Friday, August 21, 2015

The Return

We're not exactly in the dog days of August but for many there is a pause. Summer's been here awhile and at least in the milder parts of the Bay Area, our warm weather lasts well into the fall. And yet, the kids are heading back to school and the summer vacations are drawing to a close. Many people have taken time off from their gardens as well, focusing on other activities. The nursery trade is no different, in step as the marketplace dictates, to when customers will return to retail nurseries to buy newly arrived fall plants. Of course the growers have to plan ahead for this, in order to have those plants on the 'shelves.' That is most apparent with bedding plants but it's also true for perennials as well. Rudbeckias and Echinaceas appear in greater numbers and there's plenty of Salvias to choose from.
It's in the fall season when we get a better idea of the annual/perennial balance in our gardens. That single choice is perhaps the greatest commonality among all city gardeners. And that balance may well change according to the season. In my own garden, where I have a great preponderance of perennials, finding room for new perennials is always a challenge. And with our drought, I'm more determined than ever to have as few plants in pots as is possible.
That said, here is a 'snapshot' of my mid to late summer garden, as seen in today's photos.

Here are two shots of my Albuca spiralis. The photo below makes it apparent where the species name derives from. This South African bulb is one of a select few plants that have curly or twisty leaves. One person has dubbed this group 'Twirls and Curls.' I call this my 'Corkscrew' albuca.

Asarina scandens 'Joan Lorraine.' Though it's just beginning to flower, this vigorous little climber has scaled a nearby gutter drainpipe and is nearly up to the roof! Love the rich purple flowers and the delicate leaves.

Here's another shot of my yellow flowering Scaevola. The plants look delicate but they're much tougher than they appear. A great cascading plant, it's perfect for hanging baskets or spilling over a low wall. 

Calceolaria calynopsis. This hard to find, red-flowering Pocketbooks plant is a real showstopper! The flowers are also larger than the C. mexicana or C. 'Kentish Hero,' which only adds to the plant's appeal.

Speaking of hard to find, this rare Lotus (L. jacobaeus) is called 'Black Lotus' for the deep burgundy blooms. And yet, I've noticed on my specimen that it has quite a few flower clusters that are a golden ginger color, as can be seen in the higher cluster here. Curious. 

Likewise with my Gloriosa lily. These are two flowers from the same plant, the one on the left almost entirely red and the one on the right the more usual yellow-bordered orangey-red.  Both are pretty, n'est-ce pas?

Along the 'differences' line of discussion, I love seeing flowers in all their stages of unveiling. Here's my Datura 'Blackcurrant Swirl,' still unopened. At this stage, the purple hue is at its richest, an almost velvety deep wine color.

Lilium 'Black Beauty.' No black but the flowers do feature a rich rosy-red hue. This is by far my most prolific lily, getting easily 20 blooms off a single stem every year.

I love the velvety feel of  Lepechinia hastata's leaves. Textured, felty, furry, call them what you will but their tactile appeal, that wonderful grayish-green color and the intense aroma all make the foliage on this hardy, drought tolerant 'native' a great package. I say 'native' because this plant is endemic to Mexico but has slowly crossed the border so it's a welcome immigrant.

The flowers on this shockingly showy Mimulus (M. 'Fiesta Marigold') really do take some getting used to. It's a hybrid, having a little M. aurantiacus in its parentage but it is not a true Sticky Monkey flower. Still, it provides that wow factor in my front yard, a mere two feet from passersby.

Many of you will recognize this Salvia as 'Hummingbird Sage.' While that is the common name of this handsome S. spathacea, the truth is that hummingbirds love nearly every salvia for their nectar. This guy has the advantage of being a California native.

I always think that the flowers in the photos of this Justicia fulvicoma look more painted than something coming from a camera. The flowers have just an indescribably lovely color.

Begonia rex 'Escargot.' This is the best year yet for this tender begonia. I've left it outside to fend for itself in my Oakland garden and though it was late to leaf out this year, it's filled out very nicely. The variety name owes to the spiraling shape of the leaves, said to suggest a snail's shell.

Discovered this 'Ursine' in my garden but decided to let him stay. It's a Blue Bear's Paw fern of course (Phlebodium areolatum) and his handsome grayish-blue paws really stand out in this shady, raised bed.

Can goldfish live outside the water? They can if they're a Goldfish plant (Nematanthus species). Normally grown as a houseplant, I have mine outdoors until the really cold weather arrives. 

One of my favorite Agastache, A. mexicana 'Sangria' has lovely raspberry-colored flowers and a very pleasing fragrance. Agastache, known as Hummingbird mint due to their minty fragrance and appeal to hummingbirds, are easy to grow and most will return faithfully each year. Make sure to plant them where you'll regularly pass by, so as to enjoy their unique perfume.

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