Tag Archives: Albuca maxima

Saturday clippings 4/9/16


The Los Angeles Festival of Books is this weekend. I haven’t been in ages. I can only imagine what the food truck scene is like now. I didn’t see any garden-themed speakers on a quick check of the roster, but long ago (1998!) I attended talks by Robert Smaus, (former LA Times garden editor) Clair Martin (Huntington rose curator) and Robert Perry (native plantsman extraordinatire). The political discussions used to be very good, and around 2004 we attended a panel discussion on the Iraq War, with the late Christopher Hitchens attempting to defend his pro-war position (mostly a position he held in sympathy for the Kurds, I think), along with Mark Danner, Samantha Power and Robert Scheer. If you go, bring an umbrella.

The past two days have brought light rain, a hockey victory for the Kings over the Ducks (ferocious Los Angeles vs. Orange County rivalry), so all in all, it’s been a pretty good week.
On the Metro yesterday, when the doors opened at a stop midway to downtown, a gust of jasmine flooded the train, causing me to look up from my reading, just in time to see the jasmine draped over a chainlink fence begin to recede as the doors shut and the train sped away. Talk about fleeting fragrance. There’s a tall, columnar, ferny-leaved tree along the freeway in bloom now too, golden flowers, whose name I’ve forgotten. The flowers almost look grevillea-like. Not knowing the name is bugging me. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe lyonothamnus but the flowers aren’t a match.

In my own little garden, this week I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite kinds of plants, those that “grow up, not out.”* Not necessarily plants that have been bred to behave and grow in tight spots, though that’s a subject in its own right. I’m talking about ordinary plants with transformative abilities. Smallish footprint, big aerial drama. Here’s a couple examples I’m enjoying this week:


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The old standby, Verbena bonariensis. This is a two-year-old plant, so it made quick growth this year.
Annual in colder zones. It’s a much better plant for me in its second year, more uniform in structure.

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The poppies will probably be over by the end of April.
Another plant that visits the garden and then leaves without causing a lot of disruption.

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I’m not sure if this is Passiflora exoniensis, but whatever it is, I think I’ve found a vine to ease the pang of being unable to grow rhodochiton.
(Ever so grateful to Max Parker for this!)

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I lost the main clumps of Aristida purpurea, which didn’t impress me hugely last year.
I love what a seedling has done with this agave, though. Much better placement than my attempt. More, please.
And I really should thin those pups out this weekend.

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Albuca maxima. I moved a couple bulbs into the back garden. This one does quite the disappearing act, dormant in summer.

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The Rudbeckia maxima experiment continues. Very entertaining so far.

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Depending on how it handles dryish conditions this summer will decide its ultimate fate.
You can’t really describe this as having a small footprint either, but I’ve removed some of the lower leaves.

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Nicotiana ‘Hot Chocolate’ easily hoists itself above the crowd, without being any trouble at all. Self-sows.

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Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii is slim and elegant. I hear it can be trouble with more water, but it stays put here.

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Crambe maritima breaks the tall and slender theme, but look at those gorgeous new leaves.

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I’m getting lots of seedlings of this sideritis. I think it’s Sideritis oroteneriffae. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

And have a great weekend!


*“Sister Sue, she’s short and stout
She didn’t grow up, she grew out”
— Randy Newman, “My Old Kentucky Home”*

I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’ 1975 landmark paean to American music “Mystery Train” on the Metro to work. Any critic who up front acknowledges a debt to Pauline Kael is fine by me. If you’re short on time, just read Marcus on Robert Johnson, the musician whose skill went from so-so to prodigious in such a short period of time that he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Without Johnson, The Rolling Stones couldn’t exist. Books, music, and plants — is there anything I’ve forgotten? Didn’t think so.

this week in plants

My Portland friend Loree at Danger Garden collects impressions of favorite plants at the end of the month, so I put together a contribution of what’s catching my eye this week.

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I’m enjoying how the Verbascum bombyciferum echoes the rosette shapes of surrounding agaves, but a softer, feltier echo against the stiff, silvery-blue agave leaves of ‘Dragon Toes’ in the foreground, A. franzosinii in the background. The verbascum is temporary, while the Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’ gains size just behind it. Annuals and biennials are perfect solutions for the temporary gaps around a growing shrub. I’d love to get some seed from the verbascum after bloom, though.

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Dark green shrub is Cistus ‘Snow Fire.’ The evanescent white flowers with maroon central blotches have disappeared by the end of the day.

The 90-degree temps the past couple days are the reason that the garden is filled with the sharp, resiny scent of cistus, something I miss when the garden is without it.
They’re generally short-lived shrubs for me, but for quite a few years the iconic sounds and scent of summer included the low hum of of busy insects coupled with that uniquely pervasive scent.
If it’s going to be this hot, at least let the air be pungent with cistus.

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If there’s any plus side to the drought, it’s much less snail damage. Crambe maritima.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ throwing a bloom spike, signaling its last year in the garden.

Even though the garden is as densely planted as ever, the changeover the last couple years to plants that will tolerate not just dry but very dry conditions and strong sun is nearly complete.
As short-lived stuff passes on and agaves bloom, I’d like to experiment with much wider spacing, which necessarily means a lot less plant collecting.
We’ll see how far I get with that plan. I can thin and prune furniture and stuff indoors no problem, but get stingy with plants? Uncertain.

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Bought unlabeled, it looks like Canna indica, the plain old “Indian shot” canna, so named for the round black seeds used in jewelry (and as makeshift ammunition).
Big green leaves, small flowers. A lush look from a tough-as-boots plant.

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For a change, I’m enjoying the restful green leaves as opposed to the splashier variegated canna varieties.
The species is such a good plant in its own right, with simple flowers, a clean outline.
Rising behind the agave tank, under the high canopy of a tetrapanax, a corner of warmth and deep orange from the canna, Abutilon venosum and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Echium simplex spikes are quickly filling out.

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Buds forming on the lacy, silver shrub Hymenolepis parviflora (formerly Athanasia parviflora). The flowers will be golden yellow umbels.

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Albuca maxima flowers reliably in the front gravel garden, with little if any supplemental irrigation

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Dyckia also blooming in the front gravel garden.
I need to decide whether to strip the lower leaves to expose the trunk on the dasylirion in the background, and what kind of arm protection to use when doing so.

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This self-sown Solanum pyracanthum surprisingly earns credit for being in bloom year-round.
I think it was included in every Bloom Day post of 2014, and then bloomed all winter too. Not bad for a reputed heat lover for summer gardens.

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Peeking under the canopy at an ever-expanding Sonchus congestus, a glamorous member of the dandelion tribe.

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Aeoniums don’t always come through winter this pristine. Mislabeled Aeonium tabuliforme, I’m not sure what it is. Some kind of abbreviated form of tabuliforme?

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The manihots are leafing out, prime shadow-casting plants.

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Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash,’ moved yet again for some electrical work Marty was doing.
Seems there’s always way more seedpods than leaves of the ‘New Zealand Purple’ ricinus, just visible in the background, so seedpod prolific it reminds me of a red echinops.
And now April!

favorites 4/10/14

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Loree at Danger Garden shares her favorite plants in the garden every week, and spring is a good time to join in, when so much is fleeting and the turnover in favorites comes at a rapid pace.
True, that’s not the case with Stipa gigantea, a clumping grass from Spain which will grace a garden from spring until late fall.

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But it is the case with ephemerals like the South African bulb Albuca maxima (also goes by Albuca canadensis) which will go dormant after flowering, when it needs to be kept dry. For this reason, it thrives in the gravel garden amongst agaves and dasylirions, where it reliably pushes up its elegant 5-foot blooms amongst all those jagged leaves every spring. (The beast directly behind this beauty is the Agave ‘Jaws.’) The blooms do last surprisingly long, and it does seem to be self-sowing too. More would be nice to cut for vases, since I hate to rob the garden of those swaying, statuesque flowers that remind me of a snowdrop crossed with a fritillary.
For zones 8 to 11.


giving thanks for rain

a very polite and well-timed rain arrived after the Thanksgiving holiday, sometime after midnight.
On Wednesday I brought in chairs that summered in the garden for holiday duty.

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The new rain gutters gurgled musically as they efficiently carried rain away from the 100-year-old foundations, a happy ending to the month-long gutter ordeal.
(Marty fell off the roof, ass over tea kettle, but amazingly emerged with only muscle soreness for a couple weeks. Thank you, gods of calamity!)
Listening to the orchestral rhapsody of rain in the gutters, on corrugated roofs, on pavement, kept me busy most of Friday morning.

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I was awake at 5 a.m. today, anticipating the early morning patrol after the rain.

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Prowling the garden to see what the rain brought, I found newly sprouted seedlings of Erodium pelargoniflorum. Rain makes fast work of germination.

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And then I remembered I shook the seed pods of the South African bulb Albuca maxima in this area of the front gravel garden and searched for signs of germination.
These tiny strands may just be baby albucas.

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In bloom it resembles a 5-foot snowdrop.

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A couple of leaves of nearby Agave ‘Jaws’ provide support when it blooms. Rain-soaked agave leaves unfurl quickly, leaving ghostly imprint patterns.

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What the skies looked like late Friday afternoon over the back garden. Could a day be any more perfect?
Wishing you perfection this holiday weekend. And it doesn’t even have to be a whole day. Moments count.

Bloom Day April 2013

Spring is moving fast here in Southern California. I’ve already checked out some of the gardens on our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and saw lots of traditional spring shrubs and bulbs and perennials like hellebores in amazing colors just coming into bloom. Slowly but surely spring is spreading across the land. Huzzah!

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Spring has had an unmistakably orange cast to it in my garden this year. A kniphofia in its current 50/50 bar coloration.

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Same kniphofia about a week ago.
I moved this one around and didn’t keep track of the name, but all my kniphofias come from Digging Dog, which has a great list.

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is just starting to bloom, and hopefully the isoplexis will hang in there a little longer.
The grass Stipa gigantea was moved here last fall and hasn’t missed a beat, showing lots of bloom stalks.

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Tweedia caerulea/Oxypetalum caerulea may be a rare baby blue in color but it is a surprisingly tough plant.
This one survived forgotten and neglected in a container throughout the mostly rainless winter.
It’s climbing up a castor bean, Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple.’

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The self-sowing annual Senecio stellata started bloom this week. Big leaves, tall, and likes it on the shady side.

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Another tall one, Albuca maxima.

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This South African bulb has been thriving in the front gravel garden, which gets very little summer water. Over 5 feet tall, it reminds me of a giant galanthus.

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More white blooms, Erodium pelargoniflorum, a prolific self-seeder in the front gravel garden.

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The fringe tree on the east side of the house, Chionanthus retusus, just about at maximum white-out.

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The fried egg on a long stalk near the Euphorbia cotinifolia tree trunk is Argemone munita. Hopefully better photos to come.
I wouldn’t mind about six more of these self-sown in the garden for next year.

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Self-sowing white valerian forming buds, with the lavender bells of the shrub prostranthera, the Australian mintbush.

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The mintbush with the succulent Senecio anteuphorbium.

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A gift pelargonium, no ID. The small details in the leaves and flowers of these simple pelargoniums get me every time.

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Closeup of the tiny flowers.

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The plant at its base is even more self-effacing, with a big name for such a quiet plant, Zaluzianskya capensis.

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Lots of self-sown nicotianas. The flowers are too small to be pure N. alata, so it probably has some langsdorfii in the mix.
Whatever its parentage, lime green flowers always work for me.

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Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix,’ with a potted begonia for scale. This strain of flowering tobacco has been keeping hummingbirds happy all winter.
This is the first begonia to bloom (again, no ID!), and the colocasias are just beginning to leaf out.

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The porch poppies, with lots more poppies in bloom in the garden.

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The anigozanthos might be a tad too close to the euphorbia, but I love the lime green and orange together.

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The last two photos are by MB Maher, who was in town briefly and tried to get more of the Euphorbia lambii from a higher angle.

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MB Maher’s photo of the Salvia chiapensis with a bit of purple in the center from Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP,’ planted from gallons a couple weeks ago.
I have a feeling that yucca will be in bloom for May Bloom Day. See you then!

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Bloom Day April 2012


April deserves a thorough Bloom Day post, but if I’m to get this in before midnight it’ll have to be brief. A big change here is that the poppies of Troy, Papaver setigerum, are over sooner than I’d like. I expect them to last at least all of April. The past two mornings countless confused bees have been aimlessly circling the air space once filled with poppies in bloom. The last rainfall was followed by ferocious winds which battered and ultimately flattened the poppies, so they’ve been pulled from the crevices in the dry-laid brick terrace in which they self-sowed, and now it’s like they were never there. Poof, and the terrace is once again just an ordinary terrace instead of a meadow of swaying, buzzing poppies. And it seems the garden has no other flowers to tempt the bees, though the hummingbirds are finding plenty to keep themselves occupied. Last pre-rainstorm photo of the poppies.


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Papaver rupifragum in the front gravel garden, in a more protected spot, was safe from wind damage. And possibly the leaner soil here may have helped them to grow a little tougher.

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One of the mainstay salvias in the garden, Salvia chiapensis, in bloom nearly year-round. I’m including yet another Bloom Day photo only because I liked this angle with the waterfall of yucca as a backdrop. In the blurry foreground is Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’

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The last of the Dutch iris, too, this one ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ hands down my favorite. Dark, smoky, moody.

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Albuca maxima, a summer-dormant bulb from South Africa, flower stalks about 3 feet high, growing in the front gravel garden which gets little supplemental irrigation.

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Always a surprise to have a grass bloom as early as Stipa gigantea. The albuca is just a few feet away, and fall-blooming nerines grow in this part of the gravel garden too, another bulb that requires summer dormancy.

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Pelargonium ‘Splendide’ with an unidentified sedum species

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Peachy thunbergia, just a little snail-chewed.

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I prefer the clear orange of this Orange Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.

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A large pot of this oversized figwort, Scrophularia calliantha, was moved to a spot with less afternoon sun yesterday in the narrow inner courtyard off the front gravel garden, where coincidentally it also drapes and displays itself to much better effect. In probably the reverse of what’s going on in many spring gardens, I’ve been busy removing the clutter of winter pots to streamline the garden for summer, keeping just a few large pots which hold moisture longer. I don’t yet have any big plans for summer containers but am always open to temptation.


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Geum magellanicum

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I’m trialing a couple new kinds of foxglove this year, Digitalis ferruginea and this one, Digitalis ‘Goldcrest,’ a sterile hybrid of D. obscura and grandiflora reputed to be extremely floriferous.

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For fans of chartreuse bracts, besides euphorbias, hellebores, and ornamental oregano, there’s sideritis.

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The color of chocolate cosmos but with silvery leaves, Lotus jacobaeus in its first season has already earned a permanent place in my affections.

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Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Variegatum’ is almost more excitement than I can handle in one plant.

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Salvia littae grows in a mad, scrambly tangle. Brittle too, so attempts to tidy it up results in broken stems. A frustrating salvia unless allowed to drape down a wall, I’d guess. Brought home from the Mendocino Botanic Garden last summer.

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Salvia macrophylla. I don’t think I’ve ever grown a salvia that clothes itself with leaves right down to the ground like this one does.

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White blooms of Aeonium ‘Kiwi’

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Tweedia caerulea, started from seed by Dustin Gimbel. I’ve crowded my plants so they’ve been slow to bulk up.

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A little past midnight so time to put this Bloom Day to rest. Thanks again to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for giving Bloom Day a home.

Bloom Day May 2011

Let’s be honest, in zone 10 there’s no equivalent to the pent-up anticipation for blooms to arrive that describes spring in colder zones (and probably makes its arrival that much more exquisitely joyful, that cycle of denial and deliverance). Our spring gets going in February. What I’m really waiting for is the tropicals to hit their stride, still a month or two away. The xanthosoma and colocasias kept dry over winter are just now waking up. The 15-foot Euphorbia cotinifolia tree is similarly slow to leaf out, its bare branches an odd sight compared to the explosive growth on the hybrid cotinus ‘Grace,’ in full leaf and smoke. The bloom has come and gone on the Chinese fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus. Garden cannas are already in bloom, and Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ just finished a bloom cycle, though it can be seen in bloom locally nearly year-round depending on its size.

A couple quick photos. Salvia cacaliifolia rendered even bluer by the lemony backdrop of Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain’

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Knautia macedonia and Salvia chiapensis give magenta a solid, continuous presence.
I don’t mind, not even when the orange crocosmias start to bloom, and I noticed some crocosmia buds forming yesterday.

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Pelargonium sidoides. The bronzy leaves outlined in green belong to Brachysema praemorsum.

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The parkway jacarandas are in full, glorious, exasperatingly messy bloom.

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Potted Lobelia valida has been in bloom since February. First time I’ve tried this short-lived perennial lobelia. Very impressive.

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The best photo I could get of Albuca maxima. The green stripes just don’t want to show up as pixels.
Reminds me of an exotic, elongated snowdrop. I carefully transported this one home from a nursery recently in full flower.

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Carol of May Dreams Gardens, the grand mistress of Bloom Day, has lots happening in her garden, not to mention the gardens of other bloggers participating in Bloom Day. Go there and be amazed.