The Mountain Gardener: Several showy plants to enhance your garden
by Jan Nelson
Mar 06, 2014 | 1039 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
Courtesy of Jan Nelson
slideshow
As I looked out the window at the rain coming down, I thought of all the things I should be doing in the garden.

"Where does the time go?" I thought to myself. "Why did you frolic in all that sunshine last month instead of transplanting and moving plants to better spots?"

I could tell from the conversation going on in my head that I needed some inspiration, so off I went to visit a local garden store. I knew I was in trouble as I explored and wanted to buy nearly every cool plant I saw. Here are some of the plants that really caught my eye.

Last month for my birthday a friend gave me a collection of tillandsia attached to an gnarled, mossy apple branch that had fallen from a tree in her garden. There are many kinds of these bromeliads, or air plants as they are sometimes called, and they can be displayed in lots of ways. At the garden store, I saw miniature hanging terrariums that looked awesome with several tiny tillandsia specimens, glossy pebbles and moss bits arranged inside. The humidity inside the glass as well as the bright light from a window is just what they like.

Other tillandsia were mounted on bark, some on driftwood, some in table top terrariums and some displayed in beautiful baskets. Tillandsia, like their relatives, Spanish moss and pineapple, have tiny scales on their leaves called trichomes which serve as very efficient absorption systems to gather water. They are very tolerant of drought conditions and will grow with just a spritzing of water, although I like to run mine under lukewarm water to mimic the showers they might get where they normally grow in tropical tree limbs. They prefer the light from bright window, but not direct sunlight and are among the easiest of indoor plants to grow and maintain.

I'm always on the lookout for ideas for landscape plants that might be perfect in an upcoming design. Often what is needed to complement a house or view from a window is a plant with interesting foliage color or branching pattern and bark in the dormant season. Showy, fragrant flowers make a welcome addition to the front entry at any time of year but I found one new to me and it's blooming now.

Tucked among other plants with soft yellow and green foliage I saw my first Edgeworthia or Chinese Paper Bush. Also called yellow daphne, this daphne relative is grown mainly for its flowers. Tubular, bright yellow flower clusters fade to creamy white. The showy display is memorable. They definitely possess that weird appeal that collectors love. In China this plant is used to make paper and medicine.

Edgeworthia chyrsantha are hardy to 10 degrees and prefer half day sun or afternoon shade during the hot summer sun. They grow to about 6 feet tall and a bit wider. The tropical looking foliage is attractive during the summer, but it's the overwhelmingly fragrant display of pendent, golden-yellow flowers that will make you want to grow this shrub in your garden. I'm looking forward to planting it next to a fragrant daphne.

Another plant that caught my eye was an Irene Patterson pittosporum tenuifolium. With speckled frosty green leaves, this shrub will really light up a dark area. It can take full sun but it's the shady areas I have in mind. Hardy to 15 to 20 degrees it will survive our winters and is adaptable to most soils. I think it would look great paired with the variegated huge green and white leaves of ligularia argentea.

I was also inspired to plant up my own succulent garden after seeing the display planted in recycled wooden boxes, old tins, antique cheese boxes and weathered boots. Whatever you have on hand with a drainage hole will look great with a succulent or two planted inside. Succulents in containers can be moved out of winter frost and rain which increases the variety that can survive in our area. I have a vintage Swift's Silverleaf pure lard tin that's just waiting to provide a home for some new succulents. I'm looking forward to going back to the garden store to choose just the right specimens for his special container.

It's fun to have some gardening projects that I can do indoors. There's lots of time to plant those new landscape plants that caught my eye on a rainy day.

- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. E-mail her at janis001@aol.com, or visit www.jannelsonlandscapedesign.com to view past columns and pictures.

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