Blue skies are back in Northern California, bringing us ... well ... not rain I guess is the sad answer. But our gardens, after all the rain in December, followed by the unusually warm days in this month, have conspired to make perennials bolder, bulbs pop up earlier and are tempting gardeners to plant the first of the spring annuals (sweet peas, breadseed poppies and the like).
Today's spotlight is on an interesting genus that many gardeners are unfamiliar with. Othonna is a genus of plants hailing from South Africa that is a member of the sunflower family. There is great diversity within the genus. Species can be pachycauls (with swollen stems), caudiciforms or dwarf and compact succulents. One unique group is made up of tuberous geophytes with subterranean rootstocks and deciduous leaves. Most feature small, yellow, daisy-like flowers, some of which are intensely fragrant. Not surprisingly they belong to the Asteracea family. Othonnas are closely related to Senecios. Though the caudiciforms tend to be collector's plants, there are a variety of more common Othonnas now on the market.
My interest in this plant was sparked in part from a visit to an acquaintance Russell's amazing greenhouse, where he has collected and is propagating a wide selection of these curious plants. I encourage those interested to do a little research online.
And now the photos. I was convinced I'd have to rely on archive photos for today's post but in fact the sunshine brought out the best in a few new arrivals.
Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty.' This flower hasn't fully opened but already gives us a sneak peek at its fabulous colors and patterns. I have a new-found respect for calendulas, after growing both this and the equally vigorous C. 'Zoolights' last year. It's another flower that looks to have been painted by Mother Nature.
My 'wonderful surprise' plant of 2014 was this Silene 'Starfish.' It has settled in and has been blooming nearly nonstop since July. I not only love the color but the shape of the petals, which are sort of indented.
Calluna 'Firefly' (insert your own Josh Whedon joke here). This heather keeps changing its appearance, like a sly chameleon. Last year it turned bright red in the winter and this year it's sporting lower bronzy foliage and blood red tips. In any case it's lovely and much appreciated by this gardener.
I'm sort of cheating including a photo of my Marmalade bush (Streptosolen). Yes I shot this photo today but it's at the very end of it's bloom period. It takes a break then usually resumes blooming in mid-spring.
If this verdant green plant looks familiar but you can't quite put your finger on what it is, it's because one is usually paying more attention to the flowers on Cosmos plants. I think this is C. 'Yellow Garden.' This plant sprung up where I'd planted a Yellow Garden last year and of course Cosmos are known to self-seed. Still. January?
Everyone knows this pretty Oxalis 'Sunset Velvet' (one of the more imaginative names I reckon. And if it goes deciduous would you then call it (Sunset) Velvet Underground?) I have it in a pot with a Mimulus bifidus Apricot. It should make for a very pretty combo.
It's Hellebore season and this Wayne Rodderick is usually one of the first to produce flowers.
This isn't the greatest photo, or composition for that matter, and I only include it to wax poetic about the charms of Kerria japonica. This little known deciduous shrub has verdant ribbed leaves and cheerful yellow flowers. This double form is Pleniflora. One of the most cheerful and hardiest plants in my garden.
Camellia 'Silver Waves.' I tend to take this camellia for granted, it being the first in my garden, and the simplest. But it's prolific and the flowers are quite a good size. It has adapted to liking a good amount of late morning/early afternoon sun.
Speaking of hellebores, here's one of my faves -- H. argutifolius 'Pacific Frost.' Love that speckling! As I tell our customers at Grand Lake Ace, you need to take into consideration the foliage, as the flowering period is brief and then you have the foliage for the rest of the year.
I would love it if anyone could ID this Plectranthus for me. It has a curious leaf structure, making towers where larger leaves half shield smaller inner leaves. It's fuzzy but not one of the succulent types.
Though the plant is very small and this isn't the greatest photo, this is another of my new arrivals from the visit to Russell's greenhouse. It's an Ornithogalum concordiana. It's notable feature is its curly foliage. I didn't realize that this leaf pattern is part of a larger grouping, all featuring curling or twisting leaves. Some have called them "Twirls and Curls." This Ornithogalum is from South Africa and like other species is classified as a bulb.
Lachenalia tricolor. This Cowslip comes by its species name honestly, sporting distinctive red, yellow and green sections. One of the most prolific bloomers in my Lachenalia collection.
Finally, here's a new arrival to my garden, Rhipsalis pilocarpa, sometimes known as Mistletoe cactus. This epiphytic cactus hails from Brazil, though the Rhipsalis genus itself is widespread. The botanical name derives from the Greek, the word meaning 'wickerwork.' R. pilocarpa has stems (and fruits) heavily covered with bristles, making it a unique species in this genus.