Friday, October 17, 2014

A Muggle's trip to Jurrasic Park

Just back from a trip to Florida  - a well earned vacation for my hard-working partner Philip, not sure if I earned it but I certainly enjoyed it!  We had wanted to visit the Harry Potter experience at Universal studios (yes - big kids!) and then decided to take a sentimental trip back to Fort Lauderdale, where we used to holiday twelve or more years ago, before we discovered Palm Springs. Universal Studios is of course a theme park and whilst Philip loves the fast rides, I don't but I do love the good horticulture and amazing range of plants that these places regularly display, so we are both happy!

The climate zone for Orlando is 9b and Fort Lauderdale 10b.  Palm Springs is also 9b but the great difference is of course that whereas Palm Springs is desert and currently in  drought, Florida is humid with a high rainfall, so the vegetation and many of the landscape plants are totally different. Florida is lush!  First a few pictures are of some plants that I liked and have identified - corrections please if I've made any mistakes!

Chorisia speciosa - the silk floss tree also seen by Jim a few weeks ago flowering in Italy
Chorisia in its dormant state with fruits seen last winter up near Los Angeles in California

Christia obcordata 'Stripe' - butterfly leaf

Clerodendron speciosissimum

Crinum asiaticum -  is it 'Album'?

Just a lovely Hibiscus - not sure of cultivar but had similar one before called 'Cherie'

Mussaenda - entirely new to me - no idea of species or cultivar - belongs to Rubiaceae family

Nymphaea caerulea - lovely!

Tibouchina - which one? Update - possibly T. graulosa - thanks Chad

Tillandsia usneoides - Spanish Moss - epiphytic - just hangs on the trees
Acalypha wilkesiana 'Kona Gold'
Fruiting cycad -  these primitive plants are related to conifers and so have exposed seeds

Heliconia wagneriana - I sense a painting to follow!
Torenia fournerii - just a bedding plant but like it!

Kigelia africana - the sausage tree - amazing fruits

Above plant in flower - this pic from internet
This last picture was taken in the Walt Disney Animal Kingdom and was described to us as a baobab from Africa - a form of Adansonia - now being a skeptic and knowing Disney, I just wonder if this is a real tree?
The next few pictures are of plants that I can't identify and hope that some of my readers can help me out - do please give me an identification or suggestion.

1. Acalypha - anyone know cultivar? - update 'Macafeana' - thanks Chad

2. Bushy tree, foliage looks like Cercis but bark doesn't look right. There are variegated cultivars but no mention of the red young foliage - update - Hibiscus tiliaceus 'Variegata' - thanks Chad

3. No idea! - update - Tibouchina grandifolia - thanks Chad

4. No idea - update - Ixora - possibly coccinea - thanks Chad

5. Impressive plant but again no idea! - update - Clerodendron paniculatum - thanks Chad

6. Straggly shrub - possibly a Cestrum?

7. Tree - is it Koelreuteria?

8. Tree? Update - Chad says  Caesalpinia pulcherrima - for once I am doubtful - sorry Chad - that species is very common here in California and is much more orange than the one I saw in Florida. See small pic below. But yes to the genus! Response from Chad - possibly cultivar 'Rosea' - yep sounds likely! Shucks - had finally hoped to get one up on Chad!

9. Compact bushes, common - should know this one! Update -  Ixora again - possibly 'Maui' cultivars

10. Nice variegation but can't place it! Update - - probably Costus - either speciosus or arabicus - thanks Chad

11. Straggly shrub - no ideas! Update Millettia reticulata - thanks Chad

12. Small tree or large shrubs - sparse flowering - update - Bauhinia galpiniii - thanks Chad
No prizes for identification but much appreciated if anyone can name any of these mystery plants. Next time - rest of our trip - Fort Lauderdale!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Naked Ladies

As all you good horticulturalists know, naked ladies is the common name for Amaryllis belladonna, a bright pink, late summer flower that grows from a bulb.  But in today's blog, I am thinking more in terms of flesh pink!

The next picture is also a naked lady and I drew it! Shock and horror! As regular readers will know, I have been painting watercolours for a couple of years now and you can see my results elsewhere on this blog. Although I normally paint flowers or plants, I have for a while been trying to paint other things and so do the odd landscape, still life or whatever, although they don't give me the same thrill and passion as plants!

Well in November I am due to go on a Charles Reid figure painting workshop for a full week, so thought I ought to try and at least attempt to draw the human body before I am thrown in at the deep end. So I enrolled on a figure drawing class here at the Desert Art Center. Now I've never done this before, so was a little apprehensive. The medium was charcoal (forget barbeques), we were to use easels, which I never normally work with and the model was to be nude! I was also told that we would draw on newsprint, which was a new term to me. I nearly turned up with a bundle of old newspapers but fortunately someone explained that this was cheap thin white paper!

I boldly walked in to the new class, was greeted and announced myself. Setting up my easel, I turned to the lady next to me and asked if she was good at this - her reply 'Early morning conversation - decidedly not!' A poor start - keep my mouth shut and draw! I have to say that the rest of the class were far more friendly and very encouraging. The model arrived, and totally without inhibitions stripped off in front of us all. Starting with short two minute poses, we moved rapidly on to 30 second, then 10 second and 5 second poses. I quickly got lost, sketching arms and legs everywhere! Help! Plants at least stay in one place and don't move! It was called a warm-up but I was getting decidedly hot under the collar! So we moved on to two 45 minute poses, which gave me time to get to grips with my smudgy little piece of charcoal and to feel able to stare fixedly at the naked lady in front of me - quite a challenge for a sensitive gay guy! Anyway the sketches above are what I produced in my first class. Below are a few of my past attempts at figures - mostly copies of other paintings. You now see why I prefer to stick with plants!

With apologies to the late, great John Singer Sargent

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Californian Yard

 I've been back here in Palm Springs for over ten days now, so it's about time I told you about my little yard here and how my new plantings  have fared since I went away in May. Philip has been watching the irrigation, which despite being a simple system has worked without fail all through the heat of summer. A contractor has kept it basically tidy with strict instructions not to prune anything!

First four pictures, the yard now, October 2014

This last picture May 2014

As with all gardens there have been successes and failures and a few just simple disappointments. My original plant of Grevillea 'Red Hook's split in a spring wind and then Jim gave me one from his garden which has also failed. Pity I'd have liked to see that grow. The other total failure was Alyogyne huegelii - a pale blue mallow from Australia. This was doing fine, flowered like crazy through spring and most of the summer and then suddenly died. No idea why, although I have to say I have not seen others thriving in this area. The greatest disappointment is our plant of Strelitzia regina, bird of paradise, which at $48 was the most expensive plant we bought last spring. It is growing (barely) in a large clay pot but the foliage is badly scorched and flower spikes withered. I think the location may be too exposed to both full sun and wind, so I shall move it nearer the house.

Alyogyne - lost but not forgotten
Newly bought Strelitzia last spring

Strelitzia now - with the worst of the dead foliage removed

Otherwise plants have grown well. My three plants of purple fountain grass that came out of small pots in the spring are now a huge waving clump of purple foliage topped with pink flower spikes. The bougainvilleas that I brought from our last home have finally recovered from the touch of frost that burnt them last winter but are slow to flower.

Lazy bougainvillea!
Our original three citrus planted when we first moved in two years ago are still alive. The ruby grapefruit is thriving with four well formed fruits. the tangerine looks OK but is smaller and the Meyer lemon is struggling. The latter is now surrounded by a huge bush of a self-sown lantana that I probably should have removed but it looks good where it is so I may well abandon the lemon.
Breakfast later in the year!

You can hardly see the lemon amidst the spreading lantana to the left of the picture

 My pots of Calycanthus, Madagascar periwinkle survived the summer heat well and have seeded in the surrounding borders. This is a common bedding plant here looking very much like Busy Lizzies with a similar colour range but very heat tolerant. The UK summer is too cool for it outdoors. They are straggly now, so I will replace them with some winter colour - maybe petunias - always seems odd planting these things in the autumn.

Is it a weed or a calycanthus?

Finally, the big Agave that came from our old house got rather battered in the move but has now produced lots of new leaves, so Philip has tidied it up leaving a very presentable shapely plant - and yes it was Philip who found the pruners and did the work! Maybe I'll make a gardener of him yet!