Last week’s Flower Show went smoothly and we had a great turnout of entries. Every year there is one plant that is extraordinary, that stops me in my tracks. This year that happened when one of the show vendors, Walter Parkola of Blossom Valley Protea, brought in a blooming stalk of flowers that was like nothing I’d seen before. Walter posted a little sign with the stalk so people would know it was real, not faux flowers!
The Puya alpestris aka Pitcairnia alpestris or Sapphire Tower, looks like a grass, but is actually a bromeliad. This plant is a great choice for xeriscape plantings. It grows in full sun or part shade, and is drought tolerant. This flower stalk blooms out of the middle of a clump of skinny, sharp blades with teeth!
I couldn’t get over the color of the flowers, sort of a bright, steely blue-green, which, although you can see the unusual color, my camera didn’t fully capture it to do it justice. Anyway, it was a show-stopper. Absolutely spectacular and the focus of a lot of attention and conversation amongst flower show attendees.
Thanks to Walter Parkola for sharing his incredible specimen at the show!
I was out for a Sunday morning bike ride around town yesterday with Mi Esposo and we passed a drought tolerant garden, with artichokes being the focal point. I love the silver and grey-green colors of the plants. I’m going to have to remember to go by when they are blooming. They will bloom as giant thistles, worth it for not harvesting!
Drought tolerant garden
Beautiful artichokes will become gigantic thistle if not harvested
I don’t have the room in my garden for growing something this size, but maybe in the future as I rearrange the garden. They are quite the show stopper.
Echiums - aka Pride of Madeira - are in bloom now and the other morning I stopped to look and admire this clump that grows a few blocks from my house. The light lavender color is unusual. The close-ups of the flowers are beautiful, aren’t they? Echiums can be considered invasive because they are not native, get very large, and reseed pretty easily. They are pretty plants, but do need a lot of space to grow into. I had one in my front yard for a couple of years, but I finally removed it because it was a monster, and it made me itch every time I rubbed into it. Fortunately, I can enjoy it in other yards, and down by the waterfront where they grow prolifically.
Living in Southern California near the beach, I have sort of taken for granted the interesting selection weird plants that grow around us. I was wandering through Balboa Park last month and came upon a giant yucca that was a classic Dr. Seuss shape and when I started looking around with that perspective it became obvious to me that I was looking at plants that must have been inspirational to Ted Geisel aka Dr. Seuss in his drawings for his famous books. Look at these pictures. Do you agree?
BTW, the book that made reading “click” for me was One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.
I have Hairy Balls…
…in my garden. Actually, more precisely, it’s milkweed – Asclepias Physocarpus to be exact.
I was shopping at the Navy Exchange garden shop and saw this plants but I recognized them for their white flowers. I had one of these in my garden last year, having purchased it at the Master Gardener Spring Seminar,where I was told that it was called “Family Jewels” which I thought was because of the dainty white flowers. Between getting eaten down by the caterpillars, and the aphids that took over, the poor plant finally died. I liked the plant for it’s white flowers but didn’t understand why it was named “Family Jewels.” Mystery solved!
Native to Southeast Africa, Hairy Balls Milkweed grows 48″-60″ high. Plant in full sun and treat as an annual. Asclepias physocarpa, aka Gomphocarpus physocarpus, goes by many common names: Swan Plant, Balloon Plant, Cotton-bush, Oscar, Family Jewels, Devil’s Balls, and of course, Hairy Balls, my personal favorite and soooo unlady-like.
Here is another succulent putting on a great show now. This is in my neighbor’s front yard and it’s been a work in progress for a few months. It looked like a giant asparagus when the spike started reaching for the sky.
This is what the flowers look like before they bloom. This clump is known as a cyme.
Here’s the agave in all its glory. Like other succulent blooms, the flowers start opening at the bottom and work their way up. Bees were buzzing all over the flowers. These are soooo cool!
This bloom spike is about 12 feet tall. The plant will die back when the stalk is done blooming, but it will send shoots out from the base and repopulate itself.
It was my birthday on Friday, so my friend, Amy, took me on an adventure day. After taste-testing donuts (she fancies herself a connoisseur!) we were cruising along to our next destination when we spotted this colorful garden shop on a busy corner in North County.
Located on the corner of Leucadia Blvd, just off Highway 5 to the west, Glorious Gardens is a very cool place! You can’t miss it because the bright colors painted on the fence and shop grab your eye, and then there is the classic old truck out front (which I failed to get a picture of – doh!) that is filled with succulents.
I loved the display ideas. This wall is artfully done using hose clamps to secure the pots to the wall.
This bottle shelf was interesting, and since I’m a glass lover, very appealing to me. Not sure how functional, but does that really have to matter?
I have never seen this succulent, Pepperomia graveolens, before. Pretty color and texture.
In this container, the blue glass top-dressing under the succulents looks like water. Pretty contrast, too.
The shop had a nice selection of succulents and drought tolerant plants. Great plants, imaginative staging, and a helpful shop owner. I’ll be back!