Monday, January 15, 2018


The date January 15th says we're in the middle of winter. Right? Except if you live in the milder zones of the Bay Area. There's already a hint of anticipation of a not-so-far-off spring in the air. Lots of bulbs are up. For those of us with bulbs such as Lachenalias, the first of these are already blooming. Not far off are freesias (I spotted the first unopened flower spikes yesterday) and snowdrops, which are already up. All of that helps us be a bit more patient, marking off the weeks on the calendar, waiting now for February and beyond.
Today's photos are a mix of my garden's winter clothes, with a few surprises just noticed yesterday. If it so suits you, I hope you find pleasure in living vicariously through this man's garden.

Choisya 'Sundance.' I love the varied gold and green patterning on this mock orange. It took awhile to really get established - much longer than the straight species - but it's become one of my favorite plants over time. 

Ribes aureum. This yellow flowering currant should be growing in the spring and summer but has decided to put out new growth in late December and January. It has yet to bloom but does have those lovely tri-lobed soft leaves.

Staghorn fern. This newer staghorn is off and running, with the larger fronds already leaning out over the walkway for more light. 

Here's one of my early blooming Lachenalias, L. viridiflora x quadricolor. The blue you see is from the viridiflora parent and the other colors from the quadricolor.

This handsome fellow is a Helleborus argutifolius 'Pacific Frost.' If you look more closely you'll see the pronounced speckling on the leaves, at times making the leaves more white than green. The smaller, lime-colored flowers seem a perfect complement.

Snapdragons in winter? Yes, believe it or not, snaps do quite well in the milder zones like those here in Oakland. Here's a A. 'Chantilly Bronze' displaying pink flowers that will age to bronze.

'Fuzzy green' should be the name of a cocktail (if it isn't already) but in any case it describes the leaves of this Salvia libanensis. It's supposed to be a winter bloomer but so far no flowers yet. That's okay; I'm digging the 'fuzzy green.'

Say the word 'senecio' and most gardeners don't think 'shrub' or yellow flowers' but in fact both those descriptions apply to the lovely Senecio barbertonicus. Throw in the bright green foliage and you have an appealing and oh-so-easy-to-grow succulent.

Gold stars to those who can ID this shrub. Hint: the leaves smell like peanut butter. It is indeed a Melianthus but not M. major but M. pectinatus. As you can see, the leaves are a lot smaller and more heavily dissected. And the flowers look nothing like the huge panicles on M. major. These ones are red in bud (front) opening to a bronzy-orange (rear).

My Deppea splendens shouldn't still be blooming and this cluster is certainly one of its last for the season. So pretty and they dangle on the slimmest of stems.

One should always have at least one deliciously fragrant shrub that blooms in winter. One of my favorites is this Viburnum x burkwoodii. Fragrant is an understatement. Intoxicating comes closer to its heady scent. This head of little flowers is only 2-3" across but packs quite the punch.

I've discovered that my Abelia species 'Chiapas' likes to bloom in the late fall and early winter. It's unusual for three reasons. It is a scrambler/cascader not a shrub; it features purple flowers unlike any other Abelia I know of; and the flowers are fragrant. Not just a hint but very sweetly fragrant. It's now very difficult to find; I got mine when Annie's Annuals was still selling it.

January is the month for Hellebores. Here's the first flowers on my H. 'Wayne Rodderick.' It boasts some of the deepest burgundy colors of any hybrid.

It's a bird, it's a plane, no it's an .... Osmanthus? This Sweet Olive is O. 'Goshiki' and you'll be forgiven for thinking it looks an awful lot like a Holly bush. That's its thing. Very slow to bloom - mine is 6 years old and has yet to bloom - it nonetheless makes a handsome addition to any garden.

Melaleuca incana. When I first grew this Australian native bush/tree, I was puzzled at what seemed to be developing seed cones. You can see them in this photo. They are in fact woody flower buds that the pale yellow petals open from. For me, this adds another layer of interest to a plant that already is lovely in all four seasons. The flowers resemble those of another Aussie native, the bottlebrush tree (Callistemon) but are shorter and in this case a lovely butter yellow.

It isn't until you begin taking a closer look at Hebes that you realize how many different kinds there are. This Hebe ochracea EC Stirling is one of the so called Whipcord hebes, whose leaves mimic many Cupressus species. The unique foliage, dazzling color and compact form all make this one of a kind hebe something worth lusting after.

Lachenalia aloides 'Orange.' The 'aloides' species of the popular cowslip is the most abundant and varied of all the Lachenalias. Also, one of the first to bloom. 

One of the most popular shrubs for winter fragrance, Daphnes are also an enduring plant when happy. Here the telltale pink buds will soon open to heavenly-scented starry white flowers. Luckily for us, the flowers remain open for a considerable amount of time.

Cupheas are another surprisingly varied genus. Here's my C. oreophila and no, the flowers don't smell like Oreos. But now that you mention it, breeder guys, can you get right on that job and propagate a plant that smells like our favorite cookie? In this species, the 'bat's ears' are tiny little green appendages.

For some reason my Barry's Silver Chamaecyparis has taken on more a bluish tinge this winter. In summer it really does have a lovely silver caste. No worries, I love this color almost as much.

Although the five minutes of sun that appeared today came right as I took this photo, thus bleaching out the lower flowers, you can still see how vivid the yellow flowers are on my Mahonia lomariifolia. Tough, drought tolerant, easy to grow, a winter bloomer, eventually berries for birds, well, Mahonias are just about the perfect plant.

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