Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Seedpods as Art

We are are naturally drawn to flowers and foliage in choosing ornamental plants for our garden. But seedpods? It turns out there are many fascinating seedpods out there, so much so that I've decided to do a piece on them for the Fall 2016 issue of Pacific Horticulture Magazine. As I began researching the topic and gazing at the incredible diversity of form and function of plants' ways of creating and dispersing seed, I realized that they naturally fell into categories. Before I list them, let me say that these are my own categories. There may be many others and I limited myself to ones where there was a multitude of seeds, not a single, and where the form of dispersal was less common. With that caveat, here is what I've come up with.
1. Elongated Legume type - ex. Albizia or Decaisnea (Blue Sausages, see photo below)
2. Papery Shell - ex. Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi)
3. Fluffy - ex. Asclepias (milkweed) or Cotinus (Smoke tree)
4. Exploding - ex. Impatiens balfourii or Ricinus (Castor bean plant)
5. Berries - ex. Dianella or Eucomis (Pineapple lily)
6. Wafer - ex. Lunaria annua (Money plant)
7. Spiky or Protected shell - ex. Datura or Fremontodendron
8. Windborn - ex. Briza media (Quaking Grass)
9. Woody capsules - ex. Melaleuca
10. Waxy or soft shell - ex. Physocarpus

This will be a fun article to write and I'll keep everyone posted on how it goes. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the Summer 2016 issue. It contains many excellent articles, one of which is mine on the subject of Cane and Shrub Begonias. It hits the newsstands in early July (we still have newsstands, right?)

Meanwhile, here today's photos. Hard to believe that it will be July in one week.

If 'Blue Sausages' sounded like an unlikely (okay bizarre) description of a seedpod, well, one look at these Decaisnea seedpods makes the description seem not only apt but inevitable. 

This new Heuchera 'Snow Angel' looks dramatic with it seeming to emerge from the deep shadow. 

Though it's only begun to bloom, this is one of the new Illumination series begonias. They are heavy bloomers and make good hanging basket selections. Mine is getting a decent amount of sun where it is so they seem to be handle some warmer locations.

Okay, no photo awards for this shot but my Ampelopsis (Porcelain Berry vine), now in year four, has finally gotten a toehold and is filled with a million tiny white flowers. Which of course the bees have found. 

This corner of my Shady Lane has acquired a bit of wildness. The yellow and green leaved plant is Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold,' the spray of yellow flowers is from a nearby pot of Calceolaria paralia and the light green serrated leaves belong to a Begonia sutherlandii. 

Another shot of my lovely Erewhon sweet pea. I haven't had much luck recently growing them so this year's success is very gratifying.

Lilium leitchii. This yellow tiger lily is hard to find but it's certainly a beauty! Notice the distinctive recurved petals.

Here's a shot from above of the same lily. It's amazing to me how the petals recurve. Lily yoga!

Lotus jacobeus. The so-named Black lotus is a phenomenal bloomer and is much tougher than its slender branches make it seem. Mine is still in a pot, so that shows you how resilient it is.

Cuphea Vienco Burgundy + Double yellow gazania. Two tough and colorful ground covers.

One of the names for this Eriogonum giganteum is St. Catherine's Lace and this photo of the myriad flower sprays show how apt that name is. A real butterfly and bee magnet.

Bouvardia ternifolia. That's it with the saturated red flowers. This small shrub is a testament to the value of pruning. I pruned it back hard last winter and it really liked it, responding with much healthier new growth and a new bloom season.

I know I just posted a photo of my Tecoma x smithii bush but its peachy-orange flowers are just so gorgeous I'm posting one more.

Crassula alba v. parvisepala. A better shot showing off its red speckled leaves. It's put up its first seasonal bloom spike. Brilliant red flowers are soon to appear.

It's not often that a stepping stone says it all but I think this one does. Now if I could only follow that advice a little more often ...

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