Sunday, August 31, 2008

Pretty Pentas

Pentas is one of those plants that just grows and blooms in the garden practically year round here without much fanfare. It is easy to take it for granted because it rarely has any problems and only requires a severe cut-back about once a year in late winter. With regular dead-heading it blooms and blooms and is a very pretty mid-size perennial.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Can't Wait Any Longer

I just couldn't hold off any longer and have started putting in some new perennials and shrubs in some beds we have just created in SJC. I am trying to reduce the tremendous amount of lawn area that we inherited as well as add some interest to an otherwise boring (at least in my opinion) back yard. The weather has been very mild with the sun not coming out until around noon on some days, later on others. Our hottest weather can be just around the corner when we get the Santa Ana winds in September and October, but they only last for a couple days and you just need to make sure the new plants stay moist.

One of the pretty little items I had to have is this agapanthus called 'Indigo Mood'. I love the dark color and compact size.

Friday, August 29, 2008

100+ Palm Trees

It is palm tree trimming time in the San Juan Capistrano garden where we have nearly 120 palm trees. Most of them are queen palms which are my favorite because of their graceful and flowing nature. All of the trees were here when we purchased the property. I am not a big fan of palm trees, in fact I had a few removed from our Laguna Beach property over the years. They are just not my style but I had to admit they fit the architecture of our SJC house and besides, you can't really just remove 120 trees!

Throughout the year fronds die and need to be removed, but it is the seed pods that are very messy that eventually necessitates the call to my tree trimer around this time of year.
Unfortunately the palm fronds, seed pods and trunks do not break down in the compost pile and need to be hauled away. It breaks my heart to see all that green waste removed from my garden, but my wonderful tree trimmer offered to bring me a truck load of compost to make up for it!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Chalk Fingers

The bluish-gray mounding succulent that is in the center-right of the picture is commonly called the less-than-glamorous name of Chalk Fingers (senecio mandraliscas) because it is shaped like fingers and has a chalky look to it when grown in full sun. It is in the same family as cineraria, German ivy and dusty miller. I like it because it needs little to no water, has a lovely blue shade to the foliage and grows easily and quickly, filling in spots that get neglected by the sprinkler system.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pond in Disguise

Somewhere under all these water hyacinths is my little pond in Laguna. I have had it over twelve years, originally built by myself and my son, it is mostly a natural pond with the only filtration coming from the water plants and fish. At this time of year the water hyacinths take over and grow faster than I can keep them thinned out and unless you knew it, you would think it is just a patch of plants under a tree.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sun, Sun, Sun, Shade, Shade, Shade

This is one of the most difficult spots I have in my San Juan Capistrano garden. It is along a north facing garage wall and it get hours of full sun during the hottest days of summer, then full shade during the cool days of winter when the sun sinks low on the horizon. A few plants seem to be thriving there, but the Lady Banks Rose that is climbing up the pillar on the left did not have a single blossom last year and if it doesn't bloom this year it is going to be moved. There is also a passion flower vine in the back that does not bloom either, but I will probably leave it for the butterflies. The lavender verbena does okay and the heliotrope doesn't seem to ming the fluctuations in light and then everything else is primarily foliage plants that I don't care it they bloom or not. These types of places are always a challenge to plant with perennials. Seasonal annuals may be the answer.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Reblooming Surprise

Here it is the end of August and the Watsonia is coming into full bloom! This lovely corm from South Africa usually blooms at the end of Spring and then goes pretty much dormant throughout the summer. This one must be a bit confused!

Friday, August 22, 2008

So Unassuming

I don't know why I love iris so much... but I do. When I was a very little girl my grandmother had a bed of iris in her garden and all I can remember is the thick patch of sharp, upright foliage that was about chin height to my three year-old frame, nothing to fall in love with for sure. They only bloomed about two weeks out of the year. But somehow the lovely French icon captured my imagination and I have been enthralled with them ever since I owned a tiny patch of land to plant them.
This year I followed pattern of years before and ordered a signification amount of iris for my new garden in SJC. I can never decide, then I order way too many, and wait for months before my jewels-in-the rough arrive in their unassuming packages.
Here is what my dreams of amazingly beautiful flowers are riding on... this pathetic little tuber with merely a hope of grandeur. But I know what will happen because I have done this many times before. There will be blooms of unspeakable beauty and I will be amazed... as I always am! The essence of why we garden.

Terror In The Garden

What else can I say? We got a new puppy!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

End-of-Summer Haircut

I love Mexican feather grass (nassella tenuissima) although I know it may be an acquired taste for some people because it sometimes looks past its prime when it is at its best. In the third photo you can see it in the bottom left hand corner. It moves with the slightest breeze and is very soft looking as you can see in the top two photos. But once a year it needs a haircut and mine got the annual shearing last week as shown in the last picture. When you can see lots of new green growth coming up from the base it is time to wack it down to about four or five inches from the ground. It will rebound in a few weeks and be as lovely as ever, you just have to bear the growing out stage, much like a bad haircut!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Lovely Classic Woman

This is a new romantica rose that was just introduced this year. It is called 'Classic Woman' and it has gorgeous soft white blooms with tons of petals. I put one in a bouquet of all white flowers on the table for a dinner party earlier this year and I was so mesmerized by it that I barely was paying attention to the conversation! She is truly a beauty and I will most likely add a few more bushes to give me lots of blooms!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Year Later

The top picture is of a little planter near my front door in SJC. The bottom picture is what it looked like about a year ago when I first planted it with succulents and perennials. The green leafy geranium without any blooms is a scented one that originally had burgundy splotches in the center of the green leaves and is called 'Chocolate Mint' which is exactly what it smells like. It is very aggressive and needs to be kept in check continuously. I guess it doesn't get enough sun to keep the coloration although it is not that shady here. The daylily is out of bloom and the chocolate cosmos are long gone along with the coral bells and hardy geranium. There is a little battery operated watering system in here and, opps!, the batteries died and so did many of the less than drought tolerant plants. I've added low growing sedums since they seem to do well and the ornamental grasses have filled in nicely. Not quite as colorful as the original plan, but much easier to maintain.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hummingbirds Love Kangaroo Paws

Kangaroo Paws (anigozanthos) are a new addition to my front garden this year. I must admit it has taken a while for them to grow on me, but they seemed to fit in well among the Bird of Paradise and the orangish-gold wall. Their foliage is rather boring when they are not in bloom, but they have stunning stalks of vibrant, fuzzy flowers that the hummingbirds love, so they can't be all bad!

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Scaevola is most often seen in containers and hanging baskets although it is a little too stiff in baskets for me. I prefer to grow it as a hard working perennial at the edges of my garden beds as it is low-growing and spills out over the edges nicely and blooms almost year round here. A interesting note about this plant is that it is named after a Roman hero, Mutius Scaevola who burned his hand off to prove his bravery (a bit dramatic if you ask me) and if you look closely you will notice that the flowers have petals only on one side, like a fan.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Other Side of Hibiscus

I don't grow a lot of hibiscus plants although they live easily in our climate. They are prone to whitefly infestations that are very annoying. Another reason I don't grow them, but appreciate them in other people's gardens is they are typically very bright colored and have a 'tropical' feel to them which is not my style of garden. This one is the exception and I absolutely love it. I planted it in Laguna about ten years ago (that is it on the right side of the bench in the top photo) and so far the whiteflies have not noticed it. It is so soft and romantic that I swear I swoon when I notice the first blooms in the summer!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Falling In Love With Falling In Love

I usually steer away from pink roses with the exception of a few David Austin ones, but I put in this one called 'Falling In Love' last spring for some odd reason. It must have had an exceptionally pretty picture on the label (I can be so easily manipulated). But I must admit I am growing more and more fond of it as I watch it through the summer. It produces a number of blooms and is rather pest and disease free so far. But the best feature must be the beautiful fragrance that is so often missing in modern roses.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sorry Birds, The Fern Has Moved In

I purchased this faux - faux bois birdbath from a catalog a few months ago and was rather disappointed in it as a birdbath. The bowl was really deep and the birds just sat on the side trying to figure out how to get into the water without drowning. It was hard to clean and still even worse, the paint was peeling off in the water! A trip to the nursery and a small tree fern, a couple maidenhair ferns that were looking a bit ragged in the house and some Scottish moss and viola! A lovely planter! Sorry birds, I promise to buy a new birdbath.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Aging Gracefully

One of the loveliest things about hydrangeas is how they age. These two plants, both 'Blushing Bride', have been blooming all summer and are now turning into what will be charming fall blooms that are drying naturally.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Native Foxgloves

It is August and these native foxgloves are still blooming. Although most California natives can get by with no water in the summer, with just a little irrigation they will continue to bloom, as long as they don't get over watered.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I write a monthly column on shrubs and perennials and one of the things I always tell the reader is to adhere to the spacing requirements on the labels of new plants that they are positioning in the garden. I warn them not to be impatient and plant too close together because it will only result in more work in the long run. Plants will have to be moved or pruned more often and are more prone to diseases when they are crammed together and there is not enough air circulation. Then of course I go and do the exact opposite in my own garden as seen in the photo of the pelargonium, sweet potato vine and stachys all crowded together. So as I say, not as I do!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Blogging Bees!

I have noticed so many photos on blogs of bees I just had to add my own. I ran across this little honey bee enjoying a Shasta daisy while I was out capturing images of the garden. Sweet.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Crazy Blooms!

This little 'Disneyland' rose that was just planted a few months ago is just blooming like crazy. One cut of that stem and I will have a complete bouquet!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Butterfly Folly

I have one little stalk of Butterfly Weed (asclepias tuberosa) although I suspect it will spread by next year which will delight me because the butterflies love this plant! Which just proves the old saying, one gardener's weed is another gardener's treasure!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Felt Plant

This is one of my favorite succulents because of its soft bluish green color and its soft, fuzzy leaves. It is a member of the kalanchoe family and true to its family characteristics is very easy to propagate. It is living in harmony next to a clump of fragrant heliotrope.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lavender and roses

One advantage to having two gardens is that when one is scarce on blooms, the other one is usually abundant. My Laguna garden is looking a bit tired this time of year, but my garden in San Juan Capistrano is in full bloom!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Flat Jack

This charming bronze sculpture lives in our 'Flying Rabbit Island' in San Juan Capistrano and is one of my favorite pieces of art in the garden. It is by artist Tim Cherry. It is entitled 'Flat Jack'.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Pink Angels

This is a bloom from one of my many brugmansias (Angel Trumpets) which is one of my favorites. It is about eight feet high and when it blooms in the spring it has up to fifty or sixty blossoms on it all at once and the scent is overwhelming! The interesting leaf is probably the result of an iron deficiency. Although I usually feed them in the spring they seem to deplete the soil quickly.