West Coast Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Do You Know These Plants?

hbm mystery-bush-1

The further adventures of commentors Mary G and Higgs Bosun’s Mate [last week’s installment here]:

Here are two mystery shrubs, which have been here forever. I have no idea what they are and hope some of the expert Balloon Juice commenters can ID them for me. Both have done better this drought year than ever, so we have been overwatering them all along, but they forgave us.

Mystery shrub number one above, followed by a close-up of its flowers; it seems to have both green and purple leaves, with festive, frilly pink flowers:
hbm mystery-flower-closeup

Mystery bush two, with close-up of its flowers, which look a bit like sweet peas and only grow on the very tips of the branches:

hbm mystery-bush--2
hbm mystery-flower-closeup-2

This red trumpet vine belongs to the house one house up from the house that backs onto mine. It travels somewhere between 50-75 feet to grace our tree:
hbm red-trumpet-vine

This alyssum seeded itself by the pool heater from pots a few years ago and keeps itself going. The day before I took this picture I had run over it squeezing past on my mobility scooter and left a big gouge going down the middle, but you’d never know it only one day later. I love the smell of alyssum when it’s hot, or mashed.

hbm volunteer-alyssum

I had thought that the great tomato vine of 2013, which was finally cut down after providing fruit for a full twelve months, from March to March, had obliterated my Chinese maple/abutilon that was planted next to it, but the abutilon survived and is blooming a little, despite the encroachment of jasmine vine from two of the other sides. Somewhere in that mess is also a passionflower that blooms in the fall.
hbm Chinese-maple-slash-abutilon

Things we planted last fall have been flowering, too. I had never been able to get ranunculus tubers going, which is embarrassing because they used to grow acres of them south of here before suburban sprawl took over Carlsbad. You are supposed to plant the tubers in pure sand or very sandy soil, so I had HBM plant them in the soil mix we made for succulents. They came up fine. However, as I said before, we got less than a quarter-inch of rain all winter up until the one storm we got a couple of weeks ago. I had HBM water them constantly, but we didn’t originally have the plates under the pots so they were always too dry. I didn’t even think to feed them, as I was so shocked they were coming up at all. Most of them were scrawny little plants that produced only one or two sad little single flowers. Here is the exception:

hbm ranunculus
Next fall I hope I can start them in small pots in a really sandy soil, and then replant them in their bigger pots with more loamy soil, fertilizer and mulch. If we get at least a little rain, they should look much better and bloom much longer than this year’s crop did.

To be continued on next rock Sunday…

50 replies
  1. 1
    JPL says:

    I’m not much of a gardener but the first bush looks like a type of abelia. Abelia’s have about twenty types of varieties and some get quite large.

  2. 2
    Betty Cracker says:

    The second one looks sort of like a plant we have that the mister calls Mexican Heather.

  3. 3
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Idaknow, but beautiful, all of them.

  4. 4
    becca says:

    The first pic looks like some kind of loropetalum. The second one looks like some kind of broom.

  5. 5
    Violet says:

    The first one could be Chinese fringe. The second one looks like Mexican heather, like Betty said.

  6. 6
    imonlylurking says:

    Mary G and Higgs Bosun’s Mate, you two need your own TV show.

  7. 7
    Mr. Prosser says:

    My allyssum is such a tramp, it hangs out with a strumpet vine.

  8. 8
    aimai says:

    I thought the second one looked like Scotch Broom, which of course is a kind of heather. The sweet pea like flowers at the tips seem very typical.

  9. 9
    desertflower says:

    The second looks like a Texas sage to me…

  10. 10
    scav says:

    @Violet: A different type of Mexican Heather than Cuphea hyssopifoli? All I’ve seen of that is much shorter, darker and has different flowers. Size might be due to my being in IL, but I’m stuck on the flowers.

  11. 11
    Mike in NC says:

    Mystery shrub number one above, followed by a close-up of its flowers; it seems to have both green and purple leaves, with festive, frilly pink flowers

    We have several of these Lorapetalum bushes, recommended by a neighbor. Pretty and hardy, they grow very fast.

  12. 12
    Judy in SD says:

    I have the second one growing in my backyard in a container. It’s common name is Australian Pea Bush. Here is some info taken from the link which follows.

    Although this attractive flower looks as though it may be an Australian native pea it originates from South Africa and is a hybrid between two species (P. opposistifolia x P. myrtifolia). Also called Milkwort Polygala x dalmaisiana the flowers are a brilliant purplish pink with two winged petals around a white purple crest. This evergreen shrub flowers almost all year round in Australia and attracts small birds. It grows well in semi-shade and direct sun, and prefers medium levels of water and can be propagated from cuttings. It is recommended that you prune it regularly to prevent it spreading too far or becoming straggly in appearance.


  13. 13
    Emma says:

    The second one looks like Scotch broom. Look at the second photo here. http://www.paghat.com/broom_lilactime.html. It seems to look a bit like yours, doesn’t it? The first one is, as others have said, a variety of loropetalum.

  14. 14
    Pogonip says:

    Have you sent pictures to the botany department of the nearest college? Or to your county extension?0

  15. 15
    Mary G says:

    Thank you, everybody!

  16. 16
    SectionH says:

    Ist one is Loropetalum chinensis (chinese witchhazel). 2nd is Cuphea hyssopifolia (mexican heather).

    @scav: The ones I’ve seen in North County San Diego look just like Mary’s photo. Mr S used to try to take little volunteers in my aunt’s borders back to Lexington (Zone 6 then, 7 now). They’re not very cold hardy, so if they’re growing in IL, they probably are a bit different looking.

  17. 17
    scav says:

    @SectionH: Good to know for sure about the size, is the Latin name correct? It’s one of my aunt’s favorites, so I should know as much as possible about it in general (my job being a combination of grunt labor and on-line plantipedia).

  18. 18
    JPL says:

    @Mary G: Thank you. your pictures are beautiful and I learn a lot from the chats.

    Because of the recent freezes in the Atlanta area, I have several plants that look awful. I clipped back the brown leaves and hope to see some new growth. I’m not hopeful

  19. 19
  20. 20
    SectionH says:

    @scav: Ha, I was about to post the exact same link to you! (I grew up in St. Louis, and still visit “Shaw’s Garden” whenever we’re back in the area.)

  21. 21
    scav says:

    @SectionH: brilliant! a meeting of minds and links!

  22. 22
    MomSense says:

    I am loving these HBM and MaryG garden chats. You are a brilliant duo!!

    My garden is sadly still beneath what I have named snowrofoam. It is ice and snow mixed with salt, sand and dirt and resembles styrofoam. It doesn’t melt. At least it is sunny today. Hopefully soon some of the bulbs will emerge and bloom.

  23. 23
    🍀 Martin says:

    @SectionH: Yep. Loropetalum and cuphea. We have both in our yard as well. They both do well in sun and part sun. If you pick up frost anywhere in your yard in winter, try to avoid planting these in those areas.

  24. 24
    🍀 Martin says:

    Thanks for the west coast threads AL. Our coastal species aren’t found many other places. Glad we could give MaryG and HBM some good info.

  25. 25
    Elizabeth says:

    That second bush is definitely a pea bush of some type. There are various ones native to the Mediterranean regions, and it’s probably the South African one since it looks neater and prettier than the California native type. It is absolutely not Mexican heather, which has a totally different flowers and leaves.

  26. 26
    Elizabeth says:

    Just want to add that your bush looks pretty exactly like the last plant on a page I’m attempting to link below, which it calls “Polygala fruticosa”. I see them in my neighborhood.

  27. 27
    Mandalay says:

    To identify my unknown plants I take a photo, upload the image, then drag that image to google image search for “visually similar matches”. I have had mixed success…when it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s bad it’s really bad.

  28. 28
    donnah says:

    I found a wonderful app called Garden Compass and there are a lot of functions there. My favorite is the plant ID where you email a photo of your mystery plant and their team of botanists identify it for you and give you info about the care and feeding. It helped me identify a couple of plants I had picked up.

    Depending on their incoming questions, they usually take a few hours to a day or so to respond, but they were right on the money for me. Great app!

  29. 29
    seefleur says:

    From Maine, where we still have snow on the ground, I send you a HUGE THANK YOU for posting the photos. I have been looking at them for the last 10 minutes and envying anyone who has green growing things around. Sigh…

  30. 30
    Jane2 says:

    HBM and Mary G, keep the garden chat coming…love to see the pics and hear about how it’s all looking fabulous and summery. My raised boxes are arriving from Costco on Tuesday…and after that, only what, five weeks to the May long weekend when I can plant with no fear of frost? Until then, I’ll enjoy your space.

  31. 31
    currants says:

    @scav: Yeah, I thought the second one was some type of hyssop–not sure. Flowers, yes, but the leaves look a little more leathery than I’d have expected. Could be SoCal, though.

  32. 32
    Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    I’m fairly new to gardening duties. I just learned recently that you can OVER-water plants. The people at Armstrong’s were very helpful in explaining what I was doing wrong. Now one rose bush is flourishing (9 blooming roses) while the other 2 (more recently planted) are just growing buds. I’m also in SoCal. Beautiful pics!

  33. 33
    Gretchen says:

    I like the ranunculus. I’ve never seen one in person.

  34. 34
    Gindy51 says:

    @Gretchen: Here in IN the wild variety is known as buttercups and is poisonous to cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. They taste bad so most of the time the animals eat one and pass. If a field is over run, they have to be removed before you let your critters graze or else. I don’t plant them anywhere near where my pets can get to them, just in case.
    Our wild ones grow in any soil, clay or sand, loam or rich earth.

  35. 35
    Mary G says:

    @Elizabeth: I agree, I am almost certain that it is Polygala fruticosa. It’s definitely not cuphea, I have seen those around here.

  36. 36
    Svensker says:

    Sigh. We still have some piles of ice/salt/dog poo/snow although it’s warming up finally and stuff is melting. Amazing how much dog poo can be in a pile of city snow. Ugh.

    A friend here swears that she sees some early snowdrops poking their noses out in her garden. I don’t believe her.

  37. 37
    SectionH says:

    @scav: :-D

    @🍀 Martin: We gardened for almost 5 years out near the Wild Animal Park. The area gets even colder and hotter than central Escondido, but at least we didn’t have a problem with cold sink areas. We had good luck with some California native plants, not so good results with others. Now we’ve traded that in for a north-facing balcony and west-facing window near downtown San Diego. Container gardening with a lot of challenges.

    (Sorry, late post again. We just got back in from an errand. Now off to the Farmers’ Market.)

  38. 38
    Bill D. says:

    @Emma: The second one is in the pea family but it’s definitely not scotch broom- the leaves and branching pattern don’t match. Also, Scotch broom has yellow flowers. The plant you linked is a hybrid with some other species of broom so it isn’t really Scotch broom per se.

  39. 39
    Betsy says:

    I don’t think that third plant is trumpet vine. At least, it is not Campsis radicans. It might be called trumpet vine locally and be some other plant, but it isn’t Campsis radicans, trumpet creeper. Superficial resemblance of flower but leaves seem quite different.

  40. 40
    scav says:

    @Betsy: Does look like there are a variety of similar Campsis being marketed as Trumpet vines. The joy of common names strikes again!

  41. 41
    🍀 Martin says:

    @SectionH: We’re coastal but with a set of hills (1000′ give or take) between us and the coast. We’ll get the slightest touch of frost some winters, just enough for the apple tree to do its thing. Summers aren’t very hot, nice breezes here. Depending on where you plant things, you can grow almost everything. My neighbor has nothing but tropicals. It looks like Hawaii over there (they’re from the Philippines by way of Hawaii). We’ve got roses, apple tree, but also a lot of native plants and lemon, grapefruit, etc. We’ve mostly got a southern and eastern exposure here. There’s a bit of north and we’ve got a whole other gardening thing going there, as it only gets a little bit of sun at the end of the day. We grow a lot of plants for the hummingbirds and the butterflies and its paying off. The yard is getting more active.

  42. 42
    🍀 Martin says:

    Very happy with the F1 outcome. Very happy with BPL outcome so far. Trim painting again. Evicted a pair of finches building a nest on our porch as we’re going to have the house painted before their babies would be able to fledge. Convinced the boy to do our taxes so he learns this shit. He’s lost a little faith in government in the process, however.

  43. 43
    MikeJ says:

    @🍀 Martin: Could not believe that Hamilton held his teammate off. Thought he was gone for sure when the safety came out.

    Still 11 points to get back, but that’s incredible considering he’s fighting back from being 25 down.

  44. 44
    Achrachno says:

    The mysteries are, as various people noted: Loropetalum chinensis and Polygala. Exactly which Polygala is hard to tell from photos but P. fruticosa and P. X damaisiana (a hybrid cultivar) are good guesses.

  45. 45
    Amir Khalid says:

    @🍀 Martin:
    The referee made one bad call to let West Ham’s goal stand, and an iffy call to give Liverpool that second penalty. But it takes my team three points closer to the title, so I’ll happily take it. The next match is a likely title decider at home to Manchester City, two days before the 25th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster — always an emotionally fraught time of year for Liverpool.

  46. 46
    MazeDancer says:


    Ist one is Loropetalum chinensis (chinese witchhazel).

    Thank you for adding that common name, because when looking at the picture I thought, gee, that looks like short, pink witchazel in a bush. The yellowy tree version – the only kind I ever saw – is the only thing in bloom right now in the chilly part of NE where I am.

  47. 47
    Jennifer says:

    First one is definitely a Chinese fringe flower. I see these planted all over Little Rock and there are a lot of different cultivars – some with completely dark purple foliage. They come in lots of sizes.

  48. 48
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Mike in NC: Aha, Wikipedia says Lorapetalum is a ‘close relative’ of witch hazel! Those flowers looked like witch hazel to me, as did their early blooming, but I’d only ever seen witch hazel in yellow or cream.

  49. 49
    Ivy Vann says:

    The second one looks like a plant that is known in the northeast as ‘false indigo’. I think its proper name is baptisia — it comes in several cultivars. My favorite is a medium blue.

  50. 50
    HelloRochester says:

    Baptisia for sure.

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