Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer retreats

Gardening is an all season affair - or as long as one's gardening season lasts - but that said, summer is often a time when we've planted out most of our gardens, be that flower or veggie. If so, that allows us the time to simply enjoy it, share it with friends, do a little deadheading or fertilizing to give we flower gardeners a nicer looking Eden.
A few words about fertilizing for those who primarily tend flower gardens. If the majority of plants in your garden are perennials, then you don't have the opportunity to start over adding nutrition to the soil, as you would when you pull out an annual. Eventually plants do use up the nutrition in the soil and will benefit from a feeding. There are three options. Most people will utilize a granular fertilizer, one that feeds over an extended period of time. I use the EB Stone line of natural fertilizers for this purpose. Alternatively, one can employ a liquid fertilizer. This has the advantage of getting to the roots more quickly but the disadvantage of not lasting as long. Maxsea and fish emulsion are good choices. I tend to use granular for overall feeding and the Maxsea Bloom formula for blooming plants. Lastly one can top dress beds with a soil amendment such as Fir Mulch or Malibu Compost. The nutrition will seep down to the roots.
I sometimes joke to customers that plants and humans are more alike than you would think and that both need to be fed. Feeding your plants strengthens them and helps them to perform at their best.
Okay, here are this week's photos.

My Bouvardia is back. After looking peckish, I pruned it back hard last fall and it returned with vigor this spring. And it has responded to the recent sun, beginning a new bloom season

Jacaranda Bonzai Blue. It still amazes me that there is a dwarf Jacaranda but indeed mine is only 4' tall after 3 years. It looks and acts much more like a dense shrub than the usual tree. Which I prefer, as I love that delicate foliage and I get to enjoy the flowers at eye level.

To those who know Gloriosa lilies, their foliage is unmistakable.  That includes the little curlicues at the tip of each leaf. Of course the red and yellow flowers are the main attraction. I've found this plant to be very reliable and more appear each year.

If this looks like a Aconitum (Monkshood) but not quite that's because this variety, Blue Lagoon, is more blue than deep purple plus it has some green in the flowers. Still poisonous but it's a lovely flower that does well in some shade.

Though the gray skies made this photo a little on the dull side, I wanted to celebrate the first flowers of the year on my Solanum 'Navidad, Jalisco.' It's a very vigorous vine so if you add it to your garden make sure there's room. The flowers are so pretty though that it's worth finding some room.

Impatiens congolense (I. niamniamensis). This unique Impatiens produces waxy bicolor flowers that sprout off the stem. Mine hasn't been lush on the foliage front but it sure blooms easily enough.

Here I thought the purple and gold made for a pretty combo. That's a Choisya 'Sundance' and a Clematis viticella purpurea 'Plena Elegans.'  Though the flowers are small on this clematis, the vivid color and the double form gives it plenty of impact.

'First up then out' might be this Begonia luxuriens' motto. It's shot up quickly but hasn't begun to fill out yet. So, basically, he's my 14 year old son ...

I've taken plenty of photos over the years of my Helenium 'Mardi Gras' but that's because it is one of the most vigorous and floriferous plants in my garden. I consider it a near perfect plant - easy to grow, reliable, a prolific bloomer and very popular with bees (and some butterflies). 

There's nothing much that can match the vivid purple of Trachelium caeruleum flowers. Butterflies love the flowers almost as much as I do. 

I love the colors on this sweet little Dianthus Super Trooper Orange. 

Though a bit shaded, my Eriogonum crocatum is in full bloom now and kind of snaking its way in and around other low growing plants in this median strip bed. CA buckwheats are one of the most valuable plants for local pollinators, so planting some in your garden will help our local birds, bees and butterflies.

I took this shot to show two stages of Phlomis fruticosa's fl;owering. Above, the flower petals have yet to open and below the telltale curved golden flowers have made their first appearance.

Speaking of CA buckwheats, here's my Eriogonum giganteum flower heads. They're about to open their tiny white flowers, an event the bees have on their calendar. They'll soon be swarming the 'patch.'

Calibrachoa 'Grape Cartwheel' Yes, that really is the variety name of this million bells plant. A friend and I have this theory that people who come up with these names are ... umm ... ingesting some mind altering things and then just picking the most outrageous name they can think of.

Hibiscus 'Cherie.' Who doesn't love Hibiscus flowers and this one is one of my faves. Sun lovers, they really do need lots of sun and some regular water to be happy.

Here are two shots of my Lilium regale (Regal lily). Easily one of the MOST fragrant lilies around, it features a yellow throat with green 'landing strip' lines and then the pink ribs on the exterior. Lovely!

Although the common fortnight lily (Dietes vegeta) is seen everywhere (it's a favorite for city crews to plant in-between city streets and along public access areas, there is a better behaved (and some say prettier) species - D. bicolor Here's a photo of one of its flowers, the nearly black 'eyes' offsetting the creamy yellow petals very dramatically.

My Tecoma x smithii has begun blooming and if last year was any indication, there'll be another huge show of flowers this year. Love that orangy-peach color!

I've filled our main walkway with fragrant plants and none more so than this white-flowering version of Heliotropium arborescens. Much more fragrant than the purple-flowering version, it's also longer lived. 

I've shared a shot of my tumbling Begonia boliviensis before but it's just so beautiful it deserves a second showing. Encore, encore!

This CA native Tolmiea's common name is Piggyback plant and that has to be one of the most charming names in the gardening world! Tough and pretty, it makes itself at home in the shade.

Impatiens may be common but that doesn't mean that they aren't lovely. Here a lavender-flowering double Impatiens has made itself at home in my Shady Lane bed. 

Here's one more shot of the unique and pretty Clematis 'Roguchi.' This is as much as the flowers open, making them like a collection of tiny purple bells.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Garden Party

Well, after weeks of prep and a remake of the back yard, I finally hosted the 2017 edition of my annual garden party. Thanks to all who came and thanks to those who'd wanted to come but had a scheduling conflict or a last minute issue. Miraculously, on a day when Oakland set a new temperature record for that day (97 degrees!), a bit of breeze came up in the afternoon and added to the fortunate circumstance that most of the socializing was in the shady back yard, meaning that the weather turned out to be okay.
Regrettably, of the two friends who were going to take photos of the event, one left her camera at home and the other was a last minute cancel so alas no photos! However, I did take some photos of the newly restored back yard right before the event and have posted those below. Added to them are more photos of the garden in its many colorful clothes.
On that note, here are the photos.

Here's the pathway leading to the back yard. I've dubbed it Shady Lane, although with a large Brugmansia gone it gets a lot of morning sun.

Here's the same Shady Lane looking back up towards the front. You can see how narrow the walkway is and equally how narrow the two beds are on either side of the path.

Back yard. Here's a look at the new brick red cement block bed I built two weeks ago. That area next to the fence has undergone a lot of changes over the years. 

Though shadowed somewhat, here is the gravel path that winds around the Philodendron. This year I used golden pebbles in the front half and then transitioned to gray gravel for the back half. 

Here's the back half of the path as it winds itself to the pond over to the right. In the distance is the Tropical Corner, which holds several gingers, a Black bamboo and a Canna Australia.

This view is from the west looking back towards the entrance into the back yard. I know this scene looks 'normal' but I had to do an incredible amount of weeding, even between the cracks in the cement slabs, then sweep it right before the party to have it look this neat.

Here's a wider view of the above shot. On the right side are three Camellias, a Summersweet shrub (Clethra), a Begonia luxuriens, a Weigela 'Rubidor and a Passiflora 'Coral Seas' (all in a narrow bed as well).

Dianella 'Yellow Stripe.' Here's my newish Dianella's first flower sprays. If you look at this photo full size you'll see the charming tiny blue flowers. These will be followed by blue berries so it's a 'blue-on-blue' experience.

Why we love lilies, reason # 89. This is my new Lilium 'Cafe Frappe' and it had the good sense to open the day before the party so all could enjoy it. It's an Asiatic type lily.

Agastache 'Tutti Fruiti.' I didn't realize it when I brought this new Agastache home but it's a prolific bloomer. Delightful to humans (that minty fragrance) and to hummers/bees (nectar) alike.

I sometimes call my Eriogonum giganteum flowerheads 'the cloud' due to its large and flat mass. The tiny individual flowers will soon open and that means bees and butterflies will soon be flocking to it.

One more photo of my amazing Clarkia 'Aurora.' Planted in a bed dense with other flowering plants, it almost has the appearance of a wild meadow. Clarkias, a CA native, do indeed grow in spring meadows in our parts.

A friend at the party commented 'You plant everything so densely and yet it all seems healthy.' That isn't true of every bed but it is of several front yard beds, including this walkway bed. Regular watering and the occasional fertilizing keeps everything happy.

This closeup of my Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue' captures the attractively feathery and dense foliage of this dwarf, bush-like form, as well as the first of the lavender flowers opening from buds.

A friend helped me ID this Salvia as S. hians. I had planted it many, many years ago and I think it died out, so I removed it from my computer list of plants. But it had self seeded in a nearby pot and now it's flourishing there. The bees seem to like it.

Here's another shot of one section of my Japanese Garden, showing the various colors and textures.

And here's a closeup on one of that bed's members - Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea.' The aurea in its name owes to the golden new growth that is especially evident this time of year.

I'm a collector, thus have a host of less common plants in my garden, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the beauty of common plants such as this Calibrachoa 'Volcano Sunrise.' But seriously, "Volcano Sunrise?" 

Okay, all you foodies out there. Do you know this plant? Yes, it's a red Shiso. I'm growing it for its rich, reddish-chocolate foliage. 

My Evolvulus keeps coming back year after year. As you can see, it's starting in with a new bloom season. I'm a fan of 'true blue' flowers and this is one of my favorites.

My 'Silver and Black' (whether you're a Raiders fan or not) makes for an attractive pairing, especially since one (Aeonium 'Zwartkop') has broader leaves and the other (Tillandsia tectorum) has spidery foliage.

Abutilon thompsonii. No truth to the rumor this plant was named in honor of our Klay (although both 'light up' the stage they're on). This flowering maple is supposed to need shade but mine seems to have adjusted to midday sun.

This newly created mini-bed features a relatively new Physocarpus on the market (P. 'Amber Jubilee') plus some golden Hakonechloa, a new lily and some Gladiola acidanthera (both sets of bulbs yet to bloom).

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Happy Solstice!

I'm not sure how this happened but we're only days away from the summer solstice. Summer gets here quickly when you don't really have a spring.
So, get out your own version of the maypole and celebrate the longest day of the year.
Today I have photos of two less common Clematis that are part of my Clematis collection. I thought I'd use that occasion to remind everyone that there (at least) ten categories of this wonderful vine. They are:
Single, large-flowered. 8 petals.
Double large-flowered. Rows of petals.
Montana hybrids (these are very popular and widespread). 4 round petals.
Viticella. I have a double form variety that is one of the two types shown here. 4 separated petals.
Saucer-shaped. These flowers have aslight curvature to the 6 petals.
Star-shaped. 4 slender petals, widely separated.
Open bell-shaped. 4 separated petals. C. alpina is a good representative.
Bell-shaped. Here the 4 petals form more of a closed bell.
Tulip-shaped. An upward-facing group.
Tubular. This is a single structure, with lightly flared tips, such as my C. Roguchi.

Okay, now the photos.

Lonicera sempervirens. This East coast honeysuckle has no fragrance (there's a good trick question to stump your gardening friends "Which climbing honeysuckle has no scent?") but earns its keep with the colorful coral-red flowers (and yellow throats).

Here's one of my specialty Clematis - C. viticella purpurea 'Plena Elegans.' It has delicate, almost miniature rose like flowers. And the mat burgundy color is a delight.

I annointed my newly fashioned raised bed with an Aralia cordata Sun King. I'll eventually add some color around the sides but for now it has the stage to itself.

I'm surprised that everyone doesn't have a Heliotropium 'Alba' in their yard. That scent, vanilla to some and sweet talc powder to others, is a perpetual delight. Longer lived than the purple variety.

Mandevilla laxa. Chilean jasmine offers up one of the headiest aromas in the plant world and I'm sure the whitest, white flowers going. Hardy and prolific, what's not to like?

Platycodon grandiflora. The Balloon flower as it's called - I prefer to call it the little purple alien flower because when closed it has 'dimples' that look like eyes - offers but simple but irresistible charms.

Clarkia 'Aurora.' The showiest of all the clarkias, Aurora goes wild in the blooming department. Here it's taken over over the whole top of my Sun King bed. I describe the color as 'icy peach' but whatever the color is, it's divine. The bees agree.

Phacelia campanularia. Desert bluebells are one way to get a splash of true blue color in your garden. A spiller, a crawler, a wanderer, it spreads its charms wherever there's sun and a bit of water.

Astilbe 'Fanal.' I didn't used to think that astilbes could prosper here - not cold enough in the winter - but my specimen is blooming away in year two so there goes that theory. 

I'm not sure if this is my Salvia canariensis var. candidissima but if not it sure looks like it. Fuzzy, silvery leaves and clusters of little pink flowers are this hardy sage's calling cards.

Abies koreana Kohouts 'Icebreaker.' A long, fancy name for an unusual fir tree. This is a dwarf, with the unusual curled white new leaves.

Eriogonum crocatum. My favorite CA buckwheat. Love the totally silver foliage and the sweet sulphur-yellow flowers. A low grower, it spreads about, seeking the sun.

Here's my other less common clematis. It's C. 'Roguchi,' a tubular type. Just a fantastic grape-purple color and I love the nodding habitat.

Something new from Annie's. It's a new variety of Papaver rhoeas called Pandora. What a fantastic color and this is the first of dozens on the way. This is one 'box' I want to open.

Speaking of something new, here's a new Pineapple lily called Eucomis 'Zulu Flame.' The spotted leaves are the real attraction but all Eucomis have those wonderful towers of waxy flowers.

Salvia spathacea. Hummingbird sage as it's known (though hummers love nearly every kind of salvia) is noteworthy for its ascending whorled inflorescences, dark pink flowers and textured leaves. It doesn't get too big so can be tucked into nearly any garden.

Though this bed needs a bit of cleanup, I wanted to share a photo of my Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud.' This Campanula relative has the prettiest bluish-lavender flowers and the plant is vigorous once established.

Dorotheanthus bellidiformis. Better known as Livingstone Daisy, this South African annual is renowned for its day-glo colors, which range from yellow to pink to orange to red. Unforgettable once you've seen them.

Begonia boliviensis. This is a perfect plant for adding vibrant, cascading  color to a hanging basket.

Brodiaea californica. This CA native bulb is usually a June bloomer, though its strap-like leaves appear in Late March. The flowers are simple, star-shaped but can in time appear in great numbers. The bulbs are edible.

Snapdragon Chantilly Bronze. These flowers start out pink then change to a golden-bronze over time. The Chantilly series (bronze, peach, purple) is one characterized by vigor and a reblooming habit. 

Although it will get much bigger, here's the start of my Amaranthus 'Hopi Red Dye.' It will eventually develop multiple foot long plus tassels that are in fact its seedheads.

One last shot of my Pink Perfect trumpet lily. One word - spectacular!

My 'Ground cover of the Year' award goes to Calylophus drummondianus. Sweet yellow flowers and tougher than it looks, it has spilled attractively out onto the edge of the sidewalk.

Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero.' You don't have to fathom the strange variety name to enjoy the pretty orange 'pocketbooks.'

Hakonechloa macra Aureola. Though this grass is often used for shady locations, it holds onto its gold colors better in a bit of sun. That's what it's getting along my main walkway.
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