Thursday, December 18, 2008


I have written about my iris, Frequent Violet in the past. It is blooming now and I am amazed at how tall the blooms are! They must be about four feet tall! It may be because this area gets little direct light at this time of year and they are stretching, but of all the iris I have grown in many locations, this has to be the tallest. By the looks of the foliage that is looking rather spent, it must have taken all the plant's energy to reach these heights!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Something is Doing My Dividing Chores for Me

If you closely at this stand of scabiosa (pincushion flower) you will see that a number of the plants have been pulled up by the roots. I have no idea what is foraging around in this garden. Maybe a raccoon or opossum looking for grubs? I know there are rabbits but they normally don't pull thing up nor do the dogs or cats. I guess I should just give up and get busy relocating the little plants to a section of the garden that could use some more plants!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Oak Leaf Poinsettia

My son brought me these lovely poinsettias the other day and it took me a minute to discover what was unique about them.
While most poinsettias have tear-drop shaped leaves and 'petals' (which are actually brackets), these have oak-leaf shaped foliage.
I typically don't bother planting my holiday poinsettias in the garden when the season is over. I don't find them very attractive in their natural state in the garden, but these may just find a home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finally Pleased

Most of the time I have a pretty easy time filling containers with plants to my liking, but I have had a heck of a time getting these two very large pots on my back patio in SJC to live up to my expectations.

I first had two dwarf tangerine trees with nasturtiums around the bottom and that seems fine until the tree died for some unknown reason. I think they were over watered because of the large volume of soil in the pot which seems to retain moisture deep, but looks and feels dry at the surface. Then there were crape myrtles that were lovely while in bloom, but looked horrible when they went dormant.

Finally I decided on the classic Mediterranean look with 'Tiny Towers' cypress and white carpet roses. Not too exciting but at least they look presentable!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


I do love brugmansias, also known as Angel Trumpets, most of the time. I have a number of older ones in the gardens in Laguna and I was quick to put some in the garden when we moved into SJC.

They can be ornery plants at times. They get leggy and sometimes refuse to bloom. They seem to attract a variety of insects at different times of the year and they can be downright messy when they drop their blooms. But when they bloom they are sooooo lovely and fragrant that I forget all of their problems.
These two blooms are on one scraggley plant outside the side door in SJC. I don't know the cultivar, but they are double whites, and I do love them - at least today.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Agave + Messy Tree = Problem

I am by no means an overly neat and tidy gardener. I like my plants to interact but this is one thing that drives me crazy. We have a big Brazilian Pepper tree in the back yard in SJC and they are notoriously messy. Near the very edge of the drip line in another level of the yard altogether is a large stand of yuccas and green agaves that is the cornerstone of a garden bed that I am developing. Those agaves always look like they need a good cleaning, which they get often, but they still always look like the picture above.

I would think that the debris would hold in the moisture and eventually rot the agave but that doesn't seem to be the case. I'm not about to remove the tree and the agaves aren't going anywhere soon, so I guess I had just better start thinking of them as little compost bins. But I will note the lesson learned here. Watch what you plant around some of these messy, messy trees.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A Golden Carpet

This is what the garden in Laguna looks like under the sweet gum trees. Also known as liquidambar they are some of my favorite trees in this garden because they convey the changing of the season so clearly here. I don't even mind their spiky little seed pods because the trees are planted where the pods don't bother anyone when they fall to the ground.

By dropping all their leaves they let the sunlight in during the winter months, then you know it is time for the weather to warm up when you spot the bright green leaves that seem to fill out overnight in the spring. During the summer their full canopy is a welcome shade in this area.

Liquidambars come in different hybrids that result in different leaf color in the fall. Some are red, burgundy and some are yellow. There is one in our SJC neighborhood that must have been grafted because it has all different color fall leaves on the different sections of the tree. I am planning on planting one or more in my SJC garden because I do love them.

Friday, December 5, 2008

From Green to Orange

This is the time of year the citrus trees start to ripen up around here as seen on the orange tree in our SJC garden. I'm not sure but my guess is this is a 'Valencia' orange that is primarily used for juice.

Orange trees require a significant amount of heat to sweeten up, which we don't really have here along the coast. 'Valencia' is one of the few varieties that doesn't require as much heat as long and so it is the one commonly grown in this area. The fruit will be fully ripe in the spring, but can stay on the tree without any deterioration throughout the summer, making it a "pick as needed" type of resource in the garden.

My favorite thing about the tree? That would be the amazingly fragrant blooms in the spring, reason enough to grow this tree that Orange County was named after!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Littlest Fig Tree

This is my latest fig tree. It is a 'Genoa' which is a light colored fig that is supposed to do well in our cool climate. As much as I would love to pick and eat that sweet little fig, I'm hesitant to rob it of its one lonely little fruit. I guess I will just have to wait for next year.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Diamond Frost Without the Frost

I have to give Pam over at Digging a nod for reminding me to mention one of my favorite plants, 'Diamond Frost' euphorbia. Here it is in a garden bed in the Moonlight Garden. It is so wonderfully light and airy that it adds great texture to a garden bed. It is also drought tolerant which we like - a lot!

Here it is in a container mixed in with a spiky yucca.
I love it's versatility too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Rain At Last

After going for about seven months with only about a half-inch of rain, we finally had a few welcome wet days last week. By the looks of this wagon, it was about two or three inches here in SJC. It is enough to calm the fire season down and give the native plants a much needed wake up call so they will start to green-up and bloom.

It is also a good start on the much needed leaching process of the salts that accumulate in the top soils due to the high alkaline water that we get piped in from the Colorado River. The leaves of the avocado trees are particularly sensitive to this condition and they all look terrible with brown tips that reach half way into the leaf.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Chinese Lanterns Are Blooming

Abutilon is one of my favorite shrubs, although I think of it more as a flowering perennial. It lacks much substance as a shrub and is grown mostly for the blooms which hang upside down and have a paper-y texture to them, thus the common name of Chinese Lanterns or Chinese Bellflowers. Another common name is Flowering Maples because of their maple-like leaves.

They are a shade plant here and they are just starting to bloom like crazy, although really they have blooms almost year round. I have a number of white ones in the Moonlight Garden, but I love the wispy pink and coral colored ones the most. They don't seem to be bothered with too many pests, although when stressed they do wilt a bit and are susceptible to white fly. They like good drainage and make excellent container plants.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Purple Potato Vine

A few weeks ago I planted this lovely solanum crispum next to an arbor that grows one of my favorite yellow roses, Graham Thomas. I think they will be a lovely combination once they entwine and fill in the arbor. The solanum is fragrant and evergreen and as you can see here is still blooming well into the fall.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pomegranates For The Birds

Our pomegranate tree (okay, it's more like a very large shrub) is filled with the lovely red fruit every fall and although we love them, we usually don't get around to picking them in time. Eventually they split open and the birds have a feast, which is just fine with us!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

To Cut Iris Back - Or Not

Cutting back the foliage of bearded iris is something that is a matter of personal preference from what I have learned. Some people believe the foliage should be left alone during the winter months and I must admit that is the easiest solution when there are so many other plants that need to be cut back. Then there is the school of thought that cutting back the foliage to three or four inches removes any insects that may be lingering in the thick leaves and eliminates the threat of them boring down into the rhizome.

Although I often leave the foliage alone, this year I thought I would cut it back on many of the new iris to see if it invigorated them for next year. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Azaleas and Roses

This is the time of year when there is a bit of an overlap of the roses that will soon be cut back and the azaleas that are just starting to bloom. Here is one spot where they overlap literally in bloom in the Mediation Garden.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wake Up Little Scilla

Although these scilla peruviana bulbs should be planted three or four inches deeper, they somehow ended up here at the top of the bed and they bloomed last year and it looks like they are coming up just fine this year. Their pretty purple-blue flowers are long lasting and prefer it a bit on the dry side so they are quit happy in this flower bed that is filled with succulents that require less water.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

On the Backside

Getting ready for the upcoming holiday is keeping me pretty busy so I haven't been making my daily rounds of the gardens lately. Yesterday afternoon I had a few free minutes so I grabbed my camera and went out in SJC to see what was blooming. Much to my delight this sweet little combination of flowers was blooming profusely on the backside of Flying Rabbit Island where it was out of view to all but those that took the time to walk around to the back. The daylily, verbena and Copper Canyon daisies were just waiting to surprise the adventurous.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trunk of Violets

This old tree trunk in Laguna had started to rot out and while I was planting some shade plants one day I slipped a small violet into the hole in the top of the wood. It has thrived there for many years quite happily and when it is in bloom in the spring there are few things more charming in the garden (IMHO).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Citrus Leaf Miner Problems

Here is a picture of the new little citrus tree that we planted in the Moonlight Garden. It is a combination of four types of citrus all grafted onto one trunk. It has lemons, limes, oranges, and tangerines and I thought it would be kind of fun.
Unfortunately it has been hit with the citrus leaf miner which is becoming a problem in our area because there are few natural enemies. The citrus leaf miner is a little moth that lays its eggs on the leaves of citrus trees and when they hatch the larvae mines into the leaf and causes distorted foliage. Although it is unsightly it is not fatal to the tree and it only attacks the new, tender foliage. The best course of action is to simply leave it be or remove the effected leaves. I have two other citrus trees and they are more mature and do not show any signs of this problem yet.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Batch of Foxgloves

I cannot resist foxgloves when I see them at the nursery. These were some of the early ones that showed up a couple weeks ago at the local nursery and I had to have them to fill in an empty spot in Palm Alley in SJC. Although they are considered a biannual, I always try to make sure that I buy plants that have a flower bud already started. Too many times I have bought them and they have not bloomed for a few years. They are not really that good about blooming profusely the following years for me, but I am happy to treat them like annuals because they are so pretty.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Garden on a Tabletop

Last week we had a dinner party and for the centerpiece I took a trip to the nursery and the produce department.
Pumpkins, squash, gourds, corn and pomegranates complimented the flowers, fruits and vegetable plants in pots.

Pansies in fall shades tucked in with kale and lettuce filled metal urns. Strawberry plants spill out of clay pots.

Leaves and pods from the gardens and tea light candles in Mideastern tea glasses completed the display.
And the beauty of it all is this week most of it will be planted in the garden, eaten or composted.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Camillia Time

The sasanqua camellias are starting to bloom. I just love camellias because they take over the role of roses in the cooler months and are just as lovely, although not very fragrant. The simple petaled sasanquas start the show in November and will bloom through January or February around here. Then in late winter or early spring the big flamboyant japonicas will come into bloom.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Every Garden Needs A Cat

Here is our cat, Goose, keeping an eye on the garden (more likely the dogs!)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Snow White Cyclamen

One of my favorite things about this time of year is planting cyclamen. I have grown them for years in a shady raised bed in Laguna and it is always a pleasant surprise when they start blooming in the late fall or early winter. This is new group that I put in the Moonlight Garden in SJC a couple weeks ago and their bright snowy white blooms really light up this bed in the dappled shade. I hope they do well here and don't get lost or trampled over the summer.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My Green Agave Factory

This stand of agave attenuata (green agave) is where I propagate these beauties for use throughout the garden. They seem to grow and put off pups at an amazing rate for some reason right here near the driveway in SJC. I have cut off many large ones for relocation through my beds and more and more just keep coming. I love it!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Orange Pyracantha

Pyracantha is so common around here that I never thought I would actually buy and plant one in my garden. I do have six foot walls of red ones along the sides of both of my gardens thanks to previous owners and neighbors so I figured that would suffice to provide the wildlife with the tiny flowers and red berries. But buy one I did and tucked it into a corner in SJC. I bought it because it has beautiful orange berries that will be perfect for fall flower arrangements in the years to come.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pony Tail Palm in Bloom

I have grown Pony Tail Palms before but always as much smaller house plants. This one was a fixture in this garden when we moved in a couple years ago and I kind of take it for granted because the lovely round base of the tree is hidden in a raised planter. Much to my surprise a few weeks ago I noticed that it was blooming. Who knew? I guess it is obvious it would bloom, but I guess I have never seen one mature enough to break into flower (so to speak). I wonder what will happen next?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Really Really Tall Marigolds

If you enlarge this picture by clicking on it and look really close behind the flying rabbit you will see a large stand of tagetes lemmonii or
Copper Canyon Daisy.

This very fragrant plant is a member of the marigold family,
being the tall perennial cousins of the little annuals we normally think of as marigolds. The fragrance is in the foliage and I must admit I'm not that crazy about it but it does seem to deter pests.

This particular plant is over six feet tall,
was planted a year ago and is just coming
into its second bloom of the year.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tight, Drought Tolerant Groundcover

We all know the key to reducing weeds is to keep the soil covered and any ground cover that is prolific and drought tolerant is welcome in my garden. In the lower left of this photo is one of my favorites in that category, elfin thyme. It covers the ground quickly and forms a nice, tight ground cover that holds up to light traffic. (See where I use it between the cracks of the flagstone walkway here.)

This spot in the garden is along the street where there are no sidewalks so anyone getting out of the parked car on the passenger side has a spot to step and the herb will release its fragrance as it is stepped on. It is growing here with lavender and lantana. This area will thrive on very little water now that it is established.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

361 Days Later

The above picture was taken November 2nd, 2007 just days after we finished putting in Flying Rabbit Island where there used to be just lawn. Here are pictures of what it looked like then.

This is what it looks like today. Although the California pepper trees have not grown much in a year, all of the shrubby perennials have filled in nicely. The plants to the right of the picture were recently cleaned up and cut back after a summer of blooms.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Sitting in the Dirt

It's nice to have lots of places to sit in the garden so you can get a change of scenery just by changing seats. The problem is when there is no hardscape to put comfortable benches or chairs on they will rot from having their legs on the damp ground. Since many of the areas in our SJC gardens are still lawns, the only seating was cement benches which are not very comfortable.

Adirondack chairs are one of my favorite kinds of outdoor seating because of the slant of the seat and the wide arms which make tables for drinks unnecessary. I found these ones made of recycled plastic on the internet (what did we ever do without the internet?) and they are perfect for areas where wood would rot quickly. They are very sturdy and solid and actually have a warm feeling that is much more similar to wood than to plastic and they will not rot. I bought two to try them out and then ordered six more because I liked them so much for the grassy areas.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hiding The Hose

For many years my only source of water in my Laguna garden was a spigot on the side of the house, about 50 feet away from the beginning of my garden. I would attach two or three 100 foot hoses together and drag those monsters through the garden trying to get everything watered. Eventually we had automatic sprinklers installed, one of the happiest days of my life!

In the SJC garden there are water spigots everywhere and I consider it a luxury to have a nice, kink free hose at almost everyone of them. The challenge is to make those bright green hoses disappear so they do not draw the eye. Last summer I finally bit the bullet and bought about a half dozen of these copper hose pots (see the bottom right in the photo) when they went on sale at Smith and Hawkins. Now the hose is no longer quite the eyesore it once was, unless someone didn't put it back in its pot!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Fall Color - Someday

In our area of the country fall color in the garden doesn't just happen, you have to plan it. Most of our native plants are evergreen or they go dormant in the summer and wake up in the fall when the rainy season starts. The predominate color of the native landscape this time of year is pretty much brown. It doesn't mean there aren't any yellows, reds and oranges, just not in the native habitat. However there are many plants and trees that do well in our climate that produce spectacular fall colors and it is up to the gardener to incorporate those plants into their yards if they want to see the change of seasons as well as feel them.

In my SJC gardens there are almost no plants that change colors in the fall and it is easy to forget to add them into the plan at other times of the year so I have been working on putting some in recently. One of them is Boston ivy which I have added to a couple of the bare walls on the house and garage. They may not look like much now, but I am hoping by next year they will add the beautiful shades they are known for in the fall.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Light and Bright - White Varigated Bougainvillea

As I've stated before, bougainvillea is one of those plants that some people love and some people don't love, to put it mildly. I love it, but I understand why some gardeners have their reservations about it. Once it is established it is a very tough plant and because of this it is overused along the freeways and in shopping center islands in California. It also has nasty thorns that make pruning a life endangering task. If you have ever tried to remove it, you know that its roots are almost impossible to eliminate and it keeps coming back again and again like an unwelcome house guest.

But there are few plants that offer as much stunning color for months on end with little to no water once established. The colors are brilliant and it comes in reds, pinks, golds and white and many change shades during the growing season.

This picture is one of my newest discoveries that I found last summer while hunting down white flowering plants for the Moonlight Garden. Not only are the flowers a pure white, but the foliage is a green and white variegation. I think it is a lovely way to brighten up the dry corners of the garden. Hopefully I will feel that way for a long time because I dread trying to move it!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Lemon Scented Geranium

Scented geraniums are something I have always used in the gardens. They are very easy to grow, pest free and require only moderate amount of water to thrive.

In the forefront of this picture is my only lemon scented geranium that grows in the drought tolerant street side garden in SJC. I planted it in this location mainly because of the color, a light yellow-green. It makes a nice contrast to the dark green reedy grass clump behind it and the soft bluish green senecio in front of it.

Unfortunately it is not the best location for enjoying its strong lemon scent that is released whenever the leaves are crushed because it is off the path far enough that it doesn't come in contact with anyone or thing to stimulate the scent it releases.

But another good trait is that it is easily propagated and so I am going to take some cuttings and start a few more plants to put in closer to a path that will allow for more interaction with this charming shrubby perennial.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Nandina or Heavenly Bamboo as it is called, has never been one of my favorite plants although it is used quite often in our area. It was in both of my yards when I moved in and I eventually removed it from Laguna because it was always plagued with mildew, probably because it was planted in the shade.

In the SJC garden it is in a planter that is in the sun and doesn't have the mildew problem and if I was not so overwhelmed with the rest of the yards I would have most likely removed it already. But so far it stays and I must admit that the new growth in the bottom picture is kind of pretty and the berries in the top picture will make nice adornments for the holiday arrangements.

I guess it is going to stay after all.