Tuesday, February 26, 2019

You wanted rain?

File under the heading "Be careful what you ask for." That would be our request, even prayer, for more rain. Certainly the reservoirs need it but well, floods aren't great either and some of our properties just aren't set up to handle 3-6" of rain a day. We'll survive it but boy it does make it more difficult to get out in the garden when everything is so wet.
Other news tidbits. I'll be curious to see how things go for the SF Garden Show that for the first time (I think) is being held in Sacramento. That's a bit of a drive from SF and the East Bay, although in truth it was quite the drive to the Cow Palace as well. Hopefully gardeners living in and around our state capital will attend in large numbers. We all need to support the show. March 2-6.
Doesn't it seem as if it should already be the end of March? I don't know, this month of February is lasting an awfully long time. I'm sure people living in Chicago and many cities back east would gladly take our 55 degree rains.
Here are a few photos taken last week when we had a couple days of sun. It's a shorter selection, reflecting the season. I'm a bulb lover and so at least have new shoots appearing as the promise of flowers to come. I already have the first daffodils and freesias in bloom, with many more bulb flowers to come in the very near future. For those of you who may have bulbs still sitting around, get them in the ground!
Meanwhile, driving around Oakland I'm cheered by the ornamental cherry trees already being in bloom. Even on gray days they bring such joy!

Iris reticulata is one of the most popular of the species irises and here's one called Dwarf Halkin. Most of the reticulatas have purple flowers, some darker, some lighter. They're all low to the ground, as this variety is. The taller thicker shoots you see are a species gladiola that has come up.

Lachenalia variety. This unidentified Lachenalia bloomed its heart out this year. It was nearly the first to flower and is still going after the others are done. I keep my Lachenalias in pots so that I can give them the dry summer they all want. 

Here's a photo of my succulent table. I do have several mixed succulent bowls (three outside, one inside) but here I've just gathered individual pots. I do also have many succulents in the ground and they too are happy. 

Not many realize that snapdragons are actually a great plant to grow in winter. The cold doesn't bother them and assuming you get any sun at all they will put out an endless array of flowers.

There should be a name for evergreen shrubs that provide year round interest. Maybe there is. That's certainly true for the Coprosmas. Here's my C. Pina Colada. Coprosmas are a great way to provide winter color when not much else is doing so. 

Chasmanthe bicolor. This hardy, some would say invasive, S. African bulb blooms reliably every year in late winter. Mine is planted where it can't really escape so I'm not worried. 

Physocarpus Nugget. I love the delicacy of the new leaves on my golden Ninebark. It leafs out faithfully each late January/early February, one of the earliest to do so of my deciduous shrubs. It loves its location, getting reflected heat off the stucco stairs.

I didn't plant this red-leaved Echeveria gibbiflora in the middle of all these vibrant green nasturtiums but it worked out very well. A red sea creature popping up in a sea of green? 

Luculia pinceana. Though the foliage has been sparse on my Luculia, it still produces a host of indescribably fragrant flowers every winter. I've been reluctant to prune it but I think I will after the flowering has stopped.

My Magnolia Butterflies flowers have yet to achieve the golden yellow color that they are famous for, mine are still a paler butter yellow, but I love them still. It's always the first of my four Magnolias to bloom, along with the M. stellata.

Rhodocoma capensis. This restio has really taken off, having tripled in size from the gallon pot I bought 6 months ago. I love that it's filling in at the bottom, giving it a denser appearance.

Chaenomeles Kurokoji. Flowering quince are just about the easiest thing to grow, so much so that one has to be careful they don't take over the area they're in. This blood red variety was planted ten years ago and has settled in very nicely.

Though the sun washed out the colors on the first flower of my Camellia x williamsii Anticipation - it's really more of a reddish pink and lighter pink bicolor - I thought I'd still post the photo. One of the most beautiful of my many lovely camellias!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Refreshing our language

When people ask me how many languages I speak, I say "Well, besides English I speak a bit of French." What I'd like to add is "And Horticulture." For those of us that have learned a lot of horticultural plant names - that's literally hundreds and hundreds for many - this is a kind of language. And of course it's not just the scientific names of the plants, it's also Latin-based terms for describing the myriad aspects of their forms, functions and existence in our world. And like any language, knowledge of those many and varied terms must be constantly refreshed. 'Horticulture' as a language falls prey to that old adage "Use it or lose it." My recent cutting back of hours at the Grand Lake Ace nursery has meant that I'm not conversing with customers as much, I'm not suggesting plants as often, I'm not trying to ID plants as often. It's this daily interaction with the names and qualities of plants - their hort names - that helps to keep the language front and center in our minds. I find myself searching my database (ie. brain) for the botanical name of a certain plant, even though I know what it is, can picture it. Something as simple as looking through gardening books, researching online a plant I'm writing about all help to keep this memory-knowledge intact.
This isn't just a personal sharing but a suggestion to stay curious about plants, both ones in your own garden and ones that just pique your curiosity. I'm always telling customers "Save the tags of the plants you take home", even if that's just throwing them in a gallon jar. That's mainly so they can show us that ID tag but having those tags with the botanical name is a good way to help remember the authentic names of your plants. For those who want to be more ambitious, you can make a Word doc of the plants in your garden (as I have). It may seem laborious at first but over time it's really gratifying that you know the botanical names of so many plants and in the end to realize that you too speak "a little botanical."
Okay, here are this week's photos.

Here the bluish-green foliage of the Dianthus stands out from the population of Ipheion shoots (and a bit of weedy grass) in my walkway bed. Soon those Ipheion shoots will open blue star-shaped flowers.

This is a bit like a figure-ground quiz. ie do you see the lampshade or the faces? Here those tiny burgundy 'dots' are flowers on my Gomphrena decumbens bush. It flowers nearly year round now. 

That golden orange mass is my Oxalis spiralis aurea. If you look closely you can see the pale violet flowers of a Ceanothus Gloire de Versailles branch snaking through the oxalis.

My Callistemon viminalis is finally finding its flowering groove. This is a dwarf bottlebrush plant, one that matures as a shrub and not as a tall tree.

Leucospermum variety. This is my neighbor's specimen and it's filled out rather gloriously, in part because it's getting regular water, something that Protea family members don't need. It's just now starting to bloom. 

Melianthus pectinatus. Speaking of things dwarf, this is a smaller-sized species of African honey bush. Leaves look very different, as do the flowers. Same peanut butter smell to the leaves though.

Abelia sp. Chiapis. This guy is also just starting its bloom season. As I've shared, it differs from other Abelias in that it cascades and that its flowers are not just an unusual burgundy color but also that they are fragrant.

If you look closely you'll see my Fracunculus vulgaris shoot. It's popped up rather early in the season. You can see its tell-tale membership in the Arum  family by the mottled stem and the structure of its leaves (though not all arum members have mottled stems and foliage can vary).

Speaking of Protea family members, here's my Grevillea 'Superb.' It's just beginning to bloom. This shot was taken on a cloudy day so the colors look more muted than when viewed on a sunny day.

We had a sneak peek of my Phylica plumosa bush in the Callistemon photo but here's more of a closeup. This S. African native has perhaps the softest foliage and flowers of any plant.

Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift.' Almost didn't catch this yesterday but here's the advance guard on this sun-loving clematis. It's broad leathery leaves and fragrance also distinguish this evergreen species. And to my nose, Snowdrift is one of the most fragrant cultivars.

Begonia fuchsioides. Until you're familiar with this species, it hardly looks like a begonia at all. This one gets big - mine is already 5' tall - and produces clusters of tiny reddish-pink flowers. 

That's a Helleborus Amethyst Gem on the left (purple flowers) and H. x sternii 'Silver Dollar' on the right. Tis the season hellebores.

Canarina canariensis. This one of a kind plant produces the loveliest tubular orange flowers and in the late fall/winter season when not much else is in bloom.
And below is my Athyrium niponicum. This Japanese fern is up early this year, having only been deciduous for less than two months. It looks delicate but is in fact one of the hardier ferns.


01 09 10