Thursday, October 8, 2015


My thoughts this morning somehow turn to our hummingbird friends. They are everywhere these days, zipping here and there. Here are a few things I like about hummers:
The males are fearless and will defend their territory, even if that's just one nectar feeder, with a zealousness that borders on the pathological.
Males will even try to scare off much bigger birds from infringing on their nectar source.
Hummers have tongues. Well, of course they do but you don't normally see them until the very moment they thrust them into a flower or nectar cup.
Hummers are the most expert fliers in the world. They can drop straight down or shoot up in an eye blink. They can also fly backwards (yes backwards), something that virtually no other bird can do.
Hummers lower their body temperature and heartbeat at night, sometimes to an extreme that seems hard to recover from. It's their way of preserving energy while they're not actively feeding.
Hummers do indeed migrate, some very long distances. That said, some in warm places like Florida stay there year round.
Unlike most birds, hummers will have two or three broods of young per year.
Contrary to what some think, hummers' diets include lots of insects, which they mostly catch in the air.
The most common Bay Area hummingbird is the Anna's. It's also one of the larger species and the only N. American one with a bright rose-red crown and throat (males).
Hummers are both fearless and curious. They will often come right up to within a foot of my face to see who I am and what I'm doing and have been known to alight on people's hats.
And for those who worry that having one or more nectar feeders will domesticate their hummers (having them rely only on sugar water), don't worry. They will still seek out their favorite flowers for nectar.

And now this week's photos!

Primula Primlet. This specimen proves that these common primroses are not annuals as is often thought. This one is in year three and going strong. The Primlet series are double form, 'budded' primroses that resemble tiny roses.

Flower or creature? On land or on the ocean's bottom? This 'Key Lime' chrysanthemum (mum) has both an otherworldly color and smaller, tightly bunched flowers that to me resemble sea anemones.

This simple flower belongs to a Rain lily (Zephyranthes). They earn their common name by popping 
up when the fall/winter rains arrive. They come in a variety of colors but somehow the white is an
ideal complement to the bright green grass-like leaves.

Celosia 'Cramer's Burgundy.' My first thought was 'It should be Kramer's Burgundy with a K because Seinfeld's Kramer kind of had hair like this. Fuzzy, phosphorescent and weird - what more can you ask of a flower?

Caryopertis 'Hint of Gold.' Though it's late, my Caryopteris is finally producing the distinctive purplish-blue flowers. A great combo with the chartreuse foliage.

Leucophyta brownii. If this Cushion Bush kind of looks like a silver tumbleweed, then well, it does to me too. Native to Australia -- where else? -- it's very drought tolerant and adaptable (though it does really like sun). It forms a 3' x 3' rounded shrub and does flower, though the tiny pale yellow flowers aren't that noticeable.

Not quite "Who goes there, friend or foe?" one might instead ask, "Who goes there, shrub or succulent?" And if this plant could answer it would say "Both." It's a Senecio barbertonicus and it's a shrub-form Senecio. It can reach a pretty good size, to 3-4', thus needs the space in which to flourish.

My Edgeworthia chrysantha is acting strangely this year. It took forever to leaf out, nearly June, and then has stayed very low. But at least it did 'recover' and is nice and lush now. This genus is commonly known as Paper bush, for the Chinese reportedly used the peeling bark as a kind of parchment.

Staghorn fern. These ancient ferns are quite adaptable, doing well as an epiphyte or grown in soil. This clump was somehow detached from the mother plant but it has since rooted and is prospering.

Deppea splendens. This summer and fall bloomer is just starting its bloom season. These bracts have yet to open to produce the golden yellow flowers. Endemic to Chiapis Mexico, this rare plant is thought to be extinct in the wild so thankfully several growers are keeping it in circulation.

I'm always taking closeups of individual flowers so am trying to break myself of that habit. Here's a newly planted Passiflora 'Coral Seas' that is climbing up a wooden trellis sprayed a yellow color.

Plectranthus 'Mike's Fuzzy Wuzzy.' One of the great names in the bot world, this tough little low growing plectranthus is taking its time spreading but it does help to lighten up a shady area.

Amorphophallus kiusianus. This is a leaf shoot that's about to open. A member of the Arum family and related to the huge Corpse flower, this more compact guy is proving very vigorous.

Five finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum). One of the prettier California native ferns and tough to boot.

Swainsona galegifolia, the white flowering form. This resilient Aussie native nearly died on me but after a complete haircut is springing back. Fern-like foliage and pure white flowers make for an attractive combo.

Readers of this blog will know that I love dwarf conifers. Here's a new one, kindly donated by Lisa at Sebastopol Growers. It's a Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Boulevard.' It will eventually get 10' tall and 6' wide but it's still a modest two feet right now. Love the color and the way the tips curl.

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