From late winter

Back in late January, I posted about a visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto for a breakfast outdoors, among early spring flowers and

some winter-blooming ornamentals that I haven’t yet posted about: red hot poker [which brings us to a plant family not previously posted about here: Xanthorrhoeaceae, #57 on this blog], strawflowers, and Euryops virgineus (honey daisy) in particular [also Asphodelus, asphodels]. I’ll get to them in a later posting, a posting in which I’ll also get to [two] plants from the Gamble’s Australian desert garden, plants that are probably blooming here now because they’re still on a Southern Hemisphere internal clock [Chameleucium uncinatum and Boronia crenulata].

Not in bloom, but very noticeable, was an agave [much like Agave americana, with its great big, spiky, fleshy leaves]

That day was just after my man Jacques’s birthday (his 74th). Today is just before Jacques’s 2003 death day (on Sunday), so there’s a certain symmetry to these two plant postings.

Kniphofia. (Note on pronunciation: the plant is named after German botanist Johann H. Kniphof (1704–1763), whose name comes in two parts, orthographic KNIP and HOF. So the P (representing /p/) and H (representing /h/) belong to different syllables and do not together make the digraph PH (representing /f/).)


From Wikipedia:

Kniphofia …, also called tritoma, red hot poker, torch lily, knofflers or poker plant, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae, first described as a genus in 1794. It is native to Africa. Herbaceous species and hybrids have narrow, grass-like leaves 10–100 cm (4–39 in) long, while perennial species have broader, strap-shaped foliage up to 1.5 m (5 ft) long. All plants produce spikes of upright, brightly colored flowers well above the foliage, in shades of red, orange and yellow, often bicoloured. The flowers produce copious nectar while blooming and are attractive to bees. In the New World they may attract sap-suckers such as hummingbirds and New World orioles.

On its family:

Xanthorrhoeaceae is a family of flowering plants in the order Asparagales. Such a family has been recognized by most taxonomists, but the circumscription of the family has varied widely.

As defined by the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group in 2009 (the APG III system), the family consists of three subfamilies: Asphodeloideae, Hemerocallidoideae and Xanthorrhoeoideae. Earlier these three had been treated as separate families, with the Xanthorrhoeaceae sensu stricto consisting only of the genus Xanthorrhoea.

The family has a wide, but scattered distribution throughout the tropics and temperate zones. Many of the species are cultivated as ornamentals. A few are grown commercially for cut flowers. Two species of Aloe are grown for their leaf sap, which has medicinal and cosmetic uses. Xanthorrhoea is endemic to Australia.

… The subfamily Xanthorrhoeoideae contains only the genus Xanthorrhoea [common name: grass trees, or balga grass], native to Australia. Plants typically develop thick woody stems; the flowers are arranged in a dense spike. Members of the subfamily Asphodeloideae are often leaf succulents, such as aloes and haworthias, although the subfamily also includes ornamental perennials such as red hot pokers (Kniphofia). Members of the subfamily Hemerocallidoideae are varied in habit. Daylilies (Hemerocallis) are one of the widely grown members of this subfamily.

Quite some family.

Three more ornnamentals that are winter-blooming in California. First strawflowers, an Australian native plant that is in wide use as an ornamental around the world (as a child in Pennsylvania, I grew them from seed).


From Wikipedia:

Xerochrysum bracteatum, commonly known as the golden everlasting or strawflower, is a flowering plant in the family Asteraceae native to Australia. Described by Étienne Pierre Ventenat in 1803, it was known as Helichrysum bracteatum for many years before being transferred to a new genus Xerochrysum in 1990. It grows as a woody or herbaceous perennial or annual shrub up to a metre (3 ft) tall with green or grey leafy foliage. Golden yellow or white flower heads are produced from spring to autumn; their distinctive feature is the papery bracts that resemble petals. The species is widespread, growing in a variety of habitats across the country, from rainforest margins to deserts and subalpine areas.

Then honey daisies. Euryops virgineus “Sunshine”


From Wikipedia:

Euryops is a genus of flowering plants in the sunflower family. They are native mostly to rocky sites in southern Africa, with a few species in other parts of Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula. They produce daisy-like flowerheads from fern-like foliage

And then asphodels, here in fancy white and yellow cultivars:


From Wikipedia, which takes us back into legend and literature:

Asphodelus is a genus of mainly perennial plants first described for modern science in 1753. The genus is native to temperate Europe, the Mediterranean, Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian Subcontinent, and now naturalized in other places (New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, southwestern United States, etc.).

Asphodels are popular garden plants, which grow in well-drained soils with abundant natural light. Now placed in the family Xanthorrhoeaceae [see above, under strawflowers], the genus was formerly included in the lily family (Liliaceae).

… In Greek legend the asphodel is one of the most famous of the plants connected with the dead and the underworld. Homer describes it as covering the great meadow (ἀσφόδελος λειμών), the haunt of the dead. It was planted on graves, and is often connected with Persephone, who appears crowned with a garland of asphodels. Its general connection with death is due no doubt to the greyish colour of its leaves and its yellowish flowers, which suggest the gloom of the underworld and the pallor of death.

… The asphodel is mentioned by several poets in connection with the mythology of death, and by association, the afterlife – specifically the Isles of the Blessed and Elysium – part of the ancient Greek concept of the afterlife. [Citations of Milton, Pope, Tennyson, Longfellow, Barrett Browning.]

Two plants from the Gamble’s Australian garden. Both of these were new to me, but delightful. The waxflower, in several colors:


From Wikipedia:

Chamelaucium, also known as waxflower, is a genus of shrubs endemic to south western Western Australia. They belong to the myrtle family Myrtaceae and have flowers similar to those of the tea-trees (Leptospermum). The most well-known species is the Geraldton Wax, Chamellaucium uncinatum, which is cultivated widely for its large attractive flowers.

And the less well-known boronia. Photo of Boronia crenulata “Shark Bay” from the Monrovia Nursery in Azusa CA:


A dense dwarf shrub that blooms year-round.

The agave. These six plants were all in happy bloom back at the end of January (along with narcissus and some early-spring flowers). Then there was the impressive agave, much like this A. americana:


From Wikipedia:

Agave [three syllables, accent on the second] … is a genus of monocots native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the southern United States. Some agaves are also native to tropical areas of South America. The plants are perennial, but each rosette flowers once and then dies … Some species are known by the name century plant.

Agave tequilana (agave azul or blue agave) is used in the production of tequila. Agave nectar (also called agave syrup), a sweetener derived from the sap, is used as an alternative to sugar in cooking, and can be added to breakfast cereals as a binding agent.

A hard plant not to notice, even when it’s not blooming.

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