20 July 2006

The lemon flower is sweet

Right now the garden is really, really smelling good, especially at night. The aforementioned Casablancas, of course, with the added kick of the sweet peas still climbing on them. It's a little hot for the Angel's trumpet, but the relatively few flowers it does have are still cranking out the fragrance as soon as the sun goes down. The Gardenia is flowering like a madman despite continuing to look like shit (I have a new theory about too much sun; the lower leaves are considerably bigger and greener). The lemon tree flowers year-round, but it tends to come in waves, and this is a big one. You need a critical mass to get a serious lemon-scented yard.

So the sequence, from the car to the patio (with a detour to procure the Miracle of Summer) goes: gardenia, (lavender interlude), lemon, lily, sweet pea, lemon, (rose interlude if you really concentrate), lemon, Angel's trumpet. This may sound a little much, but it goes perfectly with a cigarette. Seriously, nothing is overpowering unless you get too close.

Lemon flowers are weird, but I couldn't discover much about their morphology on the internets. The pistils look like a solid cylindrical curtain around the stamen that has just shredded and sprouted anthers at the tips. It's hard to describe, but if you look at the original size of the picture above on flickr, you can get a sense of it.


I'm going far away from the world of evergreen subtropicals, and, for that matter, computers. It will be quiet here for a few weeks. However, there are rumors that my unexcited co-conspirator may resurface here and let us know how her garden grows. She is a resourceful gardener, a charming companion, an excellent writer, and, most importantly, extremely hott (that's her hugging Jeff Koons's Puppy in the banner), so you probably want to check in on her.

18 July 2006


As predicted, the lilies are starting to bloom just in time for us to leave town. Also unsurprisingly, the one that faces the wall opened first -- I had to hold the camera backwards against the wall to get this shot. Still, you should have heard me when I wandered out this morning with my coffee to look around and saw the thing. Actually, it's a good thing no one heard me. I can't even describe the sound I made, but it meant one thing: plant dork.

The other plants are considerably more retarded in their development, so we may have a few left when we get back. But I can see I'm going to have to adjust my rigorous vacation schedule.

13 July 2006

Speaking of crazy flowers

Imagine our surprise when the neighbor's longsuffering banana plant turned out to be Strelitzia nicolai. Especially because they're only supposed to grow in zones 23-24.



12 July 2006

Odd flowers


More pictures of pomegranate flowers. This one gives a good idea of the contrast between the fragile crinkly petals and the thick, shiny calyx. Kind of like a crepe petticoat emmerging from a leather corset, to abuse analogy. Sorry about that. A very singular flower (in fact, the internet told me that pomegranates have recently been moved from their own family with only one other genus to Lythraceae). Also see this smallish close-up of the interior.

This "lion's tail" or whatever it's called (supposedly Leonotis leonurus, but I read somewhere that this may be a misidentification) is ungainly and ridiculous, and it ranges from boring to ugly when it's not blooming. The shade of orange isn't so hot, either. But how can you not admire such a crazy flower? Hummingbirds love it too.


10 July 2006


I grew up in zone 6, so I don't expect any sympathy for the travails of the the California garden. I know how lucky I am to grow these plants. But I'm not sure continental climate gardeners understand how literally brown the grass is on this side. First of all, we don't have enough winter chill to grow a lot of things you take for granted: tulips, apple trees, herbaceous peonies, my grandparents' snowdrops.

[Again, please note that I am not complaining about the the lack of cold. Why do you think I moved here?]

Conversely, it doesn't get hot enough in the summer to grow many plants acceptably: tomatoes, the gardenia, possibly this Hedychium, which is happy enough, but may or may not decide to flower. And the wonderfully fragrant flowers, notwithstanding the interesting quilted effect of the foliage, are the whole point. (The lack of heat is a zone 17 issue, not a zone 9 issue).

And of course there is no rain for 7 months. This shows up not just in brown grass and absurd water bills but also, for example, in the invariably burnt tips of the Hedychium and similar plants -- and a very dead feeling in the garden come September. (This problem is slightly ameliorated by the previous one in zone 17).

Moral: even paradise* has its drawbacks.

* Horticulturally speaking only, of course.

07 July 2006



Cannas are an oft-abused plant that people love to hate. But now that even the ladies at Garden Rants have been forced to admit that there are no bad plants, just bad people, cannas deserve another look.

The striated leaves are the best feature. I am often enraged by the mania for variegation, but I just love the undulating parallel lines here. Of course, you can have too much of a good thing, and cannas' admirable variability has lead breeders to their share of abominations. The plants at left, in my neighbors' yard, have nice subtle stripes.

The flowers are actually pretty cool, especially some of the intense red ones, but they combine the worst featues of hybrid Iris (big and floppy) and Gladiolus (spent brown flowers linger on the spike before the top ones even open). Some cultivars may be better than others in this regard.

The objection that cannas are too common is just snobbish. But there is something about the heavy use of such self-consciously "tropical" plants in our semi-arid climate that bothers me. A little tropical goes a long way. Luckily, depending on my mood, I can either admire or sneer at these plants in my neighbors' yard without having to decide if I like them enough to plant in my own.


Oh yeah: pomegranate flowers:

© 2006