Thursday, August 28, 2014

You succ - why thank you!

For succulent lovers, there is no such thing as an uninteresting succulent and as we head into the heat of our summer/fall season, may cacti and succulents are at their best. Find a few photos in the collection below of my favorite succulents. The downturn in the economy has driven more people to growing their own vegetables -- a good thing -- while the drought has opened more people's eyes to the charms of succulents.
On another note, an unusual plant that I've been anxiously waiting to flower, Scorzonera hispanica, did finally produce its first yellow, dandelion-like flower yesterday. Why the big deal? It's the scent. It has the most intense chocolate smell of any flower I've come across. Amazing. It seems to be a tough plant too so it all seems good.
Here are more photos from my almost-September garden. Lots of photos of succulents, including a couple of the always interesting Propeller plant in bloom.

Begonia 'Angelwings.' This spotted begonia has been doing well in its container, getting morning sun. I learned not to cut it back completely, as that slowed its re-sprouting last year.

Here's another shot of my intense fuchsia-colored Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.' Hard to believe this is a morning glory at first glance. Photographed against the lush foliage of Asarina erubescens.

Hydrangea 'Nikko Blue' -- the old and the new. I thought this made an interesting contrast -- the clean blues of the new flower alongside an aging, spotted one.

Hedychium gardnerianum. This is the spike that first appears, from which the yellow flowers will soon unfurl. It sports an interesting architectural look at this stage.

Two shots of my Crassula falcata, better known to some as the Propeller plant. Those are the blue "blades" in back of the flowers.

Another shot, this time of the whole plant, of my weird little Portulaca 'Fairytales Cinderella.' Fab flowers.Oh, the tales they could tell ...

Keeping with the succulents theme of this post, here's my Crassula alba var. parvisepala. One of its attractive features is the red spotting on the leaves.

My mostly succulents table. It's sort of a holding area before they find homes in the ground or in another mixed succulent bowl.

Look up "white" in the Gardener's Dictionary and you may see a picture of Mandevilla laxa. It really is blindingly white, though of course its main calling card is the heavenly fragrance.

Though this Lampranthus 'Fire Spinner' flower is pretty, and I would include it anyway, it represents a kind of triumph. I've been waiting for this Ice plant to bloom for two years and it's just now yielding its first flowers.

I'm crazy mad about my new Pavonia missionum and, well, here's visual proof why. Love that color!

Back to succulents for a second, here's my Aloe striata, better known as Coral aloe. I love the opposing leaves and the red rims. Its common name owes to the color of its flowers.

My amazing Grevillea Moonlight just keeps on blooming. There's nothing quite like the flowers on this variety, being both large (8-10" long) and sporting that otherworldly color.

Potentilla 'Melton Fire.' Tough, beautiful and long blooming. Next ...

Staghorn fern. It seems to like its move to the crevice of a fir tree, which seems fitting for an epiphyte.

People are usually puzzled at first in seeing a flower that seems vaguely familiar. It's a Passion flower vine called Passiflora citrina and it's a bit of a mystery to me why it's not more widely available.

One of my favorite plants of 2013: Gomphrena 'Fireworks.'  It's supposed to be an annual but it's back and already beginning to bloom again.

Sphaeralcea munroana. One of my favorite plants, this prostrate globe mallow has THE prettiest rose-colored flowers.And its spilling over a low rock wall right next to the sidewalk, so passersby get to enjoy its charms.

Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' More than a 'hint' actually, this showy variety showcases rich golden textured leaves and then at the leaf axils soft lavender flowers. So lovely.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fall-ing Your Way

I know it's only mid-August but it seems everyone is already leaning towards Fall. Kids are going back to school; college sports will soon be back on the tube; garden centers already have the first of the fall plants in and oddly enough the warm weather is really more of a sign of fall for us than summer. My garden is having nothing of it. It's still clothed in summer and proud of it. Summer colors -- golds, purples, blues and reds all make their presence known. Here are a few more photos, with a continuation of early summer but a few hints of fall showing through.

If this flower is a head-scratcher it's because it's a new morning glory from Annie's called Sunrise Serenade. It's a double form with a color so raucous you expect a cop to come along any minute to say "Keep it down over here!" No chance of that.

Fans of Oakleaf hydrangeas will recognize the tell-tale orangish stems of this vigorous species (H. quercifolia). It's a four season plant, barely going deciduous in the milder zones of the Bay Area. It's also a quadruple delight, with flowers, leaves, stems and seedpods all of interest. 

Flora or fauna? This kind of looks like a bug but those in the know will recognize it as belonging to Aristolochia fimbriata. It's one of the pint-sized Dutchman's Pipes, only getting to ~ 18." The flowers aren't as large or showy but they're cute nonetheless and not stinky. The spots make me want to call this the "leopard 'lochia."

No mistaking this Passion flower vine. This species is a bit less common (Passiflora pfordtii) but is an easy one to grow and it blooms quickly.

One of my favorite succulents, Crassula alba v. parvisepala blooms faithfully every year, making huge corymbs that are larger than the plant itself! Here the red buds are just beginning to open their white flowers. Bees love the flowers.

Bonus points for those who recognize this flower. It's Silene sp. 'Starfish. Parentage is uncertain but it is similar to S. laciniata.This flower is pinkish but flowers can also be a brilliant red. Like other Silenes, it is vigorous and drought tolerant once established. 

From the sublime to the mundane, here's a double petunia showing off its hot pink and white colors. 

This isn't the best photo but here are Vigna caracalla flowers in bud form. Of course it's better known as Snail vine and the open flowers will acquire a soft lavender color. It's climbed up into my Laburnum tree and finally in year two is producing its first crop of baby snails.

Though not a completely successful photo, this is the interior of a Hibiscus cisplinatus 'Rosa del Rio.' I love the radiating lines that seem to funnel the eye to the dramatic, almost gaudy, velvety anthers.

This photo isn't mine but as I may not have a colorful crop of berries on my Porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis) for awhile yet, here's what they will look like. We have a mature plant clambering over the fence at Grand Lake Ace and get asked all the time "What IS that plant?" They produce quite possibly the most beautiful berries in all of nature.

Speaking of showy and colorful, the flowers on the vigorous Fuchsia 'Nettala'  are just too cool for school. The bottom petals form roundish cups that also could pass for a kind of wind chimes. Or dancers around a maypole. Charming and vigorous.

Color is the commonality in a lot of these photos and Impatiens 'Jungle Gold' can certainly hold its own in that department. Gold with reddish-orange markings in their throats, this species Impatiens will get about two feet tall and bloom prolifically. It is tender though, so will need some protection to make it through the winter. Thanks to Barb Siegel for this beauty.

Finally two photos of my favorite bulb -- Bessera elegans. Known as Coral Drops for its pint-sized, downward facing orangish-coral flowers, many liken the flowers to little parasols. The second photo shows the cream ribs on the undersides of the petals. The anthers are green, adding another bit of flare to this prolific bulb's charms.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Praise of Gingers

When people ask for something tropical in their garden, I often think to mention gingers straight off. Whether it's one of the popular Alpinia species such as A. Zerumbet or A. galanga or the many species in the Hedychium genus, gingers are a wonderful way to add tropical foliage and flowers to one's garden. I have four in my garden, the aforementioned Alpinia Zerumbet (see photo below) and three Hedychiums -- gardnerianum (Kahili ginger), greenei (Red ginger) and coronarium (Butterfly ginger). The latter three are in a tropical mini-garden I've created and the Zerumbet has carved out a home in a median strip. One little known fact, except to plant geeks, is that gingers and bananas belong to the same Order (Zingiberales). This order also contains Cannas and Birds of Paradise.
Here are more photos from my garden, now well into its summer garments. Summer vines such as Mandevillas and Passifloras are beginning to flower and lower to the ground summer color is being provided by Mimulus, Agastache, Dahlias, Arctotis and some colorful annuals.

Here's a new Coleus I just brought home called Wizard Pineapple (of course it is). A good way to brighten up a shady area and in our mild Oakland zone, it will do its thing well into December.

Speaking of shade, Browallia is a great way to add little heads of vivid purple. Sweet. They're pretty easy too, just plant 'em, give 'em a little water and they're happy as clams.

Okay, I resisted for the longest time but I've now become a 'fern fanatic.' This guy is commonly called Squirrel Foot fern but it's white, furry rhizomes look a great deal more like tarantulas to me. Well behaved tarantulas.

Add Leycesteria formosa to the list of plants that are mysteriously absent from most people's gardens. Called Himalayan honeysuckle because of where it hails from and the fact its flowers exude a subtle fragrance, this vigorous shrub will get 6-8' tall and wide. I have it contained so it doesn't get carried away. Mine is the Golden Lanterns variety, offering chartreuse foliage. I think the dangling panicles of flowers look like little pagodas.

Ruellia elegans. This little part shade charmer has the most vivid red flowers. If you look closely you can see fine white hairs covering the buds. A good way to add a splash of color.

As anyone who knows me knows, I'm a big Plectranthus fan. They're tough, shade-tolerant and interesting so what's not to like? Here's a little variegated P. caninus called Mike's Fuzzy Wuzzy. Hey, I had to add it to my garden just for the name alone. It's one of the stinky ones but that just adds to its oddball charm.

This Justicia nearly gave up the ghost but miraculously bounced back. 

The flower may not be familiar but look at the foliage. Yes, it's a Mallow member. Okay open the envelope and the answer is ... Pavonia missionum. Don't be hard on yourself. This plant is rarely cultivated (thanks to Susan Ashley) and hard to find. It hails from Argentina  and can get to five feet tall. Sometimes known as Red Mallow or Orange Hibiscus.

'Snaps' may be common but that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful. I love the orange and apricot tones on this guy.

Okay, I'll admit that I go gaga over Tweedia caerulea. It's baffling to me why this milkweed member isn't on everyone's XMas list. Again, very few people growing it (thanks for this specimen go to Barb Siegel). True blue flowers, long blooming, tough. I rest my case.

Another rare plant that many will not have heard of, Cunonia capensis is a tree native to South Africa. It comes across its common name, Butterknife tree, due to spoon-like stipules that open to new, coppery leaves. Odd but oh so beautiful.

Back to the common, here's a shot of my Penstemon 'Apple Blossom.' I have lots of hummers in my garden and I swear they fly in my house at night and whisper to me while I'm asleep "Plant more penstemons!"

Here's one of the flowers on the aforementioned Alpinia 'Zerumbet.' It gets its common name, Shell ginger, from these shell-shaped flowers. They're alabaster white on the outside, are ringed with yellow on the inside then feature patterned red nectaries. 

Filipendula ulmaria aurea. Another tough deciduous shrub that is curiously absent from most people's gardens. Known as Meadowsweet, this is a great choice where you want a compact shrub. And the 'Aurea' adds that fab chartreuse color to the simple white flowers.

Haworthia species. There are many haworthias, taking a multitude of forms, but the so called "stained glass" haworthias, featuring translucent leaves, are one of the prettiest.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Back in the Flow

After a hectic and disjointing last three weeks, I have been able to reconnect with my garden and get back in the flow. And that's a reminder that gardening is very much like any other relationship. There are going to be ups and downs, periods of closeness and some of distance. This isn't me waxing poetic but simply acknowledging the reality of this sustaining relationship in our lives. Unlike those in colder climates who have a winter break forced on them, gardening in Northern California means the opportunity is always there and sometimes that isn't always good. One can easily expect to be out in the garden, both because you want to and because the garden always is calling, needing some attention. Which is all to say it's perfectly fine to go in stops and spurts.
Here are more photos and comments from my garden on this first week of August.

Roscoea purpurea. Not many know this charming bulb hailing from China. I picked it up at a UCBG sale many years ago and it flowers faithfully every July.

Crassula alba v. parvisepala. I love this little guy, which features green leaves heavily spotted red and in summer large corymbs of white star-shaped flowers. A real powerhouse.

Major kudos to anyone who guesses what this is. It's a new Portulaca called Fairytales Cinderella. Pretty fab little flower.

Calling Darwin. This blue wonder is Evolvulus pilosus, a nifty little sun-loving ground cover. Darwin? Well, yes, Evolve-ulus. 

Sometimes keeping it simple is best. This front yard pot is filled with a purple Torenia and a dwarf red dahlia.

Love is sweeter the second time around? I managed to kill my first Felicia amelloides variegata so its success the second time around is that much sweeter.

These flowers are clearly a delphinium but if the form and foliage throw you that's because it's a D. chinensis variety, with its lack of a central flowering stem and more delicate foliage. I like the "spread" look of this species.

Two plants that not everyone is familiar with. In the foreground is Ozothamnus
rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’(aptly named). Behind it, the plant with furry looking foliage is Phylica pubescens. Its common name is Cape Myrtle, referring to the Cape region of South Africa from which it hails.

Sometimes it's not the flower but the seedpod that provides interest. Many will recognize this seedpod as belonging to a member of the milkweed family, in this case an Asclepius curassavica.

Lilies are one of my favorite bulbs and this beauty, L. Scheherazade, is one of the showiest.

Sometimes unopened flowers can be just as pretty. These Mirabilis jalapa flowers hold tight to their intense fuchsia-colored hues, set against a lush green backdrop.

I caught this honey bee foraging for nectar on my Scabiosa ochroleuca. When you look close you'll see he's been very industrious indeed.
01 09 10