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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