Winter is finally here, rains are pouring 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 and enjoy the flowers and learn about water-saving plants.
We’re starting our tour next to the new visitors’ center, where we’ll meet the Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides). This is an impressive tree, originating in China, a relative of the giant American Sequoia trees (that you can find in the North America section). Dawn Redwood is a coniferous tree, but unlike most of the conifers – it is not evergreen, but rather deciduous! During these days its leaves turned from green to reddish-brown, and during this month they will fall, and the tree will stand leafless.
Next, we’ll go up to the South Africa Section, where Aloe ferox is already blooming. This is a woody succulent plant, 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 3 years ago, you can read about it here.
There are approximately 30 Aloe species in the South Africa section, all blooming between December and March. Aloe cryptopoda has already started to bloom. Like most of the Aloe species, this is a water-saving plant, Drought-tolerant and suitable for water-saving gardens, with only few summer irrigations.
This Aloe is shorter than the Aloe ferox, it is about 1 m tall.
Last November we invited you to see the cone of Poor Man’s Cycad (Encephalartos villosus) – a Cycad of the Zamiaceae family. 2 months has passed, and the cone has doubled its size – it is now 40 cm long, and bright yellow. Let’s keep following its growth.
Two cute wildflowers are blooming this season all over the garden: the Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis), Last year’s 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!
In the Europe section above the lake as well as in other places you can see tall trees with brilliant white trunks, standing bare. This is the European Silver Birch (Betula pendula), a European deciduous white-barked tree. It is a cold-loving wide-spread tree – it grows in most of Northern Europe and Asia. The European Silver Birch is conspicuous especially in this season, due to the brilliant white tree trunks.
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-Lemmon and her husband, 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 in the mountain regions.
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.
Look for the Washingtonia filifera – it is a massive and impressive palm, endemic to springs in the southern California desert and characterized by a thick trunk. Several Californian towns are named after these palms, including Palm Springs, Palm Desert and Twenty-Nine Palms.
In Israel, Washingtonia filifera appears as an ornamental tree together with the other species of the same genus – Washingtonia robusta. The Washingtonia robusta is a tall palm with narrow trunk. It originates in the Baja California peninsula in Mexico, and unlike the 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).
In the “Plants of the month” corner near the garden’s nursery, it is bulb time. Today we’re looking at Muscari species blooming there: Muscari inconstrictum an Israeli wildflower that likes growing in rock cracks, where its bulbs cannot be dug and eaten. Next to it you can find Muscari macrocarpum. This Muscari has light-purple buds and impressive yellow flowers. It originates in the Greek Islands and South-West Turkey, where it also grows in rocky terrain. Don’t be shy, stoop down and smell the flowers: they have a pleasing scent that resembles fresh Bananas.
The Tropical Conservatory is open to the public daily at 9:30-15:00, and we highly recommend visiting it! One of the prettiest elements in the conservatory is the green wall on the back side, where we grow plants in soil-pockets on the wall. Here you can enjoy a mixture of ferns, Begonias and many more. Note the big white flowers blooming on the wall: this is the Amazon Lily, Eucharis × grandiflora, a naturally occurring hybrid of two Eucharis species (Eucharis moorei and Eucharis sanderi), originating in Columbia and Equador. Its flowers are bent downwards to protect the stamens from the tropical rain, just like our Cyclamen flowers in the rainy winter.
And we’ll finish our tour at the desert section in the Conservatory, where our plant of the month is blooming: Boissier’s Barbbell – Trichodesma boissieri. How many plant with light-blue flowers do you know? Boissier’s Barbbell has wonderful light-blue flowers, you’re welcome to read more about it here.
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!