For Scotland, various species and cultivars of heath, Erica, may be as common as lily of the Nile is here. It has become somewhat popular in the Pacific Northwest and the North Coast of California also. It is likely less popular locally because it prefers acidic soil, and cooler and moister climates. Here, it appreciates regular watering and shelter from wind.
Mature heath is generally less than five feet tall, with densely mounding form. Only a few rare species get significantly taller. Most popular cultivars stay lower. Some creep slowly over their ground without getting more than half a foot deep. Their small and very narrow leaves are no more than half of an inch long, and almost resemble small spruce needles.
Even with such a fine texture, this evergreen foliage is delightfully woodsy. It is generally dark forest green. Some cultivars produce ruddy, yellow or gray new foliage in spring. Of these, some retain their rich foliar color through much of the year. Tiny heath flowers that bloom most abundantly through winter or spring are white, pink, red, or purplish.
While other bloom might be lacking through late winter, camellia, Camellia japonica, can help compensate. Although generally not as profuse as spring and summer bloomers, its individual flowers display elegantly against luxuriantly glossy evergreen foliage. Lack of sturdy stems for cutting is no problem for a few flowers simply floating in a shallow bowl.
Centuries of breeding has produced more than two thousand cultivars of camellia. Floral form can be single, semi-double, double, formal double, paeony, anemone or rose, so is quite variable. Floral color ranges from pure white to deep red, with many hues of pink in between. Stripes, speckles, blotches or picotee margins are within the same color range.
Camellia generally develops as nicely dense shrubbery that stays lower than the eaves. Some cultivars stay even lower. A few slowly mature as small and perhaps sparse trees. Individual flowers are about three inches wide. Some are smaller. A few are comparably bulky. Camellia sasanqua is a separate species with smaller but more abundant flowers.
The advantage of cyclamen, Cyclamen persicum, is nonconformity. Bloom begins in autumn when there are not many other flowers to provide color, and continues until spring. Cyclamen then defoliate and go dormant through summer while most other plants enjoy the warm weather. Even their red, pink, white, purple or salmon flowers are inside out, with petals flared back. The flowers can stand as high as six inches, just above the somewhat rubbery foliage. The rounded leaves are mostly dark green with silvery or gray marbling
If used as annuals for one season, cyclamen are uniform enough for bedding. However, if later overplanted with warm season annuals and allowed to stay through summer dormancy, regeneration the following season is variable, with larger and smaller plants, and some that do not survive. As perennials, cyclamen therefore work best in mixed plantings, where variety is not a problem. Cyclamen should be planted with their tubers about halfway above the soil level, and should not be mulched. Soil should be rich and drain well.
Winter is brief here. There is no snow, and only occasional mild frost. Chill is insufficient for many plants that need it. Rain can be copious during storms; but storms are not as frequent as in other climates. Many flowers typically bloom slightly earlier than they do in other regions. Of course, every season is unique.
1. English holly may have bloomed on time last year, but the berries are lingering late this year. The birds who eat them must have found something else to be more appealing. This is an odd cultivar that is neither as prickly nor as dense as common English holly elsewhere in its garden. Incidentally, it resides in the Santa Clara Valley, not here. I have no idea who the pollinator is.
2. Winter daphne should bloom in . . . well, winter. What I mean is that is should have bloomed a bit earlier in winter. Surprisingly, the foliage lacks variegation. All daphne here is variegated!
3. Calla should bloom in summer. This one is so late that that it is early. I mean that it is closer to next summer than it is to last summer. Really though, it blooms whenever it wants to here.
4. Daffodil continues to bloom in some locations. There are actually a few varieties blooming in this same area, with at least one colony that is only beginning to bloom. This late bloom is nice.
5. Narcissus continue to bloom late also! I believe that this is the only colony of paperwhite narcissus here. It is my favorite though, both because it is white, and also because it is so fragrant.
6. Rhody is always the most popular topic of my Six on Saturday. I do not know why he took a momentary interest in the camera. I just quickly exploited the opportunity to take his picture.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
The small trusses of tiny, pale pink flowers of daphne, Daphne odora, really do not need to be too flashy with such powerful fragrance. Actually, the flowers might be considered to be less interesting than the glossy evergreen foliage. The most popular cultivar, ‘Marginata’, has a narrow ivory or pale yellow edge to each leaf. Each leaf is only about two or three inches long. Each domed flower truss is about as big as half of a ping pong ball. Daphne is sometimes grown to compliment and provide fragrance for boldly colorful but fragrantly deficient camellias.
Daphne is unfortunately notorious for being somewhat finicky. It likes rich soil and reasonably regular watering, but quickly rots if soil stays too damp or drains inadequately. The roots are quite sensitive to excavation. Partial shade is no problem. Yet, even the biggest and happiest specimens do not get much more than three feet high and five feet wide, and rarely live more than ten years. Daphne is toxic, and the sap can cause dermatitis.
After centuries of breeding, there are more than two thousand cultivars of Camellia japonica! Additionally, there are more than a thousand cultivars of both Camellia sasanqua, with smaller but more profuse flowers, and comparably rare Camellia reticulata, with fewer but garishly big flowers. This does not even include the more than a hundred other specie of camellia found in the wild throughout East Asia.
It is obviously difficult to generalize about so many different personalities. Actually though, the glossy and slightly serrate leaves of almost all Camellia japonica are surprisingly similar. Also, most grow into rounded shrubs that are happy to stay below first floor eaves. Only a few grow into small trees, and only after many years. All prefer rich soil and regular watering.
The flowers that bloom late in winter are the most distinguishing characteristics of the many cultivars. The largest can get more than four inches wide. Flower form is remarkably variable (and can be described as single, semi-double, double, formal double, paeony, anemone or rose). Many have prominent yellow stamens. Color ranges from pure white to red, with every shade of pink in between. Picoteed, striped and blotched flowers are not uncommon.
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.