Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Patience, grasshopper

I am not a patient person and that extends to gardening. I can be the person watching the proverbial pot, waiting for it to boil. I once found an engraved stone in a garden shop that sums up my gardening persona - "Grow Dammit." That said, I have learned through the years to be more patient with my plants/beds/garden. I give my plants what is hopefully optimal conditions but I have learned that some plants just take their time. To state the obvious, a plant's timetable is directly affected by temperature, amount of light and moisture, condition of the soil and its ability to fight off disease and insects. If it's a cool spring like we had this year, that's going to delay plants that need sun and heat. On the other hand, all that rain made my shrubs and trees go into overdrive. I tell customers this all the time but sometimes it can be a matter of 'Do as I say, not as I do.' I am learning. Slowly. And as we all know, the hard won battles can be the sweetest. You've stuck with it, not given up hope, kept the faith, paid attention to what is going on with the plant, nurtured it and in the end, success!
And now photos of a few of the successes, some that came easy and some where I was the 'grasshopper.'

I thought the patterned sun on my Heliotropium 'Alba' gave it a mysterious look. This shrub is tougher than it looks and after deadheading gets down to the business of blooming again.

Not the most elegant shot of my Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' but this shot gives you a hint of its delicate beauty. This is a small tree/shrub that should be better known. As the variety name suggests, this is a dwarf form.

Helleborus argutifolius Pacific Frost.Though it's the 'off season' for hellebores, the foliage on this variety looks attractive year round. Lenten roses are one of the great versatile plants for the garden.

Okay, last shot of my Portulaca 'Rio Scarlet.' I just love that color and here it's matched up with my equally colorful Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.'

Mirabilis jalapa. Though the yellow flowers aren't open, I thought the little bursts of gold against the green gave this specimen an interesting look. There isn't anything easier to grow in the world than Four O'Clocks and they self-seed like crazy. Oh and they grow quickly and flower readily. Other than them bringing you waffles in bed, how much more can you ask of a plant?

Celosia argentea Sunday Wine Red. A little time in the sun was all it took to get this Celosia to acquire that marvelous color. This is the 'real' celosia, not the tiny bedding ones you see in garden centers which are hybrids. Did you know that Celosia seeds are edible?

With my zoom lens on the fritz, this is as close as I could get to my Vigna caracalla, better known as Snail vine. That common name owes to the purple and white corkscrew flowers. If you can get close enough to the flowers to smell, they have a wonderfully heady fragrance.

As the saying goes - "What?" As in, what is this a shot of? It's a spent stalk of my gorgeous Lilium Flore Pleno (a double form tiger lily). Those black "berries" are called bulbils and it's one of the way that certain lilies self-propagate. Once they begun to form tiny roots, they can be 'harvested' and used to grow new lilies.

One of my favorite Salvias is S. guaranitica 'Black and Blue.' I'm not alone in loving that intense purple color and the characteristic black bracts (say 'black bracts' real fast ten times). It's fast growing, quick to bloom and of course popular with hummingbirds. 

Quick, name the ten plants that have the softest foliage. One of them would surely have to be Phylica plumosa. Soft doesn't even do justice to how silky this South African's foliage is. Easier to grow than its reputation, it really just needs good drainage and lots of sun.

Blechnum gibbum 'Silver Lady.' This New Zealand native is often referred to as a shorter tree fern. It can reach a still considerable size of 4-6.' It's one of the so-called "shuttlecock" ferns, a shuttlecock being the thing that badminton players hit. Alternately, it can be considered to have a vase form. Any way you describe it, it's a beauty.

I show the glowing Bouvardia ternifolia not only for its scarlet beauty but as an example of the virtues of pruning. It had gotten straggly last year so in November I pruned it back hard. It took awhile but it eventually began to sprout new leaves, which became branches, which became flowering branches! With its tubular red flowers, it's a hummer favorite.

Speaking of red and hummers, my Epilobium canum is enjoying a prolific bloom season. The bees find it irresistible too. California fuchsia as it's known, is drought tolerant and long lived, if it's given good drainage and adequate sun.

My Aralia cordata 'Sun King' would be a terrific addition to any part shade garden even if it never bloomed. But if you look closely, you can see sprays of tiny green flowers. These will eventually turn a creamy white color, followed (if I'm lucky) by black berries.

My Impatiens congolense (syn. niamniamensis) has outgrown its container (thus the straggly growth) but that hasn't stopped it from blooming prolifically.

Though Nicotianas are thought of as shade plants, that hasn't stopped my N. grandiflora from reaching out to grab as much sun as it can in this otherwise filtered sun bed.

Speaking of white, my Mandevilla laxa flowers are about as pure and as intense as white gets. A perfect addition to any white or moon garden, especially since the flowers are sweetly fragrant.

Speaking of 'shade or sun,' this Hakonechloa macra aureola, often used in shady beds, is in my garden planted in quite a bit of sun. So far so good. More sun is thought to bring out more of the golden colors, while in shade the greens have more of a presence.

Being a lover of true blue flowers, I never get tired of photographing my Evolvulus. Related to ground morning glory (Convolvulus, which as you can see is virtually the same word), it slowly spreads and has, for me, filled in densely.

Though a zoom lens could have provided a closeup of this Manulea altissima's flower, I mostly include this photo to introduce this little know plant to readers. This South African perennial's claim to fame is its unique fragrance, described as sweet and sour at the same time. I've smelled mine and, well, it's a bit more on the sweet side but there's an undertone that's a bit wrinkly to one's nose.

There's something I love about Hunnemannia fumariifolia flowers. The pure lemon yellow petals? The frilly orange centers? Incidentally, someone loved double letters in naming this plant. The genus has two sets of 'n's' and the species has back to back 'i's'.

I love peach and apricot tones and this lovely Hibiscus 'Cherie' has that in spades.

Deppea splendens. Splendid indeed, this now extinct native of Chiapis Mexico has the most amazing flowers, appearing in bunches like the most delicious fruit. Mine has prospered more now that I've moved it into a bit more sun.

Amorphophallus konjac. This arum family member has yet to mature enough to form its spectacular flower/spathe but here the backlit leaves have a beauty all their own.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Summer is dead, long live summer

Kids back in school, football once again on the tube, the occasional cool night. It's nearly fall, right? As Foghorn Leghorn would say "I say, hol', I say hol', I say hold on there son!" We often get our warmest weather in September and October so there's plenty of summer to go around. Of course tell that to the plants, especially the annuals, which have their own timetable.
Summer is a time of bounty in my garden and here are some recent photos to show off some of the color I get to enjoy when I walk out in my little corner of paradise.

Crassula alba v. parvisepala. That's a long name for one of the easiest and most floriferous succulents. As you can see, fiery red flowers but hidden behind them are flat, bluish petals that lend this crassula the name Propeller plant.

This backlit shot of my Lupinus pilosus is pretty but doesn't show off the intense royal blue colors of the petals.

Do you have the pictures of your garden stored in the 'cloud.' Here's another kind of cloud, that being a Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud.' A Campanula relative that loves the sun, this guy blooms its heart out all summer and fall and is surprisingly tough. Once established, it's off and running.

Here's my favorite new plant, Sesbanii tripetii. Love those flowers, as well as the Clianthus-like foliage.

Regular readers know that I love dwarf conifers. Here's a new one I've added to my Japanese Garden - Cryptomeria Sekkan-sugi. Stately and the variegated foliage lights up the mostly shady bed.

My Celosia 'Sunday Wine Red' started off mostly green but as it's spent more time in the sun it's acquired its signature burgundy foliage. It will soon sprout familiar rosy-red feathery plumes.

My Golden sedum just keeps on ticking, taking a variety of lickings. Pure golden tones with bronze tips, it seems to glow in the sun.

Here I was trying to capture the way my Begonia Illumination Apricot flowers seem to capture and hold the light. They do actually seem to glow!

This simple purple flower belongs to my Ruellia brittoniana. Hard to find but incredibly vigorous, it's already outgrown its pot. Love those flowers though.

There's something familiar about this red and white petunia. Hmm, I can't quite put my finger on it. Oh, yes, a flag. Not Switzerland as one might guess but the flag of Great Britain (as opposed to England's Union Jack). Except of course the flag has a simple red cross against a white background.

My Chantilly Bronze snapdragon keeps pumping out flowers, which begin pink then age to a golden bronze.

This charming flower belongs to a Justicia fulvicoma. Hard to come by but worth tracking down, it has 'cocktail' like flowers that are exceptionally pretty.

Here I was trying out an 'artsy' shot, photographing a cluster of my Tecoma x smithii flowers in front of a car window. You can see my image in the lower center part of the frame, as well as through the windows to the car parked across the street.

A new piece of art for my garden, this 'gazing globe' is floating in my pond. It's orange with painted representations of flowers on both sides.

Abutilon thompsonii. I chose this variegated flowering maple mainly for the foliage but the peach-colored flowers are quite pretty too.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Growing Herbs

Most people who grow herbs do so to use in cooking. This is a time honored tradition stretching back thousands of years. However one can also grow herbs for their beauty. The genus Origanum (Oregano) alone has a dizzying array of beautiful varieties, including golden-leaved specimens, those with variegated leaves and ones like Kent Beauty that have showy pink bracts. Thyme is every bit as impressive, with dozens of varieties commonly available. The range of scents is wider with this genus, almost rivaling mint for the breadth of aromatic pleasures. Savory (Satureja) is a surprisingly varied genus, with not just summer (S. hortensis) and winter (S. montana) savory in this genus but Yerba Buena (S. douglasii). There's also the very pretty, and aromatic, Satureja mimuloides.
Of all the common herbs, sage (Salvia) exhibits the greatest diversity. Even if you restrict yourself to the edible (as opposed to the ornamental) sages, the range is impressive. Once you venture into ornamental species and varieties there are literally hundreds available on the market.
And don't get me started on Basil, which at this very moment is seemingly taking over the world.
Even a genus with fewer representations such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) has in recent years produced some interesting new varieties.
One is only limited by one's imagination as to the types of herbs and how they are creatively planted in fashioning an herb garden.
And now this week's photos, another moment in time in this garden.

Billbergia variety. This spotted Billbergia produces the most eye-catching blooms. Red bracts eventually yield tubular white flowers that are tipped with vibrant cyana blue.

Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.' This double form morning glory is a showstopper. Saturated fuchsia-pink petals with white centers provide a real pop, especially against the sea of green leaves.

Chrysocephalum. I just love the combination of silvery foliage and bright yellow flowers. This spreading ground cover is an easy and drought tolerant choice.

My three Callunas are all blooming. Here's my C. 'Bradford' showing off pink flowers against dark green foliage. Heathers are tough plants generally, as long as they're not over-watered.

I mentioned growing herbs for beauty in this blog's opening and here's one that certainly fits the bill. It's Red Shiso and I just love the burgundy-chocolate tones.

I've been told that this beautiful Sesbanii tripetii can be a bit invasive but I'm growing mine in a pot on a cement driveway so I'm pretty sure I'm safe. It's an ornamental member of the legume family. It has Acacia-like leaves (Acacias also a legumes member) and pea-shaped flowers. Very pretty!

Correa 'Wyn's Wonder.' My favorite Correa, both for the variegated foliage and the lush pink tubular flowers. An Aussie native, it is tough and adaptable, putting up with quite a bit of sun here in Oakland but handling some shade too. Very drought tolerant once established but okay with a bit of regular water, which is what I'm giving mine.

Even when it's not in bloom I think my Leucospermum 'Veldfire' is lovely. The lightly serrated, glaucous leaves are limned with a touch of pink.

I'll admit I love my new Calibrachoa 'Grape Cartwheel.' The name is proof positive that those coming up with variety names have two dartboards of names. They throw a dart at the left one (Grape) and then a dart at the second one (Cartwheel).

Here's my Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade' nestled in among the golden foliage of a Physocarpus 'Nugget.' Great color combo.

I recently did an article on Caudiciforms for Pacific Horticulture Magazine and here's one of the 'fat plants' that I mentioned - Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii. Once you start collecting caudiciforms it's hard to stop.

One of my favorite succulents, Crassula alba v. parvisepala blooms readily. Here it's formed a number of clusters that will open to vivid red flowers. This plant also features dramatically red-spotted leaves. Would that make this a Stanford Cardinal plant perhaps? Hmm.

Mina lobata. Wanted to share a shot of this 'Exotic Love Vine' climbing up my wall. Someone should really rename this plant the Chameleon Plant, as its flowers progress from bright red to orange to golden yellow to pale yellow to white. "For my next trick ..."

Echeveria pulvinata. One of the most interesting of the Echeverias, this species features fuzzy - and I mean Fuzzy - leaves and vibrant red flowers in great abundance.

Browallia. These are 6-pk starts so still very tiny. Still, Browallia's a great way to add a pop of purple to a shady bed.

Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' One of the most popular cane begonias, Irene Nuss is named after, well, Irene Nuss, a famous plant breeder. She lives on in this fabulous cultivar.

Speaking of purple for shade, Tradescantias are a nice option. They have simple, tri-lobed flowers that feature a saturated purple. Easy to grow and tough.

Proving that sometimes it IS the foliage, here's my Begonia 'Gryphon.' Huge palmate leaves, silver colors prominently veined with green. Fabulous.
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