From Woadwaxen to Miniature Anthurium

woadwaxen Genista 'Bangle'  (Genista lydia hybrid)miniature AnthuriumThe exuberance I experienced upon the recent discovery of a new plant was tempered by the thought that this might be an invasive species that would not be wise to recommend to an unsuspecting public.
I had never seen such a proliferation of yellow flowers before. On scores of mounding shrubs less than 3 feet tall, I could barely see foliage.
These plants were growing on a slope in close proximity to lavender (Lavandula sp.), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and dwarf barberry (Barberis sp.), and they seemed perfectly suited companions since their bright yellow blooms contrasted well with the lavender’s mauve flowers, the rosemary’s blue flowers and the barberry’s bronze-burgundy foliage.
Furthermore, the low stature of my mystery plant was comparable to that of the others and, I was sure, was equally drought tolerant, requiring no more than once-a-week watering, if that.
I ultimately identified the yellow blooming plant as a broom (Cytisus and Genista genera), and was reminded that brooms are often invasive and therefore, depending on the species, are not always wise selections for planting.
Luckily, this sunny species turned out to be a newly selected cultivar, introduced only two years ago, known as woadwaxen ‘Bangle’ (Genista lydia). It has been labeled noninvasive and I am sure you will soon see it in nurseries and drought-tolerant gardens everywhere.
It will probably replace Euryops pectinatus, that ubiquitous and tiresome shrub with yellow daisy flowers and lacy green or gray foliage. Attractive in its own right, the problem with Euryops is that it has been the only heavy- blooming yellow-flowered shrub in the pantheon of ironclad, bulletproof plants. But fashion in plants is similar to fashion in clothes and people will eagerly embrace a new look when it arrives.
Besides simply replacing what’s old and boring with what’s new and exciting, there are other aspects to growing newly discovered or newly introduced plant selections. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “But though an old man, I am but a young gardener.”
Jefferson spent a lifetime introducing new plants, corresponding with gardeners in Europe to procure seeds of improved varieties for his 6-acre garden at Monticello. Not only was Jefferson continually inspired by the prospect of trying new plant varieties, but he was ritualistic in planting seeds, as if their constant germination was essential to his own emotional well-being and renewal.
He advised planting a thimbleful of lettuce seeds every Monday morning from March 1 through Sept. 1. Yes, he would have fresh lettuce every day by adhering to this regimen, but I cannot help thinking that the constant germination of seeds provided other, if intangible, benefits.
Anyone who has ever planted seeds and followed the progress of the seedlings that emerged from them will testify to the unadulterated joy that comes with being a partner in creation. Each day, all worries are put aside during those moments when you observe and attend to your young horticultural progeny. It has been said that planting a few seeds every few days and following their progress can help to overcome stress, anxiety and even depression.
Speaking of new plants, or cultivars that are at least new for me, I have seen a number of them lately, several of which are miniature forms of familiar plants, that I would like to share with you.
In gardening, no less than in technology, car travel and many other aspects of life, the trend toward miniaturization is unlikely to end anytime soon.
Miniature plants are typically more dense with flowers than their larger kin. They are also more compatible with container gardening, a pastime that gains in popularity as people with limited leisure time or backyard space would rather garden on a patio or a balcony than dig in the dirt.
I was pleasantly surprised the other day by an encounter with some miniature bronze cymbidium orchids. Containerized cymbidiums can be grown both indoors and outdoors in the Valley. Outdoors, they should be placed under trees or a patio cover where they can enjoy filtered sun while being protected from extremes of heat and cold. If freezing night temperatures are forecast, it is probably a good idea to take them inside, but otherwise they should do just fine outdoors.
Miniature anthuriums, or so-called flamingo lilies, with plastic-textured, heart-shaped spathe and spadix appendage, have also become popular for outdoor use. I have seen them planted as ground cover, albeit still in their containers, in shady areas where color is desired and an alternative to impatiens is sought. You simply dig a hole the same dimensions as the anthurium container and nestle it there. I have read one report of anthuriums grown in this manner that flowered most of the year and came through a frost just fine.
Again, they will need to be kept in their original containers and planted under fairly dense tree cover to thrive in an outdoor environment.
Miniature anthurium cultivars have names such as ‘Red Rocket,’ ‘Red Sensation,’ ‘Pizzazz,’ ‘Sangria’ and ‘Leny.’
Miniature Martha Washington geraniums (Pelargonium x domesticum hybrids) grow less than 2 feet tall and are excellent for containers and conventional flower beds. They are frost tender but handle shade better than most geraniums so you can protect them from the cold and still see plenty of flowers by planting them in the dappled shade of tall trees.
Million bells (Calibrachoa x hybrida) are close cousins, in miniature form, of petunias. They are excellent for containers of all types, exhibiting a trailing growth habit that makes them perfect subjects for hanging baskets.
A strong nest
Terri Sammarco of Northridge emailed photos of a hummingbird nest built in her Japanese yew (Podocarpus macrophyllus).
“Although the babies flew away about two weeks ago the nest is still in place,” she wrote. “I read that it is not uncommon for a nest to be reused so I left it. With all the rain and wind we just had, I thought for sure it would be long gone. Boy, did mommy do a great job with that nest!”
Tip of the week
You may want to consider two very special selections for full sun to partial shade exposures, whether planted in containers or in the ground. Bronze Dutch clover (Trifolium repens atropurpurea) is a unique ground cover that displays legendary four-leaf clovers in abundance, a veritable dark sea of them made less foreboding by the presence of whimsically buoyant white flowers, popping up here and there, that are dashed with pink. Pelargonium ardens, a geranium family member, has spidery, glowing, felt red flowers and silvery blue foliage. This exotic geranium completely disappears in summer’s heat only to come back to life in the fall.

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