Few flowers are as elegant as callas.

If only it did not like such regular watering, the common white calla, Zantedeschia aethiopica, would be quite a sustainable perennial. Once established, it can be difficult to get rid of, particularly in well watered gardens. Even unwatered plants that die to the ground through dry summer weather are merely dormant and waiting for rain to regenerate and bloom.

The remarkably elegant blooms stand about two or three feet tall, each with a single spathe loosely wrapped as a flaring cone around a spadix that supports the indistinguishable diminutive flowers. The bright white spathe is often more than four inches wide, and can be twice as wide in shade. The spadix is only about three or four inches long, and as yellow as Big Bird. The spongy dark green leaves are about a foot or two tall.

‘Green Goddess’ blooms with a longer and recurved spathe with a green tip and margins. Colorful callas are actually different specie. All parts of all types of callas are incidentally toxic.

Snowball Bush

Even without the variety of color of hydrangea, these relatively delicate, crisp white flowers of snowball bush are quite elegant.

Like small, clear white hydrangea blooms, the round, three inch wide floral trusses of snowball bush,Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’, are composed of many smaller flowers. Unlike hydrangeas that bloom after vegetative (stem and foliar) growth, snowball bush blooms early, so that as it finishes, deteriorating blooms will be obscured by soft green foliage before anyone notices. The distinctively lobed, three inch wide leaves get quite colorful in autumn. Snowball bush should not be shorn, but can instead be pruned aggressively while bare in winter. Older or obtrusively tall stems should be pruned to the ground where possible. Good sun exposure without too much reflected glare or heat promotes bloom and autumn foliar color. Mature plants can get ten feet tall and nearly as broad.


Candytuft is like a perennial alyssum.

Alyssum is popular because of its lightly fragrant and lacy white bloom that lasts through most of the year. It seems to be more perennial than it actually is because it sows seed to replace aging plants. Candytuft, Iberis sempervirens, is a bit less prolific with bloom and fragrance, but otherwise resembles alyssum. Without seeding, it can be nicely perennial. 

Candytuft does not get much larger than alyssum although it supposedly has potential to get almost a foot high and a foot and a half wide. Shearing after bloom phases enhances foliar density and subsequent bloom. Primary bloom occurs during late winter, spring, or perhaps early summer. Minor random bloom is possible at any time, particularly autumn.

Plants propagate readily by division of small tufts of rooted stems from within established plants. Alternatively, creeping outer stems develop roots if simply pressed into the soil or held down with stones. Pruning scraps are tiny and awkward to handle, but can grow as cuttings. When disturbed, candytuft exudes an aroma similar to that of related cabbages, which might be objectionable to some.


As a companion plant, candytuft hides the less appealing lower growth of roses; or it can cascade from mixed planters.

Most roses that are grown for cut flowers are not very appealing in the landscape. They look better behind shorter perennials or shrubbery, with their taller flowering stems standing higher above. Mounding herbs like lavender, lavender cotton or rosemary, or small hedges of boxwood, dwarf hebe or Indian hawthorn obscurer their thorny undergrowth nicely. Candytuft, Iberis sempervirens, is a small perennial that gets just high enough to give a neat edge to a row of roses.

It gets gets about a foot deep, and can very slowly but eventually spread over a few square feet. The tiny, narrow and dark green leaves are less than an inch long. Inch wide trusses of minute white flowers resemble those of sweet alyssum, although lack fragrance. Sloppy plants can be restored by getting pruned almost to the ground.

Six on Saturday: el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos

To everyone else, it is merely the Memorial Chapel. I prefer to think of it as el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos. It is a long story. Not only is it my favorite building that I work around, but it is outfitted with one of my favorite landscapes. Floral color is limited to white! My favorite color! There is not much to the landscape yet, but there will be later, particularly as the removal of adjacent trees improves sun exposure. Relocation of lily of the Nile is untimely, but necessary.

1. White lily of the Nile are a perfect fit here. They will function like a low hedge between the sidewalk and the roadway, without getting high enough to obscure the façade of the small Chapel.

2. Since the roadway is more than five feet below the sidewalk, the dense border of lily of the Nile will make the retaining wall seem less precipitous. The shading Douglas fir will get removed.

3. Double white angel’s trumpet was also a perfect fit when it was relocated here from the same garden that the lily of the Nile came from, but got majorly distressed by spider mite infestation.

4. It is recovering splendidly now, and is even developing floral buds again. Its future is uncertain though, since mites may continue to be a recurring problem. It lives next door to the Chapel.

5. Zonal geraniums presently provide the most white bloom here, although I can not take credit for them. Someone else put them here. I merely pruned them back when they were overgrown.

6. This is not what it looks like. This gentleman may seem to be expressing his opinion of the exclusivity of the white garden, or perhaps my predilection for white, but he is merely being silly.

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

Star Magnolia

Star magnolia blooms before it foliates.

Spring seems to develop suddenly, and without a very precise schedule. Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata, which can bloom as late as early in April, is already finished blooming in most regions. It should be no surprise. Technically, it can bloom before March. Foliage does not compete with bloom on otherwise bare stems. It appears as bloom deteriorates.

The bright white flowers are about three inches wide, and lavishly profuse. Cultivars with pale pink bloom are increasingly popular. Their pink color may be variable, according to the weather. Flowers have more than a dozen narrow tepals. Some are fluffier with twice as many. Fragrance is mild. Stems can be cut and brought inside just as buds pop open.

Star magnolia is more of a deciduous flowering shrub than a small tree. It should not get much taller than six feet, although it can eventually get to be nearly twice as wide. Partly shaded specimens can reach ground floor eaves. The lime green leaves darken through summer, turn pale yellow for autumn, and finally defoliate to reveal sculptural gray stems.


Snowflake might be mistaken for snowdrop.

Some of us here on the West Coast know it incorrectly as ‘snowdrop’. That is actually the common name of the many cultivars of Galanthus that are so very popular in other regions. ‘Snowflake’ is the correct common name for Leucojum aestivum. Of course, most of us accept either name. The real snowdrop is not so popular here anyway. It blooms better with more chill than it gets locally.

Snowflake does not seem to need much chill at all. It performs so reliably here that it can slowly spread. A few may even self sow in damp situations. Leucojum vernum is another snowflake, with single or paired flowers instead of three or more on each arching stem. Leucojum vernum blooms before Leucojum aestivum. Both are supposed to bloom later in spring, but are in bloom now.

The somewhat rubbery foliage of snowflake resembles that of daffodil, but is a bit darker green. Individual leaves are about a foot tall and an inch wide, and stand rather vertically. Floral stems do not get much higher, but lean slightly outward with the weight of bloom. Their individual flowers are quite small and pendulous, with single yellowish or green dots near the tips of each of six tepals.

Six on Saturday: Housebound


It is a long story. I did not get out to get any pictures until Friday. By that time, I was none too selective. I just got pictures of what happened to be convenient. It really is coincidence that all happen to be white. The first three are from work. The other three are on roadsides in town. 1, 3 and 6 have potential to be colors besides white. However, 1 and 6 are typically white in their feral state as shown here; and only one cultivar of 3 is only slightly blushed.

1. Alyssum – can not decide if it is a warm or cool season annual. A new generation starts to bloom before predecessors finish, regardless of season. All are feral, so none are pink or lavender.P00307-1

2. Candytuft – is mistaken, by some, for alyssum. It blooms almost as continuously. It really should get cut back about now. Although, no one wants to cut it back while it continues to bloom.P00307-2

3. Clematis – is evergreen, but was defoliated by harsh winter pruning. It lacks sufficient space to grow wild. Earlier bloom is fading already. The ‘Apple Blossom’ cultivar has blushed bloom.P00307-3

4. Plum – of unknown origin blooms spectacularly at a gas station in town. Bloom is not quite as delicate as that of other feral American plum that naturalized from old stone fruit understock.P00307-4

5. Snowflake – grows wild along roadside drainage ditches, but does not seem to be aggressively invasive. Mine bloomed earlier just like this. This is what I grow instead of trendy snowdrop.P00307-5

6. Calla – is in the same ditch with the snowflake. It is even less aggressive. Weird colorful hybrids do not naturalize at all, probably because they are weaker, and do not produce viable seed.P00307-6

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

White Hydrangea

P90907KWhat ever happened to the formerly common white hydrangea? It used to one of the three standard types of hydrangea; and the other two were really variants of the same sorts of ‘pink or blue’ hydrangea that I wrote about in ‘Horridculture – True Colors‘. The few hydrangeas that are white nowadays are lacy, flat-topped, blushed . . . or anything but simple classic white.

This old fashioned simple white hydrangea is just as elegant now as it has always been. It is always white, without pretense of blue or pink. There is no point of giving it something it does not really need just to change its natural color (like those of us in the Santa Clara Valley do to make pink hydrangeas blue; or those of us in the Tualatin Valley do to make blue hydrangeas pink).

The bulky and almost spherically rounded form of this floral truss distinguishes this old fashioned type as a ‘mophead’ hydrangea. Nowadays, ‘lacecap’, ‘mountain’, ‘smooth’, ‘panicle’, ‘oakleaf’ and ‘climbing’ hydrangeas are the more popular types. There is certainly nothing wrong with contemporary types, but there is nothing wrong with the old fashioned ‘mophead’ types either.

When it is time to prune the hydrangeas this winter, we might take cuttings from this particular specimen, in order to grow a few copies of it. Pink and blue hydrangeas, which get fertilized accordingly (to maintain their desired colors), happen to suit the landscapes very nicely here, but a few more white hydrangeas would brighten the rich dark green of the forest splendidly.

Besides, the old fashioned simplicity and elegance of this old fashioned white mophead hydrangea seem to be more compatible with the old redwoods and other mature forest trees than the relative flashiness of modern cultivars that were popularized only in the past few decades.