Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Walk Through the Garden - Part II

Some roses really resent the heat and go dormant, but others don't mind it at all. Granted, the blooms are smaller and less fragrant, but on some plants there are still a lot of them. I try to cut as many as I can get to for the house: on the bush most blooms open in the morning and are gone by afternoon...

Violet Carson, a floribunda
This is my first year with campanula primulifolia (below). I am so glad I got it! 

Like all my other campanulas, it is summer and fall blooming. It is heat-tolerant too (it faces full west and gets lots of heat from the retaining wall right next to it), and the blooms are plentiful and showy in a nice soft blue.

It provides good vertical interest in the garden, and I hope that as time goes by, it will give me more and more flower spikes. 

This richly colored cabbage-like rose is Cynthia Brooke, a hybrid tea. I got it because its blooms resemble those of Soleil d'Or, a beautiful turn-of-the-century Pernetiana rose. Soleil d'Or itself is an ungainly blackspotted sparse plant stingy with blooms, and however gorgeous the blooms are, I passed on such an ugly plant. With Cynthia Brooke I am hoping to get beautiful blooms on a better looking bush, and so far I have been happy about its looks and disease resistance. 

I love the intricate patterns inside foxglove flowers. I have struggled to grow them (they fry in the heat but refuse to bloom in the shade), and finally found a place with a bit of filtered light where I can enjoy a few blooms.

There is a wide planting bed all along the backyard fence that I share with a neighbor. I love flowers, and so does he. He grows morning glory intertwined with the potato vine on our shared fence, while I am trying to grow climbing roses and squeeze in as many perennials as I can.. The result is a colorful tangle, messy but exuberant. Sometimes, I shake my head in frustration, but often I quite like it :).

Because of a long growing season, everything gets quite big. 

Classic Woman, a Romantica hybrid tea, easily reaches 7' by summer's end

The neighbor's vines are quite aggressive in trying to invade my garden and strangle my roses, so  they get severely pruned in winter to keep them at least somewhat contained. Lots of work, but pretty, if you don't mind your garden not looking tidy...

This is the time when the garden is at its peak, with most of my plants in bloom. However, I am already beginning to look forward to a wonderful October flush of roses, and fall foliage and first camellia blooms...

I love penstemons, and so do bees!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Walk Through the Garden - Part I

It is mid-summer now, and my garden looks so different from what it used to be in spring.

Fragrant Masterpiece, a shrub from John Clements' Heirloom Roses

I grow several varieties of campanula, and they have just begun to bloom. Campanulas are such a diverse family of perennials, big and small, blue and white, and I love them all!

C. portenschlagiana x poscharskyana "Birch hybrid"

C. poscharskyana "Alba" (Serbian Bellflower)

I took a risk and bought Wild Blue Yonder (below) from Home Depot this winter. I don't usually buy roses there because of low quality of stock, mislabelling and lack of care, but this one just seemed to stretch out its stumpy canes to me begging to take it home, and so I did. I have not regretted it yet.

Feverfew is one of my favorite perennials. The bright white and yellow flowers set against chartreuse foliage really lighten up my planting bed, and its season of bloom is quite long too. I was told it would re-seed, but I haven't had a problem so far: my beds are so heavily mulched that nothing much has a chance to sprout. Sometimes it is not such a good thing as I would love to have more feverfew...

The little white bloom below is catananche caerulea "Amor White". They are short-lived and I am hoping to save some seeds and grow more plants next year. They last forever in a vase.

I have a few showy border penstemons that provide a lot of color in summer. All of mine bloom all summer long, deadheaded or not (mostly not as I don't always have the time).

Verbena bonariensis is irresistible to any bee, butterfly or hummer. I have taken so many pictures of it this year, all with someone taking a drink of nectar from it. I highly recommend this plant.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Rose Portraits

Honorine de Brabant, a bourbon

Triomphe de Luxemburg, a tea

Melflor, a floribunda

Fortune's Five-Colored Rose, a tea

Fran├žois Juranville, a rambler

Persian Light, a hybrid hulthemia persica

Variegata di Bologna, a bourbon

A rugosa seedling

Festival Fanfare, a floribunda

Anna Scharsach, a hybrid perpetual

All pictures were taken at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Japanese Tea Garden

I don't know much about the philosophy or principles of oriental gardening but being in a traditional Japanese garden gives me a sense of peace.

I want to slow down,  to pause and quietly think, rather than exuberantly admire.

So I was very much looking forward to a visit to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. I was not disappointed.

This garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the US, commissioned in 1894, and some structures and plants still date back to that time.

In fact, the statue of Buddha above was cast in Japan in 1790 and moved to San Francisco in 1949.

The garden is situated on 5 acres of gently sloping land which provides ample room for water features, beautiful structures including an ornate vermilion pagoda, and many plant species native to Japan and China.

I like lots of color in my garden but I appreciate another culture's approach to gardening, fascinating and alien to me at the same time.

In fact, it is surprising how many things I start to notice once the distraction of brightly colored flowers is removed.

 I begin to see clear clean lines, almost like pencil drawings, the play of light and shadow on meandering paths, gentle fluttering of deeply serrated leaves of a Japanese maple, the intricate and balanced structure of a carefully pruned tree.

I went away with a vague feeling of sadness that I don't have a serene and quiet place like this to stroll around in, but I have to say I was glad enough to see my roses and penstemons again...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Visitors in the Garden

 It has been really hot lately, and I am not out much during the day. In the evenings, when it cools down a bit, the kids are out in the garden with me making quite a bit of noise, so what few feathered and winged visitors we occasionally see leave in a hurry. Still, I managed to capture quite a few.

 One was a beautiful bog fritillary on a verbena bonariensis plant.  

It spent a lot of time going through the flowers, but never came back...

Another was a baby dove. A pair of doves made a nest under our eaves this year. I came upon the baby one morning when it was just beginning to fly. It flew down into the courtyard and couldn't quite get back up to the nest, so it decided to play dead and let me get quite close...

Our neighbors have 12 beehives, so we have lots of honeybees.

I like to think about the honey my neighbors graciously share tasting of the herbs the bees visit in my garden.

Our old tree was regularly visited by woodpeckers. Now that there is only a stump left, it was a relief to see them coming back occasionally. I wouldn't want them to go away for good....

I wasn't really interested in the insect below, but I found it distracted me by sitting there and staring at me, so I stared right back.

A California towhee checks out my garden regularly. I often find it walking along the perimeter of my house carefully looking for bugs along the foundation. 

And finally, a regulation shot of our hummer. He is almost a family member, and our garden would be a much sadder place without his insistent loud chirping.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nectar Thieves!

Our neighbors planted a morning glory vine along our property line. I was out there with my camera the other day trying to snap some pictures of carpenter bees which love the showy blue and purple flowers. These bees are so slow and loud it is fun to watch them.  I thought it would be easy to take a picture or two, so I took up a strategic position in front of a dozen flowers all lined up facing me. However, I kept waiting and waiting, and not a single bee went inside the flowers. I realized I was witnessing a fascinating phenomenon: nectar robbing.

By staying on the outside of a flower, carpenter bees take the nectar without pollinating

Morning glory flowers have long narrow throats that make it difficult for a big carpenter bee to climb inside.

Sizing up the throat: nope, too narrow

So they sit on the top of a flower, make a slit at the petal base (corolla) and get the nectar anyway.

Climbing to the top is hard work: fragile petals are crumpling and the whole flower is swaying precariously

Plants produce nectar as payment to pollinators for transferring pollen from flower to flower. By making a slit in the corolla, the carpenter bees avoid touching the pollen and therefore, take the payment without doing the job.

Almost there

That's why it is called nectar robbing.

Making a slit and getting to the nectar

A few flowers that I examined all had slits at their bases and there were no other bees that I could see, meaning probably that carpenter bees were pretty thorough in getting most of the nectar out.

The slit at the corolla: evidence of robbery

I have also witnessed a comic episode of a bee actually trying to climb inside a morning glory flower. After it got the nectar, it tried to get out backside first, lost its footing and fell out of the flower's throat.

A stumble bee?

It tried to grab onto a petal...

... but the petal folded, so it fell on its head again  (: .

Are they serving alcohol in there? Where do I line up?

Finally it climbed back in, turned around, and came out head first.

After all these antics, the flower was ripped apart, and probably completely useless for pollination.

I have read somewhere that it is typically female carpenter bees that cause so much destruction

I have to say these bees are not malicious by nature, and where a flower presents itself conveniently, they will take its nectar the conventional way and do their job as a pollinator.

Flowers on a sweet pea shrub make nectar easily accessible, so they get pollinated and I pull up hundreds of seedlings underneath the bush...

But they will do what they have to do to get their food :).