Blue Hibiscus

70118Like euryops daisy, sweet pea shrub and New Zealand tea tree, the blue hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii, blooms whenever it wants to, even if it wants to bloom sporadically through winter. It should bloom more abundantly in phases though spring and summer, but even that is difficult to predict. The three inch wide flowers are lavender blue, but can be rich purple or white. Pink is very rare.

Young plants can grow quickly but sparsely. Lanky stems can be tip pruned after a spring bloom phase to promote branching and improve density. Growth slows with maturity. Plants can get five feet high and wide in their second year, but might never reach the eaves. They like full sun and shelter from wind, but should not mind a bit of shade. Established plants do not need much water.


‘Silver Falls’ Dichondra

80124No one seems to know what ever happened to old fashioned dichondra lawns. Everyone seemed to like them, especially those of us who dislike turf grasses. Somehow, they became passe and very rare. The formerly common dichondra that such lawns were made of is now merely a resilient weed in turf lawns. But wait! We have not heard the last of this resilient and appealing perennial.

Silver Falls dichondra, Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’, has the same tiny rounded leaves, dense growth and fine texture as old fashioned dichondra lawns, but instead of rich deep green, it is strikingly silvery gray. It does not tolerate traffic well enough to work as lawn, but is a distinctive small scale groundcover, and cascades exquisitely from urns of mixed perennials or hanging pots.

The trailing growth spreads indefinitely over the surface of the soil, but is not very fast about it. As ground cover, individual plants should therefore be planted only two or three feet apart. They get two to four inches deep. Hanging growth (that can not root into the soil) can cascade more than three feet downward. Silver Falls dichondra prefers regular watering and full sun or a bit of shade.

Sweet Pea Shrub

70111It may not always bloom profusely, but sweet pea shrub, Polygala fruticosa, blooms sporadically through most of the year. Even when not much color is evident from a distance, a few flowers can likely be found on closer inspection. For some reason, bloom seems to be quite colorful now. Bloom phases should be more profuse in spring and summer. The pea flowers are soft purplish pink.

Mature plants might only get to two or three feet tall and wide, but have the potential to get larger. They are usually a bit wider than tall, with a nice rounded compact form. The evergreen foliage is slightly grayish light green. Sweet pea shrub prefers full sun exposure, but can get roasted in hot spots. A bit of shade should not be a problem. Once established, it does not need too much water.

Geraldton Waxflower

70104What is it about Australian plants that makes them bloom in winter? Perhaps they think they are still in Australia where it is summer. Whatever the deal is, Geraldton waxflower, Chamaelaucium uncinatum, provides a scattering of small white, pale pink or lavender pink flowers from now until spring. It is no mistake that their bloom resembles that of New Zealand tea tree. They are related.

Geraldton waxflower is pretty serious about drought tolerance. It can rot and fall over it stays too damp for too long. It likes a warm exposure and well drained soil. It is normal for the tiny evergreen leaves to be somewhat sparse. Unfortunately, it is also normal for healthy specimens in ideal situations to die out within ten years or so. Mature plants can get a bit more than six feet tall and wide.

Austrian Pine

80110Relative to other pines and evergreens that are commonly grown as living Christmas trees, the uncommon and even rare Austrian pine, Pinus nigra, would be a better option. If it gets planted too close to the home, as Christmas trees often do, it does not get big enough to cause major problems. Although much bigger in the wild, local trees may take decades to reach second story eaves.

The species is divided into two subspecie, which are each divided into three regional varieties, which is a fancy way of saying that individual trees may have distinct personalities. Generally, they resemble Japanese black pine, with similar irregular branch structure, but are more dense, and may get a few pendulous stems with age. The dark green needles are slightly shorter and stouter.

The Austrian pine was likely named as such when much of its natural range was still within the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which has since been subdivided into the countries east of the Adriatic Sea. Other larger parts of the range are in Turkey and Spain. Only a small colony lives within Austria, west of Vienna. Austrian pine likes full sun and warmth like it would get naturally back home.

Australian Fuchsia

61228Pictures are probably prettier than the real thing. Australian fuchsia, Correa pulchella, really does bloom with pendulous soft pink flowers through winter when not much else is blooming. However, the flowers are quite small, and the color is rather hazy. The real appeal of Australian fuchsia is that it is so undemanding, and once established, only needs watering a few times through summer.

Mature plants get a bit higher than two feet, and maybe twice as wide, with a low mounding form. The small evergreen leaves have a nice density without any pruning. Obtrusive plants do not mind getting pruned back or even shorn for confinement, but are deprived or their naturally appealing form and texture if pruned too frequently. Good exposure for both sunlight and warmth is important.

Douglas Fir

80103Even those of us who live nowhere near its natural range live closer to Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga menziesii, than we realize. Most of our homes are constructed from Douglas fir lumber. Although very uncommon in landscaped gardens, Douglas fir is the most popular Christmas tree here. Trees introduced for timber have naturalized in parts of Europe, Argentina, Chile and New Zealand.

It is such a grand evergreen conifer that Oregon designated it as the state tree. The tallest trees in the wild are more than three hundred feet tall! Trees that do not compete within a forest do not get even a quarter as tall. The flattened needles are less than an inch and a half long, and arranged on opposite sides of the stems. Light brown female cones with jagged bracts hang downward.

Douglas fir is a native of the West Coast between about the middle of British Columbia to the North, and the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Northern Sierra Nevada to the South, with a few small colonies beyond. Rocky Mountain Douglas fir is another variety from farther inland. Because it is so big and structurally deficient, Douglas fir is almost never planted into landscapes intentionally.

New Zealand Tea Tree

61221With such an odd variety of flowers blooming out of season, it should be no surprise that New Zealand tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium, decided to join the party. It starts blooming in phases in spring, and continues into autumn, so is not too terribly out of season. Besides, some varieties are known for spontaneous bloom phases at any time of year. Bloom can be pink, white or red.

The finely textured and aromatic evergreen foliage is slightly prickly to touch. Individual leaves are tiny and rather narrow, with pointed tips. Flowers are also tiny, but compensate with profusion. A few varieties have darker, almost bronzed foliage. A few varieties have fluffier double flowers (although the flowers are no wider than single flowers). The weight of bloom can cause limbs to sag.

Most garden varieties can reach the eaves. Larger varieties can eventually get to upstairs eaves. With minimal pruning, New Zealand tea tree is a colorful big shrub, with blooming stems from top to bottom. Alternatively, it can be an excellent small tree, with lower stems pruned away to expose the finely furrowed bark of the main trunks. It wants full sun, but not much else once established.

Mexican Lime

71227Those who can grow Mexican lime, Citrus aurantifolia, get to brag to their friends who can not, even if they are only a few miles away in slightly cooler spots. It really is marginal here. If it gets too cool in winter, it can defoliate. Frost can damage or kill the stems. Because it stays smaller than other citrus, Mexican lime happens to do well in large pots that can be moved to shelter for winter.

Mature trees can get taller than six feet, but not much higher than first floor eaves. The limber stems have small but sharp thorns. The two inch long evergreen leaves are glossy and nicely aromatic. The small white flowers are actually less fragrant. The round one or two inch wide fruits ripen from rich green to pale greenish yellow. The peel is very thin and tough, which is ideal for squeezing the juice from the very juicy and aromatic, but potentially seedy, greenish yellow pulp within.

Torch Lily In Fire Season

61214Okay, so this is not really the time of year that they should be blooming. Torch lily, Kniphofia uvaria, should bloom in the middle of summer. However, without watering, naturalized plants bloom when the weather prompts them to. Some wait out the warm and dry summer weather to bloom as soon as they get dampened by the first rains. Others bloom in spring, before things get too dry.

Flower stalks can get almost five feet tall, but are more typically about three feet tall. Small tubular flowers are arranged in dense conical trusses on top of these stalks. From the bottom to the top, red flower buds bloom orange, and then fade to yellow, and fold downward against the stalk. Different varieties bloom with more or less of these three colors, and at different times of the year.

The grassy foliage is not much to look at without bloom. By the end of winter, it can look rather grungy. It fluffs back nicely in spring, sort of like overgrown daylily foliage. Overgrown plants, or maybe just a few rhizomes, can be divided anytime. However, they should probably be divided just before the end of winter so that they can enjoy late rain, just before their spring growing season.