Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Rivers of Life

Well, I guess El Nino officially showed up this last two weeks. While no one expected one wet winter to wipe out our drought, I think we're all breathing easier. And of course our gardens have welcomed the rains with open arms. It almost seemed like everything sprouted overnight. That doesn't mean we shouldn't abandon good gardening principles, such as mulching, deep watering, planting drought tolerant plants, making sure we don't have leaking hoses or faucets etc. That said, it's sure nice when Mother Nature helps with spring rains.
The weather is warming too, making for a great one-two spring punch. We've gone seemingly overnight from staring longingly at our gardens, encouraging a few things to grow or bloom to suddenly having nearly everything shoot up. Of course that also includes weeds. I'm now convinced that weeds are just regular plants hopped up on growth hormones! In any case, to paraphrase the Byrds (Turn, Turn, Turn), it's weed, weed, weed!
Lots of upside. And proof of that is shown in the bounty of this week's photos. Here they are, a random collection of what's in bloom or of interest this week.

Though always a subtle treat, I didn't want to forget about my Ledebouria socialis. The foliage is always interesting then it puts out sprays of perhaps the tiniest flowers in the world. 

The perspective is a bit confusing but there are two Autumn ferns here, slowly being overrun by Toad lilies (Tricyrtis). 

My Begonia rex 'Escargot' sometimes does funny things, like putting out one monstrous leaf before the other tiny leaves catch up. 

There aren't many more beautiful ferns than Japanese Painted ferns (Arthyrium). In the center is a purple colored variety and to the right, barely in view, is one of the so-called Ghost varieties. Their beauty and silky leaves belie their toughness. They go deciduous but come back faithfully ever year.

I've had mixed results with Rhodies but one that's survived tough conditions and is now thriving is my R. Sappho. First viewed at (and purchased from) Sonoma Horticulture Nursery, this variety is otherwise hard to find. I call it my 'Raspberry Swirl' rhodie, as it looks a bit like Raspberry Swirl ice cream.

This dense mass is my Black bamboo, which is finally getting a toehold and developing some dark culms. I've learned two things. They like a deep watering on a semi-regular basis and they like regular doses of a high nitrogen fertilizer to be happy.

Camellia 'Lila Naff.' Simple but I love the coral/salmon tones. It displays the wavy petals so common to reticulata hybrids.

Gladiolus 'Lemon Moon.' Okay, not the greatest shot but this is one very lovely South African gladiola. As you may know, the South African gladiola flowers are small but often have intricate markings at their centers, as this variety does.

Here are two shots of my slender front yard bed, as it hugs the walkway leading to the back apartments. This shot shows purple Freesias, double yellow Gazanias, orange Sparaxis and blue Ipheions.

Further down toward the street in the same bed, this section shows off deep purple Dutch iris, short, pink Dianthus and just opening deep pink Ixias (Corn lilies). 

Speaking of Dutch iris, here's a relatively new variety called Apollo. The yellow falls are evident but this photo doesn't quite capture the lovely light violet upper petals.

Felicia amelloides. This genus is aptly named (from the Spanish 'Feliz' for happy). The periwinkle blue flowers of this tough evergreen shrub appear in spring and it will continue blooming all summer.

Silene uniflorus. This tough little ground cover (the genus is commonly called bladderworts) also happens to have charming tubular white flowers. Here it's spilling out of a pot containing a Pavonia.

Not sure why my variegated mint bush (Prostanthera) waited three years to bloom but this year it's gone berserk, making for quite the show. I imagine it must be the winter rains.

Spring brings lot of floral treasures but it also provides anticipation for the progress of one of my favorite shrubs -- this Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' Here are the developing buds, soon to provide spectacular furry yellow pincushion flowers.

I know, I know, another photo of my Aloe striata but here it is at the very peak of its flowering. BTW, aloes are beloved by hummingbirds so make sure to include a few in your garden.

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' I've wanted one of these showy shrubs for quite awhile and I finally gave in and brought one home last week. I have a place in mind for it (very near where it was placed for this photo). 

I know Abutilons seem like the easiest possible shrub/tree to grow but they do take some care to get them to look their best. In our mild Oakland climate they prefer some sun and some regular watering to get established. Fertilize once in awhile and prune as necessary to keep them bushy (if that's your preference). This shrub is another hummer favorite.

This strange looking plant is an Arisaema ringens. Jack-in-the-Pulpits have become more popular but this A. ringens is harder to find. I don't know why. It makes a sturdy and lovely, striped green and white spathe and the leaves are large and tropical. I couldn't get the right angle to really show off the spathe here.

As readers of this blog know, I love dwarf conifers (and have a bed full of them). Youngblood Nursery sells a limited selection of 4" species and I recently brought three home and have created a dwarf conifer pot (kind of like a mixed succulent bowl only with slow growing, dwarf conifers).

Yeah, it's just a photo of a Ranunculus but I love them and they're so cheerful.

Speaking of mixed succulent bowls, here's a hanging basket with 3 different ones. Though it's hard to see there's an Aeonium, Crassula and Jelly Beans sedum in there.

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