Friday, April 10, 2015


For those of you who may be visiting this gardening blog for the first time, after seeing the article on Tenant gardening in last Sunday's Oakland Tribune or one of the other Bay Area Newsgroup papers, welcome! I use this space to discuss a variety of topics -- the last one was on the controversy over planting milkweeds to help the struggling Monarch butterfly population -- to talk about a particular plant or group of plants or sometimes just to ponder the current state/experience of city gardening. There is no set format. I write about what is on my mind that day or week. I post nearly every week.
The other thing this blog allows me to do is share my garden by way of photos and descriptions of those individual plants. I have an extensive collection of plants in my Lake Merritt area garden and it is a year round hobby for me. As with any avid gardener, I'm continually working on it, trying to keep pace with everything that needs attention and sometimes, like today, having the free time and motivation to rework an entire bed. As was mentioned in the article, my garden is a collection of smaller beds, divided by sidewalks, driveways and walkways and that has necessitated working with small and especially narrow beds. That provides both a challenge and an inspiration.
For those of you who are indeed new, you can scroll back through older entries. I've been doing the blog for quite some time so there's lots to explore if one is motivated to do so.
One other feature of note. On the right side of the blog is a list of all of the columns I've written for the SF Chronicle in the last ten years. You can use that list to explore any one or number of my columns.
So, I hope you'll enjoy the blog and check it out from time to time. Anyone who wishes to receive a link to the blog every week can write me at: and let me know to add you to my list.
And now this week's photos ...

Eccremocarpus Tresco Gold. This smaller sized vine is gradually getting its due. Sporting red or gold flowers and finely textured leaves (not the clematis leaves seen here), this is one vigorous, long blooming vine. 

Here are two shots of my newly blooming Clematis 'Belle of Woking.' True double clematis flowers are uncommon and this one is one of my faves. 

Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Nugget.’ This golden-leaved Ninebark has already finished flowering and is starting the process of producing its colorful seedpods. The white flowers are certainly lovely but in a way the dark red seed capsules are an even more dramatic combo with the gold foliage.

Grevillea 'Bonfire.' This grevillea certainly earns its name, with the crimson red flowers seeming like for all the world as if the shrub is on fire.

I seem to accumulating Mimulus species this spring. Here's a newly arrived M. bifidus 'Apricot.' It's one of the drought tolerant, "sticky monkey" flowers. Love the color and, for now, the way this stem is 'ascending,' with opposite flowers 'climbing the ladder.'

I haven't always had the best luck with Passion flower vines, surprising perhaps as they tend to be ... umm ... vigorous. Case in point is this showy Passiflora actinia. It took three years to bloom but wow once it got going it's unstoppable. It has one of the showiest flowers; if you like dramatic filaments that is. 

There ought to be a term (perhaps there is) for keeping a plant tightly pruned while not actually bonzai-ing it. That would be the case for my lovely Viburnum plicatum, which I was forced to keep small due to it being in an 18" wide bed. This and my Viburnum opulus (Snowball viburnum) are my two favorite viburnums. 

Flowers don't come much redder than Ruellia elegans. It's such a saturated red in fact that cameras have a hard time handling that occurrence. Not so for us gardeners and the butterflies and hummers that will take an interest.

One look at this and the viewer may kind of squint and think 'What the heck is that, exactly?' It is in fact a Philodendron leaf getting ready to unfurl. And there be a whole lot of unfurling, as the leaves on this mature specimen are often two feet long and a foot wide!

Hydrangea quercifolia (or Oakleaf hydrangea to you non-plant geeks). In our mild Oakland climate this shrub is almost never deciduous, starting to put out new growth as the old leaves are finally dropping to the ground. Very quick to leaf out, though it takes a little while to bloom.

Though this shot of my Nandina domestica (Heavenly bamboo) is more in the shade than I wanted, it was looking so full and robust I decided to take a photo anyway. As is true with a lot of common names, this plant is neither a bamboo nor a guarantee to get you into heaven. Sounds nice though.

This simple little flower is Anomatheca laxa, also known as False freesia.  It likes the shade and self seeds like crazy, which in this case is a good thing.

Although this isn't a great photo, I wanted to record the opening of the first flowers on my Albuca spiralis. Albucas are South African bulbs and this one (A. spiralis) belongs to a curious group of plants that all have twisting or curling leaves. Someone has dubbed this group 'Twirls and Curls.' I've been sufficiently intrigued to possibly do an article on the subject for Pacific Horticulture magazine (which BTW is a great quarterly magazine).

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