Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Spring in the Distance

I know it's insane to even mention the word 'spring' when it's like -20 in most of the midwest but well to paraphrase a certain vice presidential candidate "We can see Spring from our porch here."
Speaking of the weather, we all know climate change is about to get more real - wait I think it just did in the midwest, if you believe one consequence of climate change is a greater frequency of extreme weather events - and I wanted to share that scientists keep up the work, sometimes at some personal peril, to chart what the weather is doing. We don't really need more facts do we but at least scientists continue this work and evidence keeps building.
Okay, back to something closer to home. Each one of us that gardens helps the local ecology so that's a bonus on top of the beauty that our gardens bring to our neighborhoods. I get constant feedback from passersby about that and I both love sharing that beauty and wonder AND hope that it in some small way inspires some to plant their own gardens.
Here are some photos taken today, reflecting our recent rain and mild temps.

Lachenalia tricolor. The most boisterous of my many cowslips. 

Gloxinia sylvatica Bolivian Sunset. This hardy outdoor gloxinia produces these reddish-orange tubular flowers in late winter. A welcome bit of color this time of year.

This rare garden specimen hails from the tropical climes of Oakland's Cat Town! Yes, Phoebe has become a part of my garden now.

Despite Monardellas being generally hardy I haven't always had the best of luck. But this M. odoratissima has prospered, being in continual bloom this last four months. Good news for bees and butterflies alike.

Ranunculus are one of the first bulbs to bloom and they are so plentiful in 4" pots at nurseries, that's how (and when) I add them to my garden. So far, it's an orange and a golden one but I'm sure I'll add more.

Erysimum 'Poem Mirabelle.' I love wallflowers and recommend them all the time to our Ace Garden Center customers. Tough, easy, drought tolerant and long blooming. Case closed.

Erica canaliculata 'Rosea.' I've been collecting 'heathers' of all kinds and this is the latest. Love the flowers; love the foliage.

I'm not generally a fan of pink flowers but have made an exception for this Salvia 'Pink Icicles.' Love how it forms a rounded white bract first, from which emerge vibrant pink flowers. Odd but cool.

Aloe striata. A lot of things have been early in my garden but I think this Aloe is a tad late in blooming. It's just starting to now. Though common, it's probably my favorite species of Aloe. 

Magnolia stellata. This species is always one of the earliest. This year the blooming is happening a bit in slo-mo. It may be time to help it with some bloom fertilizer, as it's in a median strip's poor soil.

Grevillea victoriae. This hard to find grevillea's flowers are a bit plainer than some but it's supposed to be a prolific bloomer and one that flowers over a much longer period.

It's Hellebore season and that means all manner of colorful Lenten roses will be adding a bit of sparkle to our winter/early spring gardens. This one is H. 'Wayne Rodderick.'

To paraphrase "Are you a Thunbergia or are you just happy to see me?" Well, both, I guess. Thunbergias (this one Arizona Red) seem to bloom whenever they feel like it. That's nearly year round for mine and I'm committing the cardinal sin of growing it in a pot!

Choisya ternata 'Sundance.' This golden mock orange took awhile to get established but it's doing very well now. It loves the reflected morning sun here.

One can't have too many Camellias - especially when you're adding reticulatas - and this one here is Francie L. variegated. It took awhile to get established but is vigorous this year.

Ditto for my Camellia Lila Naff. This is one of the reticulatas, which generally showcase ruffled petals, large flowers and an open habit.

Another retic, this one C. Bill Woodruff.' This variety from Sonoma Horticultural Nursery, is actually a huge flower, very much a double, a flaming red and curiously has three distinct sections to each flower. The way the sun caught this bloom it's hard to appreciate just how red it really is.

Passiflora parritae x tarminiana 'Oaklandia.' These 'simple' but large and colorful passion flowers have made themselves at home in my apple tree, having climbed a full 30' high. Very long blooming but sadly not sought out much by hummingbirds (though maybe I just don't see them).

Thursday, January 10, 2019

A new year

It's true that it's January and for many parts of the country, evergreen shrubs and trees are the sum of their gardens. For those of us in milder zones like the Bay Area, gardening can and does continue on. That's triply true for those of us that have planted a diverse garden.  It's been said many times, including here, that phase one of gardening has a number of enjoyable stages. You have the imagining of the gardening; then you have the shopping, be it at a local nursery or occasionally online; then you have the soil/bed prep and the planting and finally the progress of each plant.
This time of year there's a different set of 'steps.' First you have the progression of evergreen winter blooming shrubs such as Camellias and Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince); then you have the appearance of bulb shoots (I already have Freesias, Ixias, Ipheions, Dutch Iris and Sparaxis up (and that's not counting my South African bulbs); then you have the late winter blooming trees such as Magnolias and Redbuds fattening their buds; followed by early deciduous shrubs starting to leaf out and finally early spring flowers. What these all have in common is activity, progression, all leading to an eventual result. For me, that's also part of the gardening interest and excitement. It may not be the rush of spring but it's still activity that piques one's interest.
That said, there are a few things still in bloom, or just starting, in my garden. So, that means photos to share. Hopefully this will bring a wee bit of joy to those whose gardens are mostly at rest right now.

Wallflowers (Erysimum) need a better PR agent. They get little respect, or even regular interest, amongst gardeners and yet they are an amazing genus. Tough, drought tolerant once established, very long blooming almost to the point of flowering year round in milder climates, well behaved, popular with bees and butterflies, the list goes on and on. This one is E. Poem Mirabelle.

Another wonderful plant not always appreciated, or easily found at nurseries, is Catananche caerulea. The oddly named Cupid's Dart produces an abundance of flowers from late summer to late fall or even early winter apparently, as mine is still in bloom.

As mentioned above, Flowering Quince is a wonderful shrub for winter color. I have three in my garden, this one is Chaenomeles 'Fuji', and they bloom from December through April, depending on the variety. Very adaptable, they'll grow in poor soil (that includes clay), will survive drought but equally a lot of rain. Self-sufficient!

My Magnolia stellata is usually the first of my Magnolias to bloom and it has already produced its first bloom. I describe the flowers to customers as 'fingers,' as the spoon-shaped petals remind me of our digits. 

This is just a reminder that it's birding season everyone! Had a nice sighting the other day, spotting two Northern Flickers in a Cordyline tree, in the clusters of flowers. Apparently those flowers draw insects and that's likely what the flickers are after.

My Arbutus Marina just finished producing this cluster of flowers, which should soon turn into berries much sought after by birds.

A lot of South African plants will bloom in winter here (but not all!) and one of those is the genus Arctotis. This A. 'Opera Fire' is just starting to bloom but has tons of buds forming. One of the genera called African Daisy, it tends to like sun, will spread out and is tenacious once established.

Okay, not a great photo but I'm surprised that my new Begonia Angel Glow is staying evergreen. It didn't bloom in this first year but I bought it mainly for the foliage. In fact this will ring a bell for many Begonia lovers. It's often the foliage that is the star attraction not the flowers.

Kudos to anyone who can ID this plant. Believe it or not, it's a Gloxinia! In this case it's a Gloxinia sylvatica 'Bolivian Sunset.' It is indeed a winter bloomer and very hardy outdoors. Very charming flowers!

Speaking of S. African plants and bulbs in particular, Lachenalias are often the first of this wide-ranging group of bulbs to bloom. There's plenty of them too. This is an unusual one, a cross from a local grower. He ID'd it as L. viridiflora x quadricolor. You can see the telltale turquoise blue from the viridiflora and then the yellow, green and purple are from the quadricolor parent.

Lachenalia aloides 'Orange.' The aloides species may be the most widespread and vigorous of all the Lachenalias and they are also early bloomers as a rule. 

Snapdragon. Not everyone realizes that snapdragons actually do pretty well in the winter where there is a milder zone. This 6pack is just beginning to flower.

Not real dragonflies but these little vinyl dragons are certainly colorful and 'pass muster' at a distance.

Callistemon viminalis. So, yes a bottlebrush plant but in this case a smaller shrub not a huge tree. I'm growing mine in a container, as it will only mature to 4-6.' Same nectar rich flowers that hummers love. Surprisingly bees like them too. 

Camellia 'Silver Waves.' I have a dozen camellias in my garden but this was the first. It's a prolific bloomer and has a substantial boss of yellow stamen to offset the pure white petals. One of the faster growing camellias, which as a general rule are somewhat slow. 

This Salvia involucrata 'Pink Icicles' owns one of my favorite variety names but also has an interesting way of producing flowers, forming one large whitish bud (as you can see in the back of this flower cluster) that then opens to three tubular pink flowers. Though listed as a summer and fall bloomer, it seems to be just getting going in this its first year from a 4" plant. 

The aptly named Fuchsia splendens took awhile to get settled and in the mood for blooming but finally seems to have figured it out. Simple pinkish-orange flowers are tipped with reflexed green lower portions. This Fuchsia can get big and is semi-scandent, though mine being in a pot has kept it a modest size.
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