Friday, August 14, 2015

Ring dem bells!

We have a small shrub planted at the entrance to our Grand Lake Ace nursery in Oakland and it's in full bloom right now, showcasing yellow, flared tubular flowers. Of course anything this showy is going to draw interest from customers and that affords me the opportunity to talk about one of my favorite plants -- Tecoma. Many gardeners are familiar with Tecomaria capensis and its tubular orange flowers. It's a semi-scandent shrub that can border on being invasive. Tecomas (in some circles the terms Tecoma and Tecomaria are used synonymously) offer several species that are even showier and are less likely to go wild on you. Start with Tecoma stans and its hybrids. The straight species, known as 'Yellow Bells,' has vivid yellow flowers that are flared at the tips. It can get big, to 15 feet, but can be pruned hard to keep it lower and bushier. No need to do that with T. stans 'Mayan Gold,' a dwarf sport that tops out at 3 x 3. That's the one we have planted in our Ace entrance. And now there's a new dwarf stans hybrid -- 'Bells of Fire.' Sporting orangy-red flowers, it's a real showstopper and it too stays in the 3-5' foot size range.
Then there's the peachy-gold flowering Tecoma x alata. Just as tough as all the Tecomas, it tops out at 8 feet and has arching or semi-scandent branches. The other commonly available Tecoma, one I have in my garden, is the exquisite T. x smithii. Similar in its form to the x alata, this sport features peachy-orange blooms that, like most Tecomas, appear in clusters. When in full bloom the dwarf varieties especially are smothered in flowers. Showy indeed!

And now this week's photos from my garden. They represent a cross-section of what is interesting in our gardens. Many of the photos are of flowers, which are naturally too inviting to not capture on film. But there are also photos of foliage (especially the Alpinia 'Zerumbet'), one of an interesting patterning on stems (Amorphophallus rivieri), one of a nutritious nectary (Echinacea) and several combo shots. Okay, here they are.

And here is our main attraction, the Tecoma x smithii. Love that color!

Portulaca 'Soleil Tangerine.' Here's a fuller shot of this dazzling new Portulaca. There are many succulents that have colorful flowers and Portulacas are near the top of the list.

If it looks like a Scaevola and quacks like a Scaevola, well then it must be a Scaevola. And it is indeed, here a yellow-flowering variety. Like the more common purple flowering types, this 'Fan flower' is a great cascading plant.

Immediately identifiable by its deep burgundy rosettes, Aeonium 'Schwarzkopf'  is one of the most popular succulents for adding both dark tones and some height and size to a particular bed or large mixed succulent bowl. Mine is still awaiting its final destination.

Here's my 'Odd couple.' The yellow 'spear' is the forming inflorescence on a Billbergia (soon to produce flowers whose color is yet a mystery) while the dainty climber with the small yellow cup-shaped flowers is Scyphanthus elegans. As a quasi-vine, the Scyphanthus will attach itself to anything close by and though it's finally starting to climb the trellis behind it, the 'spear' is fair game too.

This 'combo' shot didn't quite come out as planned. Yes, it's a nice photo of the beautiful Gloriosa lily flower but if you look closely, in its open center are tiny blackish flowers from the nearby Lotus jacobaeus (Black Lotus). Both are plants not commonly found in gardens and that's especially true of the unusual and hard to find Lotus. In fact this lotus in no way resembles the common Parrot's Beak lotus commonly found in nurseries. What's that expression? 'Black is the new black.'  Truly black flowers are hard to come by and this is one of the few.

Although the lighting isn't perfect, here's a shot of the aforementioned Amorphophallus rivieri. As with many Arums, this one has spotted or patterned branches. One wonders how this came about. Is it for purposes of camouflage or to get the attention of some insect?

More mimulus! This one is M. aurantiacus 'Bronze,' one of the Sticky Monkey Flowers that are found in our northern California landscape. This is a new addition and still very small but it's already in bloom. Found on dry rocky slopes, this plant flowers at a young stage because it needs to take advantage of precious rain to grow and attract pollinators.

This spotted Begonia is one of the so-called Angelwings types. As you can see it sports bright pink flowers. As with many begonias, it appreciates bright shade or morning sun. 

Here's a better shot of my new Asclepias tuberosa. There's orange and then there's ORANGE. Just as popular with butterflies of all kinds though I'm not sure if monarchs will lay eggs on them, as this butterfly bush is an east coast species. Popular too with hummers.

Echinacea pupurea hybrid. Here the focus is on the 'cone,' a favorite destination for bees and butterflies alike as it's very rich in nectar. I think it's every bit as beautiful as the petals, if not more.

Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee.' Love this plant, in part for the mix of green and silver. Its species name refers to the rosemary-like foliage, though in this case the leaves are very soft. It produces tiny white flowers in summer but for me the show is the foliage.

Lilies are my favorite common bulb and here's a photo of my Lilium 'Scheherazade.' It's an Oriental type lily and well, just a beauty. At the risk of telling a bad joke, this is one lily that has many stories to tell.

Although the flowers on this shell ginger are pretty (and fragrant) most people plant this Alpinia 'Zerumbet' for its foliage. This photo demonstrates why. Each leaf has its own distinctive patterning and mix of greens and golds.

I need to unpack my zoom lens so I can get closeup photos of certain flowers in my garden and here is one that I need it for. These are the flowers on Vigna caracalla, better known as Snail vine. And yes, the flowers are shaped like snail shells and exude a light, pleasing fragrance. An aggressive climber, it will latch onto anything close by so be careful where you plant it.

I thought this was an interesting composition, with the small and delicate lavender flowers of Thalictrum rochebrunianum seeming to emerge from the broad yellow leaves of the Abutilon thompsonii. Thalictrums, known as Meadow Rue, seem like ancient plants to me but maybe it's just because they've been in cultivation for a very long time.

Though this Asarina procumbens was in a bit too much shade, this shot in a way captures its affecting shyness. It's a low growing, cascading Asarina and the flowers are more like those of a snapdragon or Nemesia than the tubular flowers of most Asarina species.

I'm still not sure which Tillandsia this is and it's never bloomed but it's silver waterfall-ness is so beautiful.

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