Saturday, April 25, 2015

Veggies are Pretty too!

I just finished working on a short article for the SF Chronicle on vegetables that have beautiful flowers. Normally we don't think of vegetables as having showy flowers (or even flowers at all although of course anything that produces 'fruit' must flower first). One could choose many vegetables or fruiting bushes/trees for such an article. My limit was five and so I chose squash, scarlet runner beans, chives, eggplants and pomegranates. Hopefully you'll get a chance to catch the article but briefly here are the reasons for my choices.
Squash. The 'star' of the veggie flower world, squash blossoms are not only exceptionally pretty (large and golden) but they have many culinary uses.
Scarlet Runner beans. The orangish-red flowers are so pretty that many people grow this plant as an ornamental. That said it produces a prolific amount of edible beans and one can collect seed for future plantings.
Chives. Chives are part of the Allium family, that also includes onions, leeks and shallots. They feature round heads of pink to mauve flowers and because this is a perennial you can let it flower.
Eggplant. Part of the Nightshade family, which also includes the tomato and potato, eggplants produce some exceptionally pretty flowers. Colors range from purple to mauve to wine-colored.
Pomegrante. These heavy producing bushes have such pretty reddish-orange flowers that they can be grown as an ornamental. The red flowers are followed by bright red fruit so it's one of the most colorful shrubs you can grow.

Papaver Lavender Semi-Double. This new breadseed poppy from Annie's is pretty fabulous. Larger and more open than the peony style breadseeds. And that color!

Here's the backside of the same poppy. I'd never photographed one from behind and it's an interesting look. You get to see the darker spots at the base of each section of the flower.

Centaurea 'Red Boy.' This new Bachelor Buttons from Annie's is indeed red (and not pink as has been available in Centaurea mixes). Alternately known as 'corn flower' because it used to grow in corn fields before agribusiness began spraying fields with herbicides, this is one tough, drought tolerant plant! And prolific.

Nigella 'African Bride.' Not many people know about this species of Love-in-a-Mist' and that's a shame. The striking contrast between the pure white petals and the deep burgundy 'hats' is quite lovely. I'm not big into white flowers but it's such a great color combo and it's so easy to grow that I usually grow it every year. I have not had luck getting it to reseed however, unlike its more familiar blue cousin.

Lotus 'Flashbulb.' My neighbor is growing Lotus as a ground cover and so I tried it out. It's done well and has formed a dense mat of its distinctive 'fern-like' foliage and then all those bright parrot's beaks.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame.' This now massively popular cross between a foxglove (Digitalis) and a Isoplexis (foxglove relative) contains the best of both worlds. It has the full textured foliage and larger flower size of the foxglove parent and the great colors and flower longevity of the Isoplexis. Rumors of new varieties have come to fruition. There is now an 'Illumination Raspberry' and 'Berry Canary.' Curiously, the Illumination Raspberry's leaves are narrower and less textured.

Tweedia caerulea. Who doesn't love blue flowers and this member of the milkweed family -- that means yes it is deer proof -- is actually a tough little customer. Goes largely deciduous in the winter but returns in the spring. It has those distinctive milkweed seedpods but doesn't seem to self seed like Asclepias plants are wont to do.

Bouvardia ternifolia. This nearly ever blooming perennial offers up the richest red flowers. It almost died this winter, not sure why as it was so mild, but am so glad it's back. I haven't seen hummers around it but then again they have lots of choices in my garden.

Asclepias curassivica 'Apollo Orange.' Here's the host plant for the Monarch butterfly, breaking out its first flowers of the year. It's proved its toughness by getting a toehold in lousy soil in a median strip bed.

Clarkia concinna 'Pink Ribbons.' Clarkias are sun loving CA natives but there is one species that prefers the shade and it's this guy. Pink Ribbons doesn't even look like a Clarkia (who mostly have round petaled flowers), with its finger-like flowers. A great plant for a shady woodland garden.

Speaking of shady woodlands, this Primula vialii would be right at home there. In fact I have this specimen directly above my Pink Ribbons in a sloping bed under a fir tree. I've discovered that this primrose wants regular moisture (you can't cheat on the H2O with certain plants) and goes dormant for an extended period (before popping up in spring). Worth the wait!

All you non-birders can skip to the next photo. Here's the best I could do (without a telephoto lens handy) to capture a female hummingbird sitting on her nest. It's just right of center and a bit lower. I knew hummers were using the tree in years past to build nests but this is the first time I've actually seen one.

Arisaema ringens. Possibly the sturdiest of all the 'Jack-in-the-Pulpits' this low growing arisaema has a lovely green and white striped spathe. Woodland plants, they like cool, moist conditions and rich, loose soil. Too bad this particular species is hard to find these days.

Succulent bowl #4. My newest succulent bowl, though it's now 8 months on. It's still filling in but gives viewers an idea of the combinations of color, texture and form possible.

Bromeliad sp. I'm finally starting to get the hang of my slowly expanding bromeliad collection. This is year two for this guy and I was so happy to see the colorful bracts appearing on a new shoot.

Aechmea fulgens. I was very happy to finally ID this Aechmea and this is year three for its blooming so it seems it will be reliable. This bromeliad features shiny, smooth, leathery leaves and these curious flowers. 

Here's stage two of my Amorphophallus kiusianus. You can see the thickening of the top section and the tiny colorful tip. This will open to its white horizontal spathe and vertical, dark burgundy spadix. Simply one of the weirdest but coolest plants on the planet.

Choisya ternata 'Sundance.' I'm not sure why but it took four years for this choisya to bloom. It's making up for lost time now, offering up an abundance of sweetly fragrant blooms. Heavenly!

Finally, another shot of my CA bluebells (Phacelia viscida). For some reason this year's edition (it's an annual) is much happier, with more flowers and the saturation of royal blue that is its calling card. So lovely.

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