to open, looking like a little alien pod. I think I'll have to add a few more American Pitcher plants to my collection.

Friday, April 11, 2014

In Praise of Small Vines

Well, blogspot is having a little fun at my expense and put these photos above the text (see that at the end of the photos). Here's the first flower on my Clematis niobe, which offers perhaps the richest hue of any clematis. Velvety.

A top down view of my Epipactis Serpentine Night. Otherwise known as CA Stream orchid, this dark-leaved variety will eventually produce little green and pink flowers. Tough and liking some regular water (thus the stream in its common name). Known to self seed and pop up elsewhere (right, Elena?).

Here's the last of my Lachenalias to bloom. Unspecified and though it looks to be all white, a closer inspection reveals green and bronze on its tips. My first cowslip flowered in December so that gives you an idea of their blooming range.

Isn't this little columbine just the sweetest thing you ever saw? It's an A. chrysantha 'Flora Pleno.' I'd forgotten all about it till it popped up a few weeks ago. It's along my main walkway, so a good place to enjoy its pint-sized charms!

My Clematis 'Belle of Woking' has found its sea legs and is producing its best crop of flowers ever. It's in a pot though and it won't really be happy till I get it in the ground.

I can't seem to get a really good photo of this Salvia 'Lemon Light.' It's either in the shade when I shoot it (like now) with too much of a dark background or it's in the sun and that bleaches out the delicate butter-colored flowers. This will have to do for now.

Not many plants combine wow with durability and nearly nonstop blooming but this Helenium 'Mardi Gras' does exactly that. I guess its namer was inspired by the nonstop party that is Mardi Gras.

I'm taking shots of my Physocarpus 'Nugget' to show it in different stages. It progresses about as fast as any plant I've seen from first leafing out, to flowering, to producing its seedpods. You can see both in this shot. The white flowers give way to red seedpods which for many, myself included, are even showier than the flowers.

The words 'pineapple' and 'lily' may not seem like they belong together but they do as the common name for Eucomis. This is the 'Sparkling Burgundy' variety and you have to love that intense hue. It will lighten as it grows and have a good amount of green in it by the time it sends up its thick stem of tiny waxy flowers.

Here's a shot of a fron yard bed, containing phacelias, golden Dutch iris and Sunspot arctotis among other things.

Gold stars for anyone who can ID this plant. It's a Teucrium! In this case a T. 'Summer Sunshine.' Very aptly named, don't you think? It stays low and keeps its chartreuse color all summer.

Most of you will recognize this Ladybird poppy. It's the advance guard, with dozens more to arrive in short order. I have it in a pot with Blue gilia, a colorful combo.

Speaking of Blue gilia, here it is (Gilia capitata). Okay here's a fun little fantasy. If you imagine that the red poppy in this same pot is the Alice in Wonderland Red Queen, what would she say to the Gilia? "Off with its head!" You see, Gilia capitata ... de-capitate ... No? "Off with your head, then!

It looks like a Buddleja (Butterfly bush) but ... that color! It's B. 'CranRazz,' a new variety on the market that's between a full size buddleja and one of the dwarf varieties, this one getting six feet tall.

Another (better) shot of my Iris pseudacorus 'Holden Clough.' The creators describe the color as 'toffee,' not something you hear every day but damn if it doesn't look ... toffee-ish.

Azalea Exbury hybrid. Those that have discovered the wonderful reds, oranges, peaches and golds of deciduous azaleas just love them. These flowers are just a hair past their prime but still glorious.

Echeveria species. Now that I have it in the ground it is slowly colonizing the area. And I swear it's gotten more blue tones in its new location.

Tweedia caerulea. Doesn't the name 'tweedia' sound like something out of Monty Python? Discuss among yourselves.

My robust Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold' is back and looks great spreading up through the cascading Phacelia campanularia.

Sambucus 'Madonna.' Shouldn't a variety with that name be 'pink?'  Just wondering ...

Maianthemum. This vigorous deciduous ground cover has returned. I love the striations on the leaves and its verdent green color. 

For some reason when I took a photo of this unopened columbine flower, it reminded me of a little rocket! Or perhaps a lavender squid? 

Rhodie 'CA Blue.' This is a success story. Ravaged by thrips and not terribly strong even before that happened, it has somehow survived to produce its first flowers. I'm now looking forward to future years where it can put on a real show.

Speaking of slow to establish, it took awhile for my Snowball viburnum to really get a toehold and bloom in earnest. One of my favorite shrubs ever!

Kudos to those who can guess this plant. It's a Stachys 'Bello Grigio.' More upright and much more silvery than the regular lambs ears, it looks for all the world like it dropped down from some alien world. And finally, below, another success story. This is my Dianthus 'Lady Granville.' It's been kind of weak from the get go but with an extra year under its belt and a little fertilizer it has finally come into its own. I call it my 'Raspberry Swirl' carnation.

When we consider adding a vine to our garden, we normally are thinking big. As in covering a wall or fence or perhaps blanketing an arbor. But there are times when one wants something to climb a trellis or some other smaller area, without going wild. That's when a smaller vine can be the perfect fit. Spring bloomers like Asarina, with its purple, pink or white flowers, or Eccremocarpus, showcasing exceptionally pretty gold or red flowers, make for great floral climbers.. And there are less common vines like Scyphanthus, with its pretty, golden cup-shaped flowers, that also do the job very nicely. In summer there is Mina lobata, with its neat trick of "changing" flowers, finger-like blooms that start bright red then age to orange, gold then finally white.
Meanwhile, happening in a garden near you -- Spring! Some years it roars in; others it seems to slide in gradually. This year it seemed more of the latter, coming in fits and starts. But a peek at the clock reveals it's mid-April so its official. Here are a few more photos from my nursery ... er, garden. Not only do I enjoy sharing these photos but I hope to pass on a little bit of my experience with them.

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