Articles for the Month of December 2012

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day December 2012

Helleborus niger 'HGC Jacob' flower

Helleborus niger ‘HGC Jacob’ flower

It’s GBBD again!  Time to seek out the flowers around Ball Rd and see what we can share with others.  Probably the standout right now are two Christmas roses, ‘HGC Jacob’.  Both plants are fully in flower and have lots of buds coming.

Helleborus niger 'HGC Jacob'

Helleborus niger ‘HGC Jacob’

They don’t seem to mind the cold — we’ve had frost the last few nights — but the flowers do look a little shopworn if you examine them closely.

What I find still remarkable is the double pink Camellia that is so far ahead of its Camellia japonica brethren.

Double Pink Camellia

Double Pink Camellia

It just keeps on putting out flowers that we bring into the house and leave on the table in small bowls.

At the same time, across the yard our red Camellia sasanqua just never stops flowering at all and they have less of a tendency to get frosted off than the japonica.

Red Camellia sasanqua bud

Red Camellia sasanqua bud

In the Camellia bed we also have a little patch of Primula kisoanna that is putting up flowers already.

Primula kisoana

Primula kisoana

This is a rather pretty little thug and I have to decide what to do with its spreading habit this year.

Over near the driveway one of the Creeping Phlox got the wrong memo about springtime.

Creeping Phlox 'Candy Stripe' (Phlox subulata)

Creeping Phlox ‘Candy Stripe’ (Phlox subulata)

Another plant pushing the boundaries of lust for springtime is the red Flowering Quince.

Red Flowering Quince (Chaemoneles)

Red Flowering Quince (Chaemoneles)

This is not so surprising since two warm days in a row usually brings the quince into flower.

Not so many flowers otherwise in the yard, but in the greenhouse…

Well a few anyway, since we’re just getting started.

White-Pink Bougainvillea

White-Pink Bougainvillea

The two Bougainvillea are both flowering and budding up a storm at the same time.

Another tropical in bloom is the Mandevilla which Beth bought as large potted plant this year.



It is loving the California weather in the greenhouse.  I’m basically keeping the greenhouse at about 40 degrees minimum with an artificial rainstorm every 4 days.  Seems to be working out fine so far.

Greenhouse panorama

Greenhouse panorama

I wish the greenhouse were as big as this distorted iPhone view implies but it gives you some idea of what’s going on. More seedlings started every day…





Is it too early for Spring?

Daphne ‘Lawrence Crocker’ flower

I’m seeing some unexpected spring flowers already and it’s tempting to just skip winter altogether and move on to spring.  We had almost no snow last year and nothing on the horizon for this year.  This tiny little Daphne with bright pink (and very fragrant) flowers would love to be in a real rock garden but it will have to settle for a spot in the garden next to the garage while it slowly grows to shrub size.

Daphne ‘Lawrence Crocker’

Another surprise this week was the first flower on Primula kisoana

Primula kisoana

Another flower this week that was more or less expected (but fully appreciated nonetheless) was the first snowdrop of the year.

First Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis)

Lest we get totally carried away by these first harbingers of spring, I’m still willing to celebrate the remains of the autumn.  The spirea at the back of the garage is a multi-season plant and at the moment is in it’s full fall color.

Spirea thubergii Ogon fall color

All around the yard the various hollies have been having a field day.  For some reason they decided to really ‘berry-up’ this year.

English Holly

And the Heavenly Bamboo beside the garage is doing what that plant’s designer intended.  Beautiful foliage and then berries as an extra special reward.

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica)


All this and fragrance too

White and Red Cattleya Orchid

One of the nice things about the late fall is that we bring the Orchids inside when it starts to get cold.  They get very minimal care on a shady porch all summer long.  When we bring them in they all respond by flowering, each type in it’s own turn.  Right now the Cattleyas are having their say.  The white and red one is about 2 1/2 feet across out of a 10 inch pot.  We really have to think about repotting it someday.  All the orchids are wonderful but the Cattleyas are simply stunning to look at.  The silky petals and sepals and the colorful lips with the delicate ruffles at the edges are always attention grabbers.  But to cap it off, as if nature decided to go all out on this one species, the fragrance is spectacular — a combination of cinnamon and vanilla that is intoxicating.  I find myself stopping by to indulge in the scent several times a day.  The flowering is measured in weeks rather than days.  Indeed some our orchids seem to persist in bloom for more than a month.  If you have a sunny window in the wintertime, there is little reason not to be growing orchids…

Large Cattleya in bloom

Orchid detail

Red Cattleya Orchid

Another exotic flower for the indoor garden which requires even less care than the orchids is our Amazon lily.  This one looks like one of those green tropical plants that you move around in the house like a piece of furniture except that twice a year it shoots up these beautiful white flowers to remind you that it is indeed a remarkable plant.

Amazon Lily (Eucharis amazonica)

The flowers are not only lovely but fragrant as well.  I don’t think we’ve repotted it for ten years.  It sits in a well lit room with northern light and it flowers like clockwork.  I had been calling this Eucharis x grandiflora but after consulting the pages of the Pacific Bulb Society I realized that it’s actually E. amazonica.  According to that source this is just a single plant from the Huallaga valley in northeastern Peru that has been cloned all over the world.  There are no records of it actually producing seeds.  Pretty remarkable when you stop to think about it…