Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now...

...Is NOT Roscoea 'Spice Island.' I thought it was going to be, because lately I've been really happy that it came back in my garden, it's apparently flourishing in the spot I chose for it, and it's flowering. I went out in the garden to take pictures of it, and realized that even though it's flourishing, it needed propping up, so I stuck a couple of stakes in there, and started to take photos.

The Roscoea is the plant on the right with reddish stems that is tied to stakes like a witch about to be burned.

But after the first couple of pictures I realized it was totally being upstaged by the Aralia californica behind it.

So, my favorite plant this week is my Aralia californica. It was the first plant I ever bought from Far Reaches Farm, in 2011 at the spring Bloedel Reserve Plant Sale. I wrote two posts about visiting the Bloedel Reserve, which you can read here and here, but not about the sale. When I bought it, it was a little seedling, in a 4-inch pot. Every year it has gotten bigger, and I just love the presence it has as part of my garden's backdrop. It's a western native that grows in the wild from northern California through Oregon. Its common name is spikenard or elk clover (I prefer elk clover, because it makes me laugh, I mean, this plant is large, and nothing like any kind of clover I've ever seen). Native Americans used it medicinally as a topical treatment for skin ailments.

All that top growth is herbaceous, dying back all the way to the ground every winter, and regrowing bigger from the roots. It has lovely big serrated leaves, and cute button-like white flowers.

And right now, it has berries, slowly ripening from white to black.

I read that it likes moisture, so I planted it at the edge of the dry creek, which is a real working dry creek that siphons water off the lawn in the rainy season and into a low spot, where I have moisture-loving plants thriving. (I have a fake dry creek in the front).

I guess it loves this spot, because it has gotten enormous since 2011.

Here's some facts about it:

Height: 4-8 ft.
Width: 8 ft.
Hardiness: Zone 3-8
Soil: Moist, rich
Light: Part Shade to Full Shade

You can buy it online from these vendors:

Far Reaches Farm
Keeping It Green

Find out about other garden bloggers' favorites by checking out Danger Garden. Once a week or thereabouts, Loree posts about her favorite plant, and encourages other bloggers to post about theirs. Her favorite this week is Hedychium coccineum 'Tara.'

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildflower Wednesday -- August 2013 Datura inoxia

The Datura inoxia 'Evening Fragrance' that I grew from seed this year are flowering. I noticed two of them that were really getting big and close to flowering and figured that when the sun went down and it got dark they would open. And they did!

Datura are called Moonflower because they open at night, and are so big and bright I could see them from across the garden even without a flashlight.

The bud has just a touch of lavender, which disappears once the flower opens fully.

The flower is about 7 inches wide from edge to edge

Datura are also called devil's trumpets, because they face upward, like devils blowing a trumpet. Brugmansias are known as angel's trumpets, because they face downward. The two are related, and both come from central and South America, where they are considered wildflowers. Datura flowers only open for one night and I could only pick up the scent if I poked my nose right into the flower, unlike Brugmansia flowers, which stay open for several days and develop a very strong, lovely scent that often wafts all over the garden. These two remained open all day on a very cloudy day, but the first one that opened over a week ago had collapsed by dinnertime. They're not pretty plants, being large and sprawling, but I do like the big velvety leaves.

Still open mid-afternoon the next day

Today's flower after our recent summer rain

There are double-flowered Datura as well, and they come in other colors, most notably purple. I'm going to try growing some double purple ones from seed next year. They were so easy to grow from seed that I'll probably just start more next year rather than try to over-winter them inside (I have too many plants that will all be crowding around my single south-facing window inside all winter, desperate for a little light). Another common name for Datura is thornapple, because the seedpod that develops after the flower is pollinated is round and prickly. They are pollinated by night-flying sphynx moths, which are a hummingbird imitator, but honeybees and other daytime insects have been known to burrow into them before they open.

Incipient seedpod
Datura inoxia is an herbaceous perennial grown as an annual, hardy to Zone 9. Mine are growing in pots in the gravel garden area, next to my Brugmansias and Agaves, and also on the front porch, both west-facing sites that get lots of sun and radiated heat from gravel and concrete. Like the Brugs, they need constant watering to perform their best. They are in the Solanaceae family, like tomatoes, potatoes and eggplant, but they are absolutely not for ingestion, containing dangerously toxic amounts of atropine, scopolamine and hydroscyamine.

Four more flowers on the way
Wildflower Wednesday occurs on the fourth Wednesday of every month. Check out Gail Eichelberger's blog clay and limestone here, the host for Wildflower Wednesday, where she is posting today about blue mist flower. Plenty of other bloggers will be posting about wildflowers too! Check them out.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Winter Squash -- I Think I'm Doing Something Right...

I picked my first ever butternut squash on Saturday. The vines have been doing well on all the winter squashes I grew from seed this year, and finally this week the largest of the Waltham butternut squashes turned close to the color of the one I bought recently at the grocery store, losing most of its green stripy look, and turning more of a tan color. I didn't realize till I brought it into the kitchen out of the bright sun, it does still have just a little bit of green on the end nearest the stem. I picked a tiny one too, that had mostly turned. I'm thinking I maybe should have left them longer. I'm hoping they will continue to ripen.

Store-bought is on the left.

I'm growing spaghetti squash too. One is quite large and getting yellow (the color of the ones in the grocery store.) There are more coming along too.

I was tempted to harvest that yellow spaghetti squash on the left, but after I saw that the butternuts under regular kitchen lighting still had some green, I decided to leave it a while longer.

I'm also growing Delicata (there's one in the photo above with the butternuts), Sweet Meat and Blue Hubbard, which all have fruits coming along.

I'm not sure if this is Hubbard or Sweet Meat. The vines are all intertwined.

I think this is another Waltham butternut

The green is just starting to fade on this one. I'm leaving it for a while longer.

The vines are still producing, although the leaves nearest the roots are all turning brown and withering. But then they are also producing more branches in the leaf axils. For most of the summer, this spot against the south wall of the house, on top of gravel, has been wonderfully sunny for the plants, growing in large black pots. They wilt so easily, and have been watered lots! It's hard to get in there with a gallon watering can, I'm afraid of stepping on all those tangled vines. So I've been turning the sprinkler on them. Not the most efficient way to water pots.

Here you can see new smaller leaves growing where the old ones have died.

Do I sound excited? I love squash so much. It's probably sacrilege for a veggie gardener to say, but I love winter squash even better than tomatoes.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day -- August 2013

How can it possibly be Garden Blogger's Bloom Day already? Here's what's been blooming in my garden in the month of August.

A patch of Echinacea, towering for now over a golden Catalpa, which I'm hoping will one day be much bigger

I love the orange buttons in the center


Still to open Rudbeckia, with a surprise hanging under it -- looks like a Daddy Long-Legs

Monarda 'Raspberry Wine' which the hummers fight over endlessly

While I stood here in front of this bed taking photos, two hummingbirds, soon joined by a third, were buzzing all around me, chasing each other and chattering away. Impossible to get good photos of them zipping around at warp speed, so I just delighted in the moment. Every so often, one of them would stop in mid-air and fan its tail feathers, a display I wasn't sure was aggression, or aeronautics.

If you click here, you can see photos from earlier in the year when I had just finished redoing that bed. At the time I said that there was still plenty of room in the bed for more plants. Mmmmm....maybe not.

Here's a view of that bed from my back porch, where I sometimes sit with a cup of coffee and a book in the afternoon. The hummers can be a distraction, as watching them is more captivating than reading.

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'

Lobelia cardinalis

Lobelia siphilitica

Liatris and a sleeping bee

Coreopsis 'Red Shift'


Echinacea 'After Midnight'

The center buttons are much redder than the species, and the stems as well

Penstemon 'Tubular Bells'

Aging Hydrangea quercifolia flower


Dahlia (I'm sure I could find the name if I really tried)

Another Dahlia

Tiny Hydrangea flower on the dark-leaved Hydrangea that I bought earlier this spring

My Asters are starting to flower, a sign I usually think heralds fall....

Noooooo! A Japanese Anemone, another sign of the dreaded fall

I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, but...

A mole, maybe a whole family of them, is messing up my dry stream/rock edging

At least they're not coming up in the lawn, or in the middle of the bed. But I'd prefer that they not come up at all.

Stargazer Lily

'Black Beauty' Lily

Helenium 'Red Shades' -- I saved seeds from this last year, but none of them sprouted, so it may be sterile. Or maybe the bits that I saved weren't actually the seeds.

Blackberry lily, with its adorable twisty candy-like spent flowers

Eryngium 'Blue Hobbit' -- another plant that I saved seeds from last year, which sprouted. We'll see if the seedlings retain this small stature

Monarda 'Jacob Cline'

It's flowering well, but very floppy. I moved it here from a different spot in the same bed earlier this year. I don't know why this one flops and 'Raspberry Wine' stands so nice and tall. The 'Raspberry Wine' is in richer, more moisture-retentive soil, and gets afternoon shade. This is a sunny, drier spot with sandy soil. I'm thinking I may move the 'Jacob Cline' into the back garden in the fall, where the soil is better, and see what happens next year.

Here's that bed from the other side, my neighbor's view

And here's a visitor to the Agastache in the gravel garden, captured a couple of days after they were buzzing me in the back garden. I love its tiny feet all tucked up.

Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is a blogging meme started by Carol Michel of the blog May Dreams Gardens. Check out her post here as well as all the other links from blogs all over the world, celebrating their flowers for the month of August.

I usually join in Foliage Followup, the day after GBBD, but I may not this month. In fact, my blog may be quiet for just a little while. My son is coming for a week's visit in a couple of days, and we have all sorts of plans!