Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spontaneous Gardening Tools

I am always on the lookout for large, inexpensive baskets. I use them for collecting weeds and clippings and they usually end up sitting somewhere in the garden where I leave them when I get interrupted. Because they are aesthetically pleasing, they aren't too much of an eyesore and do encourage me to pick up where I left off when I wander around the garden. Much prettier than plastic and even though they break down after being left in the elements for a few years, I consider them some of my favorite garden tools.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Euphorbia, Euphorbia, Euphorbia

This is the start of the blooming season for many euphorbias.
They have a vary large family including perhaps the best know euphorbia, Poinsettia.
The 'flower' is actually cup shaped brackets around a very small flower. I grow a number of them in my gardens because they are very easy to grow in this climate, requiring little water. They also add some interest and variety to the flower beds. They are sometimes called 'gopher spurge' because they are thought to discourage those tunneling pests and I must say, I have never had any gophers. Now all I need to do is find a plant called 'vole spurge'!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

First Poppy

Iceland Poppies have been blooming here for months. Except for mine. This is the first bloom I've had this season. For some reason I have a hard time with these annuals that seems so easy for everyone else! I can't tell you how many times over the years I have planted them and they have never bloomed. They grow in the island at the gas station, in front of the market and in every other front yard in the area, but for me they are elusive. I refuse to give up and I plant them every year. This may be the first and last bloom I get, but it is so charming I will just keep trying.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Orchid Place

I've written about how easy it is to grow cymbidium orchids in our climate and I don't mean to rub it in to all my friends that are still waiting for the snow to melt, but I have to show the spot where I park all my cymbidiums after they are done blooming in SJC.
I usually buy a pot in bloom every year for inside the house in January as a present for myself for making it through the holidays. When they are finished blooming after a couple months I sink them, pot and all, into a shady spot in the garden where my bromeliads live. They get watered with the sprinklers and left pretty much alone. With little provocation they send up flowers like this that put on a show for almost three or four months.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Soaring Pink Jasmine

Pink Jasmine is a familiar sight this time of year in our area. It is very fragrant and easy to grow. I have never planted it in my yard, but it climbs the fence and comes over to visit from our neighbor's yard. I was walking along this path and could smell it, but didn't see it, until I looked up. It scaled the oleander and made a leap into a palm tree for a better shot at the sunlight I suspect. It does have one drawback. It is not self-cleaning and when the flowers are spent there is a big, brown mess to remove or it will haunt you all year long.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Avocado Blooms

Avocado blooms are not the most pretty flowers in the fruit tree family, but they are among the most interesting. They have both male and female flowers on the same branch that open at different times of day and are propagated by bees. When the tree is in bloom the whole garden vibrates from the buzzing! When they are done flowering some of the buds become fruit and then new leaves emerge and the old, tired ones drop off, leaving a thick layer of mulch covering their shallow roots. You can see the brown tips on the old leaves that are caused by a high level of salt in the soil, the result of our alkaline water. Avocados bare heavy crops one year and light ones the next. These are California Fuerte, large and creamy fruit, the best you will ever taste!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Drought Tolerant Groundcover

I am a big fan of ceanothus, a California native that booms lovely pure blue flowers in winter and early spring. There are many varieties, most that are large shrubs. (Check out Google images for some beautiful examples.) Sometimes called California lilac, it does well where lilacs languish in warm dry climates. Although it does not have the lovely scent of a lilac, it is a favorite of the bees. This particular variety is a low growing shrub that hugs the ground with these unique variegated leaves called 'Diamond Heights'. This particular one is on a slope in my Laguna garden and tolerates very dry conditions there.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

For All That and More

He doesn't dig in the flower beds. He doesn't nibble on the foliage. He doesn't chase the birds. He doesn't knock over the pots. He doesn't chew the door mats. He doesn't trounce the flowers. He doesn't poop on the paths. And for all that and more, we love our new Ram.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seen Better Days

This arbor was one of the first structural things I put in the Laguna garden about thirteen years ago. It was a pre-assembled one from Home Depot and I painted it black. I attached metal spikes to it so it would be stable in the ground. Over the years it has had many different vines on it. It started out with a lovely blue 'snail vine' (vigna caracalla) which was overpowered by a red trumpet vine (campsis) that somehow migrated from the front wall. I had to take out the trumpet vine before it took over the entire garden. Then it had morning glories that nearly swallowed it up. The past few years it has been the support for a beautiful white 'Avalanche' clematis and star jasmine. It is beyond repair and will have to be scrapped, but I do love the feeling of "entering the garden" that it brings to this area. I'm sure another one will take its place.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Clivias Blooming

It's that time of year, the clivias are in bloom! These orange ones were planted here when we bought this house in Laguna Beach 18 years ago. They are such a bright color that it took me a while to appreciate their presence. I wrote about it here and here last year. Now I look forward to their month of bloom.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Old Watering Cans

I use watering cans in garden all the time to mix fish emulsion for fertilizer. Because the garden is so big and far away from my potting shed I have a number of them that I just leave throughout the garden so they are handy when I need them. I only use metal ones that I pick up at discount places like T.J. Max or the aluminum ones from the big home centers. They all only last a few years before they rot out. This one lost its functionality years ago and ended up on a fence post where it has lived ever since. It is now a permanent garden fixture until it rots all the way through.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Shade Gardening

I wrote about the garden under the avocado tree in Laguna last week and here is another shot of that area. I love gardening in the shade because everything gets so lush and full with just a little bit of water. I do love white flowers in the shade as it gives an instant cooling effect as you can see here with the white heliotrope and calla lilies.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bridal Wreath Spiraea

Few shrubs are easier to grow with such a lovely flower show in the spring than spiraea. This double bridal veil one has been in the Laguna garden for about nine years and I haven't given it a thought, except for how beautiful it is when it blooms, since.
It has long, arching branches just dripping in blooms that add a lovely accent to cut flower arrangements, draping down the vase. Not much scent though. I have been looking for another one to put in my white garden in SJC and haven't had much luck. Maybe now that they are in bloom the nurseries will have them in stock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lil' Happy Wanderer

A few years ago this fence in the Laguna Garden was covered with this wonderful vine called Happy Wanderer (hardenbergia violacea). It is very vigorous and is covered with these amazing flowers in the winter when few other things are blooming. One day I went out and 'poof', it was entirely dead. A gentle pull at the roots revealed them gnawed off at the base. The work of those pesty voles that menaced the garden whenever my guard was down. It broke my heart but I finally got around to planting another one last year and as you can see it is still small, but blooming profusely. Hopefully this year it will take off and cover the old fence again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Six Trees

Our home in Laguna Beach is on a slope. The house and large deck are on the top half and most of my garden is on the lower half of the acre. When you stand on the deck and look down you get glimpses of the garden through the trees, which was my intention. I wanted people to be enticed to walk down to the garden, not stand on the deck and view it from above. It's not that kind of garden. It needs to be seen up close, smelled, heard, felt and in some cases, tasted.

When you look at the above photo taken from the deck, you can see six different kinds of trees (click the photo to enlarge). To the left is an avocado tree that is in full bloom and buzzing with bees. In the upper left is the tall, straight trunk of a European birch that is just starting to leaf out. At the top of the picture, in the back, is a pittosporum, just coming into bloom with it's fragrant little white flowers. The bare branches coming out from the right are from the myoporum tree that is under attack that I wrote about in the previous post. To the far right are the lacy leaves of a jacaranda tree, getting ready to drop before it blooms. Then at the very bottom, in the middle is a small ficus tree that is actually in a pot on the lower deck.

One of the things I love about this garden is the variety. There is always something happening somewhere at all times of the year, but I must admit, spring is the most exciting time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

First Fuchsia Flowers

It had been a couple weeks since I had been to our home in Laguna Beach and as usual there was a lot going on in the garden. One of the nicest things was this 'Voodoo' standard fuchsia in bloom in what used to be a shady area in the garden. I only have a couple of the fancy hybrids left in the garden. Most of them have succumbed to the awful fuchsia mite and I have replaced them with the more native ones that are more pest and disease resistant. Of course those are periwinkles (vinca major) blooming at its base and if you look closely in the upper left hand corner (click to enlarge photo) you will see my yellow clivias about to bloom.

Of course these are all shade plants and they are typically protected from the sun by a large myoporum tree overhead. The past year has been a bad year for myoporums in California due to a thrip that has attacked them all along the coast. (For more information see the UC IPM Website). My tree has very few leaves left on it and I was going to have it taken down because I thought it was a goner, but my tree guy suggested trimming it back and waiting to see if it can just "grow through" the infestation since it is a dominate feature in the garden. Everything below it has been growing like crazy with the extra light they have been receiving during the winter, but we'll have to see how they hold out during the long summer.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Waiting To Be Planted

This is the latest portion of grass that has been removed in SJC. In it's place are going perennials and shrubs in a chartreuse and purple color scheme.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Peach Blooms

These beautiful pink blooms belong to a peach tree in the SJC garden. Up close they are so pretty but then look at the tree they are on below.

Talk about a terrible shaped tree! I should have pruned it a couple months ago but I guess I wasn't paying attention. The good news is I can cut some of the branches for indoors and not feel guilty about sacrificing any fruit. This tree was loaded with fruit last year, but something got to it before I did and the tree was striped bare almost over night.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wisteria That Thinks It's a Groundcover

I planted this wisteria when we moved into our SJC house two years ago. I was so excited that I had a big sturdy pergola that could handle this domineering vine. It is in bloom now and as you can see it is performing beautifully except that it refused to grow up! It has never been pruned and there is a matching vine on the other side of the pergola that has already made its way to the top, although it is not in bloom yet. They are both the same kind, Texas Purple, so I don't really know why this one stays short. But it is still lovely!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Late Season Blooming Shrub

Pieris japonica 'Amamiana' is a shrub commonly called Lily of the Valley Shrub. Because it doesn't get cold enough here to grow actual Lily of the Valleys, this is as close as we are going to get. It isn't fragrant*** like the original, but it is beautiful when it blooms this time of year. Many of these shrubs have a pink or red tint to the blossoms, but I love this pure white one in my Moonlight Garden in SJC. They are related to Azaleas and prefer shady, moist spots in the garden. I had planted one in Laguna that did not survive, probebly because the shade there is very dry. They are supposed to get to nine or ten feet tall, but I must admit I have never seen them more the three or four feet. I must admit I have never seen one growing in anyone's garden, but that may be because I have never noticed them out of bloom, which is what they are when most garden tours take place. I have two of them and will be interested to see how they do here over the years.

*** Editors note: after being questioned about the lack of fragrance I went out and got down and gave it a sniff test and yes, there is a fragrance and I'm sure when the shrubs get larger it is much more evident!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Kenilworth Ivy

I am always looking for interesting groundcovers and this is one I love. It is Kenilworth ivy (cymbalaria muralis) and it may be considered a problem in some parts of the world because it does reseed and pop up in unexpected places. I don't think I have ever planted it, but as you can see here it has found a shady, damp retaining wall and made itself at home in Laguna. It is very dainty and the tiny purple flowers are charming. In the right spot it is a good solution.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Double-Double Daffodil

I must admit that when it comes to spring bulbs, I go for quantity over quality. Most of my daffodils come in bags of 100 from Costco. I have long since forgotten any of the names of them. This pretty one is just about the only double one that I have growing and I think it is lovely. Maybe next year I will be choosier about the bulbs I plant and try for some more unique ones.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Under the Avocado Tree

Our garden in Laguna was once an old avocado orchard and there are three remaining trees on the property. Avocado trees have notoriously shallow roots and you are not supposed to plant anything underneath them. They are also very messy at certain times of the year, shedding all their leaves when the new ones appear, providing their own mulch.

But these trees were at the very entrance to my garden and I needed to tie them in with the rest of the garden, so I ignored all advice and planted under and around them. That was fourteen years ago and if anything, I think they are happy to have all the company and attention. I don't advice anyone else doing it but it seems to work for me.

Under the biggest tree is an angel that has lived there for as long as I've been gardening. He has a tendency to get lost in the greenery and my husband is constantly clearing out the exuberant groundcovers and ferns that hide him. As you can see, even though he was fully exposed two weeks ago, everything is growing like crazy and he is once again hiding in the bushes.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Flowering Freesias

These pretty freesias have been coming up every year since I planted the corms about five years ago. Another lovely symbol of spring! I must remember to plant more next fall.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

At least it has in the garden in Laguna. Not only are there spring bulbs in bloom everywhere, but as you can see at the very bottom of the picture, the hydrangeas are starting to fill out after a winter of bare branches.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Peachy Clivia

I have lots of orange and yellow clivias in my gardens, but this is the only peach colored one I have ever seen. I actually bought it at the supermarket about four years ago! Our supermarket has a great selection of plants! It blooms earlier in the season than the other colors which are just starting to open now. People always comment on it because it is such an unusual color and I know I have promised divisions to a number of people when I get around to dividing it someday.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Odds and Ends In Bloom

A walk through the Laguna garden showed a number of random plants blooming, oblivious to the fact that it is not even spring yet. Daffodils, daylilies and a rose that escaped being cut back somehow, as well as an unusual but unidentified shrub leaning against the obelisk.

(click on the photo for a closer look)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Perfect Orchid

I wrote a few weeks ago about the cymbidium orchid outside the door at our SJC home. I almost forgot about this one that has resided outside the door in Laguna for almost thirteen years. It was given to me by a neighbor that was moving away and it has been thriving on neglect ever since. It occasionally will get a dose of organic fertilizer, the same as all the other plants and it gets watered once every week or two. Most of the year I forget it is even there until out of the blue come this exuberant display of flowers. It never gets diseases or bugs, never needs pruning nor does it shed. The perfect container plants!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tall Shadows

Late in the day is a lovely time when the shadows are long and make dappled shade in what we call Palm Alley in our SJC garden.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Coral Delight Camellia

This is the only camellia I am putting in (at least so far) this year. It is called 'Coral Delight' and it is going in the new garden beds I am planting in the back yard in SJC. Most of the flowers in these beds have a coral bloom, either reddish coral as in this camellia or pink corals.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Birds of Paradise

It is the time of year that Birds of Paradise start to bloom in our area. Our yard in SJC had hundreds of them when we moved in, most of which I have removed to make way for plants that I prefer. I do think the flowers are lovely and a bit amusing, but the foliage really does nothing for me. They are pretty commonplace around here because they can live on practically no water all summer. They are the typical plant used in shopping center islands. Still, I do try to appreciate the few I have left growing near the front gates, which is easy to do when they bloom like this.