Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer preview

Our mini heat spell here in the Bay Area recently has sent many of our gardens into summer mode, notwithstanding the fact that the summer solstice is three weeks away. As we know gardens have their own cycles, human calendars be damned.
One delight I noticed this morning is that my two Mandevilla vines have produced their first flowers. Mandevillas aren't as well known as vines such as Jasmine, Trumpet vine or Passion Flower vines but they are both beautiful and easy to grow. The flowers are red, pink or white and their flaring trumpet-shaped flowers are large and very striking. And the pure white-flowering M. laxa has some of the most intensely aromatic flowers you will ever encounter. The Chronicle column I did on this plant was one of the most popular, if not the most popular, columns I ever wrote. Mandevillas will climb on anything you provide or even up into a tree, as my red-flowering one is doing. They can also be trained to grow along a fence, although you may need to train them and keep the vines from wandering. There are also bush-type Mandevillas, a popular choice for those who don't have a place for a vine. Although they do go deciduous in the winter, this sturdy vine will be back in the spring, and for years to come.
Today's photos include a few new summer entries, such as Tiger lilies, Helenium, honeysuckle, Scutellaria and the first of my Agastache. Enjoy.

Not the ideal shot, shooting out of the shade into the sun but my Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' is just so beautiful. And I wanted to mention that my next Chronicle column will be on Mock oranges, that being Philadelphus, Choisya and Pittosporum tobira.

Though not yet smothered in blooms, my Lonicera sempervirens (Eastern honeysuckle) has already produced its first batch of yellow and coral-red flowers. Though not fragrant, the exuberant colors are worth making a place for it in your garden.

Begonia Gryphon. This cane-type begonia will eventually get big, to 3' tall and wide, so allowances need to be made for its eventual size. Its recent inclusion in my garden is due in part to an article I did for the upcoming summer issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine on Cane and Shrub begonias.

I know I've said more than a few times that I'm mystified why more gardeners don't have a certain plant in their garden but well, add this Ledebouria socialis to that list. This unique and hardy plant has attractively spotted leaves then puts out sprays of tiny white flowers in summer. Formerly known as Scilla socialis or Scilla violacea, this bulbous perennial belongs to the huge Liliaceae family.

Clematis niobe. Another shot of my favorite clematis.

I always think Brodiaeas are going to bloom earlier than they do but inevitably it's early June before they do. Here's my B. californica with its first pale violet, star-shaped flowers.

I've been waiting for my Scutellarias to begin blooming and finally the older of my two S. suffrutescens has put out its first rosy blooms. They're called Skullcaps, though the flowers may be too cheery to be in a garden whose theme is the deceased!

This Black Lotus (L. jacobaeus) flowers aren't really black but their midnight burgundy color is still pretty darn dark (and pretty). It has proven to be a hardy plant, its delicate foliage notwithstanding.

Here's a better shot of my new Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee.' The eventual purple flowers will really pop against the golden leaves.

Today's Zen Koan is: When is a Bidens not a Bidens? Well, the answer of sorts is that growers have begun developing bi-colored varieties, some with quite a bit of red or orange on the petals. Any way you paint it, Bidens are tough denizens, whether used as ground covers or to cascade out of a pot.

Say it with me, this snapdragon is just 'peachy.' It's a 'Chantilly Bronze' from Annie's Annuals and it's loving this warmer weather.

Just in case we'd forgotten, my amazing Cotinus 'Royal Purple' is still going strong. Just an amazing tree. There's so much 'smoke' one has to hold back from calling the fire department!

Pass the shades! My Coprosma 'Pina Colada' is so bright that one needs to shield one's eyes. They're not called Mirror plants for nothing.

Okay, plant quiz. Anyone know what the plant with the huge divided leaf is? If you guessed it's in the Arum family you'd be right. Here's a clue - the genus has a nod to Lord of the Rings. Yes, it's a Sauromatum venosum, better known as Voodoo lily. It's very vigorous, though after the first appearance blooms, succeeding shoots have yet to follow suit.

Though the bush form of this plant may take some getting used to, there's no mistaking the exquisite flowers of Jacaranda. Love it!

I know I've shared several photos of my unknown Echeveria but as it keeps spreading it looks more like a slowly spreading tide.

There's something about this Verbascum thapsus that is so intriguing. Love the 'dirty' and rough look to the leaves. Very felty too. 

Lilium 'Flore Pleno.' This double form Tiger lily is a sight to behold. As John Coltrane once expressed "These are a few of my favorite things." For me that would be the color, the spotting, the double petal count, the recurved petals and their popularity with hummers.

Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' No need to start a war over this flower (Helen of Troy anyone?) but this hardy and amazingly floriferous flower is to die for.

My Erewhon sweet pea has put out its first purple and pink flowers. Can't wait for the whole show.

And I've saved the best for last, a photo showcasing the brilliant white flowers of Mandevilla laxa. They're the first of (hopefully) dozens to come.

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