Thursday, April 16, 2015

Got spring?

Why yes we do. Well, we have spring as long as you don't count the missing rains. If it gets any worse for water in CA, we'll all be taking dust baths like the birds. The last two days the real enemy for us gardeners is the wind. It dries out plants a lot faster than the heat. You can mulch the soil to protect from the heat but you can't 'mulch the wind.' Be thee gone oh desert winds!
That annoyance aside our gardens are beginning to show their brilliant spring coats. Though this year it's been a slow slide into spring and not the winter in February and then spring in March two-step, there's still been a mini-explosion of color this last two weeks. Which means that gardeners are rescheduling everything that can be put off so they can be out in their gardens. To paraphrase Marlow (he of The Singing Detective), "Am I right or am I right?"
For those of us working in the nursery trade, our gardens are a stress free bit of glory, absent the craziness of long days at work. It's a bit strange to retreat from plants (work) by escaping into plants (our own gardens) but that's exactly right.
Anyway, here are some visual treats from one gardener's garden. Enjoy!

Leucospermum cordifolium 'Salmon Bud.' Here's the flower now fully open. It's a wonderful (and unique) color and it bloomed in year one from just  a two gallon size! For me Leucospermums are the kings of the Protea family.

Arisaema ringens. If you look carefully, you'll see the thick hooded spathe in the middle of the plant. The leaves have yet to unfurl so they are still obscuring the white striped green spathe. One of the easiest Jack-in-the-Pulpits to grow but sadly hard to find these days.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple.' The leaves on my Smoke bush have yet to acquire a deeper burgundy color but already the beginning of the wispy flowerheads are in evidence. I'm using it as a street tree, an excellent choice as this Cotinus species doesn't get too big.

Papaver 'Fringed Lavender.' This new Annie's breadseed poppy is a beaut. I would describe the color as a 'matte' wine purple. And of course it's fringed. Here one of the petals has already dropped but since this is the plant's first flower, I decided to take a photo anyway. Love that color!

Calibrachoa 'Dreamsicle.' Just a simple Million Bells but pretty nonetheless. It's anchoring the corner of a front bed, right next to our main walkway. And it's a sign to never give up on plants. It looked pretty dead this winter -- no leaves at all -- but miraculously it has returned. 

And they shall rise! That burgundy shoot in the center is my Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' Eucomis members are better known as Pineapple lily. The name owes to a tuft of leafy bracts that adorns the top of the flower spike and that is said to resemble that of a pineapple. The real attraction is the thick stem that houses rows of waxy white, pink or purple star-shaped flowers. Nothing like them and the Sparkling Burgundy throws in the great leaf color to boot. Eucomis are surprisingly sturdy bulbous perennials.

Salvia discolor. For those familiar with this 'black' sage there is simply nothing like it in the plant world. Start with the sticky white stems and light green leaves that are pure white on the undersides. Add in light, lime-green  bracts and then the coup de grace the darkest purple almost black flowers you will ever see. In fact the flowers look completely black until the sun brings out the dark purple palette. If you said "I'm making up a plant that has these qualities" it's likely no one would believe you. And it's easy to grow.

Sarracenia sp. American Pitcher plants are fun and easy carnivorous plants to grow. Here are two 'flowers' that are getting ready to open. As long as you can keep them moist and give them some sun they're an easy and reliable plant. And they have that "Je ne sais quoi."

Campanula punctata. This is the purple form of the sun loving, rhizome creeping bellflower. It has to be the easiest campanula to grow and actually makes a good ground cover. Flowers arise on 6-10" stems beginning in April and continuing through the fall.

Here's a shot of a bromeliad that was a gift from a friend. It's an epiphyte of course and so I just wedged it in the crook of a tree.

Viburnum plicatum. Here's a better shot of my V. plicatum, that I've managed to keep in a semi-dwarf state. While the white flowers are indeed pretty, it's the lush, deeply veined leaves that are the real attraction for me.

Choisya ternata 'Sundance.' This 'golden' Mexican Mock orange more accurately sports variegated  leaves of green and gold. It hasn't bloomed much in its first four years but now has many buds so this may finally be the year. ("Patience, grasshopper, patience.")

Primula vialii. Though this shot isn't in perfect focus, I wanted to share this unusual primrose with those that are unfamiliar with it. It is hard to find in the trade, which is odd because it possesses a singular beauty. Flowers first produce a spike of red buds and then slowly they open to sport tiny lavender flowers, starting from the bottom! Apparently the secret to growing this guy is to keep him moist and don't be worried about his long dormancy. I'll report back.

Iris louisiana 'Pastiche.' After a couple of poor years, this iris has returned to producing the flowers it should sport. They are large, 5-6" across, with white standards and lavender falls. Simply lovely.

Iris pseudacorus 'Holden Clough.' Although the species I. pseudacorus flowers are simple and in no way showy, this Holden Clough cultivar is quite the showboat. Yellow with heavily veined copper markings, it's a real standout. It's tough like other pseudacorus but prefers regular water. Can even be used as a bog iris.

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