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Monday, October 31, 2011

Blue bamboo, Damarapa and the cloud forest at SFBG

Damarapa bamboo
Blue bamboo
This is a real/surreal color. The new growth is blue, it then turns green, then pale  gold. It's proper botanical name is Himalayacalamus hookerianus, its a native to China. It is non-invasive, clumping and grows to a height of 20 feet. It flourishes in the SFBG as do many denizens of the Cloud Forest.Where has blue bamboo  been all my life?

The Cloud Forest is going to be something So Cal coastal residents may become more and more interested in, as our annual summer temperatures continue to drop. We get more like a cloud forest everyday. So what is it? A cloud forest is also called a fog forest, and exists both in the tropics and in more temperate zones. "It is characterized by  a persistent, frequent or seasonal low cloud cover..." W .

 May Gray, June Gloom, July Why, August Less ...our 10 degrees colder summer is certainly characterized by a persistent, frequent or seasonal low cloud cover..."  That's the bad news. The good news is Cloud Forests are home for some of the most exciting plants on the planet. The San Francisco Botanic Garden in Golden Gate Park (larger than Central Park in NYC) devotes big swatches to the Himalayan Cloud Forest plants, and even more territory to the Meso American Cloud Forest which covers over 7,000 miles of the Americas, as well as the Canary Islands, parts of South Africa and
Australia, New Zealand and our own Redwood Coast. So even if our favorite Big Boys are not ripening properly, there can still be joy in Mudville...We could do this.

                       Nerines in drifts at SFBG- Nerine bowdenii from S Africa
We could grow a giant salvia the hummingbirds were clustered around

Hummingbird Heaven
This salvia can easily grow to 6 feet if you let it. If you have a shady spot under a big pine, a place few plants really like you could grow a patch of crinum lilies:

                                                Crinum moorea
This have enormous, hard to dislodge bulbs, so be sure about where you are planting them. Tried digging some up once. You'd need a jack hammer. Like the nerines and our Central Coast "Naked Ladies" the crinums are members of the amaryllis family. Some are S. African natives as is this one. "Port St Johns (Eastern Cape) form: pink flowers produced in September to October"  From the Natal Botanical Garden

Crinum moorea growing at SFBG
Keep crinums (which you could grow from seed from the Natal Botanic Garden) in the shade. NBG says any sun spoils the leaves and flowers.

There are more, stay tuned, for the native plants of the Meso American forest.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Aeoniums and Echeveria setosa -- tough guys

Aeoniums- and the name tells you a lot, as it means immortal  -- flourish madly on the Central Coast Their point of origin is the Canary Islands off the NW coast of Africa at around 15 degrees of longitude.


Aeonium arboreum is a resourceful plant when it comes to drought. Not frost proof (though probably would come back from the root, if the frost were brief) . The plant strategy is to grow big and flat, with lots of thin shiny leaves.It easily attains a size of 3 feet across, growing pups under its rosettes at a brisk rate for a succulent. It's motto is "size matters".
It's smaller but also prolific, shiny and dramatic, very chic these days as "black" flowers are the "in" thing is Aeonium arboreum var atropurpureum 'Schwarzkopf', or Black also known as Tree aeonium . This one looks great with chartreuse colored succulents. It's all over the place in the Getty Gardens in giant pots, looking very fashionable.
The next plant strategy is a little different. Here is A. tablaforme (like a table.)

                                        from Scientific web. com 
Not only is it big, many leaved and flat, but furry. The small hairs all over the leaves are great moisture catchers. (So much so that A. tablaforme rots in captivity rather easily. Water it no more than you would a resting orchid if its inside. Outside in SoCal, along the coast, don't water it. It's perfectly adapted to a maritime climate.) It's reproduction strategy is a little different . It colonizes:

The next one is in here because it's s-oooo pretty. But also furry, colonizing and doing what all these aeoniums do when its going to rain--forming cups of their leaves.
                                          A. glandulosum  from Madeira

If you have an appetite for more aeoniums go to the site of a passionate collector, now unfortunately  décèdé , at   A memorial to Jacques Gaurnalt.It's wonderful for pictures, and can be easily translated by using Bing's sometimes  loopy translator. 

The last man standing in the drought stakes is not an aeonium at all, but Echeveria setosa from Puebla, Mexico. As you can see it has adapted the furry leaf, and  colonizing habit, but its small compared to the aeoniums. Usually not more than 3 or 4 inches across. In this case, size seems to matter less than fatter leaves.(See  great botanical drawing at --plate 6 in Addisonia from 1916 published by the NY Botanical )
In fact, many succulents are perfectly capable of subsisting inside with no soil at all, if you put them in the bathroom were they collect water as though it were fog, from the shower.

                                            Angel sculpture by Margaret Dunlap

                                              *    *      *      *      *

 Incidental intelligence: the most successful new hummingbird plant in the garden is Pineapple sage. Brilliant red. They love it.

                                             Pineapple sage blooms   

 Next: the Haphazard Gardener visits dahlias and the SF Botanical Garden in Golden Gate park.