Monday, July 30, 2018

Nature and Fire

There is no silver lining to the massive fires consuming parts of the state right now. Forests burned; homes lost; people evacuated; lives lost. Though those of us that believe in climate change know this is a big factor in the heat and extreme weather events, there is absolutely no use in saying 'We told you.' I will say however that fires are part of nature. Under normal conditions they do serve a purpose in rejuvenating certain ecosystems. It's just that we are not experiencing 'normal conditions.'
I have so many photos this week, I'll just keep my opening comments to what was expressed above.

Monardella macrantha Marian Sampson. If there was an award for biggest flowers on smallest plant, this little California native might take home first prize!

Pelargonium Fireworks Red & White. Aptly named, like little exploding stars.

Petunia 'Headliner Cherry Swirl'. What, not named 'Big Top Headliner Cherry Swirl Candy Confection'? I swear, the variety names are getting both longer and a little more demented.

I keep trying to capture the lovely pale violet colors on my Prunella grandiflora but the sun always seems to bleach them out. 

Unbeknownst to many, Hibiscus flowers are loaded with nectar and thus a favorite destination for hummers.

Though this Oriental lily was a mistake (ordered lily was a double yellow variety) it still is pretty nonetheless.

There's nothing quite like the almost blindingly orangish-red flowers of Bouvardia. Red tubular flowers would seem to make this a hummer destination but curiously I have yet to see any snacking on them.

Some flower buds are almost as pretty as the flowers. Case in point, these Hibiscus trionum buds, which are veined, ridged and almost translucent. Of course the flowers ain't too shabby either ...

Not sure which Mimulus aurantiacus variety this is but love that golden yellow color!

Begonia rex is well named, for these leaves really are 'kings' of the Begonia world. This is a new variety called Firecracker, sporting lots of purple and silver. 

One of my favorite Calceolarias (those regular readers of this blog will have caught on that I like the color orange), this C. 'Kentish Hero' (doesn't that name kind of reek of colonialism) sports vivid orange pocketbooks.

While I railed at long and portentous names above this Lupinus regalis 'Mini Gallery Pink and White''s name is more descriptive than something concocted by a PR firm. In any case, it's lovely.

Begonia crispum Red and White. Though this flower is pretty, the photo on the package showed it with a heavily ruffled bright red edge so ... umm ... to quote the Wendy's commercial woman "Where's the beef?!"

My new pet rock! Okay technically, it's my Split Rock plant (Pleiospilos nelii). And look, it's about to bloom (an uncommon event).

This shot was taken not so much to capture the glorious colors on my Helenium 'Mardi Gras' as to capture what I think is a little Sweat bee. Most of the sweat bees have iridescent green body parts. I couldn't find this guy online so if anyone can ID him please let me know.

Cuphea Vienco Burgundy. I can practically set my calendar clock to the reappearance of this tenacious bat-faced cuphea. Give or take a week, it reappears every early to mid-July and soon begins blooming.

Chnatilly Purple snapdragon. The darkest snap I know. Garnet red with hints of purple.

Dahlia 'Spider Woman.' A Marvel film coming to your local theater? Perhaps, because there actually IS a Spider Woman in the Marvel comics universe. Here, the name refers to a type of Spider dahlia, so called because of the very narrow petals.Mine is obviously just opening.

One of my ten most favorite plants in my garden (out of hundreds), this Tecoma x smithii is up to its old tricks, putting out huge clusters of sunny golden-orange tubular flowers.

"No, let's go this way. No, this way!" That's what this Eucomis 'Zulu Flame' seems to be saying, with its criss-crossed leaves. Still waiting on the bloom spikes for this pineapple lily.

One Gloriosa, two; three Gloriosas, four. It's going to be a bumper crop of Gloriosa lilies this year, with six stems.

As one New Yorker might say "You want tough? We gotya tough right here baby!" That is indeed true for this Gomphrena Fireworks and that's a good thing, given how pretty the flowers are.

Tillandsia tectorum. It's kind of the holy grail of air plants (yes, that is an air plant). Not sure why (though it does look fabulous). Even small specimens go for $15-20. Mine would now be 10x the size of that small specimen. So, I won't need that bank loan. I'll just sell my TT.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

We Share our Gardens with Insects

I happened to catch a rare visitor to my garden the other day. It was a large pure black wasp but as I'm not an insect expert I had to look it up. It turned out to be a Great Black Wasp and in fact they're quite widespread throughout the U.S. Although we rightly celebrate bees and butterflies of all kinds, as well as our friend the Ladybug, the truth is that we share our gardens with a great variety of insects. Although some of these are pests - aphids and caterpillars come to mind - there are a great many beneficial insects that we may or may not see. They eat the insects we don't want and also in some cases protect certain plants in our garden from tiny unwanted predators. So, raise a glass to all the friendly denizens that visit or live in our gardens. Long may they linger.
Now this week's photos.

It was a long wait but my Gladiolus primulinus Mirella has finally opened its first flowers. Described as 'vermillion red' it certainly is one of the most colorful of all species gladiolas.

I previously shared  a photo of my richly colored Lilium Fujian. Here's more of a closeup. One of the largest (8" across) and most beautiful lilies I've ever grown.

Do you do the voodoo you do so well? You do if you're growing Sauromatum venosum, better known as Voodoo lily. Its 'pungent' dark burgundy spathe has meant that this arum family member is grouped together with other stinky flowers, like the Titan arum or Dracunculus vulgaris (Dragon lily). Here are the leaf shoots, along with the mottled stems.

Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata. Here are the colorful flowers on the succulent affectionately known as Pig's Ear. 

A second life. That's what we can offer plants if we give them a 'haircut' after the first wave of blooming. That's what I did with my little Nemesia and it's rewarded me with a second bloom season.

Here is the Great Black wasp on my Eriogonum grande rubescens flowers. This CA Buckwheat is one of the best plants to add to your garden for attracting pollinators and birds.

This hard to find Lilium leitchtlinii offers golden yellow petals that are lightly recurved and heavily spotted. This Asiatic lily hailing from Japan isn't actually a tiger lily but it certainly does resemble one.

Thunbergia Arizona Red. This has grown through the fence slats and is now grabbing some sun on my neighbor's side. 

Laurentia axillaris. Finally a decent photo of my Blue Stars plant. It is to me such a joyful plant, as if these were terrestrial (not celestial) stars dancing on top of its fern-like foliage. 

What looks like a 'stick with green stuff' is actually my Amorphophallus henryi and I'm very excited about its recent appearance. If that genus somehow seems familiar, it's because it has a very famous 'cousin', the  Titan arum or Corpse flower. That huge flower is now on display at the SF Botanical Garden, though by the time you get this it will have closed. Amorphophallus titanum is thought to be the world's largest flower, measuring up to 10' high and 3' wide. It's not actually a single flower but an inflorescence (a stalk of many flowers). My 'little' A. henryi will achieve a modest height of 2' and produce a single spathe.

There's nothing quite like Gloriosa lilies. With their 'flaming' upright petals and leaf tendrils they are one of the most recognizable flowers in the world of gardening. And one of the most beautiful.

There is something immediate about lily flowers. They're often big and brassy, with many also fragrant. All reasons to grow them. Here's one more reason - they are one of the most reliable bulbs, especially here in our mild Bay Area. 

One of the most pleasant surprises in my garden this year has been my Viscaria Blue Pearl. It has been a blooming machine and combines well with my Gomphrena decumbens.

This sparkling Pelargonium is well named - P. Fireworks Red & White. 

File under the "This is why we garden' category the fact that I walked out in the garden this morning to find that my Notocactus magnificus had produced its first yellow flower. So pretty!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

For the Birds

Although spring is the busiest time for birds - most birds nest in the spring - summer still offers a wide range of avian visitors to our gardens. Besides the ever present sparrows, chickadees, finches, bushtits and scrub jays, there are, depending where you live, occasionally bewick's wrens, thrushes, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, brown creepers, juncos and phoebes. This time of year they're busy harvesting seeds, tree buds and for birds that are fruit eaters, like mockingbirds and Hooded orioles, various fruits. And of course, let's not forget our hummingbird friends. So it's time to enjoy their presences in our garden. Some are brave enough - hummers and chickadees especially - that they don't mind if you're quite close by.
Okay here are this week's photos.

Lilium Mister Cas. This hard to find lily has soft but spellbinding yellow spotting and flared petals. Case closed!

Speaking of less common varieties, this variety of Gloriosa lily is called Sparkling Jip. Not sure if 'Jip' is a Dr. Doolittle reference or short for Gypsy but in any case, this variety colors up with pronounced red on the backside and red-ribbed yellow on the front.

My Evolvulus has turned into Mrs. Reliable, blooming every summer. I love true blue flowers so I'm very happy that this is one of the ol' reliables in my garden.

A lot of people have heard of the '7-Up plant' but not everyone has seen it bloom. The leaves are the source of the delightful sweet and fizzy scent on Stachys albotomentosa but the flowers are also lovely.

The sun somewhat washed out the pale violet color on this Prunella grandiflora variegata's flowers but at least you can see the cool yellow and green variegation on the leaves. Though not obvious here, the leaves look more speckled than other forms that variegation takes.

Eucomis Zulu Flame. I wish they wouldn't come up with such boring variety names lol. A friend and I like to make fun of certain variety or common plant names and this one might qualify. That said, it does feature dramatic spotting on the leaves and colorful pink flowers arising on vertical flowering stems.

As to the opposite of above, this incredibly dramatic Lilium 'Fujian' could use a more dramatic variety name. The flowers are an astounding 8" across and as you can see, a rich wine-red. The most amazing lily I've ever grown (and I've grown a lot).

Bouvardia ternifolia. One of the reddest flowers in my garden! Its tubular flowers are much beloved by hummers. Found mostly in Mexico, its called Firecracker bush, an all too apt description.

I'd posted a photo of my numerous Conca d'Or lilies but here's a close-up of one flower, giving a better idea of its butter yellow ribs. Many lilies are rich in pollen and you can see that here. Even a bit of jostling deposits some of that pollen on the petals, as it's done here.

Tiger lilies. It is posited by some that the recurved petals are an evolutionary development to expose their stamen to various pollinators.

Luculia pinceana.  This tender but prized Hydrangea-like shrub hails originally from North Vietnam. Mostly evergreen (zones 9 and higher) with clusters of pale pink flowers, it offers the most intense jasmine-like fragrance.

Adenanthos sericeus. My Wooly bush, advertised as getting 6-8' tall, is now close to 20.' I never believed the 8' limit but this specimen has certainly exceeded my expectations.

Though the photo here doesn't quite show the golden tips of my Cryptomeria Sekkan-Sugi to full effect, it nonetheless has outperformed my expectations. A lovely addition to my Japanese Garden.

Dicliptera suberecta. What, the name Dicliptera erecta was taken? Just kidding. The Uruguayan Firecracker plant is grown for both its silvery foliage and its coral flowers. 

Calling all bees! Once the flowers mature on the enormous heads of Eriogonum giganteum, the bees are there in great numbers. Want to study local bees? Just plant this species of California buckwheat and when it flowers, pull up a chair, with your camera and notepad.

Monardella macrantha Marian Sampson.  Grand prize winner for smallest plant with the biggest flowers. The leaves here are so small you can barely see them.

Three plants with red tubular flowers in a row. A strange coincidence but a coincidence nonetheless. This is the eastern honeysuckle - Lonicera sempervirens. What it lacks in fragrance, it makes up in color. As the Orbit gum woman says - "Fabulous!"

Holy Crinum, Batman! Okay, Robin never said that but ... maybe he did and we just never heard about it. Crinums are certainly worth exclaiming about. Here it's my C. moorei 'Rosea.' I'm still waiting on the flowers but the leaves are a vibrant chartreuse and getting bigger by the week.

This strange monster is a Galtonia viridiflora. The viridiflora species name refers of course to the green flowers. A fast grower, with huge strap-shaped leaves, this plant just screams vigorous in every aspect.

My Hakonechloas have all been doing well. I know they're often thought of as a shade grass but really in our mild Oakland climate they prefer some sun. Which is what I've given mine.

This 'golden waterfall' (okay it's growing up not cascading down but it kind of looks like a waterfall, doesn't it?) is my Duranta repens 'Gold Mound." Love it!

This is one of my mixed bonzai conifer bowls. I cheated and put a holly plant (Ilex) in it.
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