Bloom may not wait until spring. Breath of Heaven, Coleonema pulchellum, can start to bloom late in winter if it chooses to. After another more prolific bloom phase sometime in spring, sporadic bloom can continue until autumn. The delightfully pale lavender pink flowers are tiny, but abundant during bloom phases. A few are likely to linger after the main phases, until another phase begins.
The straight species is not as popular as it formerly was. It gets to be approximately five feet tall and broad, or a bit bigger if crowded. Nowadays, most breath of Heaven are ‘Compactum’, which do not get much taller than three feet, with delightfully wispy light green foliage. ‘Sunset Gold’ has bright greenish gold foliage that stays lower than two feet. All have impressively aromatic foliage.
Breath of Heaven is best where it does not need much pruning for confinement. Frequent shearing compromises foliar texture and inhibits bloom. Partial shade likewise inhibits bloom, although it can also promote an appealingly sparser and wispier foliar texture. Unfortunately, breath of Heaven does not live for very long. Even the healthiest and oldest specimens may not last twenty years.
While winter weather is still cool and damp, winter daphne, Daphne odora, provides an alluringly fresh fragrance of spring. It is easy to dismiss the abundant but rather small domed trusses of tiny pastel pink flowers as the source of their formidable fragrance. Like so many fragrant blooms, daphne bloom is visually demure. Nevertheless, blooming stems are delightful with other cut flowers.
‘Aureomarginata’ is the most popular cultivar of daphne, and is the only cultivar available in many regions. The handsomely glossy evergreen foliage is variegated with yellowy white or light yellow margins. Mature plants get about two feet tall and about twice as wide, with a delightfully tame hemispherical form. They may get slightly taller with slightly less refined form where partially shaded.
Daphne prefers rich and loose soil, and with sufficient organic matter, will tolerate rather sandy soil. Partial shade might inhibit bloom somewhat, but is otherwise not a problem. Proper placement is important. Established daphne recover slowly from transplant. It is also important to be aware that even the healthiest of plants may live for only five years, and rarely live for more than ten years.
Jeepers!! As Daphne Blake’s colleague, Fred Jones, might say, “Looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands.” What got into this Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’?! It rarely performs so well here, particularly so soon after being planted into a new landscape. This particular specimen, and about three others nearby, were planted as they finished bloom less than a year ago.
Since their season began, I have been commenting to those who share pictures of theirs, that such healthy and prolifically blooming daphne is enviable to those of us who do not live within a climate that is favorable to such performance. I know that this diminutive floral truss is not exactly exemplary compared to those of other regions, but for this region, it is almost spectacular.
The aroma is exquisite! It is everything that the rest of us grow daphne for, and is enhanced by the delightful but unseasonably clear and warm weather. Surroundings forests dampened by rain almost a month ago maintain just enough humidity for the fragrance to disperse. If it were not such a distinct fragrance, I would be wondering where it is originating. It is so unexpected.
Those in other regions believe that we can grow a more extensive variety of species here where winters are relatively mild. For some, that might be true. However, there are many climactic factors that limit what can be grown in every region. Species that require sustained chill in winter are not very happy here. For daphne, minimal humidity might be what they dislike locally.
Perhaps daphne happens to be happy in the particular location, next to a stream that enhances humidity much of the time when there is not much breeze. Perhaps the weather happened to be be conducive to such a performance. Perhaps it will remain a mystery.
If California is the most excellent state in the entire Unites States of America and surrounding Universe, and Oklahoma is the second most excellent, then Oregon might be number . . . hmmm . . . fourteen or fifteen . . . or maybe like twenty or something. However, in MY (very important) opinion, Oregon is like the third most excellent state, and almost ties with Oklahoma! That makes it even slightly more excellent than Pennsylvania, Vermont and Arizona! Yes, it is THAT excellent!
Even the state tree of Oregon is excellent. It is the Douglas fir, pseudotsuga menziesii. That is like the second most excellent of the state trees, right after the coastal redwood of California. If California did not claim the coastal redwood as the state tree, Oregon is the only other state that can claim it as a native, since the native range of coastal redwood extends ever so slightly into the very southwest corner of Oregon.
There was a time when redwood was the main timber tree here, but that was only because it was the most readily available. As the supply was depleted, it was reserved for fences, decks, structural lumber that is in contact with concrete foundations, or any other situation in which its innate resistance to decay was important. Douglas fir became the most common lumber, and is still what homes are built from now.
Besides all that, Douglas fir is one of the grandest of trees in North America.
Then there is the state flower of Oregon. Well, it is not so much to brag about, although it is still better than the state flower of Oklahoma, which happens to be mistletoe. (Okay, that is another subject for later.)
Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, blooms late in winter with these bright golden yellow, but otherwise unimpressive flowers. The few small black berries that develop over summer are mostly taken by birds before anyone notices. The glossy and prickly dark green foliage is quite appealing, and happens to do well in partial shade, but this is the state flower, not the state foliage.
Some might say it blooms very late. Others might say it blooms very early. Regardless, sasanqua camellia, Camellia sasanqua, blooms in autumn or early winter when not much else is blooming. The abundant two inch wide flowers can be pale pink, rich pink, white or red, all with prominent yellow stamens. Some are fluffy with many petals. Others have only a few. Alas, fragrance is rare.
Each cultivar of sasanqua camellia has a distinct personality. Some are strictly upright, and can eventually get somewhat higher than downstairs eaves. Others are too limber to stand upright on their own; so they grow as low mounds, or espaliered onto trellises. With proper pruning that does not compromise bloom too much, some can be pruned as hedges, or as foundations plantings.
Sasanqua camellia has been in cultivation for many centuries. Prior to breeding for bloom in the past few centuries, it was grown for tea and tea seed oil, which is extracted from the seeds. This oil is used for culinary purposes and cosmetics. The finely serrate elliptical ‘tea’ leaves are about one to two and a half inches long. The glossy evergreen foliage is appealing throughout the year.
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.
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.
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.
4. This floral form is more refined, but looks almost too perfect, as if the flower were assembled by robots on an assembly line.
5. This one also seems to have been assembled, but is a bit friendlier. I happen to like such formality.
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.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
The camellias are STILL blooming! They may not bloom profusely, but they have been blooming for quite a while. I do not know how many different cultivars are here, but there are more than I can fit into just six pictures. There are six more for next week, although two might be the same. They are the dark pink or red camellias. For this week, we have two light pink and four white camellias. I did not get any picture of the sasanqua camellias. I have not seen reticulata camellias or any other specie here.
1. This clear pink camellia is probably my least favorite of these six, only because it is a bit too casual for my taste.
2. This clear pink camellia looks more refined. I really like this form.
3. Now we have white, my favorite color, but the bright yellow stamens in the middle make this casual camellia look like a fried egg.
4. I happen to prefer this fluffier white, with less prominent stamens.
5. Wow! This one really looks yummy!
6. Now my favorite; so simple, and so white, although, the camellia in the previous pictures actually looks yummier!
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
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.
When the weather warms up a bit between frosty weather and winter storms, the rich fragrance of winter blooming daphne, Daphne odora, is at its best. The domed trusses of tiny pale pink flowers are not much wider than a quarter, so are easy to overlook while investigating the source of the fragrance. ‘Aureomarginata’, the standard cultivar, has glossy evergreen leaves with narrow pale yellow margins. Mature plants are only one or two feet high. All parts of the plant are incidentally toxic.
It is no mystery why daphne is rare. It can be rather finicky, and unpredictably so. It purportedly wants rich and slightly acidic soil, in a warm but partially shaded spot; but can be difficult to grow even in ideal conditions. Yet, it is sometimes seen doing well in full sun or in dense soil of questionable quality. To make matters worse, even the healthiest plants live only about five to eight years.
As a group, aloes really deserve more respect. Many will naturalize and thrive with only occasional watering through summer. Candelabra aloe, Aloe arborescens, wants a bit more water than most other aloes, but not much. It looks like a sensitive jungle plant, but is surprisingly durable, and very easy to propagate. Any pruning scraps can be plugged wherever new plants are desired.
The foliage alone is striking. Some might say that the loosely arranged foliar rosettes are sloppy. Others might say they are sculptural. The long and curved leaves are outfitted with prominent but soft marginal teeth. Some specimens have narrower leaves that are almost curled. ‘Variegata’ is striped with creamy white. Mature plants may form dense mounds more than six feet high. Hummingbirds and bees really dig the flashy bright reddish orange floral trusses that bloom on tall stems in winter.