80711There are so many more of the fancier cultivars of hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, than there were as recently as the 1990s. Many of the pink and blue hydrangeas were interchangeable years ago. They would bloom blue if the soil was acidic. They would bloom pink if the soil was alkaline. Their color changed accordingly when planted from potting media into soil of another pH.

Most of the modern cultivars nowadays are better at one color or the other. Those that want to be rich pink or almost red might turn lavender or purple in acidic soil. Those that want to be rich blue might do the same in alkaline soil. That makes for many hues of pink, blue, lavender and purple. Most of those that bloom white always bloom white, and their foliage might be a little lighter green.

There is also much more variety in floral form than ever before, although all bloom in summer or autumn with big rounded or nearly spherical trusses of many small flowers. The deciduous leaves are about six inches long, and pleasantly lush and glossy. Modern compact cultivars stay low and dense. Larger cultivars get about six feet high and wide, with somewhat open branch structure.


Western Azalea

70607We think of rhododendrons and azaleas as being from cooler and moister climates. After all, that is where they do best. Yet, there does happen to be a native western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, that lives in the Sierra Nevada and coastal ranges from San Diego County to just southwest of Portland, Oregon. (Azalea and Rhododendron are varied specie of the same genus.)

Bloom is mostly white, with pink, pale yellow or golden orange. Some of the fancier garden varieties bloom clear white, or with more vibrant color. The lightly fragrant, two inch wide flowers bloom in groups of two or three on open conical trusses. Each truss produces as many as a dozen flowers in sequence, so a new flower replaces a fading flower for a bit more than a week each spring.

Western azaleas plants are unfortunately not much to look at after bloom. They grow somewhat slowly and irregularly to about three to five feet tall. The two or three inch long deciduous leaves that can turn yellow and orange where autumn is cooler are more likely to turn an unimpressive grayish brown here. Foliage can fade prematurely if the weather gets too hot and arid through summer.

Six on Saturday: Rose Parade


There is way too much blooming for me to keep up with. Because I know there will be less blooming through summer, I get pictures while I can, even if I can not use them right away. Consequently, these pictures are not exactly from this last week. Some were from the second phase of bloom, and the first picture is from the first and only phase of bloom of a rose that blooms only once annually. I suppose I could have gotten pictures of the other five this last week, but I wanted to get them earlier than later, just in case they were between phases when I wanted to get the pictures.

Roses do very well here, and are even happier in the warmer and more arid weather of the Santa Clara Valley, just a few miles away. The Santa Clara Valley is one of the best places in the world for roses, which is why the Heritage Rose Garden is located there. Sadly, that collection is presently not in very good condition.

1. ‘Doctor Huey’ is the only cultivar of these six that I can positively identify. It has been the common understock for grafted roses longer than I can remember. Because it is only used as understock, it is not often seen blooming out in the garden. These are only blooming because the original scion died, and was replaced with sucker growth from below the graft. ‘Doctor Huey’ blooms profusely but only once in spring. It grows as a bramble, and can form small thickets if neglected long enough.P80602
2. Although not white, this pretty hybrid tea rose is probably my favorite of the six just because it is so perfect. I do not know the cultivar. It is not in the landscape, but is in the nursery, waiting to be installed into the landscape. Hybrid teas are the roses that I grew up with, so are my favorites.P80602+
3. I am not sure if this bicolored rose is a hybrid tea or a floribunda. I am guessing that it is a floribunda because there are groups of flowers blooming where I earlier deadhead the first phase of single blooms. It is out in the landscape, in the same garden with 4, 5 and 6 below. It is grown as a shrub. The others are grown as standard or tree roses.P80602++
4. This is my least favorite of the six because it looks like one of those trendy David Austin roses. The color is nice, but the form is weird. I will never understand fads. I know that hybrid tea roses were a trend or maybe even a fad at one time, but it was the trend that I grew up with, which is why they are what I compare all other roses to. This rose does not compare to them too well. It is grown as a standard or tree rose.P80602+++
5. This is also grown as a standard or tree rose, but in conjunction with 6 below. I mean that they are grafted together on the same trees. Individually, they are nicely formed roses with excellent color, but they look silly stuck together with the white roses. I could probably identify this rose if I wanted to, but I do not want to misidentify it. Except for the color, the rest of it grows just like ‘Iceberg’.P80602++++
6. This one looks just like ‘Iceberg’, and except for the color, grows just like 5 above, which it is grafted onto the same trees with (as I mentioned above). The white is perfect. If it were a hybrid tea, it would be my favorite of these six. I just prefer 2 above because it is such a perfectly formed rose on good stems.P80602+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Six on Saturday: Rhody


Not the terrier!

These are six of the many rhododendrons that have been blooming in the landscape for a while now. Some of the pictures are a week or so old. I do not remember when I took them. The rhododendrons did well this year, and their bloom has been lasting quite nicely. I should be pruning them next week, but can not get started until they finish. Some are very big, and some are sloppily overgrown. As much as I enjoy them in this landscape, I miss working with them on the farm. I can remember delivering the smaller rhododendrons in this landscape several years ago. Some of the bigger specimens are about as old as I am. I think I recognize a few of them, but can only positively identify the one in the first picture. ‘Annah Kruschke’ is the most popular cultivar, not only because it is so reliable, but also because it is not too bothered too much by the arid climate of the Santa Clara Valley and other regions that are somewhat farther inland.

1. Annah Kruschke is not the best purple, but is the easiest to grow. The foliage is is very nice dark green and somewhat glossy. It has a nice stout form that does not get too sloppy. Thrip do not bother it too much.P80519
2. This one looks like Taurus, and is just as popular with thrip, but I can not positively identify it. Branch structure is not only open, but has gotten quite sloppy with age. These will be a challenge to prune back.P80519+
3. I will not even guess what this watermelon red rhododendron is. There are several of them here. Although the branch structure is somewhat open, it is not a sloppy mess.P80519++
4. This one looks more like a cultivar that belongs in the Northwest. It has a nice stout branch structure, and nice round trusses of bright pink bloom. Although happy here, these types are not so happy in chaparral climates.P80519+++
5. This is probably my favorite rhododendron here because it looks so much like one of my favorite whites, “Helen Schiffner’. I could do without the yellow blotches. The foliage and branch structure are somewhat shabby.P80519++++
6. Like #3, I will not even guess what this one is. Although I typically prefer plain white, I happen to like these sorts of flowers because the blackberry stains in each floret makes the white look whiter.P90519+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Six on Saturday: Camellias on Parade II – Another Sequel


The camellias are getting meager, but a few are STILL blooming, even a week after the camellias that were blooming so late last week! These pictures were taken at the same time as those for last Saturday. There were just too many to fit into six pictures. Last week, we had two light pink and four white camellias. These are the dark pink or red camellias. There are no pictures of sasanqua camellias, and we have no reticulata camellias.

1. This is probably the biggest of our camellias. I do not know the name of it or any of the camellias here, but I believe that this is one of the old classics that had been around for centuries, and was popular in the 1960s.P80428
2. If this big ruffled dark pink camellia looks like the last one, it just might be. It does not seem to be as deep red, but that might be a result of the exposure.P80428+
3. You know, I do not typically like this simple pink; and I do not typically like this floral form; but for some reason, I really like this simple pink camellia. It just looks so much like a camellia should look.P80428++
4. This floral form is more refined, but looks almost too perfect, as if the flower were assembled by robots on an assembly line.P80428+++
5. This one also seems to have been assembled, but is a bit friendlier. I happen to like such formality.P80428++++
6. Like #3, this one has an unavoidable appeal. It really looks like a camellia should look, although it also looks like it could use some Grecian Formula.P80428+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:



80411It 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.

Maritime Ceanothus

70322What ever happened to Point Reyes ceanothus? It is such a nice low growing shrub, with small holly-like leaves, and cheery blue flowers in very early spring. It was quite popular when it initially became available, but now seems to be rare. Maritime ceanothus, Ceanothus maritimus, from San Luis Obispo County, is a similar species that presently seems to be getting more attention.

‘Frosty Dawn’ is the standard cultivar of maritime ceanothus, although there may be at least three cultivars with the same name. The ‘correct’ cultivar gets about two feet tall and five feet wide, with rigid but arching stems, grayish half inch long leaves, and dense trusses of minute blue flowers as winter ends. Another cultivar gets taller with more open growth. Another has lighter blue flowers.

Once established, maritime ceanothus can probably survive without any watering, but it might be happier with occasional watering through summer. New plants will need to be watered until they disperse their roots. Compared to other ceanothus, maritime ceanothus grows relatively slowly, but lives longer. (Many ceanothus can be short-lived.) Also, it is a bit more tolerant of partial shade.

Star Magnolia

70315Before its new lime green foliage emerges, the otherwise modest star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, dazzles with a surprising profusion of crisp white, blushed or pale pink bloom. The three inch wide flowers have between a dozen and two dozen floppy petals (which are actually tepals). If the weather is right, the flowers might be slightly fragrant. If only bloom could last longer than it does!

Star magnolia is too small to be much of a tree, but too open and sculptural to be shrubbery. It grows slowly and might never reach downstairs eaves. Only the biggest trees might reach the lower sills of upstairs windows. However, the angular low branches, usually on multiple trunks, are ideal for displaying the distinctive bloom. The light gray bark resembles that of fig trees. Leaves are about four inches long, and an inch and a half wide. Foliage turns soft yellow before falling in autumn.

Australian Fuchsia

61228Pictures are probably prettier than the real thing. Australian fuchsia, Correa pulchella, really does bloom with pendulous soft pink flowers through winter when not much else is blooming. However, the flowers are quite small, and the color is rather hazy. The real appeal of Australian fuchsia is that it is so undemanding, and once established, only needs watering a few times through summer.

Mature plants get a bit higher than two feet, and maybe twice as wide, with a low mounding form. The small evergreen leaves have a nice density without any pruning. Obtrusive plants do not mind getting pruned back or even shorn for confinement, but are deprived or their naturally appealing form and texture if pruned too frequently. Good exposure for both sunlight and warmth is important.

New Zealand Tea Tree

61221With such an odd variety of flowers blooming out of season, it should be no surprise that New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium, decided to join the party. It starts blooming in phases in spring, and continues into autumn, so is not too terribly out of season. Besides, some varieties are known for spontaneous bloom phases at any time of year. Bloom can be pink, white or red.

The finely textured and aromatic evergreen foliage is slightly prickly to touch. Individual leaves are tiny and rather narrow, with pointed tips. Flowers are also tiny, but compensate with profusion. A few varieties have darker, almost bronzed foliage. A few varieties have fluffier double flowers (although the flowers are no wider than single flowers). The weight of bloom can cause limbs to sag.

Most garden varieties can reach the eaves. Larger varieties can eventually get to upstairs eaves. With minimal pruning, New Zealand tea tree is a colorful big shrub, with blooming stems from top to bottom. Alternatively, it can be an excellent small tree, with lower stems pruned away to expose the finely furrowed bark of the main trunks. It wants full sun, but not much else once established.