Saturday, May 31, 2008

Asiatic Lilies

Here is the first Asiatic lily to bloom in the gardens in San Juan Capistrano. I realize now I should have probably planted them all in one spot for a more dramatic effect. Next time.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Garden Work Horse

I use a lot of scabiosa (pincushion flower) in my gardens. They are such easy going perennials that add a true feeling of abundance to the garden because they fill in quickly and produce an enormous amount of blooms for months at a time if they are kept dead-headed. They make great cut flowers. The most prolific ones are the lavender ones, but they also come in pink (see the middle picture) and some very dark, purplish-blue giant ones, which come-to-think-of-it, I haven't seen in a while in the garden. Hmmmm, wonder where they went?

Also, the butterflies love them!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The New State Flower...

...of California should be the Iceberg Rose!
There must be an average of three in
every front yard and two dozen in
every fancy shopping center.

You'd think landscapers got them for free.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


My garden in Laguna is on a hillside. Many people think gardening on a hillside is a challenge and those of us that do it just let them keep thinking that way.

There are actually a number of advantages to hillside gardens that I have just started appreciating since my other garden is fairly flat. Here are a few that come to mind:
  1. Photos always look better either looking down the hill or up the hill than ones taken on the level. Everything looks full and interesting.
  2. Weeding is much easier because you don't have to bend over so far. Depending on the degree of slope to the garden and the height of any terraces you have, most weeding is done at a modest angle.
  3. Drainage is built in. If you focus on plants that need excellent drainage, you are half way home as far as being successful.
  4. You can always create flat areas if you really want them by putting in a terrace.
  5. Climbing up hills builds great legs muscles, not to mention lung capacity.
Look for an upcoming post on the pitfalls of gardening on a slope!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bird Merry-Go-Round

This wind sculpture is about a quarter of the way down in my Laguna Garden. We have a number of wind sculpture throughout the property because I think they add an important element to the garden - movement.

This particular one came from an Sherwood Art Gallery in downtown Laguna Beach and since its purchase the owners of the gallery have become very close friends of ours.

The most amusing thing about this sculpture is that the birds sit on it as it turns in the wind like a little merry-go-round!

Note: The sculpture is very straight. My photo is crooked!

Monday, May 26, 2008


While walking around through the garden this evening, with my camera in one hand and a glass of wine in the other, I was stopped in my tracks by this brilliant iris that had just opened up for the first time. I was able to get this photo of the setting sun shining through the petals, without spilling a drop of wine!

Great Mixer

One of my favorite looks is when plants intertwine, weaving together different colors and textures. One of the best plants for doing this quite naturally is helichrysum petiolare, (licorice plant). It is a perennial that is grown mainly for its foliage. It does best in sun but can handle some shade and it can spread fairly wide. The photo above is from my front garden in San Juan Capistrano where the bright green colored foliage of the 'lime light' licorice plant extends into a patch of brachyscome (swan river daisies).

This shows the more common blue-gray foliage embracing some annual violas with a little ornamental grass trying to get into the picture. this is from the Flying Rabbit Island flower bed in the back yard in San Juan Capistrano.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Simple Charm

My gardens in Laguna have a much
more natural feel, partly because of all
the weathered wood and brick structures.
I am always charmed by a simple
flower up against the warm gray, naturally
weather wood. This particular flower is a
white 'Lady Banks' rose, a climber.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Darkest Groundcover

Although ajuga is supposed to be able to handle some shade, I have always had much better luck growing it in full sun, maybe because we live in such a mild climate. It really can't be beat for creating a carpet of dark, shiny foliage that works to set off other plants. If you look closely at this picture you can see the blooms of spiky blue flowers which are sweet, even though it is typically grown for the foliage. I believe this is 'Chocolate Chip'.

Friday, May 23, 2008

So Lovely

Forgive my indulgences with my beloved iris. I just think they are so lovely!

An Old Seat In The Garden

This is one of my favorite seating places in the Laguna garden. This bench has been there for at least a dozen years and is still as sturdy as new. It doesn't get a lot of use except by the cat.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Lido Deck

Because our home in Laguna Beach is built on a slope, there are many levels of decks. This particular deck is the one we called the Lido Deck. It is mainly my potting area and I used to spend a lot of time down there when I had a big container plant collection and I wanted it to be as inviting as possible, thus the hammock (which I never used!) and the candle chandelier (which I often used).

This photo was taken a couple years ago because I have since put in an outdoor shower where the hammock was and ceiling fans where the chandelier was.

I miss my hammock and chandelier.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Little Tiny Daylilies

This miniature daylily named 'Minnie Pearl' is just starting to bloom in the Flying Rabbit Island bed. I am completely charmed by the three inch blooms that are a lovely, perfect peach color. A bit of a change from the larger blooms, but hopefully just as carefree a plant.

Determined Geraniums

One plant, two different settings, both showing why pelargoniums (in this case an unknown 'Martha Washington') are so popular.

The top picture is from my Laguna garden and the geranium is poking through some equally determined variegated bacopa. A much more gaudy look than I usually am fond of, but this does brighten up an otherwise neglected corner.

The bottom photo is a shot from my garden utility area in San Juan Capistrano where this poor, contained geranium was abandoned after removing it from what is becoming my moonlight garden. Obviously its spirits have not been dampened by obscurity!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In The Cracks

Here is another plant that is actually a perennial, but often sold as an annual that can be counted on to reseed in the most interesting and charming places. I think every garden should have a little bit of alyssum because it smells so sweet. It actually prefers poor, rocky soil. How can you not love a plant like that?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sweet Violets

I do love plants that pop up in the cracks unexpectedly and just add a little bit of detail and charm to the garden that could never have been planned. And I especially love it when those plants are violets!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bear's Breeches Blooms

These stately blooms of Acanthus mollis (bear's breeches is the common name) have very sharp thorns throughout them and the tips of the leaves are like needles. This one is in the back of the raised bed along my front deck in Laguna, so there is no chance of brushing up against it.

When I was young we had some near our front door and I really disliked them because they were sharp and always full of snails.

Although this plant can be kind of a bully and take over an area by spreading and shading out nearby plants, I still am fond of the large, shiny deep green leaves that inspired so many architectural columns.

They prefer shade and look best with regular water.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

If You Like Color, You'll Love This

I wrote in an earlier post about how I learned to love clivias and in it I referred to the bright orange ones near my front door in Laguna. Here is a shot of them in all the their orange glory!

Angel In The Garden

This is one of two sweet angels
that abide in the Laguna garden.
They were some funky black finish when
I bought them and I painted them white,
which has weathered into a lovely
old patina after 13 or so years.

Tree Stump Steps

My garden in Laguna is located on a slope that gets steep in some areas. Over the years it has been tamed through terraces and railroad tie with re-bar steps.

The top part of the garden is entirely sectioned and planted and it was always my intention to leave the bottom quarter acre fairly natural for the dogs and other wildlife.

One year I had three tall eucalyptus trees taken down to improve the neighbor's view and the tree trimmers left the trunks, cut into large sections at the site. At the time I had a wonderful helper from Mexico who assisted me with projects in the garden. He took the tree stumps and made these very sturdy steps on either side of the lower garden that start where the other steps just quit. To this day they are one of my favorite elements in the garden.

Friday, May 16, 2008

In Bed With Pat

This beautiful Pat Austin rose is planted in a raised bed in Laguna which works out perfectly due to her heavy blooms that have a tendency to droop due to the delicate stems. The raised bed makes viewing them and photographing them much easier.

I will do another post on all the plants that don't work out well in raised beds, mainly because they soar over your head and only low-flying birds can appreciate them! I have a bunch of those too!

Weed Stopper

This is convolvulus sabatius, one of the best groundcovers I have found for this area. Its common name is Gound Morning Glory, but don't let the name scare you, it is not invasive.

It does form a thick mat that is covered with purplish-blue flowers almost year round, which makes the need for weeding unnecessary where it is planted. It is fairly drought tolerant once it is established. I use is a lot around the feet of roses and although it takes awhile to get going, once it makes itself at home it will fill in and spread nicely.

Backside Beauty

I love begonias. From all angles.

This is the view looking out my front door in Laguna
where my begonias live. This is the backside
of an angel wing begonia that lives
in a pot next to the front door.
Even when not in bloom it has
much to offer in the way of interest.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lovely Louisiana Iris

Many years ago I read about Louisiana Iris and ordered a few by mail order. I planted them throughout the first cultivated areas in my hillside garden. Most of them have disappeared over the years. Probably victims of digging dogs, voles or some other tragic story.

This is the sole survivor, planted below the less-than-lovely drainage pipe that extends out from the hillside and is where all the property drains from above empty out. This clump (once again I have long forgotten the name) has continued to thrive and grow over the years into an amazing stand about four or five feet wide. I have never divided them and yet they still bloom every year. I do think I will divide them this year since I will be dividing all of the other iris in this garden, if for no other reason than to propagate them.

Louisiana iris are larger than bearded iris and a bit courser and they love wet feet!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Home Of The Bravest Birds

All of these amazing birdhouses by Douglas Fey aptly named Bird Garglers are filled with baby birds right now! They have been perched on the eucalyptus trees at the bottom of the garden in Laguna for about seven years and every spring they have new residents.

They are amusing all by themselves, but amazing when you see a bird fly out of the mouth!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bricks and Moss

Is there anything more charming
than homemade brick steps outlined
in moss in the dappled sunlight?

Not at this moment.

For a Few Weeks In May...

...all the roses in the Laguna Garden seem to be in
bloom at once and it is spectacular!
Before the rose slugs and black spot
and mildew set in they seem like
the perfect plants. The one above is Sally Holmes.

This is the oldest rose I have in the garden,
about 15 years old and climbing up an arbor
and through an old avocado tree.
It is New Dawn.

Here is a view of the main rose bed
with Graham Thomas, Ellen, and Tamara.

Sentimental Affections

Sentimental is one of my favorite roses for some odd reason.

Ordinarily I am not crazy about splashy-splotchy flowers, nor necessarily red roses. And I am not crazy about peppermint candies of which these remind most people.

But I love this rose! I think it maybe because it reminds me of those sensual Dutch paintings with the over-blown roses and fruit posed on a draped table.

I have a number of these bushes in both of my gardens.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

This lantana is growing in our front garden, which is focused on drought tolerant plantings. Although the color scheme there is purposely kept rather subdued, this shot of color is a welcome accent, especially with the rocks as a background.

You rarely see orange in any of my gardens but when I need a focal point to draw the eye, it can't be beat!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

To The Point

Although most of my gardens are on the flowery-pretty side, I do appreciate and use quite often dramatic sculptural plants such as agaves. I have dozens of green agaves and a number of blue agaves throughout the gardens. They are really quite lovely, although at times a bit malevolent looking.

These are two rarer forms of agaves.

I do take care to plant them away from areas where kids play, for obvious reasons.


This shot of the rose "Livin' Easy" reminds me of a reversible jacket I had once. Orange on one side and yellow on the other. This is a great rose, very disease resistant!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Made For Each Other

Tillansias are interesting little bromeliads that don't have roots systems and grow in nature where ever they happen to land. I find them fascinating and quite charming. These ones are tucked into the trunk of a Washintonia palm tree.

A weekly soft spray with the hose will keep them happy. A spray bottle with a bit of diluted bromeliad fertilizer will make them ecstatic.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Path to Meditation

This is a path we put in this year through an alley of queen palms that leads to the mediation garden.

The stones took the place of a water-logged, bug-infested, swampy grass area that rarely got any sun. We planted it with ferns and other shade plants to soak up the water that seemed to drain from the higher levels and it became a welcoming path leading to the peaceful meditation garden.

Meditation in May

This is the focal point in our lower "meditation garden" in San Juan Capistrano. It is a quiet, hidden little garden under a Brazilian Pepper Tree that we put in last fall.

In the background are giant bird-of-paradise, cannas, azaleas, Japanese maples, and duranta. In the front are white carpet roses, coral bells and mondo grass.

Urning Interest

Sometimes plants just aren't enough and a spot calls out for some type of structure. It took a while for me to appreciate empty pots in the garden (I just wanted to plant them all), but now I can easily slip a large urn or pot into a space and appreciate the interest, color and form it adds to the garden.

This pot is in one of my front beds in San Juan Capistrano and is a pleasing vertical focal point. There is a snowball viburnum and heliotrope in front of the bed.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

First Daylily of the Season

I have a great appreciation for day lilies. For years I thought they were rather run-of-the-mill, everyday plants that occupied parking lot planters and only came in a bright gold color.

Now I have learned to appreciate their simple beauty, easy requirements, long bloom cycles and pest free nature.

Although the nurseries around here have started to carry more than the Stella D'Oro varieties, I still find the selection much more fun through mail order.

Occasionally I order a variety that requires a dormant period and chillier temperatures than we have here, but the day lily vendors typically will alert me and suggest another flower similar but more culturally appropriate.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Blotanical - A Pleasing Distraction

Even the most devoted gardener can't be in the garden all the time. There are just other things that need to be done and after all, it does rain, and the sun does go down and sometimes it is just too cold or I am just too tired.

Those are the times I should be doing chores, catching up on correspondence, sorting out papers, keeping track of business and a host of other "must do's". But those are the times I am usually reading about gardening, writing about gardening, sorting through photos of the garden, participating in on-line forums about gardening and blogging about gardening. And now, reading other bloggers' entries about gardening on Blotanical.

Blotanical is a website dedicated to all types of gardens and gardeners from all over the world. It is a great places to share your woes, offer or get advice, become inspired, show off your garden and learn a lot about gardening as well as other subjects related to gardening, such as cooking and crafts.

I discovered Blotanical quite by accident while checking out a few blogs that were recommended in a gardening newsletter from an organization to which I belong. Hours later I was hooked and figured out how to start my own blog.

I often end or start my day walking through the garden, sometimes taking photos to capture moments and scenes that will be soon lost in time, which is what makes this place such a delight of elusiveness. While strolling I explain my philosophies and expound my knowledge to my four-legged companions, two dogs and the cat that follow me around most willingly, listening intently. Now I find inspiration in those moments to write about in my blog.

What an unexpected delight it is the first time another gardener acknowledges your blog with a comment, choosing your blog as one of their favorites or even picking a specific blog you entered as one of their recommendations!

In a long list of emails either reminding me of responsibilities I have waiting to be addressed, or someone trying to sell me something, a message from one of my peers on Blotanical always makes me smile and is a welcome distraction. It is also a diversion back into my garden while I am busy at my desk, doing all the things I should be taking care of, just as I should.

Sitting In The Shade

Although I rarely sit in the garden for long, if I do it is usually when my husband brings down a glass of wine and this is one of our favorite spots to enjoy a few moments of peace and quiet in Laguna.

Begging for Attention

This lovely iris (seems I've forgotten her name) is simply not content to grow where is she was planted, in a corner bed under a Mayten tree. This little attention-grabber has decided to languish out in the middle of the steps to assure no passer-by will miss her short-lived display of grandeur this spring!

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Welcome Annual Visitor

Although I rarely grow annuals in my gardens*, the self-seeding varieties that come back on their own every year are always welcome guests!

This particular one is cerinthe (Honeywort, Blue Shrimp Plant or Blue Wax Flower are some common names), and I am crazy about it because of the gorgeous color of the foliage (bluish-green) and the flowers (violet-purple) and it just appears every spring and blooms well into summer and then just kind of disappears until I forget it was even there until it appears again the following year.

It doesn't seem to spread much so I wouldn't call it invasive, just an orderly annual visitor.

*I have nothing personal against annuals, I just don't seem to have time to replant them every season.