This material is intended for two primary audiences. First, I hope to introduce some of the less commonly cultivated plants that nevertheless are easy to grow in the Bay Area to a wider group of people than is currently aware of them. Second, for those who have a specific plant in mind but may only want to see what it might look like before trying to grow it, I'd like to make available some of the slides I've accumulated over the years. As time permits, I hope to expand the offerings here, and perhaps change them from time to time.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND:
This whole business started out as a personal obsession at an early age with unusual plants. My first interest was in epiphytes ('air plants') and began during travels in the tropics where you see such bizarre (for most Temperate Zone dwellers) sights as bromeliads growing on concrete buildings and even on telephone wires. Over the years, I've become interested in many other goups of plants as well.
Many of the pictures presented here were taken of my own plants. Lots of others were taken of plants that belong to other collectors, in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere, or in the wild.
This site is in what the Sunset Western Garden Book refers to as Zone 17. It's characterized by mild temperatures, winter rainfall, and generally high humidity. While rainfall in the summer is rare, fog and overcast are quite common. Broadly, it is a "Mediterranean" climate, which is enjoyed by roughly 5 areas of the world: here, the California coastal area; the Chilean northern coastal section; western Australia; western South Africa; and of course the eponymous region of southern Europe and northern Africa. Probably the most significant distinguishing feature of Zone 17 in terms of the other Mediterranean areas is that temperature excursions are extremely limited. This means that many of the plants that thrive in other winter rainfall areas may not be too happy here, due to the comparatively warm winters and/or the comparatively cool summers. For example, I have a lot of trouble with many tulip species and hybrids: they just don't get enough cold here during the winter. At the other pole, subtropicals that expect hot summers may sulk or decline also. But the high humidity makes ferns and begonias, for instance, volunteer with reckless abandon.
An unheated greenhouse or 'cold frame' greatly extends the range of plants that can be accomodated. It helps to keep the very light frosts that are common here off the more tender plants, and keeps them from getting too waterlogged during the sometimes very heavy winter rains. It also provides enough heat accumulation during the cool summers to help out things that otherwise would tend to struggle here.
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