Monday, September 11, 2017

A Gardener's Fortune Cookie

Here's a fortune cookie for gardeners: "Planting now will bring great happiness." Planting in the fall will indeed help perennials prosper, bringing a stronger start to spring and in most cases earlier blooming.  It is a little hard to 'plan ahead' but the facts don't lie. Plants established in the fall simply get off to better starts in the spring, even if that plant goes deciduous first.
Speaking of preparing for spring, spring blooming bulbs have now arrived at your local garden center/nursery. I know, I know, it's only September 12 and it's bloody warm out but now is a good time to pop in and preview what floral delights you might like to succumb to. The list includes Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Freesias, Ixias, Sparaxis, Dutch iris, Daffodils, Scillas and more.

Above is Asarina Joan Lorraine, against the backdrop of a Duranta Gold Mound. Purple and Gold is always a great combo. This Asarina has delicate foliage and doesn't wander too far afoot, making it a perfect small climber.

Dianthus variety. There are so many wonderful colors within this genus, although I'm ore attracted to the oranges, corals and salmons. This new one is a bit more orange than the photo shows.

Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue.' I tell nursery customers all the time that look at the foliage as well, as you're usually only going to have flowers for 2-3 months. I had that in mind buying this dwarf, shrub form of Jacaranda. Love that fern-like foliage.

If there was drug testing in the horticulture world, this Celosia might be in big trouble. Just kidding but if you're only used to the dwarf bedding celosias, then this soon to be 3' tall, multi-branching C. Sunday Wine Red is a real eye opener. Beautiful!

Abutilon fraseri. A CA native Abutilon? Yes, this desert flowering maple breaks all the rules for what we know about Abutilons. It loves the sun and heat, it's very drought tolerant (prefers very little water), has the softest leaves imaginable and it goes deciduous. The flowers are a bit smaller but an intense golden hue. It's now one of my favorite plants.

I didn't catch this Mimulus 'Jelly Bean Red' in the sun but in this bit of shade you can best appreciate what a saturated dark red the flowers are. C'est magnifique!

Finally, a decent photo of my Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight.' Not making that name up, mate. This variegated form is especially lovely.

Although it's still a bit folded up, my Kalanchoe 'Fantastic' is showing off its red and jade tones. Still young, it will eventually triple in size and the 'flapjacks' will open out. 

Adenanthos sericeus (Wooly bush) is no one trick pony. Here's a shot of the lime-colored silky new growth. Soon, tiny little miniature orange XMas tree light flowers will dot the interior of the plant. 

Remember those 'Got milk?' commercials. We should start a series on caudiciforms called 'Got belly?' As in fat trunk. The trunk on this Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii hasn't begun to swell quite yet but it's off to a good start.

Phyllitis scolopendrium. One of the broad-leaf ferns, more accurately classified as single or undivided, this is one lovely way to brighten up a shady location. Look for my article on this subject in the Winter 2017 issue of Pacific Horticulture Magazine.

Here's another member of that club, this a Dryopertis sieboldii. Better known as Siebold's Wood fern (you knew that, right?) this broad-leaf fern is distinctive due to its wide, thick leaves forming horizontal planes. I love hearing customers say "That's a fern!?"

Begonia Gene Daniels. One of the shrub begonias, this variety has reddish-burgundy backsides and that's apparent here as the sun back-lights these leaves. As with most shrub and cane begonias, it's the foliage that is the star attraction.

Dahlias are popular for a reason and this new addition, which is more purple than the pink it's showing here, is out front getting maximum sun.

Calluna 'Bradford.' Kind of an odd name for a Calluna variety - sounds more like a law firm (Bradford and Bradford) - but in any case it's in full bloom. Heathers need not be hard scrabble plants if they're given a bit of regular water.

Asclepias curassivica. Here's a shot of both the flowers and the amazing seedpods. Sometimes I think the open seedpods look like an explosion that's frozen in time. The white fluff looks to be escaping with tremendous force but has been captured on 'film' just at the moment of explosion.

As regular readers know, I'm usually taking photos of individual plants, or perhaps a small bed. Here's a shot of the main part of my front yard. On the right is the walkway headed to the back yard. To the left is the area between the two driveways, not a large area really but populated with a Laburnum tree, Snail vine, Banks rose, Grevillea bush, Melaleuca bush, Wooly bush (Adenanthus), Chamelaucium, Lepechinia hastata, Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) and some low growing plants.

Tweedia caerulea. Here's a slightly better photo of my Tweedia plant, with those one of a kind robin's egg-blue flowers.

Helenium Mardi Gras with bee. I pretty much could choose any of the hundred helenium flowers right now and there'd likely be a bee on it.

Ditto for my Lonicera japonica flowers. Here's a bee collecting nectar on this Hall's honeysuckle. We should all be as industrious and where needed as single-minded as bees when collecting nectar.

Exuberant is always the word I think of in describing my Justicia fulvicoma. This semi-tropical perennial is tougher than it looks. Mine survived being buried under a larger plant and in a smallish container over the winter. As soon as I brought it out into sun and watered it, it responded and is now in bloom.

Chamaecyparis lawsonii Van Pelt's Blue. False cypresses as they're called are surprisingly tough plants and, I've discovered, fond of regular water. That goes for my other dwarf conifers as well. The regular water has made them greener and fuller.

Here's a full bush shot of my Salvia discolor. It fills in densely given half a chance and is one of the more resilient salvias out there. It has withstood its fair share of abuse - poor soil, lapses in watering, little or no fertilizing - and kept going.

Acer Sango-Kaku. Better known as Coral Bark maple, this Japanese maple is quicker to establish and grow than many Japanese maples. And of course they are of winter interest once the leaves have dropped, having a surfeit of orangish stems.

A new Mimulus, Jelly Bean Gold, that hadn't made it into the ground yet but was too colorful to resist photographing. The Jelly Beans may not be as long lived as the aurantiacus types but they are prolific bloomers and if pruned appropriately can be a great plant for several years.

This Rhipsalis has way overgrown its small pot but keeps branching out. Rhipsalis is an epiphytic cactus widely found in Central and South American rainforests. It is found throughout the new world but additionally in tropical Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Curiously, it is the only cactus with a natural occurrence outside the New World.

Penstemon Violet Kissed. I haven't always had the best luck with Penstemons but this new addition is off and running. The lavender-blushed white flowers certainly make for a elegant addition.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

True Wealth

It's no secret to many Bay Area gardeners that we live in one of the prime gardening regions of the country. That's especially true for cities like Oakland that lay in the milder zones. It seems that you can grow almost anything here in Oakland and for those of us with a diverse garden, we have the great good fortune of experiencing a 'true wealth' of floral delights. For the avid gardener, plants are the gift that keeps on giving, revealing small pleasures as they progress throughout the seasons. And of course gardens attract a variety of engaging insects and birds that are fun to witness, study or simply marvel at. When I'm able to put city distractions out of my head and be in the moment in my garden, it truly is a little corner of paradise. And we could all use a bit more of that 'escape' these days ...
Here are this week's photos.

A friend suggested that she indeed had someone in mind that she'd like to drop a house on. Hmm, who could that be?

Begonia Irene Nuss. This cane-type begonia has some of the largest and showiest flowers for any larger size begonia. 

I'm loving my Clerodendrum fragrans. It's proving to be a prolific bloomer, even from a young plant. Here's the formation of a flower cluster, the round white buds getting ready to pop open. It has lived up to its rep as being intensely fragrant.

I'm officially now a caudex collector. Here's my latest, Adenium obesum. This Desert Rose plant is noteworthy for not just its fat trunk but for its showy rosy-red flowers.

Begonia Fannie Moser has some of the darkest leaves of any begonia. Love the delicate spotting too. It looks to be a spiller, more than an upright type.

Here's the beginning of my Herb garden. The centerpiece is the golden oregano, while 3 silver thymes are spread around it. There's also 3 Arugulas that I planted for their pretty brown-ribbed white flowers, a Lemon Balm, an Agastache and a Nepeta x faassenii (Catmint). 

Dianthus x superbus Bearded. This extravagantly fringed carnation certainly stands out, surrounded by orange and gold flowers.

Here's my Sun King bed. The Celosia Sunday Wine Red dominates the bed right now but coming along are a Penstemon Violet-kissed, a Tweedia and a Wooly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum). I took the bold step of yanking nearly everything out of the upper portion of the bed and planting some new favorites and they're coming along nicely.

Here's a closeup of the Tweedia caerulea. There's nothing quite like the robin's egg blue color of these flowers. Some may not know that Tweedia is a member of the milkweed family and produces those distinctive seedpods that eventually crack open to reveal the fluffy seed capsules. The best known milkweed is of course Asclepias or Butterfly bush (host plant for Monarch butterflies).

I include this photo to show off the lovely pot as much as its contents - Dahlia 'Dark Side of the Sun' - though I think the plant looks handsome in this container.

Although the angle of this shot is a bit strange, it's what I had to work with to reveal the colorful interior of an Alpinia Zerumbet flower. Known as Shell Ginger due to the seashell shape of the white flowers, these little beauties also happen to be fragrant.

Here's the newest addition to my Japanese bed, featuring dwarf conifers. This is Juniperus chinensis 'Sea Green.' Though it is more vertical than horizontal right now, I'll be training it as a ground cover plant. 

Speaking of ground covers, this Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (say that fast 10 times) has spread out very nicely, colonizing a part shade location in and around my bird bath.

Regular readers of this blog know I'm a big Agastache fan. This A. 'Raspberry Summer' is a relatively new one and its vibrant color has already made it one of my favorites. Colorful, hummingbird magnets and fragrant. Pretty much a triple play!

Lonicera japonica. I've managed to keep my Hall's honeysuckle trimmed to a 4' x 4' bush. It's such a prolific bloomer than even with regular trimming it still regrows and flowers.

Another shot of my Salvia discolor. What color was that, Tony Soprano? "Dis color" he says. Okay, bad jokes aside, this is one tough and resilient salvia. It's most famous for its nearly black flowers but the pale lime bracts and white undersides to the leaves and the sticky white stems are also appealing features.

No, not popsicles but the elongated seedpods from my Lilium philippinense flowers. Very curious looking, no?
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