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Combination Nation!

21 Mar

A garden is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s about getting some of the sum to party together at the same time!

Over the years, we’ve come across some pretty dependable – and dependably pretty – bloom-at-the-same-time plant combinations. And each year, it seems we discover new ones! For us, that’s a huge part of the fun of gardening – and of course, we love to share our tried-and-true, can’t-go-wrong favorites with you!

Our Springtime gardens wouldn’t be the same without our  favorite California wildflower and #1 stunner , Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes.” Once you’ve edged your Spring garden in this little slice of sky-blue heaven, you’ll be hooked! Which is fine because it looks great with everything, especially other natives that bloom at the same time. Here it looking perfectly perky with Malcolmia maritima and  fellow natives Platystemon californicusNemophila menziesii ‘Snow White’ and Limnanthes douglasii “Meadow Foam.”

Nemophila menziesii scene

Yup, looks great with the fiery red of Eschscholzia californica ‘Red Chief,’ too!

Nemophila "Baby Blue Eyes" & Cal Poppy 'Red Chief'

“Baby Blue Eyes” looking extra fine with red hot Cal Poppy ‘Red Chief.’

Another knock-out and goof-proof duo we return to again and again is Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’ and Eschscholzia californica ‘Apricot Chiffon.’ You just can’t beat the alchemy between the radiant Poppy and the luminous, almost turquoise Penstemon. Not shy in the bloom department, these two will go to town for months! Deer and drought resistant, they’re fine in low fertility soil and even more bodacious in regular garden soil with some compost!

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus
Okay, so say pastels aren’t really your thing. We can work with that! One of our favorite combinations pits primary gentian blue Anagallis monellii against the solar flare sunshine of Ursinia anthemoides. Throw in the peachy-amber foliage of Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and you’ve got a fantasically contrastic combo that does great in low water gardens.

Anagallis monellii & Ursinia anthemoides

From left to right: Heuchera ‘Marmalade’, Anagallis monellii and Ursinia anthemoides. BAM.

Ursinia anethoides & Anagallis monellii

Dreamiest spikes of creamiest apricot-blushed-rose blooms make this properly 3′ tall Snapdragon a perfect companion to so many other Spring (and Summer!) bloomers. Here it is canoodling with the long-blooming frothy lace caps of Orlaya grandiflora “Minoan Lace.”

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach' and Orlaya grandiflora

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach,' Orlaya  grandiflora & Nicotiana 'Lime Green'
If we handed out awards to our favorite bloomers, Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ would probably sweep the floor, winning “Most Congenial,” Most Stylish” AND “Most Versatile.” Easy and exceptionally long blooming, it gets along with EVERYBODY and looks chic and fabulous doing it.  Plant it in containers or in the garden, it’ll thrive in sun (along the coast) or shade, its lime green flowers providing the perfect foil for more vibrant bloomers like Agrostemma githago ‘Milas.’

Nicotiana 'Lime Green' & Agrostemma g. 'Milas'

Agrostemma githago 'Milas'

So there you have it, folks – some simple and stunning combos you can try at home. AND, since so many of these luscious lovelies self-sow, you’ll enjoy future generations of combinations next Spring and beyond!

Succulents Don’t Suck!

8 Jul

Succulent Junkie Alert!

Hello from Outer Sunset in San Francisco! It’s Megan (Annie’s plant sign-maker) blogging at you from the foggiest parts of the Bay Area. In celebration of Brian Kemble’s upcoming and totally AWESOME succulent talk on Saturday, July 9th I thought I’d show you what happens when you become succulent obsessed. A little less than four years ago I moved to San Francisco from Madison, Wisconsin and was immediately intrigued by the masses of succulents I saw growing OUTSIDE everywhere. Jade plants growing taller than me were the most amazing things I’d ever seen. I didn’t even know what most of  the succulents I was seeing were, as there’s not a lot of succulent options for the garden in Wisconsin.

Agave & Sweet Pea love

Since I started working at Annie’s my inner Flower Floozy has emerged, and I’ve been mixing it up. Flowery annuals and other non-succulenty plants can be friends with succulents. There’s no reason why you can’t have sweetly scented Lathyrus odorata ‘Cupani, California native Keckellia cordifolia AND a big honking Agave americana (I do not recommend this plant unless you have lots and lots o’ space) bunking up next to each other. Throw in a Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ for the heck of it, too!  I planted the sweet pea early, so the Winter rains would establish it before Summer, and since it almost never gets above 65 degrees next to the beach, it’s still covered in blooms – even in July! Pretty much everything in the garden gets watered once a week during the rainless Summers, and if that’s not enough, too bad.

Sunny Scyphanthus & Succulent Friends

Here’s a shot of the back fence with TONS of succulents. One of my faves is Aloe plicatilis (the big guy on the left), but I’ve got viney buddies Scyphanthus elegans and Eccremocarpus scaber ‘Cherry Red’ crawling up a homemade trellis for some flowery action everyone can enjoy from the patio. My Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ is still pumping out flowers in a container, along with blue beauty Anchusa capensis ‘Blue Angel’. Hurray for flowery pops of color!

Mix of all kinds of stuff

This picture is from the “shadier” side of the garden (gotta keep an eye on those sneaky Fuchsias). I’ve found that pretty much all Aeoniums are just fine, if not even a little perkier, on this part shade in the Summer/full shade in the Winter side of the garden, so I stick them everywhere, even in containers full of Fuchsia procumbens (I think that’s Aeonium rubrolineatum poking out). One of best things about succulents is that even in January, most of them are still doing their cool sculptural thing. I encourage anyone thinking about going the succulent, dry garden route to give them a shot. For more tales of the succulent obsessed visit me on my garden blog Far Out Flora.

Let’s Play Favorites!

15 Jun

I’m about to make a very strong statement – please don’t be alarmed. My statement will be concerning my favorite Salvia – the Salvia I would choose over all other Salvias (and there could be around 900 of them, and that’s species, not cultivars) which, as a gardener, is a pretty difficult decision, know what I mean?

By no means is this my favorite plant – don’t even go there!

Ok, ready? (is there a drumroll I can put here?)

Salvia pomifera

Salvia pomifera looking its best for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Salvia pomifera. Yep – Salvia pomifera, I’m calling you out. You’re the one for me.

There are other honorable and distinguished and beautiful Salvias & I love a good number of them (shout outs to Salvia carduacea, clevelandii & semiatrata – I LOVE YOU GUYS) but Salvia pomifera is my lasting favorite & has been for many years. It’s preposterously gorgeous in flower, not monstrous in size, super tolerant of drought & it’s useful. Stir these fine qualities together and add whatever sentimental attachments I’ve made to the species, and you have the one Salvia. There’s some skill involved in growing it, but I’m going to tell you all of that here and now, so no big deal. By the time you leave this blog you will be a Salvia pomifera PRO and you can take one home without any anxiety over potentially killing The Salvia that Claire Would Choose Above All Others.

salvia_pomifera_mid

Somehow this dear sage is both handsome & frilly all at once.

No pressure. I’m a firm believer in pushing the envelope – if a plant grows like a weed that can be delightful, but there’s also a joy in taking on a plant with a little bit of challenge. It’s not always true that the effort expended is rewarded in kind, and my compost pile tells of many sad failures, but success can be sweet!! I believe that the key lies in the following three things.  Here goes:

1.       This plant can drown. Most plants can, but this one’s particularly sensitive to it. What that means is that you should water it carefully – watching that things aren’t overwatered particularly, and keeping the soil on the dry side – plant it on a mound, or at the edge of a bed, as increased drainage will help protect the plant against The Soggy Death. Got a slope? Well drained soil?

2.       Once it’s established, STOP WATERING. This should be after the first winter. You’ll know if the plant is failing to take because it will shrivel and die. Really, that’s the symptom. Once the plant gets to that rotten point, there’s a very good chance it won’t revive. Sorry. It’s true. It’s very similar to a lot of the woodier Mediterranean sages. Once the plant is established you can just let it run wild, with occasional deep watering *maybe* – but in these first few seasons, it helps to keep a careful eye.

3.       Grow it lean! Nutrient heavy soil is going to do you no favors, so don’t plant it in the vegetable bed. Overfeeding will cause weak growth and more breakage, and more breakage=unhappy plant.

Now you know!

Salvia pomifera

Say AAAAAAAHHH!!

In addition to huge purple blue glowy flowers, a long season of bloom, the showy bracts that stay on the plant well after bloom and keep things interesting, the silvery leaves, the LONG SEASON OF BLOOM (did I mention the long blooming?) and the plants resistance to drought & deer, there’s also this fascinating bit that I haven’t been able to appreciate in person: there’s a wasp that has a special relationship with this plant. The wasp isn’t here in CA, it’s back in Greece, Salvia pomifera’s original stomping grounds, but this wasp makes big wooly galls on the plant that are preserved in sugar and eaten as a delicacy. We’re not about to import the wasp to try to replicate this ourselves, but it sounds potentially delicious, and definitely curious. Not much is known about the herbal properties of the plant hereabouts, but it’s said to be similar to our common friend Salvia officinalis, but stronger. Hrmmmm.

I hope that some of you out there in the blogosphere take it upon yourselves to attempt this amazing sage! It’s been one of my favorite things (again – that word – “favorite” – but I do mean it!) that we’ve grown in the last few years, and I would be downright tickled to start seeing it out in the world more!

Claire Woods
Propagator 

As always, big ups to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! See what’s blooming on other folks’ gardens this June!

Spring at The Wave Garden

4 May
Great news! Kellee Adams of Dig-It Landscape Design and the plantswoman behind the Wave Garden is speaking at our Mother’s Day Party on Sunday, May 8 at 11 am! She’ll be sharing her fun and creative approach to “Plant Marriages” using “show-off” contrast combos, color and texture that you can bring to your own garden.  Don’t miss it!

Sweeping views of San Pablo Bay, wave-inspired peach-tinted concrete walls, hand-forged wrought iron metalwork and delightful sculptures wow visitors who step through the gates at the Wave Garden in Point Richmond, CA.

Entrance to the Wave Garden, Point Richmond

Entrance to the Wave Garden, Point Richmond

Entrance path

Winding paths and rich textures greet visitors

A frequent visitor to our nursery, designer Kellee Adams has created a wonder-filled refuge for birds, butterflies, bees and people. And good news – it’s open to the public!

Visiting with Kellee this week, we were inspired by her artful and sophisticated plant groupings featuring many South African and Canary Island favorites. With a background in graphic design, Kellee is a master at combining texture and contrast while still tantalizing the eye with plentiful blooms.

Leucospermum vert

Leucospermum 'Spider'

Cuphea llavea "Bat Face Cuphea" blooming its heart out last September

Low water and low maintenance, no view-blocking trees and lots of blooms were the only instructions from the owners, Jeanne and Vern Doellstedt, who bought the lot to prevent it from being developed into another house. They initially hired concrete artist Victor Amador to build paths, staircases and terraces around a beloved sculpture of a whale’s tail by artist Douglas Purdy. Wrought iron railings and gates by local blacksmith Bobby Sharpe added a grounded but whimsical touch.

Whale's tail

The garden was built around this bronze sculpture by artist Douglas Purdy.

Kellee was given the freedom to put her artistic talents to work. We very much like how she successfully incorporates bold succulents into her design, often softening them with smaller bloomers and more delicately foliaged plants.

Pelargonium and Aeonium

A study in contrast - cute little Pelargonium and bold Aeonium.

adorable pelargonium

Chondropetalum & Euphorbia Wave Garden

Chondropetalum and Euphorbia creating lighting drama!

Kellee explained to us how she enjoys juxtaposing contrasting plants that capture light and dark, bringing excitement and dimension to the senses. We’ll let Kellee explain it herself:

The Wave Garden is located at the end of Grandview Court in Point Richmond and parking is extremely limited. If you visit, please be respectful.

Watch a SLIDESHOW of our visit to the Wave Garden on Flickr!
Find out more about our Mother’s Day Extravaganza 2011!
Check out Kellee’s website for more information about her gardens and services!

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – It’s On!

15 Mar

Sometime in the last month, Mother Nature hit the “on” button for Spring here in USDA zone 9-10. More sunshine, bees, birdsong and – oh yeah! – longer days to enjoy it all. So many pretty things have woken up and unfurled their flowers, way too many to post! I’ll keep it simple with a handful of hard-working but easy going CA natives that never fail to knock our socks off.

Ribes 'Claremont' and hummer

Ah, Ribes! How you brighten up our Winters and make the hummingbirds so happy! Our mother plant of Ribes sanguineum ‘Claremont’ is in massive beautiful bloom back by the seeding shed. With extra large, pendulous, 4″ blooms, you can see how the hummingbirds are mad for it. Just don’t get too close, or they might get mad at you. Check out the habit on this lovely plant – stunning!

lathyrus_vestitus

We’re excited about this new-to-us NATIVE sweet pea that climbs by delicate-looking tendrils to 6-10′. Not thuggy like some of the other perennial peas (Lathyrus latifolius, we’re looking at you), Lathyrus vestitus can be found growing under oaks in light shade in both clay and sand in its native habitat. Supposedly deciduous, ours remained evergreen during our mild Winter and burst out in violet-pink, lightly grape-soda scented flowers in February. It’s been blooming ever since. Love!

Galvezia speciosa

The first few flowers of Galvezia speciosa are starting to peep out. This tough Channel Island native blooms Spring through Fall, with electric reddish-pink flowers and small fuzzy leaves on a pretty shrub 3′ tall by 3-4′ wide. It’s clay and drought tolerant, making it extra useful in the garden. I probably should have waited to take a picture of it next month when it will be even bloomier, but I couldn’t help myself.

Ranunculus californicus

Just last weekend I went for a walk in Briones Regional Park and was cheered to see Ranunculus californicus starting to bloom along the trails. It’s wide awake and starting to bloom in the nursery, too. Easy to grow and requiring virtually no-care once established, I dare you to find a more cheerful and quintessentially buttercuppy buttercup. It makes me happy every time I walk by it, whether on the trail or in the garden.

Of course, there are many, many other wonderful things starting to bloom right now. If you’re nearby, come see for yourself! Or visit our Flickr stream for frequent updates.

Big ups to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! See what’s blooming on other folks’ gardens this March!

Bloomin’ Bloom Day

15 Feb

All that gorgeous 80-degree weather that we were, um, NOT gloating about last week, has turned to lovely, lovely rain, which is exactly what the gardens need right now. One of the stand-up, stand-out bloomers pretty much year-round here in USDA zone 9-10 is Aristea inequalis.

Aristea inequalis

This incredibly tough South African Iris relative is planted in a 12″ parking strip in front of Annie’s house. There’s nice soil for maybe about 4″ and then it hits hardpan. In the rainy season, there’s a culvert up the street that often overflows, sending a river of water right past this guy and eroding all of the soil around it. Does it care? It does not.

Aristea inequalis in parking strip

In fact, each year it seems to get bloomier and bloomier, with a tidy 3′ x 3′ foliage clump that never needs cutting back. It’s the plant we most recommend to beginning gardeners because it’s virtually indestructable! Bonus points for being hardy to USDA zone 8 and clay, heat and drought tolerant! Oh, AND deer resistant!

Aristea inequalis habit

Thank you Aristea inequalis! And thank you to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! See what’s blooming on other folks’ gardens this February!

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