Wednesday, November 23, 2016

After the Flood

Okay, it wasn't a flood this week but parts of the Bay Area saw close to 5" of rain in three days. Oakland received much less (one inch) but that's been enough to cause our gardens to really perk up. That's been especially true for the bulbs in my garden. Apart from the South African bulbs that are always some of the earliest (Lachenalia, Ferraria, Chasmanthe, Sparaxis, Ixia and Freesia), I have Ipheion, Dutch Iris, Saxatilis tulips and Scilla popping their heads up. Though it will be awhile before any of these but the Lachenalia are in bloom, just their presence is a harbinger of things to come in early spring.
The rain and warmish days have also prompted my earliest Camellias to put out their first magnificent flowers. Leading the way this fall is C. reticulata 'Frank Hauser.' Its showy, ruffled orchid pink flowers are a sight to behold. Also making an early appearance is the singular C. 'Black Magic.' It offers up perhaps the deepest red flowers of any camellia, being almost a blackish-red. It wasn't until I did a Chronicle column on this variety that I discovered a) how many camellia societies there are  and b) how passionate camellia lovers are about new varieties entering the market.
To paraphrase that old saying, "There are two kinds of gardeners in this world. Those that take the winter off (because they choose or they're in a very cold climate) and those that can't help themselves from gardening year round." I guess I fall into the latter category.
To that point here are photos of my late November garden.

Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola.' The species name refers to the downy, lavender-like grayish foliage. This variety features familiar red and cream colored flowers and will eventually get to 5'H and 7' W. Grevilleas are one of my favorite Protea family members, a view that I think is shared by many people.

Primula Primlet. Primlet primroses especially evoke the roses part of the common name. They stay mostly budded, with smaller tea-rose like blooms in a variety of colors. 

This handsome shrub would not seem at first glance to be a Melianthus (African honey bush). The foliage is very different from M. major but once you rub your fingers on a leaf and inhale, you immediately smell that distinctive peanut butter fragrance. 

Cassia phyllodinea. Here it's not the yellow flowers but the thin, dark red seedpods that are the attraction. As I've mentioned, I did a recent piece on Unusual Seedpods for Pacific Horticulture magazine. This shrub wasn't included but could well have been.

This lovely Echeveria species is gradually colonizing in a sunny, front yard bed. A closer look will reveal the beads of rain left over from last night's rainfall.

Leptospermum lanigerum. I love the downy, silvery foliage on this New Zealand tea tree. It's grown as much or more for this foliage than the simple white flowers. This species doesn't get as big as most tea trees so can be kept in a pot.

Phlomis fruticosa. This salvia relative, known as Jerusalem sage, is one tough and pretty little customer. Normally it wouldn't be blooming this late but well this is the weird and wacky Bay Area.

 Snapdragons + tulips. What you see now are the snapdragons but underneath are tulips. They'll join the party in February and make for a nice full and colorful pot. This is one simple example of vertical planting, making the maximum use of space.

 Just simple stock. OK, gardening quiz. Do you know the botanical name of stock? It's Malcomia and these hybrids are derived from Virginia stock. No matter what you call them they all exude that lovely spicy fragrance.

Every connoisseur's favorite Dicentra (D, scandens). This yellow bleeding heart is almost impossible to find in the trade and it's a mystery why. It's one of the toughest and prettiest vines you'll ever grow. It too is blooming later than usual.

It's nearly impossible to resist the charms of cyclamen this time of year. Of course the flowers are the main show but the patterns on the leaves are equally charming. 

This photo doesn't quite capture the color and charm of this Lachenalia aloides Orange. The first of the South African bulbs to bloom, Lachenalias are an early winter delight.

Echeveria pulvinata. This furry-leaved Echeveria is a real delight, with its red tips and frequent blooming.

Pandas in Oakland? Yes indeed if we're talking Panda-faced ginger, otherwise known as Asarum maximum. The leaves are similar to the more common Asarum caudatum, though to me a bit darker and glossier, but the round, waxy, cream and purple flowers are definitely different.

No, Sango Kaku isn't Klingon but rather a variety of Japanese maple. It's better known as Coral Bark maple for the reddish-orange stems that hold winter attraction. Rather than its late autumn leaves turning red like most maples, this variety's leaves turn golden. You can still see a bit of that as my specimen starts to shed its leaves.

One last shot of my Begonia Nonstop Salmon. This series is well named, as it has been flowering nonstop since August. 

 Echeveria peacockii. I love the slate blues in this Echeveria and like most Echeverias it is quick to flower.

It looks like a Euphorbia but red flowers? It's Euphorbia atropurpurea. This little known spurge is a lovely and vigorous species. Hailing from the Canary Islands (a Spanish archipelago off the NW coast of Africa), this especially lovely species will get to about 4-6' tall. Though it can also form a dense mound, my specimen has taken the other form, with arching arms tipped with clusters of bluish-green leaves.

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