Friday, April 3, 2015

The Garden Writ Large

I had an opportunity yesterday to take a day to go with a friend to Coyote Hills Regional Park near Fremont. The visit not only reminded me that it's good to get out of the city and to be in peaceful environs -- certainly true of this wonderful and singular park -- but that as gardeners we sometimes forget about the larger natural world surrounding us. My garden keeps me busy and it's full of wonderful and interesting plants but at the end of the day it's a man-made creation. It's nice to get away from the city to see what Mother Nature has been up to in the plants department. Normally this time of year the hills would be full of wonderful wildflowers but the lack of rain has somewhat hampered their blooming. Still we found clumps of Mimulus aurantiacus in bloom, plus Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium), Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma) and Hairy Vetch. And CA poppies, something that will eventually cover the hills surrounding the marshes here.
Coyote Hills, for those that haven't been, is a large wetlands area that hosts great numbers of cattail reeds and is home to a great variety of birds. Lots of ducks, geese and occasionally pelicans plus a ton of swallows (there are swallow boxes all along the far side of the marsh), hawks and other songbirds. If you go at the right time you'll find Redwing blackbirds nesting among the reeds. Despite being a stone's throw from Fremont, this nature preserve is so large that you forget you're even in the city.
We are blessed with having a multitude of inviting ecosystems in Northern California, offering many choices for day trips in nature.
And now the photos.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' Back for a repeat performance, this star performer is in bloom about eight months of the year! File under: Party on!

Physocarpus 'Nugget.' Though shot in the shade so not catching the sparkle of the sun, here is one of the flowerheads. Notice how symmetrical it is, how each little flower seems perfectly placed next to those beside it. This is one aspect of Nature that we tend to take for granted, how when things are operating normally there is a perfect blueprint followed by every flower.

Phacelia campanularia. Known as Desert Bluebells, this CA Native annual offers the most scintillating blue flowers and willingly spills over a low rock wall or a container. A favorite destination for bees.

Mimulus Jeff's Tangerine. This CA Native sticky monkey flower is loving its location and is doing its best to politely take over this front yard bed. 

To paraphrase "So many Mimulus, so little room." Here's one called Ethan and wow I love its garnet red color! It's just getting going so looking forward to seeing it fully in bloom.

Here are two shots of my new Leucospermum cordifolium 'Salmon Bud.' You can start to see its color already, though it has yet to open. Sort of a salmon-orange. The moth on the lower photo is clearly showing interest.

Another shot of my lovely Dietes bicolor. Sometimes simple is good and I love that butter yellow palette. As noted before, the plant is back from the dead and nothing has made me happier!

That's an unknown Leucospermum in the center (probably a Scarlet Ribbons), with the arching branches of my Chamelaucium behind. 

Papaver atlanticum. This Moroccan poppy has been as advertised -- a true perennial, tough and long blooming. Sporting pastel orange blossoms (this one a semi-double), it forms clumps in the sun or part shade. 

There are quite a number of deciduous shrubs that start producing flowers within weeks of leafing out. One of them is Viburnum opulus, better known as Snowball viburnum. Here is the very beginning of the flowering sequence, where the flowers are mostly green and more a  spray than the big balls they will become. Still pretty at this stage.

Kerria japonica. It looks as if this deciduous shrub is a vine and a leafless one at that but is in fact just the nature of this shrub (sometimes). It will soon leaf out, providing rich verdant foliage.

Salvia splendens 'Sao Borja.' Mine struggled in the winter but didn't go completely dormant. Now with warmer weather it's starting to fill out (and bloom).

Amorphophallus kiusianus. A smaller relative of the huge Titan arum (the world's largest flower) this arum starts off sporting this intricately patterned shoot. As to the body parts included in both the genus and species well, umm, the less said the better.

Speaking of the slightly weird, here's a new flower on my suddenly floriferous Passiflora actinia. Really, it has one of the showiest filament clusters of almost any passion flower vine. Love it!

One last flower on my Camellia 'Jury's Yellow.' The yellow is in the center, very subtle, easily seen with this microscope lol.

Continuing with the unusual theme, here's a less common Dyckia called marnier-lapostle. Not as deadly as most dyckias (who have the sharpest throrns of just about any plant), its outer "teeth" are nonetheless a bit sharp. 

Papaver 'Crimson Feathers.' One of the peony style breadseed poppies, it's deep red and intensely ruffled petals make it a real treat.

Though a bit hidden right now, here are the delightful orangy-apricot blooms of an Exbury azalea hybrid. Known commonly as "deciduous azaleas" because they are not evergreen, they feature oranges and golds not generally found on the evergreen types.

Scabiosa 'Harlequin Blue.' A success story in the making (it took three years to really be happy and bloom like this), I'm loving this low growing, lavender flowering Pincushion plant.

Though I didn't catch my Clematis 'Belle of Woking' flower in the sun (thus its color isn't fully evident) I thought I'd include the photo anyway. It's just such a beautiful flower.

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