Thursday, December 14, 2017

Watering in Winter?

Remember last year? Specifically last winter and spring when it seemed like it rained every single day for five months? So far it's not that winter. Good for us sun lovers but it does mean one uncommon thing - having to water our gardens in winter. I know, I know, that seems wrong but all plants that haven't gone dormant are going to need some water. For me they fall into four groups.
1. Shrubs and trees. If established, these plants will need little or no winter watering but if it does indeed stay dry for most of the winter they'll need some.
2. Evergreen perennials. These will need some regular water. How much depends on the leaf mass of the plant, how much sun it's in, how drought tolerant it is and how established it is. Annuals are going to need a bit more water on average because they don't have as large a root system as perennials (on average).
3. Plants in pots. How often you water plants in pots depends on the size of the plant and the size of the pot. The larger the pot, the more soil it contains, the longer that soil holds onto moisture, the less you water. See you knew that calculus class would come in handy, right? Generally you'll need to water plants in pots more often than plants in the ground.
4. Bulbs. There's a reason that most our common bulbs bloom in the spring. That's when the rains arrive, spurring growth and then the sun helps with blooming. No late winter/early spring rain = no moisture getting to the bulbs = poor growth and performance. If their normal growth season rolls around and it's still dry, you're going to need to water that area, be it ground or pot. Amazing how quickly bulbs will respond to water (assuming the temperatures correspond to what they're used to). Incidentally, that's why you don't want to plant certain bulbs too early in the fall. If they're getting water and it's still warm out, it may confuse them into thinking it's spring and they may sprout. Only to discover cold temperatures soon upon them.

So, there you have it. Long stretches of winter sunshine are great for the soul, as long as you don't forget about your garden's needs. And now this week's photos. It's a grab bag of winter flowering shrubs, a few succulents and a few late blooming perennials.

Platycerium veitchii. This species of Staghorn fern is a little less common but its silvery foliage was reason enough to add it to my collection. This species is also different in that it is a semi-desert species hailing from Queensland Australia. It wants full sun, very unlike most staghorns, which are typically understory plants.

Couldn't resist sharing one more photo of my exuberant Helenium Mardi Gras. This prolific bloomer is a bee magnet and one of those very low maintenance plants.

I keep trying to capture the pale pink colors in my Luculia pinceana but the photos always come out looking more white. Guess I need to learn Photoshop! No matter, I love any excuse to write about this plant as it is truly one of the most intensely fragrant plants on Earth. It is found in the Himalayas south to China but is easily grown here (if you can find it!)

Chrysocephalum apiculatum is a mouthful so it's a good thing it has an easier-to-remember common name (Common Everlasting). This Aussie native is a low spreader that blooms easily, with a parade of bright yellow buttons. Like many Aussie natives, it's drought tolerant and a tough customer. I'd want it in my garden for the silvery foliage even if it didn't bloom.

Okay this photo may not send your heart aflutter but remember this photo in two months when it will be ablaze with color provided by Sparaxis, Ixia, Dutch Iris and Daffodils. And that's before the Tiger lilies arrive. This is a newly constructed bed, using the back retaining wall, two large square pots already in place as the ends and a simple 12" tall board in front. Fill it with soil, plant a million bulbs, put some winter annuals on top and voila! This whole project only took 2 hours.

Speaking of a plant whose botanical name is a mouthful, here's my Chamaecyparis pisifera Filifera Aurea. Jr. Okay, just kidding about the Jr part. Chamaecyparis are literally False Cypress and this genus has a fabulous array of species and cultivars. If you look closely enough you'll see that this is a weeping type.

I was a bit disappointed with the color on my first Grevillea Superb flower. Then I googled the plant, looked at Images and discovered that the plant can exhibit a wide range of colors. In each case, the forming flowers start out a cream color and then as they open and mature they acquire more of a peach/rose/red color. I guess we'll see what happens with mine (many more flower cones are on the way). 

Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata. I love the milky blue leaves, the hint of a red limn and the way it grows as a kind of a colony that keeps adding houses.  

Though my Jacaranda Bonzai Blue is done blooming, I think its foliage is pretty enough to warrant a photo. This is the dwarf shrub form of the familiar tree. Some foliage, same flowers, all in a pint size.

Chaenomeles Fuji. Flowering Quince are a great way to add color to a winter garden. Hardy, disease free, drought tolerant, tolerant of any soils, it's as about a perfect plant as it gets.

Calluna Bradford. Though the flowers are beginning to fade, this exceptionally pretty heather is another tough customer that needs little water or attention.

My Cotinus Royal Purple usually offers up oranges and reds for fall color but this year it's decided to mix it up and turn a peachy-golden color. Since I love those colors I'm delighted.

Speaking of tough and long blooming, thumb's up to Lotus jacobeus, otherwise known as Black Lotus for its nearly black pea-shaped flowers. Mine is hardly ever out of bloom now. Sweet and tough (hmm, sounds like a former girlfriend).

Crassula falcata, commonly known as Propeller or Airplane plant, doesn't always spill so dramatically as mine has taken to doing but I love its form here. I know what you're saying "That's a Crassula?" Okay, you weren't saying that perhaps but this species is quite different than almost any other common Crassula, with its broad planar leaves. So pretty!

I finish with two of my favorite Camellias. Here it's the dramatic C. reticulata Frank Hauser. I love it's wavy petals, its semi-double form and that gorgeous color.

And here's my rare C. Winner's Circle. It hasn't fully opened, here showing off its clustered inner petals. Though this photo makes it look quite pink it's actually more of a coral/salmon color. Lovely!

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