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Olea europa ‘Fruitless Beauty’   FRUITLESS OLIVE   very old trees, West Cliff Drive   parking lot   old garden specimen   newly off-patent, this sterile variety solves the problem of Olive Fruit Fly-infested fruit making a mess of your pavement. It also solves the problem of being able to make your own home cured olives, unfortunately. But if you have lived first hand through the misery of  maggot infested fruit, which is about everybody with an olive tree these days, until they come up with an easy, a really easy solution it is probably the best route for all want an olive tree but aren't a commercial grower. Olives are great ornamental trees, bringing old world charm and ambience to Mediterranean or formal themed gardens and landscapes. Use them for their buttressed trunks, usually moderate size in the landscape, great adaptability to soil and watering schedules, and (now) clean habits. Sun, warm, dry soils, good drainage. They want at least half a day of full sun and can tolerate very tough conditions if they have to. rev 10/2005 

'Swan Hill'  a fruitless variety, producing almost no pollen, which also means little or no allergy. No messy fruit, no sneezing. Therefore a great landscape variety!  Grafted onto Fusarium resistant rootstock. Typical tree size. rev 9/2009

Omphalodes cappadocica   closeup   habit   evergreen perennial related to Myosotis and Brunnera. This is, along with Brunnera, the cleanest, most presentable and persistent member of the Forget-Me-Not family in common cultivation. It is hard to find those wonderful blue flowers on a plant that remains presentable, but this is one of the two that does it. It shows narrow, horizontally spreading, dark green lance shaped leaves to 4" long, often with dark blue purple tones underneath or on the petioles. Clouds of deep sky blue flowers cover the plant in spring, with scattered flowers in summer and fall. It almost always remains presentable all year. Part shade to shade, average to little watering, frost hardy. Asia Minor. Boraginaceae. rev 9/2011

Onion, Egyptian Walking  EGYPTIAN or WALKING ONION   young quarts  you can have chopped green onion for your baked potatoes now, in winter, while the chives are still deciduous, with these very entertaining Alliums! No bulb is formed at the bottom, these topsetters have a cluster of small bulbs on top of the stalk, and sometimes the topsets get topsets too! If not harvested for pickling or salads, the weight of them makes the stalk fall to the ground and they will root, hence the 'walking onion!' Too easy to grow, sun and regular watering. Takes cold, all Sunset zones/USDA 5. Botanically Allium cepa. rev 2/2014-Suzy Brooks 

Onychium japonicum CARROT TOP FERN, CLAW FERN  leafy greens   a durable, very finely divided fern, with deep blue green color shading lighter on the edges of the new fronds. It is tougher than it looks, being rather frost hardy (but deciduous with cold). If you want the Squirrel's Foot Fern look but don't have the protected site, this will do much the same thing. To about 2' tall, spreading slowly and in an orderly fashion. Sunset zones 7-9, 12-24/USDA 8. Polypodiaceae. Eastern and Southeastern Asia. rev 3/2012 

Ophiopogon jaburan   GIANT LIRIOPE   large container   a tough, durable, clumping, grass-like plant related to lilies. The narrow, dark green leaves reach about 30", though plants vary from seed. Lavender-tinted white flowers are borne on stalks that also vary in height, and can be either nestled in foliage or stand just above the leaf tops. Very attractive, shiny dark blue fruit are produced from those flowers, and hold for quite a while before falling. Spreads slo slowly by rhizomes it should be considered as "non-running," so when used as a groundcover either plant close or use it as an accent plant above a tighter, lower plant such as Vinca minor, Star Jasmine, etc. It does very well as a formal container plant as well. Frost hardy to about 20F, then it begins to die. Japan. Liliaceae. rev 11/2014

'Argentovittatus' (vittata)   AZTEC GRASS   nursery plants   white flowers  a lower variegated form of Giant Liriope, this one with wider leaves (to 1/2" across) than the very similar but aggressive Liriope muscari ‘Silver Dragon,’ and with similar shady growing requirements. The major difference is that this is slower, taller (18-24"), flowers are white instead of lavender and as a clumping grower it never becomes "over-enthusiastic," as 'Silver Dragon' (a.k.a. "Aztec Grass") often does. For small spots this is usually desirable, for larger areas plant on closer centers or switch to the running 'Silver Dragon.'. rev 11/2014

japonicus ‘Silver Mist’   a variegated form of Mondo Grass. The leaves appear much more narrow and graceful than the solid green form because of the variegation. Forms compact clumps of shiny, dark green and creamy white leaves to only about 6" high, spreading slowly but surely by short underground stolons. Will take moderately deep shade but grows fine in full sun with occasional to regular watering. A classy, formal looking groundcover, durable enough for commercial "hardscapes" but nice enough for the home garden. Pale lavender flowers and blue fruit are usually nestled down in the leaves. USDA zone 6, Sunset zones 5-9, 14-24. rev 11/2014

'Pam Harper'  compact clump  a real cutey any time of year. This small clumper only grows 6-8" tall and makes a tidy groundcover in containers or softerning the edges of a path. Clean, bright edges on these arching leaves look terrific with rocks, near water features, and in groups. Part sun or shade, regular watering. Sunset zones 8, 9, 14-24/USDA 8. rev 10/2012-Suzy Brooks  

planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’   BLACK MONDO GRASS   amid fall color   ground cover in shade   why you grow it   humble, tiny flowers   a slow clumping evergreen grass-like perennial, to under 12" tall, that spreads slowly and is grown for its narrow  black leaves. Tiny whitish flowers appear intermittently during long days. While this is a very slow plant, it is incredibly tough and always seems to be increasing. It tolerates quite deep shade but always holds its incredible foliage color. In Martha Wiseman's garden in Paradise Park, which is in deep redwood forest habitat just up the river from Santa Cruz, it does extremely well. Marty loves dark-foliaged plants values this as the best black-leaved plant in her garden. Needs at least average drainage and at least some summer watering. It makes a great container plant to accompany other colored foliage subjects too. Frost hardy. Japan. rev 5/2008

Oplismenus hirtellus 'Variegatus'  BASKET GRASS  leaves  a cute little foliage houseplant, container or mixed planting subject, grown for it's soft, luxuriant leaves, green with a white midvein and pinkish or rosy tones as the foliage matures. To only about 12" tall, with noticeable but modest flower spikes produced during short days. Widely distributed, as in found on every continent except Antarctica, also Pacific Islands, also our own Southeast US. A taxonomically confusing species. Not frost hardy, shade or indirect light, water only after at least partial dry-down. Poaceae/Graminae. rev 7/2017 *New for 2017!*

Origanum  OREGANO  ornamental oreganos are slowly spreading semievergreen groundcovers and compact perennials, many with distinctive foliage and some with interesting hop-like flower clusters. All have foliage that smells like spaghetti sauce. All like at least half a day of direct sun, good drainage, and less than constant summer watering. Most are great in containers. Labiatae/Lamiaceae. rev 8/2009

'Amethyst Falls'     mauve flower show    an ornamental oregano with chartreuse bracts and purply pink flowers that droop over the sides of pots, hanging baskets, or walls. About 15" talll, it attracts bees and butterflies to your garden into fall. Tought, drought tolerant, undemanding, very frost hardy (grow them anywhere but the Highest Sierra and real desert), there are so many of these hightly beautiful perennials and they all seem to be overlooked simply because they don't start blooming until about mid-summer, when the peak of foot traffic has fallen off. Sun, at least average to well drained soil. All Sunset zones/USDA 5. rev 7/2013 

'Monterey Bay'  beautiful flowers    beautiful plant   a chance seedling I found coming up among a block of mixed up leftover one gallon plants. It is apparently a hybrid of O. 'Santa Cruz' and O. dictamnus. It has a flower color close to the very blue pink of 'Santa Cruz' but is slightly redder and easier to place in the landscape. The leaf is dusty blue green, slightly greyish, rounded, and very slightly tomentose. It begins to bloom in midsummer like all the rest and continues until the weather is cold and dark. To about 18" tall and 2' or more wide if mature and happy. Sun, at least average drainage, prefers mineral soils. Great in containers, borders, rock walls or rock gardens, or even as a combo element. Sunset zones 5-24/USDA zone 7.  MBN INTRODUCTION-2009  rev 8/2009

'Norton Gold'  bright gold  the best golden foliage of any Oregano. This low clump is a beacon in the garden, plus there are the pink flowers on tall stems attracting bees and butterflies. Nice to dot these around to wake up those green plants. Looks good on a plate as an edible garnish but it is a little too bitter for pure culinary use. Forms a persistent clump, then dies back in cold areas only to come up fresh and new and clean in spring. About 12" tall, twice as wide, flowers to 18-20". Part sun in hot areas, so it doesn't burn, average watering, but little once established. Sunset zones 2-24/USDA 6. rev 3/2012-Suzy Brooks

vulgare ‘Aurea’   GOLDEN MARJORAM   in part shade   rose pink flowers   this is a reliably perennial, compact, excellent alternative to Golden Oregano, without any of that plant's tendency to die out. It forms a mat of light green foliage which becomes suffused with gold during the summer months as long as it receives at least half a day of sunlight. White flowers are rarely seen. Evergreen in mild winters. rev 8/2009

Orostachys iwarenge   wonderful form    Oz flowers   buds   an intriguing and cute little critter, Suzy sez as cute as "a baby bunny or baby turtle." [her words, not mine - Ed.]  Little lavender grey rosettes look like small rose buds.  Those fall flowers come up in little towers that are so unique, and being monocarpic, those rosettes die. But the new little clusters that grew on the thin runners have their turn. It's a wonderful thing. Sun near the coast, part shade inland. Likes well drained soil, little water. Adorable in its own pot up close where it can be admired and combines well with others. Related to Sempervivum. All Sunset zones/USDA 5. Japan. Crassulaceae. rev 6/2011

Orthrosansus laxus   MORNING IRIS   at White Gums Nursery, Australia   a clumping, dark green, grass-like evergreen perennial rhizome to about 16" tall. Small, starry, clear sky blue flowers to about 1" across are set on thin, wiry stalks that rise above the foliage. Flowers only last one day, but are continuously produced for about one month in early spring. Growth habit is compact and upright, and foliage has a slightly grey cast. Full to part sun with good drainage, little summer watering. Very good in containers. Can take frost to around 20°F, going deciduous in the process. Usually evergreen, if it starts looking rough, cut it back to ground level in mid winter. Western Australia. Iridaceae. rev 10/2005

multiflorus   MORNING FLAG   wonderful flowers   blooming at Strybing Arboretum   effective foliage, commercial situation   a thicker, taller, grassier species with lighter blue flowers but a longer display. More adaptable than O. laxus, and presents a rather neat mass of relaxed dark green foliage, but a little coarser and a different color. rev 10/2005

Oscularia deltoides   Huntington   why you grow it   another why you grow it   mission-capable performance   possibly my favorite succulent. I love the powdery jade blue foliage, the purplish stems, the odd leaf shape, the tiny teeth, the wonderfully complimentary flower color and spectacular peak bloom, the ease of culture, and I will think of more later. I had a wonderful cascading "bonsai" of this for a long time, grown in a very tall and very narrow urn-like pot. I recommend it for everything from very tiny to very large containers. It fills in for more naked plants in combos and can be used as a large scale groundcover in areas where frosts don't get to 25F more than every few years. About all it won't do is tolerate foot traffic. Sun to mostly shade, watering you should know what to do, likes at least average drainage. Sunset zones 9, 15-17, 21-24/USDA zone 9. South Africa. rev 8/2012 

Osmanthus fragrans   SWEET OLIVE   closeup of new foliage & flowers   habit   another plant   narrow to somewhat spreading evergreen shrub of slow to moderate growth to 15’ tall and wide. Smooth dark green leaves to 2" wide, 4" long are finely toothed. Tiny cream colored flowers appear intermittently, with heaviest production in late summer. Fragrance is light but intense, like Freesia, Boronia, or Citrus, but like the first two it can't be smelled much at all after one or two sniffs and it is completely undetectable by perhaps a quarter to a third of the population. The natural calling for this plant is to be used next to a doorway or path, where the scent often causes people to turn and notice the garden. Usually they will assign the source of the fragrance to another plant with much showier blossoms. For another great favorite with similar function, see Michelia figo. Sun to mostly shade, tolerates poor drainage and clay soil. Needs average to little summer watering when established. Sunset zones 5-9, 12-24, USDA zone 8. Japan. Oleaceae.

Osmunda regalis v. spectabilis   ROYAL FERN   at UC Berkeley Botanic Garden   a very hardy, completely deciduous woodland fern to about 6' tall, with arching, coarsely divided fronds that have a very elegant appearance. It likes rich, rather moist soil and will even take some standing water as long as it isn't sour. It is at its best in woodsy gardens or in containers that are kept very wet and shady. It needs at least some winter chill and is rated by Sunset for zones 1-9, 14-17. In spite of this, it lives happily at UC Berkeley in their Asian shade garden on a frost-drained slope. We offer a Southern form, which is better adapted to mild winters and hot summers. rev 11/2006 

Osteospermum   OSTEOS, WINTER DAISIES, FREEWAY DAISIES  tough, drought tolerant, showy, improved. Just don't get 'em too cold, or too wet.

    3D series:    Doubleberry White   Double Pink    Double Purple  Double Silver  |     Voltage Yellow

    Flower Power series  Flower Power Compact Bronze   Flower Power Compact White   

    Serenity series:    Bronze   Dark Purple   Deep Yellow   Honey Gold    Lemonade   Peach Magic   Pink Magic   Sunset Magic    White

The amazing new hybrids, coming from what was previously a common, relatively rough, large scale landscape staple, have been recently (relatively!) adapted for smaller scale, more traditional container and small scale spot landscape color application. The range of colors and shapes is now quite broad, and they can put on a stunning show. The interesting thing is I had assumed they would be typically soft, spineless "greenhouse queens," i.e. hybridized selected strictly for compactness and flower shape/color, and that they had lost their tough landscape core values along the way. But Lynn Jackson, a fine and talented local landscape designer and installer, reports that even these new hybrids are on his very short list of plants that can be established in his own new-concept "waterless" gardens, where he installs landscapes without traditional irrigation systems to avoid most of the cost of the installations. He reports even these new hybrid lines can go in with fall plantings and survive at least the cooler coastal conditions with zero applied water the following summer. For all purposes they think they are succulents. Of course all landscapes in inland areas will need summer watering, but perhaps a single monthly or bimonthly watering into a nicely formed watering basin will suffice, something most homeowners and even commercial installations can manage. And remember some years even those cool coastal areas are essentially rainless March through October, or even most of November (like 2008-10 in our area). Therefore they make it back onto my list of plants to be respected as hardscape subjects as well as for short day color. In addition, this same huge tolerance for very low soil moisture levels makes them outstanding container subjects for permanent plantings in tough or hard to water areas as well as normal and easy to water areas. Just remember that they initiate flowers under short days (after about Oct. 1), and after some mild cool temperature, so be prepared to cut back, feed, and perhaps prime with some additional fall watering to really prepare them for their best winter-early summer flowering performance. rev 6/2011         

Otatea  a small genus of New World bamboos, none very common. Central America. Graminae/Poaceae. rev 8/2009

acuminata aztecorum   OTATE, MEXICAN WEEPING BAMBOO   foliage   nice plant   at the Huntington   at Berghuis Nursery, Lindcove   one of the most desirable and highly sought after bamboos, this is a clumping variety, with very narrow, dense, lush, bright green leaves massed on arching stems. To 10’ tall, spreading outward very slowly by short underground runners. Foliage on mature, well grown specimens looks like cheerleader’s pom pons on a skewer. Culms turn blackish in their second year. A very graceful, unusual specimen plant. This plant can look good in full sun in warm, humid situations, but it can also look sparse and unkempt in dry, hot locations unless watered regularly. The best place is probably in part shade, in rich soils, with some regular source of moisture. Survived 20°F with damaged culms. Find more info on bamboo in general here. Mexico. rev 8/2009

glauca  MAYAN SILVER BAMBOO  silvery white stems   banded pattern   greenhouse plants  a wonderful, lush, dense clumping species from Central America that bears fine, deep green foliage on stems to 15', weeping and spreading from the center. The culms emerge a stunning silvery white and age to banded white and burgundy, then to all tan or deep burgundy colors on the oldest stems. This is one seriously pretty plant. The culms reach 1 1/2" across by 20' tall (under the best conditions) and it is a fast grower. The foliage is dimorphic,with large leaflets to almost an inch across by 6-7" long clasping the emerging stem and dense tufts of much finer, smaller mature leaves being borne by the small twigs. The sheath is prominent and retained for about a year. The overall texture is much larger, more robust and more substantial than that of its brother A. acuminatum aztecorum, and the learf color is much darker. This species grows best with rich, moist soils (of course) but will do fine with average conditions and has quite a bit more vigor than its lower, slower, more shade loving brother. The American Bamboo Society reports this species is hardy to 22F and I have found their hardiness figures to be accurate and reliable. This is yet another outstanding plant from the Chiapas region of Mexico. Sunset zones 8-9, 14-24/USDA zone 9. rev 9/2010

Oxalis magellanica 'Nelson'   leaves   a miniature oxalis, under 1" tall, with tiny little leaves to about 1/4" long, and very large, double white flowers. The critical feature is that it runs along the surface but doesn't produce weedy bulblets, so it isn't invasive. It is a dense, clean miniature, and its petite size makes it good for a groundcover in containers, bonsai, between pavers, in garden railroads, rock walls, walkways, etc. It is also very nice in a very small pot, on its own. Bright shade, in fact at least half shade, with regular watering, is best, but the most critical point is it doesn't like continued heat, being a circumpolar plant of the Southern Hemisphere. Sterile. Charles Darwin collected a specimen of this, in Patagonia. Sunset zones 1-6, 14-17, 22, 24/USDA 5. rev 10/2010

Allure Series   all three    nice little mound of colored shamrock leaves. 'Allure Ebony' is black, 'Allure Mahogany' is brownish pink, and 'Allure Silver' is light green. Flowers of pink or white peek through the leaves all summer into fall. Wonderful mixer for combination pots with flowers or foliage about 12" tall and wide. Part shade to full shade inland with average watering. Sunset zones 8, 9, 14-24/USDA 8. rev 4/2013-Suzy Brooks 

'Plum Crazy'  flowers and leaves  don't let the Oxalis reputation scare you away from this one! Bronze, pink, and cream all mixed up in shamrock leaves festooned with yellow flowers. It's a party in a pot! A small charmer under 6" tall and spreading only to 12", just right for containers. Give it part shade or just bright light to keep the colors rich. Regular watering. Protect from cold outside Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24/USDA 8. rev 4/2012-Suzy Brooks 

tetraphylla 'Iron Cross'  lucky!  here's your lucky four leaf clover! Oxalis easy, pretty flowers, and big dark centers in the leaflets. Forms a clump, bigger and better each year, about 8-10" tall. If your soil in soggy in winter, grow it in a pot or lift the little tubers and replant in spring. Sun or part shade, average watering. Sunset zones 7-9, 12-24/USDA 8. rev 4/2014-Suzy Brooks 

tuberosa   OCA, UQA, NEW ZEALAND YAM   eaters    starters    eats shoots and leaves    yet another of the fabulous "lost crops of the Incas," except it was never really misplaced - it just didn't get traction as quickly as it could have. Young leaves and shoots can be eaten as a green vegetable, and the tubers, which form under short days, can be eaten either fresh or as cooked, starchy vegetable. Nutritional value is very high, including vitamins, caretenoids, anthocyaninsand very high levels of carbohydrate content. Plants multiply like rabbits, and yields can be up to 20 tons per acre. Prefers relatively cool-summer conditions, easily tolerates poor soils and cold winters. USDA zone 6-9/Sunset zones 4-24. rev 4/2016

vulcanicola 'Sunset Velvet'     orange, green and yellow   an orange plant! With yellow flowers! Irresistable! Too cute, sporting little clover leaves in shades of orange, lime green, and pink and not a bit invasive. This wonderment is a joy where ever it goes, in hanging baskets, combination plantings, with black mondo grass and  pink Echeverias, sun or part shade, average watering. About 6-8" tall, 12" wide.  Sunset zones 16-24/USDA 9. rev 4/2013-Suzy Brooks 

Ozothamnus  a group of shrubby or more soft-wooded perennials with aromatic, needle-like foliage. Most are used for foliage feature because flowers are quite small, but the budded stems can be quite showy in a few species. Australia, New Zealand. Compositae/Asteraceae. rev 6/2010

coralloides   captivating stems  "one of the most remarkable plants in New Zealand" wrote H.H. Allan in his 1961 Flora of New Zealand. Forms a low, rounded mass of amazing, cord-like stems, each one a slightly chunky cylinder of compressed, almost bead-like, dark blue-green leaves surrounded by a halo of silvery white fuzz.. This almost-alpine is an easy grower for us, and probably for anyone else in a cool, coastal or semi-montane climate. Likes a free root run with deep, intermittent watering in full sun, less exposure in hotter climates. About a foot by a foot, small flowers are creamy yellow, held against the stems, and haven't appeared for us so far. USDA zone 7/Sunset zones 5-7, 14-17. rev 8/2016

diosmifolius  
RICE FLOWER   popcorn flowers   an upright grower, to about 4-6' tall, with mostly vertical stems of dark green needle-like leaves. Small clusters of dark pink buds open to little round white flowers and make a nice flower show in early summer.. Very nice in bouqets for the summer table. Sunset zones 8, 9, 14-24. rev 6/2010

ledifolius   KEROSENE PLANT  young plants   grown for its extremely fine, chartreuse to golden needle-like foliage and regular habit. It gets its name from the sticky, flamable, aromatic leaves. The flowers appear in the summer, when the heat releases a sweet honey fragrance. Compact, dense,  rounded shape, about 3' tall and wide. Choice. Sunset zones 7-9, 14-24 USDA zone 8. rev 6/2010