Thursday, August 25, 2016


Everyone is familiar with honeysuckle. For many of us, this relationship began in childhood, when we first encountered that flower's intoxicating fragrance. They say that smell is the one sense that can stimulate total recall of an event from our past, elevating it above even our dominant sense - sight. Gardens are a great laboratory in this regard, offering us a cornucopia of different fragrances. Next to roses, honeysuckle plants may be many a person's most familiar olfactory connection. The one we're most familiar with is Lonicera japonica, with its intoxicating white and butter yellow flowers. Less common and still interesting are species such as L. hildebrandiana (Giant Burmese honeysuckle), whose flowers are indeed spectacularly large. Or L. sempervirens (Eastern honeysuckle), with its bright coral, yellow-throated flowers. Curiously, this and a few other honeysuckles aren't fragrant. Lonicera fragantissima earns its species name by producing extremely sweet smelling creamy-white flowers. There's even a shrubby honeysuckle, L. nitida. Commonly called Boxleaf Honeysuckle, it forms a dense shrub comprised of half inch ovate leaves and can reach 10.' Although many species are native to Asia, hybrids have made their way west and are now a staple in the American gardening world. They're in bloom now so whether you're adding one to your garden or just encountering them on a neighborhood, make sure to stop and smell the ... honeysuckle.

My durable Crassula falcata (Propeller plant) is once again in bloom. The bright red flowers contrast nicely with the smooth bluish-gray surfaces of the leaves.

Abutilon thompsonii. I love the closeup view of this flowering maple, as it suggests a forest of 'painted' leaves. The flowers are lovely but it's the foliage that drew me to this species. 

Though far from an impressive photo, I wanted to share the charms of Calamintha nepetoides, better known as Catmint. Funny thing about this plant. Even though cats are irresistibly drawn to it, they don't generally eat it. My cats used to love to just roll around in it. 

Here are the first flowers on my new Bidens Hawaiian Flare Drop Orange. It will soon be smothered in these cheerful little  solar flares.

Snapdragon Chantilly Bronze. The Chantilly series, most readily available From Annie's Annuals, seems to be especially vigorous. I keep cutting it back, whereupon it proceeds to flush out new flowers. Love that color too!

Most gardeners are familiar with the fluffy seedpods of Asclepias curassivica (Mexican milkweed). This morning this photo suggests an exploding seedpod and then that explosion captured in time.

A friend gave me a piece of Aloe plicatilis last year. I let it harden off then stuck it in a pot of soil. Lo and behold it rooted and here's the result. It will eventually go in the ground but for now it's keeping company with other smaller succulents in the bed to its left.

I've been trying to think of a book I could write, something I could pitch to Timber Press. They've published everything under the sun so that proposition is a difficult one. Here's one idea, a book featuring photographs of "dying" plants (or flowers). Nature photographers are naturally after the most vibrant flowers or the photos of interesting foliage. I have however begun to take an interest in how plants/flowers look as they are fading. Here it's my Cotinus 'Royal Purple' and its fading flower heads. Incidentally, there's a great film called Drowning by Numbers by the creative Welsh director Peter Greenaway. He is perhaps best known for The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover and Prospero's Books. Drowning by Numbers is a visually sumptuous meditation on decay in nature.

Lilium 'Black Beauty.' I love how the flowers seem to hover in space, like giant floral hummingbirds. 

I was after the contrast of light and shadow with this shot of my Alpinia Zerumbet (Shell ginger). The flowers look especially blindingly white (they are in fact pure white on the outside) and the dappled sunlight on the leaves only emphasizes their patterning. 

Ditto on the shot of my Cistus 'McGuire's Gold.' It's a more interesting shot with some shadows, especially since the leaves are a monochromatic yellow. 

I haven't had much luck photographing my purple and pale yellow Torenia so this is about as close as I'll get. BTW, Torenias are often sold as shade or part shade plants. In my experience they do much better in a good amount of sun (in more temperate weather).

Rhipsalis. Just a simple shot of this unique plant. Note how multi-branching it is, a common characteristic for this epiphytic member of the cactus family.

There is simply no other hydrangea that matches the exquisite blue of H. 'Nikko Blue.' Not only that but its flower heads are especially large and abundant. They are also the best at holding onto their blue color, assuming one gives them acidic soil. If neutral, one can always add some Aluminum sulphate (True Blue) to accentuate the blue tones. 

Scabiosa 'Black Pom Pom.' Okay, the flowers are small and they look an awful like those on S. atropurpurea 'Black' but in this plant's defense it does have interesting curly leaves that disguise its genus's usual look.

Here's a closeup of my new Dianthus x superbus 'Bearded' flower. It's quite an interesting look. Curling tips at the end of each petal; 'runway' lines on each petal; a delicate look that belies the usual toughness of most Dianthus. Seen in full bloom, the flowers look like a storm blew through and kind of 'shredded' the petals. Unique and charming.

Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' The flowers on this vigorous shrub are surprisingly delicate. And it brings to mind one of my favorite plant name jokes. What would be the offspring of a Stephen King heroine and a dinosaur be called? A Carrie-opteris of course ("I'm in town all week ...")

Finally, a look at one of my favorite hellebores. This is one you buy as much for the foliage as for the flowers. It's Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost.' Snow in summer?

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