Friday, January 30, 2009

Finally, Spillage!

I wrote about this urn when it was planted in the Moonlight Garden last summer. At the time it went through a number plant combinations until I found one I liked, even though it was a bit dull at the time. It is finally starting to show some promise as the bacopa is growing and starting to spill over the sides and the geranium is blooming. It is the middle of winter, yet some plants are growing as if it was spring already. It may be because we have been having spurts of unseasonably warm weather.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orchids at the Door

One of the best things about living in our climate is that cymbidium orchids grow freely, with little to no care except for watering. They will do better if fertilized, but as you can see by these that are blooming in an urn by our front door, they put on a show in January regardless. I love cymbidium orchids and buy new ones for indoors every year and then they go out into the garden or deck and live quite contently.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bashful Beauty

Gardeners are supposed to be patient and I usually am, but I could not wait for my hellebores to bloom, which should be soon. I was at the nursery last week picking out plants for one of the new garden beds in the back yard in SJC when I spotted this beauty and it was love at first sight. She came home with me and is now settling in her new home in the moonlight garden.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Limes Are Yellow -It's True

Anyone who has ever drank beer with a lime in Mexico knows that limes are yellow. They look just like lemons on the outside and that is why they are shipped to the stores when they are still green, so everyone will be able to tell them apart. This is the crop of limes under our tree in San Juan Capistrano and as you can see they are most likely what are called 'key limes' because of their small size. I assure you they are green and tasty, if you like limes.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Avocado Trees Need the Rain

There are three old avocado trees in the Laguna Garden that are most likely left over from an old orchard that was there in the early 20th century. They are Fuentes and they are the best avocados you will ever taste. As is typical with avocados, some years we get hundreds of them and other years a handful.

Avocado trees are very sensitive to salt build up in the soil and with drought years it shows in the leaves. They get characteristic brown tips. Because we have been in a drought for a few years now the trees look especially bad this year. Leaching with water from the sprinklers helps some, but because we have hard water it is not a replacement for good old rain water. The good news is that it has been raining for the past few days and in a few weeks when the trees bloom and the new leaves emerge, most of these tired old leaves will fall to the ground to provide a thick layer of mulch and hopefully the trees will have a better year next year. (And yes, we all have beautiful skin!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Soon To Bloom Daffodils

This is the upper garden in Laguna where there are hundreds of daffodils that have naturalized over the years. They will start opening up soon and go until May because of the different varieties and their bloom times. As you can see this area is where there are a number of roses, daylilies, iris and dahlias that are pretty bare this time of year so the beautiful yellow and white bulbs are a welcome sight.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Another Summer vs. Winter

This is a picture taken last summer of the steps on the east side of the garden in Laguna. The arches are covered with Sally Holmes and Graham Thomas roses with numerous perennials at their feet.

This is the same view last week. Bare, sparse and waiting for spring, like everyone else.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Wild Orchids

While poking around the garden in Laguna the other day I happened across this little orchid bloom poking out of a planter that had become a refuge for some abandoned potted plants when the lower deck was cleaned out last year. It is a zygopetalum and one of the most fragrant of orchids. It is easy to grow as proven here by existing and blooming on neglect!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Summer vs. Winter

This was the garden in Laguna last week as you entered from the west stairs. There are a number of deciduous trees in this area, for fall color and because this is on a north facing hill that doesn't get much light during the winter.
This is the same area last summer when the trees were filled in and the perennials were at their height of bloom. Big difference to us, even though there is no snow!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Blooming Violets

Tucked into a shady corner in Laguna is this rotted tree stump that is home to some violets that are blooming away right now. A delightful sight in an garden that is rather bare and dormant this time of year.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Last Fuschia Flower

Fuchsia hybrids such as 'VooDoo' are very popular in Southern California. Now is the time of year to cut them back and keep them pinched to produce full plants with plenty of blooms in the summer. Because of the dreaded fuchsia mite, plant debris should be thrown in the trash instead composted to avoid spreading the problem.

This little bloom is all alone in an upright shrub in Laguna and will soon be history when the plant is cut back to about one-third of its size.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Sweet, Sweet Snowdrops

Snowdrops are just my favorites! They are the first bulbs to show up in the middle of winter (thus their name) and they naturalize here very easily.
Lilies of the Valleys don't do well here because it doesn't get cold enough for them, but these are a lovely alternative, although they aren't really fragrant. This little patch in Laguna has been there for eight or nine years at least and they still show up to our delight every year! I always forget to plant more! I must remember next year because I absolutely adore them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pruning the Climbers

Here is one last rose on the arbor over the steps to the eucalyptus grove in Laguna. It is a 'Sally Holmes' rose and one of my favorites because of its simple elegance. Although the long canes are left on the climbing roses, the offshoots are trimmed to two nodes and all of the leaves are stripped off and thrown in the trash to avoid spreading diseases and fungus that are inevitably on most roses this time of year.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Poor Planning

With 12 month gardens comes the added responsibility of making sure there is plant interest every month of the year. It is one of the elements of a well designed garden. The picture above illustrates what NOT to do when designing a garden right outside your front door! Do not plant materials that require cutting back at all the same time! The result, however lovely it may be in June, is not worth the look of sad demise that January brings about. Cut back grasses and roses along with a dormant birch tree just looks bare. There are many plants that look great this time of year and this area desperately needs some of those!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Compost Tomatoes

While we do compost everything, I doubt our piles get up to the recommended temperatures required to kill all the seeds in the mixture before it breaks down into a usable product. The proof of that is tomato plants that crop up everywhere when least expected. I spotted these little tomatoes on the ground mixed in with a bunch of bulbs coming up. I certainly didn't plant them there so it was either the compost or the birds and my bet is on the compost! It won't take long for one of my dogs to discover them and since they resemble tennis balls, they will become their property and never make it to the kitchen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Not-So Bare Roots

Here is our latest project, about 15 bare root roses that are waiting to be planted. This is what bare root looks like at many of the nurseries in this area. They come in pulp pots that, as I found out the hard way, must be removed before planting because they do not disintegrate in the ground quickly enough for the rose to not become pot bound!

I am putting in new garden beds where there is now grass and these roses will be the first occupants. They are mostly David Austin roses, my favorites.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fried Egg Flowers

I like flowers that look like fried eggs, such as the classic 'fried egg' flower, the Matilija poppy, a California native.
This sasanqua camellia that is blooming right now in the Moonlight Garden is another example of a 'fried egg' flower blossom that I am crazy about. I don't think it is their similarity to a popular breakfast food that endears them to me, but the pure, bright colors and simple forms.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Out With the Old, In With the New

I love helleborus. I love their charming little flowers because they add interest to the garden in the winter, they are a good flowering plant for the shade, are extremely long lasting in a vase and they are just sweet looking. Before they bloom in winter the new leaves come up and replace most of the older foliage as seen in the photo. Hopefully there will soon be flowers (these were just planted last fall). These particular ones will be white I am assuming because I planted them in the Moonlight Garden. When they bloom I will cut a spray and bring them into the house to keep me happy till spring!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Working Worms

This past summer we put in what I like to call a 'Tricycle Track' that wraps around the front lawn for the grandkids (and sometime big kids) to race around. It is a four foot path that allowed me to replace a good part of the lawn with another material that does not require water and still keep the family that loves to play on the grass happy. It is simple D.G. (disintegrated granite) that it tamped down to make a solid surface. At least until it rains and the worms below start to do their thing.

In the picture is a portion of the path and it is usually very clean and that lovely golden beige color. When it rains it becomes littered with dark little piles of soil from the ground below where the worms push through to come to the surface for air. Once it is dry the path can be swept clean and will once more look the way it should.

This is a great way to demonstrate the important role the worms play in a lawn to ariate the soil (in addition to many other advantages). I've read that a healthy soil was 17 worms per square foot. After two years of organic care for this area I would guess I'm approaching that number. What encourages worms? Organic material for them to consume. What diminishes them? Chemicals and an occasional early bird. Organic lawns do not require thatching or airating. Let the worms do it for you!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Camellias and Rain Do Not Mix

I have been waiting for this little camellia bush to bloom. It is a new one I put in last year and I have been dis-budding it for months to maximize the individual blooms. While I was out of town the flowers started to open and then there was rain. Rain spoils camellia blooms by turning them brown. There are still a few that are opening this week and there is no rain in the forcast so I will be able to salvage a few to float in bowls in the house.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Chilling Pink

Looking for something to photograph in the gardens yesterday took a bit of searching. Many plants are quietly resting, waiting for spring and warmer weather. Although not as cold as many parts of the world, we have been having chilly temperatures, at least for our area.

One of the interesting results seems to be these 'Iceberg' roses that are typically white. They have taken on a distinctively pink shade to them and I would have to assume it is from the weather. Here they are reaching out to a blooming purple potato vine (solanum laxum) bloom that is yet to open. In another week or two these and all the other roses will be cut back to a bare stems to force them into dormancy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Back to Blogging

It has been a while since I have posted, due to an increase in my need to attend to other matters, namely the holidays. We had lots of family and activities to keep us busy over the last few weeks, not to mention a great amount of shopping, wrapping, shipping, decorating, card writing, cooking and all the other things that make it the busiest time of year. My blog had to wait. But now it is back to the garden and on with dreaming of days to come and what is next (with the help of a few new garden books I received as presents).

As you can see the Christmas tree has been abandoned to the compost area, waiting to be cut up and shredded for mulch for the azaleas and camellias that will appreciate the added acid. Our soil and water is very alkaline and many plants benefit from a little acid materials added to the soil.