Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flat Parsley Flowers

Last year I planted some Italian flat parsley in a planter on the side of the house. Parsley is a cool season annual herb and as soon as it warms up it sends up flowers. As is true with many annuals in our mild area, it lived all year and once again I have these pretty, lacy flowers that I love to use as filler in flower bouquets. I am planning on planting some more because I like them so much. I may even use some of the parsley to cook with too!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stuffed Beds

This is the backside of 'Rabbit Island' in the backyard in SJC. The original bed was carved out of the lawn the first year we moved in and last fall we enlarged it so it could be seen from the dining room. This shot shows cat mint, verbena, purple status, pink carpet roses, and gaura with a few roses and licorice plant in the background. I am very happy with the way this bed has filled in and it has almost no exposed dirt which means no weeds!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Developing Character

It takes some time for a garden, or a home for that matter, to develop character. After two years our SJC garden is starting to look like the garden I've imagined, if only in certain spots, like this 'Eden' rose softening the formal baluster.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Embracing Imperfection

'Royal Sunset' Climbing Rose

One of the key concepts of organic gardening that is sometimes forgotten is the notion of learning to live with a little imperfection. There are going to be bugs, they are a part of nature as much as anything else and they are going to be attracted to any garden. In a well-balanced organic garden the plants will have a bit of damage from insects, but rarely is it to the extent that it is unbearable. But the bugs also mean there are going to be birds, animals and butterflies in the garden which add interest, sound and movement. Not a bad trade off in my opinion.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We've Got Apples!

I was a little worried about whether or not my Anna apples would get cross pollinated in my SJC garden last winter, but it looks like nature took care of itself and there are a number, okay a few, apples on my little tiny trees. I must admit that most of the apples in Laguna get eaten by me while I am in the garden and never make it to the house, but I love having them for so many reasons other than sitting in a bowl in the kitchen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Best Geranium Ever

'Rozanne' hardy geranium is on my list of favorite low growing perennials and based on it being named Perennial of the Year 2008 by the Perennial Plant Association, others agree with me. I always gravitate towards bluish-purple plants and I had little luck keeping the classic, 'Johnson Blue' growing well. Then I found 'Rozanne' and there is not much more I would want in a crane's bill geranium. Pest and disease free, long blooming, drought tolerant and compact with attractive foliage and pretty flowers make it one of the plants that I tuck in everywhere.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Jasmine Nights

I can't think of anything I love more than the smell of Jasmine on the first warm evenings in late spring. It is a reminder of lovely afternoons in my grandmother's garden as well as the promise of warm summer nights yet to come. It is an essential part of any garden I love, the ability to close your eyes and know you are in a garden without ever seeing a flower or tree.

Friday, May 22, 2009

"Doggie" Spots In The Lawn

If you have a dog and you have a lawn there is a good chance you will have brown spots where the dog 'relieves' himself. How to solve the problem? Put a tablespoon of tomato juice in his food everyday and you will not have any spots like the one above, which by-the-way was not from my dog.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ground Cover for Dry Shade

Viola hederacea or Australian Violets grow in shady areas in both my gardens. They spread easily with runners, however I would not consider then invasive. They have charming little white flowers with purple spots and can do well with much less water than many other shade plants require. In the picture above you can see that the baby tears in the cracks of the path are almost dormant from lack of water and yet the violets are quite content. I wouldn't call them drought tolerant, however they can grow among other plants that will suck up all the water and still thrive.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maintaining Maidenhair Ferns

I love Maidenhair ferns! I buy one every couple months to keep inside the house. They don't last too long because if they dry out at all, they die, and I am not as constant as I should be when it come to watering the houseplants. I consider the Maidenhairs as pretty as cut flowers and I justify buying them as I would a bouquet for the house, they just make me happy. When they start looking a bit shabby I cut them back and find a spot in the garden where they will thrive, which is not easy in our climate. But there is always a spot somewhere in the shade that doesn't drain well and that is exactly what they like. They can handle wet feet and are a good solution for problem areas that don't dry out in between watering.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Iris Blooms

'Frequent Violet'.

Here are a few of my favorite iris that are blooming right now in our SJC Garden.


'Spirit Mountain'???

'Beverly Sills'

'Dusky Challenger'

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Guess What's For Dinner?

If you guessed stuffed artichokes, you're right! This year I added a couple more plants that I grow in the flower beds because they are so dramatic and lovely all year round. That way we can have them fresh from the garden a number of times during spring and summer!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Early Blooming Asiatic Lilies

I must admit I was a bit surprised to see these Asiatic lilies blooming already this year in my SJC garden. They bloom much later in the season in Laguna.

I never met a bulb I didn't like and these are no exception! They are like packages that come in the mail unexpectedly. You forget all about them and then one day they just show up with their happy blooms. These ones are very carefree and easy. I've planted almost a hundred more lilies this year, after a trip to a garden show. They are mostly Stargazers and Casa Blancas and I can hardly wait for the 'packages' to arrive!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Favorite Natives

Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman'

Romneya coulteri or Matilija Poppy

Oenothera or Evening Primrose
Aquilegia or Columbine

All of these natives are blooming right now in both of my gardens, much to my delight. They are all easy plants once established, and drought tolerant of course. The colors are spectacular and the local birds and bees love their presence as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Look At Me, Look At Me, Look At Me!

This otherwise demure aeonium is springing forth with exuberance as a way to attract pollinators. It will bloom for a couple months and then the main rosette will die away, leaving the numerous 'pups' to carry on in its place.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I Agree With The Cats

Nepeta, also know as catmint, is one of my favorite plants to use in flower beds. It is drought tolerant and a good substitute for lavender with spikes of light purple flowers all summer long. It grows quickly and makes a great filler plant for beds. It is fragrant and yes, cats love it!

Monday, May 11, 2009

It All Started With A Picture

I fell head-over-heels in love with a cover of Garden Design Magazine about 15 years ago. It was an extreme close up of this rose, 'Graham Thomas'. I was growing some roses at the time, but they were all very common hybrid teas that I had bought bare-root at the grocery store (remember those days?). I had never seem such a voluptuous rose before and it ignited a passion that would result in over a hundred David Austin roses with about a dozen of them being Graham Thomas just so I would have lots of blooms all summer long. It smells as heavenly as it looks. Over the years the romance has not waned. I still love this rose as much as the day I first spotted it on the cover of the magazine. Kind of like an obsession with a super model, except this one is accessible!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mothers' Day

Betty Prior Rose

Hundreds of dewdrops to greet the dawn,
Hundreds of bees in the purple clover,
Hundreds of butterflies on the lawn,
But only one mother the wide world over.
~George Cooper

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Badlands and Goose

'Badlands' is a gorgeous dark purple iris and Goose is our cat.

Two of my favorite things in the garden!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Donated Container

Last month I was asked to create a container for a charity auction to benefit the Great Park Conservancy. I put together this romantic combination in a lightweight container. It contains a 'Ballerina' rose, 'Black Knight' heliotrope, nemesia, bacopa and 'Blackie' sweet potato vine. Over the summer it will grow and overflow the container nicely as well as be fragrant. I'm not sure what the final amount was it went for, but it was a couple hundred dollars when I last checked during the auction. I hope whoever got it enjoys it!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Elegance Imperial Martha Washington

This is the only Martha Washington geranium that I have in my gardens, 'Elegance Imperial'. They are also called 'Regal Geraniums'. It is not really my style of flower, kind of flashy, but pretty and robust never-the-less, and very easy to grow with few problems and fairly drought tolerant as long as they get protection from the hot afternoon sun.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Color and Texture

This is a small border that is less than a year old in the Moonlight Garden in SJC. It runs between the play lawn and the "Tricycle Track" that surrounds the lawn. In this area all of the flowers are white (thus the "Moonlight Garden"), but what I wanted to show was the variety of shades of green and the combination of textures that makes this spot interesting all year round. I expect it will take until the end of summer for these plants to fill in enough to cover the ground and eliminate the need for weeding. In a few weeks the white airy gaura (upper left) will be blooming as well the species crocus with the grass-like foliage. The stiff arborvitae has a tinge of yellow and the lamb's ears are a soft bluish gray. In the lower right corner is helichrysum 'Limelight'. As a side note, all of these plants take lots of abuse, from the dogs, kids and toys.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Pretty But Problematic

This is an unnamed hibiscus plant that I inherited with our house in SJC. It is blooming for the first time this season, and it begins with beautiful blooms that evolve into one of the biggest problem plants on the property. I threaten to take it out every year, but it remains. The problem is that it is in a corner planter that has walls on two sides and no automatic watering system. Hibiscus in our area are prone to whitefly infestation and this one is no exception. Because it is planted in a restricted area it doesn't get any air circulation and few visits from birds and beneficial insects. The only ones that seem to find it are those insects that feed on it and seek it out like the whiteflies (that lay their eggs on the undersides of the big leaves) and aphids. It is somewhat drought tolerant, but stresses out easily when it goes dry which attracts more insects. A strong stream of water will take care of the pests, but it has to be done consistently and that doesn't seem to happen. I guess the best solution would be to move it and replace it with a plant that is not so attractive to insects. Maybe I'll get around to that this year!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Privacy Please

Our property in SJC is surrounded by a block wall in the front and chain link fencing in the back. It doesn't sound very appealing, but you hardly notice it because of the mature landscaping that was there when we moved in two years ago. This picture is an example of the fencing around the pool that separates our yard from our neighbor's yard. It is made up of a combination of plants including podocarpus, ficus, pyracantha, rhaphiolepis, and agapanthus along with a few queen palms. It gets lightly pruned about once a year and that is about it. There is a definite feeling of privacy when using the pool which is just perfect. The one thing that I think is important to point out is the combination of plants. On other parts of the yard the chain link is camouflaged using only one type of plant, oleander, and that plant is dying out in our part of the country due to a disease called scorch. This is leaving us with bare fencing which would not be the case if there were more than one type of plant used.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


This farfugium japonicum or as some refer to it, ligularia tussilaginea is commonly called the 'Leopard Plant' for obvious reasons. People that are not familiar with it often think it is diseased or the spots are the work of some pest, but that is not the case. It is a shade plant that adds a bright spot to dark beds with what looks like dappled light hitting the leaves. It does have yellow flowers on spikes, but I grow it primarily for the foliage.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Happiest Rose...

If Disneyland is the happiest place on earth, than it stands to reason that the Disneyland rose is the happiest rose on earth!

I can't argue with that because it puts on a bright show all season with few problems with pests or disease and that makes me happy!