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.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fall Flower Bouquet

I am really negligent about cutting flowers for the house most of the time. I have good intentions when I head out to the garden with clippers and a basket, but somehow I always get sidetracked and end up deadheading or weeding or some other chore that ends up taking priority over cutting the flowers for the house. As far as arranging flowers, fall blooms are my favorite to use because I like the wild, rangy look that most of them have. This is the flower arrangement that finally made it into the house this week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Saga of the Giant Urn

Last spring when we started working on the front garden in SJC that was all palm trees and grass it became obvious that a focal point in the was needed. This is the Moonlight Garden and all the flowers are white, with interest and depth coming from the shapes, colors and textures of the foliage as well as a few pieces of garden adornment. I am a fan of urns and their classic shape so it was an easy choice for me since this garden is a bit more on the formal side than most of my gardens to choose an urn for the focal point. Not just any urn, but a giant urn. I found it on the internet and it was back somewhere in the middle of the country. This is what it looked like when the shipping company dropped it off in the driveway last summer. Once assembled it stands about four and a half feet high.

This is the bare spot that the urn was to enhance.

It took a while to get the garden ready for the urn and then to have it plumbed for an automatic sprinkler. It sat empty for months while I pondered what I was going to put in it. My first choice was a big, full white hydrangea with ferns and hanging ivy, but by the time it came time to plant it the hydrangeas were past their prime.

If you look closely (click on the photo to enlarge) you can see the Australian tree fern that went in the urn first. The fern was sitting in the garden waiting to be planted when I thought I would try it out as the centerpiece. Unfortunately it looked like giant rabbit ears after a strong wind storm decimated a few of the fronds, and it was just too comical looking to stay.

This is what the urn looks like today. After a trip to the nursery I opted for a feathery little palm tree as the centerpiece, at least until the hydrangeas come into bloom! There are ferns, liriope, bacopa and variegated ivy in there also.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Right now these pathetic little vines that we just planted along the arbors over the tricycle track in the Moonlight Garden look a bit puny.
But I have no doubt that by next year this time they will have covered the arbors and will need to be kept in check with a machete! I have been looking and looking for a good spot to plant the grapes here in SJC and I think this will give them the room they need to produce those prolific vines and luscious fruit!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Visit From The Garden Club

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting the Laguna Beach Garden Club for one of their members' garden tours in my San Juan Capistrano home.
Although this is the only garden club I have ever belonged to, I do think it is an amazing group (very large group, close to 200 members) of gardeners with really big hearts and lots of enthusiasm! Not all members show up for these informal tours, only around 30 people I would say.
I felt a little guilty because I have never had them to my Laguna garden which is much more dramatic and mature. There is not much parking there and I worry that 15 or 20 cars would mean about 10 or 15 would have no place to park!
They had all kinds of questions for me and it was a mental challenge to remember the names of every plant they asked about as well as garden structure questions, but it was fun and rewarding to share my garden with people that are as passionate about gardening as I am!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Coveted Iris Blooms

I thought I had written a post about how much I coveted my neighbor's iris that seemed to bloom all year round, but as it turns out this all happened before I started blogging and I probebly told it to the cat, so here is the story.

One of my neighbors in San Juan Capistrano has a lovely Tuscanny style landscape that I adore. In her yard are about fifiteen or twenty iris that are a lovely shade of purple that I swear seem to bloom all year round. I do love iris, however most of them bloom for a few weeks in the late spring and that is about it. The exception is 'Frequent Flyer' a beautiful white iris that blooms spratically throughout spring and fall.

When I had a chance to meet my neightbor one day about a year ago she told me the iris was called 'Frequent Violet' and she bought it at Roger's Gardens, a local nursery. For about six months I combed the internet as well as calling Roger's to see if they had any in stock, but I had no luck locating it.

I was going to knock on her door and ask my neighbor if she would share some with me the next time she divided them when out-of-the -blue I found about five one gallon plants of them at the annual garden show last April. I bought them all and was estatic! I put them in a prime location near my front door in SJC and waited. And waited and waited.

Finally, now in the middle of fall, one of the plants has started to bloom and I am thrilled! Of course my neighbor's iris are blooming their little violet heads off, but I am satisfied with just a few blooms on one plant that hopefully is the beginning of a long and prolific relationship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Proof of Puppy

Puppies can be frustrating to raise, no matter how they try to please their owners. Here is an example that I happened upon this morning.

Bandit is so sure that we accidentally covered up these allium bulbs and we might forget where they are that he makes sure to uncover them for us every day. Notice he doesn't remove them from the hole, he just exposes them for us.

Is this not a guilty look? I am sure he is confused as to why I am not appreciative of all his hard work in the garden. On-the-other-hand, he may be feeling a bit guilty about his handiwork that is waiting for me in the house.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Palm Alley

This is one of my favorite spots in SJC. We call it Palm Alley because it is a narrow strip connecting the pool area with the meditation garden that has about a dozen queen palms lining it, creating a shady canopy. It is one of the few really shady areas in the entire yard and I love shade gardening. When we moved in here a couple years ago it was a soggy, wet, grass area and of course the palm trees. My son put in the flagstone path to keep our feet dry and we added hydrangeas, foxgloves, azaleas, ferns, fuchsias, baby tears, ajuga, Australian violets and a number of other shade-loving plants. As planned, the moisture loving plants suck up the water that accumulates in this low area of the property and it is no longer a swamp, but a pleasant path to enjoy the lovely plants that I can't grow anywhere else on the property because they would require too much water.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

One Lazy Grasshopper

The other day my son brought me outside to see this grasshopper that had been lallygagging on this rose blossom for the past two days near the driveway. He (or she) was quite alert and rose to attention when I focused in close with my camera, but still did not have the motivation to move. I checked again the following day and he (or she) was still there, enjoying the warmth of the sun in this prime location for viewing who is coming and going at the house. I don't know much about grasshoppers and what they do in the winter months. Although the days are still warm, the night have been getting chilly as so maybe he (or she) is getting ready to go into hibernation or whatever they do. If so, he (or she) could have picked a less obvious resting place since the bird feeder is nearby!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mysterious Figs

Last week I was walking through the shade garden in SJC and there was a fig laying in the path. I assumed a bird dropped it but when I looked up through the canopy of trees and tall shrubs I saw that there is a rather large fig tree growing amongst the greenery. The birds must have planted it, a common occurrence around here. Although there are a number of self-sown figs in the yard, I did go out and buy a small fig tree last week, one with sweet green figs as opposed to the dark ones and I can't wait until it provides me with fruit next year!

BTW, my dear puppy came along an absconded with the fig at my feet last week so I never got to taste it and the others you see here are too high for me to reach. I check back regularly to try and get to the fruit that falls before the aptly named "Bandit' gets to it.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Azaleas are in Bloom

One of the things I love about camellias and azaleas are that their bloom periods are when roses are winding down and going into dormancy. In Southern California we have to force our roses into dormancy or they would bloom all year round and lack vigor.We typically cut them back in August and then hard in January. Climbing roses are lightly pruned and all of the leaves are removed in January. It is at this time that the camellias and azaleas are putting on their show in the shade gardens and they certainly take up the slack left by the sleeping roses.

The white azaleas are the first to bloom in SJC and as you can see in this photo, they nestle into Buddha's cradled hands just like the roses did all spring and summer.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


This holly fern is producing enough spores to cover the earth in ferns!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Schrusher

Although I have heavy duty door mats and tile floors in the house, there is always an opportunity to track mud in after working in the garden. I have had a number of cute little mud brushes in the shapes of animals that have been okay as far as removing dirt from the soles of our boots, but this one is by-and-far the best I have found! It is very heavy so it doesn't need to be fastened down and can be moved around and it is very thorough at removing the caked on mud.

I got it at

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cool Season Annuals

Work is continuing on the new garden beds in the Moonlight Garden in SJC. Last week we put in flats of cool season annuals to fill in beds that will eventually be overflowing with shrubs and perennials. Of course all the flowers are white so here you see white violas and alyssum for its honey-like fragrance. The white carpet roses are blooming their charming little double blooms.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Beautiful Begonias

While looking over my past blog entries the other day (isn't blogging a wonderful way to record the garden?) I noticed that I only had one begonia post. This surprised me because I love begonias of all kinds and have many of them throughout the garden, but especially in containers near our front doors.
I went through a phase a few years ago where I collected tuberous, angel wing and rex begonias and labeled them all with their unique names.
I even considered joining the Begonia Society, but never got around to it. Here are a few of the ones I still have and enjoy.
I think one of my favorite things about them is that they do so well in containers and I also love to collect containers.

Begonias show off the container without overpowering it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Special" Rocks

I saw this idea a number of years ago and always had it in the back of my mind, until the time was right. Our oldest grandson is able to recognize his own name so I was happy to get the chance to add rocks with the grandkids' names on them to the garden. We plan to move them around to create a game for the kids to find their "rock" when they come to visit.

Monday, October 13, 2008


The green waste facilities for our area is nearby and we take advantage of their services a few times a year in the form of mulch deliveries. This is the third and last batch for this season in SJC. Although we have a large compost pile, because there are so many new beds with immature plants that will eventually fill in and need less mulch, we still need to purchase amendments to keep up with the demand. Obviously, we love mulch!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tucking in a Few Pretties

Although there are lots of big jobs that need to be done in the gardens, I couldn't resist the cool-weather annuals at the nursery last week and succumbed to a flat of these blue violas. They will do well in this area that starts to lose light as the sun sinks lower on the horizon and creates shade on this side of the house.
The Laguna Beach Garden Club is coming to tour the SJC garden in a couple weeks and a little added seasonal color will definitely show well among the mainly green plants near the front door.
A few shots of seaweed extract will give them a bit of a boost along with the lovely warm weather we've been experiencing here this week. The little violas will be well established by the time the holidays roll around and the family starts showing up from all over the country.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


In the farthest corner of the street side garden in SJC is the blue agave bed. There we planted a number of 'pups' from a large agave that I removed from the garden in Laguna because I was worried about the very sharp points with the children running through the garden. They will eventually be huge with leaves up to four or five feet long.
As you can see from the top picture the pups are now sending out pups of their own! Kind of sweet! Although it looks a little bare now, in another year or so they will have filled in nicely and will make quite a sculptural statement. It is in a part of the yard that I don't see without going to specifically look at it, so it doesn't really bother me. Oddly enough just to the left of this bed is the neighbors garden with boxwood hedges and roses.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bulbs Have Arrived

This is two of the three boxes of bulbs that arrived last week in time for planting in the new garden beds. Because we can only naturalize bulbs that do not require a chill, I was somewhat limited to my selections. White daffodils, narcissus, alliums, and grape hyacinths for the Moonlight Garden are what are sleeping in these boxes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Green Mums

I have to admit I have never gone out and bought chrysanthemums to plant in my garden. Never-the-less there are now probably a half-a-dozen or so shrubs blooming profusely throughout the gardens. The reason for this is that I pick up little four-inch pots of them (okay, sometimes six-inch pots) and fill in containers that change with the seasons around the front door. When they loose their flowers or Christmas poinsettias nudge them out they end up tossed into the gardens where there is a hole somewhere, forgotten about until they start peeking out at around this time of year.

I was especially happy to see this chartreuse one starting to bloom in the front garden where the plants are mainly purple, burgundy and fittingly enough, chartreuse!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Jumped The Gun

Our summer was so mild that I was lulled into planting some lettuce about a month ago, way too early. The mild summer has turned into a very warm fall and as you can see here, my lettuce is already bolting! I plan to 'harvest' most of it and hope that it will regrow and behave for the rest of the season!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Shades of Purple

Although there are many beautiful typical fall colors in the gardens, one of my favorite signs of the changing seasons is one of the not-so-typical color of the velvety-purple blooms of Mexican sage (salvia leucantha). It does bloom throughout the year sporadically, but now is when it really come into its own for the fall and winter months while so many other plants are taking a rest. These are in my street-side garden in San Juan Capistrano.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Before and After

This is a shot of part of our backyard in San Juan Capistrano as it looked when we moved in year before last. It was all lawn and palm trees.

This is what it looks like today. If you look closely you can see the palm trees that are in the center of the top photo peeking through the two pepper trees in the lower photo. This is what we call 'Flying Rabbit Island' and is my answer to creating our own view. When we moved here from Laguna we found that we really missed our ocean view. Staring at the swimming pool is just not the same. So I added this little island in the middle of the back lawn to give us something to look at when we were sitting in our rockers on the little patio off the living room. Although it is not exactly the most colorful time of year in this part of the yard, it still is interesting and one of our favorite spaces.