Showing posts from October, 2010

Macro photography

For the last few weeks I’ve been borrowing two macro lenses from a friend, and I’m having a blast photographing plants and flowers around the garden. Here are some of my favorites. Perennial Sunflower ( Heliopsis helianthoides ) Perennial Sunflower ( Heliopsis helianthoides ) Rose leaf sage ( Salvia puberula ) Bog sage ( Salvia uliginosa ) Lion’s tail ( Leonotis leonurus ) Lion’s tail ( Leonotis leonurus ) Spider web hens and chicks ( Sempervivum arachnoideum ) Tower of jewels ( Echium wildpretii ) Quadricolor agave ( Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor') Variegated elephant ear ( Colocasia esculenta ‘Elepaio’ ) Giant farfugium ( Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’) Golden lotus banana leaf ( Musella lasiocarpa ) White Queen caladium ( Caladium bicolor 'White Queen') Purple fountain grass ( Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') Happy Halloween!

Chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa)

Recently I declared baby blue bamboo ( Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’) to be my favorite bamboo at the moment. Close runner up is a montane (or “mountain”) bamboo from Yunnan province in southwestern China: Borinda fungosa , or commonly called “chocolate bamboo”. This is a medium-sized clumper with a mature height of 14-18 ft., hardy to about 15°F, with lime green leaves that have the classic bamboo profile. When exposed to sun, the culms turn a rich reddish brown, hence the common name. After the branches are fully leaved out, the culms gently arch under the weight of the leaves, forming a lush canopy of green. Borinda fungosa culm turning a rich red when exposed to sun. This photo was taken at Man Man Bamboo nursery where I obtained my plant. The most beautiful specimen I’ve seen was at Bamboo Sourcery in Sebastopol; their 15- and 25-gallon plants had 0.5-inch culms that truly were chocolate-colored. Montane bamboos hail from higher elevations (often 7000 ft. or higher) where

Farfugium, oh farfugium

I just love saying “farfugium”. It has such an odd yet intriguing ring to it. My wife thinks I make up botanical names, maybe because I prefer using the Latin names to the common names—which don’t exist for many of my favorite plants, especially bamboos and, well, farfugiums. Farfugiums in our woodland garden Farfugium is a genus of plants mainly grown for their interesting leaves: some are plain green and giant, some are mottled or speckled, some are wavy or even curly like Italian parsley. Farfugiums are native to Japan and eastern Asia where they grow along stream banks and in moist meadows. They are definitely not drought-tolerant and hence not inherently suited for our Mediterranean climate. However, I’ve found that they do quite well in our water-retentive clay soil—amended with lots of compost—as long as they are protected from the sun. Their environmental requirements are pretty much identical to those of the other plants we have growing in our Asia-inspired shade garden

What’s happening to my tower of jewels?

No, I’m not talking about a private body part :-). The tower of jewels I’m talking about ( Echium wildpretii ) is a stunning plant from island of Tenerife in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. It grows natively at elevations just below the tree line on Mount Teide, the third largest volcano in the world and at 3,718 m (12,198 ft.) the highest point in the Atlantic Ocean. Tower of jewels in bloom at UC Davis Arboretum, May 2009 Growing conditions in the wild are sunny and dry, which makes Echium wildpretii a natural for our climate. In fact, it is a celebrity plant here in Davis, having being featured several times in our local newspaper. If you’ve ever seen one in bloom, you’ll understand why. In the second year of the life of this biennial plant, a flower stalk up to 7 ft. tall rises from the greenish gray rosette of fuzzy leaves which itself is as much as 2 ft. across. The spike is covered with many hundreds of pink to red flowers which attract bees and birds alik

Ornamental grasses lighting up the yard

Considering that today is October 26th, a lot plants are still looking good in the yard. Many salvias are still in bloom, and I noticed new buds on many of our lavenders. Given mild temperatures, lavenders bloom here into December. For me, however, the stars of the show in late fall are our ornamental grasses. I love their plumes rising high above the leaves. They will continue to look good even when the flowering perennials have quit for the winter. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Rigoletto’; we have  two clumps outside the fence in the front yard, and one inside. This cultivar is supposed to be on the smaller side for a miscanthus, but ours has topped 4 ft. already. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Rigoletto’ (right) inside the front-yard fence with Heliopsis helianthoides (left). This ‘Rigoletto’ is noticeably smaller than the one outside the fence, which gets quite a bit more sun. Closeup of a miscanthus plume Closeup of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Super Stripe’. Beautiful striping in

Late-shooting bamboos

Fall is finally here and our current temperatures are a far cry from the 95°F+ we had just two weeks ago. Still, several of our bamboos have new shoots. While most running bamboos—and the clumping mountain bamboos like the fargesias and borindas —shoot in the spring and early summer, many tropical and subtropical clumping bamboos like the bambusas shoot in summer and into fall. Having said that, maybe our recent mini heat wave tricked them into shooting even later than they normally would? As is so often the case, bamboo seems to do what it wants when it wants. Bambusa dolichomerithalla 'Silverstripe' in 5-gallon nursery container, bought 6 weeks ago from Bamboo Sourcery. This shoot, like many bambusa shoots, is fairly plain-looking. Contrast that with the Asian lemon bamboo shoot below. As long as temperatures continue to be mild, there’s hope that the shoots will continue to grow, albeit slowly. On the other hand, the plant might just give up on a new shoot and stop s