Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fall into Spring

So, the riddle goes, "When does Fall = Spring?" And the answer for us gardeners is - "When buying bulbs." Yep, it's time to buy spring blooming bulbs and in doing a little research I came across a fabulous Iris called Iris dardanus. The first photo here is one taken from the web. It belongs to the
Regeliocyclus group, which are known for their extravagant colors and large flowers. These irises feature an Aril spot, a striking, dark signal in the middle of the fall. If the photo looks like a bearded iris, that's because this species is related to that grouping. Consider your interest in bulbs officially stoked.
Today's garden photos reflect the late summer period, one of transition in many a garden. Of course, you could rightly say that the gardens are always in transition but I think you know what I mean. That said, let's go to the monitor ...

Iris dardanus. As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words. Simply a gorgeous iris. 

Celosia Sunday Wine Red - the flower. One last shot of this celosia, which has far exceeded my expectations (and taken over the bed it's in).

Abutilon variety. This peach-flowering abutilon is just now starting to bloom, having started as a young pup in a 4" pot.

Cunonia capensis. Here's what the fuss is all about with this Butterknife tree. The bottlebrush-like flowers are a good 10" long and comprised of hundreds of tiny alabaster-colored flowers. Well worth the four year wait!

I keep a journal of when plants bloom in my garden and where that comes in handy is having the facts instead of the typically faulty human memory as to when a certain plant bloomed last year. Case in point, my Tecoma Bells of Fire. I always think it's a summer bloomer but in fact it waits till fall to bloom.

Mimulus Jelly Bean Scarlet. Such a deep red and as with all of the Jelly Bean series, a prolific bloomer. 

Nodding over the above mimulus is a Salvia guaranitica Black and Blue. The guaraniticas feature black as black bracts and various shades of purple for the flowers.

Riddle me this, riddler. Which group of plants feature not its flowers, nor its leaves? Why caudiciforms of course, where the fat and/or twisting trunks are the main attraction. Here's my Cussonia natalensis which despite its small size already has a caudex on display.

Cooks will recognize this plant as Arugula and despite its culinary uses, I'm growing it for its verdant foliage and highly decorative flowers. 

Trichostema lanatum. Which is to say, Wooly Blue Curls. I always think that this CA native's common name would be a great name for a rock band circa the mid-60s. 

If you look closely you'll see this Chinese piece of pottery is actually a cat. She's sunning herself in the herb bed, steps away from the catmint.

Couldn't resist including a shot of a new orchid I brought home. 

Begonia Irene Nuss. This variety of cane begonia has perhaps the largest and showiest of flowers in this group. 

Speaking of caudiciforms, here's my Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii (easy for me to say).  When it eventually blooms those flowers will be white, providing a nice contrast to the shiny green leaves.

Cuphea schumannii. This vigorous larger cuphea has vivid orange flowers with purple 'ears.' It too blooms later than I think it does, and later than some of the Cuphea llavea hybrids. Not technically a cigar cuphea, the flowers are about double the size of the true cigar cupheas.

I planted this Calceolaria mexicana rather late but I'm hoping it will self-seed for next year. It's a great plant for shade.

This mercury glazed vase has made itself at home in the garden, almost to the point that it looks as if it sprouted in that spot. 

Speaking of plants for part shade, looks like my Persicaria amplexicaulis will be happier in morning sun and not in midday heat. It's grown for its foliage, though it does have spires of tiny star-shaped red flowers.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Public Garden Treasures

We are surrounded by some of the most interesting public and botanical gardens here in the Bay Area. Most of you will be aware of the most popular ones but I thought I would share a brief list, to put them front and center.
1. U.C. Botanical Garden. This world renowned treasure is one of the premiere botanic gardens in the country. Located up near the Lawrence Hall of Science above Strawberry Canyon, it not only houses an amazing array of botanically catalogued plants but it is a living museum of plants indigenous to plants from around the world. It is also a premier research facility.
2. S.F. Botanical Garden. Though different in appearance and layout, the SF Botanic Garden is another amazing way to spend an afternoon and it's right there in Golden Gate Park, next to a number of other wonderful places to visit. Both botanic gardens hold regular public events and of course plant sales.
3. Regional Parks Botanical Garden (Tilden). This wonderful botanic garden has an amazing selection of California native plants, including one of the country's best collections of Manzanitas. Located in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills, it is an important piece of the study and preservation of native plants.
4. U.C. Santa Cruz Arboretum. As they state "specialties are world conifers, primitive angiosperms, and bulb-forming plant families." The arboretum concentrates on plants from Australia, South Africa and California. This includes rare species that are not otherwise available for study in American botanical gardens.
5. The Ruth Bancroft Garden. This Bay Area treasure located in Walnut Creek focuses on drought tolerant and dry garden plants and has one of the country's most amazing collections of succulents and dry garden species. Well designed, much of it planted by Ms. Bancroft herself, it is now world famous.
6. Quarryhill Botanical Garden. Though a bit off the beaten path in Glen Ellen, Sonoma, this amazing and unique botanic garden was built out of an old quarry. Unique among local bot gardens, "Quarryhill is a wild Asian woodland, intentionally not manicured and featuring one of the largest collections of wild-sourced Asian plants in the world."
7. Hakone Japanese Garden. Set on 18 acres in Saratoga, this 100 year old garden invites you to "leisurely stroll the hill and koi pond garden, ascend the moon bridge, have tea overlooking the dry landscape garden, or enjoy quiet reflection in Hakone’s tea and bamboo gardens."
8. Hayward Japanese Garden.  Though only 3.5 acres, this peaceful garden "follows Japanese garden design principles, using California native stone and plants. No stains were used on the wood constructions. Nails and fasteners are recessed, and all wood was notched, and aged, to simulate the appearance of a traditional Japanese garden."
9. The Wave Garden. One of those Bay Area secrets, Richmond's Wave Garden is a pocket-sized delight. Overlooking the bay at Pt. Richmond, it is a dry garden planted along a series of curving cement pathways that crisscross like a switchback hiking trail. It holds a variety of smaller trees, California perennials, dry garden plants and a myriad of succulents. 

There are of course other garden treasures here in the Bay Area; these are just the ones that come to mind (and that I've visited). Here's hoping you find time to visit them.

Today's photos are once again a snapshot of the early fall season in my garden. 

Celosia Sunday Wine Red. One last photo of this beauty, which is getting huge. If you're only used to the tiny, multi-colored Celosia in 6 packs, this vigorous multi-branching species will come as a shock. Love the color!

Dahlia 'Lagoon Violet.' I don't always have luck with Dahlias but so far so good with this beauty. BTW, nature never fails to amaze me. Think of the 'coding' in this kind of plant, that produces exactly symmetrical rows of petals. Again and again and again on every flower. 

For some reason saying the word 'moth' reminds me of Peter Sellers and The Pink Panther, the way Inspector Clousseau says "He received a buummp on the head." Does he say the word moth, for him 'muuth" in the movie, I can't remember. In any case they're everywhere these days (moths), though I'm not sure why this one is taking an interest in my Hibiscus flower.

Hold the presses, my Cunonia (Butterknife tree) is finally blooming! Here you can see the first of the bottlebrush-like flowers opening. Very exciting!

Correa 'Wyn's Wonder.' Not sure why this Aussie native is staying so low and spreading but, well, that's gardening. Plants don't always do what you expect them to do. Not that I mind really as it makes for a pretty (and tough) ground cover.

Not a painting but it could be! "Somewhere in Tuscany ..." Nope, just my Thunbergia Arizona Red gradually enveloping my east facing fence. Very picturesque.

"Thar's gold in them pots!" Well, golden sedum. This guy's been hanging out in this shallow pot for many years and toughing it out.

Speaking of gold, my Duranta 'Gold Mound' has finally established itself and reached the size I'd been hoping for. Not sure why it took so long (5 years) or why it has yet to bloom but it's certainly lovely as is.

Polystichum setiferum Plumosum Densum + Tolmiea menziesii. My favorite fern plus one of my favorite California natives. Both do well in quite a bit of shade.

Fallopia  japonica variegata. Hey, look, it's flowering. Cute sprays of tiny white flowers add to this plant's charms.

If ever a plant was aptly named it's this Gomphrena 'Fireworks.' It does indeed look like this flower is exploding out and the yellow tips only add to the sensation of action. A prolific bloomer and tougher than you'd think.

Hedychium greenii. The aptly named 'fire ginger' puts out lovely coral-red flowers in early fall. Simpler than some ginger flowers but certainly beautiful.

I just love my Gazania 'Nahui.' It looks like a miniature seedless sunflower, except that flowers barely escape the low and verdant green foliage.

This perennial poppy should be better known. Papaver atlanticum (Moroccan poppy) is a tough, long blooming, drought tolerant perennial. This Flore Pleno variety has a semi-double form, emphasizing the pleated leaves.

Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift.' This evergreen, sun-loving Clematis is one tough and happy denizen. Although it's early fall, it's putting out the burgundy-colored new growth that's the usual hallmark of spring.

Gazing ball. I love this addition to my garden and it's a reminder that art really does have a place in one's garden. I have a lot of it, tucked in here and there. Many are bird or animal related, a way to invoke the spirit of these creatures.

Though not an exciting photo, I wanted to include this shot of my Begonia grandis. It has to be the easiest thing to grow and self seeds aggressively. Large heart-shaped leaves have the barest hint of red on the edge and the sprays of pink flowers are very typical of many begonias.

I thought this Echeveria setosa deminuta looked nice in this Shell pot so it's found a new home. 

Although I've taken close-up photos of my amazingly fragrant Clerodendrum fragrans flowers, here's a photo of the whole plant that gives you an idea of just how big the leaves can get. And this is still a very young plant. Very tropical but has done well here.

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.
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