Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Solstice!

As we approach the winter solstice, a 'calendar' that goes back literally thousands of years, it gives us an opportunity to reflect on our place in the natural world. No matter how many electronic gadgets we have or how big and modern our houses are, we are still tied to natural rhythms. In the very least we are governed by the length of the day and in three days we hit the shortest day of the year. Just as it's hard to appreciate four distinct seasons if you only have two (or even one), it's hard for us to fully appreciate the warmer and longer days of spring and summer without first experiencing the shorter and colder days of winter. Or to put it another way, don't hate the winter for being winter. Honor it and then also cherish the days as they get longer.
Now suspend that mutual honoring with the fact that Oakland and the Bay Area offer the opportunity to garden year round, a suspension of reality that most other parts of the country don't get to indulge in. It's a delicate suspension of two worlds but one I'll take. Today I wandered out into the garden, camera in hand, not expecting there to be much to photograph. But surprise, surprise there were a host of solstice visual treats that compelled me to photograph. Here they are and while none are about to win any photography awards anytime soon, it is a way of sharing my winter garden.

Front yard area. The S. African Osteospermum 'Voltage Yellow' thinks it's summer and is putting on a very cheerful show. To the right and in front is the new Coprosma 'Pina Colada.' They make a colorful winter pairing.

Luculia pinceana. This winter blooming shrub gets my vote for best shrub nobody's ever heard of. Very pretty pink flowers but the real attraction is its heavenly scent. Truly, one of the most intensely fragrant shrubs you'll ever smell. Sweet!

Any guesses what this is? It's a Cotinus 'Royal Purple' in its near winter disguise. I get different colors every late fall, sometimes orange, sometimes gold, sometimes red. All beautiful!

While the Cotinus is just about done, my Leucospermum 'Veldfire' is just getting started. That fuzzy little center is the earliest stage of what will become one of the most magnificent flowers in all of the Proteaceae world.

This odd but vigorous plant is a Pelargonium crispum variegated Lemon. So, the crispum name owes to the crinkly leaves; the variegated moniker owes to the yellow and green leaves and the lemon, well, it really does smell powerfully of lemon. It's kind of a wonder plant, giving a little of everything to its caretaker.

The photographer in me coached this Salvia discolor. "There, just a little to the left. Turn slightly to me. There, hold it!" It does look good against the gray stucco wall, showing off a bit of its white undersides and stems.

Winter means Daphnes, at least to me. Here's my D. odora variegata. It started as a tiny 4" potted plant so it's made good progress in a mere year and a half. It's planted along the main walkway, along with other fragrant plants, so all can enjoy its sweet smell.

Kalanchoe 'Chocolate Soldier.' Whatever name you give to this kalanchoe, it showcases bluish-gray, felty leaves, highlighted with those chocolate tips. Very easy to grow, whether in a pot or in the ground.

Heavenly bamboos (Nandina domestica) may be called utilitarian (you say that like it's a bad thing ...) but they're also beautiful and look good year round. This year I'm finally getting a few red berries. 

If you're wondering what the heck I'm shooting here, it's the last of the Viburnum opulus foliage, now a pinky-orange. This is my Jungle Strip, where the various shrubs are largely left to fend for themselves. They've done surprisingly well, augmented by the occasional deep watering.

This Asarina erubescens 'Bridal Wreath' isn't making a break for it (though it certainly looks like it). It's still producing a few late season, all white flowers. Probably the easiest Asarina to grow and that's saying something. 

Here's another attempt to capture winter color on dying foliage. In this case, it's a tuberous begonia, offering up a mix of reds and golds on otherwise dark green leaves.

Thunbergia alata 'Arizona Red.' This IS the time of year for Thunbergias, especially in the milder zones. This new variety is possibly the reddest of all the 'Susans.'  It'll likely bloom well into late January if not longer.

Sempervivium tectorum calcareum. This Hens and Chicks is a favorite of mine and I love the name. The species name 'tectorum' makes it seem solid and tough and that's sort of what it is.

"The Wooly Bush that ate Oakland!" Well, almost. My Adenanthos sericeus is now 12' tall! Umm, that's a bit taller than the 6' listed on the seller's label ... If I ever write a book I'm tempted to title it "Your results May Vary." Indeed. And when I run for president my slogan will be 'A wooly bush in every garden!' (forget about chickens in pots). Okay, you have to be of a certain age to get the reference.

Succulent bowl #4. As is. Meaning, I just pulled out a couple tiny weeds, pointed the camera and click. It's progressing nicely and the Crassula muscosa (Watch chain plant) in back has kind of gone wild.

Zygonista murasakikomachi. Easy for you to say. Translation: an orchid. Love the color!

My favorite Camellia reticulata, C. 'Frank Hauser' has produced its first flower. Yes, this is its actual color! And the photo doesn't even make clear its silky petals and how wavy they are (not flat like C. japonica varieties). No wonder Reticulatas are considered the Queens of the camellia world.

From the extravagant to the sublime, here's a photo of my Chaenomeles 'Cameo.' Love the subtle colors and the fact that flowering quinces start blooming in winter.

Though my juvenile Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue' is done blooming, it looks like it will hold onto its foliage year round here in Oakland. This dwarf only reaches 5-6' so it's easy to keep it in a container, as I've done. Love the foliage and of course those lovely purple flowers when they arrive.

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