Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Disappearing Act

I've discovered the most amazing thing in my garden today. I'm about to share it with Physics Today but will let you in on it now. I've discovered a wormhole in my garden. You know, the kind that takes you to another dimension. Okay, of course I'm kidding but in a way there's an element of truth to the joke. Our gardens allow us to 'escape' the stresses of the real world for a time. In a sense, they've 'transported' us to another world, in some small way invisible to others. So in that way it opens a portal to a hidden world of soil and spades and plants and the hum of bees and zigzag of butterflies and the whtt, whtt of zooming hummingbirds. In the best gardening sessions, the whole of the world fades and we are encased in our private paradise. Now if we could only find that wormhole when the tac collector comes to our door ...
Here are more photos from my early summer garden. Tho spring is over, there is plenty still in bloom, with perennials and shrubs taking over the show.

Dianella 'Baby Bliss.' I'm finally getting my Dianella to bloom. As you can see they produce little, star-shaped blue flowers. The real treat assuming it happens are the tiny blue berries. Supplication is underway to the gardening gods ...

Here's the Begonia hanging basket I bought for the party. It's part of the new 'Illumination' series. Not sure which one I have, as it wasn't tagged. No matter, it's a real show stopper!

The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone ... It does almost look like the Hedychium greenii in the foreground is somehow connected to the red banana behind it. Both are residents of my tropical corner and seem happier with the recent warm weather.

Look, it's the Philodendron that ate Detroit! It only seems like this huge-leaved philodendron is big enough to do such a thing. 

Here's one of the mini-beds that lines the walkway to the back apartments. The variegated bush is Abutilon thompsonii; the small gold shrub in the front is Duranta 'Gold Mound' and that's a Calamintha to its right (not yet in bloom).

If you look at the flowers on this 'cactus' very closely you can probably guess its genus. Yep, it's a Euphorbia, in this case E. trigona 'Ruby.' The way the sun highlights its colors adorning the very top, it almost looks like a halo.

Not the most elegant shot, a simple flower seeming to float in space, but I'm very fond of this Scabiosa ochroleuca. Though the flower looks very white, as the plant progresses and if it was photographed in shade you'd see its subtle butter yellow hue. 

Mimulus 'Fiesta Marigold.' Wow, is all I could say in discovering this wild new mimulus. Dark red bordered by orange? So much for subtlety. But a bright splash of color now and then is fine.

Speaking of Monkey flowers, here's Mimulus 'Curious Red.' It's taken up residence in one of my median strip beds and is making itself at home.

Major gold stars to those who can ID this plant. The key to the ID is the way the individual 'blades' are wavy at the bottom. It's a Boophone disticha. That's not pronounced boo- phone but rather boo-off-on-ee. It's a tropical (or sub-tropical) bulbous plant endemic to Africa. The genus name is from the Greek 'bous' meaning 'ox' and 'phontes' meaning 'killer of'. So that's a hint that this plant is poisonous. It is sometimes known as 'Veld fan.' If one is lucky enough to have it flower, it produces a large inflorescence of star-shaped red flowers.

Tecoma x smithii. One of my favorite plants and now that it's established, one of the most vigorous. There's nothing quite like this color and the way it forms large clusters. Surprisingly, I haven't seen the hummers around it, though it seems like something they would love.

Magnolia grandiflora. My specimen is still somewhat small, magnolias aren't terribly fast growing trees, but it's slowly getting a foothold in its median strip home. It's the smaller-sized 'Little Gem' so it won't get too huge. Unlike deciduous magnolias, this evergreen species blooms in summer.

Datura 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' I'm a big fan of daturas. All the benefits of a Brugmansia (Angel's Trumpet) without the huge size or the need to feed constantly. This is one of the showiest ones, a semi-double form whose flowers are purple on the outside and white on the inside. As you can see, it's loading up with flowers now.

Monardella villosa. Coyote mints are tough, adaptable plants. They can take full sun or a mix of sun and shade. Not only are the furry flowers attractive but the leaves are intensely aromatic. 

Here's a hanging basket I planted for the party then decided that it was easier seen (and appreciated) on a little plant stand. That's a Begonia boliviensis hybrid on the left and a Cuphea ignea variety on the right. 

I once had a customer come into Ace and ask for a purple hydrangea. When I showed her one, she said 'No, no, the flowers are much tinier.' It took me awhile before I figured out she was talking about this gem - Trachelium 'Hamer Pandora.' This summer flowering perennial is a magnet for bees and, well, a magnet also for gardeners who love purple.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Delight

Spring to summer. That transition has so many connotations, some almost mythic, that it's part of the very fabric of our modern lives. For gardeners, that can be as simple as the transition from the exuberance of spring bursting forth to the quieter beauty of summer. Most of the planting has been done and hopefully one has conquered the array of weeds that also burst forth in spring. We never stop working in our gardens of course but hopefully now is a time when we can slow down a bit and appreciate the fruits of our labors.
June is always an interesting month to me. Although we tend to think of plants for spring and plants for fall, with summer a period not exactly forgotten but not quite with its own identity, summer can be a time when many perennials really hit their stride. My garden is full of them, many in bloom now, giving the garden a definite summer look.
Here is a peek at some of my garden's June clothes.

Bromeliad species. Many bromeliads will bloom in summer and this red-flowering one seems to favor this season to show off its colorful bracts.

Rhipsalis 'Limey.' Rhipsalis is a type of epiphytic cacti, commonly known as Mistletoe cactus. It is the largest and most widely distributed type of epiphytic cacti in the world. They are great for hanging baskets, with many displaying a cascading habit. 

Though not the best picture, I couldn't resist sharing the beautiful white blossoms of Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile.' I had to wait three years for it to bloom but the heavenly fragrance was worth the wait. 

Polemonium reptans 'Stairway to Heaven.' This morning sun loving perennial will eventually produce beautiful lavender flowers but in the meantime shows off lovely variegated foliage. BTW, this variety name refers to the plant's common name -- Jacob's Ladder. 

Nasturtiums may be common but some of them are really quite pretty. This one almost looks more painted than grown and is climbing up the vines of my Porcelain Berry vine.

I couldn't quite get the tiny, tiny flowers on this Ledebouria socialis in perfect focus but they are so unique and sweet that it's worth posting the photo anyway. It's an interesting plant, being a geophytic species of a bulbous perennial. It hails from South Africa, an area as many know that is a rich source of flowering bulbs.

I'm hoping that this golden 'spear' will be this bromeliad's "flower." It certainly provides an interesting contrast to the silvery smooth leaves.

Laurentia axillaris. The plant's common name -- 'Blue Stars' -- is as much descriptive as it is prosaic but in any case I love this plant's ferny foliage and exuberant lavender stars.

Here's another shot of my newest Dianthus (D. chinensis heddewigii). That color is pretty fab and the white edging really adds to the drama. I've been thinking about this color recently and given that relatively few flowers exhibit such a bold hue, it might make for an interesting photo essay.

Remember that old TV quiz show, where contestants had to guess the identity of the mystery guest. There was a line something like "Do you know me? I ..." Well, one could pose that question for this plant. Although it's not common and of course it's the flower that usually gives away a plant's ID, this bulb really does possess a very identifiable form. There's the striated markings on the leaves and the way the tips of the leaves have a little curlycue. It's a Gloriosa lily and it will eventually produce showy and distinctive red and yellow flowers.

Though the Clarkia 'Aurora' flowers at the bottom are in shade and not showing off their coral charms, the contrast to the golden hues of Physocarpus 'Nugget' is striking. Definitely a showstopper.

I took a photo of this newly planted succulent bowl last week but here's a closeup of one of its star entries -- Sempervivium tectorum calcareum (whew that's a mouthful!) I love the burgundy tips and the hint of turquoise in the leaves. Here it almost looks like a lotus floating on a blue pond.

Speaking of art, check out this new variety of Painted Tongue. That would be Salpiglossis 'Chilean Black.' This variety does indeed hail from Chile, which of course shares our Mediterranean climate. Here the flowers are a rich wine color but it can also show lots of purple.

Delphinium 'Summer Skies.' They might just as well entitled this variety 'Robin's Egg Blue' given its light blue hues. I've always wondered, given that bees pollinate these flowers, whether there's a connection to the inner section of delphiniums being called a "bee." The genus name derives from the Latin for "dolphin", referring to the shape of the nectary.

I thought this made for an interesting shot, with the Aquilegia 'Yellow Queen' flower seeming like it's actually the bloom of the Sauromatum venosum behind it. That Arum's common name is Voodoo lily and it produces a foot long, brownish spathe that can sometimes be quite smelly. To me, the voodoo spell it casts is its singular weirdness and beauty.

Aloe distans. This tough little aloe, newly planted in a median strip bed about six months ago, has already produced its first flower (up above, not yet open).  So many aloes, so little room ...

The angle taken to get both the flower and the foliage of this Francoa ramosa in the frame makes it seem as if the plant might be very tall but in fact it's only 30" at this point. It is certainly happy and has made the transition from being planted a mere month ago to it's already being in bloom quite effortlessly. It's a great alternative to foxgloves.

Right next to the Francoa is another new addition to my garden, this Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow. It also decided to get on with the business of flowering and is so covered in bloom heads that you can barely see the leaves. 

Here are two shots of a hummingbird visiting my Marmalade bush (whose flowers they adore). In the top photo, he's hovering just to the right and a bit lower than center. In the lower photo, he's resting in pretty much the center of the frame.

Here's the 'star' of my garden party, the Echium 'Blue Bedder.' It truly is one of the great bee plants for the garden and unlike perennial echiums which take awhile to grow and blossom, the annual Blue Bedder grows quickly and flowers profusely. If it were a product sold in a grocery store it would be advertised as "Instant Echium!"

Here's the aforementioned 'Shady Lane,' the pathway leading to the back yard. A friend kidded me about how 'clean' the garden looked for the party and tho I did do a lot of weeding and pot organization, I think it was the fact that the walkways were newly swept that caused her comment.

Ten points to those who can name this plant. If the foliage were more in focus, it might be easier but take a closer look at the shape of the flowers. Do they look familiar? It's a Corydalis but the fact that the flowers are yellow on this C. lutea is what throws people. Most Corydalis have blue flowers but I'll admit that despite being a lover of true blue flowers, I love these canary yellow blooms.

Iris 'Joyce Terry.' Not sure why but this bearded iris bloomed VERY late this year. Not only is it lovely but it is one of the sweetest smelling of any Bearded iris I've had the pleasure to be around.

Got bat? You do, sort of, if you have any of the so-called Bat-faced cupheas in your garden. There are an increasing number of Cuphea llavea varieties on the market. This one is a C. llavea Vienco Burgundy. Despite its name, the color of the flowers mysteriously ranges from red to burgundy to purple.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

All Together Now

Well, my 2015 Garden Soiree has come and gone and by all accounts it was a success. The three days of intensive prep paid off, though as I joked to a couple close friends, only they knew the 'Before' and the 'After.' One friend needled me "It looks so ... clean!" Which is an amusing comment given we're talking about a garden, where the plants are grown in ... what do you call it? ... oh, yeah ... dirt.
It did seem that a good time was had by all and that's what counts. That and the special enjoyment for plant geeks in discovering my seemingly endless collection of less common plants.
And now I get to enjoy the garden's newly organized and well-weeded form, free of work for at least a few weeks. Certainly the fully-in-bloom Echium 'Blue Bedder' was a hit, for humans and bees alike. In fact I think I heard one of the bees say "Hey, we were here first. Scam!" The gorgeous coral-pink hues of the prolific Clarkia 'Aurora' were also a hit. The Shady Lane, as the walkway to the back yard is called, was also very much appreciated. It didn't hurt that the sweet smelling Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' was in bloom there.
A friend was kind enough to take some photos that day and while he clearly is not a pro, the photos offer a bit of welcome human visuals. Here are a few:

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Big Show

I've been working for three days now, with one one to go, getting my garden ready for my annual Garden Soiree. As always, this exercise magically restores one's sight. That is, it finally makes appear all the work and attention you've been ignoring, sometimes to the point of not seeing it at all. Then when you make the effort to get the garden looking its best, presto didgio there's suddenly a mountain of work to be done. As a friend told me, when I mentioned I might finally put my garden on one of the spring garden tours, "Don't." She of course was referring to the said mountain of work to get the garden in public-viewing worthiness. And I'm not even trying to make mine in any way resembling perfect. "It's a working garden" I always tell people, which I humbly suggest is one of the most massively useful descriptions in the 3000 year old history of gardening (ie. I'm still working on it).
Of course when the work is done and the party's over I'll get to enjoy the garden in its once-a-year clothes. But of course I'll be so stiff at that point I'll be lucky to still be walking ...
Anyway, here are a few photos of the garden as it puts on its best face.

Clematis integrifolia. This nodding 'blue' clematis has simple purple flowers that are a true delight. I've suspended it to photograph the inside; normally the flowers are like little umbrellas.

This hanging basket contains a begonia that's part of a new series on the market. It was my one concession for the party, a bit of instant floral eye candy.

Begonia 'Mocha Mix orange.' This addition to a rectangular planter in the Shady Lane bed came already in bloom. To its right is a Staghorn fern, started from a clump broken off the mother plant.

Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' This popular cane begonia is just unfurling its leaves, giving them an especially crinkled look.  

Dianella 'Baby Bliss.' The flower spikes on this dianella are interesting in themselves. Wiry branches sprout little egg-shaped pods that will open to reveal pale blue flowers. Later, blue berries will form, making this a plant with four season interest.

Quick, name 5 California native bulbs. There aren't as many as one would think but one of the prettier (and readily available) ones is Brodiaea californica. It sports purple, campanula-like flowers in late spring or early summer the goes dormant in the late summer.

Laurentia axillaris. This deciduous perennial, known as Blue Stars, offers delicate foliage and the aptly named blue (okay, purple) flowers all summer.

Clarkia 'Aurora.' One of my favorite clarkias and here's why.

One wonderful surprise this week is the sight of my Iris 'Joyce Terry' producing a new flower. Most bearded irises bloom in February or March but this one obviously took a longer nap. A three month siesta.

Succulent bowl #5. Newly created for the party, this is my first foray into using colored glass. The jury's still out as to whether it works but it IS striking.

Didn't get the light shining full on for this Salpiglossis 'Chilean Black' but wanted to share a photo of its rich burgundy color. 

Mimulus 'Lemon Yellow.' A very pretty, delicate yellow Monkey flower. 

From the sublime (mimulus) to the ridiculous. As in the ridiculously brightly colored Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame.' There's currantly a dozen flower spikes in bloom, though none are as large as this one.

Aquilegia 'Yellow Queen.' For some reason my columbines are late this year. In fact this is the first of the group to bloom.

I thought my red-spotted Crassula alba v. parvasepela looked cool in this blue teacup. What do you think?

The curiously named Congo Cockatoo impatiens (I. congolense or I. niamniamensis) has a cluster of flowers in bloom, their colorful waxy flowers seeming today like a gathering of tiny macaws.

Dianthus chinensis heddewigii. This unusual carnation comes to us courtesy of Alejandro Hayes. It's a beaut, with the rich burgundy, ruffled flowers, edged in white. Ain't Nature grand?
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