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17 06, 2021

Lion’s Tail

2021-06-18T11:29:54-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, Nora Harlow, perennials|Tags: , |

Some plants just naturally bring out the child in all of us, and lion's tail (Leonotis leonurus) is surely one of them. The whorled clusters of softly woolly yet spiky-looking, neon orange flowers can look almost cartoonish --a caricature of flowers-- spaced out along emphatically upright, six- or even eight-foot stems. Leonotis leonurus in full bloom in the San Francisco Botanical Garden Of the nine to twelve or more recognized species of Leonotis, only lion's tail, a perennial or subshrub endemic to eastern South Africa, is reliably available in nurseries. Lion's ear (L. nepetifolia), an annual native from

16 03, 2021

Learning to Love Lomandras

2021-03-23T16:15:42-07:00Categories: Blog, Garden Plants, perennials|Tags: , |

I long resisted the siren call of lomandras as these evergreen, grasslike plants increasingly appeared in highly regimented commercial landscapes and city medians. They are, after all, decidedly not native to North America's Pacific coast, the flower spikes are often disturbingly spiny-looking and messily ungrasslike, and the most commonly seen lomandras can seem too perfect in both form and color to be real. Lomandra longifolia Watching these plants develop into full form over several years, I searched for incipient tendencies to spread, to flop, or to lose their attractive form or color. Nowhere did they change much over

26 09, 2016

Perovskia

2016-09-27T19:44:04-07:00Categories: Blog, perennials|Tags: |

Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a deciduous woody perennial or subshrub with strongly scented gray-green leaves, silvery gray mostly upright stems, and masses of tiny lavender-blue to deep blue flowers on tall spikes from summer through fall. A fine-textured plant two or three feet tall and wide with an open, airy habit, perovskia is content in full sun with only occasional deep summer watering.  It thrives in almost any soil type, including clay, but must have decent drainage; it sulks and rots where drainage is poor, especially in rainy winters. Native to rocky steppes of southwestern

4 02, 2016

California pipevine

2016-09-27T19:49:25-07:00Categories: Blog, groundcovers, vines|Tags: , , , , |

Aristolochia californica, California pipevine,  with chrysalis of pipevine swallowtail butterfly California pipevine (Aristolochia californica) is one of the first plants to flower in my northern California garden, sending forth dozens, no hundreds, of tiny blossoms on leafless stems in mid-winter, after the manzanitas but before flashier plants such as native irises grab center stage.  Their appearance, noticed only up close at first, signals the approaching end of winter and fuels my anticipation of full-on gardening weather. The flowers are, to say the least, unusual.  They grow more like fruits than flowers, maturing, right before your eyes, from a

14 01, 2016

Armeria

2017-04-17T23:08:05-07:00Categories: Blog, California Native, perennials|Tags: , , |

California native plant garden with Armeria maritima edging a walkway Sea pink or sea thrift (Armeria maritima) was once more commonly found on "drought-tolerant" plant lists than it is today.  Gardeners who were led to plant it no doubt discovered that it just doesn’t thrive without summer water or afternoon shade except right along the coast. Sea pink is nonetheless perfect for small gardens or small garden areas where a little summer water can be spared.  Its densely hummocky cushions of evergreen grassy leaves are six inches tall and spread to about a foot wide.  Pink or sometimes

30 12, 2015

Achilleas

2015-12-30T13:41:53-08:00Categories: Blog, perennials|Tags: , , |

Achillea 'Moonshine' Achillea millefolium is a variable perennial, with one kind or another found throughout temperate regions of North America, Europe, Asia. California has several native kinds of A. millefolium, but the most widely available and commonly planted achilleas, such as the canary yellow ‘Moonshine’ or golden yellow ‘Coronation Gold’, are named hybrids or selections of other species or of plants originating elsewhere.  You may have to seek out the lovely long-lived white- to pink-flowered native achilleas at native plant sales or nurseries that specialize in California natives. Achillea millefolium 'Island Pink', a selected form from the Channel Islands

28 12, 2015

Irises

2015-12-28T14:50:18-08:00Categories: Blog, perennials|Tags: , , |

Pacific Coast iris 'Copper' flowering in garden with Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' Plants that are dormant or not actively growing during the hottest months are well adapted to summer-dry climates, including many California natives.  Irises, both native and not, are a beautiful choice. Iris douglasiana hybrid Douglas iris (Iris douglasiana) forms an upright clump of sword-shaped or grasslike green leaves, mounding and spreading with age by underground rhizomes.  Flowers are blue-violet, deep purple, or occasionally white, often two or three on each upright stem in late winter to mid-spring.  Native to coastal California and Oregon, this Pacific

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