Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Say it with Me - Isopogon

Most people are familiar with the 'Big 5' of the Protea family -- Protea, Leucodendron, Leucospermum, Grevillea and Banksia. One member far less known is Isopogon. Native to sandy forests and woodlands in southwestern parts of Australia, this drought tolerant evergreen shrub is one curious shrub. The genus contains 35 species, including the most commonly available one, I. formosus. The botanical name Isopogon is derived from the Greek ('Iso' means equal and 'pogon' means beard, a reference to the hairs surrounding the fruit). 'Formosus,' a common species term, means 'beautiful' in Greek.
I. formosus is considered to be one of the more spectacular species, with its large clusters of deep mauve or pink flowers that resemble fireworks. They appear at the tips of the branches in late winter to early spring, followed by spherical seed pods that remain on the plant for an indefinite period. Plants can easily reach six feet high and three wide. The growth is dense - thick might be an apt description - giving this shrub a distinctive look. As with all Protea family members it needs good drainage and an absence of phosphorous added to the soil.
And now the photos.

Isopogon formosus. Here's a newly acquired specimen, still in its gallon pot but already a good size. Although I don't have room in Aussie natives bed for it, I've decided to keep it in a pot right beside this bed. Inclusion by proxy? I'll have to be careful to avoid repeating what happened to my shrub Ozothamnus last year. It managed to plug the drain hole with its taproot and without the proper drainage it went downhill so quickly that by the time I caught it, it was too late. Ahh, lesson learned.

The bottom of my apt stairs includes a little alcove that now houses a sprawling Rhipsalis (upper left), a new Coleus and in front of it an Asarina procumbens.

I like Asarums, here it's an A. maximum, for their large heart-shaped leaves. This species hails from China, which may help explain why it's called Panda Face ginger.

Though the sun sort of washed out this shot a bit I've kept it just to introduce this new begonia to readers. It's called 'Funky Pink.' It's a semi-trailing interspecific type and can handle a good amount of sun. It's comparable to the Nonstop series or the B. boliviensis varieties, so blooms over a long period before going winter dormant.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey.' This spotted variety of the so called 'Money plant' (owing to its coin-like seedpods) is a 4 season plant. Interesting foliage until it blooms; pretty clusters of pink flowers; followed by those distinctive, almost translucent seedpods. It can reach 3' so forms a good-sized bush. In mild climates like here it can take a good amount of sun. Inland, morning sun is best.

By the time I finally got around to potting up my 4" pot of Oregano 'Kent Beauty' it had already begun producing those distinctive pink bracts. The uninitiated tend to think these are the flowers but no, eventually plants will produce tiny pink flowers.

Stachys albotomentosa. If this name doesn't ring a bell, maybe its common name will - 7Up plant. Yes, as in the soft drink. Damn if the leaves don't smell like 7Up! That alone is worth having this Lambs Ears relative in my garden but it does also produce these pretty coral flowers in summer.

One nice thing about pots is that you can remove spent annuals and replace them with new ones. My Anagallis monellii had finally run its course so I've put a yellow and purple Torenia in its blue pot.

If one is paying attention, gardens will gradually provide you with all manner of useful information. Books and grower info may provide a general guide but it isn't until you grow that plant in your own specific micro-climate that you truly discover what it likes or what kind of flowering schedule it adheres to. Exhibit A for me this year is my Tecoma Bells of Fire. My Tecoma x smithii has been in bloom for nearly a month but this reddish-orange variety is just now beginning to blossom. So noted!

I've been pleasantly surprised by my Ageratum houstonianum. Not only is it a prolific bloomer but it has more than filled out the large pot I situated it in. I thought it would be a butterfly plant but the bees seem to like it as well.

Another shot of my ever evolving sidewalk bed. Again, it's an example of how densely you can plant a limited space bed.

Although it's still very small, I've included this photo of my Solidago 'Little Lemon.' Solidagos (Goldenrods) are a CA native, a sun lover and a great way to add vertical golds to a bed. This variety is a dwarf, so will only get 18-24" tall.

Pelargonium crispum 'Variegated Golden Lemon.' This 'pel' has exceeded my expectations, being prettier, more fragrant and just plain exuberant than I expected. Highly recommended!

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