Thursday, October 26, 2017

Moraga Garden Center

I want to take a moment today to shine a light on one of the Bay Area's great retail nurseries - Moraga Garden Center in Moraga. This wonderful nursery has been around forever (30 years) and has held to its down home atmosphere. You can find an eclectic range of plants here, including some very hard to find species. Owner/manager Ken Murakami is one of the most knowledgeable people on the local gardening/horticulture scene and is always willing to help customers with plant selection or a problem. It is consistently rated as one of the best Bay Area nurseries and has a loyal customer base. Among other things, Ken believes fervently in the importance of plant diversity and his nursery reflects that passion. Every time I'm there I find treasures I don't find elsewhere. Today I came home with a dwarf, bush-like Wisteria (W. 'Kofuji'), a white berry-producing Callicarpa (C. japonica leucocarpa), an edible vine called Apios americana (never heard of it) and an Azalea found nowhere else (A. Court Jester), that because it was an accidental sport off another variety that Kenny nurtured along. Moraga propagates quite a few of the plants they sell and Kenny has a nose for finding unusual things. That's not to say he isn't practical. Everything he buys or propagates is appropriate for our Bay Area climate here.
Here's a link to Moraga Garden Center.
Today's photos from my garden reflect both the changing season and my own little exploration of diversity.

If this looks like a spring blooming Clematis Niobe, well, it is. The warm weather has confused certain of my spring vines and this is one that I guess just couldn't wait for spring.

Mums may be common but sometimes the colors are intriguing. This mum started out more chartreuse than yellow but it is pretty nonetheless in its new clothes.

Many plants have a story to tell. This uncommon Nicandra physalodes is nicknamed the Shoo-fly plant. If you look more closely at the flower you'll see that it indicates a Solanum heritage. Most Solanums are poisonous and people in the southern states realized they could mix the sap of this plant with milk and put it outside to kill flies. 

Rudbeckia 'Chim Chiminee.' This is one of the so-called 'quill' Rudbeckias, a look that gives it a bit of intrigue.

Gazania 'Nahui.'  Part of the Sunbathers series, this semi-double gazania has a fluffy center to lend it distinction.

Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue.' Though it's no longer in bloom, this dwarf Jacaranda still sports lush, ferny foliage (which I love). There is a trend in the trade in recent years to create smaller-sized varieties of shrubs and trees, a trend no doubt fueled by gardeners like myself who don't have the room for large trees or shrubs. Case in point: your typical Jacaranda can get to 50' tall. Or taller.

Though a bit shaded here's my Aloe plicatilis. A friend gave me a piece off her mother plant about a year ago and after hardening it off, I just stuck it in a pot with regular soil. It's tripled in size in that year. Now I just have to find a place in the ground for it. When a customer with a blackish thumb comes into our nursery and wants a tough but attractive succulent, this is one of the first I think of.

Portulaca 'Rio Scarlet.' Hard to not love Portulacas. Super easy to grow; bright flowers; very drought tolerant. The hybrids can be a bit short lived. This guy seems to have a longer life ahead of it.

One last photo of my Evolvulus. It's hard not to laugh at this plant's genus name. Evolve-you-lus? My specimen has evolved to become a reliable perennial, despite its rep for being very short lived. If you look closely at the flowers you'll pick up its family linneage - Convolvulaceae. I'm a lover of true blue flowers and these certainly fit the bill.

I took this photo of my Rudbeckia more to get a closeup of these curious moth-like bugs. Anyone know what they are? Kind of cute.

Canarina canariensis. I'll admit I love orange flowers, and bell-shaped blooms, but there's something special about this rare Campanula relative hailing from the Canary Islands. This tuberous perennial goes dormant in the summer but then pops up in the late fall and blooms in early winter.

Ahh, there's nothing quite like backlit flowers and here the sun is shining 'through' the pale blue flowers of Salvia patens 'Patio Sky Blue.' The straight species has inky-blue flowers (love them too) but you rarely see see icy-blue flowers so they offer a special treat.

I took a photo of this Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Bronze' to show off the markings in its throat. These markings are called 'runways,' meant to signal pollinators where to enter. Ain't Nature smart?

Mimulus 'Light Yellow.' Bless her heart, local grower Susan Ashley grows a great variety of sticky monkey flowers. These colorful CA natives make my top ten list for the 'most bang for your buck' plants. They're blooming machines, very drought tolerant once established, a great plant for attracting hummers and bees and they come in almost any color that pleases your eye.

My newest addition, this Euonymus japonica aureus-marginatus is a lovely variegated form of a genus that are called Wintercreepers. This one takes more of a bush form and it gave me the opportunity - finally - to use a new pot in my collection.

Oxalis latifolia. This is the time for the winter blooming Oxalis to appear. This so-called 'shamrock'  oxalis has just popped up but has already produced its first orchid-pink flowers.

Hibiscus have beautiful flowers to be sure but to me they also have some of the most lovely reproductive parts. They have pronounced and lengthy styles, adding an intriguing 3D aspect to the flowers. On certain Hibiscus, like the tropical H. schizostylis, these parts almost outshine the petals. 

Nandina 'Firepower.' This unusual Heavenly Bamboo keeps its red and pink colors year-round, making it a colorful addition to any garden.

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