Thursday, August 27, 2015

Scintilating Skullcap



One of the categories of common names for plants that I find particularly amusing are the ones that end in -wort (as in Mugwort) or in -cap, as is the case with the charming low growing perennial Scutellaria, commonly known as Skullcap. Somehow I picture Lady Hamlet holding a skull, with a Scutellaria cascading over the top. In fact, the term refers to the hooded nature of the little flowers. They are widespread, mostly occurring in temperate regions of the globe. I was surprised in looking up this genus that it contains 300 species (most of which alas we will never see). One of the common ones is S. suffruticosa, with its colorful deep pink flowers. However I just came across one I was unaware of, S. javanica 'Veranda.' With darker and glossier leaves and purple flowers with white throats that are a bit more tubular than suffruticosa, it's a real beauty (see photo below).
Scutellaria baicalensis (in particular) has been in use for over 2000 years as a remedy for such conditions as hepatitis, diarrhea and inflammation. It is still used as a traditional Chinese herbal preparation today.
So, a doff of the cap to the history of plant names and the stories they hint at.
And now the photos ...


Scutellaria javanica 'Veranda.' As mentioned above, this little charmer features purple flowers with white throats. They don't get big, usually topping out at ten inches, but can spread. They are hardier than they look, although I'm not sure about this lesser known species.


Plemonium 'Stairway to Heaven.' Well, maybe if 'heaven' is only a foot off the ground. The nice thing about this variegated form is that it looks great even before it blooms.


I love the rich colors on this Portulaca 'Soleil Tangerine' plant. There's a Darwinian reason why many succulents have especially showy flowers but absent that discussion let's just appreciate the way they brighten our day.


Speaking of succulents with vivid flowers, I give you Crassula falcata. This specimen's flowers are just beginning to color up but they will eventually be a vivid red. This is the so-called Propeller plant, named for the broad, flat leaves. Crassulas can take many forms, being quite Chameleon-like.


I was looking for contrast here and a certain depth of field and I got both with the morning sun lighting up the top three flowers on my Scyphanthus elegans. They almost resemble cup-shaped, flaming comets bursting out of the night sky. 


Tiger lilies (in this case Lilium tigrinum splendens) are one of life's simple pleasures. I love the recurved petals, the pollen rich stamen and of course the spotting. 


"Okay, quick, all you mimulus flowers, crowd close together so I can get you all in this shot." Okay, it only seems like this abundance of blooms must have darted together just for the photo. Mimulus are exhibit A to prove that not all natives are boring (not that that's true anyway). And of course, there's a steady stream of bees and hummers visiting.


So many Tecomas, so little ... space! Okay, it only seems like there's an endless number of varieties of this extravagantly flowering shrub out there. A fairly recent entry is this T. stans 'Bells of Fire.' Lovely!


I love the way that Echeveria flowers appear on arching stems. 


My favorite Grevillea, G. 'Moonlight,' has begun a new bloom season. They produce the most extravagant (and huge) cones of alabaster flowers. I love everything about the flowers -- the color, the form, the size and even the chocolate-colored seedpods.


Though not the best shot, I couldn't leave out this photo of Dianella 'Baby Bliss' flowers. The blue and gold combination and the nodding form is just so irresistible.


Ampelopsis would be pretty enough to photograph all on its own but I love the variegated leaf version of this Porcelain Berry vine. This year promises to be the best yet for a crop of iridescent blue berries.

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