Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Praise of Begonias

Like many a gardener, there was a time when if someone mentioned the word 'begonia' I thought only of the common bedding begonia. No more. My eyes have been opened to the great and varied world of begonias, a genus that includes Cane-stemmed types, T-Rex types (okay, just Rex but someone should cultivate a T-Rex begonia), Rhizomatous, Tuberous and Semperflorens. I especially love sharing the great variety of Cane begonias with customers at Grand Lake Ace Garden Center. Once you have laid eyes on a B. Irene Nuss, it's hard to ever look at bedding begonias again. There is great variety, some of which is on display in my own garden. These include the odd but charming B. rex 'Escargot,' which yes has leaves shaped like snails; B. sutherlandii, a tuberous type with simple but delightful orange flowers, B. masoniana, known as Iron Cross begonia and containing rough-textured scalloped leaves and B. boliviensis, a photo of which leads off the group of photos below. So, a tip of the cap to the wild and wooly world of begonias.

Here's the aforementioned Begonia boliviensis, displaying its fiery reddish-orange flowers. Definitely a show-stopper.

Oxalis sp. This wild oxalis has self-seeded in my garden and I don't mind one bit. Very showy, with the contrast of orchid-pink flowers and green throats.

Hydrangea quercifolia. Now in the process of "taking over" my NW corner, it's started in blooming, with its elongated cones.

Speaking of taking over, that's exactly what I want my Ampelopsis (Porcelain Berry vine) to do. It's found the top of the fence and is slowly spreading. The bees have already found the tiny white flowers.

Clematis viticella purpurea'Plena Elegans.' This small, double burgundy clematis is one of my faves and this year I've been treated to many more flowers.

Orange masdevallia. This is one of the easiest orchids to grow and though not long lives (except in a greenhouse maybe), its golden orange flowers are a delight.

Digitalis 'Pantaloons.' This is a new "split" foxglove grown by Annie's Annuals. Not sure if you can see it here but the sides are split open.

Succulent table. Here's my ever expanding collection of succulents (the ones not already in the ground or part of the three succulent bowls). 

Lychnis chalcedonia 'Maltese Cross.' Simple bright red 'crosses' are the attraction for this tough deciduous perennial.

No this photo is not doctored! My Lobelia Magadi Blue just keeps blooming like crazy.

This Skullcap (Scutellaria suffretescens) has THE prettiest rose-colored flowers and is a tough little guy to boot.

This unnamed zinnia came home with me and if its first flower is any indication, it's going to put on quite a show this summer.

This Eriophyllum lanatum is one of the best kept secrets in the collection of CA natives available in our parts. Though it produces pretty yellow flowers, I grow it for the silvery foliage.

Raspberry breadseed poppy. Just the most sensational colors and then it leaves behind those curious ridged seedpods.

Everyone knows this guy -- Bird of Paradise, otherwise known as Strelitzia reginae. I had to dig this up, put it in a pot for the time being, where it has remained, half ignored. A little more water this spring brought it to life and here is my reward.

Cuphea ignea. One of the 'Firecracker' cupheas. It still has 'ears' like the bat-faced types but they're very, very small.

Cerinthe 'Yellow Gem.' Yes, there is a yellow flowering cerinthe, as evidenced here. It takes some getting used to, seeing the distinctive foliage but not the usual purple and blue flowers.

This series of Calibrachoas has one of my favorite names. They're called Mini-Famous double calibrachoas. Yes, the flower is a double and yes they are smaller (thus the 'mini) but 'Mini-famous'? So ... famous, but in a small way? No matter, I love the colors on this variety.

One of the succulents on my aforementioned table is this Cotyledon Elisae. Very charming!

Sometimes it isn't the flower but the flower bud! The unopened flower buds on this CA native Gilia capitata ssp. chamissonis seem to shimmer in the sunlight!

Lastly, another shot of my quixotic Impatiens niamniamensis (what, one 'niam' wasn't sufficient?). I like its former name -- Impatiens congolense -- even better (or its common name Congo Cockatoo, referring to the colorful beak-like flowers). Whatever you call it, it's pretty fabulous.

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