Thursday, July 24, 2014

Do you speak 'Gardening?'

The other day when someone at work asked me if I spoke a second language I said no, unless you count a little French I learned in school. Then I stopped myself and said "No, actually I speak Latin." Then I explained that the horticultural names that are the stock and trade of every nurseryman (or person who uses the botanical names of plants) really do qualify as as a second language, though the terminology is a small and specialized form of Latin. Still, it's a lot of Latin names (and terminology) that piles up in your brain and that you extract at a moment's notice. I converse in this language all day with customers and co-workers and use it when I'm writing about plants. And of course it's a useful language and used more often than most people would ever use their school Latin.
So if you speak "horticulture" give yourself a little pat on the back. Who says you can't learn a second language as an adult?
I've just returned from a week's vacation and the absence from my garden is a mixed affair. I really do miss it while I'm away. But on my return I find so much that is new or has changed and that's a sweet pleasure. Though mid-summer offers fewer changes than spring, my extensive collection of plants always means new things are bursting with color. Here are a few photos taken today, with added descriptions and comments. I do encourage everyone to photograph their garden throughout the seasons, even if that is using your phone. You get a unique perspective looking at plants online and of course if you save them you can revisit them whenever you're in the mood.

Five-finger fern. This CA native maidenhair fern is tougher than it looks. A gift from a friend, mine nearly died in the transplant, then nearly died again adjusting to getting some sun, looked spotty last winter but in the end has thrived. It provides a fertile welcome to the beginning of my Shady Lane bed.

Tricyrtis formosa. This toad lily has begun blooming early. I guess it couldn't wait till late summer, its usual flowering season. Toad lilies are one of the easiest plants to grow, coming back faithfully each year.

Plectranthus 'Sapphire Dream' plus Campanula muralis. I like this variegated plectranthus in part because it stays lower and neater. The flowers seem to have the most blue of all plectranthus, another plus. The colors are complementary with the purple blooming campanula. Two more Shady Lane denizens.
The photo below is of my gorgeous Lonicera sempervirens. This East coast native honeysuckle isn't fragrant but the colors are just too fab. Although it's also in the Shady Lane, it has climbed an arch and is getting lots of sun.

Clethra alnifolia. If the botanical name doesn't ring a bell, perhaps its common name (Summersweet) does. These fuchsia colored buds will open to small rosy flowers that exude an oh so heavenly sweet fragrance. Something to look forward to every summer.

Azolla. Sometimes improperly referred to as Duckweed, this is actually a tiny fern. It has earned the nickname Mosquito fern. In any case it multiplies quickly and here it is covering a small pond in my back yard. Among other things, it is good for controlling the algae in your pond, as it will suck up the nitrogen in the water.

Small is beautiful. This dwarf canna only gets two feet tall but still manages large, saturated red flowers. Behind it, a Fire ginger (Hedychium greenii) has sent up shoots and will soon add more color to my Tropical Corner bed.

This Heliotropium 'Alba' is a survivor. The pot it was originally in was smashed by a delivery person and the plant sat out on its own for a couple of weeks while I searched for just the right replacement pot. As luck would have it, our nursery got in the same ginger-colored pot and so the original look is back. It took awhile but the specimen is now healthy and blooming. One of the most interesting fragrances in the plant world, to some it smells like vanilla, to others talc powder!

Abutilon lovers may think this is a Nabob but in fact it's a new, lighter red variety called Lucky Lantern Red. I haven't had an abutilon in many years so it's nice to have it back. It's a hummingbird magnet so am hoping some hummers will stray from their favorite marmalade bush and venture down the main walkway to find this guy.

Though not a great shot, I couldn't resist adding a second shot of my Viola 'Brush Strokes.' Just the most amazing colors and patterns.

Mecardonia. My favorite new addition to the garden. I love the contrast of the verdant green foliage and the canary yellow flowers. It's a spiller so I'm looking forward to a great mass of it in the near future.

Here's an interesting shot of a Heavenly Blue morning glory. Sometimes the stage after the flower is at its best can provide its own unique visual treat. The five dark pink sections are the ribs of the morning glory, not noticeable when this very large, fully blue flower is at its peak.

Gloriosa lily. I love these spectacular lilies and now, in their third year, I'm getting quite the show. They start out a pale yellow then color in to that rich red, bordered in yellow.

Count me guilty as charged for going gaga over my Agastache 'Grapefruit Nectar.' It's partly the range of colors on a single plant -- yellows, pinks and apricots -- that add to its childlike charm.

Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud.' This campanula relative is aptly named, offering up masses of true blue flowers in the summer and fall. Your biggest worry in growing it is simply containing it as it is indeed a 'happy wanderer.'

Eriogonum giganteum. Here's another photo of my St. Catherine's Lace. The clouds of tiny white flowers are fully open now and that means regular visits from a variety of pollinators.

I'm a fan of the simple but interesting Campanula primulifolia. Unlike a lot of upright campanulas that tend to flop or stray, this species sends up sturdy upright spikes that produce flowers all along the stems.Textured leaves provide another reason to add this architectural campanula to your garden.

Seedpod lovers unite! I'm getting to be a fan of seedpods, as they take an astonishing variety of forms. Here's one from my vigorous Datura metel 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' Below is another photo of this plant's flower about to open. It's a double variety, thus the fluted edges.

This is my Wooly bush (Adenanthos sericeus), showing almost lime green new growth. This Aussie native gets its common name from the silky softness of its leaves. A tactile treat!

I'm continuing my photographic charting of this 'new' succulent bowl. It's making good progress, helped by a little regular water. The center plant is an Aeonium lancerottense. I'll need to eventually move it to the ground as it will get too big.

Above and below are two shots of my Tecoma x smithii. The peach-colored version of the so-called Trumpet bush is less invasive and vining than its better known cousin Tecoma (Tecomaria) capensis, the latter having much smaller orange flowers. I love the colors on this species and the way the trumpets flare completely at the tips, almost recurving. The bush puts on a spectacular show in summer and autumn.

Common but beautiful, this strawflower plant (Bracteantha bracteata) provides blasts of color all through the summer. It's perhaps better described as a 'paper flower' as the flowers feel like they have already been dried and are ready for a vase arrangement.

Eucomis species. I love Pineapple lilies and here's a simple green-leaved one I bought at Trader Joe's! There's nothing quite like the waxy flowers on this reliable bulb hailing from South Africa.

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