Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Do you know your A, Bees and C's?

Awhile back I did a post on the many native bees that frequent the Bay Area. That post proved popular so today I'm returning with a kind of part two. I recently discovered a wonderful book - 'California Bees & Blooms' by Gordon Frankie and friends. And at the very beginning they have a Sidebar about common bee myths (and the real truths). I thought that might be fun and informative to share (in a briefer form) so that will lead off today's post. Then I'll share a few recent garden photos, taken over the last week.

Bee Myths
1. Bees live in hives. Only a small % of bees live in hives and only the introduced European honey bee lives in hives here in North America. Also, ~ 75% of bees are solitary and live in individual nests tunneled in the soil.
2. Bees make honey. Only honey bees make enough honey to harvest. Bumblebees make a small amount of a honey-like substance. Most native bees (over a thousand species here in CA alone) make no honey at all; being solitary and not living long they have no need of it.
3. Honey is made from pollen. Honey is actually regurgitated nectar collected by worker bees. That nectar is mixed with water and stomach enzymes to form the honey we know.
4. Bees die after they sting. Only honey bees make this ultimate sacrifice. Bumblebees and social sweat bees can sting but don't die afterwards. Solitary native bees have no need to use such an option, not defending a hive. 
5. Wasps are bees. Well, you probably knew that but did you know that bees are vegetarians, only collecting nectar, while wasps are carnivores. That's why you see them hovering around your turkey sandwich at a picnic.
6. Small bees are 'baby' bees. Bees, belonging to the order Hymenoptera, emerge from their nests fully mature. The wide range of shapes and sizes of bees - over 1600 alone in California - accounts for the small bees you sometimes spot (and probably wonder 'Is that a bee?')
7. Bees go to their hives to sleep at night. Honey bees and most bumble bees do but males of solitary bee species can be found sleeping on plants, even nestled into flowers! Females may return to their nests at night to construct new tunnels and brood chambers.
8. Bees do the 'waggle dance.' Honey bees are famous for these dances that indicate nectar locations but solitary native bees have no need and want to keep these good locations to themselves.
9. Bees are short distance fliers. Indeed, bees prefer to be efficient in their nectar gathering, usually not going more than 1500' afoot but they have been known to travel further for a good source.
10. Adult bees live a long time. Alas your average male honey bee lives only about 6 weeks. Honey or bumblebee queens may live as long as 3-4 years. Solitary bees have it the worst, only living several weeks.
11. Male honey bees die upon mating. Under the 'I'm not sure I really wanted to know this' category, the genitalia of male honey bees explode at mating, paralyzing and killing them. Males of native species can and do mate more than once without dying.
12. Honey bees displace native bees on flowers. Evidence seems to indicate that apart from the occasional territorial scuffle between honey and native male bees, the groups seem to coexist peacefully.

So, there you have it, the 411 on the world of honey and native bees. 

Begonia Illumination Apricot. Somehow, these begonia flowers seem to glow with their own inner light. Golds, peaches, apricots, oranges, the flowers seem to display every color in this spectrum.

With my zoom lens I was finally able to get more of a closeup of the tiny flowers on my Emilia sonchifolia. My first attempt at growing it yielded mixed results but this year it has been in continuous glorious bloom for 3 months. Orange for orange lovers.

We're a long ways from Valentine's Day but this Cupid's Dart (Catananche caerulea) doesn't care. It's begun popping out lovely 1.5" flowers with overlapping petals. Not sure why this summer bloomer is so late but better late than never.

Who doesn't love moths? Here's a colorful little guy on my Tweedia plant. Gathering nectar no doubt. I've seen him frequently on this tweedia so I guess it's a good source. 

Calibrachoa Lemon Slice. One of my favorite variety names plus a pretty yellow star against white background flower. Million Bells as they're called are also enjoying the warmth of our autumn.

The flower on this hard to find Ruellia brittoniana may be a simple purple but dark stems and a bit of dark edging to the leaves of this vigorous perennial add up to an interesting specimen.

So, this photo illustrates the question 'What is a 'good' photo?' Shadows are somewhat camouflaging this shot of my Calothamnus villosus but in a way it adds a bit of mystery to the shot. As I've shared in previous photos, this is one of a number of plants whose flowers sprout directly off the stems. A close look reveals some burgundy buds here that have yet to open. And though the flowers look delicate, they are stiff and semi-waxy.

It may not be spring, when most bulbs begin to send up shoots and bloom, but some bulbs just can't wait. That would include a number of South African bulbs such as this Moraea polystacha, which naturally bloom in the late fall through late winter period.

Speaking of bulbs that don't bloom in spring or winter, this Rain lily waits for fall rains to quickly send up its simple white flowers. In short, most bulbs wait for the right combo of moisture and warmth to send up shoots. That's why it's not wise to plant things like Daffodils too early in the fall. If they get watered, intentionally or accidentally, or if we get unexpectedly early rain, they may get confused into thinking it's spring send up shoots.

Finally my latest discovery from the great world of Begonias, this B. Belleconia Soft Orange has one beautiful and somewhat unusual flower. The outer petals surround a collection of almost peony-like inner petals. Lovely!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Falling into Fall

As the saying goes "Fall would be my favorite season if it wasn't followed by winter." It may be mine anyway, at least here in Oakland with the warmer days and cool nights extending well into November. While the garden may not be as lush or bursting with the exuberance of spring, fall offers its own distinctive charms. And Fall is kind of a rest period. Yes, there's still weeding and trimming, fixing up some post spring/summer beds, but we've done most of the planting and can sit back and enjoy what our gardens have to offer. Today's garden photos reflect the diversity of the season but also a subtle shift from flowers to foliage as we inch our way to the colder months. And given my diverse garden, there are always delightful little surprises. This week it was my carefully nurtured Cypella peruviana bulb opening its first golden-orange flower. As they say, sometimes the hardest fought battles provide the sweetest victories.

Here's what all the fuss is about. Like Neomarica caerulea this Cypella has a patterned 'throat' to add that extra bit of interest. Unfortunately the flowers are very short-lived, often only a single day.

Begonia 'Illumination Apricot.' One last shot of my prolific bloomer. The whole series seems to provide vigorous bloomers, often smothering the foliage. No shy wallflower here.

Although the variegated foliage was the appeal of this Mini Bar Rose morning glory, I like the white rim on deep fuchsia-colored flowers. 

Speaking of 'mini', here's my Calibrachoa Mini-famous Double Rose plant. Like many things in my garden this year, it's blooming later than usual. You're never certain to get a second year's bloom out of Calibrachoas but this is year two of this little beauty.

Justicia betonica. I'm still in love with this tres, tres cool Plume flower. I'd not known of it until finding it a fellow enthusiast's plant sale and now it's nearly my favorite plant. Look at it full size to fully appreciate  the veining on its bracts. I kind of think of it as my 'albino justicia.'

Tried to catch the sun back-lighting this huge flower on my Oenathera 'Silver Blade.' This cross has perhaps the largest flower of any Mexican Evening primrose. And it's not often that you see a flower where every part of it is exactly the same color (as you find here).

Okay, okay, I should wait until the flowers on this Asclepias cancellata open but damn I swear they are opening in extreme slow motion. The flowers on this Wild Cotton milkweed are slightly unusual, forming five white 'tubes' with purple bases. Stiff, slightly curved leaves also distinguish this plant. A great plant for Monarchs.

We occasionally get asked at the nursery I work at "Do you have any plants that bloom year-round?" Uh, no. But actually that's not true. Two come to mind, one being this Gomphrena decumbens. It just goes on and on, as if oblivious to seasons or rain or, well, anything!

I'm still digging my new Salvia mexicana 'Danielle's Dream.' It seems to spend as much time with its fuzzy white bracts closed as open and sprouting two lipped pink flowers but that's fine with me.

Sesbania tripetii. It's about done blooming but couldn't resist one last shot of its glorious orange flowers. 

Eriogonum latifolium. Although E. grande rubescens and E. giganteum get all 'the press,' this charming and neater habit CA Buckwheat has made itself at home. I like some wildness in my garden - and there's plenty of that - but a plant that stays neat and compact has its own charm.

Lotus jacobaeus. This is the 'other' nonstop blooming plant in my garden. I remember when I mentioned to an experienced gardening friend 'Oh, my Black lotus seems fragile.'  He claimed his grew almost like a weed and was never out of bloom. Lo and behold that's what mine has done. Bees love it so am glad to have flowers for them in the cooler months.

Another 'almost there' shot, this of my smooth and speckled leaved Billbergia. The flower spike is all yellow bracts for now but soon will open sprays of multi-colored flowers.

Nandina 'Firepower.' It's now acquiring the vivid reds that lend it its variety name. This is a dwarf heavenly bamboo shrub, only getting to 30" tall and wide.

Two new additions to the garden, nearly mature specimens of Birdsnest Fern here above and the delightful Kangeroo Paw fern below. btw, both can be grown indoors. 

I'm sometimes asked to photograph whole beds, not just individual plants. Here's a photo of the main walkway, taken from the vantage point of the back apts towards the street. There's a 2' wide bed on the right and a foot wide ledge on the left where I keep a collection of potted plants.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Back on Track

Well, after a 3 week absence due to Outlook email problems - now thankfully resolved - I'm back up and running with my garden blog. Things keep progressing in the garden - there's always a surprising amount going on in the fall - but today a startling discovery. I already have the first of my spring bulbs up, in this case Ipheion, Ixia and Freesia. In early October! Of course it'll be two months before they bloom but still, they're up a month early.
Our cool weather has meant that many things are late and that includes morning glories, usually in bloom in July. Does anyone in Oakland remember when it was last 85 degrees? How about 80? Yep, a cool summer and our warm fall is beginning to look less likely as well. Not that that is a bad thing, given all the wildfires.
So here's a representative sampling of what is going on in my garden this fine early October.

A version of the 'shrimp plant.' The flower or should I say bract on this Justicia brandegeeana has a darker tone to the older specimen already in my garden. 

Salvia madrensis. One more shot, though far from perfect, of my true yellow Salvia madrensis. I say true yellow because there are so few yellow salvias and most have pale yellow flowers.

Ceanothus 'Gloire de Versailles.' This variety has very pale lilac flowers that at the right time are lightly fragrant. It's more of a sprawler than dense upright ones like Julia Phelps. 

Begonia Nonstop Deep Salmon. This lovely begonia is a late starter but makes up for it with the loveliest flowers. 

Salvia chamaedryoides 'Marine Blue.' This delicate salvia isn't so much a spiller but rather here it's reaching out for more sun. It normally only gets a foot tall and the stems break easily but I love the color of its flowers. 

The purple part of this Arum pictum is the emerging spathe. It will open to form a curved semi-circular spathe with a round bulbous spadix in the center. Arums are widespread and ancient looking, which to me makes them immediately fascinating. Plus they are poisonous.

This is my newly cleaned and amended driveways bed. It is slowly acquiring more succulents, being one of the few sunny spots with room to plant. I mixed in a cool Sideritis at the front and a Dorycnium at the rear for complimentary drought tolerant foliage.

The green flower spikes of my Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) will soon turn a creamy white and become as fuzzy as a, well, as a bottlebrush tree's flowers. 

Though no longer in flower, I still find the foliage on this Corydalis 'Blue Line' to be delightful. Verdant green, highly lobed, dense, it makes its own presence felt. 

This plain - but curious - looking plant is a Synadenium grantii, a close relative of the the Euphorbia genus. It is supposed to acquire some red spotting as the weather cools and in the meantime I love the fat pink 'trunk.'

This little charmer is a Begonia Belleconia Soft Orange. It's a tuberous type that has a pale orangish-white center. Very curious but pretty.

Cuphea ignea Strybing Sunset. This cigar-type cuphea is just now coming into its own. 

I'd previously posted a photo of my Scabiosa Florist's Blue with a bee harvesting nectar. Here's a different type of honey bee diligently collecting nectar.

This photo of my Snapdragon Chantilly Peach makes the flower look redder than it actually is. Actually, the flowers do start out darker, then open up to a golden-orange color. Part of the deservedly famous Chantilly series.

Any guess what this Salvia is? If you guessed a variety of S. mexicana you'd be right (the fuzzy white bracts helped). This new pink, not purple, variety is called Danielle's Dream. Here the fuzziness of the bracts seem especially pronounced.

Rhodocoma capensis.  This Giant Cape restio is a lovely addition to any garden and looks fabulous when mass planted. I don't have that option so am growing a single specimen in a pot.

The little known Ruellia brittoniana - thanks to Barb Siegel for the specimen - produces inky purple flowers in great numbers in the fall. They remind me a bit of Salpiglossis flowers.

A relatively new variegated Coreopsis, this C. 'Tequila Sunrise' offers Polemonium-like foliage and eventually yellow flowers. It's a cross between C. grandiflora and lanceolata so hopefully has inherited the best qualities from each species.

Late or early? Some things are late this year but some are early. My Cornus florida is already showing fall color. A nice early October treat.

"Oh, behave!" Anyone that saw the Austin Powers movies remembers that line. Here my Correa Wyn's Wonder has not behaved, deciding to hug the ground and spread out like a ground cover, rather than acting as the shrub it is. That's okay. I'm used to it now and it does make a rather attractive ground cover.

Pelargonium 'Fireworks' is aptly named, with exuberant red and white flowers seeming to explode above the green foliage.

Here's the first of my Morning Glories to bloom, this one (Kikyo-zaki) grown from seed. It's supposed to have a white edging so we'll see what happens with future flowers.
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