Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Happy Solstice

Hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and keeping their spirits bright during the short days and chilly weather! Part of my wellness program is to work in my garden, though truth be told at this late stage, it's mostly cleanup and planting bulbs. I already have the early bulbs up - Freesia, Sparaxis, Ipheion, Dutch iris and the first daffodils. Plus the first of my South Africa collection, that being Lachenalias and Ferrarias.
Here are some photos to share on this XMas eve. Ho, ho, ho!

Magnolia Butterflies. Sometimes in the winter months it's all about the promise of things to come. In this case, it's the lovely pale yellow flowers on this magnolia. First flowers will open in less than a month.

Three new succulents, to be planted in the copper-colored bowl here. That's an Aeonium Sunburst, Echeveria gibbiflora and at the lower center a Sempervivum tectorum greenii. 

It may not look like it but this colorful guy is an Oxalis. It's O. Coco Mint and its color has deepened as the weather has cooled. 

Here's a newly arrived piece of garden art. It's fashioned from distressed metal. This photo is a bit over-exposed so it doesn't show off the brown flecking.

Canarina canariensis. This fall and winter bloomer is still adding these delightful cup-shaped orange flowers. Can be a bit tricky to get going but is very hardy once established.

Phylica plumosa. Though it hasn't filled in as much as I would like, in part due to it staying in a pot, this South African shrub has the absolute softest foliage!

I've been collecting heathers and this Erica canaliculata 'Rosea' has been a real find. It's proven to be a prolific bloomer even in its first year.

Melaleuca micromera. This less common Melaleuca has the finest texture foliage, with alternating green buds and cream-colored stems giving the appearance of a micro variegation.

Kalanchoe prolifera. If any plant were aptly named it's this thick-leaved succulent. K. prolifera? Should have just called it Kalanchoe prolific for how fast it grows, how big it gets, how often it flowers and how easily it reseeds. 

I'm still waiting on my Sideritis cypria to flower but in the meantime it keeps filling out, now spilling over the front edge of this driveways bed. Love that silvery foliage and wouldn't mind if it never bloomed, except for the fact that the lime-green bracts are ever so cool. They start out as upright swirling funnels then separate into round bracts similar to Salvia clevelandii.

It's about time for my Aloe striata to bloom. Like many aloes it puts out stiff stems containing multi-branching clusters of tubular orange flowers.Hummers love 'em too!

Echeveria gibbiflora 'Red.' Though it's still awaiting a home in the ground, this showy Echeveria is adding color to the driveways bed.

A lot of people are familiar with Melianthus major, the so-called African honey bush. It is perhaps more vividly known as the 'peanut butter plant' as its foliage really does exude an uncanny PB scent. This photo is of my M. pectinatus plant, a more dwarf form of the larger M. major. Still has that same eerie PB scent.

Many people think of Euonymus plants as utilitarian and it's true, they're a tough, long-lived way to add evergreen foliage to a spot. This E. japonicus aureo-marginatus might be the exception, with its considerable size and bright golden colors. Normally it's a mix of greens and golds but right now it's carrying forward summer golds.

Swainsona galegifolia 'White.' The delicate foliage on this Aussie native makes it seem as if it might be hard to grow but in fact it's a sturdy shrub. It sports white pea-shaped flowers in summer and gets to about 5'x5' in size.

This Sphaeralcea NewLeaze Coral has been the star of my 2019 garden, just now going out of bloom after flowering prolifically since April. One of the better performing mallows.

 The leaf shape is a give-away - yes this is a geranium - but its dark leaves are uncommon in the great world of true geraniums. It's G. 'Chocolate Candy.' Lovely!

My Rhodocoma capensis keeps on keeping on. I put it in this location to soften all the cement of the front steps. Mission accomplished!

My Abelia Kaleidoscope  has been a real trooper, anchoring a spot along our main walkway. The broader-leaved vine spilling over it is my Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift.' It's an evergreen species, with intensely fragrant white blooms in spring.

That's a Billbergia Casablanca on the right and a Neoregelia variety on the left. Neither has bloomed yet but I'm sure they soon will. By the way, these came from Bromeliad Paradise in Florida and I highly recommend them.

Kudos to those who recognize this Begonia. It's B. acetosa, an obviously broad-leaved species that has grown extremely quickly. No blooms in this its first year but really, it's the foliage that is the main attraction.

A friend gave me a cutting of this mystery Begonia. Does anyone recognize it? I'd love to know what it is.

No mystery as to this Camellia's identity. It's my C. reticulata Frank Hauser. Reticulatas are the Queens of the camellia world, often having the showiest flowers. That includes most having ruffled petals like this beauty.

Microlepia strigosa. One of my favorite ferns and so far it has both remained evergreen and avoided the dreaded thrips.

Nandina 'Firepower.' This variety of heavenly bamboo features red leaves, especially in the winter. It's a bit slow growing but that's okay.

Speaking of less common 'geraniums', this Pelargonium sidoides is one of my favorites. It's not in bloom right now but it sports tiny, intense burgundy flowers that are a true delight. Meanwhile, one gets to enjoy the lovely scalloped leaves.

Melaleuca incana. Though the little woody 'cone' like protuberances seem like they must be a seedpod of some kind, in fact they are the pieces from which the yellow flowers will eventually sprout. All part of this Aussie's survival strategy in harsh arid conditions.

Look closely and you can see developing flower buds on this Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' One of the showiest of all sugarbushes, this one features a fine golden 'fur' right before the flower opens.

I wanted to put this bluebird door knocker out where people could enjoy it so hung it on our walkway fence.

Myrsine africana variegata. This variegated form of the African boxwood is a nice way to lighten up a darker spot. This plant is notoriously slow to flower and indeed I'm still waiting after 5 years.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Winter garden

Hard to believe it's already December, though the cold weather this last few days has driven that point home. Still, for those of us who have an all season garden, there's always something of interest. In that light, here are some photos of the garden taken last Thursday. As is often the case, this season is more about the foliage and less about the flowers.

Salvia regla Huntington Gardens. This new salvia offers bright reddish-orange flowers. It is new from a 4" container so we'll see how it fills out.

Black lotus. This small bush blooms nearly year round in my Oakland garden. The tiny burgundy pea-like flowers are always a delight.

My walkways bed is still showing some color, with three different varieties of Agastache in bloom plus the cheerful yellow and purple violas. It soon will explode in color with spring blooming bulbs. 

I have a few late blooming Mimulus to cheer me up, like this M. Jelly Bean Gold. The Jelly Bean series especially seem to offer a long blooming season.

Erica canaliculata Rosea. I love heathers and this upright variety hailing from South Africa is a real charmer. I'm not sure about its true blooming season but it's in bloom now in its first year in my garden.

I practice layered planting, especially given how many bulbs I have in my garden. Here ground level violas keep company with my Cunonia capensis shrub.

Though not the best photograph, here's a few orangish flowers from my Justicia fulvicoma. It is a late fall bloomer and is even later this year. I love the 'plume' flowers as Justicias are sometimes called. 

Those tiny curled 'fingers' you see here are the flowers on my Hamamelis intermedia, better known as Witch Hazel. It's normally not cold enough for the shrubs to do well here in Oakland but this year I'm getting a nice bumper crop of fragrant flowers.

Here are two of my mixed, bonzai, dwarf conifer bowls, one with white stone for dramatic contrast and the other left with plain soil.

This is my original dwarf conifer bowl, which has become visually dominated by the golden Chamaecyparis there.

I have begun filling up the front of what once was entirely an Australian natives bed with various succulents and dry garden plants. Over time it's made for a nice show, both for my neighbors and any passersby that love gardens.

Cistus 'McGuire's Gold.' Though it hasn't flowered yet, this golden-leaved rockrose has provided plenty of colorful foliage.

Ficinia truncata 'Ice Crystal.' I'd never heard of this mat forming South African plant when I came across it at our nursery. Very unusual and charming. It will eventually produce golden-brown flowers on foot tall stems.

My Marmalade bush has finally filled out and resumed blooming, after a severe pruning two years ago. There's nothing quite like its collection of peachy-orange flowers.

If you recognize this as a staghorn fern you're half right. It is a Platycerium but this is P. veitchii, a slightly more silvery species that prefers sun over mostly shade. 

My Helleborus argutifolius Pacific Frost has decided to get an early start on its blooming, here producing its first flowering spike of the new season. Although not obvious from this photo, this variety is so named because of the prominent white speckling on its leaves. 

Though they are common, cyclamen are still a most welcome flower to any winter garden. 

Rhipsalis variety. I've long ago lost the tag for this Rhipsalis but it has proven very hardy and even blooms on a regular basis. Mind you that's tiny white flowers that you barely notice but that's okay. It's the 'leaves' that are of interest to me. (and many others).

Kudos to those who can guess the identity of this, the newest addition to my garden. A picture of its showy reddish-orange flowers would be of a great help. It's a Stenocarpus sinuatus, better known as Firewheel tree. Though you wouldn't at first think so, it's a member of the Protea family and as far as we know, this genus has but one species. They can get huge in the wild - up to 100' tall - but more likely here in our cooler temperate climate 40-50'. I'm keeping mine in a pot and hope to keep it to a more manageable 20-30'.

Not sure how Nandina domestica ever got its common name (Heavenly bamboo) but it has proved a durable (and beautiful) shrub in my garden.

If Farfugium doesn't ring a bell as this plant's genus, then how about Ligularia? Yep, the powers-that-be have reclassified many of the plants in this genus as belonging to Farfugium. In this case, it's a F. japonica Aureomaculatum. Though it does produce yellow flowers, most people grow this shade-loving plant for its foliage. It is a bit susceptible to being eaten by snails, as you can see here (before I got the snail bait out).

Microlepia strigosa (Lace fern). One of my favorite ferns and so far so good with it avoiding getting thrips.
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