Sunday, February 8, 2009

Melianthus, Honey Bush: this is a sculptural beauty and a heavy nectar producer (hello hummingbirds)

Arising today at 4:45 AM (this is Sunday!?!) I find the temperature has only fallen to 46F. Wow. Excellent. Potomac Phil must not have seen his shadow after all. The 15-day Forecast predicts not many nights below freezing and none for at least a week. Temperatures like that give spring the upper hand in the battle of the seasons; I think it's safe to say that we can predict a winner though it may be some time before all the ballots are counted and the result is official.

Still this is the third day in a row that I find myself discussing African plants. The older I get, not necessarily feebler yet, but wiser?, the less I am inclined to keep large plants that summer outside but need to be lugged in come November. The 7+ foot Gardenia will stay as long as I can physically move it (I've had it for 25 years), the Clivia lives in constant fear, the Bombax ellipticum is fine so long as it fits on a 2-wheel dolly.Still, I'm seriously cutting back....But not this plant; this is one I am going to add! I have always loved it from a distance. The Herb Garden has had a specimen for years, actually this one. As exotic large containers have become commonplace, Honey Bush has begun to appear regularly as an important element in them. I've seen it at Chanticleer, USBG, Brookside Gardens, and other places. Now I want one for my own. Two really. I'm going to try it in the Florida Garden. Leaf color, shape, form, the way light interacts with it all combine to produce an irresistibly beautiful plant.

This will be the first time I'll see it flower. I knew it did because it is universally described as being irresistible to hummingbirds. Southern California, where Honey Bush is reasonably common in sophisticated landscapes, is home to half a dozen species of hummingbirds. We really only have one here, and they probably won't have returned in time to appreciate these flowers, but we'll be here. We'll tell them what they missed.

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