Thursday, April 7, 2016

Species Diversity

I've been watching a number of the BBC nature series recently and it's one of those 'Cup half full or half empty' deals. The cup half empty is that due to various factors -- predominantly climate change and clear-cutting of huge expanses of forests -- we are literally losing hundreds if not thousands of species every week. Yes, every week. Think about that. That's not counting the fact that in the parts of the world a certain fungus is eradicating huge numbers of the frog population. Losing even a single link in the genus chain, be it plant or animal, can have far reaching consequences.
The cup half full? There is an ever-increasing awareness of such devastation and people are redoubling their efforts to save local and national ecosystems. Now this may be something you feel is beyond you but there are two things you can do as a gardener to maintain, even increase, species diversity. First, buy species plants and not only the sometimes more colorful hybrids. Support growers who grow these plants. Likewise do not support places like Proven Winners who take a big business approach to propagating and selling plants. That is, producing huge quantities of an increasingly more limited variety of plants. Not to mention that they develop and sell mostly hybrids, and by their sales clout, diminishing the availability of true species selections.
Secondly, plant a garden filled with a diversity of plants. Not only is this fun, but especially if one is planting CA natives or Bay Friendly plants, one is inviting pollinators and other beneficial insects/wildlife into one's garden. The gardening business is, like any other business, driven by supply and demand. People buying a lot of natives and plants that do well in our Mediterranean climate means that growers will grow them to meet that demand.
In short 'acting locally' can make a difference, especially when it's hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands of people doing this.
All right, where are the steps to get off this soapbox?
Here are the latest group of photos from my garden. This time of year, it's an embarrassment of riches. Ain't Nature grand?

Clematis Niobe. This lovely burgundy flower has an almost velvety look to it. Large 5-6" flowers too. 

Speaking of clematis, here's another shot of my charming C. 'Belle of Woking.' It's a double form that starts out white then colors in to a pale lilac shade. It's always one of the first clematis to bloom.

Lat week I posted a photo of my Physocarpus 'Nugget.' Now a week plus later it's already starting to produce seedpods. That would be the red clusters you see here. It's one reason why this versatile shrub is a three season plus wonder.

Looking down on my prolific Echium Blue Bedder. Though an annual, it nonetheless is a bee magnet. Plus it truly does self seed (I have four plants that sprouted from last year's one mother plant).

Here's a nice trio: the lavender blooming Scabiosa, the pink and red Dianthus and in the middle the CA native Eriogonum 'Shasta Sulphur.' All three are favorite destinations for butterflies, although homo sapiens have been known to linger nearby and enjoy as well.

Kudos to those who can ID this plant. It's a Callistemon viminalis. Not the large Bottlebrush tree that one sees everywhere but a smaller-sized shrub type. This one tops out at about six feet. I'm still waiting for it to bloom but the coppery new growth is certainly pretty in the meantime.

I thought the combo of my Exbury azalea and the broad leaves of Alpinia 'Zerumbet' provided a nice contrast. Although Exbury is the common name for these types of azaleas, technically they're known as deciduous azaleas, of which the Exburys are one major group. Here's this week's bad pun. "I'm thinking of forming a touring flower and rock band called 'The Traveling Exburys.'"  If the reference is lost on you that's probably just as well ...

I've decided to rename this little gardening plot, under and just to the west of a big fir tree, my Woodland Garden. In the front are some lobelia and an Aquilegia; behind them left to right are an Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow, a Fuchsia Autumnale and some Douglas iris; further back is a Francoa, some Louisiana iris, some Galium (Sweet Woodruff) and a Woodwardia fern.

Liked the sun-dappled shot of my pretty purple and white Verbena. Despite them being sold as annuals, my plant returned vigorously this spring. Ditto for the CA Fuchsia (Epilobium) to its right.

Although Plectranthus are tough and adaptable, great for planting in places where few other things grow, they do have pretty flowers. My P. Zuluensis is just beginning to bloom.

I make lists of different categories of plants in my garden, things such as bulbs, succulents, dwarf conifers etc. I really should make a list for 'Phoenix' plants (those that came back from the dead). That listed might be headed by this Azalea 'Mangetsu.' It's had not one, not two but three bad cases of thrips; is still in a container (no room yet) and has survived who knows what else. But here it is, happily blooming away.

Though they are a little hard to make out, this Rhipsalis has finally bloomed, producing a collection of tiny white flowers. Whoa, who knew one could get excited by simple and tiny white flowers?

"First to the roof gets the ... what do I get exactly?" says my Passiflora actinia. It used a phone cable to climb to the second story roof and is now bursting with extravagant blooms.

Also making the Phoenix list, well maybe not that list but the 'Are you EVER going to bloom?' list, my California Blue rhododendron  decided to go all out this year. Below is a closer look at the tres, tres belle blooms.

I posted a photo of my "I'll bloom when I damn well feel like it bub" Canarina canariensis last week. Now it has four full-sized flowers with more on the way. I know, I know, it looks like the easiest thing to grow but those with greater gardening acumen than I have failed to coax orange flowers from this semi-rare plant.

Here's another ID quiz. It might be part of a new horticulture quiz show -- "What is my name and where do I belong?" Note the lightly serrated leaves. It's the color that will throw some. It's Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost.' Love those speckled leaves!

Ignore the weedy grasses for the moment and just enjoy the pretty purple flowers of Babiana stricta. Babianas are one of the easiest South African bulbs to grow (along with Freesias and Ixias), not needing a dry summer to bloom the next year.

Among the top ten favorite plants in my 500 member garden, this Leucospermum 'Veldfire' is not only one of the showiest Leucospermums but to me one of the most beautiful of all the Protea family members.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple.' Not as eggplant-colored as usual (there's time yet), my Smoke tree is nonetheless already producing panicles of those distinctive airy flowers. I'm using mine as a 'street' tree and the Royal Purple is a good variety for this purpose, not getting as big as say the Grace cultivar.

Here's a look down the walkway leading to the back yard. It gets some morning sun -- more for the taller plants -- meaning that a lot of things do well. Each bed (left and right) is only two feet wide but that's enough to plant a surprising variety of plants.

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