Friday, May 27, 2016

A Look at the Moonlight Garden

 It takes a long time to establish a garden. I have been working on mine in SJC for about nine years and although they have looked lovely on and off, they are finally starting to mature enough to come into their own I think. Shrubs are filling out and plants that work and thrive in different spots are settled in nicely. Every year I add to the bare spots, trying to find something that works in difficult spaces. Some things die and some things I just yank out after admitting defeat. This is especially true in the Moonlight Garden. Although the white blooms are the highlight, it is the variety and depth of the shades of green and foliage textures that I think make this a lovely place to spend time.

 Although they aren't what you would think of as drought tolerant, and they certainly had bad days during the past year, this giant ligularia are quite content in this cool damp spot where the yard drains.

 It didn't take too much rain to encourage the Australian daisy groundcover to perk up and spread. Pelargonium geraniums are rather pedestrian around here, but I especially love the white ones along with the Marguerite daisies. They add a bit of sparkle to the garden.

 I don't think a garden is complete without some vines for vertical interest and these bower vines do the trick with their easy disposition and charming trumpet flowers.

 Oak leaf hydrangea is another plant that surprises me with its ability to adapt to our dry conditions. It grows large and healthy with little to no care other than deadheading after a few months of beautiful blooms.

 It is hard to keep the all-white theme when it means removing blooms that have changed color a little due to micro climates. Some all white flowers revert to a soft shade of pink and others like this daylily turn a soft yellow. If I was a perfectionist I would remove them, but I find perfection a bit boring.

 I really need to mulch some of this little areas with gravel I try to encourage the use of groundcovers to fill in but they don't always take to every spot and wood mulch breaks down so fast. You can see by the dainty little weeds that something is definitely needed here other than monthly manual labor!
 Variegated foliage is an easy what to add white shades to the garden.

 I add a lot of silver leafed plants to add another color to the foliage palette.

 True white daylilies are a little like unicorns. They exist only with a bit of imagination!
 There is a lot of additional vertical interest in this garden with the existing queen palm trees, the Italian cypress we added and some sculptural plants.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Some Vegetables, Ollas, and Flowers

 It has been a crazy busy spring around out house, so I haven't done much blogging. I have been busy in the gardens. 


 Once again the fresh food from the garden bug has got me and although my dream is to try once again to create a big beautiful kitchen garden, it is just going to have to wait. Summer is just around the corner and I try to wind down my projects and focus on relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labors in the summer. I always have some vegetables growing here and there and the fruit trees just carry on all summer without too much attention so I can't complain too much. I got some onions in the ground finally, better late then never!

 Thanks to my sister I have quite a few tomato plants this year. I planted some in pots outside the kitchen, but about a dozen went into an empty raised bed. I added ollas to see how they worked. Ollas (pronounced “oy-yahs”) are unglazed clay/terra-cotta pots with a bottle or tapered shape that are buried in the ground with the top/neck exposed above ground that are filled with water for underground irrigation.

We couldn't find any large ones so we went with a bunch of smaller ones. Usually tomato plants require a lot of water, although with our gloomy weather I guess I should be more worried about mildew than wilting! The tomatoes are bred to handle the May Gray and June Gloom we typically get this type of year so we'll see how they do. So far so good.


 I also put in some squash mainly because the rabbits leave them alone. I think the trick to enjoying squash is to plant a number of plants and harvest them when they are small and tender. Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows they can grow to scary proportions overnight! A bowl of tiny squash with grated cheese is a meal for me. I haven't tried frying the flowers, but who knows?

 The rest of the garden is looking especially nice this year (mostly) due to the rain that we have had. It's not enough to say the drought is over, but my garden is certainly basking in the bit of extra percipitation.


Monday, April 4, 2016

Signs of Life

 It has been a lovely spring for surprises in the gardens. Plants that were sleeping for months if not years have suddenly been replenished with the rain this winter (and I understand more is in the forecast). One example is this variegated acanthus I thought I had lost. You either love acanthus or not so much, but they are survivors in dry shade and a rich dark green, classical leaf and most of the time and I kind of love them! I planted this about a year ago and it faded fast in the dry summer, but looks revitatlized now. Let's see how it fares this summer.

Ajuga is one of my favorite groundcovers with lovely purple blooms low to the ground. Most of it disappeared over the past year, but I'm counting on this little patch that has hung on to grow again and refill the path edges.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

White Blooms

 Spring is a lovely time of year in the Moonlight Garden. With so many white blooming plants in addition to the variations of green foliage, everything kind of sparkles. And yes, those are blue blooms on the rosemary, but I am obviously not a perfectionist!

 The rice flower shrub blooms for months and is kind of huge. It definitely makes a statement and makes up for the bare spot nearby where a white flowered blue hybiscus died suddenly for no apparent reason last year, left a large empy space.

 I do have to replenish the annuals and small perennials in this area a few times a year due to the hungry bunny population that considers this a smorgasbord. 

 The white camellias and azaleas are just starting to wrap up their bloom season.

 Cistus or rock rose is a reliable California native that I should remember to plant more of in the near future.

 I am so happy that the ornamental grasses are coming back after their seasonal cut back that leaves them looking less-than-lovely for a few months. They add movement to the garden that can easily get too stiff.

It is important to me that there is a lot of visual interest, scents, sounds and textures in my gardens and I think this garden covers all those requirements quite nicely this time of year!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Preparing for Easter

Clivia
 Easter is a big day in the gardens. We have been having an Easter Egg Hunt for as long as I've had a garden to hide eggs in and one of my favorite things is watching the gardens filled with kids hunting over, under and around all the beautiful plants. Throughout the years there are typically anywhere from five to ten little ones doing the hunting and the older kids do the hiding. It started in my Laguna gardens and then moved to the back yard in SJC and now we do it in the Moonlight Garden where the adults can see the fun from the seating area.

Indian Hawthorn
 Because Easter is early this year, the gardens will be in their Spring peak I'm hoping. The scents of flowers is heady and the early spring blooms are really prolific this year.

Wisteria

 I'm hoping the climbing roses and wisteria hang on for another week, although they have been blooming for weeks already.

Heliotrope
 One of the most fragrant plants in the Moonlight Garden is the white heliotrope. I planted a number of plants years ago and they just thrive and bloom all year round. They are rather easy to overlook, until you catch a whiff of the cherry pie scent!

Azalea
The camellias and azaleas are almost done with their show, but the roses starting to open, so it will definitely be a lovely day for everyone!

'Evelyn' rose

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Sun and Shade

 Here is another view of the white climbing roses from the last post showing just how beautiful and full they are during March facing the early morning sun! I don't even think they get fertilized!


I have been struggling with trying to fill in this bed under the fast growing California peppers trees.  The trees prefer not too much water or they get root rot, so shade and dry loving perennials were my only choices. There is some late day sun that creeps into one side of the bed in the afternoon which evidently is enough to sustain the purple lantana, the tagetes lemmonii and an 'Easter Basket' rose bush. The plants facing the other way have to be shade lovers or, like the daylilies from years ago that linger there, they may hang on, but never bloom.


My garden helper does not really pay any attention to sun and shade requirements and propagates plants all the time and puts them in where ever they are needed like these Margarete daisies. They need full sun, but seem to be blooming like crazy in this dappled shade. Years ago this bed was filled with beautiful calla lilies that I thought disappeared during the last few dry years, but it looks like they are making an appearance again after staying on the low down until the rains came back. What do I know?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Spring Awakenings

Green Agave
 With this rain we've been having has also come some crazy weather. A couple weeks ago he actually had hail, thunder and lightening, an event that takes place rarely around here. It has happened once before while we have lived in SJC with the same results - damage to the green agaves in the form of pits. It will take a few years for it to completely disappear.

Rice Flower

 I have forgotten how many wonderful spring blooming shrubs I have like this rice flower plant in the Moonlight Garden. I have to confess that I have been to a number of nurseries in the past few weeks and have left with nothing in my car. I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at what needs to be added or replaced in the gardens. I finally decided I have to get busy before I am too crazy busy with other projects in my life to focus on the gardens so I did load up the car last week with a few basics that I can always tuck in somewhere.

Milkweed

 Milkweed is a must to keep the monarch butterflies happy. They struggle through after being decimated by the caterpillars every year, but a few more never hurts.


Right now the scents from the gardens at sunset are amazing and this combination of pink jasmine and Indian hawthorn are partly responsible along with the citrus blooms. Makes me giddy!



The white roses (rosa spinosissima) and wisteria are waking up in the front driveway. I was afraid the hail would ruin the blooms, but there were enough new ones opening up that they took it all without missing a beat. Even though the roses only bloom for about one month out of the year, I couldn't ask for a more prolific rose with no disease or bug problems.


The wisteria here is about a month behind the wisteria in Laguna, probably due to different micro-climates because they are the same hybrid.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Finally!

 Finally! After some unexpected rain yesterday I got out and wandered through the gardens and to my delight, there is a collective sigh of relief from all the foliage! Even the drought tolerant plants were getting really tired of having to be so tolerant of years of no significant, deep soaking rain and were showing signs of stress and lethargy.
 
 But finally there is a bout of growth spurred by the weekly rain we have been having and upcoming spring weather that can't be denied. Even the groundcovers that were the first to give up due to the dry weather have started to reappear.

 Shrubs that I planted years ago that never showed much growth are starting to take off - finally!

 I have planted so many perennials that just kind of dwindled away even though they supposedly tolerated dry conditions that are now bursting with life. 

This is how I think of early spring, flush with new growth and lush, deep colors of green! Finally!