Come and see in the garden, January 2019

08 Jan

The winter is here, rains are coming down. The temperatures in Jerusalem have dropped significantly, and there is even hope for snow. Even in these cold conditions, the garden is starting to bloom. Come visit, enjoy our flowers and learn about water-saving plants.

קוטילדון אדום cotyledon

We’ll start our tour in the South Africa section: Look for the Cotyledon orbiculata – a succulent plant with red blossoms. The Cotyledon is an easy-to-grow ornamental plant, fit for containers, and it attracts sunbirds, who enjoy its nectar and pollinate it.  We recommend this plant as a water-saving plant for the garden, for full-sun or partial sunny conditions.

Another species that is blooming these days in the South Africa section is the Aloe ferox. This is a woody succulent, with an impressive leaves rosette. It grows a tall single stem that can reach 2-3 m tall! ! And has long impressive spikes. It is called “ferox” (fierce) because of its massive spiny leaves. The Aloe ferox was the garden’s plant of the month 2 years ago, you can read about it here.

A blooming flower-bed is always heartwarming and eye-pleasing. We want to draw your attention to this flower-bed in the Cape subsection of the South Africa section: here you can see blooming in pink the Rosy Dewplant (Lampranthus roseus), a succulent from the Aizoaceae family and next to it the gray leaves and yellow flowers of Gazania nivea. Just beyond them, you can see Pelargonium quercifolium, with leaves that resemble oak-leaves.

All these plants originate from the South African Cape region. This is also a water-saving bed.

Two cute wildflowers are blooming this season all over the garden: the Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis), our plant of the month, and the well-known Eastern Groundsel (Senecio leucanthemifolius subsp. vernalis). Both are small yellow flowers from the Asteraceae family, and in a glance they look quite similar. How can we differentiate between them? Look at the leaves: the Marigold has simple leaves, with a unique scent, while the Groundsel has dissected leaves with no specific scent.
Both are blooming mainly at the edges of flower-beds and in lawns. Look for them, and try to see which is which!

Continuing our tour to the North America section. These days the section’s trails are adorned with another yellow flower of the Asteraceae family. This is Tagetes lemmonii‏. Although it is yellow, it is not named after the lemon fruit, but after a couple of American 19th century botanists – Sara Plummer and John Gil Lemmon. They studied the west-American flora in the 2nd half of the 19th century. Several plants are named after them, as well as Mount Lemmon in Arizona. Sara Plummer-Lemmon was responsible for the designation of the golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) as the state flower of California in 1903. Tagetes lemmonii is a hardy, draught tolerant perennial, a perfect plant for a sustainable garden.

Let’s climb between the blooming Tagetes shrubs to the discovery trail. There we can find impressive palm trees – these are the California Fan Palms – Washingtonia filifera.

The genus Washingtonia, named after the first American president George Washington, has two species.

Washingtonia filifera is a massive and impressive palm, endemic to springs in the southern California desert and characterized with a thick trunk. Several Californian towns are named after these palms, including Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Twenty-Nine Palms.

In Israel, the Washingtonia filifera appears as an ornamental tree together with the other species of the same genus – Washingtonia robusta. Washingtonia robusta is a tall palm with narrow trunk. It originates in the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, and unlike Washingtonia filifera, it is an invasive species in Israel. You can see the Washingtonia robusta at the edge of the upper parking lot (near the supermarket).

The winter is our rainy season, which means it is mushroom time. Mushrooms and fungi are an important part of the ecological system – they perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange in the environment. Some live in symbiosis with the surrounding plants, such as the Suillus mushrooms that live on Pine roots and enrich the soil around them with nutrients for the trees.

In the garden we can find a large variety of fungi, with different shapes, colors and textures. In the picture you can see a few of the fungi we recently saw.

Attention: the fungi kingdom is rich and diverse. Many times it is difficult to identify a fungus based on a single image. It is not recommended to pick mushrooms without thoroughly learning about them. In addition, in the garden we sometimes spray chemicals against pests. Fungi absorb such poisons – so it is not recommended to gather them within the garden.

We’re still looking down, and we want to draw your attention to a unique fungus we found in the garden: the bird’s nest fungus. The bird’s nest fungus is shaped like a nest holding small round dark “eggs”. These eggs are the sporadiums, each one contains thousands of microscopic spores. They are attached to the fungus (the “nest”) with a tiny spring. When it rains, the spring loosens and throws the “egg” to a distance in order to spread the spores. Even though this fungus is small (only 1 cm) it can throw the sporadium to a distance of one meter and more!

The bird’s nest fungus likes mulch – look for it in areas where we spread mulch as ground-cover.

A beautiful shrub of the Fabaceae family is starting to bloom these days in the Australia section: Templetonia retusa. This shrub has large red flowers. It originates in South-Western Australia, in the shrubby Mallee region. These flowers are pollinated by birds, as well as by local Australian butterflies. The Tempeltonia is recommended as a water-conserving plant that blooms during winter.

In the “Plants of the month” corner near the garden’s nursery, it is bulb time. Muscari macrocarpumis is blooming just now with light-purple buds and impressive yellow flowers. It originates in the Greek Islands and South-West Turkey, where it grows in rocky places. Don’t be shy, stoop down and smell the flowers: they have a pleasing scent that resembles fresh Bananas.

The Israeli winter is full of sunny days. It is much more pleasant to hike now, compared to the hot summer. We recommend that you put on a warm coat, and come see the winter blossoms around the garden!