Thursday, October 23, 2014


As we transition from summer to fall, or is fall to winter (depending on where you are and even in the Bay Area how cold it's getting inland), our gardens are one reliable sign of this change. Summer flowers have faded or on their way out and fall perennials like salvias come into their own. This is the period for plants that have for me the acronym SCSVB -- shrubs, conifers, succulents, vines & bulbs. Besides the aforementioned salvias, it's the time of year for shrubs that hold winter interest, such as Camellias, Daphnes or Euonymus. We get to enjoy a wide variety of stately conifers in the Bay Area and for those inclined there are a host of fascinating dwarf conifers, especially from the Chamaecyparis and Cryptomaria genera (my own dwarf confer bed is thriving). Fall and winter is a great time to grow succulents and many will take on even more color during the colder months. Fall is also the season when many vines come into their own. Everything from Passion Flowers to Bower vines to Porcelain Berry vine. And lastly, we are fast approaching the bulb bonanza. That starts early for those growing South African bulbs. Popular favorites like Lachenalias (Cowslip), Freesias and Sparaxis will soon be popping up. I already have most of my Lachenalia species up and already have the first blooms on the sweet little Moraea polystacha. For those of us lucky enough to garden in the milder zones of the Bay Area, the phrase "Tis the season" really applies to all four seasons when it comes to enjoying our gardens.
Here are a few photos from my 10/23 garden, representing some of the plant groups mentioned above.

Begonia 'Calypso.' One last shot of my favorite begonia and a reminder that begonias don't just have one season. This is a later bloomer and will still have a few flowers well into November. Love that color and the delicate red edging.

These next two photos are the first of my Camellia 'Jury's Yellow' in bloom. Please excuse the quality of the shots but I wanted to point out something curious. The photo above is what the flowers should look like, a subtle creamy yellow hidden in the ruffles of the inner petaloids. The photo below remarkably is off the very same plant. No yellow at all; in fact it's quite easy to notice the pink blush.  Not sure how to explain that. Perhaps some of its Camellia x williamsii parentage leaking through.

Choisya 'Sundance.' New growth on this Choisya variety comes out golden then ages to a darker green. Curiously, mine has offered up a mix of golds and greens in its fall incarnation. And no the plant is not chlorotic; it has been well fed. Just one of Nature's fun little surprises.

I was going for a little depth of field effect here so that the front couple flowers on this Lobelia 'Hot Whitespot' are in focus and the rest seem to be like little moons orbiting the mother plant.

Here's a photo of the aforementioned Moraea polystacha. Unlike certain Moraeas, who have a rep for being difficult to grow, this species is super easy. He's always the first Moraea to arrive in my garden.

Echeveria 'Kiwi.' One of the most popular of the Echeverias and this photo shows why. Great colors and it doesn't get too big. 

Asclepius aren't always blooming this time of year but my A. curassavica 'Apollo Orange' has offered up a second round of flowering. There's nothing quite like these showy flowers, proving that sometimes small flowers can indeed pack a big punch!

Speaking of fall vines, here's my vigorous little Passiflora citrina. Hardly recognizable as a passion flower vine because of its flowers' diminiative size, unique shape and unusual color, it nonetheless puts on a great show till Christmas.

Oxalis latifolia. This shamrock-type oxalis features bright green tri-petaled leaves and vivid pink flowers. Spreads slowly  then disappears in the winter.

There's a reason many plants have common names. This Andromischus cristatus is not only a mouthful but hard to remember as well. But Crinkle-leaf plant, that's a whole lot easier, especially when you notice its ... well ... crinkly leaves. The two stems emerging from the center are flower stems. The flowers aren't much to write home about (tiny white) but the curious form of this succulent is more than enough reason to take one home.

Silver tumbleweed? Huge friggin' white spider? Nope. It's a Tillandsia Ionantha 'Silver.' One of my favorite plants because it's just so unique and beautiful.

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