Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Dem Bells

Today I deviate from my usual thoughts about seasons and the states of our gardens to talk a bit about one of my favorite plants -- Hermannia verticillata. Herman what? you may ask. This small-sized shrub hails from South Africa and is commonly called Honey Bells. It forms a dense two foot high by as much as four foot wide evergreen bush and produces an abundance of nodding, half inch yellow flowers in late winter and early spring. PlantzAfrica reports "The genus Hermannia is named after Paul Hermann (1640-95), born in Halle, Saxony (Germany), for a long time a physician in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), he spent some time at the Cape where he collected many plants, returned to Europe and became Professor of botany at Leyden in Holland." This species is often more commonly referred to now as Hermannia pinnata.
Though it certainly is not obvious at first glance, this genus belongs to the Malvaceae family, which contains such common plants as Hibiscus, Lavatera and Malva. Hermannia's common name owes to the pleasing fragrance its flowers emit. That would of course mean bending over to smell them, unless one raised it up in a tall planter or used it in a large hanging basket. When it blooms there's no missing the event, as even modest-sized plants are smothered in the tiny golden flowers.
Hermannia is tougher than it looks, as long as it doesn't dry out during the bloom season. It makes an ideal sunny garden addition and in our mild climate and with a little regular water will bloom over a long period. So, talk to your local nursery about adding a little 'honey' to your garden.
And now some photos from my garden.



Viburnum plicatum. Here, a bit of filtered sun gives more of an intriguing look to my favorite Viburnum species. I've kept mine pruned hard, sort of bonzai-ing it in a tight spot. That doesn't seem to have bothered it.


Geranium phaeum. The rains caused this species geranium to burst forth with lush foliage and the first of its matte finish purple flowers. Love this guy!


Here is the 'star' of today's blog. As you can see, my Hermannia specimen is in full bloom. I need to find somewhere to elevate the pot, although my sunny real estate is already over-booked!


Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold' + Begonia sutherlandii. It may be a bit hard to spot the single Begonia stem (upper left) but once it produces its creamy orange flowers then it will make itself very beautifully known.


My Thunbergia Arizona Red has continued to bloom through the winter and is showing no sign of slowing down. I love everything about this plant, not only the flowers but the interesting lime-colored calyxes from which the flowers emerge and the verdant green leaves. 


Up, up and away, my Beschorneria queretero bloom spikes keep reaching for the sky. Flowers are sprouting along its central stalk, soon to open and tempt hummingbirds. 


Blue meet red; red, meet blue. The blue daisies (Felicia) seem to be getting along royally with the red flowers of the Mimulus Fiesta Marigold above them.


Rhododendron 'Sappho.' My favorite Rhodie and it keeps getting better and better. This year the bloom clusters are larger and the colors more vivid. A selection from the great collection of rhodies at Sonoma Horticultural Nursery near Sebastopol.


Abelia 'Kaleidoscope.'  The variegated leaf form of the popular and vigorous Abelia genus is really rounding into form. The new growth offers delightful peach tones while the older leaves mix greens and golds.


Phacelia campanularia. Desert Bluebells is one of my favorite blue-flowering plants and here the flowers are a vivid gentian blue. A good cascader, I have it planted at the front of a low rock wall, where it can spill to its heart's content.


Justicia brandegeeana. Already back to blooming, this tough plume flower or shrimp plant depending on your choice, is a real blooming machine. 


Calluna 'Firefly.' My heather has just about outgrown its pot and I better get it out before I have to break the pot to do so. One of my favorite small shrubs, its leaves are constantly changing color. Here they're exhibiting some of the red winter color but also a bit of the spring green. It appears to be as tough as most other heathers.


Here's a shot of the fabled Grevillea 'Moonlight.' I say 'fabled' because it is darned hard to find in the trade. Glad I grabbed mine while I could. A favorite destination for hummers.


It took a couple of years but my Iris douglasii has finally begun to bloom. Here are the first 3 flowers this year, with more on the way. This CA native is one tough customer, able to adapt to a variety of environments. 


Eriogonum giganteum. This tall CA Buckwheat is one sturdy and gorgeous plant. There aren't many large, silver-leaved plants any better. 


Dutch iris. There's probably no richer purple than that of certain Dutch iris and here's Exhibit A. Enough said.


Physocarpus 'Nugget.' My Ninebark went from deciduous to full leafed out in three weeks then to full bloom in another two. This is one impatient shrub! It sports tiny heads of white, spirea-like flowers that are rich in nectar. Nugget is the golden-leaved variety, this specimen providing a nice eyeful for those coming up our main walkway.


Speaking of golden, my Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious' rebounded very quickly from being hacked back in January. No truth to the rumor that I be a pirate but I do likes me 'gold.'


Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' Another shot of my new Pieris. The pinkish leaves are the newest growth, contrasting nicely with the variegated older leaves and the white heather-like unopened flowers.


Goldfish out of water! Goldfish out of water! Okay, it's only a goldfish plant (Nemantanthus nervosus) but in this case it's more accurate to exclaim "Goldfish plant found outdoors!" This plant is mostly grown as a houseplant but it's mild enough in Oakland that I've trained mine to live outdoors. So far so good.

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