Thursday, December 28, 2017

A Season for Birding

It's no secret that many gardeners love birds, even if they aren't 'rise at dawn' birders. We are blessed with a great variety of birds visiting our Bay Area gardens. Besides the year round sparrows, finches, chickadees, titmice, oaktits, juncos, hummingbirds and others, winter is the prime time for seasonal birds. Most notably it's raptor season, with hawks prominent. But it's also time for goldfinches to arrive, seeking both thistle seed and often drinks from our hummingbird feeders. That holds true for several warblers. Yellow-rumped warblers especially are very common this time of year.
So don't forget to put out seed and suet and if possible have a supply of water for them, be that in a birdbath, small pond or even just a large container.
Today's garden photos are a mix of seasonal interest. For many of us, December and January are the slow months for what's in bloom. Especially in the milder zones, by mid-February we already have the earliest bulbs (Freesia, Daffodils, Dutch iris, Ipheion) starting to bloom.
I would say to gardeners, but really for everyone, take heart - the days now start getting longer.

Salvia subrotunda. This large sage hailing from Brazil grows quickly and though the flowers are small, they are a brilliant reddish-orange. Plants can reach 8-10' in their homeland but more likely 6' here. It is a bit frost sensitive.

Not cold sensitive at all is Chaenomeles (Flowering quince). Here is my C. 'Koji.' They bloom in mid-winter to mid-spring and are tough as nails. Incidentally, they do produce some fruit, though I'm not sure how edible it is.

Another winter returner is Osteospermum, hailing from South Africa originally. This variety is 'Blue-eyed Beauty,' though I'm not sure where the blue is supposed to be. Recessed gene perhaps? (just a little dna humor).

Make sure you take a look at this photo full size, in order to appreciate the glowing whites and shimmering pinks of the buds. It's a Viburnum x burkwoodii, one of the most fragrant of all the viburnums. Heck, one of the sweetest smelling flowers of any genera.

I liked the way my fan aloe (Aloe plicatilis) looked in part sun/part shadow. Sort of mysterious.

I love the colors and fine texture of my Plum cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides Ericoides). This is a dwarf species that will slowly reach 3-5' in ten years so best to appreciate it as a kind of natural bonzai. And that's in fact where I found it - in a bonzai section at Grand Lake Ace.

This Pinus thunbergii (Iapanese black pine) is NOT a dwarf and mature specimens can reach 80-100' over time. I plan to dwarf my specimen by keeping it in a pot. I love the way the sun makes the needles glow here.

Speaking of 'large or small,' here's a dwarf form of the usually very tall bottlebrush tree. This is a Callistemon viminalis and it only gets 4-6'. I'm growing mine in a large pot and now, finally in year three, it's really beginning to bloom. Hummers and bees seem to like it.

I finally have a 200mm zoom lens for my camera so began by taking a shot of my neighbor's camellia. So far so good with the resolution and focusing on the Auto setting.

Camellia reticulata 'Frank Hauser.' No relative to Doogie one presumes. I love the rich color, the fluted petals and the sturdiness of the flowers. I've not seen any camellia rot on this variety or in general with reticulatas.

Example A of the fact that our plants sometimes aren't listening to us. Or anyone. Or the weather. My Sappho rhododendron blooms whenever it feels like it. In theory it's a mid-spring bloomer but well it already has its first flowers.

Iochroma coccinea. Add to the 'anytime I please' list the genus Iochroma. I've given up predicting when they will bloom, although my I. coccinea does seem to favor the late fall and winter period.

Though not an exciting shot, this was another experiment with my zoom lens. That said, I can recommend these Chinese blue and white balls. They're great for a variety of locations. Here I have them in my birdbath.

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