Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Summer to Fall

It's only mid-August I know but gardens operate on a slightly different calendar. Depending on one's zone and what you have planted, some of us are entering the Late summer/Early fall period. This is the season for perennial color from things like Caryopteris, Rudbeckias, Heleniums, Gaillardias and Hibiscus and in shady beds Begonias and Nicotianas. It's also the time for early fall perennials like Salvias, which start showing up in nurseries in great numbers (and varieties) and Toad lilies (Tricyrtis). These 'transition' seasons are more common in gardening than in many other parts of life, though of course for parents this is the transition from summer to kids back in school.
Today's photos reflect this transition season.

Golden Oregano. Although this an edible oregano, I just loved the color. I have it planted in a bed with some catmint, silver thyme and Lemon Balm.

Though its softer colors are less obvious in its bed, this Agastache 'Summer Glow' offers up charming butter yellow flowers much beloved by hummers and bees.

Hebe andersonii variegata. I love Hebes and this variegated species holds lots of interest, even before it blooms. Speaking of bees, Hebe flowers are near the top of the destination list for bees.

Hibiscus 'Cherie.' To quote Stevie Wonder "My Cherie Amour."

Deppea splendens. This South African shrub always makes people stop and go "What is that?" Burgundy bracts suspended on ultra-thin stems sport golden yellow tubular flowers. Fab.

Kalanchoe is a diverse and mysterious genus and one of its odder species is K. prolifera. San Marcos says of these Blooming Boxes "A fast growing and interesting succulent plant with 6+ feet tall typically unbranched stems holding foot long pinnately compound succulent green leaves in opposite pairs that have reddish purple colored petioles and leaf margins when grown in bright light." It may not be obvious from this photo but the leaves curl up into little open troughs. Fascinating.

Lepechinia hastata. This Pitcher sage as it's known, has the softest, feltiest leaves, whose woodsy aroma is quite intoxicating. And that's before the masses of burgundy flowers appear in the early fall.

To prove its diversity, here are two more completely different Kalanchoes. This familiar 'flapjack' type of Kalanchoe is a K. 'Fantastic.' It features highly decorative marbling on its leaves. The patterns change throughout the seasons, especially when cold weather appears.

This serrated, darkened leaf variety is Kalanchoe 'Elk Antlers.' A bit less dangerous than real elk antlers, something I can attest to, and of course a lovely chocolate brown.

Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' Though it hasn't begun blooming, this golden-leaved Caryopteris is already filling out. Their bluish-purple flowers are a magnet for butterflies.

I've shared photos of my Tecoma x smithii flowers before. This is an interesting shot, with the top blooms ablaze in the sun and the lower flowers showing a darker hue. This cluster almost looks like low hanging fruit.

My newest Hebe, H. hinerua. I was drawn to it because the foliage reminds me of conifers. It's a shorter species that is said to be native to New Zealand. It's a whipcord type but one with softer leaves that many whipcords.

Begonia Nonstop Deep Salmon. The Nonstop line of begonias is well named. Mine blooms over a 4-6 month period and the colors are, well ... WOW. The color is so rich that the camera can't completely capture all the detail.

And the winner is ... me! I took a chance ordering this Clerodendrum fragrans through the mail, not sure what would happen. But it's been robust from the beginning and though it's supposed to be a spring bloomer, it just put out two small clusters of these tiny rose-like blooms. Very fragrant!

As I mentioned, we're in the toad lily season. Here's a closeup of my Tricyrtis formosana 'Samurai.' Purple flowers are quite common among toad lilies, though this variety is prominently spotted.

Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' My two Irene Nuss plants were a little slow getting going this year - lack of spring sun perhaps - but they're kicking into blooming gear now. Love 'em, especially those red-backed scalloped leaves.

Begonia Angelwings type. I've learned not to give up on Begonias. My Angelwing looked crappy from November to July but now has burst forth with a nice crop of spotted leaves and its first pink flowers.

Fallopia japonica variegata. This mostly foliage plant offers some of the greatest contrasting colors of any plant you'll grow. Dark greens are offset by vivid whites in an ever changing Rorschach.

Though this shot of my Summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) flower isn't in perfect focus, they're such a pretty flower I decided to include it. With its one-of-a-kind sarsaparilla scent it's a great fragrant plant for a part shade location.

Plectranthus fosteri aureus variegatus. So many Plectranthus, so little time ...

One last Begonia, B. 'Fanny Moser.' The appeal here is the midnight green foliage. Though the spots are less obvious, this is an Angelwing type.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

To Pea or Not to Pea?

One of the articles I hope to eventually write for Pacific Horticulture Magazine is a piece on the great variety of ornamental plants that belong to the Fabaceae family (the legume family). Apart from edible beans and peas, this family includes genera as diverse as Acacia, Lotus, Cytisus (broom), Vigna, Laburnum, Swainsona, Clianthus, Lupinus, Cercis (redbud) and Wisteria. What they all share in common, visually wise, are flowers fashioned in a pea shape. Add one more unusual member to that list, Sesbania tripetii. This native of Brazil and Argentina can grow quickly to a good size - thus it works as an annual in cold climates - but here in the milder parts of the Bay Area it will act as a perennial. It features, as you can see in the photo below, vivid reddish-orange flowers and foliage that will remind some strongly of Clianthus. Just one more member of this amazing family.
And now, more photos from my early August garden.

Sesbania tripetii. The pea-shaped flowers aren't obvious in this shot but this colorful tree produces clusters of them in the summer and fall.

I recently bought three 4" diameter globes from Pier 1 and here's one of them. Art goes so well with plants, don't you think?

This charming little succulent is Portulaca 'Rio Scarlet.' Love those flowers. Here the idea is for it to spill over the front of this pot, which also holds an Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.'

Hebe ochracea EC Stirling. This whipcord hebe sports scintillating orangy-gold colors and scale-like leaves (as do all the whipcords). A lovely smaller-sized hebe and perfect for a container.

Another shot of my fabulous Lilium Scheherezade. Beauty and fragrance!

Lilium 'Black Beauty.' With its dramatic spotting, rich red colors and the apple-green ribs, this is one fabulous lily.

Begonia 'Gryphon.' This is one begonia you grow for the leaves. Very decorative, with especially large leaves for this type of hybrid, it makes a great focal point in a shady spot.

I still have yet to ID this lovely fern but it has been a faithful evergreen specimen for 8 years now. My interest in ferns keeps expanding, as is evidenced by my newest fern, the Siebold's Wood fern (see photo below). In fact I'm doing an article on broadleaf ferns for the Winter 2017 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine.

Sometimes it is equally about the leaves, as is the case with Aristolochia fimbriata. This pint-sized Dutchman's Pipe only gets to 18" and the flowers are small (though interesting) but the leaves make for an attractive, snaking ground cover.

Clerodendrum fragrans. Here is a flower cluster in bud form, the vibrant wine-colored buds offsetting the verdant foliage very nicely. This species of glory bower may be hard to find but it's worth the effort, especially for those wanting to add a tropical element to their garden.

Dryopteris sieboldii. This broadleaf fern (Siebold's Wood fern) is one of the most unusual undivided ferns available on the market.From its curved leaves, to the lightly leathery fronds and the ways the fronds display in horizontal planes, this is one singular fern. It's also tougher than it looks, able to withstand some dryness once established.

There's nothing quite like a stand of Nicotiana grandiflora, with its pure white, star-shaped fragrant flowers. I planted it under my studio neighbor's window so she could enjoy its early evening perfume.

I thought the dappled light on this Coleus made for a very pretty image so here it is.

Here's a relatively new begonia on the market - B. 'Fannie Moser.' It's an Angelwing type, with spotting on its handsome dark leaves.

My Mina lobata is beginning to flower but here I wanted to showcase its leaves. One look and you can see that it's a morning glory relative.

No 'bleeding heart' this Dicentra. That is, it's not your typical Bleeding Heart plant, with its climbing habit and bright yellow flowers. One of the easiest - and most rewarding - plants to grow.

I still haven't found a place for my Nandina 'Firepower' but it's certainly offering up great color while still in its pot.

Though my Jacaranda Bonzai Blue is finished flowering, it still has its attractive. lush foliage to enjoy. This dwarf, bush form of the familiar purple-flowering tree has all the virtues of the tree form but is able to fit into smaller gardens like mine.

Another shot of my walkway bed. Right now the color comes from the Agastache in the foreground, the Cuphea in the center and the Tiger lilies and Helenium 'Mardi Gras' in the rear.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Bloom Days of Summer

For many gardeners, this time of year isn't the 'dog days of summer' but rather the Bloom Days of Summer. A lot of our hard work is paying off in the wealth of summer blooming plants. Don't forget to help your favorite summer bloomers with a bit of Bloom fertilizer. Whether that's a granular 0-10-10 or the Maxsea Bloom (3-20-20), your flowers will appreciate the extra boost. My logic is this: you invested money in the buying of the plant and soil; you've cared for it tirelessly as it's progressed and now finally when it begins to flower you don't want to give it that extra little boost. It's like going to a buffet and having just the one course. And don't be stingy with the water during the bloom season. Don't over-water your plants of course but nothing causes flowers to not reach their full glory and wither prematurely more than going dry.
Okay, here is wherefore I speak, this week's bounty from my garden.

Here's a fantastic picture of ... my kitchen sink? No, of course it's the pretty flower cluster on my indoor variegated Hoya. It's the first one that's bloomed for me so a big event!

Rhipsalis species. I just love this genus, with its highly segmented branching and spilling nature, as if it were some cellular life form from a far off galaxy.

Tricyrtis species. Toad lilies are easy to grow - some would say too easy as they multiply faster than you can say Trump has a new press secretary - but those tiny flowers are just so charming!

This photo was an experiment, trying to get in very close to catch the burst of color at the center of my Begonia 'Illumination Yellow' flower. It didn't entirely work but I still like the effect I got.

Speaking of Begonias, here's a new Angelwing type called Fannie Moser. As you can see, it features very dark leaves and the signature spotting of Angelwing types. Lovely!

Mina lobata.This morning glory cousin offers the charm of small tubular flowers that start out dark red, then progress to lighter red, orange, yellow and finally white. I was joking with a friend about its common name (Exotic Love Vine) - "I wonder if there's a plant called 'Suburban Love Vine'?"

For sheer flower power there's not much that can beat Heleniums. Here's my H. 'Mardi Gras' in full bloom. The nectar-rich flowers are a magnet for bees.

Lilium Flore Plena. This double form tiger lily is one of my faves. It has four things going for it - the color orange; dramatic spotting; recurved petals and an abundance of flowers every year. This year this one stalk produced 15 flowers!

Lilium Sumatra. Not sure what happened with this new addition. Sumatra is supposed to be a deep red color. Oh well, this Oriental lily is still pretty and the fragrance is heavenly.

Speaking of deep red, how about the color on this Mimulus Dark Red? I'm up to a dozen different Mimulus in my garden now.

This new Calibrachoa Grape Cartwheel is somehow very charming and that name is one of the oddest (and funniest) I have yet to come across.

My Bouvardia ternifolia is back from the dead. Okay, not dead, but it wasn't looking great so I pruned it back hard this winter and crossed my fingers. It has responded with clusters of brilliant crimson flowers (they look a bit orange here but are truly scarlet).

While not in bloom, my newly planted Chamelaucium 'Bridal Pearl' is still looking fine. It will eventually fill out to 5'H x 4'W.

This is why we grow lilies. My Scheherazade has opened its first flower and wow, SO beautiful!

On the opposite spectrum, here's my Chamaecyparis lawsoniana Van Pelt's Blue. The sun makes it seem a bit more on the gray side but it's a rich, steely blue. Now a full six feet, it will likely top out at 10-12'. It's located in my Japanese garden, which is comprised mostly of dwarf conifers.

Speaking of lovely shrubs, I think I need to have a talk with the growers whose labels identify this Adenanthos sericeus (Wooly bush) as getting to 6-8.' Mine is now 15-18.' I just did a deep watering in this bed and that has meant some lush new growth on my specimen. Such a vibrant green!

From the macro to the micro, here's my tiny Anchusa capensis. Cutting it back after its initial flowering has yielded a second bloom season. Such a rich blue.

Though it's newly planted from a one gallon container and thus small, the idea is for my Euonymus fortunei Emerald Gaiety to spread out and be a lower transition from the taller Physocarpus on one side to the even larger Marmalade bush on the other.

Evolvulus. There is simply no prettier blue than this charming perennial. It's now in year four, making a strong case for it being a sturdy perennial.

Ampelopsis. The variegated leaf form of this Porcelain Berry vine is filling up with flowers. Though they are tiny, there's something that makes them a magnet for bees. White flowers eventually lead to vivid blue and purple berries.

Campanula primulifolia. One of the upright, sun-loving Campanulas, this guy commands my attention by producing sturdy spikes covered in star-shaped lavender flowers.
01 09 10