Monday, May 24, 2010

A Silly Mother's Day

This post should've been posted right after Mother's Day but hey, I'm a mother and I've been busy! We braved the rainclouds that day and headed out to Gilroy Gardens. Plenty of amusements for the kid and plenty of plant related oddities for me.

Basically, if Willy Wonka and the Jolly Green Giant were to partner up and create an amusement park, Gilroy Gardens would be it.

The home to many oddly grafted trees, originially grown by Axel Erlandson, some of which were created in the 1920's. After Mr. Erlandson passed away there was no one to take care of the trees but luckily they were purchased and moved in 1984 to the park's current location. The trees are wonderful examples of patience, creativity and a dash of crazy.

diamond treeloopy treehoop treetable leg treetunnel treelattice tree

The park has added many clipped topiaries in fantastical shapes: elephants, butterflies, bees and bears among others.

elephant topiarybutterfly topiarybee topiarysick bear topiary
And this one-I have no idea what animal it is supposed to be: deer? short-necked giraffe?
generic animal topiary

Then many of the rides are based on popular local food crops: strawberries, mushrooms, apples, garlic, artichokes. All pretty cute.

strawberry ride
mushroom swingapple ridespinning artichokes
spinning garlic
At one point while I was watching the garlic spin I noticed how they had managed to make the air smell like garlic. I looked down and saw that I had been stepping on the variegated "Society Garlic" plant. Heavily planted, so the area around the ride reeked of garlic. Pretty clever.
society garlic

All the grounds were well-planted. They used interesting plants in appropriate ways.

planting combolychnis sweeptree combonice trunk

And then much to my amusement, as we were leaving I noticed the entire front was planted with variegated Liriodendron, one of the rarieties I saw on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour. The same tree that I thought to be so rare since I'd never heard of it before. I guess it is making its way around in the trade. Nice trees all around.

variegated liriodendron
variegated liriodendron flower

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Foliage Follow Up - May

I've always been a fan of Aeoniums. One of my favorite right now is Aeonium glandulosum. I've been growing it in a very well draining pot- talking holes in the sides, orchid kind of pot. Seems to suit this Aeonium fine, which naturally grows in cracks in rocks in the Canary Islands. The past two summers it has put up this tubular growth from the center, which eventually flattens out and "squashes" down the previous years leaves. This one is just getting started. I'll post pictures as it progresses. It hasn't bloomed for me yet. I imagine it will probably die after blooming so I'm happy with the mushrooming growth cycles.

aeonium glandulosa

Another Aeonium I don't think I could garden without is Aeonium undulatum. I've got quite a forest of them now. It's easy to break the rosettes off the lower parts and stick them in the soil to get new plants growing.

aeonium undulatum

Lophomyrtus 'Red Dragon' is looking very pretty right now. I have it in some shade so the foliage is more bronzy-green with metallic highlights. Looks great with silver foliaged plants.

lophomyrtus red dragon

My Musa 'Bordelon' is coming back. The little 5 gal. I had planted years ago had turned into a lovely grove of thick tree-sized banana trunks. In the winter we usually cut the leaves off because they get ratty but we leave the trunks so they can resprout as soon as it gets warm. This past winter I told my husband it was time to cut the bananas back and he got mixed up and just sawed all the trunks down to the ground. I was pretty bummed when I came home to see that. But they are coming back and will be big again soon. I really like this variety with the red undersides and red streaks in the leaves.

banana bordelon

I have the laziest Pistache in the world. In the Fall, it drops its leaves at least two months ahead off all the other Pistache trees in the same part of my garden and it takes at least a month longer to sprout leaves in the Spring. Lazy tree.

laziest pistache ever

I'm very happy with my Blackberry vine wall this year. It is covered in fruits. I have a totally useless part of my garden that is between my garage and the neighbor's garage that is 15' long and about 28" wide. I put up some trellises on the sunniest side and planted some blackberry vines. I tie them up once a year and they reward me with lots of yummy berries. At least I hope I get some this year, the kiddo ate pretty much all of them last year. I've never netted them before but I'm wondering if I should this year. The bumper crop might attract bird attention this year.

wall o' blackberries

Thank you to Pam over at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow Up Day!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day - May

When I was getting up this morning, I was thinking I'm not going to have ANYTHING to photograph for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day over at May Dreams Gardens. All I could remember blooming were the poppies and the Euphorbia. And I'm not photographing those anymore! But as I walked around outside this morning, I noticed more and more stuff blooming. I guess I just haven't had enough time to walk around the garden the past few weeks.

One plant that refuses to be ignored though, is the Petunia axillaris. Bright white flowers, I used to have the hardest time with that color until we painted our house a darker color. Then I started craving white flowers. Now I just love lots of different foliage colors and textures with white flowers.

petunia axillaris form

The Petunia axillaris flowers seem to float like a cloud in mid-air. And the scent in the evening is heavenly. Try 'em. You won't be disappointed.

petunia axillaris cl

I planted Erepsia lacera a couple of years ago in my neighbor's abandoned raised bed that borders my garden. It is quite happy in its still semi-abandoned spot.

erepsia lacera
It'll probably have to go soon because I'm going to ask my neighbor to let me get rid of that bed and take over that portion of his yard. Bye-bye precast concrete blocks!

The Erigeron 'Wayne Roderick' in my parking strip is looking fine.

erigeron wayne roderick

The Campanula poscharskyana that was planted by a previous owner is still reliably popping up every year. I used to have Aeonium simsii planted in front of it. They both bloomed at exactly the same time and the yellow and purple looked very nice together.

campanula poscharskyana

The Oenothera tetragona reseeds gently in my parking strip and looks lovely next to the Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'.

oenothera tetragona and tanacetum parthenium 'aureum'

And finally a non-Annie's plant - a yellow Iris that I bought at a Yardbirds hardware store years ago that had a pretty picture on the bag. Luckily, it turned out to be a good one, it's robust and sturdy.

yellow iris

The reseeding Nasturtiums are thankfully sticking with the color scheme.

nasturtium evelyn, second gen.

Awhile back I planted a red-flowered Geum 'Mrs. Bradshaw' and got this neat-o orange Geum instead. Love to isolate it so we could have this color reliably.

geum orange

My Puya caerulea bloom is growing totally horizontal. The whole plant is probably angling towards the light since it's growing under a Birch. Looks like a creepy outstretched hand to me. I wonder if the kids walking home from school worry that it will try and grab them by the ankle as they pass it by?

puya caerulea

And nearby, its cousin, a miscellaneous Bromiliad I brought home a division of long ago, that has now turned into quite a large grouping. The red bracts and lavender flowers make the hummingbirds happy. But it is probably next on the chopping block since it has turned into quite the slug and snail party house.


My Abutilon 'Nabob's should be enough to keep the hummers happy though.

abutilon nabob

And lastly, my Rosa 'Brown Velvet' and Camellia that is still blooming!

rosa brown velvet

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour

I have to admit I'd never been on the Bringing Back the Natives Garden Tour (shame on me), covering gardens in the East Bay with 50% or more California native plants. There are more than 50 gardens on the 1-day tour so I decided to limit myself to driving no further north than Berkeley, no further East than Orinda and no further south than Oakland.

One of the first gardens I checked out was Barbara Leitner's garden in Orinda. Designed by Ron Lutsko, one of my favorite Landscape Architects, I definitely wanted to see this garden. As did a lot of other people.

front yard meadow

A very soft-focus garden of meadowy grasses and wildflowers, it must be a very calming garden to come home to. It was hard to view past the throngs of people on the walks. I did manage to capture a few scenes on the camera before someone walked into the frame. The fine texture of all the plants left me looking for focal points, which were alleviated in the birdbath and the in the house itself.

focal pointmeadowwildflowersferns

While I was there I was craving something more dramatic in the plantings but after thinking about the garden for awhile I realized it must be a very sweet place to come home to.

I had to go to Jenny and Scott Fleming's garden in Berkeley begun in the 1950's and jam-packed with a staggering selection of CA native plants, 100% native, now maintained by Luke Hass. The plantings on the side of the driveway were phenomenal! One of the most beautiful and texturally rich CA native plantings I've ever seen.


The main part of the garden on the slope behind the house was rather too textural though. The steep, abrupt slope and the overwhelming variety of plants was a bit too much for me. So heavily planted there was hardly room for a path up the hill. It is an amazing garden considering the dedication of its creators but I don't think it is a garden I could personally live in, it just has so much.

back slopedudleya brittoniihousefern stairway

The house, also built by Jenny and Scott, does has some pretty fantastic moments relating to the garden though. One is the stairway to the front door that is anchored by a rock wall sprouting ferns - gorgeous! And another is the way the tinted windows reflect the garden, creating light-filled paintings on the dark somber sides of the house.

reflecting windows

And the pool was great! It perfectly captured the feeling of coming across a deep, clear basin of spring water while hiking a trail out in the wilderness. Just the place where you can't help but slip off your dusty hot shoes and dip your feet into the refreshing water.

swimming pool

And I also visited a couple of gardens in Oakland that contained less natives but had some really great details. Wen Hoi Shen's garden, planting design by Liz Simpson Garden Design, contained many jewel-like vignettes. A small garden, the details were lovely and perfectly planted. Niches in a wall, charming bamboo trellises, and architectural fragments placed throughout made for interesting hardscape.

nichebamboo trellissun seat

But the rock garden/stairway to the top part of the garden was the best part. A lovely mosaic of succulents, thymes, pebbles and boulders created one of the prettiest rockeries I've seen in a long time.


Carol Baird and Alan Harper have a house and view to die for. (If you ever need a house sitter, I'm available!)

the view

The native plants in their oak woodland I was less interested in, because closer to the house they had some fantastic rarities that I would love to get my hands on. Apparently Alan has volunteered at UC Berkeley Bot Garden, where I'm sure he got a hold of some really great stuff. A couple of plants caught my eye - a golden-leaved Philadelphus, may I please have a cutting!? and a variegated leaf Liriodendron/"Tulip Tree", I'd never even heard something like that existed!

golden-leaved philadelphusvariegated liriodendron

While not all the plants that caught my eye were native and not all the native gardens were ones I felt spoke to me, it was a great day of touring the gardens of Bringing Back the Natives and I enjoyed each one in its own way. Thanks to all the people for opening their lovely gardens!