Today's vase unexpectedly became a celebration of a couple of the more exotic plants that make winter beautiful in the desert garden.
First comes Hamelia patens, known as Firebush for its autumn color.
I planted Hamelia patens late last year, having read that it supplies bright flowers through summer, besides berries and reliably colored foliage through fall and early winter. As a matter of fact, it has done all that quite well this year, despite finding summer a little difficult. (It was, without exception, the most demanding plant with regard to watering this last, very dry summer.)
I am now enjoying the beautiful mix of green and deep burgundy in the leaves...
...as well as some bright berries. The foliage will not look particularly bright to eyes accustomed to frosted reds and yellows, but it is a respectable showing for a warm winter plant! The berries, for their part, are a little more ephemeral than the cold winter berries I normally think of, but their color is unimpeachably vibrant!
The next plant is Euphorbia tirucalli "Firesticks". This is unmistakeably exotic, being a succulent native of African drylands. The orange coloration develops with cooler weather; the plant is mostly green during summer. A note on the name: I believe there is no difference (other than name length) between "Firesticks" and "Sticks on Fire"; as my plant was labelled with the former name, that is what I usually use, just in case... Can anyone tell me whether there should be a distiction? Or is it just more convenient to print "Firesticks" on a label?!
Most curious of all, is this a fruit on the tip of a stem? I certainly never noticed the bush with any flowers!
The other element in the vase is lavender - not so exotic, but the most abundantly blooming plant in the garden at present. This is the faithful L. x "Goodwin's Creek Gray".
I slipped today's selection into a vase I rarely use. I considered it a complete failure, but my sister convinced me to keep it. It was handthrown, then covered with a glaze I was testing. Then I destroyed the test by overfiring slightly. The glaze came out with craters, indicating it had heated to boiling point when the kiln shut off and temperature dropped quickly. It makes for an interesting texture, but it was not at all what I was after! However, the slender shape works well for long stems.
I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas! Thinking that next Monday's vase will be the first for 2017 is a little intimidating, to say the least!
Thanks to Cathy, as always, for hosting so many lovely Monday Vases at Rambling in the Garden!
Weather Diary: Fair; High: 60 F (16 C)/Low: 37 F (3 C); Humidity: 29%-94%
Annette (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 02:49)
Dear Amy, this is truly a delightful and exotic vase. I especially love the "stick insect", too cute! I'd never have thought it's an Euphorbia but then it doesn't surprise me as the genus is so varied. Thanks for your lovely christmas greetings. Hope you've had a good one too. I wish you a happy and healthy new year and look forward to more postings from the desert. Best wishes, Annette
Cathy (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 04:06)
What an amazingly structural plant that Firesticks is and yes, surely that must be a fruit (not that I know anything about it) after that wisp of a thing that must have been the flower! The subtle colours of the hamelia work so well with it and the lavender prevents the vase from looking autumnal. I really like this simple understated vase Amy - thanks for sharing
Cathy (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 07:31)
It is lovely to see something a little exotic and so pretty too. I love all sorts of Euphorbia. That bud/berry is intriguing. And the Hamelia has lovely foliage - the sort that makes you want to touch it! (By the way, I rather like that vase - a lovely shape and dark glaze.) Enjoy the rest of the holidays Amy!
Hollis (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 09:47)
Thanks for including firesticks. I'm not familiar with it but I know the genus Euphorbia--so diverse and with a really interesting flower situation. The "fruit" is the female flower, which is just a pistil. It's on its way to becoming a fruit. Several male "flowers" are at the base--each just a single stamen (I think I saw one when I zoomed in on the second firesticks photo--tiny anthers). Also there are tiny nectaries at the base, which sometimes have bracts that look like petals. Here's a good diagram and explanation: http://www.life.illinois.edu/help/digitalflowers/Euphorbiaceae/8.htm If you want to geek out ;-) the assemblage of male and female flowers is called a cyathium.
Kris P (Tuesday, 27 December 2016 13:20)
I love that you included the Euphorbia. Did you sear the stem or otherwise treat it to keep its sap from seeping? I think 'Sticks on Fire' is the usual cultivar name for the red form of Euphorbia tirucalli and "firesticks" is just a common name.
Diana Studer (Tuesday, 27 December 2016)
I will look at mine more carefully
but I did find pictures of TINY flowers here
Comes from Mocambique, so it is also exotic to me.
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 01:44)
I'm so pleased you enjoyed it, dear Annette! The Euphorbias would seem to be such a good choice here, but I find only two or three readily available from local garden centers. At any rate, this "Firesticks" is certainly a favorite here and well deserves it! Wishing you a wonderful new year :)
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:19)
Cathy@Rambling in the Garden - So glad you like this rather simple one :) The Euphorbia is at its best right now: wonderfully structural and a handsome size for the border too.
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:28)
Cathy@Words and Herbs - I need to get back to experimenting with that glaze; I put it aside while working on other projects... but it deserves another good test. The Hamelia has been such an attractive plant, other than continually wilting this past summer! I'm in hopes it will do better now it is established, and the foliage is really just as lovely in most other seasons too, with a nice gloss to its summer green. I hope you have a wonderful New Year's :)
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:36)
Hollis - A big thank you for all the information - you know I do like to geek out on things like this ;-) I did go out and take a much closer look at the plant; and, yes, it is in bloom and I could recognize most of the various elements from the diagram. Without a close look and your information, I would never have known the plant was doing anything as the coloration and textures of most parts are so similar.
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:47)
Kris - I used a lighter to sear the cut end. I even tried to sear the cut on the plant (with no idea whether that was a good idea or not), but the wind prevented my efforts from having much effect. With the end seared, the Euphorbia has worked very well in the vase, sadly not true of the Hamelia, which wilted down too early. I suspect it needs the boiled water treatment for best results! Thanks for the input on the names; it turns out we are right ;-) I just thought to check the San Marcos Growers site, and they list "Firesticks" and "Rosea" as synonyms.
Amy@smallsunnygarden (Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:52)
Thanks for the input, Diana! Yes, they are indeed flowers, and a closer inspection of the plant showed it is in "full bloom"! Curiously, despite its normal range, this particular version of E. tirucalli apparently arrived here in the US from South Africa: http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/gary-hammer-a-tribute/ I'm getting a lot of extra research out of this post - fun ;-)