Thursday, September 25, 2014

After the rain ...

For those of us in the Bay Area, the early morning rain was a real blessing. I only wished I'd woken up early enough to see it. Walking outside the air was so fresh and the garden seemed especially happy. Hopefully this was just the appetizer and more serious rainfall is on the way.
Here are more photos from the garden. It continues its march toward the fall, proceeding to the music only it can hear.

Found these mushrooms up in a shady part of my garden. They're a curious kind, with flat, disc-like heads and quite white. Don't know that I've ever seen them before. What's that Alice? One kind makes you small and one kind ...

Tricyrtis 'Lemon Lime.' I haven't had much luck growing this variety. It always seems to poop out before blooming but I do have a couple of flowers on it right now. A very handsome toad it is.

Speaking of toad lilies, here's one that comes back faithfully every year, more prolific each succeeding year.

For those wondering what all the fuss is about with the rare South American shrub Deppea splendens, here's an idea. Coppery-red calyxes sprout golden tubular flowers on the thinnest, wiriest stems possible. It will eventually make a large shrub but mine is still a very modest size. It's so anxious to make a good impression that we've had specimens in 4" pots produce their first flowers!

Fuchsia 'Nettala." Here you get to see the "dancing dolls," the four cup-shaped petals that dangle below the upper recurved sepals. Someone even described them as square dancers doing a do-si-do.

My Tropical Corner is continuing to evolve. That's fire ginger in the foreground, a red banana behind it and black bamboo in the background. Still waiting for the macaws to arrive ...

Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba.' As I've often mentioned, this variety is substantially more fragrant than the purple kinds. And longer lived. Whether the fragrance smells like vanilla or talc powder to you, it's a one of a kind fragrance.

Speaking of Ones-of-a-kind, I nominate this Viola 'Brush Strokes.' I've never seen that kind of "painted" pattern on a viola before.

'Quick, freeze ' thought the gecko and he has yet to move in the two years since. Cagey guy. That's the ever vigorous Dicentra scandens tickling his backside.

Pelargonium crispum 'Variegated Golden Lemon' Crispum indeed! And, yup, it does earn its lemon moniker, exuding a very sweet lemon fragrance.

Let me introduce you to ... the color red.Yowza, it simply doesn't get any redder than this Mini-Famous Double Scarlet calibrachoa. As the saying goes, so red that light just falls into it.

Many will recognize this variegated ground cover -- Silene uniflora. Good for cascading, for rock gardens, even for hanging baskets. Tough little guy too.

Gold stars all around for those who recognize this odd little plant. Hint: it's a ground cover form of a native, fragrant shrub. Yes, it's Monardella macrantha and its flowers are at this young stage bigger than the plant itself! Monardella villosa, known as Coyote Mint, is a CA native found all over northern and central California. This decumbent form is also endemic to the state and its calling card is its extravagant sprays of red flowers.

Of course everyone knows this guy. Just kidding. Hemizygia? I'd never heard of it until two years ago and even its nomenclature is under dispute. It's related to the Plectranthus genus and that's about as definitive as we're going to get. Sure is pretty though.

This was one of those "what-the-heck" shots and it sort of works. The silver foliage is from my sprawling Centaurea gymnocarpa plant and the flower from a nearby Salvia canariensis (which oh by the way also has silvery foliage).

Here's that show-off Zinnia State Fair with my glorious Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold' in the foreground. Nice combo.

My unassuming Hebe speciosa has kind of taken over this corner of my walkway and it takes virtually no attention at all.

Here's another shot of my curiously named Bidens 'Hawaiian Flare Orange Drop,' which gets first prize for longest and oddest common name. Still, it has an awfully pretty flower for a bidens.

I was going for the surreal with this photograph and, well, I sort of got it. It's a Heavenly Blue morning glory but it could just as easily be a spaceship from the alien race living on the third moon of Jupiter. It just sort of hovers in space and the throat looks it might open up to reveal a portal to another dimension. Okay, time to cut back on the Sci-fi ...

Speaking of curious common names, here's another photo of my fab Portulaca ' Fairytales Cinderella.' I'm not making these names up. I'm just reading them off the grower's tags. I think maybe they have waaay too much time on their hands.

Though the blooms are tiny and unassuming, there's something sweet about Calamintha flowers. My cats certainly think so.

Though this isn't my photo I came out this morning to find that my Iris pallida variegata had produced a flower. That was exciting news as it hasn't bloomed in three years and it's late in the season to boot. Ahh, another reminder that gardens march to their drummer. Of course, besides the lovely color, the flowers are known to smell like grape soda. And so they do.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rain, not rain

Did it rain last night or did I just dream it rained? Hard to tell from the ground here in Oakland. What we all are experiencing today is a kind of humidity we're not used to. It's strange to wake up to warm, sticky weather. It makes me appreciate our dry weather, though of course we desperately need the rain. Our gardens soldier forward, with those of us in cooler coastal regions lucky to have milder temperatures, thus a need for less water for the plants.
Big news in my garden today is one of my Billbergias,  a gift from noted bromeliad collector Bill Holliday, having sent up a colorful bloom spike almost literally overnight. It's the first photo posted here and I'm just so excited I could explode. I need to learn more about tropicals as a large group and bromeliads as a subset. Getting them to bloom is still a hit and miss affair. I do recommend bromeliads to everyone; they're one of the easiest groups to grow and many have colorful foliage to enjoy even when they're not in bloom.
Okay, here are the photos. Is it really mid-September? When one doesn't have kids, summer kind of slides into late summer which slides into fall, with not a lot of change in the weather sometimes. There is however a gradual shift in emphasis to the shrubs and fall perennials in my garden so I guess gardens know the score more precisely than we humans.

Here's the Billbergia that got me so excited. I need some help in identifying which variety it is. You would think the maroon foliage and white spots would narrow it down but only slightly. I think it may be a B. 'Breauteana.' At least the flower does. I didn't manage to get this shot in perfect focus (maybe because I was too excited?)

This cute little guy is Corydalis lutea. It is known to self-seed and gradually colonize an area. I love the color and delicate clusters.

Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' It's easy to see why this prolific cane begonia is at the top of many people's lists. Definitely one of my faves. The flower clusters are large and an extravagant pink but it's also the scalloped foliage that grabs you. 

My split-leaf Philodendron just keeps producing larger and larger leaves. Its top level roots have gone everywhere and I need to keep trimming it or I can't get around it to get to the west side of the back yard.

Last week I posted a photo of this Begonia 'Calypso' in the midst of opening. Here it is fully open. Incredibly dense and such cheerful colors.

My succulent table. The silver, spidery plant in front is a Tillandsia. Directly behind it is an Echeveria 'Black Prince.' Behind and to the right is the incredibly floriferous Crassula alba v. parvisepala. 

My Epilobium 'Orange Carpet' has sprung into bloom and behind it that single purple flower is the resilient Gomphrena 'Fireworks.' I'd say that the Epilobium is keeping up in the fireworks department.

And this is a ... Well, it's a Lotus (you knew that) but I thought it was fun to shoot the dense mass of foliage without the telltale flowers. Seen in this light, it's pretty fab just like this.

Zinnia 'State Fair.' I'm becoming more intrigued by this plant all the time. Here it's in the process of opening and the juvenile petals are still a peachy-gold color, not yet having acquired the red of the mature flower.

I managed to catch a nice optical illusion, shooting this blue Echeveria. The 'gold eye' is simple a tiny pool of water refracting the sun's rays. Still, it's a neat trick.

Here's a better shot of my Oxalis latifolia. I love the lime-green foliage as much as the flowers.

Last week I took a closeup shot of one of the leaves of my Beschorneria albiflora. Here's the whole plant. A little water now and again has kept it greener. Still waiting for it to bloom a second time. The first time was spectacular.

Trying to take a good shot of my Tecoma x smithii is a challenge, as its branches hang downwards and thus so do the flower clusters. So that's my hand holding them up in the lower left. Check out the interesting bean-like seed pods.

Here's my favorite bulb-you've-never-heard-of -- Bessera elegans. For such tiny bulbs they pack quite a punch and multiply quickly. Here the sea of Coral Drops as they're known look like parasols being lifted by the breeze.

Speaking of plants that just don't know when to quit, this red Salpiglossis not only came back for a second year, when I pruned it back in July it responded by producing a new flowering spike. And who can resist Painted Tongues as they're called?

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Inviting Garden

I talked a bit about the importance of diversity in my last entry but one aspect of this I didn't mention is that planting a garden with a wide selection of plants also attracts a diverse crew of pollinators and other beneficial insects. Although there are bees, butterflies and birds that target a certain plant (or group) as is the case with Monarch butterflies, it is more generally true that these birds and insects will sample of variety of natives and other plants commonly found in this state. Bumblebees go even further; they are generalists and will seek out many plants that provide nectar, native or not.That is true of hummingbirds as well, which favor plants with tubular flowers. Ideally you would add plants to your garden that bloom in all four seasons, so there's always something in bloom for these beneficial and attractive visitors.
That said, here are some photos taken today. As we head into fall, there is more of an emphasis on foliage and so there are a few shots here that focus on that feature.

This is one of my front yard color bowls, with annual Petunias and Torenias plus the unusual perennial mallow Pavonia (orange flowers).

Many will recognize the powder blue blooms of Plumbago auriculata. They are such tough shrubs that the city of Oakland has planted them beside freeway entrances. They are also said to be good at absorbing pollution. They do provide lovely hydrangea-like flower clusters and are a favorite destination for butterflies to sun themselves on.

Another shot of my un-Pittosporum like P. crassifolium. For me it's much prettier than any of the other Pitts and though mine has yet to bloom it's supposed to sport the prettiest red flowers.

War of the Aussie giants. Yes it's a match to the death of ... okay it's more like two friendly Aussie natives who simply have outgrown their allotted space. That's especially true of the Adenanthos sericea, better known as Wooly bush for its silky soft foliage, on the left. But the Melaleuca incana on the right is also way too happy (if you know what I mean and I think you do). I love them both so they'll just have to get along.

Clerodendrum ugandense. That's a mouthful so people just call them Blue Glory Bowers. Easy to see why with that color. It's another in a long line of plants with pea-like flowers. This guy can get big so you need the room.

Another shot of my Aloe striata, better known as Coral aloe. To the left is my favorite Oxalis (O. latifolia), which sports the prettiest lime-green foliage and then vivid pink flowers. To the right of the aloe is the weirdly named Plectranthus relative -- Hemizygia (variegated foliage).

Here's the first foliage shot. Can you guess what it is? It's a Beschorneria albiflora and up close you can see the lovely striations on the leaves.

There's red and then there's Bouvardia red. It's such a saturated red that the camera has a hard time delineating the detail of each small tubular flower. No lie, this thing blooms nearly year round.

Though the lighting is less than ideal, here's a closeup of one of my rain lilies. Now can anyone ID this little creature checking out something of interest in the center?

Most of you know Rehmannia. I just had a funny image of a police rap sheet on this plant. "Mr. Rehmannia, aka Chinese foxglove; aka profuse bloomer for shade; aka self-seeder."

Yes this is a Plectranthus but which one? If you were standing in front of it, the giveaway would be the lime-green foliage and its height. It's a P. Zuluensis and finally in its third year it's gotten around to some serious blooming.

Didn't think I'd have enough color on my Ampelopsis this year (thus my stealing an image from the web for a previous post) but here's mine with a few exquisite blue berries. 

This leaf should be a bit more recognizable. It's a red banana and we're mild enough here in Oakland that you can grow them outside. It does die back completely in the winter but comes back faithfully in late spring. Love the red center spine.

This super frilly thing is Begonia 'Calypso.' Of course the flower hasn't fully opened but I love the golds and apricots and its fully double form once open.

Today as I was looking at the most fragrant of the Plectranthus species, this one is known as Cuban Oregano though it's not edible, it suddenly looked like miniature water lettuce plants. Haven't seen this guy bloom but the fragrance is heavenly.

If my primroses are back I know that fall can't be far away. This is part of the Primula Primlet series. Very cute.

Another exuberant Aussie in the same bed as the Adenanthos and the Melaleuca, in front of them in fact, is this surprisingly little known Aussie native Swainsona. It has a long bloom season and pure white, pea-like blooms. With a little water it remains lush and quite floriferous.

It may look like a Calceolaria (Pocketbooks) but in fact it's a ... well ... Calceolaria. In this case a C. paralia. It has larger leaves than C. mexicana, is perennial and tends to stay upright not flop like the mexicanas.

I get asked about this plant all the time, especially when the sun isn't bringing out the true color of the flowers (deep purple). Without the sun the flowers look almost black. That and the lime-green calyxes make quite a striking combo. It's Salvia discolor (I imagine a man of Italian descent being asked "what color?" and him replying "Dis-color here." Okay, that was bad.
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