As we hit the beginning of summer and turn our attention away from spring annuals and towards new perennials, it's a good time to consider adding one or more summer shrubs. One of my favorites is a shrub that is only now becoming better known -- Tecoma x smithii. Many gardeners are familiar with Tecoma capensis (also known as Tecomaria capensis). Cape honeysuckle as it's commonly known is a vining shrub with brilliant orange narrowly tubular flowers. It can be a bit invasive. Not so much with T. x smithii, with its peachy-orange flowers, or T. stans, which showcases yellow flowers. These species feature much larger, widely flared tubular flowers that appear in bunches at the tips of branches. Starting in early summer and continuing into the fall, these semi-deciduous shrubs put on quite a show. The fresh green foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the flowers, giving the plant an almost tropical look. Very easy to grow, happy in full sun on the coast or in mixed sun and shade inland, this is one way to add dazzling color to your summer garden. See below for a photo of my Tecoma x smithii's first flowers. And here on the 4th of July are my garden's own floral fireworks.
This charming little Dahlia is titled Goldalia Scarlet and, well, it is a bit descriptive. I love the brilliant red petals offset by the light yellow tepals. It packs a lot of punch for a pint-sized plant.
Yes, another arum from my garden, this time Amorphophallus rivieri. It hasn't bloomed yet but it puts up a thicket of lush foliage and mottled stems. Showy enough in its own way.
I wanted another shot of my floriferous Begonia boliviensis but then realized that with the addition of the miniature orchid, the Impatiens congolense and Begonia 'Gene Daniels' in the planter behind it that I have a little tropical theme going here at the base of my apartment stairs.
I love the spotted variegation of this Calamintha. I look forward to it taking over this little corner of my Shady Lane.
Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold.' This ciliatus type will stay low and spread. So many plectranthus and so little space ...
Nobody is growing Begonia 'Escargot' except Susan Ashley and that's a mystery. We can hardly keep this rex begonia in stock at our nursery. Mine over-wintered with a single leaf (the big one) but has now put out a new leaf. It gets its common name from the snail-like shape of its leaf.
Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' All photos are in three dimensions of course but sometimes the depth of field really stands out, as it does here. The panicle of pink flowers seem to float in their own dimension, making the viewer seem like they've donned 3-D glasses.
In the center is a Pteris cretica 'Green on Green.' Very similar to the albo-lineata only this variety has pale green ribs and darker margins. Same fantastic form.
Salvia patens. There have been many contenders but this royal blue salvia still makes the top ten list of the most beautiful true blue flowers. This specimen has found its "happy place" and is in year three. It's been blooming nonstop for two months and is still going strong.
So many sedums, this one S. 'Coppertone.' I just wrote an article on Sedums for Pacific Horticulture's Summer issue so check it out.
One of my favorite Crassulas (and that's getting to be quite a list). This dramatically spotted species is C. alba var. parvisepala. My specimen has retained its red spots throughout the year and it sports pinky-red flowers to boot.
People visiting my garden always want to know what this colorful Agastache is (especially since it sports different colors on one plant). It's A. 'Grapefruit Nectar' and though I'm not sure it smells like that citrus it does have a welcome fruity aroma. And as you can see, bees love it!
Speaking of bee favorites, Eriogonum grande rubescens is at the top of their list. I swear you could almost pet them while they're busy gathering nectar from these flowers and they'd barely notice. I call this bed Nectar Alley as besides the agastache and eriogonum it contains Trachelium and Scabiosa.
Speaking of the scabiosa, here it is. There's something about an extreme closeup that alters your relationship with a flower. Scabiosa flowers are such a common sight in gardens that it's very easy to take them for granted. This closeup makes you appreciate how spectacular they really are.
Speaking of the top ten list for true blue flowers, many would put true blue delphiniums on it. This is a less common species, D. chinensis 'Blue Butterfly.' The leaves are fern-like and it sends out flowers on slender multiple branches, rather than on a central stock. This offer of blue is breathtaking.
This green fly is mesmerized by my Pittosporum crassifolium.I know the feeling. I love its lime green foliage. Who says pittosporums have to be ho-hum?
Though my Eriogonum giganteum has large sprays of flowers set to open, I thought I'd photograph the base of leaves from which the spike arises. Not just for its silvery elixir but the way the leaves hold to a tight cluster around the stem.
Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' Not everyone likes the double form of E. purpurea but I think they're fab.
Wait, before you say "Eek, dandelion" this is not that foul beast. Instead it's a charming ground cover called Hieracium (Pilosella) aurantiacum. It forms a dense mat of very lush green, furry foliage from which summer flowers emerge on tall stems.
I'm getting quite the color variation on my Datura 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' Some come out deep purple and others a purplish-pink. Pretty fab either way.
Monardella villosa. My Coyote Mint is settling in very nicely in its new home.
Here's the subject of my attentions above, Tecoma x smithii. Love the color, which can be described as peachy, orangy or having apricot tones. Whatever the name, it sparkles in the sun.
Penstemon 'Schooley's Coral.' What?! When I first read the label I did a double take. Don't let the weird name put you off. This pinky-coral flower is a winner.
So, will I see my Puya berteroniana bloom before I die? It could be close. Year eight and no blooms yet. So I hacked back the Cotinus above it and have now started a regular regimen of bloom fertilizer feedings.
Sometimes it's about the foliage. My Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' is settling in and putting out a nice crop of glossy leaves that look nice framed against the gray stucco wall.
One of the most charming Fuchsias, F. 'Rose Quartet' has four pure white petals and then four, round dangling rose 'cups.' Very sweet.