Archive | February, 2011

Cape Rush

28 Feb

Cape Rush (chondropetalum tectorum), 2-3 ft., evergreen grass-like plant, very vertical clumping growth habit, dark green reed-like blades bear small clusters of brown flowers near the stem tips in late summer, full sun to part shade, regular summer water.

Cape rush is a group of about 8 to 10 species in the rush family that are noted for their thin jointed stems and dense clumping habit. They are native to South Africa, and are naturally adapted to coastal conditions where they have access to generous amounts of water. A larger species, Chondropetalum elephantinum, is also available and grows 4-5 ft. in height.


Blue Fescue

28 Feb

Blue Fescue (Festuca ovina), 3-10 in., evergreen, stiff upright growth habit, grey-blue foliage, full sun to light shade, best with regular summer water.

Some of these grasses are ornamental; others are used for lawns, erosion control, or pasture. All need good drainage, can withstand dry conditions and severe frosts. Clumps can be divided in fall.

Festuca glauca 

From Europe. To 1 ft. high, 10 in. wide. Dense tuft of very narrow, fine leaves; color varies from blue gray to silvery white. Summer flowers in spikes. Use as edging or ground cover. Center of clump commonly dies out after several years.

‘Boulder Blue’

Grows quickly to 8 in. high and wide, making a fine textured, dense, compact mound of metallic blue foliage. Short flower spikes appear in summer.

Festuca glauca 'Elijah Blue'

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’Click to Enlarge

‘Elijah Blue’

The plant forms an 8 in. high clump of intensely silver-blue leaves and is one of the tougher, longer-lived selections.

New Zealand Wind Grass

28 Feb

New Zealand Wind Grass (Stipa arundinacea), 3-4 ft., olive, amber and gold foliage, full sun to part shade, needs summer water, also known as Anemanthele lessoniana.

This is probably my favorite grass. The sumptuous colors and delicate frothy form are simply irresistible. Fast growing to form a dense 3’x3’ always-glowing focal point, you’ll admire its gorgeous, slender & arching olive, amber & gold foliage. Carefree & long lived, its great just about anywhere you plant it – foreground, background, anywhere you desire a low maintenance textural subject. A wonderful sight massed on a hillside, it can be grown in large containers too. Not fussy about soil & if you cut it back to about 8-12” in Winter it’ll stay picture perfect every year.

Fountain Grass

28 Feb

Fountain Grass (Pennisetum), 2-6 ft., many varieties available, ‘Rubrum’ particularly attractive with mahogany blades and rose red nodding inflorescence, summer bloom, winter deciduous full sun to part shade, drought tolerant when established.

Growing in fountainlike mounds, these are among the most graceful of ornamental grasses. They have long, narrow leaves and arching stems that bear furry, foxtail-like flower plumes in summer, with bloom often extending into fall. Use them in containers, in perennial or shrub borders, as bank covers.

Pennisetum alopecuroides
From eastern Asia. To 5 ft. high and wide. Clump of bright green foliage is topped by pinkish plumes. Leaves turn yellow in fall, brown in winter. Species and varieties can self sow.

Fountain grass (Pennisetum orientale)

Pennisetum orientale
From central and western Asia. To 2 ft. high, 2 1/2ft. wide, with pinkish plumes standing above a mound of green to gray-green foliage. Plumes mature to light brown; foliage turns straw colored in winter. Seldom selfsows.

Pennisetum setaceum
Often grown as an annual in colder climates. From tropical Africa, southwestern Asia, Arabian Peninsula. To 5 ft. high and wide. Forms a dense clump of medium green foliage; long plumes of coppery pink or purplish flowers are held within the clump or just above it. Dies back in winter, even in mild climates. Full sun. Can take supplemental irrigation but doesn’t need any. In arid climates, thrives in gravel beds and other dry sites. Thanks to its heavy selfsowing, this species will threaten to crowd out native vegetation when planted near open country; it has become a rampant pest in the Hawaiian Islands. To prevent seeding, cut off flower plumes before seeds mature

’Rubrum’ (’Cupreum’) has purplish red leaves and rose-colored plumes that fade to beige. ’Eaton Canyon’ (’Red Riding Hood’) is similar in color but grows just 1-1/2’2 ft. tall and wide; it is evergreen in frostfree areas. Neither usually sets seed. Some believe that these redleafed plants belong to another species.

‘Purple Majesty’
Developed from a millet species from Asia and Africa that has long been cultivated for its edible seeds. Grows 3– 5 ft. tall and 2–3 ft.wide, with huge, spear-shaped leaves up to 3 ft. long and 2 in. wide. Foliage is rich purple, darkest in full sun. Stiff, cylindrical, purple flower spikes up to 20 in. long appear atop foliage in midsummer. Cut bloom spikes before they mature and use them in dried arrangements, or leave them to reach maturity on the plant, where they–ll attract birds. Easy to start from seed. Best in full sun with regular water.


28 Feb

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum) deciduous perennial or annual, spreads to 6 ft., colors include orange, yellow, red, blooms almost year round in the Bay Area, flowers are fragrant and both leaves and flowers are good in salad. Full sun to part shade. Reseeds prolifically.

Old-fashioned favorites from South America. Distinctive appearance, rapid growth, and easy culture are three of their many strong points.

Tropaeolum majus

Tropaeolum majus 
Two main kinds: climbing types, which trail over ground or climb to 6 ft. by coiling leafstalks; and compact, bushy, dwarf kinds to 1 1/2 ft. high and wide (dwarf types are more widely sold). Both have round bright green leaves on long stalks. Long-spurred flowers to 2 1/2 in. across have a refreshing fragrance, come in colors including maroon, red brown, orange, yellow, red, creamy white. You can get seeds of mixed colors in several strains; some single colors are also sold. Both single- and double- flowered forms are available. All varieties make good cut flowers. Young leaves, flowers, and unripe seedpods have a peppery flavor and are frequently used in salads.

Sea Pink/Common Thrift

27 Feb

Sea Pink (Armeria), evergreen perennial,  6-8 in., pink balls on slender stems bloom in spring and summer, sometimes year round, native, sun, tolerates considerable drought.

Armeria is a small, mat-forming evergreen perennial with dark green grass-like leaves and showy ball shaped flowers. In nature, it grows on the coastal bluffs, rocks and snd dunes from San Luis Obispo north to British Columbia, Canada. There are various forms and variations throughout the natural range, and many cultivars have been introduced for garden use.

This plant is popular for border plantings, along paths, as a small area ground cover and for container use. It does best in coastal and cool summer climate zones like the Bay Area. Flower colors of cultivars range from magenta-pink to white.


27 Feb

Cranesbill (Geranium cinereum), 6 to 30 inches, pink flowers, fragrant, deer resistant, full sun to light shade, easy.

The common indoor/outdoor plant most people know as geranium is, botanically, Pelargonium.Considered here are true geraniums, which are mostly hardy plants. Many types bloom over a long period, bearing flowers that are attractive though not always as showy as those of pelargoniums. Carried singly or in few-flowered clusters, blossoms have five overlapping petals that look alike. (Pelargonium flowers also have five petals, but two point in one direction, while the other three point in the opposite direction.) Colors include blue, purple, magenta, and bluish rose; some are pure pink or white. Beak-like fruit that follows the flowers accounts for the common name “cranesbill.” Leaves are roundish or kidney shaped, lobed or deeply cut; plants may be upright or trailing.

Good in rock gardens, perennial borders; some are useful as small- or large-scale ground covers. A few shrubby species are good for holding slopes. Best climates for most geraniums are cool- and mild-summer regions, where plants can grow in full sun or light shade. In hot-summer areas, give afternoon shade. South African species are less cold hardy but more tolerant of heat, afternoon sun. All species appreciate moist,well-drained soil.

Some geraniums benefit from being cut back after flowering or in the fall; these are noted in text. Clumps of most types can be left in place for many years before they decline due to crowding; at that point, divide in early spring. Increase by transplanting rooted portions from a clump’s edge; or take cuttings. Many produce lots of seedlings, and some can become naturalized pests.

Geranium cinereum

From the Pyrenees. Forms wide, 8–12-in.-tall mats composed of 1–1 1/2-in., soft gray green leaves that are rounded, bluntly lobed, and deeply cut. In early to midsummer, slender, trailing stems bear many cupped, 1–1 1/2-in.-wide flowers in pale pink with dark veins


Pinkish lilac flowers with dark veins radiating from a wine-colored center; continues blooming into fall.

‘Laurence Flatman’

Slightly larger than the species. Light lavender blossoms display reddish central blotches between red veins.