Three garden ornamentals and two trees

On a recent visit to Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden, four eye-catching plants, one of them a very big tree. Plus, out my back door, the tree in my next-door neighbor’s back garden, a tall and handsome thing that was pruned professionally yesterday.

So: the labiate Trichostema lanatum, or woolly bluecurls; the succulent Aeonium ‘Cornish Tribute’; a Sisyrinchium, or blue-eyed grass (in the iris family); and that great big tree, Erythrinia crista-galli, or cockspur coral tree, a showy legume. Then my neighbor’s ornamental pear tree (partridgeless, but often home to small birds), a Pyrus, in the rose family (like most fruit trees).

Bluecurls. Very striking plant, with deep blue labiate flowers, square stems, and, yes, a strong scent. Plus, it’s a genuine local. From Wikipedia:


Trichostema lanatum, the woolly bluecurls, is a small evergreen shrub or sub-shrub native to arid coastal chaparral regions of California and the northern parts of Baja California.

Trichostema lanatum is many-branched and grows to 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, with narrow, pointed green leaves. The smooth-petaled blue flowers are borne in dense clusters, with the stem and calyces covered in woolly hairs of blue, pink, or white.

Spanish explorers in California called the plant romero, the Spanish term for rosemary, and that common name is still sometimes used.

Cornish Tribute. First, the genus Aeonium (in the Crassulaceae, or stonecrop family). From Wikipedia:

Aeonium (tree houseleek) is a genus of about 35 species of succulent, subtropical plants of the family Crassulaceae. Many species are popular in horticulture. The genus name comes from the ancient Greek “aionos” (ageless). While most of them are native to the Canary Islands, some are found in Madeira, Morocco, and in East Africa (for example in the Semien Mountains of Ethiopia).

The succulent leaves are typically arranged on a basal stem, in a dense, spreading rosette.

Very striking plants. Two popular species:


A. glutinosum


A. atropurpureum

A great many hybrids, with new ones coming out all the time. The cultivar Cornish Tribute was bred at Trewidden Nursery in Cornwall, and introduced in 2012. It’s named after the breeders’ favorite local Cornish beer. The plant’s leaves are mixed red and green, some more green:


and some more red:


Blue-eyed grass. A 4/15/14 posting looks at blue-eyed grasses (genus Sisyrinchium), which aren’t grasses at all, but very small plants in the iris family. What we saw at Gamble Garden as a dark-blue species, much like this:


When you look closely at the leaves, you see that they are just tiny iris leaves.

On the iris family, not previously covered officially on this blog, so now family #68:

Iridaceae is a family of plants in order Asparagales, taking its name from the irises, meaning rainbow, referring to its many colours. There are 66 accepted genera with a total of c. 2244 species worldwide (Christenhusz & Byng 2016). It includes a number of other well known cultivated plants, such as freesias, gladioli and crocuses.

Members of this family are perennial plants, with a bulb, corm or rhizome. The plants grow erect, and have leaves that are generally grass-like, with a sharp central fold. (Wikipedia link)

Cockspur coral tree. And now for something very different: a great big tree with showy red flowers that belongs to the family of peas and beans.

A tree in bloom, and the flowers up close:



From Wikipedia:

Erythrina crista-galli, often known as the cockspur coral tree, is a flowering tree in the family Fabaceae [the legumes], native to Argentina, Uruguay, southern Brazil and Paraguay. It is widely planted as a street or garden tree in other countries, notably in California. It is known by several common names within South America: ceibo, seíbo (Spanish), corticeira (Portuguese) and the more ambiguous bucaré, to name a few. Its specific epithet crista-galli means “cock’s comb” in Latin.

The ceibo is the national tree of Argentina, and its flower the national flower of Argentina and Uruguay.

This species characteristically grows wild in gallery forest ecosystems along watercourses, as well as in swamps and wetlands. In urban settings, it is often planted in parks for its bright red flowers.

… The tree flowers in the summer, from October to April in their native South America and from April to October in the northern hemisphere.

It’s flowering gorgeously right now.

The Fabaceae (peas and beans) take in everything from little white clover through the vine wisteria, to a number of trees: in addition to the cockspur coral tree, there are acacias, locust trees (Gleditsia, Robinia), the Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), and the (notably poisonous) laburnums (golden chain or golden rain trees).

The condo pear tree. Hours of noise and gasoline fumes yesterday as an arborist cleaned out crossed branches and the like in my neighbor April’s very handsome Pyrus. It’s now airy, and still about 25 feet high (and growing).

(On flowering pears, see my 3/20/13 posting on this blog.)

Five very noticeable plants, five different plant families.

One Response to “Three garden ornamentals and two trees”

  1. Gary Vellenzer Says:

    I’ve always liked yellow blue-eyed grass. both the name and the plant:

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