Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Real Softie

Though the sense of sight and smell are the two main ways we interact with our gardens, the sense of touch is also a source of pleasure for many of us. One of those plants that is both surprising and exciting to the touch is Phylica plumosa. This South African shrub has perhaps the softest, most feathery 'leaves' of any plant you'll encounter. Known as Cape Myrtle it forms an upright shrub to five feet. It's drought tolerant once established and can thrive in poor soils as long as it has good drainage.
As a fun exercise, you might make a list of plants in your garden that offer a tactile pleasure.
Here are a few photos taken in my garden on the first day of November. The recent rains have not only spurred the early bulbs to pop up but have generally perked up plants in our gardens.

Here's my Phylica plumosa, showing off its unique, 'hairy' leaves. As mentioned, their texture and softness is such a wonderful tactile experience. I also find the plant lovely to look at, with its ocher colors and what look to me like fountains erupting. One of my favorite plants!

Begonia 'Wild Pony.' One might write a book on the undersides of leaves as its own interesting visual and tactile experience. Many begonias have little hairs on the undersides of their leaves and those are particularly pronounced on this begonia. The upper sides are also rough and textured, making this an interesting specimen plant.

Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost.' We're fast approaching the season for Hellebores and my specimen is already producing flower buds. This variety is named for the pronounced white spotting on its leaves. By the way, Hellebores don't mind some sun and may be more floriferous when getting some morning sun.

Despite the late date, my Dicentra scandens is producing a second crop of bright yellow flowers, after I hacked it back hard in July. For those unfamiliar with this Bleeding Heart, it not only has yellow flowers but it's a climber. It gets its species name from the term 'scandent,' which means 'to climb.'

This lovely stand of Kniphofia is from my neighbor's yard. Red Hot Pokers as they're called are mostly a winter blooming plant here in the Bay Area. They make an impressive stand when mature, as is evidenced here.

Plumbago auriculata. This aggressive shrub has taken over the median strip that it shares with other plants. It does have pretty robin's egg blue flowers and it is indeed great for filling in a large open area that won't get much water (they're often planted near freeways, in part because they absorb car pollution) but they do tend to get out of control.

Verbascum thapsi. My favorite verbascum and here there's still a bit of rain on the downy branches, left over from nighttime rains. Speaking of texture, these felty leaves are a true delight to touch.

Why we love Fall, part three. My Cornus florida has already begun to show that lovely fall color. My maples are soon to follow. We may not live in New England but there are many trees here in the Bay Area that display spectacular fall color. 

Echeveria peacockii. The subject of my next SF Chronicle column, this easy to grow succulent has shimmering slate-blue foliage and coral blooms. Here it's looking resplendent in dappled sun.

Though it seems late, I still have several begonias in bloom. That includes this B. Nonstop Deep Salmon. The colors seem to exhibit their own light here, glowing from within. 

Duranta 'Gold Mound.' It took awhile for this evergreen shrub to get a foothold but it's finally filling in. As you can see, this variety is well-named, offering bright golden foliage. It has yet to bloom but it will eventually produce pale purple flowers. 

As I continue to learn a bit more about photography and start opening up my eye beyond taking photos of just flowers, or more to the point fully opened flowers, I've felt more free to photograph plants at different stages. Here's a Passiflora 'Oaklandii' flower still in bud form. You can already see signs of its rich coral-red color. A promise about to be fulfilled.

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