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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