Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Night vision

This week I veer off from my usual format to introduce a type of photography that I'm pretty certain very few people have ever heard of (I hadn't) - Ultraviolet-Induced Visible Fluorescence. The photos that follow are from noted UVIVF photographer Craig Burrows. Simply put, here's how it works. High-intensity UV lights are used to illuminate the flowers, resulting in colors and 'auras' that are both beautiful and surreal. It is first important to point out that this technique requires only UV light to pass and illuminate the flowers. This photography is done in as much darkness as possible, in order to eliminate or minimize natural light.
Craig points out that the carefully staged environment is rather important as so many man-made things contain optical brighteners which are intensely blue fluorescing. One of the things about UVIVF that Craig finds particularly interesting is that when exposed to sunlight, flowers, plants, and leaves are all fluorescing. We simply don't notice it because the fluorescence is overwhelmed by the intensity of the reflected visible light.
For avid photographers there is a more technical explanation at http://www.diyphotography.net/photographer-takes-photos-flowers-plants-using-uv-light-results-beautiful/
 Also, check out Craig Burrows own site at www.cpburrows.com.
Okay, here is what all the fuss is about. These are the smaller sizes; make sure to click on them to view at full size.

Spittlebug on rosemary. Looks more like something from one of the Alien movies, no?

Bulb cluster (these descriptions are Mr. Burrows own succinct descriptions shown underneath his photos). As you will see, blues and pinks predominate in this photography.

Camellia flower. As mentioned above, many of the flowers do emit a fluorescent glow.

Dandelion seedhead. Doesn't this photo remind you of dreamy fireworks?

One of my faves, this is a photo of an Angel's Trumpet flower. One word - wow!

Here's a different kind of photo, looking up at the sky through some bamboo shoots and leaves. The perspective is very enticing.

Another favorite of mine, this Bee Balm flower (Monarda) seems to possess an otherworldly quality. For those of you who saw the movie Avatar, this may remind you of Cameron's use of bioluminescence.

This flower, commonly called Blanket flower, is a Gaillardia. Looks yummy enough to eat, as if it were a multi-colored artichoke!

Here are two photos of a Calla lily, the lower more of a closeup. Some of Mr. Burrows photos (of flowers) almost make them look like deep sea creatures. This one almost looks like it could be part of a squid.

Another favorite, this photo of a Coreopsis offers up an almost metallic quality to the larger flower's petals. Eerie.

Evening Primrose. This one is oddly 'realistic,' though it's still quite beautiful.

Mr. Burrows simply titled this one 'Flat flowers' but in correspondence has said he thinks it's an Alyssum. It does look like that popular ground cover. Love that deep color.

Likewise, Mr. Burrows simply titled this one 'Flower.' I love the composition and the sharpness of the detail almost makes it look like a painting. 

Kangaroo Paw. This photo features incredibly fine 'spotting' on the petals, almost as if the fluorescence was a kind of dew that settled on the petals.

Hard to believe but this is a Hollyhock flower. The fluorescent effects are particularly strong here.

Here's a Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). It's normally a bright orange so this is an interesting 'view' of it.

You probably recognize this flowering bulb. Yes, it's a daffodil and it's too bad they don't come in this color in real life, eh? 

Here's a stunner of a photo. Mr. Burrows lists it as a Silk Floss Tree (Chorizia). Incredible colors and the star pattern adds to the allure.

This one is listed as 'Succulent Flower' and Mr. Burrows has added that it is an Ice plant of some sort. Again, it kind of looks like something growing on Pandora (Avatar).

Jade plant (Crassula ovata). Considered the most common of all succulent plants, here it acquires an otherworldly beauty.

Finally this eerie 'Sweet Tiny Flowers' photo is too lovely for words. It seems to have emerged from some dark magical realm, to offer its beauty to our lives. Who knew a Privet could be so gorgeous?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Here Comes the Sun?

The sun may not be here to stay but it has really spurred all kinds of action in our local gardens. The question is - who's winning, the flowers or the weeds? I've been diligent in removing the latter so things are looking good.
Now is the time to amend your soil, adding compost and other soil amendments, and top dressing beds with bark mulch. We may not need the latter as much for preserving moisture but its ability to block or slow down weeds is much appreciated.
Well, as is usually the case this time of year, a picture is worth a thousand words so here are recent photos of my garden.

Clematis Belle of Woking. This lovely double form clematis is one of the earliest to bloom in my garden. The flowers start out green then 'age' to this pale lavender. 

Agapetes serpens. Most of you know this unusual shrub. It's rightly renowned for its papery dangling flowers but did you know this plant also features a prominent, gnarled caudex (fat trunk)?

Passiflora parritae x tarminiana 'Oaklandia.' With this flower it's all about the petal color, as its corona is simplicity itself. My specimen has scrambled up into my apple tree.

Sphaeralcea munroana. This low growing, spreading species is perfect for cascading over a low rock wall, as it's doing here. So far it has proved the most vigorous of the Sphaeralcea species in my garden. And yes, the 'alcea' in the genus name is a tipoff to it being a mallow family member.

Five finger fern. This California native is one tough customer. I cut it to the ground every winter and it rebounds nice and full each spring.

This six pack of dwarf orange snapdragons has been wildly successful, smothering the pot in orange and yellow flowers.

My Leucospermum Veldfire is thriving again this year, especially with all the rain.

My ever evolving Walkway bed, which I should probably rename the Bulb Bed for the myriad variety of bulbs planted there, is now featuring Dutch iris, ornamental onions and Sparaxis. Lilies are on their way, as are Gloriosas. Already done are Crocus, Ipheions and Freesias.

Some newly planted Nemesias are adding color to the Sun King bed.

This Spanish motif wall art piece is a new addition to my garden. 

The fiery red new growth on my Acer Beni Maiko is still evident. Soon the leaves will mature to a darker green before acquiring the fall red tones before the leaves drop.

The view looking south, up the walkway from the back yard towards the front. That's a new black, metal arch that was just located a week ago.

Tulipa chrysantha 'Taco.' This new Lady tulip, a species tulip that is perennial, offers up charming yellow and red flowers.

Viburnum opulus. My snowball viburnum's flowers are gradually beginning to acquire more of the white color they're famous for. Viburnums leaf out in a hurry, then flower quickly, as if their life depended upon it. That's often the modus operandi for certain deciduous shrubs, trying to take advantage of favorable conditions in spring to attract pollinators.

Echium 'Blue Bedder.' Want bees in your garden but don't have the space for a perennial Echium (or want to wait two years for it to grow)? This quick growing annual version is just the ticket. Bees love it every bit as much as the perennial species.

Iris louisiana 'Pastiche.'  This charming Iris's colors are so sublime.

Begonia luxuriens. While still small, this shrub-type begonia will eventually get to 5-6' and make quite a display of its palm-like foliage.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Springing forward

Well, to no one's surprise, lots of rain followed by a week of sun has equaled a real spurt in our gardens. That's been especially true for bulbs, which I've belatedly discovered really do benefit from a lot of rain, to deciduous shrubs, which all seemed to have leafed out in record time. For those of us with plenty of both, it's been a glorious week. And I echo many a Bay Area gardener's thoughts I'm sure in thinking "It's about time!" Spring often appears in late February in the milder zones here so the fact that it's a month late is certainly unusual.
There was much to photograph this week so I'll let the photos do the talking.

Ixias are one of the easiest bulbs to grow. I lump them in with Freesias and Sparaxis as three spring-blooming bulbs that are multi-colored and naturalize easily in one's garden.

Speaking of easy, Osteospermums are one of the easiest and most colorful perennials to grow. Sun lovers, they prosper when the heat arrives.

Aloe striata. Another shot of what has become the most commented on plant in my front garden. Somehow many who stop to admire it can't quite believe such a magnificent display is coming out of a succulent. Somewhere, there must be a dry garden filled with nothing but many different kinds of aloes and if so chances are many are in bloom at the same time. Now there's a photo to show to people ("See, aloes really do bloom. A lot.") And there's problem a hummingbird travel agency that would lead a tour ...

This is what I've now dubbed my Woodland bed. That low growing red and gold plant is a Fuchsia Autumnale; to its right is Aquilegia yabeana and further right and behind is a colony of Iris douglasiana. There's a Louisiana iris in back, plus several ferns, a Francoa and some sweet woodruff. Amazing what you can plant in a small space.

Amazingly, this petite plant is a lilac and it's in bloom! It's a Syringa 'Palibin' and it's hanging out in this pot until it's big enough to go in the ground.

Dianella tasmanica 'Yellow Stripe' situated in a bed of Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold.' This is at the head of my morning sun bed I call Shady Lane. 

Five finger fern (Adiantum aleuticum). This CA native fern somewhat dies back in winter so I just give it a full haircut and it grows back nice and fresh in spring.

Many people are familiar with Calceolaria mexicana (Yellow Pocketbooks) but this is a different and harder to find species C. calynopsis. Same shape and size of flowers but in a vivid red.

This sweet little guy is Aquilegia buergeriana, a hard to find columbine. I like the simplicity of its burgundy and yellow flowers. It's a short guy, topping out at 8".

Here's another sparaxis flower, this one a deep orange. These Harlequin flowers raise the question - What is the evolutionary advantage of having a squiggly yellow center, as opposed to a simple round center? And what about the black ring separating the colors? What is its purpose? Discuss among yourselves (very, very old SNL skit reference).

Okay, no photography awards for this shot and no beauty awards for the dogwood flowers themselves. So why take the picture? Just to prove that it really did bloom this year dammit, after waiting 8 years for it to do so. (I think all our winter rains helped).

On the other hand, this Iris pseudacorus Holden Clough flower is exceptionally pretty. Most pseudacorus flowers are fairly plain but this one not only showcases alluring ginger tones but prominent striping. Lovely!

Continuing with our triptych of unusually pretty flowers, here's one of my double hellebores, this one H. Double Patty's Purple. Remember way back when when hellebores were dull? Me neither.

A closeup of my new favorite, Corydalis 'Blue Line.' For some reason I've taken to thinking of them as little blue seahorses.

Though not properly lit (come on sun, just a little to the right please), the beauty of my Rhododendron 'Sappho' is apparent. I first spotted this beauty at Sonoma Horticultural Nursery and was so smitten I bought a specimen. It has proven surprisingly sturdy.

It's the season for spring annual natives and here's one charming example - Layia glandulosa. A little more heat tolerant than its better know cousin Layia platyglossa, it proves itself just as pretty. 

In the good-things-come-to-those-that-wait category, my Camella reticulata 'Lila Naff' has finally produced its first flower. This variety originated in 1967 in Slidell LA and was a chance seedling of Camellia 'Butterfly Wings.'

This curious shoot belongs to Beschorneria queretaro, a dwarf form that's a bit hard to find these days. Like most Beschornerias, it puts up tall arching spikes that eventually sprout, waxy, tubular pink and green flowers much beloved by hummers and bees. 

Dutch iris. So many colors, so many varieties, so easy to grow, it's no wonder that these Iris hybrids are by far the best selling iris. Now if only someone could work on getting the flowers to last for more than a day or two ...

Physocarpus opulifolius 'Nugget.' This fast growing shrubs seems to go from bare to flowering in about a month! The spirea-like flowers are very popular with bees and it won't be long before the colorful (red) and interesting seedpods form.

And last but certainly not least the first of my Clematis niobe flowers has opened. One of my favorites, that color is simply to die for.
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