Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Every Kind of Garden

The wonderful thing about gardening is that there is the possibility of creating a garden that is uniquely your own. Even if yours is a variation on a theme, the plants you've chosen, how they're laid out, how each has done (for better or worse) and the love and work you've invested in the garden makes it uniquely your own. There are very few rules in gardening, other than planting plants that do well in your micro-climate, so the choices are endless. And you get to choose. There aren't many things in our lives where we get to create something beautiful entirely with our own imagination and hard work. And that we get to share with others.
So, take a moment to appreciate all the creativity you've put into your garden and if it inspires you visit other gardens to see the amazing wealth of creativity out there.
Here are some recent photos from my garden. Things are doing well, though as in most people's gardens, many of my plants are waiting for sun and warmth to really burst forth!

Asarum caudatum and Asarum maximum (Panda-faced ginger). Asarums are one of the toughest ground covers around and one of the most interesting, with their heart-shaped glossy leaves and curious flowers. 

Tricyrtis varieties plus Autumn ferns. They blend well together and all the winter and spring rains have helped the ferns to leaf out quickly and the toad lilies to fill in nice and lushly. 

Abutilon thompsonii. This heavily variegated flowering maple also sports exceptionally pretty peach-colored flowers. Abutilons like a good amount of sun in mild climates, while protecting them from the heat of midday in hotter climates is advised. Blooming machines, they always seem to be filled with flowers, something that delights hummingbirds!

Though the sun somewhat bleached out the pale lavender color on these Clematis 'Belle of Woking' flowers, they are having a banner year. And yes that's a bee on the lower left bloom. Next to it, a Thunbergia 'Arizona Red' is already off and running.

My walkway bed is always colorful, though it is in a bit of an 'in-between' phase, the Dutch iris, Sparaxis and Fressia having finished (and the foliage cleared out) and before the lilies, Agastache, Mimulus and Cuphea Vienco really get going.

I planted a new sweet pea from Annie's (Nimbus) next to my Physocarpus 'Nugget' so it could climb up into it and that's exactly what it's done. For a closeup of the flower see the last photo in this blog entry. Meanwhile, my Physocarpus is already on its way to producing its distinctive showy red seedpods. It does so at an incredibly rapid pace, as if it's on some kind of deadline. 

Here's the front yard bed I call the Sun King bed (Beatles reference). The dwarf snapdragons in the foreground have gone berserk; next to it the Baby Blue Eyes are filling up with sky blue flowers; in back in the bed, I have blue-flowering Wahlenbergia blooming profusely and Eschscholozia californica ssp. maritima 'Coastal Form' (whew that's a mouthful) is filling up with its distinctive yellow and orange poppy flowers. There's pink Ixias in back plus the lovely Ixia 'Buttercup' with its golden flowers.

Speaking of poppies, here's my favorite breadseed type, Orange Chiffon. Just a blindingly saturated orange. To paraphrase that 'Got milk?' commercial, yes with this poppy you've 'Got orange' in spades. Below it is a sprawling Chaenomeles (Flowering quince).

Speaking of orange, here's my Azalea Exbury 'Orange x Tricolor' plant. Love those golds, peaches and oranges that the Exbury hybrids produce. If they spread out, would that make them The Traveling Exburys?' Anyone? Some obscure group with Dylan, Harrison and Petty? Yes, them, the Traveling Wilburys. 

My Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) is finally perking up. Those coppery tufts are bunches of new leaves about to unfurl.

Teucriums may be common (and tough) but that doesn't mean they're not pretty. This new variety, 'Gwen,' is offering up a steady supply of pretty bluish-purple flowers.

"Is that a Kalanchoe?" we sometimes get asked at our nursery and the answer is often yes. These succulents come in all shapes, sizes, leaf form and, well, just about any qualification you can think of. This K. tomentosa 'Chocolate Soldier' is one of the 'fuzzy' Kalanchoes and I guess the chocolate part is the dark brown dotting at leaf tips. It's anyone's guess what the soldier part refers to.

Though not in perfect focus, I wanted to include a shot of my Aquilegia 'Black Barlow.' It went a little wild this year in the blooming dept. 

Pulmonaria hybrid. Though this Lungwort is done blooming I like the spotted leaves so here's a photo. Tougher than they look, they tend to bounce back after going completely dormant in the winter. A shade lover, it can also take some filtered sun, as my my specimen is getting here.

No more teasing "What is this plant?" I've shared several photos of this unusual Abelia before (A. species 'Chiapis'). I say unusual because it features three qualities not found in other Abelia species or hybrids. It's a cascader not a shrub; its flower color is purple not the usual pink or white and most intriguingly its flowers are sweetly fragrant. So glad I found it, as it's very hard to find now.

I've decided to augment my dwarf conifer/Japanese garden plot with a few other plants. The most recent is a Koidzuma fern (Dryopteris koidzumiana or Japanese Wood Fern). I love the coppery new growth and its delicacy helps to balance out the sturdy conifers here.

Okay, not an exciting photo I admit but for Arisaema lovers, the appearance of the highly ornamental spathe is always something to celebrate. Here it's my A. speciosum var. magnificum. Though it isn't easily appreciated against the brown wood fence, the purple spathe also features an especially long whip. 

I thought I'd dug out all the Alstromeria tubers from a front yard bed but I obviously missed one or two and they're back. I swear, these Peruvian lilies will be around at the end of time but I guess if you had to put up with something invasive, at least the flowers are pretty.

Here's the aforementioned Lathyrus 'Nimbus.' This photo is borrowed from Annie's Annuals site and yep my flowers really do look like this. Love that prominent purple veining!

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
 Also, check out Craig Burrows own site at
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.
01 09 10