Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spoils of Summer

I keep a garden journal and update it every week, as I stroll through the garden. I only record what is new, usually some plant budding up or beginning to flower. That list has been a bit shorter in recent weeks and yet I had to remind myself that there's still plenty in bloom in the garden, that in fact summer is, for those of us with mostly perennials in our garden, the most bountiful time of the year. Mid spring plants are still in bloom (some at least), summer perennials have begun blooming and even fall plants are moving toward the near point of flowering. And hopefully we've kept up with the weeding and trimming, meaning July and August can be a period of enjoying the fruits of our labors. The long days are now in slow decline so it is indeed time to enjoy our gardens to the fullest.
I'll be back next week with more Name Game entries but thought I'd give readers eyes a break. Apropos my comments above, there are plenty of photos to share.

Although this isn't the most artistic shot of my Clematis integrifolia, I wanted a closeup to show the purple ribbing against the blue backdrop of the flower. The flowers are simple, certainly not the showiest clematis out there but I enjoy that very simplicity plus the true blue color.

I've somehow lost the tag for this fern so am not sure what it is. Plant lovers that have been to my garden are also stumped. Anyone have a guess? 

This tuberous begonia certainly isn't shy, showing more orange in the sun and more red in the shade.

This little known bulb, Roscoea purpurea, came to me via the U.C. Botanical Garden and though the flowers are simple, they offer a lovely shade of lavender. 

To paraphrase the rock group The Who, "meet the new Portulaca, NOT the same as the old Portulaca." This is one of the new bicolor types, this one P. 'Fairytales Cinderella.' 

If this flower looks a bit familiar but you can't quite put your finger on it, putting your finger on it would help. The flower has a papery feel and its common name is Pink Paper Daisy. It's Rhodanthe manglesii and it is closely related to, some say synonymous with, Helipterum.

Here's a bit better shot of my Evolvulus hybrid. Such a charmer and it's in the 'Blue Circle,' with Heavenly Blue morning glory and Salvia patens.

Though the metal railing is casting a shadow over my new Verbena Lanai Purple Mosaic, I decided to include the photo anyway. Such a petite charmer!

Got red? You have it in spades with this Mimulus hybrid (M. Curious Monkey Red). Color in nature fascinates me. Think of the intricate genetic coding that causes one color or another, specific to that plant. Want an example? Rose growers have for hundreds of years tried to come up with a true blue rose. They tried using genetic material from plants like Delphiniums and many others, all to no avail. 

Not sure who our little guy is here but he's loving the nectar from this Eriogonum giganteum. All California Buckwheats are nutritious and are favorite destinations for a variety of insects and pollinators.

Asclepias tuberosa. Everyone is familiar with the Mexican milkweed (Asclepias curassivica) and some with the most popular native species (speciosa and fascicularis). This orange flowering species is the East coast milkweed and every bit as showy as the Mexican species.

Got red, part deux. I'm always amazed in staring closely at my Bouvardia ternifolia just how saturated the red color is. Crimson red. This guy blooms 6-8 months of the year and that as many of you know is a VERY long time for any perennial. I have it out front so passersby can get a good look.

This Echeveria species has really made itself at home once I got it in the ground. Contrary to popular opinion, if succulents have good draining soil, most will be grateful for a little regular water.  This one certainly has found its happy place.

I thought this Penstemon species had finished its spring blooming when all of a sudden it put out a new bloom spike. Instead of rising up, it ducked down and then curved back up! No matter; it's a most welcome sight no matter its shape.

It may seem like I have a thing for red flowers (with all the red flower photos here) but it's a coincidence. Still, there is a story behind this exquisite 'Night Flyer' lily. I brought it home three years ago and nothing happened. Two years ago it sent up two weak shoots but nothing happened. Ditto last year. I was about to dig it out when voila this year one stem matured and I'm about to be rewarded with four royal red flowers. Patience, grasshopper, patience.

Thalictrum rochebrunianum. Whew, that's quite the species name mouthful but fortunately no need to pronounce it to enjoy the gorgeous lavender flowers. This is one marvelous Meadowrue!

Asarina scandens 'Joan Lorraine.' Everyone's favorite Asarina and this photo demonstrates why. Love that color and the delicate foliage. It's just beginning to flower so I have the main show to look forward to.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

More fun with names

I had enough fun with last week's Name Game, matching two plants by their common or variety names, that I've decided to do a part two this week. For those of you who didn't find this little game entertaining, there will be more garden photos to follow. This week I've tried to expand the connections between certain of the pairings, to add a bit more spice and tell more of a story. With that in mind, here goes.

Digitalis 'Pantaloons' + Cantua 'Hot Pants.' Pieces of clothing, especially pants, isn't a subject one would normally associate with plant names but hey after three glasses of Merlot anything can come to mind, right? This foxglove is distinctive in that the sides of tubular flowers are 'split.' So not quite pantaloons but perhaps Palazzo pants? This Cantua sports red and pink bicolor flowers. So, hot colors. But pants? That must have been some good Merlot ...
Eccremocarpus 'Pink Lemonade' + Lemonade Berry (Rhus integrifolia). The former owes its name to the pink flowers with yellow tips and the latter's berries were crushed to make a kind of natural lemon-tasting drink by native peoples (not recommended today).
Echinacea Primadonna 'Deep Rose' + Tibouchina urvilleana (Princess flower). Primadonna and Princess? These plants certainly aren't suffering from self-esteem issues!
Edgeworthia chrysantha (Paperbush) + Helichrysum bracteantha (Paper flower). These are an interesting pair. The latter earns its common name due to the flowers having a dried, papery feel. The Edgeworthia on the other hand owes its common name to its interesting bark. It was peeled and used to write on, in a way like the Egyptians used papyrus.
Heuchera 'Root Beer' + Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet). The connection may bee a bit difficult to parse at first but once you've smelled the heady fragrance of Summersweet and cleared your mind you realize it smells a bit like Sarsaparilla! Which of course was the main ingredient in the original root beer.
Epimedium grandiflorum (Bishop's Hat) + Ammi majus (Bishop's Flower). I have no friggin' idea how either of these plants came to have the Bishop name as part of their common name. Anyone?
Okay, how many of you know your Periodic Table? We'll start with a couple easy ones -- Eriogonum 'Shasta Sulphur' + Begonia 'Iron Cross.' And, umm, you're choosing one name (Sulphur) that smells to high heaven and another (Iron) that's toxic and weighs like ten tons?
Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' + Tomato 'Big Rainbow.' Lots of other rainbows out there I'm sure and I was even thinking of pairing the Euphorbia with Berkeley Tie-Dye tomato. Ascot. Tie. Alex, I'll take neckwear for 200.
'Blue Bear's Paw' fern (Phlebodium) + Black Rabbit's Foot fern (Davallia trichomanoides). These ferns are worth having if only to tell your gardener friends the common names. What, no 'Wolverine Nose' fern?
Skating further away from the shore (as it were), how about Baby Toes (Fenestraria) + Pussy Toes (Antennaria)? Both these succulents are totally charming, with Baby Toes making these soft, upright nubs that do indeed look like toes. And for me, they also remind of the elevated stone columns in The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland.
Speaking of succulents, there's the charming and ferocious 'Tiger's Jaws' (Faucaria) that might well get into a tussle with Lilium pardilinum (Leopard lily) so don't put those two too close to each other. 
Speaking of things in the animal kingdom, how about Commelina coelestis (Blue spiderwort) + Davallia mariesii. In the former we have a creepy crawly spider and for the fern? Well, one photo of a mature plant will reveal white-haired rhizomes that look all the world like tarantula legs! 
If these connections might drive you to drink, how about Corydalis 'Blackberry Wine' or Sambucus species (Elderberry). Another thing these plants have in common is a deep purple color. On the Corydalis, it's the flowers and on the Elderberry it's the berries. And yes, one can make wine from elderberries (Paging Elton John).
Flowers have inspired nocturnal poets throughout the ages and here are two that might inspire the poet in you: Grevillea 'Moonlight' and Ipomoea 'Moonflower.' The former has large arching cones that are a dreamy alabaster color and the latter has the largest flowers of all morning glories and are a brilliant white to boot! 
Asclepias curassivica (Blood flower) + Haemanthus coccinea (Blood lily). With all the nicks and cuts and the sometimes murderous heat, gardening can sometimes seem like a 'blood' sport. Not sure how Asclepias came to be called Blood flower (oh, google, wherefore art thou?) but at least with the Haemanthus we have the deep red flowers. Asclepias is better known of course as Butterfly bush or simply Milkweed, owing to their white sap.
Plants can have all manner of connections (by name). Here's a different one. What do Hamamelis and Echinacea have in common? It helps if you know the common name for the former (Witch Hazel). Got it? Both plants are used medicinally, with Hamamelis still used to prepare that solution that's been around for a 100 years and Echinacea purpurea being the plant that Echinaea powder is prepared from.
Some people believe that plants can 'sing.' Music is vibration and everything vibrates so it's not a completely ludicrous idea. One can find music in plants if only through their common or variety names. Two I like are Salvia 'Violin Music' (a very pretty, purple-flowering variety) and Ficus lyrata, better known as Fiddle-leaf fig. 
Gardening is an enriching experience so it shouldn't come as a shock that somehow that's reflected in certain plants' names. Two of my favorites are Hebe pimeleoides 'Quicksilver' and Abutilon 'Fool's Gold.' Of course there are many more, like Asteriscus 'Gold Coin.' Now if only that 'Money tree' (Pachira) really did produce something we could pay the rent with ...
And lastly, something to help us cool down from this recent heat wave -- Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost' paired with Brunnera 'Jack Frost.' 

And now the photos!

There's nothing quite like 'Heavenly Blue' morning glory flowers. Just that brilliant true blue and so vigorous! The quickest way to get a splash of blue in one's garden.

Gloriosa lily. I love everything about this lily's flowers. The brilliant red edged in gold. The waviness of the petals, plus the way they often recurve. 

Agastache mexicana 'Sangria.' So many (fragrant) Agastache, so little time ...

Eriogonum giganteum. They produce such spectacular flowers that it's easy to overlook this CA native's other charms. Top of the list would be its truly silver foliage. CA Buckwheats, as they're known, are the one of great plants to have in your garden for pollinators.

Calothamnus villosus. Still one of the most singular plants in my garden (and that's saying something!). The flowers sprout directly from the stems, not at the tips of new growth as is usually the case. They look delicate at first glance but they're actually stiff, almost waxy. And of course bright red! Love 'em.

Here's my new Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue' finally starting to bloom. For those of you that have always loved Jacarandas but didn't have room for one (like me), this dwarf variety is only supposed to get only 5' tall. So, no excuses!

Echeveria species. Here's the familiar waxy tubular flowers of  many Echeverias. Hummingbird favorites and, to many of us, human favorites too.

Abelia sp. 'Chiapis.' Another shot of my cascading, fragrant Abelia. It's so different from most Abelias that it seems like it must be a different genus. But a closer look at the leaves shows it to be an Abelia, as do the tubular flowers (though most Abelias have pink flowers and none that I know of but this one are fragrant). 

No mistaking the flowers on this milkweed, Asclepias curassivica. This is the Apollo Orange variety and though the differences are subtle this one does indeed have a bit more orange to the flowers.

Cotyledon species. I think this may be a C. barbeyi, though the plant didn't come with full botanical info. In any case, it's slowly colonizing the front of my Australian natives bed. It's like a little city that's slowly expanding into the suburbs. Very slowly.

Though not the best photo, here's my young Eriogonum crocatum specimen. At the top you can see that it's already produced its first flowers, though they haven't fully opened.

For the life of me I can never seem to get a photo of my Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold' that really shows off its beauty. Here's where knowing Photoshop would really come in handy, as I could brighten the light and add more contrast to the leaves.

Got snail? This is the right kind of snail to have in your garden, Begonia rex 'Escargot.' Everybody who sees one at our nursery is immediately enchanted and it's easy to see why. First the beautiful two tone colors of the leaves. Then that telltale spiral form. Add to it that the leaves can get quite large plus the pink flowers and this is indeed one snail to make friends with!

Ruellia elegans. I love photographing the flowers on this perennial, as it seems that every time I do, it gives me a different look. Here the way the flowers extend out from the planting bed makes them seem like Cardinals (birds) about to take flight.

Lonicera sempervirens. This east coast honeysuckle isn't fragrant but it has such pretty flowers that when the plant is in full bloom it's really quite spectacular. That's my Begonia 'Illumination Yellow' behind it. The two make for a showy entrance to the back yard!

As I mentioned last week, I've become more intrigued with seedpods. Here's a Magnolia grandiflora seedpod that has yet to ripen.

Campanula 'Blue Waterfall.' My favorite cascading Campanula. Campanula is quite a diverse genus, more so than most people realize. 

Pelargonium sidoides. Proof that good things do indeed come in small packages. These tiny burgundy flowers are only about a half inch in size but that color is so intense! Add in the silvery scalloped leaves and this little guy packs a punch.

Succulent bowl #5. My most recent bowl and the first to experiment with colored glass, it's slowly getting established. Given their predilection for shiny objects, I'm surprised that crows, jays or other scavenger birds haven't pilfered the glass pieces.

Mimulus aurantiacus. This species is the true Sticky Monkey flower, the one that grows wild in the drier portions of Northern California. Love 'em!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Name Game

I have always been fascinated with words and more specifically with names. Names of people, names of things in the natural world. As the writer Ursula LeGuin once had one of her characters say "The name is the thing and the truename is the true thing." Certainly there is meaning in names and sometimes a power. Botanical nomenclature is an area where that often holds true. Then again, it's certainly okay to be whimsical in coining a common name or perhaps a cultivar or variety. These names may be pure whimsy, hold a meaning only the namer knows or have a tie-in to history, be that the history of the human race or owing to a more botanical heritage.
In this spirit I want to offer a little amusement about the common or varietal names of plans. Do you remember that board game where you turned over a square and it held an image and then you had to find its mate. So I present a sort of botanical version of that game, matching two plants by their common or variety names. Why? Why not? Hopefully it will bring a moment's delight or reflection to a few reading today's blog. Here are 15, starting with the pair that got me thinking about these associations. As it turns out, several of these will appear in the garden photos that follow.

1. Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero' + Oreganum 'Kent Beauty.' It stands to figure there aren't a whole lot of plants here in the U.S. market that have the word Kent in them so this is a fun and odd pairing.
2. Agastache 'Grapefruit Nectar' + Gaillardia 'Oranges & Lemons.' You could no doubt come up with many fruit names -- many gardeners are seemingly obsessed with food names -- but these two came to mind.
3. Arisaema 'Jack-in-the-Pulpit' + Aconitum carmichaelii (Monkshood). This association owes more to the fact that both plants produce hooded flowers, though of course there's the oblique religious connection (Monk + Pulpit).
4. Asarina 'Bridal Wreath' + Spirea vanhouttei (Bridal Wreath spirea). Needless to say both these plants produce pretty white flowers, the former tubular blooms and the latter sprays of tiny little white flowers.
5. Begonia 'Calypso' + Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' You could choose other musical names or ones pointing to cultural celebrations. I have these in my garden so they jumped to mind. Calypso does indeed have tropical colors and the Mardi Gras sneezeweed has bright reds and golds so there you go.
6. Portulaca 'Fairytales Cinderella' + Dianthus 'Cheshire Cat.' Umm, no, I'm not making these names up. The connection? Well, fairytales of course!
7. Citron 'Buddha's Hand' + Nelumbo nucifera (Sacred Lotus flower). Easy connection here. There's an old saying "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him" (because that isn't the real Buddha). In this case, I would say "If you meet the Buddha on the road, plant him."
8. Callirhoe 'Wine Cups' + Oxalis 'Zinfandel.' Cheers!
9. Camellia 'Little Babe' + Tolmiea (Piggyback plant). Connection? Think movies. About a farm animal that runs away to the city? Yes, that 'Babe' (the pig). C'mon folks, keep up with me.
10. Canna 'Australia' + Leptospermum. Connection? It's in the common name for the latter plant. Tea tree. More specifically New Zealand Tee tree. I'm sure all you Lord of the Rings fans got that one.
11. Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' + Cerastium (Snow-in-Summer). I could have also chosen Snowdrops. There's a surprising number of plants who invoke winter in their common or variety names.
12. Hibiscus 'Southern Belle' + Clematis 'Belle of Woking.' Belle might seem at first to be a name that wouldn't show up much but given that it means 'beautiful' in French, well that might explain its modest popularity. One could add Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile.'
13. Okay, here's one from left field or one where you need the 'way back machine.' Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Fred Flintstone' + Aquilegia yabeana. Fred Flintsone. Really?! And the connection is? you wonder. Here it's the species name of this beautiful columbine. Yabeana becomes yabba becomes "Yabba dabba doo!" No, somebody did not slip something into my coffee ...
14. Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) + Osteospermum 'Spoon.' The Cunonia earns its common name by the butterknife-looking stipules that open into coppery new leaves (see photo below). Spoon osteos are so named because instead of the usual petals they feature a corona of tiny little teaspoon-shaped petals. Quite quirky but lovely.
15. And not to burn my bridges behind me but the last one is Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' + Delosperma 'Fire Spinner.'

And now the photos!

I sometimes get caught up in taking closeup photos of flowers so I'm trying to amend my ways. This beautiful, bushy Abutilon makes it easy to want to capture it in its sparkling fullness.

Eccremocarpus 'Tresco Gold.' One of my favorite small climbers, in part because the flowers are just so colorful. A favorite of hummers.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' I've always been struck with how showy the flowering stems are on this ubiquitous looking plant. It's almost as if the flowers are trying to make up for the plain, strap-shaped foliage (although in this case, the first leaf shoots are a lovely burgundy color).

Grower Susan Ashley and I seem to agree that this Pavonia missionum isn't the most vigorous of plants and doesn't seem to fill in all that densely. Still, this little known member of the Mallow family has the prettiest of flowers so I guess all is forgiven.

Another shot of what I'm now calling the 'helicopter' Aloe (A. distans). Speaking of hummingbird favorites, aloe flowers rank near the top. Drought tolerant, beautiful and a hummer magnet? Sold.

Queen of the lilies? You could almost make that claim for Lilium regale flowers. To begin with they're huge. Then there's that pure white with the canary yellow centers. Add in a heady fragrance and there's no question they're a head turner.

Laurentia axillaris. Or 'Blue Stars' to the initiated. Okay, the 'stars' are lavender not blue but they appear in great numbers in summer, popping open above delicate foliage. Charming and surprisingly tough.

Is there such a thing as a 'forgotten mint?' That might be true for this Calamintha variegata. It's grown as an ornamental and this one features lovely pink flowers. Winter dormant, it springs to life in late spring.

Deppea splendens. This photo gives a better idea of the burgundy bracts and shows the strong yellow flowers with the recurved tips. Once believed to be extinct in the wild, it was discovered in the mountains of Chiapis Mexico. One of the curious features of this showy ornamental is that the flowers appear at the ends of stems so slender and wiry they don't look like they could support anything heavier than a feather.

"In the rocket's red glare ..." Well, not quite but the bud forms of Ruellia elegans do kind of look like rockets about to shoot into outer space. This photo doesn't quite show just how saturated a red these wonderful little flowers truly are.

On the right side of this hanging basket is the plant that led off the Name Game section above. Yep, that's Kent Beauty oregano and it definitely has its own fan club. That would be on account of the lovely pinkish bracts at the tips of each stem. Now, all we need to know who this Kent fellow is. Would that be Clark or county? As in Clark Kent or County Kent in England? Hmmm.

This Dorotheanthus is better known as Livingstone Daisy. (Dr. Daisy Livingstone, I presume?) It produces flowers of many colors, most notably pinks, yellows and whites and is very drought tolerant.

Got purple? It still amazes me that many gardeners have never heard of Trachelium. This is T. 'Hamer Pandora' (talk about a singular name!). This Blue Throatwort is a prolific bloomer and bees adore it. 

Pink out! Pink out! OK, that was meant to suggest a 'pink freakout,' which is certainly the case for this Hollyhock (H. 'Mars Magic'). I think you could hypnotize someone with one of these flowers ("Just look at the center of the flower. Continue to stare at it. Your eyes are getting drowsy ...")

I just love the center of Alyogyne hakeafolia. Love those rotating red 'arms' and the inner stamen cluster is full and rich. 

Seedheads are a burgeoning source of interest for me. You may gaze at this one and think 'It sort of looks like a dandelion but not quite.' Indeed, this is the curious seedhead of a Scorzonera hispanica (Black Salsify). This plant is better known, if at all, for the intense chocolate smell of its flowers. Who knew they'd have such beautiful seedheads?

I never get tired of photographing my Tecoma x smithii. Love that color and the exuberance of its blooming clusters. Not invasive like its 'cousin' Tecomeria capensis, it nonetheless is vigorous. I have mine safely contained in a median strip.

Speaking of exuberant, my honeysuckle is alive with flowers (and bees). This is the classic honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica 'Halliana.' I've kept mine trimmed as a bush so it doesn't take up too much space or get out of hand.

Back to the Name Game. Here's one of the participants. Can you guess which one? It's Portulaca 'Fairytales Cinderella.' Very cute flowers and it's just beginning a new bloom season.

I once made a sign for this plant in our nursery. It said "Take a Toad home today." That was referring to this bulb's common name (Toad lily), also known as Tricyrtis. They're a prolific mid-summer through fall bloomer, liking some relief from midday heat. Native to the East Himalayas and the Phillipines, they are now a common sight in Bay Area retail nurseries.

Here's a better photo of my Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile.' If you looked up 'white' in a visual dictionary you might see a picture of this flower. And of course the flowers are fragrant. 

Here's another entry in our Name Game, Asarina erubescens 'Bridal Bouquet.' I love the lush look of the foliage and then the otherworldly white flowers. The erubescens species varieties look nothing like the more popular scandens types, like A. scandens 'Joan Lorraine,' that feature small, delicate, lobed leaves. 

Though it's not yet in bloom, this Hydrangea quercifolia, better known as Oakleaf hydrangea, is so full and vigorous it was worth a photo. One of my favorite four season plants.

No mistaking Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. He sits in my back yard, next to the pond. That back yard is a kind of bird sanctuary so it seemed like a good place to put him.

Here's my Begonia 'Illumination Yellow' with Lonicera sempervirens. Though this Eastern native honeysuckle isn't fragrant, its beautiful flowers are more than worth the effort to make room for it.

Lastly, one more Name Game entry, the Butterknife tree. Here the stipule has just opened to reveal coppery young leaves. It hasn't flowered yet but it's such an interesting and beautiful plant I can wait.
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