Project Bloom Lives On – January 2011

I must admit to being a little surprised at today’s walk-through of the yard for this month’s Project Bloom – I actually thought I’d be done rather quickly -this is the dead of our winter- but it took me well over an hour and more than 120 shots to capture all of what was out there – Simply surprising!

Now, it’s not so surprising that there’s green things out there – this is a ‘moderate’ climate, and we have many plants and trees that are ‘evergreen’.  But it’s still surprising to find some that insist on either continuing to bloom, or to begin an early bud burst during this, supposedly deep season of dormancy in the world of plants.  However, we also have had a relatively mild winter to date – only a few nights where the temp dipped below 30F – but much more rain than normal for even this usually rainy season.  Some plants literally drown, while others thrive on it.

OK, let’s get to it – today is unusual in that it’s a sunny day, so sunny in fact, that I had trouble getting some shots – but just so you know, the camera and I are not friends, and it is generally unwilling to help me with my many difficulties – however, I take the blame for obvious bad shots.  Only as a last resort do I consult the camera manual, which I think was written by camera engineers and designers, not by an instructor type person.  I don’t much like the idea of having to learn all the complex steps of a specific procedure simply to learn how to turn off that feature!  My computer and my TV have ‘undo’ buttons, why not the camera?

Yeah, there’s no secret – I take 120 shots so I can maybe get a dozen decent ones to post!  If you’re OK with that, so am I.

I’m just going to take you on a walk, just as I did yesterday, finding stuff along the way.  As I walk down my deck stairs, there is Mock Orange (genus, Philadelphus – don’t know the species) this one is an evergreen, which is an uncommon Mock Orange – it’s also highly fragrant each spring, which is why it’s here!  I’ve noticed that it’s the evergreens that tend to have buds and flowers out of season – I guess that’s not too difficult to understand.

Lots of early buds,

... but only a few flowers!

And right next to the Mock Orange is my over aggressive Desert King Fig – it’s not my favorite fig, but it’s the one variety that’ll grow well in this area – So, …  Figs are really interesting trees – they can get huge, this one really wants to be about 40 feet tall, but I have to prune her to 12′ or so each fall.  Did you know that the fig fruit is actually the flower of the plant?  At the bottom of each fig is a tiny opening where pollinating insects gain entrance – I know the figs are ripe when I see a drip of juice collecting at the bottom of the fig, but then, so do the ants and the bees, which I often have to fight to pick the figs.  Interestingly, the new crop of figs begins to form in the fall of the year, and then they sit there for the winter – these seem to be unusually big for this time of year, probably due to our recent mild temps – the real question is what might happen to the figs if we get some really frigid weather?  Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

A Big Winter Fig!

No Leaves Until Spring

And here’s that courageous and hardy volunteer calendula – this is especially significant because all I read indicates that calendula is an annual and is supposed to die back at the first frost – either this is a unique member of the family, or they’re just wrong.  Anyone want to bet that it won’t be here next month?

And these are the buds/flowers of Gai Lan, an Asian green with proven ability to take a good deal of cold – I expect to see this one right on through spring, when I expect it will burst into new production.

Here is a pink camellia, which in our area often flowers in February, and therefore one of the earliest of the spring flowers – camellia is a member of the ‘tea’ family, and therefore has origin in Asia.  I find it interesting that it is thought of here in the U.S. as a flower of the old South, and therefore sub-tropical – but it takes quite a bit of winter cold as well, easily surviving temps as low as minus 18F with little damage.  These buds are swelling quite large now, and this one may even bloom in late January – we’ll keep a lookout for them.

Another evergreen that does extremely well here in the Pacific Northwest is the rhododendron – in fact, it’s not unusual to find them growing wild in the forest – and surprisingly, there are even wild varieties that are wonderfully aromatic!  Unfortunately, I have none of those in my yard – yet.  I don’t remember this particular rhodie  being an early bloomer, but these buds do look almost ready.

And here’s a good indicator of just how mild our winter to date has been – this is a newly planted apple tree, all wrapped up in deer protective netting, and it still has a lot of last season’s leaves, even if a bit raggedy – my mature apple trees have long ago lost their leaves, so why should this brand new tree have this characteristic?  It’s a horticulture puzzlement.

I’m happy to see my favorite wild native shrub trying so very hard to bring on an early spring – this is the pretty little evergreen huckleberry putting out a few unseasonal blooms – that reminds me that I need to get out to the woods and dig up a few more of these cuties for my yard.

I couldn’t pass up including these ‘swelling’ buds – I think it must have been their rather Gothic look – don’t they look a little like a bunch of gargoyles?  Well, I think they do!  I’m not sure how soon these will bloom (they are Asian Pear buds), but it looks to me as if it won’t be too long now.

This is pieris japonica, Mountain Fire, soon to burst forth in blazing red new leaves, and a wave of white flowers, which this bract represents in early form – we won’t really see the spring beauty of this shrub until March or so – but its winter development is attractive as well.

I almost stepped on and crushed this solitary little violet bloom – I was amazed by its beauty and perfection, a character often missing from out-of-season blooms – but not this courageous soldier.  I just hope he doesn’t die from loneliness.  (He was so beautiful that I used another shot of him for our opening pic)

The little violet was probably easy to miss because it was growing right next to this ‘Encore fall blooming azalea’ – I think I told you that this one was developed for the climate of the lower South, and such plants get ‘confused’ when asked to grow elsewhere – I think instead of having one nice fall bloom season, it just kinda keeps blooming all the time – the blooms are beautiful, but few and far between.

I think this month’s award for persistent effort in the face of adversity has to go to the brave potted dianthus – it not only is just as green and full as it was last summer, but it’s still putting out blooms – I’ve always seen and heard that dianthus is an annual, but my own experience here in Zone 8b is that if in the ground, it simply dies back and returns aggressively in early spring.  But in a hanging pot?  Whatever!  This baby has guts, and I’d be quite surprised if he’s not back next month too.

OK gang – I think that’s enough to prove a point – point being that even with winter hard upon us, nature hasn’t given up on giving us some new flowers – I guess if one doesn’t look, one doesn’t find!

Nature is both surprising and delightful.  See y’all back here next month.

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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13 Responses to Project Bloom Lives On – January 2011

  1. These are great pictures, the violet in particular is a triumph! A sort of side track, in Bath, or just outside Bath, lives Derry Watkins, an American who gardens here and runs a small nursery of her own too. I have listened to her lecture and she takes a special interest in tender annuals like you have described here, which is why I thought of her this morning.

    She has carved a new garden out of a hillside and it is a joy and a wonder to visit on her open days. I also wonder if you have open days in Oregon, or a National Gardens Scheme like we do here? They are great fun, you get a little bit of ‘hmph why can they grow that, and I can’t…” but you learn so much from visiting other people’s gardens –

    This post is like a virtual “Open Garden Day” once a month, I love it 🙂

    In case you are interested, Derry can be found at Special Plants http://www.specialplants.net and the National Gardens scheme http://www.ngs.org.uk/

  2. and I’ve got her name wrong, doh, it’s Derry Watkins, can you correct it for me please please….. memory is a faulty creature.

  3. drfugawe says:

    Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more about the memory thing – for instance, what is it we’re talking about here? And where is it that I should go to correct whatever it is I’m correcting?

    I think either you or I are working entirely too hard at this stuff!

    • My previous comment, is held in your spam I think… I can see it here ‘awaiting moderation’ I put a couple of links in so Akismet has eaten it I suspect… it will all make sense if you look at your dashboard 🙂

      • drfugawe says:

        Ah, you teach me so much about my own computer and WordPress – thank you (Sincerely!), Jo. Yes, it’s all very understandable now – and much appreciated.

        I think there is a GREAT difference between gardens in the U.S. and the U.K. Again, you have the tradition, and frankly, more interest in plants than I think is true here. Having said that, the Pacific Northwest is absolutely jammed tight with plant nurseries – because of the moderate, wet, climate. But we have nowhere as many public gardens as you do – although many larger cities have some nice gardens. But all one needs to do to see the difference between the British and the American attitudes toward ‘gardens’ is to slip across the border to Vancouver, BC, where one is immediately overwhelmed by both the number and the quality of their public gardens. BTW, Vancouver is my very favorite city in all the world – it is magnificent in every way. If you have never been, you must visit one day!

  4. Beautiful pics, Doc! Amazing to see so much colour in the middle of an Oregon winter!

  5. Your winter fig caught my eye, how do they compare to the summer ones? I was told they are not as sweet.

    • drfugawe says:

      azelia,
      Figs will, in the right climate, put out two crops each year – these ‘winter’ figs are really the first crop, which ripen in July here – but we never get anything from the 2nd crop, because our summer ends too early for them to fully ripen. It’s a truly unique fruit.

  6. Tupper says:

    Wicked pics! I could send you some of frozen dog poop!

    • drfugawe says:

      If these are good pics, it’s because of the camera – I understand it’s called a ‘point and shoot’ camera, and that’s a damn good name for it, ’cause that’s all I do with it! Actually, of the 8,539 features of the camera, I know how to do 4 – but I will say, I’ve got those 4 down real well.

      Ha! Are you suggesting that you haven’t yet taught your dogs how to bury it in the snow? You are a teacher, right?

  7. aah…the program I watched was in Greece and the guy explaining to the tv presenter, a cook and his niece said, “these here are the winter figs, not as sweet as the ones you get in the autumn..” so it always struck me there was a fig tree aclimatised to mild winters better.

    Back home we have…well no…my parents neighbours have a very large fig tree very sweet green figs ripens in late summer and since the tree branches hangs over the wall we benefit from their fruit!

    My gran from my father’s side had a fig tree in her garden, but these particular memories are from when I was very young so don’t remember when her tree gave fruit.

    thanks for the explanation. 🙂

  8. Misk Cooks says:

    Lovely. You’ve proved with your camera that winter doesn’t mean that the garden is asleep!

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