Tuesday, March 28, 2017

If at First ...

Today's message is a simple one but one we all need to be reminded of - "There are always going to be moments of failure in gardening." This is true even for experienced gardeners. Whether that is from pushing the envelope for a particular plant (zone, too much shade, not as drought tolerant as we'd hoped), life interrupting our attention to our gardens (missed a watering or didn't see the sun/shade mix changing), being too optimistic and over-planting or any number of other reasons, it's inevitable that a few of the plants we put in our gardens fail (and by fail I mean not just that they die but that they do so poorly it's no point in soldiering on). I used to take these failures personally (who hasn't?) but now I'm both more practical and more forgiving. The point is to learn from these mistakes, not just for that particular plant but to better learn both general gardening principles as well as the specifics of your garden, such as its varied micro-climates.
One thing not mentioned above is the very frequent tendency to see something in a nursery, fall in love with it and take it home, without any idea where you'll plant it. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention and you do find a place for it, sometimes even benefiting from cleaning an area where it will go. But sometimes it remains in its pot for weeks and then it either has already started to do poorly or you put it somewhere it isn't ideally suited for and that leads to a gradual demise.
That said, I'm a believer in not planning out every inch of one's garden. Spontaneity is a wonderful thing and sometimes the beauty of the new arrival trumps any perfect design.
So cheer up, you're every bit the gardener even if you experience the occasional failure.
Spring has sprung in a big way this last week, spurred on by the final arrival of sun and some warmer temps. Today's wealth of photos reflects that burst.

Athyrium niponicum. Better known as Japanese Painted fern, here are two varieties making their dramatic spring appearance. Though they do go fully deciduous they return like clockwork each spring.

I'm loving my new Corydalis Blue Line. The foliage is much denser and more dramatic and the 'seahorse' flowers just as blue as other varieties.

The fact that Clivias are common doesn't take away from their beauty. Clivias are endemic to southern Africa, meaning they are found no where else in the world. They also feature a 'primitive' root system that benefits from being somewhat contained.

I think I should start an award for 'Charming plant of the Month.' This month, that would go to Romanzoffia californica, which has that certain 'it' factor. 

Begonias are tougher than you think. Case in point, my B. luxuriens was completely covered by a passion flower vine but somehow survived it and is now sprouting new growth. It can get big, up to five feet, which is wonderful as it's the foliage more than the flowers that is the main attraction.

There should be a category for Unstoppable Plants and if so Choisya ternata would be the top of that list. I keep hacking mine back, which only slows it momentarily. As you can see it's nearly in full bloom now, making its heady fragrance all the more intoxicating.

I'm making an exception and showing a picture of my neighbor's Leptospermum tree. The New Zealand Tea tree as it's called is in full bloom now and since it's 20' tall and almost as wide, there's no missing its bloom season. And yes this is the plant from which the medicinal tea tree oil is extracted from.

All this rain really caused my bed of Oxalis oregana, better known as Redwood sorrel, to burst forth. I find it one of the most cheerful ground covers around. The leaves were a food source for certain native tribes, though the plant does contain oxalic acid so I don't encourage more than a nibble. BTW, its formula is  C2H2O4 for you science geeks.

Got toad? My two varieties of toad lily (Tricyrtis) are already up and slowly colonizing this bed. The two ferns here, just emerging, are Autumn ferns. 

My new pride and joy, this Physocarpus Amber Jubilee has exquisite, well, amber-colored leaves. It has the same white flowers and interesting red seedpods as other P. opulifolius varieties. 

This Helichrysum 'Ruby Clusters' not only has beautiful silvery foliage but a neat trick up its sleeve. Its flower buds are a pearly pink but when they open they produce yellow flowers! Not sure I've ever heard of such a color transition in any other plant.

Stepping from the shadows is this new scented Pelargonium called Mint-Rose. Apart from the fragrance I love the oak leaf form of the leaves and the woodsy colors.

You can keep the multi-colored bag of M and Ms, I'll take the bag of mixed colors Sparaxis. Here are three color combos - the deep red above, the pink and white below and then at the bottom a kind of orangey-coral color. When people ask me how to grow Sparaxis I smile and say "Put them in the dirt and water them." Period. There isn't an easier bulb to grow and they naturalize.

To paraphrase Sarah Lee, "Nobody doesn't like Dutch iris." There's every color imaginable now; here's a classic deep purple one (above) and one called Bronze Beauty (two below).

It seems as if there's a dwarf form of everything these days and that holds true for snapdragons. These little orange beauties are only 4-6" tall but this six pack has filled out a low bowl nicely.

Leucospermums are perhaps the best of the Protea family threesome: Protea, Leucadendron and Leucospermum. The flowers are every bit as showy as those on Proteas, yet they're as easy to grow as Leucadendrons. Here's a L. 'Tango,' set off nicely by a patch of purple Osteospermums.

And here's my established Leucospermum 'Veldfire,' one of the showiest of all Pincushion shrubs. Note the whitish 'down' on the unopened flowers. A real showstopper.

Speaking of showstoppers, my Aloe striata is in full bloom. Again. I swear this plant is a blooming machine, which of course pleases the hummers to no end.

Ornithogalum umbellatum. This sweet little ground cover Star of Bethlehem is an annual rite of spring in my garden. 

Not that Sphaeralceas are a well known genus to begin with but this less common cascading species, S. munroana, is my favorite. Great for covering a low rock wall, as it's doing here, or for use as a ground cover. I love the small scalloped leaves and tiny rosy red cup-shaped flowers. Tough too. 

Kudos to those who can recognize this guy. It's an Arisaema ringens and why it isn't more popular I don't know. It's probably the sturdiest of all Jack-in-the-Pulpits and it has one of the widest, longest lasting spathes. It's hard to see here but the inside of the spathe is a deep chocolate-purple.

Here's another photo of my 'Octopus' Euphorbia as I call it. It's a E. atropurpurea but it's long twisting branches makes it seem like something from the sea. Note the distinctive deep red flowers.

More kudos for those who can ID this bulb. It's a Homeria and I think H. ochroleuca. Homerias have apparently been reclassified as a Moraea but I love its old genus name. 

I call this shade of pink 'Sunglasses pink' as you'll go blind staring at it without some protection. Vivid, vivid pink. Somewhere out there there should be an ice cream this color!

If this looks like an Azalea, well, yes it is. It's one of the Exbury hybrids, which are deciduous azaleas. You don't see oranges, apricots and golds with evergreen azaleas so the Exbury hybrids have a rather large fan club.

Speaking of those colors, here's a new Ixia in my garden, I. maculata. Love those colors!

Though the colors have faded ever so slightly on this Tulipa viridiflora, I thought it had a certain fading charm to it.

There so many California natives that we keep finding more. This is a Tolmiae
menziesii ‘Taff’s Gold.’ I love the golden new growth.

Abutilon variety. I managed to catch the light shining through some red flowering maple flowers. Lovely!

This charming creature is Ferraria crispa nortieri. Sometimes called Spider iris, Ferrarias are perhaps the most unusual and certainly one of the prettiest bulbs around.

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