Thursday, November 26, 2015

African Daisies

As winter quickly descends on us here in the Bay Area, it is worth noting that it is fast approaching summer in places like Australia and South Africa. This realization is brought home to gardeners when looking at or buying various plants all known by the common name of African Daisies. Perhaps most commonly that name is applied to Osteospermums. This sun loving perennial offers up a variety of flower colors, most notably pinks, purples and whites but also includes copper colors. It kicks into gear starting about now (see my photo below of O. Voltage Yellow).
Gazanias are another popular member of the South African daisy group. Now firmly ensconced in most nurseries's ground cover section, these tough, very low growing perennial daisies feature yellows, oranges, reds and pinks. They're tough enough to be used in median strips, in rock gardens or just any location where you want to add bright colors.
The least known of the African daisies might be Arctotis. That's not the case for anyone who's ever planted them in their garden. These tough, spreading perennials are easy to grow, spread quickly without being invasive and seem to bloom nonstop from late fall through late spring. They offer a range of colors -- reds, oranges, pinks and yellows -- and for some, lovely silvery foliage that complements the bright colors of the flowers. They also stay low, topping out at a height of about 6 inches, and are an excellent choice for a sunny, well-drained location.
All three African daisies are drought tolerant once established, making them great choices for our identical Mediterranean climate. That's doubly so during our current drought.
Sometimes a plant's, or group of plants, popularity is fleeting. Not so with these hard working South African daisies. Long may they prosper!

And now the garden photos.

Fall is often about foliage and in this case it's my Summersweet (Clethra) turning golden before it sheds its summer clothes. The golds are particularly striking framed by the dark leaves of the Viburnum and the Camellia.

Plectranthus 'Sapphire Dream.' This low growing variegated Plectranthus is one of my favorite species. Besides the attractive variegation, it offers the bluest flowers of all the species. It hasn't gone too wild, which is good because it's in a narrow bed.

Though it's just getting ready to begin a new bloom period so not showy right now, I took a photo of my Lotus plant to illustrate what a great ground cover it makes. Contrary to many people's expectations, Lotus will bloom in the winter (given enough sun). 

Many people don't immediately think of Dianthus as providing winter color but some will bloom seemingly year round. There's something simple but sweet about 'pinks,' as they are known.

Osteospermum 'Voltage Yellow.' As noted above, Osteos are a great all purpose plant and are especially valued as they bloom in the winter. Plus, 'Voltage Yellow' is one of my all time favorite variety names!

Euphorbia atropurpurea. Though not yet in bloom, this little known Euphorbia has red flowers, not chartreuse. It's still in a pot, which explains why it's not as full and bushy as it might ordinarily be.

Scaevola 'Yellow.' I never quite understood what all the fuss was about with Fan flowers and then I tried a 4" pot of this yellow-flowering variety. It proceeded to go berserk on the flowering front, now having been in continuous bloom since July. Case closed.

My Heliotropium 'Alba' appears to like the cooler weather. It's looking much healthier and is getting ready to start a new bloom cycle. Plus, the Alba is by far the most fragrant of all the Heliotropes.

This is the time of year for XMas cactus and here's my coral-colored variety. It surprises some people that many cacti have some of the showiest flowers on the planet. This coral color is harder to come by so I'm glad I grabbed it when I did.

Lepechinia hastata. One of those plants I collectively group as 'perfect plants,' this Pitcher sage as it's known fits the bill for this exclusive club. So, what does it take to qualify? These plants are vigorous, establish easily, are not prone to diseases or getting eaten by insects, are deer proof, flower over a very long period, have attractive foliage (in this case also aromatic), are very drought tolerant and take virtually no care. Whew, that's quite a high bar to cross but this lovely plant fits the bill!

Do bees dig Scabiosas? Indeed. Pincushion flowers are rich in nectar and though they're thought of as a 'butterfly plant' they're equally popular with bees. Here's my S. ochroleuca, with its distinctive butter yellow flowers.

They sometimes say about things that happen in real life that a wild-eyed writer could never make up something so impossible. One might say here that the gorgeous flowers of Canarina canariensis are simply too stunning to be real. But real they are and even though this photo is borrowed from the web, my specimen is putting on a growth spurt. Canarinas are winter bloomers here and I can only hope my specimen rewards me this winter!

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