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September Bloom Day Bliss

15 Sep

Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day ya’ll! A big thanks goes out to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting the worldwide monthly flower sharing fest. For more info about the plants below just click on the picture & you’ll be whisked away to our fine website for more info.  Here’s a little taste of what we’ve got blooming this September at the nursery:

Echinops ritro ruthenicus

Lotus jacobaeus

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’

Nicotiana mutabilis

Fuchsia ‘Rys’

Zinnia peruviana ‘Red’

Musschia wollastonii

Mina lobata, Ursinia anthemoides and friends

 

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!

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!