Friday, February 20, 2015

Going Native

Given our drought conditions, it makes even more sense these days to plant natives. I'm reminded at my job that people's awareness of what constitutes a native, or maybe more to the point what are the choices in choosing a native plant, vary considerably. Even the term is somewhat confusing. In general, people here are usually using the term to refer to California natives. That's fine, as long as one considers that might include the wet environs of N.E. California or the deserts of SoCal or Baja. There are a hundred micro-climates in this state so the term 'native' can be quite elastic. Also, sometimes the term will be applied to the West coast of the country, which in a way makes more sense as the coastal regions have more in common than coast vs inland. To further complicate things, there is the term 'endemic,' which means (roughly) "only found in that region." A plant may be endemic to Northern California and never be found in S. Cal.
There is one other confusing bit. When you say 'native' people tend to assume you're talking about plants that are all drought tolerant. That's not always true, though in general CA natives are pretty used to drier conditions. Add to this the idea of Bay Friendly plants -- plants that are tough, drought tolerant and suited to our area -- and it can all be a bit confusing.
Starting with CA natives is a good entry point but to me it makes sense to examine each plant's needs. I try to widen gardener's views of drought tolerant genera/species by expanding it to include Bay Friendly plants. EBMUD has collected a lot of these plants in a very fine book that has the rather unwieldly title "Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates."
The upshot of all this is to plant plants that will use less water. That group would obviously include succulents and bulbs, which really only need water during a three month period in spring or summer.
Okay, here are a few more photos from my garden on this fine spring, er, winter day.

Though not the best shot, here is a new addition to my garden -- Abutilon thompsonii. Its calling card is its speckled foliage. Can't wait for it to reach some degree of fullness!

This may seem like a strange photo to include, a little scrawny, not yet flowering plant. It's an Ornithogalum concordiana, a S. African bulb. The appeal for me lies in its spirally, curly leaves. As strange as this seems, there is a loose collection of plants that are grouped together by this one defining characteristic. In fact, one devotee has even labeled this group "Twirls and Curls." It's definitely got my attention.

I never get tired of growing freesias. Bright colors, fantastic fragrance, faithful perennials, what's not to love? Plus, spring blooming bulbs are like harbingers of spring so they also herald the near arrival of other spring plants.

What was said about freesias above could apply to this colorful S. African bulb, Sparaxis, the only difference being that it is not fragrant. Who cares when you get fuzzy sheaths then an assortment of colors, all with a differently colored center edged in black.

Aloe distans. This guy is all bark and no bite, its teeth soft and rubbery. It's one of the easiest aloes to grow and grows quickly. It's newly in the ground so we'll see what happens next.

Yellow-flowering oxalis -- aiiii!!!!! Hold on, this is the non-invasive Oxalis penduncularis. You get all the beauty and no fuss with this guy. He makes large globes of leaves from which sprout these typical oxalis flowers. "Bush" species are much less common than the popular ground cover types but they're just as colorful.

Chamelaucium 'Purple Pride.' This guy has definitely decided it's spring, bursting into bloom. It has one of the more curious common names -- Geraldton Wax Flower, especially since the flowers aren't particularly waxy (to me at least). They are however very pretty and come in a variety of colors ranging from white to pale pink to bright pink or lavender. The flowers last a long time, making for an extended show.

The succulent to the lower left of this photo is the one in bloom, producing the simple but inviting yellow flowers. It's a sedum no wait it's an echeveria no it's a ... gimme a moment ... a sed-everia? Yes, that is indeed what it is. Someone crossed a sedum with an echeveria to produce a sedeveria. In this case, a S. hummelii. Upwards and onwards!

I wasn't trying to create this dark background, it's no trick of the camera, but that's a Bridalwreath spirea (S. prunifolia 'Plena').  This one produces tiny little "button" flowers right before the leaves appear.

Here's a better shot of my latest "victory," the long awaited flowers on my Iris confusa 'Chengdu.' Charming and the plant produces many spikes that each contain multiple flowers. 

Ferraria species. I'm not sure which one this is but Ferrarias are just the coolest (and weirdest) flowers most of us will ever see. Like underwater starfish, someone once opined. Ai, matey!

This one I just call my 'chocolate' ferraria. This species doesn't have quite the pronounced curly edges that most ferrarias have but is no less charming.

Echeveria 'Black Prince.' I call this my California beach variety, with the 'black' having turned to a copper color in the sun. For sure, dude. Still, a fabulous color and it's one tough little guy.

Aloe rupestris. This tree aloe is one of the faster growing species. Now I'm just waiting for it to bloom. Still it's pretty impressive, now 8' tall and with some very sharp 'teeth.'

Melasphaerula ramosa. This delicate looking but tough and prolific S. African bulb is reliable and pretty, though its flowers are small and simple. I didn't quite get it in focus here (damn wind) but hopefully will have a better shot in my next posting. It looks a lot like a Gladiolus tristis to me (another S. African bulb).

This 'gold on black' shot shows off the great colors of Eccremocarpus 'Tresco Gold.' If you're looking for a smaller vine, Eccremocarpus are perfect for that. I know of three -- this gold, one called 'Cherry Red' and a new one called 'Pink Lemonade.'

Justicia carnea. I am slowly collecting Justicia species. This one is commonly called Brazilian Plume and the other readily available species, J. brandegeeana, Shrimp plant. Given that they are tropical, they do surprisingly well in the milder Bay Area zones.

This dangling participle, oh wait that was an English class flashback, is Pandorea pandorana. It has one of the great common names in the entire plant world -- Wonga Wonga vine. No need to buy it for that name; the pretty sunset flowers will be more than enough of a reason. Just as tough as other Pandorea vines.

I keep trying to get a good shot of my charming little Fuchsia 'Rose Quartet' but then keep falling back to this photo I took in 2012. There's something about the hot pink juxtaposed against the pure white petals that make this a refreshing sight. Despite it being a hybrid, I've not had any problems with the dreaded fuchsia mite.

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