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.