GG on an August morning

Palo Alto’s Gamble Garden last Saturday morning (the 17th), during motss.con XXXII. Eight of us prowled over the northern part of the garden, appreciating all sorts of botanical delights and surprises, densely compressed into a very small space. (On a separate visit, motss.conners Robert Coren and John Gintell managed not to notice a huge topiary rabbit; well, there was just so much else to look at.)

And now, a report on random selected moments from our visit.

Showy plants of the season. Several strips of garden are devoted to massed plantings for different seasons of the year: classic hybrid tea roses, irises, foxgloves, and, at their height last week, strips of dahlias of many varieties, and one of zinnias, both standard and dwarf. Motssers among the dahlias, with zinnias in the background:

(#1) Leith Chu, me, and Gwendolyn Alden Dean, on the garden path (photo by Vadim Temkin)

Others in the group, beyond the four just mentioned: alphabetically by last name, Thomas Bradley, Ned Deily, Mike Lipsie, David Preston.

Signs of the waning summer. Another of the strips is devoted to chrysanthemums, traditionally a showy fall-blooming ornamental . On this visit, they were all fat-budded but not yet in bloom.

Also still in bud, autumn-blooming anemones (hybrids with single 5-petaled flowers in white and pink), a very modest flower that prefers partial shade; individual plants are sprinkled under trees in the garden. From the pixabay site, fall anemones, some in bloom, some in bud:

(#2) I think it was Gwendolyn who described the budding anemones as street-lamp plants

Meanwhile, one of the signal end-of-summer plants was showily in bloom: Amaryllis belladonna, commonly known as (pink) naked ladies — both delicious names. Earier on this blog: on 8/8/15 in “Two in bloom”, this photo:


Some discussion of both fall-blooming anemones and pink naked ladies in my 8/19/18 posting “End of season”.

Herbal delights. There is a formal herb garden at GG, but we didn’t officially visit it. However, herbs, both culinary and medicinal, are all over the place, so we got to comment on things like the medicinal properties of yarrow (Achillea). Two things we did comment on: all the different species of sages strewn through GG; and a chest-high mystery plant in the garden of edible plants.

Sages, sages, sages, 50 or so species, ranging from creeping sage to substantial bushes like this purple sage, which grows to 6 feet unless methodically clipped back:

(#2) GG photo by Kim Darnell from my 6/2/17 posting “Pride Time #1: the pink and the purple”; note the characteristic labiate flowers

There are white salvias, and pink ones, stunningly bright red ones, and multicolor ones, like the Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ that I posted about on 9/17/17:

(#3) ‘Hot Lips’ plants are dotted around GG, filling in odd spaces here and there

And of course sages in all shades in the blue-to-purple range. Which brings me back to Robert Coren (briefly mentioned above), who said that he and John had encountered a bush at GG with flowers that looked like sage blossoms but were an unlikely sky-blue color.  I said we’d check it out, and it was easy to find. Vadim took a picture of it showing labiate flowers in that amazing blue, but the image was all blurry, so I’m not reproducing it here.

Apparently, Robert and John didn’t do the sniff test — rub a bit of a leaf between your fingers and then smell them; sages almost all have intensely fragrant leaves — but Vadim and I did, and, wow, is that thing ever a sage. Probably a variety of Salvia guaranitica. From Wikipedia:

(#4) S. guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ (07/06/2014, Kew Gardens, London) — not the remarkable sky-blue variety, but the best I could find

Salvia guaranitica, the anise-scented sage or hummingbird sage, is a species of Salvia native to a wide area of South America, including Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.
It is a perennial subshrub growing 4 to 5 ft (1.2 to 1.5 m) tall, spreading into a large patch through its spreading roots. The leaves are ovate, 4 cm (1.6 in) long and nearly as wide, with a fresh mint green color, and an anise scent when crushed. The inflorescences are up to 25 cm (9.8 in) long with flowers in various shades of blue, including an uncommonly true blue.

A gigantic scent-herb. In the edible plant section. People asked me what it was and what it was doing in the edible-plant section of the garden. We stood in a bunch around it, puzzled, until one of us remarked that the leaves looked sort of like lemon verbena, just a lot bigger. So we did the sniff test, and we were blown away by the intense lemony fragrance. Oh yes, lemon verbena, and not even as big as the plants get. From Wikipedia:

(#5) Lemon verbena as we were accustomed to encountering in pots and in herb gardens: a small aromatic plant

Aloysia [or Lippiacitrodora is a species of flowering plant in the verbena family Verbenaceae, native to South America. Common names include lemon verbena and lemon beebrush. It was brought to Europe by the Spanish and the Portuguese in the 17th century and cultivated for its oil.

Lemon verbena is a perennial shrub or subshrub growing to 2–3 metres (6.6–9.8 ft) high. The 8 centimetres (3.1 in)-long, glossy, pointed leaves are slightly rough to the touch and emit a strong lemon scent when bruised (hence the Latin specific epithet citrodora — lemon-scented).

… Lemon verbena leaves are used to add a lemon flavor to fish and poultry dishes, vegetable marinades, salad dressings, jams, puddings, Greek yogurt, and beverages. The leaves are also used in potpourri. Lemon verbena is used to make herbal teas and as a liqueur flavoring.

Rampant vines. A stretch of the back fencing at GG is covered with beautiful but rampant trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, which has to be clipped back every week to ten days (fortunately, GG has a substantial volunteer staff). From my 9/9/15 posting “More vining invasives”, this Campsis radicans note from Wikipedia:

The vigor of the trumpet vine should not be underestimated. In warm weather, it puts out huge numbers of tendrils that grab onto every available surface, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems several centimeters in diameter. It grows well on arbors, fences, telephone poles, and trees, although it may dismember them in the process. Ruthless pruning is recommended.

But the star rampant vine at GG has thick stems, which it sends off into the air like clutching hands. It has its own arbor, well apart from anything that it could grasp to death. And it bears fruit, excellent fruit.

From Wikipedia:

(#6) Kiwifruits ready to eat

(#7) Kiwi vines on a trellis, in a commercial vineyard

Kiwifruit (often abbreviated as kiwi outside Australia and New Zealand), or Chinese gooseberry, is the edible berry of several species of woody vines in the genus Actinidia. The most common cultivar group of kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa ‘Hayward’) is oval, about the size of a large hen’s egg (5–8 cm (2.0–3.1 in) in length and 4.5–5.5 cm (1.8–2.2 in) in diameter). It has a thin, hair-like, fibrous, sour-but-edible light brown skin and light green or golden flesh with rows of tiny, black, edible seeds. The fruit has a soft texture with a sweet and unique flavour. China produced 50% of the world total of kiwifruit in 2017.

Close-up of GG’s kiwi vines competing with one another:

(#8) The tendrils that grasp, the tendrils that clutch (photo by Vadim Temkin)

Plant families in action. Towering over one side of the GG section that we toured is a tall, huge-trunked tree that bore enormous seedpods when we were there. I noted that it was a legume tree, in the pea or bean family, so that those pods were indeed very large beans; predictable joshing about Jack and the beanstalk ensued. What I, inexcusably, neglected to point out was that this was the cockspur / cockscomb coral tree (Erythrina crista-galli), a huge flowering legume tree native to southern South America, with very showy bright red flowers, hence both the common name and the taxonomic species name. Coverage in my 6/14/17 posting “Three garden ornamentals and two trees”.

(There is apparently some competition as to which cockspur coral tree is the largest in California. I know, I know, you don’t need to try formulating a comment.)

But the gigantic bean tree did give me entry to one of my favorite GG topics, identifying plant families by their characteristic flowers: the pea-like flowers of the legume family (the Fabaceae), from the tiny flowers of the white clover plant up to the huge showy ones of the cockspur coral tree; the lipped flowers of the labiate family (the Lamiaceae), from creeping thyme and creeping sage up to the teak tree; and the five-petaled flowers of the rose family (the Rosaceae), from modest ground-hugging strawberries up to almond trees.

Another plant new to me. Almost every visit brings me to plants I wasn’t previously aware of. This time, in another of GG’s features, a section of four raised beds highlighting four Mediterranean climates around the world: the Mediterranean Basin (in the northern hemisphere), Australia, Chile, and South Africa (in the southern). In the Australian section we came across a charming green-flowered plant new to me. From Wikipedia:

(#9) The San Marcos Growers site (offering plants specifically for California) notes that the plant bears pale greenish-yellow pendant lantern-shaped flowers from [US] winter through summer

Correa glabra (Rock Correa) is a tall shrub [in the Rutaceae, or citrus family] which is endemic to Australia. It grows up to 2.7 metres in height. The elliptic leaves are 1 to 4 cm long and 5 to 17 mm wide. These have a strong lemon scent when crushed. [The notably green] flowers are mainly produced in April and May [that is, in the spring] in the species’ native range, but may also appear sporadically throughout the year.
[cultivar] Corea glabra var. glabra ‘Coliban River’ — a compact, dense form selected from a wild population near the Coliban River in Kyneton, Victoria. It grows to 1.2 metres in height and width.

Of course, we saw, and talked about, much more than these few things. We did, however, notice the large topiary rabbit; Vadim even took a picture of it.

One Response to “GG on an August morning”

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