Friday, June 20, 2014

Endless Summer

As we hit the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year, it may seem like an endless summer is here. Coming in from a long, sweat-inducing garden session, there is another meaning to a phrase that some associate with The Beach Boys. Spring is a hectic season, especially for those of us working in the nursery trade. Long work days and then keeping up with just the daily and weekly demands of one's garden can be a full time project. As we come out of the spring blitz many of us may find that little projects had been piling up and that certainly has been true for me this year. Spurred by the desire to get the garden in good shape for a garden party, I discovered a seemingly "endless" list of To Do's. In some ways, that's almost a "Rite of Summer." Then again, having friends over can give one the motivation to overcome one's procrastination to get to all those little jobs.
Now that I will no longer be writing a weekly column for the Chronicle, I hope to occasionally write about a plant that I find noteworthy. That plant today is Lepechinia hastata. This salvia relative, native to Hawaii, is one tough customer. It gets to about four feet tall, with a spread of three feet, and sports large, lovely, felty gray leaves. The leaves offer the gardener an intense fragrance, very sage-like, and somewhat hard to describe except to say that the aroma is very pleasant and distinctive. Beginning in summer, plants produce striking whorls of magenta-rose colored flowers. If you keep up with the deadheading, plants will flower late into the fall, making for a very long bloom season indeed. And did I mention that this is one tough plant? It likes sun and good drainage but given that it is a very vigorous specimen. Really, it's hard to come up with any negatives for this plant. Bugs haven't eaten mine; it's not suffered any fungal diseases; it uses very little water and it looks good year round (though in colder climates it may go deciduous). That's a short term loss; this plant is hardy down to zero degrees. The only downside is that it can be a bit hard to find, though Annie's Annuals sells it. It was for that reason that I never got around to writing a Chronicle column on it, not wanting readers to get excited and run to their local nursery, only to not find it. It is worth hunting down.
And now here are a few more photos from my nursery, er, garden, taken literally hours before the Summer Solstice.

Here's a new addition to my garden, a charming ground cover or cascader named Mecardonia. It's already making itself at home.

My favorite Echeveria, E. subrigida. Notice the red edge, which is more pronounced in the winter time. Echeverias can sometimes get chewed up but so far so good for this lime green beauty.

A late Clarkia is adding a bit of lavender bloom to a pot that has a Heavenly Blue morning glory.

Some plants just have a certain way about them, a pizzazz. That's true for Gloriosa lilies, which even before they flower produce this tangle of octopus-like "arms." Oh and the flowers are fabulous.

Cuphea llavea Vienco. I realized this year that when this cuphea returned last year, a bit straggly, I hadn't given it enough water. Now, with sufficient water, it is lush, happy and off to a good start on the blooming.

Potentilla. This tough and colorful ground cover isn't as well known as it should be. A sun lover, it needs some water to get established but is drought tolerant afterwards.

Trachelium 'Hamer Pandora.' A customer once came into our nursery asking for a plant, describing it as a "sort of hydrangea, only with tiny little purple flowers." Fortunately I was able to solve the riddle and this is the plant she was after. I love this guy, as it's a no fuss, long blooming perennial.

Most people are familiar with the Evening Primrose oenathera, with its cup-shaped pale pink flowers. Here's a different species, O. versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard.' Love this color!

Here's a plant few have heard of. Trachymene caerulea. Bees and other insects seem fascinated by it, though it is short-leaved.

Pineapple anyone? This Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' is known as pineapple lily and you can see the resemblance. The red buds are the bracts, from which waxy burgundy flowers will emerge.

Here's the mature form of the fabulous Dorycnium hirsutum. The little red buds are the seedpods, providing their own colorful charm.

It's the season for California buckwheats. Here it's a Eriogonum giganteum and the "helicopter" sprays will open to white flowers. The bees will promptly show up, as will other pollinators, who love the nectar rich flowers.

Hard to believe but I have a few last flowers on my fabulous Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' The Proteas book we have at Ace has a closeup photo of this pincushion bush and wehen I show it to customers I say "You can't always trust photos in books. But this is exactly what my flowers look like." Nothing like it in my garden.

Here's a front view of my Australian shrubs bed. The plant with the red stems in the foreground is a Cunonia capensis, otherwise known as a Butterknife tree.

Everybody's plant of the year, here's a photo of my unstoppable Digiplexis. This one flower spike is still putting out flowers, even as smaller lower branches are already producing their own. It's one of those plants that seems to good to be true and yet somehow is.

Datura Blackcurrant Swirl. Okay, right off, one of the great variety names in the world of gardening. It reminds of Raspberry Swirl ice cream. Still, I've had so much better luck growing this specimen in the ground than a previous attempt out of a pot.

Ditto for this Echeveria, which was struggling in the pot but once in the ground has taken off.

My crop of Lilium regales is beginning to bloom. There's nothing quite Regal lilies -- the size, the pure whites, the anthers and the intoxicating fragrance.

Sometimes small is beautiful. That's true for this ground cover Veronica. V. penduncularis 'Waterperry Blue' is all charm all the time.

One of my three succulent bowls in my garden, this one featuring broader-leaved succulents.

Hibiscus trionum. This charmer would make my "Ten Coolest Plants Nobody has in their Garden" list. The soft buttery flowers have intense burgundy centers and a prominent nectary. And they bloom and bloom and bloom. Then reseed. Easy and fabulous.

Begonia boliviensis. So many cool begonias, so little space. This one is particularly showy, especially if you like the orangy-red colors.

Want cool blue? Nothing beats Clematis integrifolia's pure blue flowers. Their simple nodding flowers aren't fancy but they are ever so sparkling.

Though this shot is sort of soft focus, I had to include this shot of a new variegated Calamintha. Looking forward to it spilling out of the pot.

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