Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sounds of Spring

It turns out of course that Nature has its own calendar. And birds especially are an excellent and more reliable source for when spring has really arrived. And I'm guessing the birds are confirming what our eyes are telling us. It may be February but the first of the deciduous trees and shrubs are leafing out. No going back now.
And while those of us who grew up in colder climates especially appreciate the advent of spring, no matter the kind of winter you do get, spring is always most welcome.
Mind you it's not all wine and roses. Rain + warmth = weeds aplenty and sometimes so many that you have no choice but to yank them out to see just where the heck your plants are. Makes one want to plant tall plants.
Anyway, a picture may not always be worth a thousand words but it's more pleasing to look at so here are the latest photos from my garden.

Nothing says early spring like daffodils. Here's a new patch to the left of my CA native Abutilon palmeri.

Sparaxis and freesia are two of the earliest blooming bulbs, owing to their South African heritage. Both are tough and naturalize easily. 

People plant succulents in part because they are drought tolerant but I've found they really thrive if they get a little bit of regular water. Here my Aloe striata has put out a multi-branching bloom spike and the first flowers are beginning to open. Another bloom spike is right behind it.

Speaking of bulbs, here are two more. In the front, showing the first of its pale lavender flowers, is Iris confusa 'Chengdu.' It's native to Western China and is commonly known as Bamboo iris. This rhizomatous crested iris offers bouquets of lightly fragrant flowers in spring and will become drought tolerant over time. Behind it is the deciduous South African bulb Chasmanthe bicolor, with its red and yellow bi-colored flowers. 

Here I liked the contrast between the fat, bluish leaves of Echeveria peacockii and the mass of still tiny Physocarpus 'Nugget' leaves. This deciduous 'ninebark' is leafing out early this year.

Off and running also is my CA native Ribes sanguineum 'Claremont.' I was finally able to get a decent photograph of it. Our winter rains pushed out a good crop of flowers this year.

That's a Kalanchoe 'Chocolate Soldier' in the back center area but the real question is the identity of the yellow flowering bulb in the foreground. Anyone have any ideas? It didn't have a papery sheath so unlikely to be a sparaxis. It's not a freesia. C'mon all you bulb lovers. Time to put on your sleuth hats!

Double hellebores are appearing with greater regularity. Here's a H. Double Ellen Purple that's just opened its first burgundy flowers. Love that color.

So many freesias, so many vivid colors. We'd all welcome them in our gardens even if they didn't possess that heavenly fragrance (which of course they do). 

Do you know this CA native? The flowers would give it away but in this case the leaves also do. It's a Phacelia campanularia, also known as Desert Bluebell. There are a number of Phacelias common in the trade and not all of them have blue flowers. Two things make this species a standout -- its cascading habit and the dark blush to its leaves. And that's not to mention the inky blue flowers.

Okay not the most exciting photo but my Viburnum plicatum leafing out is always cause for celebration. Love those reticulated, textured leaves and its amazing ability to flower so quickly after leafing out. The race is on and the leaves barely get established before the white flower clusters appear.

Arisaema nepenthoides. This Jack-in-the-Pulpit species is always the first to appear. It shoots up quickly and then almost as fast, unfurls its spathe. I love how primal these tuberous perennials are. It seems like a plant that was around at the time of the dinosaurs.

I had to hack this Abutilon back so it didn't obstruct the walkway but in a way I like this look even better. It's really bushed out and has begun a new bloom season. 

Not an orange Campanula but the little known Canarina canariensis. The resemblance of the flower to a bellflower is no coincidence as the genus is a member of the Campanula family. But oh that color! Notoriously difficult to propagate and summer dormant (as in nada above ground), it revives in winter and starts blooming in early spring.

Is that an Ipheion or are you just happy to see me? It's a mystery to me why every garden doesn't have a patch of this early blooming bulb. It naturalizes with the vigor of freesias and produces masses of delightful pale blue, star-shaped flowers in February before all but the earliest bulbs have appeared.

When is a jasmine not a jasmine? It's not really a trick question as this species mate of Star jasmine -- Trachelospermum asiaticum -- rarely ever blooms, is very slow growing and tends to stay low and scramble. Not what most of us think of as a jasmine. That said, it's awfully pretty, exhibiting multi-colored leaves and offering a bit of wildness.

I never get tired of looking at my favorite Tillandsia, this silvery T. tectorum. Behind it, the weird but charming Euphorbia mammilaris variegata has begun to bloom (tiny chartreuse flowers on top). To the right, the Sedum dasyphyllum kind of reminds me today of Moe's haircut from the 3 Stooges.

Not only did my Begonia 'Escargot' survive the winter but it's already put out a handsome new leaf. Truly one of the prettiest leaves in our neck of the woods. 

Here the light and shadow effect is intentional, as I was trying to catch the new leaves on my Hydrangea quercifolia in the afternoon sun. 

I'll call this shot 'Mercury Falling.' This piece of art glass is a Mercury glass vase, now taken up residence in my garden. I love how it reflects the various plant forms around it.

And finally a bit of a tease. Yes, those are lily stalks. In February! It's a new variety called 'Black Eye' and by the looks of their growth they'll be in bloom before the end of March. Ahh, California.

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