Wednesday, May 24, 2017


Today's post is filled with photos so I'll keep my introductory comments to a minimum. Today's post title - Communion - reflects that for many a gardener, time spent in their garden, especially time spent in a kind of lost reverie, comes pretty darn close to a kind of spiritual communion. We talk to our plants, we nurture them, we heal them in our own unique ways, we bring forth their full glory. If that isn't communion I don't know what is.
So here's to 'getting lost' in our gardens, in all the myriad and glorious ways.

Begonia boliviensis variety. This type of begonia is perfect for a hanging basket. It's a tumbler and the dark green, veined foliage provides a nice backdrop to the flame-orange flowers.

Penstemon 'Dark Towers.' This hybrid penstemon features darker leaves and pink-blushed white flowers. One interesting feature is the prominent hairs on the stems and the flowers.

I've recently been buying some beautiful glass objects and one of them, this green tray with a looped handle, was perfect for displaying some tillandsias outside.

Though common and bought as annuals, common mums can actually come back and flower the next year. Here's my copper mum starting to put out flowers in this its second year.

Another of my many Mimulus aurantiacus varieties. I love Sticky Monkey flowers. They're beautiful, long-blooming, drought tolerant and disease-resistant.  That pretty much covers it.

2017 is going to be the year of the lily in my garden. This year I added 12 new varieties and now have 24 different ones. This Lilium Trebbiano is always one of the first to bloom.

Royal blue is a good description of Anagallis flowers. If you look closely in the center-right part of the image you'll see a black bumblebee foraging for nectar.

A new addition to my garden (I just planted it today), this Hydrangea 'Glowing Embers' offers exceptionally pretty rose-pink flowers.

Though not the best of photos, my Kalanchoe Elk Antlers has turned an unexpected deep brown. 

Though this is my neighbor's Calandrinia spectabilis, it's looking so wonderful I thought I'd include a photo.

Anyone know this flower? It's Franchoa sonchifolia. Not as well known as it should be, this partial shade lover can be a prolific bloomer. My two year old plant currently has 7 flowering spikes in various stages of growth, all off the one plant. Exceptionally pretty and exceptionally tough, always a good combo.

The sun shining on my Lilium 'Pink Perfection' doesn't show off how deep the burgundy-pink color is on this trumpet lily. Like most trumpets, the stalks are tall (4-6') and the flowers large (5-7"). A real showstopper.

Fuchsia Autumnale. People buy this scrambling fuchsia for its colorful foliage, though the pink flowers are pretty too.

The latest 'love of my life,' this dwarf fir bush (Abies koreana Kohout's Icebreaker) is very difficult to find and often expensive. I ordered mine from Oregon. One of the most striking of the extreme dwarf firs (or any conifer).

Japanese Garden. This is my own miniature Japanese Garden. It's populated with dwarf species. It's hard to see but on the far right is the new Icebreaker dwarf fir.

Lathyrus 'Almost Black.' Well named, this deep, deep purple sweet pea kind of disappears into the shadows.

Phacelia minor. Less common than the other Phacelias but just as beautiful, this one is more of a scrambler than a bush and has flowers that are the most pronounced in tubular form of any Phacelia.

Those light lavender star-shaped flowers look like a Campanula but in fact they're a Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud.' It's related to a Campanula but it more drought tolerant, blooms longer and is more tenacious.

Want a bit of gardening nirvana? Plant a Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' in a semi-enclosed spot, where its intensely sweet smell can congregate. Mine is planted along a narrow walkway, and against a wall, and its perfume is simply intoxicating.

Clarkia 'Salmon Princess.' So many clarkias, so little space ...

There's nothing quite like Centaurea 'Blue Diadem.' That purplish-blue cornflower color is simply dreamy. This is my specimen's first flower so I have many more to enjoy in the month ahead.

Gilia capitata. This CA native wildflower is vigorous, colorful and sort of fun. Its common name, Thimbleflower, owes to the thimble-shaped domed flowers. Always popular with butterflies and bees, this is an annual I grow every year. It also reliably self seeds.

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Cherie.' Who doesn't love Hibiscus?

I wanted to take more of a closeup of my Cotinus Royal Purple flower/seedhead. The airy, smoky cluster is a vehicle for the dispersal of the actual seeds, which you can identify here as the dark brown 'dots.'

Another, older, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis variety. They're blooming early this year.

Hibiscus trionum. This unusual hibiscus offers up pale butter-yellow petals with a magenta center ring. It goes deciduous in the winter but then pops back up in the late spring as the weather warms. 

Asarina erubescens 'Bridal Bouquet.' Vigorous, a long bloomer, soft, felty leaves. Lots to like about this easy to grow climber.

Calceolaria Kentish Hero. Everyone's favorite orange-blooming 'pocketbook.' This one is a short-lived perennial, as opposed to the annual Calceolaria mexicana, though the latter species is known to self-seed.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A time to reflect

Chances are many of us in the Bay Area have been hard at work in our gardens this last month, once all the rain stopped. There was endless weeding, a lot of trimming, container maintenance, fixing of trellises etc. But here we are in mid-May and I think we deserve a little breather to just sit and enjoy the fruits of our labors. Smell the roses as it were. It's funny how easy it is to forget to do that - to simply step back and enjoy our gardens. Chat with the neighbors, especially those who are fellow gardeners. Swap stories of loss but also of triumph in our gardens.
On this note, I once again recommend two activities to you. First is to keep a journal. The mere walking through the garden and jotting down new developments or spontaneous thoughts is itself peaceful and most enjoyable. Secondly, take photos. Nowadays our smart phones offer us the chance to take brilliant photos and it's so easy. Not only is it fun sharing these photos but it's a kind of record in time of where your garden was at that moment. Our gardens are always in transition but taking photos allows you to capture a series of moments, both for the record and to enjoy later ("Oh, yes, this is when that new Hydrangea was starting to fill out").
On that note, here are the latest photos from my garden. Enjoy!

Collinsia species 'Purple Chinese Houses.' This new, deeper purple variety is indeed a richer purple. Not sure what the common name alludes to but in any case this native annual is a colorful delight. 

I joke that my black Aeonium Zwartkop and silver Tillandsia tectorum is my secret Oakland Raiders reference but in case they do make a vivid combo. 

My Pelargonium crispum Variegated Lemon is so vigorous it's grown through the slots of our fence through to the other side. And is blooming. This is a wonderfully scented variety.

Clarkia Salmon Princess.  This was supposed to be the new Salmon Queen, a double form, but a misplaced ID tag resulted in me taking the Princess instead. Still pretty but next year I'll try my luck again with the Queen.

This oriental lily, Black Eye, returned even more vigorous in year two, no doubt helped by all the rain. Love that intense burgundy center and I'm sure that next year, as it continues to multiply, it will put on quite the show.

Cynoglossum amabile. The tall Chinese forget-me-not  as it's known is a prolific bloomer and there's no substitute for that gorgeous robin's egg blue color.

Here's my latest Calibrachoa - Tropical Sunrise. It's just been planted but soon it will fill out and spill over the front of this wooden planter.

My Cotinus Royal Purple went crazy on the blooming front this year. Here's another photo. Sometimes where there's 'smoke' there is no fire, though this tree is worthy of stopping traffic. 

Another shrub that benefited from all the rain, my Tecoma x smithii has begun blooming a little earlier than usual. I'm expecting a bonanza of flowers this year.

Papaver 'Naughty 90s' and Callistemon viminalis. Both flowers are popular with hummers and bees. And, as it turns out, with humans as well, which is why I located them close to the sidewalk.

"What is that bush?!"  I get this question a lot from passersby and most are delighted when I tell them "Marmalade bush." And really, I count this as one of the great and most accurate common names. I sometimes get asked "Are the flowers edible?" Ahh, no, but they do look yummy. Streptosolen answers the question "How much do you really like orange?" The answer has to be "A lot" to locate this in your yard but I do love it.

Though I'm not a card carrying 'pel lover,' I do have several Pelargoniums in my garden. Here are two more. The variegated leaf one in front is a scented pel and the one in the back with the pink and white flowers is called 'Raspberry Twizzle.' 

Sometimes called 'Cherry Bells' this purple form of Campanula punctata is a vigorous bloomer and tends to spread by underground rhizomes. I love those nodding flowers and the way it takes care of itself.

To this plant I say "Go ahead and mock me." That is, Ms. Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile' go ahead and give me lots of those deliciously scented mock orange flowers. For some reason this variety is more intensely scented than my CA native P. lewisii 'Covelo,' which is literally right across the walkway.

The Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy' is the star of the show right now in my Sun King bed but there's lots going on here.

Coprosma 'Pina Colada.' This colorful Mirror plant is loving the sun and holding onto it's multi-colored palette.

Eriogonum giganteum. Known as St. Catherine's Lace for its clusters of delicate white flowers - here forming but yet to open - this is one impressive and robust plant. CA Buckwheats are valuable plants for local pollinators.

One last photo of my gorgeous Lathyrus 'Nimbus.' Beautiful and fragrant. Nuff said. 

Cupheas need their own cheering section. "Cu-fee-ahhs!!" They're vigorous, long blooming, popular with hummers and humans and reliable. This one is C. purpurea 'Firecracker.'

A simple hanging basket Fuchsia but who can resist them?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

April Showers Bring ...

As the sunny days stretch on, the way they normally do this time of year in the Bay Area, one can almost forget the six months of rain. Almost. That moisture is paying dividends now, especially with trees and shrubs in our gardens. It seems hard to believe, since spring seemed about two weeks long, but summer is around the corner and summer plants are already showing up in nurseries and garden centers. And some of us are wait, I didn't even get to enjoy my spring natives. Well, not quite but growers have largely moved on to summer perennials.
Here's a sampling of the 'still spring' flowers in my garden.

Here's my Sun King bed, the deep burgundy leaves being my Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy,' the yellow flowers the Maritima CA  poppy, and the reddish-pink flowers in rear my new Mimulus Jelly Bean Dark Pink.

Snapdragon Chantilly Bronze. Still going strong and one that changes color from pink, to peach to a light bronzey-yellow as the flowers age. The purple flowers beside it are the Ca native Phacelia minor.

Streptosolen. I've joked with friends that you can probably spot my Marmalade bush from Google Earth it's so large and bright. Slow to establish but once it gets a foothold it's one of the hardiest and easiest shrubs you'll ever grow. Drought tolerant too.

Orange and blue are two very popular colors for gardeners and I'm no exception. One of my favorite blues is Anagallis monellii. It's an annual but it does bloom profusely while it's around. Some would describe it as a gentian blue.

Aquilegia 'Yellow Queen.' One of the easiest and hardiest of all columbines, my returns faithfully every year. One of the larger varieties of the chrysantha species, this one really lights up a part shade location.

Callistemon viminalis. Little known fact, this genus hails from Jamaica (Calliste-mon). Okay that was a bad joke but when words are your trade you have to have a little fun. This species of Bottlebrush tree is a dwarf, only reaching about 6' in height, so good for small gardens. 

Here's a new Calluna vulgaris called Winter Chocolate. As you can see, it's pretty darn lime green right now so the chocolate color will come when the weather gets colder. Callunas are a type of heather and the flowers are similar to Ericas.

Baby Blue Eyes. There's just no substitute for the robin's egg blue color of Nemophila menziesii. A California native annual, it does actually grow in the higher meadows of the East Bay. Like many native annuals it's good at broadcasting seed.

Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum 'Shasta Sulphur.' This California native is found in the middle elevations of the Sierra Nevada mountains. One of the California buckwheats as they're known, it's one of the prettier yellow blooming species. Drought tolerant and one of the best plants for pollinators, Eriogonums make a great addition to your garden.

Cynoglossum amabile.  This tall 'Chinese forget-me-not' is an easy way to add blue to your spring garden. I like this taller version because it's easier to see and thus appreciate the small blue flowers.

Dianthus x superbus 'Bearded.' Bearded is perhaps a misleading description. 'Fringed' seems more apt but in any case this is one fun (and vigorous) carnation to grow.

Cuphea purpurea 'Firecracker.' This is a smaller-flowering version of the bat-faced cuphea. It has the same red ears and purple 'snout' but the flowers are smaller than those of the Cuphea llaveas. I love Cupheas; there's so many different ones, they're easy to grow and tough and they have a very long bloom season.

Most gardeners are familiar with the inky-blue flowers of Salvia patens. Here's a new icy-blue variety called Patio Sky Blue. I love it, in part because I'm a sucker for that pale blue color. This variety seems to possess the same leaves and growth habit of the straight species. 

Fuchsia 'Golden Gypsy.' This fuchsia barely paused in the winter before resuming blooming. It's one of the hanging basket hybrids that are prone to being afflicted by that nasty fuchsia mite but so far my specimen has escaped that fate. 

Ruellia elegans. These are the first two flowers on my red Ruellia so consider this a preview. It's one tough customer, having survived a poor placement, mediocre soil, being swamped by my Summersweet shrub and well, just about everything. Somehow it toughed it out.

Passiflora 'Oaklandii.' An Annie's cultivar, this has proven to be one vigorous long blooming plant. Each flower is 5-6" across, making it one of the larger passion flower blooms.

One is normally photographing the antler-shaped fertile fronds on a Staghorn fern. Here's a photo of the sterile frond on my specimen. They're just as beautiful in their own right, with that interesting 'crackled' pattern.

I love recommending Heleniums to customers. Now going on its nineth year, my H. 'Mardi Gras' is a blooming machine. It's just starting up for the season but will now bloom continuously almost till year's end. Bees love the nectar-rich flowers and are regular visitors.

Papaver 'Naughty Nineties.' This is one of the most extravagant of the breadseed poppies and even one flower is enough to stop traffic. 

And the first of my million lilies to open is ... Black Eye. This beauty has one of the richest, most velvety centers and it's proving vigorous too. If there is a perfect summer bulb it's lilies. So many great colors and styles, not fussy at all like say glads can be, return faithfully each year and are quite adaptable to full sun or a little shade.

Asarinas might be the best kept secret in the 'smaller vines' category. Here's my A. 'Joan Lorraine,'  one of the most popular of the scandens species types. This species features delicate leaves and smaller tubular flowers while the Asarina erubescens varieties have much larger, soft almost felty leaves and slightly larger flowers in either pink (species) or white (Bridal Bouquet). There's also the lovely A. purpusii 'Victoria Falls' and the very colorful A. wislizensis 'Red Dragon.'

Plectranthus zuluensis. This larger plectranthus has lighter (lime) green leaves and gets much taller (5-8'). Usually a fall bloomer it's decided to bloom this spring.
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