Sunday, June 26, 2011

The most beautiful grass

There are a lot of grasses I like, but Stipa barbata, sometimes called Stipa 'Silver Feather' holds a special place in my heart. When blooming, it is certainly the most graceful thing in the garden. The soft blond "feathers" float and undulate with the slightest breeze. A photograph rarely does them justice. One really needs to videotape their graceful movements.

stipa barbata seeds

stipa barbata

When not in bloom, there isn't much to the plant. In fact, the sparse dried-looking leaf blades often look dead. I've learned to leave them alone and I am rewarded in summer with those golden tassels. It isn't the type of plant you would want to use as a groundcover since it covers nothing. I plant them in groups of at least 3 so that the massed bloom stalks make a good impact. They also like it on the drier side. I've found the perfect home for them in my forsaken sunny parking strip where most plants fail. Interplanted with low succulents, they are able to take advantage of the breezes out by the street to dance and wave, catching the late evening sun.

But the fun has just begun because once the seeds mature and fall from the plant they do the most interesting things. When first separated from the plant the long dark brown part of the seed are straight as an arrow, tipped with a sharp point. The blond "feather" catches the wind and allows the seed to float to a new home.

stipa feathersstipa arrows

I usually collect the seed for future crops and I noticed after a few days the straight dark brown stems had developed attractive spiral twists. Out in the garden I began to notice that seeds that had escaped my collecting had burrowed themselves into the ground. It must be that spring-loaded spiral twisting that forces the seed into the ground. How cool! A seed that plants itself!

spring loadedstipa drilling in

I've since noticed that other Stipas have the ability to twist into the soil - especially the extremely prolific Stipa tenuissima, aka Mexican Feather Grass. On close examination, its small seeds are miniature replicas of Stipa barbata. Even though some seeds remain in my garden, I've never seen them germinate out there, even though the readily do at the nursery.

Do try to collect some of the seeds and bring them inside. A bowl full of them is lovely or try putting a few in a small vase for a charming dried arrangement.

bowl of feathers

You can sometimes find Stipa barbata at Annie's Annuals and Perennials.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bromiliad, Cactus and Succulent Show in SF

I was happened to be over by SF Botanical Garden when the Bromiliad, Cactus and Succulent Societies were having their plant sale. I've always been into succulents and I'm getting more and more interested in bromiliads so I thought I'd see if I could pick up any good deals.

The display section had some very nice specimens.

cactus and succulent society displays

cactus and succulent society specimens

I don't know why but succulent growers always have the coolest pots!

cool pots

pachypodium baronii windsorii

euphorbia decaryineoporteria senilis

pleiospilos simulanshaworthia viscosa

These warty balls were my favorite though. That is some freaky stuff! And I love that the name of the plant is Mammillaria bocasana 'Fred'. Fred's warty balls. (Tee-hee!) Geesh, I can be so juvenile! And I should really keep in mind that my mom reads this blog.

mammillaria bocasana 'fred'

Anyway, onto the sale part of the show. There were tables and tables of little pots of cuties.

cactus and succlent sale

succulent selection

Here is what I ended up taking home:

my haul

Succulents are (from left to right):

Kalanchoe synsepala dissectum
Aloe hybrid
Aloe hybrid
Gasteria prolifera

Bromiliads are (from top left down ending at bottom right):

Tillandsia fasciculata x ionantha
Tillandsia concolor
(missing tag)
Tillandsia tenuifolia 'Amethyst'
Neoreglia cv.

Oh, and this one - Neoreglia hybrid.


Those Tillandsias I'm going to try growing on some palm trunks I've had in my garden for years and never know what to do with.

palm trunks

I also picked up this book, The History of Succulents by Gordon Douglas Rowley, which looks pretty interesting.

history of succulents book

I was sold as soon as I saw the photo of this guy. Doesn't he look like some cooky neighbor that likes to garden naked, handing out divisions of his succulents to neighbors, whether they want them or not. Actually, he looks like his name could be Fred...

love this guy

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flowers and Foliage Rolled Into One

I don't have very many photos this month so I'm going to combine my Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and Foliage Follow Up posts. There is a bit of a lull in my garden right now. Spring blooms are past but the late-season stuff hasn't started blooming yet.

I'm loving this new Calendula with two tone petals. And I'm excited my Nolina interrata is already blooming. I wonder if it will be a girl or a boy? I planted 3 of them (1 died) and I'm hoping to get a girl and a boy so I can collect seed. The 2nd one isn't blooming yet though.

calendula_bronzed_beautynolina interrata flower

These lilies were raring to go early this year. Lily 'Mascara', named for the dark edge of the petal, although I think Lily 'Eyeliner' might have been more accurate a name, it doesn't have the same ring.

lily 'mascara'lily mascara edge

Harlequin Lupine (Lupinus stiversii) from Annie's that I'm hoping to collect seed from. And a yellow Lewisia from Annie's that was grown years ago as Lewisia 'Yellow Form'. It is an incredible Lewisia that blooms year-round, quite floriferously. I'm did collect seed of this, hoping they put it back into production.

harlequin lupinelewisia yellow

I'm hoping to get some Borage reseeding around my garden. Not sure what I'm going to do with it, just feel like I should have it for some reason. And leek flowers always make me think of pregnant bellies. Wouldn't it be cool if a woman's belly stretched so thin you could see the baby inside? On second thought, maybe not.


I splurged and bought some rather expensive Kalanchoe 'Fantastic' based on a photo I saw. Turns out it's not really as showy as the picture. Oh well. I tried to get rid of this unnamed Manfreda once but all the roots sprouted their own rosettes. I kind of respected its chutzpah after that. Plus, it looked good in mass. Very well behaved, other than the root reincarnation thing, and I recently realized snails never bother it unlike most Manfredas.

kalanchoe fascinationmanfreda from yucca do

I've got forests of kale right now. Please take some.

forrests of kale

I like what is happening around my front door right now.

front porch foliage

I love to see fat little lady bugs in my garden. And their little lady bug babies. Get those aphids!

ladybugludybug juniors

Thank you to May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Blogger's Bloom Day and to Pam of Digging for hosting Foliage Follow Up!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chicago's Millennium Park

We took a quick trip to Chicago recently and had one afternoon to sightsee, so we hopped a train and headed to see Millennium Park, which includes amazing sculptures, architecture and gardens. One of our first stops was the Laurie Garden. Beautiful swaths of prairie plants were in full bloom. And the backdrop of tall buildings was an interesting contrast. It really was quite an oasis.

laurie garden

what was that purple plantpotentilla


prarie plants

similar shapes

penstemon and that star plantpenstemon

cool bench

bench and pavingnice door

The park was packed. This is definitely a great example of urban open space. People were taking advantage of just about every square inch of the place - workers on lunch breaks, school groups, tourists, you name it. The lush greenery and the buildings played off each other nicely.

garden in the jungle



nice stoops

quiet spot

pretty plantings

And I've never seen such impressive hostas before! They don't grow like that in California!

huge hostas

And the lilacs were everywhere. In our coastal California climate, we're happy with a few measly blooms on an entire lilac shrub but here they were everywhere (even parking strips) and covered in blooms!


There were also some fantastic sculptures and architecture in the park. The Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) by Anish Kapoor is soooo cool! I'd seen photos of it but seeing it in person was a real treat. It turns anyone who approaches it into a kid, no one can resist the funhouse mirror aspect. It also reflects the city buildings beautifully in its soft blobbiness, they play off each other nicely just like the trees and buildings do.

the bean

big bean

fun house bean

inside the bean

Nearby is the Crown Fountain, a tall skyscraper-like block that projects images of faces and waterfalls. The day I was there, no water was flowing magically out of the images like I'd seen in photos, but the huge column was still an interesting sight.

face1face2waterfalljust another building

The BP Bridge was awfully pretty too.



bridge sides

And presiding over the entire place, looking like some alien bug that landed in the park, is the Jay Pritzker Pavilion by Frank Gehry. I'm a fan of Gehry's chaotic buildings. I know a lot of people think they look like car accidents but I think they are beautiful and energetic.

alien landing




stage side


The seedlike sculptures of Yvonne Domenge were on display. I like the papery blue one the most.


blue one was the bestgreat bathtubs

All the security guards were zipping around on Segways. Parker thought they sure were funny looking!

parkers first encounter with a segway