Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Variety of Summer

It may just be me but as someone who orders plants for our nursery I'm aware that in spring gardeners are filling their gardens with spring color. Whether that's annuals or perennials, we tend to purchase larger quantities of a smaller selection of plants. Come summer, however, the spring annuals are done and mostly pulled from our beds and certain growers turn to a more eclectic range of plants to tempt gardeners with. Spring is spring and is always exciting. To veteran gardeners though summer and fall can be an equally exciting time, as interesting perennials begin showing up in our local nurseries. For those of us that have a great variety of plants in our gardens and are always on the lookout for something new and wondrous, summer is the best season.
On that note, here is a sampling of the diversity in my garden.

Neomarica caerulea. My walking iris has been especially prolific this year. This genus is surprisingly hardy and long-lived and it produces one of the most striking flowers you'll ever grow.

Lilium philippinense followed by Lilium regale below. As you can see, these two lilies are very similar. As its name implies, L. philippinense is native to the Philippines. Both trumpet lilies are sweetly fragrant and attract hummers.

Dietes bicolor. This charming iris relative produces butter yellow flowers with dark burgundy 'eyes.' For some reason, I find these simple flowers particularly enchanting.

Who doesn't love Cannas? Here is an orange blooming variety with striped reddish  leaves. They're sun lovers of course but this variety, planted originally by my neighbor but now spread with my blessing onto my property is prospering with only a few hours of later afternoon sun.

Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata. Whew, that's a mouthful! That's a Aloe striata in the background but the foreground flowers belong to what Annie's calls the Pig's Ear plant. It also features red-limned silver leaves that spread out like a very slow incoming tide.

Cuphea schumannii. Fat cigar flowers are bright orange with green tips and the bright green leaves are a bit stiffer and glossier than most Cuphea species.

Though just a simple 'tub' of Calibrachoas, I liked the old world look of this planter.

Is there a richer blackish-burgundy in the plant world that Aeonium Swartkop? So striking!

Although it's growing a bit more wildly than in previous years, my Begonia Illumination Yellow is still stunning in its display of color. 

Although not in the sun to show off a bit more of its golden tones, my Aralia cordata 'Sun King' is very happy indeed and is taking over this newly created raised bed. I had questions as to how sturdy it would be but that question has been more than answered. 

Though they are tiny and only really seen when you look at this photo full size, my Dianella 'Yellow Stripe's tiny blue flowers are quite charming. They will soon produce sparkling blue berries.

Extravagant is the only way to describe the flowers of Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.' It's a rare double form of an annual morning glory and one I grow every year.

Crassula alba v. parvisepala. The main feature of this succulent is its red-spotted leaves but as with many crassulas, it blooms prolifically. You can pick out the heads of soon-to-be vivid red flowers forming here.

There's nothing quite like Begonias for exquisite color. Proof positive is my B. Nonstop Deep Salmon. So rich, so vibrant.

A new project completed yesterday, this hanging basket is still at the beginning of its life. That's a Sphaeralcea coccinea inside and since it's a spiller, the idea is that it will be the perfect hanging basket addition.

I'd previously posted a photo of my vigorous Gloriosa lily's unique foliage but here's the main reason people fall in love with this bulb. Wavy red petals are bordered in yellow and are folded upward in a kind of open basket formation. Fabulous!

Here's a further along shot of my Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' flower spike. Pineapple lilies are easy to grow, are drought tolerant once established and are reliable bulbs, returning each year. The rows of waxy flowers make it one of the more interesting flowers in my garden.

Every year I fret that my Tecoma 'Bells of Fire' won't bloom and each year it does. It's just that my T. x smithii starts blooming in early April, while my Bells waits until mid-July. As you can see, it's well named, offering up tubular reddish-orange flowers.

Limonium. Statice may be a common plant but that doesn't mean it isn't pretty. There's a bit more blue in this variety, which since it was just planted from a 4" pot, is still pretty small.

Nandina 'Fire Alarm.' Yes, that really is the name of this Heavenly Bamboo variety. Here you can see some evidence of the reddish-pink foliage. It's still in its gallon pot, awaiting a permanent in the ground.

Sometimes it's the flowers and sometimes it's the foliage. It's the latter that's the star with this Pelargonium 'Frank Headley.' Cool and calm as a shady spot on a summer porch.

Here's my 'Shady Lane' in its latest incarnation. It's an example of how with a little planning and care, one can plant a walkway pretty densely and have it work.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


Say the word 'heather' to a gardener and s/he is likely to think of the genus Erica. There is however another increasingly popular type of heather making its way into nurseries. That's Calluna vulgaris. This tough sub-shrub, native to northern and western Europe, as well as Siberia, Turkey and Morocco, is the only species in the genus but has spawned an almost endless number of beautiful varieties. Also called Scotch heather, it is actually the true heather, if one wants to be precise. Varieties show a great deal of, well, variety. Some are very low ground covers, spreading out among rocky areas in northern climates. Others can reach two feet in height, where conditions are more favorable. The tiny, scale-like leaves are born in opposite and overlapping pairs and can vary considerably in color - from various shades of green to gold or a dark chocolate color. The tiny urn-shaped flowers typical of heathers are either red, pink, purple or white. For most Calluna lovers it's the foliage that is more of the attraction and many will acquire a darker or brighter tone in colder months.
Okay here are some recent photos and I'll start by repeating two photos of recent Calluna purchases to refresh your memory.

Calluna vulgaris 'Bradford.' This new arrival is as you can see in full bloom. 

Here is the Bradford beside the lime foliage variety 'Winter Chocolate.'  Here is an example where the foliage is the main attraction. Like most bush Callunas, these varieties are dense and compact.

Eriogonum giganteum. This St. Catherine's Lace CA buckwheat is in bloom and being swarmed by bees. As you can see, it's a prolific bloomer, giving bees a virtual 'field' of nectar rich flowers.

The black-eyed Susan vine that ate Oakland. Yes, this vine really does cover everything near it. I'm keeping mine in a pot and letting it scramble on a fence. This one is Thunbergia 'Arizona Red.' Sounds like a bad dude from an old Western movie ...

Speaking of vines that scramble and take over, my Dicentra scandens is slowly covering not only the metal trellis but the wall to its right. Love this plant, love sharing photos of it and continue to be amazed that nobody sells it any longer.

I'm a begonias fan and that includes this gorgeous B. 'Illumination Apricot.' It's one of those flowers where light seems to be emanating from inside it.

Here are two shots of my newest lily to open. 'Mister Cas' may be an odd name but it's certainly a lovely lily. A little more subtle than some, it has a spotted golden orange throat that sets off the creamy petals.

My shady 'dynamic duo.' Polystichum seiferum 'Plumosum densum' and Tolmiea menziesii. Love the contrast and textures. 

Begonia rex Mocha Orange. So many begonias, so little room ...

I was just aiming for a backlit shot of my Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue' but what came out of it was something that reminds me more of a Georgia O'Keefe painting than a photo. Some 'accidents' just turn out so wonderfully! 

Pavonia missionum. This five foot shrub with the small coral-red flowers is a Mallow family member that's not widely available. The colors are exceptionally lovely and like most mallows, it's a tough durable shrub.

Gazania 'Nahui.' What can you say about gazanias - beautiful, drought tolerant, tough and long blooming.

My vote for Lily of the Year. This Lilium 'Fujian' has the richest colors I've ever seen and the flowers are HUGE. My garden is filled with lilies and this is Exhibit A why.

If Chrysocephalum apiculatum doesn't ring a bell then how about the common name of Common Everlasting? This charming ground cover with silver foliage and button-like yellow flowers is easy to grow and a nice way to add a dash of silver to a sunny bed.

Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black.' This Annie's Annuals pincushion plant is a favorite destination for bees and especially butterflies. 

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm infatuated with dwarf conifers. Here are three more, to be grown in a bowl for now. I don't have the full botanical names at hand but one is a Cryptomaria, one a Chamaecyparis and the other an Abies (pine). Now I just need to live long enough to see them mature ...

This pint-sized Hebe is H. 'Raspberry Ripple.' It's supposed to top out at one foot so it really is a little guy. It's just begun to bloom and now I see where the variety name came from.

This Spanish-themed metal wall art is a new and much appreciated piece of art in my garden.

Liberty may have been taken in naming this Begonia variety (Wild Pony, as if the plant is about to gallop off at any moment) but its textured foliage is certainly a delight.

Begonia boliviensis. Another shot of my floriferous hanging basket begonia.

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' The new growth is sometimes bright red, sometimes this almost translucent pale green.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' Here are the first waxy pink flowers starting to open on a stiff upward stem.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

After the fireworks

There is nothing quite like returning from a vacation, having not seen the garden for a week, to renew one's appreciation of the beauty of gardens. That was doubly true for me, having cleaned up the garden in preparation for my yearly garden party only a week before going on vacation. So though there are fewer changes and surprises in July than in March still I had some very pleasant new developments to enjoy. Most notable was the opening of my glorious Lilium 'Fujian' flowers. Huge and glorious, they are a sight to behold. This is lily season and that being my favorite common bulb I have many varieties in my collector's garden.
So here are some recent photos, including two of my favorite lilies. Enjoy!

This mystery bulb is I think a yellow tiger lily I dug out of another bed. Other than that I'm not sure which specific one it is but I'm glad I saved it!

Amaranthus 'Hopi Red Dye.' There are many wonderful amaranths but this one features rich burgundy leaves. All species/varieties have the prominent seedheads, a big feature on this easy to grow annual.

Tiger lily. I think this may be the double form but in any case I took this photo to show the prominent hairs that surround the flower buds and leaves. Tiger lilies also have very sturdy stems, which are often a dark color, even black.

Lotus jacobaeus. Otherwise known as Black lotus for its nearly black flowers. This nearly year-round bloomer's flowers are actually a deep burgundy but from a distance appear black. A sturdy and tenacious plant, it will spread out and colonize an area. Tough and beautiful!

There's simply nothing whiter in the world of flowers than Mandevilla laxa flowers. Silky white might be a good description. Intensely fragrant and a prolific bloomer once established, it should be planted where one and all can enjoy its sweet evening fragrance. 

I like the light-dappled look of my Thunbergia 'Arizona Red' here. I love recommending Thunbergias because they're easy to grow, bloom prolifically, can be pruned back hard if that's your choice and aren't fussy, as long as they get some sun.

It's no secret that hummers love Agastache (the common name Hummingbird mint gives it away) but bees like them too. Here a bee visits my Agastache Tutti Fruiti.' 

I've begun to collect Callunas, just adding a third one (C. 'Bradford' on the right here). I have but three though I'm now keeping my eyes open for others. These heathers aren't mean at all (obscure 1988 movie reference) but pretty and tough. As you can see, the newly acquired Bradford is in bloom while the 'Winter Chocolate' next to it is simply showing off its glorious foliage.

Though perhaps not the best photo, here's my low and spreading Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold' surrounding a self-seeded Begonia sutherlandii. Off to the left is a Dianella Yellow Stripe. 

My Salvia discolor is in bloom now but I couldn't quite capture its beauty so I reached back into my archives for a shot that does show off the flower's unique beauty. 

Here are two shots of the glorious Lilium 'Fujian.' It's quickly become the most beautiful lily I've ever grown and that's saying something. Just a glorious burgundy and huge. Flowers are 6" long and even in their first year from bulbs I got three flowers on each stalk.

Epilobium canum. CA fuchsias as they're called don't need much encouragement to bloom prolifically. Here my specimen has spread out and poked its 'head' through the walkway railing. A must-stop destination for hummers (and bees as it turns out).

Although this 'yellow' tiger lily looks a lot like the first photo it's actually a Lilium leitchtlinii. Love the spotting, the colors and the recurved petals. 

Every garden should have an 'Energizer bunny' plant and mine is my Evolvulus. We sell them as annuals at work but mine is in year four and not slowing down. Love the blue flowers on this ground morning glory relative, which blooms from May through October.

Speaking of blue and morning glories, there's simply no prettier blue than the flowers on Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue.' Plus they're the largest flowers (other than Ipomoea 'Moonflower') of any morning glory. 

Here's my latest dwarf conifer pot. There's one each from the Chamaecyparis, Pinus and Cryptomeria genera. Small now but check back in three years.

Nicotiana grandiflora. This 6' tall flowering tobacco is the most fragrant of the lot, especially as early evening rolls around. The flowers start out a pale green then age to pure white.
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