Thursday, November 13, 2014

Apres the rain

The rain is not only great for our gardens, it is a photographer's best friend. There are many evocative shots available after the rain has left examples of its miniature worlds clinging to leaves and flowers. I was able to capture a few such examples in today's collection of photos. In particular, there are two very nice photos of my Cotinus tree, as it gradually loses its wispy seedheads and its leaves acquire the reds of fall. Today's photos focus as much on foliage as they do on flower, in keeping with the season. That's not to say there isn't late fall/early winter color. Many of my camellias are already in bloom plus several passion flower vines. My Iochroma coccinea is smothered in rosy tubular flowers (a photo was posted two weeks ago), several fuchsias are in bloom still and several of what I call the "year rounds" (plants that flower nearly year round in our milder zones) such as Arctotis, Felicia and Osteospermum are all in bloom.
And of course this is the time for bulbs, both planting and watching as the early species first pop their heads up. In my garden, the first of the Freesias, Sparaxis, Iris and Ipheions are already up. And that's not counting the late winter South African bulbs such as Lachenalia, Moraea and Ferraria that have been up for a month now. For a little more info on planting bulbs and companion plants, check out my SF Chronicle article on spring bulbs.

The photos above and below are of the wildly decorative Passiflora actinia. I've been waiting two years for it to bloom so I'm very, very excited about this development. Flowers are about 3" across and besides the purple filaments, it features pollen rich stamen. The pure white petals provide a delicate contrast. So, it's one down and three to go of my reluctant passifloras ...

As I've mentioned, my collection of camellias are blooming very early. Here's the Little Babe variegated, with its mottled pink and white flowers. It's still a young plant, as are all my camellias except for the older Silver Waves, but that hasn't stopped them from producing a few flowers.

Fuchsia 'Firecracker.' Okay, not the most beautiful photo but this Gartenmeister hybrid is putting on a nice November show. Sometimes hybrids aren't as strong and vigorous as the straight species but so far so good with this variegated form. Plus, it's been mite resistant so far.

If the camellias are early, my salvias are correspondingly late. That includes this S. elegans 'Golden Delicious.' Nothing quite the bright red flowers against the golden foliage. Plus that subtle fragrance that gives this species its common name (Pineapple sage). Normally a late summer bloomer, mine didn't really get going until mid-October.

One of my favorite succulents, this Euphorbia trigona 'Ruby' has nearly reached 30" in height and now as the weather cools, the tiny leaves look like little red flames licking the central trunk.A large collection unto themselves, the succulent Euphorbias provide year round interest.

Oxalis penduncularis.One more photo, capturing the way the tiny rain drops bead up on the leaves. One could easily nickname this Oxalis 'Melon Ball,' for its round ball-shaped clusters of leaves. This species opens one's mind to the reality that Oxalis is not only more than the weedy species that pops up about this time of year but more diverse than the common, low growing O. spiralis varieties commonly available in garden centers and nurseries.

Just a simple Dianthus but I love the way this single flower seems to rocket up above the rain kissed foliage. This carnation was brought back from the dead so its first flower of the season is an especially joyous occasion.

Here's an interesting shot of my Lotus 'Flashbulb.' In this light and with the raindrops giving it a more silvery appearance, the dense foliage looks more like a low growing conifer.As it turns out, Lotus makes a surprisingly effective ground cover, filling in so densely it is good for weed control.

This Buddleja 'CranRazz' is also a survivor. I need to get it in a larger pot but though it's a bit cramped, it's still managing a few cool weather flowers. Love that color!

Here's another cool "rain" shot, this time droplets beading below the wiry new branches of my Alyogyne hakeafolia. For those not aware of this species of "Blue Hibiscus," it's a yellow flowering type. Strangely, my specimen didn't look its best during the spring and summer but is perking up now in the late fall.

Another shot of my rare Luculia pinceana. Okay, it's not exactly rare, just really, really hard to find in the trade. The flowers are simple and I'm not a big fan of pink but the photo is an opportunity to mention just how amazingly fragrant this shrub is. Almost-make-you-swoon sweetly fragrant. It's a fall and winter bloomer so is just entering a new flowering season. It belongs to the Rubiaceae family, which also contains gardenias.

Here's my Cornus florida showing its fall color. I love the way the leaves curl back in on themselves. I have this tree planted in a median strip and it wasn't doing as well as I'd hoped until I took my own nurseryman's advise and began a regular deep watering schedule. 

Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius in the foreground plus Phylica plumosa behind it. They both feature silky soft leaves and have pleasingly muted colors but offer an interesting contrast in form.

Here's a closeup of my vibrant Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree). The red stems really jump out and then the beads of water look like little transparent beads. As with life, photography is about perspective. Changing our normal perspective, which a photo can nicely preserve, allows us a fresh look at something we see every day.

Nicandra physalodes variegated. This 'Shoo-fly' plant earns its rep as a free self-seeder. It sent up new plants in two adjoining pots a couple of weeks ago and one has already bloomed.Horticulturists know that it's the flower that offers the definitive info as to the identity of a plant and this flower is a giveaway to it being a Solanum family member. As to the self-seeding, a 'weed' is only a plant you don't want in your garden, n'est-ce pas?

I love this shot of my Cotinus 'Royal Purple' tree. It's of course the remaining seedhead, in a suitably glorious state of decay, still viable enough to hold beads of rain. In a way, the water droplets almost become a new stage of flowering.

And here are a few remaining leaves on the Cotinus, showing the distinctive red colors of the late fall. There's something about darker red and green that is such a pleasing combination.

A single flower from my Impatiens congolense (niamniamensis). Still one of the most curious flowers around, not only offering the bright red and yellow bicolors but the flowers are lightly waxy. One other curiosity -- the flowers sprout directly from the stems not, as is mostly the case, from the tips of each leafy branch.

I tried a bunch of photos to get a good shot of my Hamamelis mollis flowers and still didn't succeed but this at least gives an idea of the little 'finger' flowers. It's not cold enough here in Oakland for them to be completely happy but it's trying!One curious bit of info about Witch Hazels as they're known -- the concoction we buy as Witch Hazel is pretty much unchanged from the formula that Thomas Dickinson created in 1866.

Here's my Silene uniflorus. It's colonizing its pot rather nicely and migrating over to the rich blue pot next to it ("Hi, I'm Silene uniflorus but you can call me Flo").

The one established Camellia in my garden (C. 'Silver Waves') is also early, putting out the first of its huge white flowers. Besides its own beauty, this camellia is providing support for the Passiflora actinia next to it.

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