Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Lamb of March

Yes, time to turn the calendar page, it's March and with the sunny, warmer day ahead it's coming in like a lamb. These last few days of sun have really stimulated our gardens. No matter where you live and how long the winter season actually is it always feels too long. So when the first few days of sun and warm weather roll around, it's welcomed with open arms (and without the rain gear). Time to weed, time to prep the soil, time to plan where new treasures will go. And time to shop! Our nursery (Grand Lake Ace in Oakland) has been furiously stocking up on new spring plants, including a lot of native annuals. I'll be adding some of those to my garden this week.
Here are a few more photos from my garden, with the emphasis on late winter blooming shrubs. The first of the bulbs are also beginning to bloom - Ipheions, Freesias, Crocus, Ranunculus, Tulips and Ferrarias. To me, bulbs are the gifts that keep on giving, sort of an hors d'oeuvre before the main course of full-on spring.

Ranunculus. Though the blooming season is short, the brilliant colors of Ranunculus make it worth our while. I don't have much luck getting this bulb to bloom a second season so just enjoy them as a cheerful late winter annual. Below is a closeup of an orange variety, so intensely orange that the camera has a hard time recording it properly.

Physocarpus 'Nugget.' This golden-leaved Ninebark shrub leafs out seemingly overnight. It features attractively crinkled leaves and pure white flowers that remind some of Spireas. They soon produce very decorative red seed capsules, making this shrub a 'triple threat.' And bees love the flowers.

Here's my conifer tree bed. The big cascading mass in the lower right is Sphaeralcea munroana. The 'alcea' in its name gives away the fact that it's a member of the mallow family. In the rear center is a thicket of Chasmanthe bicolor, a vigorous S. African bulb that blooms this time of year. In front of it are three primroses, still in bloom, and in front of them is an unusual Abelia (Chiapis). Apart from it being a spiller not a shrub, its claim to fame is its fragrant lavender-colored blooms. 

Grevillea 'Penola.' I love this fuzzy-leaved Grevillea, as much for its foliage as for its pretty red and cream flowers. As I tell customers at our nursery, your shrub will only bloom for 2-3 months so pick one where you also like the foliage. Done and done with this handsome evergreen shrub.

Magnolia stellata. I call these types of Magnolias 'finger' magnolias due to the flower petals looking like fingers spread apart. More fragrant than most magnolias and earlier blooming, it's one of the easiest species to add to your garden, as it's a modest size (6-10'). A great plant for a moon garden.

Crassula species. My neighbor's succulent is in full bloom right now. Lovely! It's a Crassula of some time and most likely a Jade plant (Crassula ovata). Crassulas are one of the easiest succulents to grow and they bloom readily.

This lovely fern's common name says it all - Mossy Soft Shield Fern. It's a Polystichum setiferum ‘Plumosum Densum.’It's a new addition to my garden and it joins an unexpected collection of ferns. Slowly over the years I've added a fern here and a fern there and now I have 25 different species. They're so versatile and for the most part easy to grow.

Everybody knows this plant, commonly called Pink Jasmine for the pink buds that soon open to intensely fragrant white flowers. I have the fortune of both my east and west neighbors having planted specimens many years ago and now they scramble over both fences. Fences may make good neighbors but free jasmine doesn't hurt either.

Allium 'Silver Springs.' It's not cold enough here in Oakland for ornamental onions to do well so I plant them knowing it's a one year delight. Incidentally this is the same genus that gives us edible onions, chives, leeks and garlic. By the way, the Greek word Allium means garlic.

I've added a new Leucospermum to my garden (L. 'Tango'). Its first flower is about to open. To me they are the showiest of the Protea family members and there is a surprising variety of colors available. Besides the common reds and oranges, there's salmon, pink and even yellow. 

Chaenomeles 'Fuji.' One of the newer flowering quinces in my garden, this lovely and hardy late winter bloomer is full of red flowers now. By the way, plants that flower before leaves appear are known as 'hysteranthous' plants. It is thought that the evolutionary advantages of this behavior is explained by a mass of flowers coming out together being more likely to attract a greater number of insects. And the absence of leaves is thought to facilitate wind pollination.

Lachenalia variety. Many Lachenalia flowers are multi-colored. This simple, all yellow one has its own unique charms. 

Sometimes the color of Camellia flowers are at their most intense hue in budded form, as is the case with this C. reticulata 'Bill Woodruff.' In this case, the open flowers are still a pretty intense red but here we see the concentrated form of its deep red tones.

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