Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Joy of Perennials

There are so many categories of plants and ones that are so popular or that serve a certain purpose (succulents, native annuals, shrubs, vines, ground covers), that's it's easy to overlook the common perennial flower. Part of the PR problem for this category of plants is that it is so diverse. You could fill a dozen gardens with one each of different non-shrub perennials and barely scratch the surface. Mind you, what qualifies as a shrub is an elastic definition and even within certain genera, say Salvia, there are clearly many that are shrubs and others, like the Nemerosas, that are too small to qualify. Excluding bulbs and succulents, my garden is probably 90% perennials. Some of those are indeed shrubs but due to the confined dimensions of my garden I can have only so many good-sized shrubs. And I only have a total of 9 trees, four of which are in median strips. Three others are still in pots. That leaves a lot of perennials and as necessity is the mother of invention, I've sought out a wide variety of appealing perennials.
One genus that I've begun to collect is Agastache. Sometimes called Hummingbird mint, there is an ever increasing number of them available in your local nursery. The foliage can be quite diverse -- check out the golden foliage of A. foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee' that I've posted a photo of below -- but of course its the wonderful fragrance of the leaves that is the main attraction. This ranges from the anise scent of the A. foeniculums to the herbal aroma of the A. mexicana hybrids to fruity ones like A. 'Grapefruit Nectar.' The flower colors are diverse as well, from pinks and purples to sunset colors.
So, raise a glass to the joys of perennials, long may they prosper (and bloom).

And now the photos. It was overcast this morning when I took the photos, so we don't have quite the
luster that the sun can provide.

Billbergia variety. Not sure which variety this is but it's blooming for the first time and it looks like it will be spectacular.

My Hydrangea quercifolia didn't bloom last year (not enough water?) but it's back this year. One of my favorite plants.

There's something very simple about Omphalodes and that's part of their charm. For those not familiar with the plant, think of them as a perennial forget-me-not.

Filipendula ulmaria aurea. I'm not sure why Meadowsweets aren't more popular (and thus widely available). This golden-leaved version is a real delight. It's just now filling out after its winter dormancy. White flowers follow in summer.

I'm keeping a kind of time lapse video journal of my Dicentra scandens, as it quickly climbs the metal trellis, soon to wander off. Vigorous, a prolific bloomer and surprisingly drought tolerant once established.

Front yard color. See how many you can ID.

Eriogonum giganteum. There are plants that never cease to amaze and this CA Buckwheat is one of them, especially as it moves toward blooming as it's doing here. A magnet for butterflies and bees.

Ballota and Geranium harveyi. That's a whole lot cream and silver. The Ballota has begun blooming, reinforcing its membership in the Lamium family.

Justicia brandegeeana. This shrimp plant just keeps pumping out the flowers. And contrary to the tag, and general reports about what Justicias like, it's been very happy in full sun. 

My little Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' is the 'little engine that could' in the blooming department. The flowers are actually bigger than the rest of the plant.

Dwarf conifer bonzai pot. So far so good with my 4" dwarf conifers. 

Sedum dasyphyllum. Here it is, charming white flowers and all. That's a red teacup that it's spilling out of. The cup proves you can use just about anything for a planter, being limited only by one's imagination (and proper drainage).

There's nothing like Salvia patens for an exquisite royal blue flower. To quote "The once and future king."

I had to severely prune my Hebe speciosa and it looked awful for a good three months but there's no keeping this guy down for long. He's filled out and is back to blooming (and bringing the bees around).

Tiger on the premises! Okay, just a Coreopsis 'Tiger Stripes' but I love its colors and pinwheel shape. A great way to add instant color to the spring or summer garden.

The common name 'wallflower' doesn't do justice to the charms of Erysimums, here an Apricot Twist. That's a red phlox to its right and as you can see they're both very popular with butterflies. Especially metal ones!

Here's a young Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee.' This anise hummingbird mint has it all -- beautiful foliage, pretty flowers, heavenly fragrance.

Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue.' Sometimes 'tinkering' leads to good things. I've always wanted a Jacaranda tree but didn't have the room. Fortunately, Monrovia came out with this dwarf, bush-type cultivar. Topping out at 5-6' it has the same lovely foliage and vivid purple flowers.

Conifers can be tricky things to grow. I know that seems counter-intuitive (ever been in a forest of a million douglas fir?) but they do need regular water and the right light to be happy. This is a Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera aurea and I was happy to see some brighter new growth appear in the last couple of weeks.

I like a bit of wildness in my garden and here some enterprising nasturtiums have found their way into the bed holding my Physocarpus 'Nugget.' I thought they looked nice as seen through the wrought iron railing. 

I've been reluctant to add Astilbes to my garden as they haven't done well in the past (I think because it's not quite cold enough for them here). But I couldn't resist this A. 'Fanal' and its cherry red flower plumes.

This photo doesn't quite capture the sparkling reds in this Crassula alba v. parvisepala. It's proven to be prolific, both in leaves and flowering. So many crassulas, so little time ...

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