Even with all the unusual breeds of daffodil and related narcissus that are available nowadays, the traditional big yellow types that resemble the classic ‘King Alfred’ daffodil are probably still the most popular, even if real ‘King Alfred’ are unavailable. Although all narcissus are daffodils, the term ‘daffodil’ typically refers to those with fewer but bigger and bolder flowers that lack fragrance.
Their dormant bulbs got planted last autumn to wait out winter and then bloom along with the earliest of spring blooming bulbs. They can be planted in later phases to prolong bloom, but once they naturalize, will bloom annually and early on a rather reliable schedule. Most types are pleased to naturalize if conditions are right for them, although some of the fancier varieties are less reliable.
Besides the familiar bright yellow, daffodils can be pale yellow, cream, white, orange or pink, although orange and pink are mostly in conjunction with other colors. Some varieties bloom with double flowers, or other varied forms. Taller types can stand a foot and a half tall, with the flowers suspended just above the narrow, mostly vertical and somewhat rubbery bluish green leaves.
Flowering dogwood, Cornus florida, seems like it should be more popular here than it is. It blooms spectacularly in April. The foliage can color nicely in autumn. Mature trees are proportionate to medium sized or smaller suburban gardens. However, the limiting factor to their popularity in the local climate is that they are understory trees that prefer to be in the partial shade of larger trees.
They certainly do not need to be shaded all day. Nearby trees or tall buildings that shelter them during the hottest part of the afternoon might be sufficient. Foliage that is too exposed gets roasted by hot sunshine or drying breezes while the weather is warm, especially if exposure is enhanced by glare from nearby walls or pavement. Otherwise, flowering dogwood is not overly demanding.
The abundant white, pink or rarely brick red bloom is actually comprised of modified colorful leaves known as bracts. Each cluster of tiny green flowers is surrounded by four upward facing bracts. Simple paired deciduous leaves develop after bloom. The leaves of some cultivars are variegated with white or yellow. Mature trees can reach upstairs eaves but typically stay lower and broader.
My weekly gardening column does not have much space for everything that should be said about the various topics and featured specie. I just try to fit the most basic of information into the space available, but usually would like to fit more in.
Sometimes, I would like to fit more pictures in too. It can be difficult to select just one camellia, or just one rhododendron. I typically select those that have the best contrast for black and white pictures, just in case some newspapers must deprive them of their color. That often means that I get to select my favorite white flowers rather than their more colorful counterparts. Regardless, there are so many good pictures that do not get seen. Then, there are also many qualities of the subjects that are difficult or impossible to show in pictures.
The dogwood picture that will get posted on Tuesday is pretty good, and happens to be white, but does not show how spectacular the tree that produced the bloom is. I selected a picture that was a close up of the same flowers in the picture below. Unfortunately, even if I had room for another picture, I could not get one that adequately represented the splendor of the tree. The best I could get is the picture above. I might try to get more pictures of pink and red dogwoods in the next few days, but pictures are nothing like the real thing. I had the same difficulty with the flowering cherries. The bloom was spectacular close up, but the trees looked like pink clouds on trunks from a distance.
If you can imagine, the tree in the picture is about twenty feet tall. It can be seen half a block away, through the adjacent deciduous trees. It looks just like a dogwood in Virginia should look, but happens to be right here on the West Coast, where you would not expect to see such an excellent specimen. Does that help?
I used to grow dogwood trees in the mid 1990s. They are not my favorite spring flowering tree because they do not do so well in the Santa Clara Valley. You would not know that by how well they do here on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a few miles away. There are many specimens in the neighborhood that are comparable to this one. Some are pink. A few are almost brick red. The foliage probably does not color as well in autumn as it would in Virginia, but by our standards, it colors nicely.
Two very happy pink dogwoods are in front of an elegant home of early American architecture that is located just downhill from the white dogwood in the picture above. Even with redwoods and coast live oaks all around, the dogwood trees and home really look like they could be in the vicinity of Virginia. It is obvious why those from the East are so fond of dogwoods.
It is a shame that forsythia is not more popular here. Years ago, there was a commonly perpetuated myth that winters were not cool enough for it, as well as lilac. We now know that both lilac and forsythia are happy to bloom here. Now, some might insist that there are so many evergreen shrubs that bloom nicely right through winter, that there is no need for deciduous blooming shrubbery.
They might not say so after seeing how spectacular forsythia is in bright yellow bloom as winter becomes spring. It uses the same tactic as the flowering cherries that bloom at about the same time, by dazzling spectators with profusion, before foliage develops to dilute the brilliance of the color! The flowers are tiny, but very abundant. Plump buds on bare stems can be forced indoors.
Forsythia X intermedia is the standard forsythia, although a few other specie and variations, including some compact cultivars, are sometimes seen in other regions. Mature specimens should not get much higher than first floor eaves, but can get twice as tall if crowded. The simple opposite leaves are about two or three inches long, and can turn color where autumn weather is cooler.
I would say that this is our own private Cherry Blossom Festival, but it really gets a crowd. These two old trees are at the edge of the main roadway through town, so several people driving by stop to take pictures. They may not seem to be very impressive compared to healthier flowering cherry trees, but they are what we have, and we are happy to get the bloom.
Decades ago, fruiting cherries were some of the more common orchard trees in the Santa Clara Valley. Flowering cherries were only somewhat popular in home gardens, and might have been less popular without the Japanese influence. They are more popular in cooler climates, not only because they are happier in cooler climates, but also because those who live where winters are harsh have a better appreciation for bloom that so happily celebrates the end of winter.
These particular trees are unfortunately deteriorating. They are quite old, and the trunks and main limbs rot and die back a bit more each year. No one wants to cut them down because they are such a familiar landmark this time of year. Few people can remember when the trees were not there.
We are grateful for the bloom this year because the weather could have easily ruined it. It was so warm earlier in winter that bloom could have very easily been accelerated, and happened just as frosty or rainy weather resumed. The trees seemed to know what time of year it was, and waited for the right time. It did happen to rain just prior to when these pictures were taken, but the blossoms had just opened, so were resilient to the rain. Weather should be milder for the next few days, until these trees are finished with their bloom.