Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Summer Cornucopia

After all the hard work of the spring, it's time to sit back and appreciate the fruits of all those labors. Working in the garden is very satisfying but it's easy to just keep plugging away and not take the time to savor.
A word about watering. This may be politically incorrect in this time of drought but giving your plants regular water makes a huge difference in how happy they are. That's also true when it comes to dry garden plants like Aloes, Agaves and palms. They can survive dry periods but they will look their best with a little deep watering once in awhile. You can also extend the life of your annuals with a bit of regular water. I try to find that happy middle ground by mulching nearly every bed, by hand watering or by using a fast trickle for trees, to make sure as little of the water as possible evaporates before getting to the roots. Abandon sprinklers all ye faithful!
Speaking of bounty, here are more photos from my garden.

For all you Arum fans, here's my Amorphophallus kiusianus beginning to open its sheaf of leaves. Arums are a most peculiar group of plants but those of us who like them, they are indeed beautiful and unique.

This Ampelopsis, which I'm training on my morning sun back yard fence, is one of my "Phoenix" plants. That is, they were once in danger of dying but have recovered and are prospering. They can be the sweetest "victories."

Red banana. I love shooting my red banana, especially the translucent qualities of its leaves. 

Elegia capensis. One of the more popular members of the Restios family, this rush looking Elegia will get taller and bushier. I couldn't for the life of me figure out where to put it so it sat in its gallon container, somehow surviving there for a whole year! It'll be much happier now.

Nicotiana Crimson Bedder and Rhodochiton. The nicotiana has gone crazy in its second year, taking over the spot it's in. Meanwhile the rhodochiton in the hanging basket is off and running.

It's not the ideal shot but my Thalictrum rochebrunianum is so pretty I wanted to include it. The most delicate of the Meadow rues, it seems to have a nobility about it.

War of the pollinator plants!!! Each of the three colorful plants here are valued destination points for pollinators. Hummingbirds and bees love the Agastache Tango on the left; bees, birds and butterflies are very fond of Eriogonum grande rubescens in the middle and bees and butterflies love the large heads of tiny purple flowers that the long blooming Trachelium caeruleum puts out. Along with the equally popular Helenium, I call this long slender bed Pollinator Alley.

This sunny bed is a favorite spot for a mix of annual and perennial color. 

Sometimes it's the unfurling of a flower that is the most captivating moment. Here an Arctotis 'Sunspot' is caught in the midst of opening, showing off a more intense color in its petals.

My Digiplexis threw up a towering spike which would have kept flowering for at least another month but since it was already producing smaller branches I pruned it off. Already I have seven new flowering branches. A force of nature.

Two Primadonnas. That would be the Orange Chiffon poppy on the left and the unopened Datura Blackcurrant Swirl on the right. I knew there'd be "trouble" planting those two divas together!

Salvia sclarea. This little known salvia has low-growing, rough textured foliage and long sprays of purple and white flowers. Tough and it self seeds.

The newest addition to my little Japanese Garden bed, this Cryptomeria 'Knaptonensis' has the most exquisite white foliage overlaying the bright green inner growth. It's a dwarf specimen, as are all the other conifers in this bed.

It's hard not to fall head over heels in love with Lilium regale. The flowers are huge, a sparkling white with yellow throats and they're fragrant! Case closed.

Speaking of falling in love, a yellow tiger lily? Yep. This Lilium citronelle is a member of the Tiger lily group. Love it!

I thought it might be interesting to take a photo of the "inside" of a Cotinus flower "head." Here you see the fine hairs lining the little pathways, with the dark dots being the actual seed capsules.

Look up red in the Gardener's dictionary and they may well be a photo of Mandevilla 'Giant Crimson.' It's such a saturated red that the camera has a bit of difficulty capturing it. 

Though this isn't the best picture of my Sphaeralcea incana, this Globe mallow has such pretty orange flowers that I simply couldn't resist.

If this flower looks familiar but you can't quite put your finger on it it's because you don't often see the white-flowering form of Catananche caerulea. Delicate and subtle but very cool.

Speaking of similar but different, this is a Salpiglossis 'Wild Grape.' It being a species salpiglossis explains the smaller and less showy flower. It will likely be more vigorous than its highly hybridized cousins.

No mystery what this is but honeysuckle still has a very pretty flower, its heavenly scent notwithstanding.

The flowers here almost look good enough to eat! They're Iochroma burgundy and the way they catch the sunlight really brings out the color.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Endless Summer

As we hit the Summer Solstice and the longest day of the year, it may seem like an endless summer is here. Coming in from a long, sweat-inducing garden session, there is another meaning to a phrase that some associate with The Beach Boys. Spring is a hectic season, especially for those of us working in the nursery trade. Long work days and then keeping up with just the daily and weekly demands of one's garden can be a full time project. As we come out of the spring blitz many of us may find that little projects had been piling up and that certainly has been true for me this year. Spurred by the desire to get the garden in good shape for a garden party, I discovered a seemingly "endless" list of To Do's. In some ways, that's almost a "Rite of Summer." Then again, having friends over can give one the motivation to overcome one's procrastination to get to all those little jobs.
Now that I will no longer be writing a weekly column for the Chronicle, I hope to occasionally write about a plant that I find noteworthy. That plant today is Lepechinia hastata. This salvia relative, native to Hawaii, is one tough customer. It gets to about four feet tall, with a spread of three feet, and sports large, lovely, felty gray leaves. The leaves offer the gardener an intense fragrance, very sage-like, and somewhat hard to describe except to say that the aroma is very pleasant and distinctive. Beginning in summer, plants produce striking whorls of magenta-rose colored flowers. If you keep up with the deadheading, plants will flower late into the fall, making for a very long bloom season indeed. And did I mention that this is one tough plant? It likes sun and good drainage but given that it is a very vigorous specimen. Really, it's hard to come up with any negatives for this plant. Bugs haven't eaten mine; it's not suffered any fungal diseases; it uses very little water and it looks good year round (though in colder climates it may go deciduous). That's a short term loss; this plant is hardy down to zero degrees. The only downside is that it can be a bit hard to find, though Annie's Annuals sells it. It was for that reason that I never got around to writing a Chronicle column on it, not wanting readers to get excited and run to their local nursery, only to not find it. It is worth hunting down.
And now here are a few more photos from my nursery, er, garden, taken literally hours before the Summer Solstice.

Here's a new addition to my garden, a charming ground cover or cascader named Mecardonia. It's already making itself at home.

My favorite Echeveria, E. subrigida. Notice the red edge, which is more pronounced in the winter time. Echeverias can sometimes get chewed up but so far so good for this lime green beauty.

A late Clarkia is adding a bit of lavender bloom to a pot that has a Heavenly Blue morning glory.

Some plants just have a certain way about them, a pizzazz. That's true for Gloriosa lilies, which even before they flower produce this tangle of octopus-like "arms." Oh and the flowers are fabulous.

Cuphea llavea Vienco. I realized this year that when this cuphea returned last year, a bit straggly, I hadn't given it enough water. Now, with sufficient water, it is lush, happy and off to a good start on the blooming.

Potentilla. This tough and colorful ground cover isn't as well known as it should be. A sun lover, it needs some water to get established but is drought tolerant afterwards.

Trachelium 'Hamer Pandora.' A customer once came into our nursery asking for a plant, describing it as a "sort of hydrangea, only with tiny little purple flowers." Fortunately I was able to solve the riddle and this is the plant she was after. I love this guy, as it's a no fuss, long blooming perennial.

Most people are familiar with the Evening Primrose oenathera, with its cup-shaped pale pink flowers. Here's a different species, O. versicolor 'Sunset Boulevard.' Love this color!

Here's a plant few have heard of. Trachymene caerulea. Bees and other insects seem fascinated by it, though it is short-leaved.

Pineapple anyone? This Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' is known as pineapple lily and you can see the resemblance. The red buds are the bracts, from which waxy burgundy flowers will emerge.

Here's the mature form of the fabulous Dorycnium hirsutum. The little red buds are the seedpods, providing their own colorful charm.

It's the season for California buckwheats. Here it's a Eriogonum giganteum and the "helicopter" sprays will open to white flowers. The bees will promptly show up, as will other pollinators, who love the nectar rich flowers.

Hard to believe but I have a few last flowers on my fabulous Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' The Proteas book we have at Ace has a closeup photo of this pincushion bush and wehen I show it to customers I say "You can't always trust photos in books. But this is exactly what my flowers look like." Nothing like it in my garden.

Here's a front view of my Australian shrubs bed. The plant with the red stems in the foreground is a Cunonia capensis, otherwise known as a Butterknife tree.

Everybody's plant of the year, here's a photo of my unstoppable Digiplexis. This one flower spike is still putting out flowers, even as smaller lower branches are already producing their own. It's one of those plants that seems to good to be true and yet somehow is.

Datura Blackcurrant Swirl. Okay, right off, one of the great variety names in the world of gardening. It reminds of Raspberry Swirl ice cream. Still, I've had so much better luck growing this specimen in the ground than a previous attempt out of a pot.

Ditto for this Echeveria, which was struggling in the pot but once in the ground has taken off.

My crop of Lilium regales is beginning to bloom. There's nothing quite Regal lilies -- the size, the pure whites, the anthers and the intoxicating fragrance.

Sometimes small is beautiful. That's true for this ground cover Veronica. V. penduncularis 'Waterperry Blue' is all charm all the time.

One of my three succulent bowls in my garden, this one featuring broader-leaved succulents.

Hibiscus trionum. This charmer would make my "Ten Coolest Plants Nobody has in their Garden" list. The soft buttery flowers have intense burgundy centers and a prominent nectary. And they bloom and bloom and bloom. Then reseed. Easy and fabulous.

Begonia boliviensis. So many cool begonias, so little space. This one is particularly showy, especially if you like the orangy-red colors.

Want cool blue? Nothing beats Clematis integrifolia's pure blue flowers. Their simple nodding flowers aren't fancy but they are ever so sparkling.

Though this shot is sort of soft focus, I had to include this shot of a new variegated Calamintha. Looking forward to it spilling out of the pot.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day and Summer Solstice

Though I'm not a father, I was reflecting this morning how much parenting has changed today from what it was 50 years ago. That's a reflection of more modern times but also, hopefully, of men being more willing and keen on sharing the parenting duties. Men are much more a part of their children's lives these days and that's a good thing. Of course it's a lso a good thing that we have embraced non-nuclear models of parenting, be that gay and lesbian, single parent or multi-generational arrangements.
Next weekend is the Summer Solstice and thinking about that part of the yearly cycle is a reminder, as human beings and gardeners that we are still very much a part of Nature. We live according to her rhythms, no matter the dates on our calendars. The long days now are welcome to just about everyone and our level of activity picks up in tandem with this basic fact. For gardeners, it means we can putter in our gardens much later if we choose. Now if these long days could only last a little longer ...
Here are a few more photos from my early summer garden. It is definitely transitioning from spring to summer -- I've yanked out most of my short liven spring annuals and replaced them with summer plants -- but there are constants in the garden that lend a welcome feeling of continuity.

Neomarica caerulea.  This iris relative is sometimes called the "walking iris" due to the tendency of its tall flower stems to eventually lay flat on the ground and tip root. This photo is from a clump I broke off the mother plant and stuck in the ground. It quickly formed a nice big clump and has produced a nice crop of flowers this mid-month. One of my favorite irises!

Here's my Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero' co-mingling with a lovely variegated Philadelphus (P. cornonarius). A nice contrast, even though I couldn't get both flower and leaf in perfect focus.

Nope, not a Campanula but the lovely CA native bulb Brodiaea. In this case, B. Blue Ocean Blend. There aren't many CA native bulbs but this is one of the easiest to grow.

To Asarum or not to Asarum, that is the question. The shiny leaves are a give away that this is not A. caudatum (B.C. or wild ginger) but Asarum maximum, otherwise known as Panda-Faced ginger. That's on account of the strange waxy two-tone flowers that to some resemble pandas.

IT came from the nursery!! This Hebe speciosa is gradually taking over the mailbox, like the swamp thing. I like how it looks though.

Mimulus cardinalis 'Santa Cruz Gold.' While cardinalis varieties are thirsty little guys, they do put on quite the show! In front is an orange Diascia, which I've had trouble in the past keeping happy. This guy seems to love his location however.

Teucrium 'Summer Sunshine.' Though the flowers are small, their burgundy colors really offset the chartreuse foliage quite wonderfully.

It's hard to get a good photo of my Luculia but I keep trying. Though not an especially beautiful flower, it is one of the most intensely sweet flowers you will ever smell. Heavenly.

It's almost a cliche, a honey bee on a Gaillardia flower but I couldn't resist.

My new favorite plant -- Ozothamnus  rosmarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee.' This Aussie native's main feature is its silvery foliage, though it does produce small red flowers at the tips of each branch. I just love its look.

Here's a moth foraging for nectar on my Buddleja 'Cran Razz.' Okay all you Pink Panther fans. Give us your best Inspector Clouseau impersonation. "I just noticed this mooth' on the butterfly bush."

Love the way the sun illuminated the flower on my Monardella villosa plant. I've found a home for it in the ground so hopefully it will be happy there and go forth and prosper.

Though one Lilium regale stem is obscuring the flower on another plant, I thought the shot was interesting. Regal lilies are to die for. Well, okay not actually die for but worth the labor and encouragement when they do eventually bloom.

Sometimes a simple plant can be quite striking. This New Guinea impatiens will make a colorful addition to an otherwise sedate shady bed.

One last shot of my Neomarica. I'm not quite sure why this iris relative isn't in everyone's garden. The flowers are large and showy and you get lots of them; it's much more reliable than other irises, returning faithfully each year and its height (to ~ 3 feet) makes for a striking vertical addition to the garden.
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