Thursday, January 29, 2015

A January Gem: The Jade Tree

I show my friend from Oz around the garden and point out the blooming jade tree, Crassula ovata. He sneers and says, "That's a weed in my country."

True, it thrives on neglect, but it's not invasive, forty years in the same place, same size.

Leaves: crassula = thick, ovata = oval-shaped, red margins when cold

Flowers: little, light pink, five-pointed stars; a very reliable visual treat in mid- to late-January. Update: On closer inspection, there are some sixes, can you find them?

Other forms of Crassula ovata with unusual leaves, not as pretty to my mind ...

Can never remember how to tell these two apart:

Crassula ovata 'Hobbit' (Hobbit Jade) a jade cultivar often confused with 'Gollum' by nurseries. 'Hobbit' leaves are curled back around.

Crassula ovata 'Gollum' (Gollum Jade) has tubular leaves tipped with a suction cup reminiscent of the J.R.R. Tolkein character by the same name. Must remember "suction cup".

This one I like better. It was labelled Crassula ovata undulata, but may be Crassula arborescens 'Blue Waves'.

The common jade tree is a garden treasure in mid-January. I like it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Dewy Day

 A Dewy Day for Wordless Wednesday, Temperature 51℉,  Dewpoint 51℉

(I just discovered that there are TWO different spider webs in this image. Put your cursor over the image and select "view image". Then zoom in on that. The other spider web is to the northwest at the base of the Prunus x cistena, sand cherry.)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Cyclamen Otherwise Known as Sowbread

Cyclamen is Medieval Latin, probably meaning"circle" because of the round tuber. In English, the species of the genus are commonly called by the genus name. In many languages, cyclamen species are colloquially called by a name like the English sowbread, because they are said to be eaten by pigs: pain de pourceau in French, pan porcino in Italian, varkensbrood in Dutch, "pigs' manjū" in Japanese. -- Wikipedia

Bulbs especially those from the Mediterranean work well in a summer-dry garden. They won't be blooming, but again they will not be wanting any water at all much preferring dryness in summer.

The tag that came with it
from the Cyclamen Society web page 
Cyclamen are essentially mediterranean plants (in the widest sense) and therefore follow a growing season of:
Come into growth in the autumn (fall).
Flower in the autumn, winter or spring.
Go dormant in late spring/early summer.

These cyclamen are blooming now in mid-January. The white flowers are very cheerful, but I got them for their long lasting variegated foliage. It goes well with the gray leaves of Pelargonium sidoidesStachys lanata, (lambs' ears) and Dianthus caryophyllus (carnation) already in the border.

Leaves have variegated silver patterns

Petals with funny splotches of color

A bud before the petals have become reflexed

Difficult to photograph because of lack of contrast between reflexed white petals. Reproductive floral structures do not extend beyond petals.
Dodecatheon redolens, fragrant shooting star at Little Jimmy Spring 7,500 Feet (2337.9 meters) by Jane Tirrell 2011-06-21 
The flowers are very similar in structure to the Californian and Western North American wildflower known as shooting star where the reproductive floral structures protrude.
Dodecatheon clevelandii, padre's shooting star, from Las Pilitas website
Small perennial, goes dormant in summer, has a 1 foot high flower cluster with 1/2 inch shooting stars, good in woodland garden or north slope (like mine). We ship them in Jan-Feb. (Already sold out for this year.) This plant is one of the first wildflowers to come up in the spring. All the wildflower lovers in our neighborhood compete to be the first one that sees them. Dodecatheon clevelandii tolerates clay.
Isn't this a "wow!" picture? Las Pilitas, a California native plant nursery, has this for sale, I must get some and try it. Anyone had experience with it in a garden setting?

The idea: Summer-dry Gardens
The first installment: Heuchera maxima, Island Alum Root, and a Personal Garden Challenge
followed by Imagining Summer 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Imagining Summer

I never imagined that the flowering plants I wanted for my summer-dry garden needed to be bought in the middle of January!

I went perusing the local nurseries yesterday and came home with little but ideas. Overnight some way I figured out how to introduce what was available into my new scheme.

Today's return to the nurseries got me these:


Sarcococca ruscifolia, fragrant sweet box. A shrub for dry shade that will be drought tolerant (eventually). I was influenced by reading about it on several lists for bloom day as being very fragrant, so I didn't resist. But why is this blooming now in the UK, but not California?

Euphorbia x martini  'Ascot Rainbow', spurge. A Mediterranean native extremely tolerant of heat and drought.


Some daisies, so refreshing ..... and happy. They lift the spirits on gloomy days. Yes, we do have a few of those here, too. But, alas, dryness is forecast for the next ten days.

Argyranthemum.  Can't get my tongue around that. Marguerite Daisy is better. May not be able to withstand summer drought. An experiment. The white ones I had did well for several years.

Chrysanthemum hosmariense, Moroccan Daisy.  Really? I thought most of them (chrysanths) went out of existence with the new genetic decoding.

Oh. That is the way it was labeled. Nurseries do not like to change the names of plants. Wikipedia says it has these names:
Rhodanthemum syn. Chrysanthemopsis, Pyrethropsis (Moroccan daisy), is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, mostly native to exposed rocky places in Northern Africa (Morocco and Algeria). Formerly included in either Chrysanthemum or Leucanthemum.
Love the finely cut gray foliage on this plant, but look at those buds, what a gorgeous filigree pattern underneath! Should survive the summer easily.

Pericallis hybrid. I used to know this as cineraria, but the hybridizers have been playing around with so it will be a repeat bloomer. This is Senetti. How did they come up with such a meaningless name.  Sen- from senecio, but -etti, where did that come from? It looks quite pretty in the garden even though it is not dense. Spring annual.

Osteospermum ecklonis 'Zion Red', African daisy. My favorite flower color. I call it 'freeway daisy' because that is where I am most likely to see it, but the newer colors make it more useful in the garden. Summer survivor.

Perennial other than daisy

Dianthus barbatus, Sweet William 'Sweet Red'. One of my very favorite flowers. Supposedly a drought tolerant biennial or perennial. Did not survive the brutal summer. I'll try again.

Spring Annuals (dependent on winter rain)

Nemesia hybrid Nessie PLUS Deep Red, nemesia. Spring annuals I think qualify for the ultimate summer-dry flower because they are non-existent or dead or only seeds by then. I love the bright colors of this nemesia bought to go with the red-centered Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow'.

Sutera cordata, Bacopa, waterhysssop.
Unlike most plants, Sutera will not wilt when drought stressed. Before the plant shows signs of wilting it will drop both the flowers and the buds on the plant.

 Oughta keep me occupied for awhile.

The idea: Summer-dry Gardens
The first installment: Heuchera maxima, Island Alum Root, and a Personal Garden Challenge

Heuchera maxima, Island Alum Root, and a Personal Garden Challenge

Brown paper packages tied up with string
These are a few of my favorite things!

My personal garden challenge this year (and likely many more to come) is to create a summer-dry garden.

I like to see flowers.

But why a summer-dry garden?
Because I hate seeing wilted plants and I dislike having to water daily; it feels like being tied to the end of the hose every morning, no freedom to go away.
First installment arrived today from Annie's: Heuchera maxima.

Have you seen what the hybridizers have done with other Heuchera species, coral bells? All those different colored leaves? I wouldn't have them in my garden; they are so artificial looking.

This species, maxima, looks more natural. An example where this selection has been used successfully is shown here on the Summer-Dry website:


These new plants are going in the dry shade in a corner of the yard in a space difficult to fill. Maybe the Heuchera maxima will cover up Lady Banks' legs, do you think?

Heuchera maxima 4.jpg
Heuchera maxima, Island alum root, Channel Islands coral bells, is endemic to the four northern Channel Islands of California within Channel Islands National Park. It grows on canyon cliffs in coastal sage scrub habitats. Caption and image from Wikipedia 

 Lady Banks at home in February 2014

I am very excited about this new garden project!