December is here, and we’re hoping for rains to come. In the garden, you can feel the changes from Autumn to Winter – in the Fall colors, in the blooming flowers and in the birds visiting us.
Drimia maritima has already finished blooming – they bloomed in the end of the Summer – but their presence is still felt in the garden: look for the impressive leaves and the dry racemes in the Mediterranean section, as well as scattered throughout the garden. The seeds that were dispersed just now germinate after the first strong rains.
For those who still haven’t seen the fall colors in the gardens – and for those who have – come and admire the Liquidambar styraciflua in the lawn, at the America section and in other locations in this section. The Liquidambar, whose name means “Liquid Amber”, is named after its sweet liquid resin. It is also our plant of the month.
Another tree with enchanting fall colors is the Quercus shumardii – an oak that originates in the Eastern US. This is a relatively short oak, of the Red Oak section (Quercus sect. Erythrobalanus), a section that includes approximately 100 oak species from North and South America. As far as we know, our garden is the only place in Israel where you can see this oak.
Barleria obtusa of the Acanthaceae family is blooming in violet, in the South Africa section, near the ancient burrial caves. This is a water-conserving plant that blooms in the autumn and early winter. Its common name is “Bush-Violet”.
Aloe arborescens is blooming in red-orange in the South Africa section. With lots of patience and some luck, you can witness the Palestine Sunbirds enjoying its nectar.
The Aloe has elongated red flowers, with lots of nectar. Such flowers attract Sunbirds and other birds that enjoy the nectar and pollinate the flowers. This Aloe is the first of several Aloe species that bloom in the South Africa section, and they are an important botanical attraction in the garden.
In the botanical garden you can find the three Cedar species of the world: Cedrus libani and Cedrus deodara in upper parts of the Mediterranean section and Cedrus atlantica in the Canary Islands subsection on the main trail in the Mediterranean section. If you stand next to the Cedrus libani that is up near the offices, you can see all three species at once.
Cedars are mountainous conifers of the pine plant family.
Cedrus atlantica (on the right-side picture) – the Atlantic Cedar grows in the Atlas mountains, from Morocco to Algeria.
Cedrus libani – (the taller tree on the left-side picture) the Cedar of Lebanon grows in the Middle East – from Lebanon to S Turkey, and in Cyprus, where it has a unique short-needled subspecies.
Cedrus deodara (the shorter tree on the left-side picture) – the Himalayan Cedar grows in the west Himalayas.
And if we’re visiting the Canary Islands subsection, note the rocks above the stream that runs along the garden’s main path – Iris unguicularis, the Algerian Iris, is blooming at the feet of the Cedar trees. This Mediterranean Iris grows naturally along the Mediterranean basin.
The genus Iris is big and includes about 380 species, with thousands of subspecies, hybrids and ornamental variants. Therefore it is split into several sections. Each section includes species that have similar characters. Iris unguicularis belongs to the Limniris section, same as Iris grant-duffi, our swamp Iris.
Iris unguicularis is an interesting plant from a gardener’s point of view: it is an evergreen plant, that thrives both in the sun and shade, both with plenty of watering and with little watering, so it fits many gardening situations.
The strawberry trees in the Mediterranean section are laden with sweet red fruit. These fruits attract many birds, that eat them and disperse the seeds. In the central areas of the Mediterranean section you can find the Arbutus andrachne that is common in Israel. In the Northern parts of this section, near Beatrice circle, you can find the European Arbutus unedo. Along the Cork Oak trail, you can spot Arbutus × andrachnoides which is a natural hybrid of the two former species. In the parking lot near Burla st. grows Arbutus canariensis.
One of the nicer visitors of the garden this season is the European Robin, that migrates from Europe to spend the winter here. The Robins like tree and shrub thickets, and there are several enjoying the gardens this year. Listen to their pleasant songs, and try to find them – look for the orange-reddish glimpse of the breast among the trees.
And more in the Mediterranean section – Crithmum maritimum is blooming nicely along the main path across the Canary Islands subsection and in Beatrice Circle, near the strawberry trees.
This is a water-conserving plant, recommended as a garden ground cover. It is common in Israel along the coast in the wild. You are welcome to chop a small young leaf, smell and taste it – its taste resembles cellery.
The days are shortening, making the light soft. It is a wonderful time to hike along the garden trails, photograph, and enjoy the growth and freshness that are unique to this season.