Pincushion Protea

Pincushion protea is most certainly distinctive.

Proteas seem to be as happy locally as they are within their native range in South Africa. The Mediterranean climates there and here must be similar. Like most species from such climates, they are quite undemanding. They enjoy sunny and warm exposure with good drainage. They dislike fertilizer and frequent irrigation. Occasional irrigation is tolerable.

Pincushion protea, Leucospermum cordifolium, is the most popular protea here. Bloom can begin between late winter and early spring, and lasts for weeks. Many are presently blooming. Most are orange. Some are yellow or red. They are excellent cut flowers, both fresh and dried. Each rounded and four inch wide bloom contains many narrow flowers.

Pincushion protea develops stiff branches, but potentially wobbly roots. Sprawling stems that lean onto the ground improve stability. Pruning should remove undesirable stems at their origins, without leaving stubs. Shearing ruins form and texture, and inhibits bloom. Mature specimens can be about five feet tall and somewhat wider. Stiff evergreen leaves are about three inches long and half as wide.


Kaffir Lily

Kaffir lily brightens a shady situation.

Kaffir lily, Clivia miniata, and lily of the Nile seem to be similar but are very different. Both develop densely evergreen mounds of arched strap shaped leaves. Both bloom with many funnel shaped flowers in spherical umbels on upright stems. Even their thick and rubbery rhizomes and roots are similar. However, they are related neither to each other nor to lilies.

Kaffir lily bloom is rich orange, fiery orangish red or yellow. This is opposite of the pastel blue or white floral color range of lily of the Nile. While lily of the Nile requires abundant sunlight, Kaffir lily tolerates significant shade. Kaffir lily leaves and bloom are more stout and less pliable than those of lily of the Nile. Kaffir lily foliage is generally darker green.

Individual leaves of Kaffir lily can be three inches wide and about a foot and a half long. Mounding growth of old colonies can get more than two feet high. Bloom hovers barely above the foliage. A few round and bright red berries can develop after bloom. Individual seeds within each berry may be genetically variable. All parts of Kaffir lily, particularly the rhizomes, are toxic.


Geum has rustic appeal.

Old fashioned geum (or ‘avens’), Geum coccineum, was popular in rock gardens of the 1970’s because it clings to stone, and cascades somewhat. In modern gardens, it works just as well in large pots or planters, mixed with other perennials. The fuzzy foliage forms compact mounds about half a foot high and wide. The bright orange flowers with fuzzy yellow centers stand about twice as high, and bloom from spring through summer. Removal of fading flowers promotes continued bloom.

Flame Vine

Flame vine bloom before spring here.

Like so many popular spring bulbs, flame vine, Pyrostegia venusta, may not delay bloom until spring as it should. Within the warmly sunny situations that it prefers, it is more likely to bloom during winter. It may wait until the end of winter or even the beginning of spring only where winter weather is cooler. Bloom is already finishing where winters are milder.

Bloom is spectacular, particularly while not much else blooms so copiously. It is about as profuse as bougainvillea bloom, but earlier. It is about as vibrant orange as poppy bloom, but earlier. With warmth, sunlight and regular watering, flame vine performs very reliably. Perhaps it should not be as uncommon as it is. Yellow blooming flame vine is quite rare.

Although a bit tamer than related red trumpet vine and royal trumpet vine, flame vine may be uncommon partly because it is so vigorous. If pruned to the ground after bloom, it can reach second story eaves to bloom there for the next season. It can grow absurdly high if it grows into trees. Its evergreen foliar tendrils can cling to and damage painted surfaces.


Lantana just might bloom until frost.

Where winters are very mild, common lantana, Lantana camara, might bloom through all but the coolest of weather. It generally takes more of a break though. It could finish bloom at any time now, and resume at the end of winter. Where winter weather is cooler, foliage and perhaps stems may succumb to light frost. Growth should regenerate through spring. 

The tiny tubular flowers bloom inwardly from the margins of round umbels that are about and inch and a half wide. Flowers typically bloom yellow, and then fade to orange, red or pink. Therefore, the umbels have yellow centers with orange, red or pink margins during the middle of bloom. One cultivar blooms with one hue of yellow. Another fades to white.

Modern cultivars mostly stay rather low and compact. Some sprawl. Older cultivars might get as tall as six feet after a few years. However, after frost damage or coppicing, mature plants may regenerate from their roots, with vigorous stems that get six feet long through summer. The faintly raspy foliage appears to be smooth, and is aromatic when disturbed.

Torch Lily

Torch lily might bloom for autumn.

Technically, it should bloom during spring and summer. Torch lily, Kniphofia uvaria, does not seem to know that though. Some bloom for late summer. Most are presently in bloom. Old fashioned sorts that survive without irrigation may bloom through winter or whenever they want. Modern cultivars are likely more predictable and punctual with their schedule. 

Torch lily, or red hot poker, blooms with densely conical floral spikes of many narrow and tubular flowers. Bare stalks boldly support bloom as high as five feet. The grassy foliage below forms dense mounds that should not get much higher than three feet. Established plants can survive without watering, but appreciate it through the arid warmth of summer. 

Floral buds are generally orange as they develop, and then fade to yellow as they bloom and age. Since floral spikes bloom upwards from the bottom, they are yellow at the base, and orange at the tip, like candy corn. Some cultivars are more reddish orange at the tip, or creamy white at the base. Others are rather uniformly orange, yellow or creamy white.


Lantana sports two colors per bloom.

All flowers that need help with getting pollinated do what they can to attract pollinators. The tiny flowers of lantana, Lantana camara, actually put forth a bit of extra effort to improve the efficiency of their pollinators, by becoming less attractive once pollinated. Within each tightly set flower cluster, pollinated flowers fade to an alternate color to inform pollinators that their services are no longer needed. This prioritizes flowers than still await pollination. Consequently, each small cluster exhibits flowers of two different colors. The choices are red, orange, yellow, pink, purplish pink or white.

The small and aromatic leaves are arranged in alternating pairs on thin stems that do not get much higher or wider than three feet. Established plants can survive with very minimal watering, but bloom better with somewhat regular watering. The summer bloom is very attractive to butterflies.

Trailing lantana, Lantana montevidensis, has limber stems that sprawl a few feet over the ground without getting a foot deep. It cascades nicely over retaining walls or from large planters. Flowers are shades of lavender, or sometimes white.

Six on Saturday: Cannas – Mostly


There are only four pictures of cannas here. I could have gotten two more for an even six, but would have needed to get them elsewhere. These six pictures were obtained within one of the landscapes at work. Except for pruning a grapevine and flowering cherry trees, I do not work in this garden, so can not take credit for these cannas. I will take credit for the pictures though.

However, I probably should have taken pictures that show the foliage in conjunction with the bloom. Without the foliage there is not much to distinguish the big orange flowers of the last two pictures from each other.

1. Kangaroo paw, Anigozanthus, is one of my lesser favorite perennials, but happens to be one of the more practical for the chaparral climate. Besides, this one happens to be rather pretty. I do not know what cultivar, or even what species this one is. The Eucalyptus cinerea to the upper left is the same that was featured in ‘Silver‘ and ‘Exfoliating Bark‘.P90803

2. Honeysuckle, which I believe might be Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches & Cream’ was featured as the second picture of ‘Six on Saturday – Not My Garden‘, and was likely also featured in other posts that I do not want to go looking for right now. When I first met this honeysuckle, it was rather grungy and mostly defoliated. I thought that it was Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’, which looks nothing like this.P90803+

3. Canna with wispy orange flowers and big green leaves is probably my favorite of the four. The big leaves, which are not shown here, are quite lush. I believe that this one can get quite tall.P90803++

4. Canna with bigger red flowers and simple green leaves is more what we expect a canna to look like. The bronze foliage to the right and in the background actually belongs to #6 below.P90803+++

5. Canna with big orange flowers and yellowish variegated leaves was the fourth picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture shows only a close up of the foliage, without bloom.P90803++++

6. Canna with big orange flowers and bronze leaves was the third picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture also shows only a close up of the foliage without bloom. I believe this to be the cultivar ‘Wyoming’.P90803+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Cape Honeysuckle

51118It may not bloom profusely, but cape honeysuckle, Tecoma capensis, blooms sporadically at random times throughout the year, and often while not much else is blooming. The bright reddish orange flowers contrast nicely against glossy evergreen foliage. Some blooms are slightly more reddish, while others are slightly more orangeish. A somewhat more compact cultivar blooms with light yellow flowers.

The long and limber stems of cape honeysuckle can not decide if they want to grow as vines or as shrubbery. They can be tied back and espaliered against a fence or trellis, or pruned and left to stand on their own. Large plants can get higher than the eaves. Overgrown thickets of stems can be cut down to the ground at the end of winter. They can regenerate and resume blooming before summer.

The narrow tubular flowers are about two inches long. They develop in terminal trusses, but only a few within a truss bloom at the same time. Shade inhibits bloom. Fertilizer seems to inhibit bloom by promoting vigorous vegetative growth. Fortunately, these vigorous shoots eventually bloom as vigorously as the grew. The four or five inch long leaves are pinnately compound, with five to seven small serrate leaflets.

Lion’s Tail

80919It does not get much more orange than this. Lion’s tail, Leonotis leonurus, tends to start with a relatively light duty bloom phase in the middle of spring, and then continue blooming in increasingly prolific phases until it finally culminates with the most spectacular bloom phase of the year about now, late in summer or early in autumn. The bloom is about as bright orange as California poppy!

Deadheading and pruning between bloom phases is not as simple as it might seem. Cutting back too aggressively postpones the next bloom phase. Bloomed stems should instead be cut back just below the deteriorating blooms. This unfortunately allows maturing plants to get somewhat overgrown and in need of more severe pruning over winter, before their first bloom phase of spring.

By now, well blooming plants may be as tall as six feet. As they mature, plants tend to get a bit wider than tall. The narrow evergreen leaves are about three inches long. Bloom is typical of related salvias, with dense tufts of tubular flowers neatly arranged in tiers on upright stems. Lion’s tail just happens to bloom with distinctively wide floral tufts. Cultivars with yellow or white flowers are rare.