Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Man of Riches

Here's a little story. When I first came to the Bay Area, not knowing much of anything about the place, I once interviewed a well known local who lived in what he called the Penthouse Suite in San Francisco. When I entered his place it didn't seem particularly palatial but what I did notice was that there were piles of paper everywhere. Dozens of them. Before I could even start the interview he said "I bet you didn't know that I'm a millionaire." That seemed implausible but when I nodded he said "Yeah, if I had a nickel for every piece of paper in here I'd be rich." Okay, then.
I mention this because because the idea of being 'rich' is very subjective. And for me, having a garden that offers great diversity and an endless array of visual and olfactory delights, well I consider that to be truly rich. That is on my mind today as there is an explosion of color and new events in my garden. Of course one doesn't need the hundreds of different plants in a garden like mine to feel rich in spirit. Even a small garden has the amazing capacity to fill one's heart with joy. True gardeners know that the path (prep, planting maintenance) is also filled with rewards but there is something especially sweet with the final 'flowering,' no matter how that looks.
After that moment of mundane and sublime, here are photos of my garden on this last day of April.

Ixia viridiflora. I've always found this particular plant a kind of weird juxtaposition. On the one hand, Ixias (corn lily) are incredibly common and the hybrid color mixes are sold everywhere. They are called corn lilies because they used to multiply in corn fields. But. Ixia viridiflora's extraordinary color, some say a milky blue, some say aquamarine, is so unusual and rare that this particular Ixia doesn't seem like it could be related to the others. Just a sublime color.

Sedum 'Coppertone.' So many sedums, so little time ... This particular sedum has proved easy to grow, has maintained its color and nothing seems interested in eating it. So, all good.

Speaking of 'sparkling' sedums, here's a form of Jelly Bean sedum. Almost too tempting ...

Those in the know will recognize this beauty as one of those 'Hawaiian Flare Drop' Bidens. Indeed, this the HFD Orange variety. I love the "painted" effect of its patterning. 

And now introducing the "world's greatest lupine." Okay, that may be a bit of hyperbole but the vivid royal blue flowers on Lupinus pilosus are just too fantastic for words. Here they are in the bud stage. The leaves are also limned with silver.

Not that any proof was needed to demonstrate how much bees love Echiums but here's a foraging honey bee on a newly opened Echium Blue Bedder flower. Blue Bedder is the fast growing annual echium, a good way to quickly attract bees to your garden.

This Digiplexis flower spike looks like it's ten feet tall and stretching to the heavens but of course that's just the perspective. Still, this now rabidly popular cross between a Digitalis (Foxglove) and Isoplexis (Canary Island foxglove) is a vigorous "shooting star."

Got golden? You do if you have the delightful and beautiful Golden Chain tree (Laburnum anagyroides). This deciduous tree, native to Europe, likes some regular water, though I only need to give mine a deep soak once a month. A close look at its flowers gives away its membership in the Pea family (Fabaceae). The flowers are also lightly fragrant.

Leucospermum 'Salmon Bud.' Here's another shot of my new Leucospermum and this angle, from above, gives you an inkling of why the flowers are called Pincushion. That aside, it's a lovely and intriguing flower.

I like this shot of my Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy,'  where the dark ribbed foliage seems to push its way through the Phacelia viscida. Which is, in fact, what it's doing.

I like the contrast of this silver Tillandsia, covered in delicate silver hairs, with the broad coppery leaves of the Echeveria 'Black Prince' behind it.

Though the bed was still a bit too much in the shade, here's a new arrival -- Tolmiea menziesii. This is the variegated form. This shade lover has some curious common names -- Piggyback plant, Youth on Age, Pick-a-back plant and Thousand Mothers. These names mostly refer to its tendency to self-seed, spread and generally make itself at home, assuming there's some regular moisture.

On the other hand, this Eastern honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is quite drought tolerant once established. It is not fragrant like the common japonica varieties but makes up for it with brilliantly colored flowers.

OK, here's a pop quiz. What does this native plant and Elton John have in common? That would be 'elderberry,' the common name for this Sambacus canadensis and the name of an Elton John song ("Elderberry Wine"). But you knew that. While the flowers aren't overly showy, their pure whiteness contrasts nicely with the lush green foliage.

Snow in April? We should be so lucky (or rather Tahoe first then our reservoirs).  Nope this is a Snowball viburnum (Viburnum opulus). Just a fabulous, one of a kind shrub. Below is a closeup of the four inch wide flowers.

Kudos to those who can identify this 'shoot' coming up through the Heavenly Bamboo. Yep, it's a bamboo shoot, in this case a Black bamboo. Soon to be removed.

If this looks like a Buddleja (Butterfly bush) then in the words of Ed McMahon (so sorry if you actually know who he is as you must be ancient like me) "You are correct sir!" In this case it's a dwarf Buddleja called CranRazz. Dig that color, man!

Speaking of colors you need to wear shades around, above is a new very red Penstemon. It was okay the first year but now in its second it's much more vigorous. Fire engine red, perhaps?

And then here is the famous Orange Chiffon breadseed poppy, which is SO ORANGE that the camera can barely record its true color. Not only that, it has slightly taffeted petals. To paraphrase the movie "Spinal Tap," I give it an 11 out of 10.

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