Friday, July 31, 2009

Try Again

Based on the success of the cone flower in my previous post, I naturally ran out and bought the 'Sundown' echinacea. The weather has been rather mild this week so maybe it will survive the summer!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A First For Me

Every few years I attempt to grow purple cone flowers (echinacea). I always buy them when they show up in the nurseries, around the middle of summer. Typically I make it a rule to stop planting new plants at around the beginning of June, then I really make myself stop planting new plants around the beginning of July. Then I plant coneflowers. They never come back the next year even though most annuals make it through our mild winters and summers to last more than one year. Then last week I noticed an unusual looking plant growing in one of the beds in SJC. At first I assumed it was a weed, but when I didn't get around to pulling it I noticed it started looking like... a purple coneflower! My first, second bloom! As you can see by the picture it is in dappled shade which may have allowed it to settle in during the middle of summer a bit easier. I no longer need to read other people's blogs that are filled with these charming blooms this time of year to get my coneflower fix!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ice Blue

I love this beautiful blue cypress. I believe it is 'Blue Ice' although I may be mistaken. It is so soft to the touch as well as soft to look at that it makes a lovely background plant in my white garden where I have four of them.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Five Foot Flowers

Although there is nothing in this picture to reference these agapanthus blooms against, take my word for it, they are easily five feet tall! They were just labeled "white" at the nursery but they are so tall and stately that I just had to have them for a statement plant in one corner of my white garden!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Roses and Lavender

This is a very pale bloom of 'Livin Easy' rose among the Spanish lavender, one of my favorite plant combinations. I use it often in my gardens.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Never Thought It Would Happen

I quit growing petunias years ago. They are annuals which only last one season here. In our area they are plagued by a little green worm that makes a mess of them by halfway through the season.

Then for some odd reason I picked up a few little pots of these white Supertunias and put them in the ground in the Moonlight garden. They have lasted an entire year with no signs of any pest damage. They are very bright and cheery. I'm sold on them and even bought some more to add to another bed. I must say I never thought it would happen!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gray and White Blooms

There are lots of color combinations on plants, but one of the most unique must be the flowers of the Giant Bird of Paradise (strelitzia nicolai) plant. The blooms are blackish-gray and white with a blue "tongue". This tall cousin of the colorful BOP grows easily in our area, primarily for the tall leathery foliage that gets up to 30 feet. I think the tropical flowers are very dramatic, but they are high up and often overlooked. The only drawback to them is that they need a tree trimmer to do the deadheading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fast Groundcover

I typically use ornamental sweet potato vines (ipomoea batatas) in containers to spill over the sides. Last spring I had a four inch pot of 'Marguerita' left over and stuck it in the ground in a spot waiting to be covered by some slower growing miniature roses. Watch out! This guy will grow up your leg while you are walking past! We have had to rescue the roses from it a number of times. It will die back in the winter and I am pretty sure I will find it a new home since it is encroaching on the nearby sidewalk!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


The street side garden in SJC is enjoying the dry heat we've been having recently. The lantana is filling in nicely and showing a bit of color among the green agaves, blue senecio and burgundy flax.
It's nice to have an area that that does not show signs of stress as the summer wears on.

Monday, July 20, 2009


This unusual plant is coming up in one of my garden beds where I planted some green calla lily bulbs I bought last spring. I think it must have been a "freebie" that the vendor threw in for me. Odd, but charming little thing, I have no idea what it is.

Post Script: VW of VW Garden has been kind enough to help me identify this mystery plant as a Pinapple Lily, (eucomis) from South Africa! Thank you VW!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

No Casablanca Here

I wrote earlier about buying mislabeled bulbs that were supposed to be pink and came up a bright orange. Well here are what were supposed to be white Casablanca lilies. As you can see they are quite pink. Charming never-the-less, but they are located in my all-white Moonlight Garden. I plan to enjoy them while they are blooming and then dig them up and replant them in a more appropriate garden bed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Somethings Just Require Grass

Although I am working diligently to remove most of the lawns around our SJC home, my family is quick to remind me that there are somethings which require a grassy lawn. Annie here is indulging in one of them!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Two and a Half Years Later

This is the view of our SJC backyard when we first bought the house in December of 2006.
This is the same view today. The arbor was painted black and behind it is the vegetable garden, in front, my flower beds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Silver Grass

About a year ago I was given a couple dozen five gallon pots of Silver Grass, or miscanthus sinensis after they had been donated to a non-profit function I was working on for decoration. They were almost all brown and in desperate need of attention. We planted them throughout the SJC garden as background foliage. They died back and after a year are finally in their graceful glory once again. I highly recommend them as they are drought tolerant and add a bright element in addition to movement to the garden beds.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Artichoke Blooms

Earlier this year we were enjoying the artichokes from the garden that were from a plant that had been growing about a year and a half. They were tasty and meaty, however there are only five or six blooms a season so we planted a couple more plants. They are perennials with attractive foliage so as usual they were mixed in the flower beds. Unfortunately the two new plants gave us lots of produce, but they did not meet our expectations. There was very little tough "meat" on them and when I went through the trouble of stuffing them I was very disappointed. I am not sure if it was they type of artichoke or the fact that they were new, younger plants, but I decided to let them bloom out and wait for next year's crop. The bees love the flowers and they are very showy in the flower bed!

Monday, July 13, 2009

You Are What You Eat!

I had to smile when I saw these aphids on my butterfly weed. They are not the usual green or black ones, but bright yellow, just like the flowers. oddly enough they were gone the next day, undoubtedly a colorful dinner for some other bug!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Stages of Rose Blooms

Some roses look pretty much the same throughout the life of the flower, while others evolve in a manner that makes them look like very different at each stage of their cycle.
This is the climbing rose named 'Royal Sunset'. It is a lovely climber with big blooms throughout the year.
As you can see by the pictures of the flowers all on the plant at the same time, they change dramatically as the bloom matures, ranging from a deep orange to a soft pink, all within a week.
This makes for a lovely show with so much variation from one plant going on at the same time. I think this is a lovely and interesting rose.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The SJC Backyard

Although some of the beds in this garden are less than a year old, they are filling in fast and getting that full, lush look that I love. This was at one time all lawn which I have been gradually removing. There is still some grass that is basically paths through the garden and although I am considering replacing it with DG, the dogs do love to roll in it while we sit in our chairs in the evening, sooooo... who knows.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

If I Could Banish One Bug

If I could banish one bug from my garden it would be the sawfly larvae. Sawflies themselves do not bother me, they eat mostly other bugs, but they lay their eggs on rose foliage and when they hatch they turn into little green worms that do more damage than imaginable. They live on the underside of the leaves and eat and eat and eat until the leaves are at least lacy and at the worse complete skeletons. A strong blast from the hose will dislodge them, as will hand picking, but you have to be diligent. Spraying with BT doesn't work because they aren't true caterpillars, besides, I have so many roses that spraying would be a big job. I have found that once roses are established and very healthy and strong, they will be bothered less, as are bushes that are out in the open as opposed to along a fence or wall. I have seen hummingbirds cleaning the backsides of roses in the garden, lapping up the little varmints I suspect. I am willing to live with some damage to my plants in exchange for an organic garden, but these ones really bug me!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Summer Succulents

The succulents that we planted last year are filling in nicely. Although it is still not terribly hot here, I can't remember the last time we had rain. These few thrive quite happily in a rather dry corner of a raised bed, looking plump and happy.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stargazers? I Think Not!

These are the lilies I bought from a vendor at a garden show that were supposed to be Stargazers, which are lovely shades of red, pinks and white with spots. These are not even close! Luckily they are in a bed with lots of burgundy so they aren't too bad, but I was so looking forward to my Stargazers! Now to see what blooms where the Casa Blancas are planted!

Note: I believe this is 'Baja' lily.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Roses in the Shade

Although I am a big proponent of the correct placement of plants (the right plant in the right place), I also have been know to stretch that theory, either on purpose or by mistake. Since I have so many roses in my gardens, sometimes they are planted where they are in full sun only to end up in shade a couple years later when larger plants grow and fill in. One time I was at a lecture given by a rather strict (and somewhat grumpy) rosarian and a young couple asked what roses were good for growing in an area that doesn't get much sun. He told them not to bother growing roses if they didn't get at least six or eight hours of full sun a day. Well, I'm not a rosarian, but I do have roses growing quite happily with less sunlight than that. One of them is the one pictured above, Tamora, which gets about three or four hours of late day sun. I also have Iceberg roses that grow in a bright spot that gets no direct sun anymore, although they are not as vigorous as their brothers and sisters growing in full sun. I have seen lists of roses that are recommended for shady locations, so if that was all I had available, I would definitely give them a try. You will find that they are typically light colored flowers.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Blooms

Echeveria are such sweet little plants. They are very subtle most of the time and require little attention in the garden, also adding to their demure reputation. However when these soft colored 'hens and chicks' bloom, it is like they are waving at us, saying a sweet hello. I always smile when I see them reaching out to greet the world.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Thanks Again!

People give me a number of potted plants as hostess or thank you gifts every year. After enjoying them in the house they get retired to a spot in the garden. There are a number of hydrangeas and azaleas that were originally gifts that are now permanent fixtures in the garden and I have long forgotten who gave them to me and when. One exception is this Easter lily that is in the Moonlight Garden. I forget about it until it surprises me with a beautiful bloom and then I can't help but remember it as a gift from a friend that shared Easter dinner with our family a couple years ago.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Easy Shade

This is a raised planting bed that is in the front area of our Laguna home. It is surrounded by a stone wall, a wood fence and wood stairs and deck. It contains a large Monterey pine which pretty much shades the entire area. When we first moved in 18 years ago there were all sun loving shrubs that were suffering terribly. They grew and occasionally bloomed, but they were always infested with insects which is a sure sign that the plant is in the wrong location. I ripped them all out and replaced them with shade lovers, such as hydrangeas, ferns, liriope, clivia, fuchsias, jasmine and acanthus. Along the edges of the bed (which are almost hip high and very easy to work on) I occasionally plant shade loving annuals like violas and impatiens, but other than that this is fairly maintenance free!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Embracing Art

This staghorn fern seems to be enthralled with this tall art structure from artist Gerard Basal in our Laguna garden.