Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The C&H show

No, the title of this blog (C&H show) doesn't refer to the sugar company but rather to Camellias and Hellebores, two genera that are in bloom now (or getting ready to). Four of my nine camellias have already begun blooming and the fabulous C. reticulata 'Frank Hauser' is well underway. Though my established Hellebores are still filling in and yet to bud, it won't be long now. And I just brought home a fabulous new H. orientalis called 'Amethyst Gem.' It's a pink-veined double hellebore and it's in bloom now (photo below).
Since these are both 'shade' plants, let me offer a few thoughts on the subject. First off, at the risk of making things too complicated, there are five kinds of shade. Full, darker shade that gets no direct sun and not a lot of indirect light either; bright shade (no direct sun but bright light); an hour or two of morning or late afternoon sun; full morning sun and finally mixed sun and shade (caused by buildings or overhanging trees). Add in whether the spot is dry shade or will get regular water and you can see that calling something a 'shade' plant is rather like describing white stuff on the ground as 'snow' to Eskimos.
Hellebores can handle more shade and be fine than Camellias, which in my experience benefit from a greater intensity of light or more morning sun. That's not to say that Hellebores won't be happy in more sun. They will. Both plants have a well-earned reputation for toughness, making them valuable additions to anyone's garden. And there's no need to sacrifice beauty or variety with either of these plants. They come in all colors and forms. So go ahead and treat yourself to these 'shade' denizens and liven up your winter garden.

Name this camellia! Well, that's not as odd a request as it seems as this new selection from Nuccio's, Winner's Circle, is so new there's barely any photos of it on the web. When I looked last year there were only the two I posted of my specimen. This flower is large and offers a lovely salmon-pink color. I'm looking forward to a fuller crop this year.

Camellia 'Jury's Yellow.' Okay not the greatest shot but this gives an idea of the lovely butter-yellow shades at the ruffled heart of this camellia. This year that center is showing a bit more color than from last year's crop.

Every year I pick one or two plants that are my success story of the year. This year one of those is my Helichrysum bracteatum 'Monster Red.' This plant has been nothing short of amazing, flowering nonstop since June. It's supposedly an annual but it's showing no sign of dying off. 

Okay why am I including this 'ugly' photo? It's my Magnolia 'Butterflies' and the yellow leaves are of course an indication that the tree is going deciduous. Did you know the explanation for fall color on deciduous trees? At this juncture, the tree is pulling the remaining chlorophyll back into its branches, to store up for next year, and the removing of this green pigment leaves the remaining color in the leaves for that short period before the leaves drop.

Say the word 'Heather' and many will no doubt think of the Scottish moors or some other specific place but in truth the diverse collection of plants with that common name take all forms. This is Calluna 'Firefly' and it's doing what it's supposed to at this time of year - acquire more red tones (brought on by cooler weather). Callunas are closely related to Ericas, a genus more commonly thought of as a heather.

Fantastic! No, that's not my description of this Kalanchoe but the actual variety name. With its large planer leaves and intriguing combo of greens, creams and pinks, it's easy to see why it has acquired such a name. Mine is still a 'baby' but these plants can get to two feet tall and wide.

Beschorneria albiflora. These sturdy plants have yucca-like strap leaves and when in bloom tall, arching spikes of red and green tubular flowers. Native to Guatemala and the Honduras.

I know it's early but my Magnolia stellata already has its first finger-like, pure white flowers. If we have the White Rabbit in Alice decrying "I'm late, I'm late!" we need another creature to represent the way early blooming plants ("I'm early, I'm early!").

Speaking of fall color, here's one of my Exbury azaleas showing some lovely red tones. Exburys are a type of deciduous azalea that offers up flower colors you rarely see in evergreen types, such as golds, peaches and oranges. 

Here's a Gulf Fritillary butterfly resting on one of my Passiflora citrina leaves. In the lower left are two unopened yellow flowers. 

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope.' This variegated abelia falls in the category of beautiful yet tough. It's a mystery to me why abelias aren't more widely used in local gardens. They're evergreen, easy to grow, resist diseases, flower readily and are a manageable size. 

Salvia elegans 'Golden Delicious.' I know I've taken plenty of pictures of this vigorous salvia but I swear it's almost the perfect plant. Super easy to grow; grows quickly; holds onto its golden/chartreuse color; blooms prolifically in the fall and doesn't mind being hacked back. Oh, did I mention that hummers dig it and the leaves smell like pineapple?

Here's a photo of the Hellebore I mentioned in the opening (H. 'Amethyst Gem' ). The sun wasn't out so you don't see how sparkling the reddish-pink colors are but this gives one an idea.

On the other end of the spectrum, this Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost' has pale green flowers (which certainly are pretty in their own right). The white-speckled leaves add another design element, holding the gardener's interest long before (and after) the flowers are gone.

Thunbergia 'Arizona Red.' This variety has the deepest reds of any Black-eyed Susan vine. It is scrambling along my fence and I think complements the earthy tones of the wood fence.

Ajuga 'Burgundy Glow.' Not sure how this variety got its name - umm, where exactly is the burgundy color? - but no matter, its combo of greens, grays and pinks makes it a lovely way to add cascading interest to a container.

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