Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Ruffly Roses

I love big, full, ruffly roses
and the gardens are full
of them this time of year!
Aren't they gorgeous?

More Cool Whites for Hot Days

The past few days continue to be hot here so the cool white garden is where I have been spending time. Here are a few more close-ups of some of the flowers that are in bloom right now in that garden.




I have forgotten what this little shrub is called,
but I love it and will have to track down the name.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Paul Ecke Florabunda Rose

I added this rose last fall and it is just starting to bloom. It is named after the "Father" of the modern day holiday poinsettia plants. It is a brilliant deep red with tinges of burgundy and dark green foliage.

Shades of White In The Moonlight Garden

The front yard in San Juan is to be my Moonlight Garden with all white flowering plants. Other colors do try to sneak in and occasionally I am charmed by them enough to let them stay a while, but I do try to be diligent. I've tried to create this kind of a garden before, but I could never be disciplined enough to follow through. We'll see this time.

We are in the process of removing long hedges of pink Indian Hawthorne to make room for the wide borders.

There are a few small beds in this garden that I started last spring that are looking quite good right now, of course filled with white flowers and variegated foliage.

Pelargoniums (Geraniums)

Brunnera macrophylla "Jack Frost"
(Okay, maybe an occasional tiny bit of blue... )

Lamiastrum (dead nettle),
miscanthus sinensis (Silver Grass),
and white heliotrope

The lamiastrum, heliotrope brunnera all prefer shade and the miscanthus can tolerate shade.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Plump, Round, Ripe Artichokes

There are always artichokes growing in the garden. These are growing in the Flying Rabbit Island bed and they are at least 8 inches in diameter and ready to pick. They were planted last fall from a one gallon pot, are globe artichokes and they are almost as big as the 24" box pepper trees they are next to in the garden.

We include artichokes in the elementary school garden for a number of reasons:
  • They are way easy to grow
  • They provide five or six vegetables per plant
  • They are fun to eat and talk about
  • They harvest before school is out
  • Even though a hungry rabbit (our biggest problem in the kids' garden) will still eat the course, prickly leaves, they grow faster than the bunnies can eat them, therefor they survive!
I also have one growing in the front yard that was planted last spring, but it hasn't grown one iota since it was planted - go figure.

If I am guilty of anything when it comes to these guys, it is leaving them on the plant way too long. I enjoy seeing them in the garden and I miss them when they have been harvested. They will send up a second harvest in the summer, but the chokes are much smaller.

If you look closely in my "Mauvelous" posting, you can see the greenish-purple of the chokes growing in the Laguna garden.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

New Roses In The Garden

I have won awards at amateur rose contests with this beauty called Miami Moon. I had one in Flying Rabbit Island and when a spot opened up next to it I planted another one. I love the ruffles and the peachy-pink color is lovely. It is on the smaller side as far as the overall dimensions of the bush goes. I like to plant more than one of each rose bush so I can have very large bouquets of all the same roses.
This has to be one of my very favorite roses because I have so many of them and I just keep planting another and another. It is Graham Thomas and it grows very tall here in Southern California. I actually use it on arbors occasionally.
This is the Disneyland Rose. It is a fairly small floribunda bush with tons of beautiful blooms that range in color from orange to pink and all colors of the sunset in between! I have just added five new bushes in the San Juan Capistrano Garden. I have about five bushes in Laguna and they seem to be very disease and pest free as well as abundant bloomers.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Costco Beauties

This was the first fall at our home in San Juan Capistrano and during the frantic fall planting I put in dozens of spring bulbs that I purchased at Costco.

My garden in Laguna has naturalized what are now hundreds of daffodils and snowdrops that put on quite a show every year. I wish I was more organized and ordered bulbs from the lovely catalogs I receive every year... maybe next year.

The new bulbs actually went in fairly late, but no worries, they still performed with enthusiastic vigor!

Here they are planted with nemesia, thyme and Mexican feather grass.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Meet Beverly

I have a neighbor who has a very charming and drought tolerant garden that I love. There are lavender and rosemary bushes and olive and pomegranate trees throughout the front yard. But my favorite element in the garden are her dark purple iris that bloom from spring to fall, I swear!

She told me they are called Frequent Violet and she got them at a local nursery. I have looked everywhere for them and they were nowhere to be found. After searching for about nine months I happened upon some at a garden show this week. I bought five one-gallon containers of them, much to my delight.

I also was smitten with this lovely peachy pink iris called Beverly Sills and it came home with me too!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


The garden in Laguna Beach is in its full glory this week. This photo is from the center bed. It is all done in shades of mauve flowers and bluish-gray foliage.

Included in the bed is Angel Face rose (one of my favorites), Hazel Spanish lavender, salvia and I believe that is Breakers iris.

Pillow Fight Rose

A 48" standard rose "tree" of Pillow Fight. It has beautiful blooms all summer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

There's Room In The Garden For Everything

For some reason my husband (who is not a gardener, but does appreciate gardens) always talked about putting dinosaurs in our garden. I didn't worry much about it because after all, where would he get a dinosaur?

Well, he had them made. Life-size ones. Four of them, by an amazing artist I have mentioned before named David Wolf. This is Dolores the Stegosaurus grazing in the garden.

This Week's Most Charming Spot

One of my favorite things about gardening is the ever changing scenarios. I love to just turn around or look up and see something that is new or different that wasn't there yesterday and probably won't be there next week, but for today it is just as perfect as it can get.

This setting is next to the garage in Laguna and the rose is one of my favorite climbers named Colette. I originally had a few of them in the lower garden where they were a lovely shade of peachy-pink, like the inside of a sea shell. They are very full, but have smaller blossoms, but not as small as Lady Banks or Cecila Brunner. In this spot they are definitely more pink than peach, maybe because they get less light.

The shy little angel captured my heart and when I brought it home I put it on the corner of the little retaining wall next to the steps and it never got moved, so there it is today.

In about two or three weeks all the jasmine on the wall will be in full bloom for a couple of wonderfully fragrant months.

I completely redid my front garden about eight years ago after going on a garden tour. One of the gardens was surrounding a small townhouse and comprised of very tall pittosporum Silver Sheens and peachy colored roses with a few white flowers for accents. I fell in love with the look and thought how peaceful and lovely it would be to come home to that setting every evening. I proceeded to cut down trees and rip out reliable but boring plants in my small front garden and planted my "dream garden".

It has evolved as gardens do, but it is still dreamy for me.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Flying Rabbit Island

This beautiful flying rabbit is the first piece of fine art we have put in the garden in San Juan Capistrano. It is by an artist we discovered in Santa Fe, New Mexico by the name of Jeremy Cherry.

I created the planting island in the middle of the rather boring back lawn for a number of reasons. One, so the flying rabbit would have a predominate home outside the living room doors. Secondly, to eliminate some of the thirsty lawn. Thirdly, because there need to be some places for kids to run around and hide and this yard was just a big, open space with no fun obsticales. Fourthly, I needed more beds for flowers.

The ferny looking bushes are actually California pepper trees (there are three) that will eventually create a huge canopy over the entire back yard, providing lovely shade, and a place for my husband to put his tree house.

To the left of the rabbit is what looks like a large leafy bush is an artichoke plant. A month later it is twice as big with about a dozen artichokes. Apparently it is very happy there.

How I Learned to Love Clivia

In March the Clivia start to bloom in Laguna.

There were lush beds of bright orange ones near the front door that were there when we moved into the house. I was actually somewhat horrified the first year they bloomed because shocking orange was just not in my color scheme for the front garden. But after the first couple years I had to admit that they won me over if with nothing else, their exuberance alone. The year 1994 was a particularly dreary winter and I couldn't wait for the bright, bold display with which they heralded spring.

My solution to the clashing orange with my soft pastels in the otherwise peaceful front garden? While the clivias were in bloom I snipped off all the other flowers in the yard and added pots and pots of beautiful, bright, bold purple and blue delphiniums.

It may have seemed anti-climatic when the clivias were finished, but all those flowers that had been suppressed for a month went crazy with blooms as soon as I let them and took over the show.

After I learned to love clivias I put yellow ones in along the east entrance to the lower garden and they never fail to brighten up the shady area that is difficult to grow much color.

Music in the Garden

A rich, abundant garden fills all the senses. Obviously sight, smell, taste and even touch are easy to capture in the landscape. But what about sound? The music in a garden is the sound of birds.

There are a number of birdhouses of all sorts in the Laguna garden. It is that kind of a garden, easy to accommodate whimsical homes for wildlife, of which there are many.

I can't tell you how many hours we have sat in the garden just watching and listening to the birds. Especially in the spring when the bird houses are all full of babies.

This particularly lovely nesting box was a special present from my friend, Tracy. The ivy just naturally embraced, as ivy does.

Oh! Iris!

I would never be able to choose a favorite flower, but surely iris are in my top five!

I grow dozens of varieties, mainly blues and purples. I order most of them from catalogs which is a daunting task since they are all so beautiful. One year I just went through and picked all the blue ones that had names starting with the letter "A". I had planned on doing the "B's" the next year, but somehow got sidetracked.

Iris start blooming fairly early here, soon after the narcissus are done. I remember early one spring I was spending a tiring morning hauling down bags of amendments, yanking hoses around, swatting bugs and I honestly began to wonder why I was doing all this hard work. At that very moment I went around a tree and my breathe was actually taken away by the sight of the most beautiful blue iris blooming that I had ever seen. I hadn't even noticed it getting ready to bloom the day before. I couldn't even remember planting it. That answered my question as to why I do it - for moments that take my breathe away.

Note: I do realize that not everyone is awestruck by the sight of a perfect flower. Just the lucky ones.

Eucalyptus Grove

Here is the bottom of the garden in Laguna. The eucalyptus trees were already there when we bought the property and to this day they are one of my favorite features in the garden.

To the left you can see a couple of the dinosaurs that were my husband's addition to the garden.

On either side are steps make of cut pieces of eucalyptus embedded into the ground that lead down each side of the yard and meet in from of the trees.

In the middle of the grove of trees we built a stage about four feet off the ground where a blues band played for my husband's fiftieth birthday. The guests sat on the lawn and in chairs up under the arbor. It was a great stage, but I was worried about the trees not liking it there since it blocked a lot of the rain and so I took it down a few months later.

The following year we had a wedding for my niece that took place here in the garden in April. It was just lovely.

Lockwood Terrace

This is a spring day in the Laguna garden looking up one of the center stairways from the arbor.

This is actually a little terraced area we affectionately call "Lockwood Terrace" after our good friends Ed and Jenny. They spent an entire weekend many years ago, digging out, walling up and leveling what had to have been the hardest clay area anyone has ever tried to dig in, and adding compost and peat moss to make it so they could plant some vegetables.

At that time there was only about the top quarter of the hillside that was tamed and this was pretty much down in the middle of nothing. That weekend we put in re-bar and landscape-pole steps to make it easier to get down to the area. Years later those steps were redone into the sturdy timber and brick stairs in this picture.

Because this was down in the middle of the garden, all supplies had to be carried from the street level down 56 stairs to the top of the garden. Once they got that far they still had to go down the treacherous hillside to where they eventually were needed. No wonder it took years to create this garden!

Art in the Laguna Garden

Over the years we have been inspired by various artist in Laguna to add art to our garden and in some cases, our garden has inspired artists!

The Gothic bell was especially for our garden by a very talented artist named David Wolf who made a number of pieces for our property.

The mosaic obelisk is by Laguna Beach artist Marlo Bartel who has a number of pieces of public art in Laguna.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unplanned But Not Unappreciated!

The bird feeder fell over last fall and as a result there are beautiful, unplanned sunflowers throughout the Peppertree Garden unseasonably early.

A happy mistake!

The Garden Makes My Dog Smile

Dogs, cats, and children belong in gardens. If your garden can't deal with your pets and family, you aren't doing it right.

Clematis are Blooming

Clematis are in bloom in the gardens this month. They are such lovely vines and soooo finicky to grow. I belonged to the Clematis Society for many years and they do a good job of educating the gardeners in Southern California on the correct way to plant and care for these beauties.

Here are a few critical elements that are necessary to grow them successfully that I have found work for me in my garden:
- Plant them deep. Dig a hole deep enough so that the top of the dirt in the pot is about two or three inches below the surface once they are in the ground.
-Handle them carefully when planting. Their stems are very brittle and fragile and I have lost more than one plant by accidently snapping the main stem while planting.
-The roots are very sensitive to disturbance. I sometimes just plant the pot and all to avoid disturbing the roots or breaking the stems. You also might try to cut the plastic pot away instead of pulling the plant out of the pot.
-They like cool roots, but they need sunlight to bloom. Planting them where they are protected from the heat of the day is wise. Another plant that spreads out planted in the ground nearby will protect the stems and provide shade for the roots.

For more information on Clematis see my squidoo lens at:

The Art of Composting

The keys to a great garden? Biodiversity, great soil and a good design. To that end, the compost bin at Petersonvilla has been finished and all of the waiting material has been chipped and added.

As you can see by the pile, there is plenty of material! There will be even more as we add the bushes that are being removed from the front garden to make way for a new seating area and my "moonlight garden". Last year we spent a lot of time hauling in materials to enhance the soil, but we are clearly on our way to self-sufficiency!

Now we just need to add a worm bin and life will be complete.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Kids In The Garden

The children in the after-school garden club at El Morro Elementary school released ladybugs a couple weeks ago to help control aphids on their vegetable plants. There weren't many aphids, but it seemed like a fun thing to do to teach them about bugs that help the garden. Too bad the ladybugs don't eat rabbits which is really the problem!

Sweet, Sweet, Sweet Peas.

There are few flowers more simple, lovely and fragrant than the Sweet Pea.

I have planted them a number of years in Laguna, both from seed and pony packs, but never had much luck with growing them in abundance. It always drove me crazy to see them covering entire fences in other peoples yards when I could only coax a few cherished blooms out of mine.

Until now. I planted about a dozen little plants along the chain link fence in the service area in San Juan and I have had a ton of blooms all spring! I have had handfuls in the house for a couple months and I have given away
bouquets of thirty or so blooms. I have donated bouquets to the plant sale at the Laguna Beach Garden Club. They smell like heaven must smell.

The ones I have growing are simple purple, lavender and pink ones, but I plan on planting seeds of some of the fancy ones.

The Birds and Bees and Bats and Bugs and Beetles

It has been unseasonably hot the past few days and along with the warm temperatures have come a plethora of bugs. All kinds of bugs! There are swarms that rise up out of the grass as you walk through it, or even when you don't. There are bugs on the windows, in the house, over the pool, in the pool and just about everywhere else. Tons of bugs. Mostly flying bugs. But oddly enough, there are few bugs on any of the plants.

I attribute this phenomenon to the fact that I stopped the use of chemicals in the gardens when we moved in a little over a year ago and now there is an imbalance. When chemicals where being used there was also an imbalance of no bugs and now the pendulum has swung the other way.

I remember the same thing happened in the garden in Laguna when I went totally organic. The first few couple of years I used to joke that you could tell I was an organic gardener because my garden looked like crap. It took until the third year for everything to balance out and then it was amazing. I suspect the same is happening here. It will probably take a while for the natural predators to find my yard and get the upper hand. I put out bird seed and we have quite a few seed eaters, but it typically takes a bit longer for the birds and bats that feast on insects to discover a natural habitat. I hope they find it soon!

This morning we saw a number of hawks in the sky. There is one that we have noticed for a couple days now that has been landing in one of our tallest palm trees. I am not sure what kind of hawk it is yet. There are large populations of crows and ravens around here, but these are the first hawks we have noticed.