I recently wrote about plants with purple flowers and solicited readers’ choices where this floral color is concerned. Since then, I have received a significant number of emails on this subject, indicating the palpable presence of a passion for purple in the garden.
Grace Hampton, who gardens in Burbank, wrote as follows: “I have always loved the Pacific Giant delphiniums because they are every color from pure white to deep purple. The Black Knight series are a midnight deep purple. A plant of mine once grew a three-foot flower stalk of deep royal purple blooms. By the way, these delphiniums include varieties of true blue, which is the most sought-after color.”
The delphiniums you describe (Delphinium elatum), of Siberian origin, may be considered the royalty and most noticeable species of the English garden, not only for their flower colors and long, rich clusters of blooms but for their height, which may reach eight feet tall. Delphiniums grow easily from seed that may be planted now. Do not be disappointed if perennial delphiniums do not bloom during their first year of growth since they will do so in their second and are definitely worth the wait. You can keep your delphiniums blooming for several years by cutting back the main stalk after flowering and encouraging side shoots to develop.
Larkspur or annual delphinium (Consolida ajacis), despite inflorescences less overwhelming than delphinium perennials but still quite eye-catching, grows even more easily from seed and, as a bonus, self-sows so that it comes back year after year. Larkspur’s ferny foliage is an added attraction.
Julie Anno, who gardens in Foothill Ranch (Lake Forest), shared this piece of her horticultural history: “Twenty years ago, I planted two shrubs known as yesterday-today-and-tomorrow (Brunfelsia pauciflora var. Floribunda). They bloom profusely once a year in May and are evergreen. They are in full shade except for a couple of hours of afternoon sun in the height of summer. The bushes are very low maintenance. I feed them an all-purpose fertilizer in early spring and water once a week. I trim them slightly once or twice a year.”
The flowers of yesterday-today-and-tomorrow change color from royal purple to lavender to bridal white. The leaves change color in a most remarkable manner as well. When the leaf buds first break, the incipient growth is so dark green, it is virtually black. Gradually, the leaves lighten to a more predictable leathery green on their upper surfaces, offsetting a paler green underneath.
The Latin name of Brunfelsia was given in honor of Otto Brunfels, a botanist monk who lived nearly 500 years ago. Brunfels belonged to the austere Carthusian order, whose acolytes took vows of silence and solitude. One wonders how Brunfels would have reacted to the naming of such a plant in his honor his. Aside from Brunfelsia’s physical beauty, the intoxicating fragrance of its flowers is legendary and some Brunfelsia species are known for their narcotic effects. Brunfelsia makes an outstanding container specimen and deserves wider use in this role, since there are few plants that flower so reliably in pots, although it will require more frequent fertilization than when it is planted in the ground.
Incidentally, for the origin of any plant name, go to davesgarden.com/guides/botanary.
Susan McCarthy, who gardens in North Hills, enthused as follows: “This week’s article, ‘In Praise of Purple,’ really spoke to me. My hardy, drought-tolerant, sun-loving varieties give me plenty of color throughout the year. I have trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis), African daisy (Osteospermum fruticosum), Brazilian sky flower (Duranta erecta), blue Hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii), Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens), sea lavender (Limonium perezii), and more. I cut them back and thin them out when their flowering is done to maintain size and shape. The plants I have can withstand the Valley heat with weekly watering. I also go around and feed them a couple of times a year. I agree, there is something about purple flowers.”
Juliet de Souza, who gardens in Canoga Park, sang the praises of blue hibiscus (Alyogyne huegelii), attaching several photos of her specimen. This ornamental from southwestern Australia is truly an unforgettable plant in full bloom. Picture large, silky purplish, pinwheel-shaped, purplish-blue blooms completely covering lacy-leafed, if somewhat wooly, foliage. Plant it in full sun for the most complete flower display. It disdains overwatering so give it no more than a single weekly soaking.
Paula Paggi, who gardens in Northridge, had praise for a sage species of considerable merit: “We have a purple salvia that we are very pleased with. It is easy to care for and has lovely columns of flowers. The hummingbirds love the plant also. It is very low maintenance. A couple of times a year, I trim it, and before long, it reaches over four feet tall again. We don’t feed it or water it special.
We have drip lines in the area that go on 2-3 times a week for a few minutes, depending on the weather. As for other purple flowering plants… our purple freesias are a treat. The happy Johnny-jump-ups, with their sunny faces are fun. And the purple lavenders are sending their scents across the yard.”
Ms. Paggi attached a photo of anise-scented sage (Salvia guaranitica). It is indeed worth planting and rivals any woody perennial where long-term abundant flowering is concerned. Its mint green, anise-scented foliage is an added bonus and, like all sages, is easily propagated from six-inch shoot terminal cuttings.
There are more than 1,500 species of bees in California and the vast majority of them are solitary bees. Unlike honey bees and bumblebees that form colonies, solitary bees make nests where a small brood of twenty to thirty bees are raised. Solitary bees are the most efficient pollinators since the pollen they collect is almost entirely transferred from one flower to the next, unlike the other bees who take much of the pollen they gather back to their colonies. Bee hotels attract solitary bees. You can order bee hotels online or make them yourself out of hollow bamboo shoots. Native flora is especially attractive to solitary bees so if you have native plants around your garden, there is a better chance that solitary bees will make nests in your hotel. Having shallow dishes of water around will also bring solitary bees, which seldom if ever sting, into the garden. Have any of you had success attracting solitary bees to your garden? Do any of you keep bee colonies and, if so, have you seen more vegetables and fruits as a result?
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