March is here, and spring is apparent all around us, in every color and shape. The Garden is blooming and festive at this time of year – wonderful flowering carpets of annuals and bulbs are accompanied by trees and shrubs awakening and being covered with colorful coats of flowers.
It is impossible to account for everything that is in bloom in the Garden at the moment, but we shall try to direct you to the most beautiful spots.
Let up start in the South Africa Section. Last month we sent you there to admire the Aloes blooming, and all the birds that they attract: Sunbirds, Chiffchaffs and others. It is still not too late to visit this section and enjoy the Mountain Aloe (Aloe marlothii) which is in bloom these days with large orange-red horizontal inflorescences.
Let us continue in the South Africa Section. The African Daisy (Arctotis hybrid) flowers are forming colorful carpets. This plant, with its silvery leaves, is considered water saving. Together with the Gazania flowers – which is also a plant of the Daisy plant family –originating in South Africa – they fill flower-beds and attract attention with their multitude of colors.
Still in the South Africa Section, we draw attention to the shrubs with delicate white flowers, which are replaced by a white wooly cover of fruit. These are the Cape Snow Bushes (Eriocephalus africanus) shrubs, a water-saving plant, which after taking toot – does not require any irrigation. In the 1980s-1990s, following recommendations by the Botanical Garden Eriocephalus shrubs were planted as part of the municipaling of Jerusalem. However, over time they were neglected and forgotten. We should like to restore awareness to this shrub, and to encourage its usage.
Another beautiful perennial plant in bloom these days in the South Africa Section, as well as in the flower-beds at the Garden’s entrance, is the Bulbinella. This is a geophyte with a tall and impressive raceme, and in our Garden you can see three important species: the yellow Bulbinella nutans, the orange Bulbinella latifolia, and the white Bulbinella cauda-felis, in bloom.
Continuing in the Europe Section, find an impressive shrub blooming in vivid yellow: this is the Albanian Forsythia (Forsythia europaea) – a shrub of the olive plant family. Each of its flowers has four elongated petals. It is named after William Forsyth, an 18th century botanist and horticulturist, who was one of the founders of the RHS – the British Royal Horticulture Society.
If you have visited Prague in spring, you probably noticed the Forsythia shrubs blooming all over the city. It is quite common there in the city’s gardening and landscaping, and in spring it makes the entire city shine in yellow.
The Forsythia is suitable for gardening in Israel’s mountainous regions.
Most of the Narcissi in the Garden have already finished blooming, but this is the time of the Wild Daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus). This is a daffodil with a large and beautiful flower that originates in regions with summer rains in France and Spain. This is why it can also survive in flower beds that are irrigated all year-round (most Mediterranean bulbs rot under summer irrigation). These days it greets us in different corners in the Europe Section.
Under the Spurge shrubs there are wooden boxes, in which local wildflowers have been planted, from which seeds are collected for sale in the Garden and outside. Inter alia you can see the Palestine Catchfly (Silene palaestina) and the Egyptian Catchfly (Silene aegyptiaca) that adorn their boxes in shades of pink, and the less known Palestinian Honeywort
(Cerinthe palaestina), a rare native plant that is covered with a wax-like layer that resembles besswax.
Still in the Europe Section, above the restaurant, you can find the Jerusalem Spurge (Euphorbia hierosolymitana) blooming in greenish-yellow. Even though it looks as if our gardeners have worked hard to shape this shrub, itis actually a native shrub that is naturally shaped. The plant is one of several different species named after the city of Jerusalem.
When was the last time that you experienced spring in California? One of the common genera in the western US is the Ceanothus (California Lilac). There are about 80 different species of Ceanothus in the U.S., which cover slopes and bloom in a variety of violet-blues-white shades. In our Garden you can see the Catalina Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus arboreus). It is a shrub of the Buckthorn plant family, with gentle pale blue – lilac flowers and a pleasant scent. Despite its common name it is not related to the European Lilacs (Syringa from the Olive plant family).
From the America Section we shall go over to the Australia Section: how wonderful it is to be able to experience simultaneously the spring flowering of both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres!
Here, a very special shrub has started to bloom.If we look at the flowers, we can see that these are Acacia flowers that resemble yellow pompons. This is the Clay Wattle (Acacia glaucoptera), a water saving ornamental shrub. Its leaves have decayed and vanished, and instead – the stems are winged and it is they that photosynthetic. The result is eye-catching: a naturally shaped plant, which is impressive when it is not in bloom, but even more so when it is.
In the Asia Section you can find our plant of the month: the Small-fruited Cherry (Prunus microcarpa) in full bloom. It is a shrub with delicate slender branches, and when covered with flowers – it is an absolute pleasure to look at.
We have said that spring is the time for colorful flowering carpets, and if you haven’t seen the glorious blue patches of the Blue Mountain Lupine (Lupinus pilosus) – now is the time! In nature these lupines cover fields and hills, and in our Garden – the Asia Section is now spectacular in its shades of blue!
Next to the lupines in the Asia and Mediterranean sections you can find whitish-pink patches of the Shield Clover (Trifolium clypeatum). This native clover covers patches in semi-shaded areas in the Garden, and in planted JNF forests around Israel.
If we look up from the lupine and clover carpets, we can see the fruit trees of the Rose plant family, glowing with flowers. One of them is the Syrian Pear (Pyrus syriaca), seen in the photograph. The Syrian Pear is one of the wild relatives of the cultivated pear, and is used as rootstock for grafting. In the Garden there are about 15 pear species, as well as almonds, apples, peaches, cherries and hawthorns, all of which are starting to bloom now.
Moving to the Mediterranean Section, we can see the Jerusalem Sage (Salvia hierosolymitana) in bloom. The pink Jerusalem Sage grows on the mountains of the Mediterranean region in Israel, but only in Judea and Jerusalem does it have bight maroon shades. Look for this sage also in the upper North America Section, and in the flower display along the road going up to the parking lot from the restaurant.
By the end of the month, we shall find some lovely surprises in the Mediterranean Section:
Not far from the peony in the Mediterranean Section, also at the end of March, one may see the Iris ‘Mor’. Iris ‘Mor’ is a cultivar produced by the late veteran Iris grower David Shahak from Tirat Zvi. This Iris is a cross between several local Oncocyclus Irises and Iris x germanica, and is exported to flower markets in Europe.
Together with the Blue Sage, at the end of March you can see the queen of the woods: the Wild Peony (Paeonia mascula) in the Mediterranean Section. The Wild Peony is a rare endangered species, whose southernmost distribution range is in the Meiron mountains. Back in the Middle Ages and in Ancient Greece the peony was considered a medicinal plant, and used as medicine for spasms, nightmares, nerve diseases, headaches etc. According to the local belief, the peony can repel evil spirits and prevent the evil eye.
Towards the end of March, the Jerusalem Sage will be joined by the most impressive sage that grow in Israel: the Blue Sage (Salvia indica). This rare sage grows from Mt Hermon and the Golan Heights to the Upper Galilee, Samaria and Judea. It has tall racemes – sometimes reaching heights of up to 1.5 m, with beautiful large blue flowers. You can purchase its seeds in the Garden shop, in autumn.
We shall walk up to the garden’s nursery, and reach the renovated Geophyte Terrace. At the entrance to the terrace we shall find the dense blooming of the Garden Tulip (Tulipa gesneriana). Our Geophyte Terrace was dedicated earlier this month to the late Asa Uzilevsky.
The Geophyte Terrace and the plant-of-the-month corner are full of flowering bulbs from Israel and all over the world. Among them you can see the Cape Cowslip (Lachenalia aloides) with dense orange-maroon flowers. This is a South African geophyte that can be seen in the South Africa Section as well. The Blue-eyed Uintjie (Moraea aristata), which also originates in South Africa, is in bloom. It is a beautiful white flower, with deep blue spots at the base of its three petals.
The Butterfly Amaryllis (Hippeastrum papilio) that originates in Brazil, is also in bloom. There are several Hippeastrum varieties in the display that will bloom later in March.
And we must not forget the local species. Did you know that there is an Allium named after the first Hebrew city? We are referring to the Tel-Aviv Garlic (Allium tel-avivense), whose flowers are a delicate pink color.
We shall end our tour at the flower bed around the classroom in the Garden’s offices area. In this flower bed we planted several rare and unique plants, some of which are currently in bloom. We should like to draw your attention to a tall flower of the cabbage plant family: the Tower Rock Cress (Arabis turrita) with cream colored flowers, and fruit that resemble long ribbons.
Spring is here, and in our Garden you can move between the flowers of the different continents with just few steps. Come and visit the Garden, and see the wonders of spring around us!
Special Thanks to Sheila Rolef for helping with the English translation!