This weeks cool plant is Dorycnium hirsutum. A sweet downy little subshrub from the pea family.
It has white and pink clover-like flowers and fuzzy silver leaves. Even when it isn’t in bloom it is a cute unobtrusive little thing. Not the flashiest plant but quite drought resistant and it looks great mingling with other Mediterranean natives like lavenders and Santolina.
Short lived but it should seed around a bit.
Oh happy day! My very first mesemb grown from seed to flower is Titanopsis primosii and so of course it had to be my cool plant of the week!
And at least five others have buds. T. primosii is a South African mesemb with warty little leaves that camouflage it to look like pebbles or sand hidden among the rocks.
Here is a side view to show off the foliage.
Someone had asked with a previous mesemb seedling post if we could get a photo with something else for comparative size so here it is with my hand. I have dainty little lady hands so the plant is quite small.
These plants were sown last June so they have reached blooming size in just eleven months. The seed was from Silverhill Seeds from South Africa and the germination was exceptionally high. I ended up potting up many more than I normally would have because there were so many in good shape I couldn’t bear to cull them. They are kept in my very sunny seedling nursery under netting to protect them from quail and other birds (a good move as the quail circle this area like sharks and they seem to love the taste of ice plants which are also mesembs). I water them pretty regularly because they are in such small pots in a very sunny and warm spot but I am probably over indulging them and may try to separate out the succulents from some of the herbaceous seedlings.
Anyway as I have said many times before growing plants from seed is one of the most rewarding parts of gardening for me and getting a small succulent to flower from seed is particularly exciting for me as I have not really grown them for that long. Definitely worth trying out if you have a very sunny window sill or small hobby green house.
This weeks cool plant is another native annual. Gilia tricolor is endemic to California and found in the foothills and valley as well as on the coast. It is so easy to grow from seed that I think it is well worth giving a try even if you don’t live in California.
With its bright blue anthers and petals of lavender, maroon, and yellow perhaps “Gilia quadricolor” would have been a better name.
It is a great filler or companion, I have some growing with Orlaya and Scabiosa. Each plant is covered with hundreds of little blooms on ferny foliage that waves and bounces in the breeze. Kind of like a pale purple Gypsophila or Heliophila. I consider this a must for the spring garden now. My only regret is that I didn’t grow more of them. Something I plan on remedying next year.
For this weeks Cool Plant of the Week post I bring you my two favorite California native annuals this year. One of the reasons I wanted to plant a lot of true annuals in my garden was for instant gratification. New perennials can take a year or more to really fill in and bloom spectacularly so having plants that grow to full size and bloom in just a few short months can help fill in the gaps. Despite the weather not being particularly good early on the annual garden worked out beautifully. I loved all my California native annuals but two in particular stood out.
This first star is Lupinus succulentus. It’s flowers are not as big and dramatic as typical lupine hybrids but it was a wonderful plant all the same. Its little two toned purple spikes of bloom just keep going and going.
I liked this plant so much I wish I had bought more. Just one was a nice show but next year I think I’ll try three in the same spot. I’m leaving the seed pods on in the hope that it will self sow. Hopefully closer to the path so I can reach it easily to squeeze its juicy succulent foliage.
The second cool plant of the week is Layia platyglossa (aka tidy tips).
They are found in almost every county in California. The first time I saw them was in huge fields north of Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.
They were by far the largest and showiest of the native annuals I tried this year. They started blooming a bit later so while the others are winding down (I have already started pulling out the baby blue eyes and cream cups) these are still going strong.
This weeks cool plant is Pelargonium X ardens. Not all Pelargoniums (aka common bedding Geraniums) should be sneered at by plant snobs. There are lots of cool species and hybrids out there that are more interesting than the plants that the general public has come to know as Geraniums.
Pelargonium X ardens is a cross between P. fulgidum and P. lobatum and according to Derry Watkins of Special Plants Nursery (where I first saw it) it is easy to grow but difficult to propagate. The latter must be true because the only other time I have seen it was at the Chelsea Flower Show.
Helianthemum X nummularium ‘Henfield Brilliant’
Gabe and I hung out at Vince and Janet Marino’s garden on Sunday to help them out with a garden tour (very successful I might add! They must have had at least five hundred visitors). When we first arrived I noticed several specimens of this particular cultivar of Helianthemum (aka sun rose or rock rose). The plant pictured above is a SINGLE plant. They are generally listed as a large cultivar growing to a maximum of about three feet across but this one must be at least five feet wide.
Helianthemums want excellent drainage and full sun but are otherwise pretty tough plants. Here on the coast it appears that some of them can grow quite large. I may have to rethink the placement of the one in my garden.
This week you get two for one. Two somewhat similar Digitalis species.
And a closer view of Digitalis lanata.
And Digitalis laevigata. Not 100% sure on the ID of this one. It could also be Digitalis trojana.
It gets a bit tricky with the gold and brownish Digitalis. Before the internet (and in the early days of the internet) it was even worse. In many reference books the Digitalis species are hopelessly muddled. I remembering identifying them being a real pain when I worked in plant records. But I feel like things are getting better now. At the very least you don’t tend to get the same exact picture over and over now when you search for images of Digitalis species.
Looking at close-ups of the non pink Digitalis species and it becomes easier to see why Isoplexis was recently moved into the Digitalis clan. They really are quite similar and some interesting crosses between them are starting to become available.
In fact I am currently growing some Digitalis obscura seedlings that will have strappy Isoplexis like foliage when they are taller than their current 3 millimeter height. It occurs to me that aside from those seedlings I don’t have any Digitalis or (the genus formerly known as) Isoplexis in my garden. I need to remedy that.
I know I just talked about California poppies the other day. But this little plant is looking so awesome this weekend that it had to be my cool plant of the week.
Eschscholzia californica ‘Moonglow’
I’m so impressed with this cream-colored selection of California poppy that was introduced by Larner Seeds. In just a few months it has gone from tiny flat little rosette in a four inch pot to this big mound covered in blooms. All my other new poppies planted at the same time have one or two blooms now but this little trooper is really out doing itself. I can’t wait to see how it performs long term.
Anthemis tinctoria ‘Sauce Hollandaise’
Bright yellow daisy type flowers are a dime a dozen but pale yellow and cream are another matter altogether. I first saw this lovely plant at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden and have coveted it ever since but it is not terribly common here in the US. I was glad to see that it was listed in Native Sons catalog last year so I am hoping they will have it again this year. My photo isn’t really very flattering but in person it is a real winner.