Friday, August 28, 2009

Taking a Break

I will be out of town for a few weeks as summer winds down, but will return ready for fall gardening in September!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Cool Tool

This handy dandy item is used for removing grass. It has a sharp blade that goes under the sod and cuts the roots allowing the grass to be lifted in large strips. We have used it all over the SJC property making the job much easier than using a shovel. I have used the 'compost' method of covering the grass with newspaper and mulch for smaller sections, but that is not very practical for large areas. The grass strips are then composted and in the case of the Buddha Garden, they will be used to build up one side of the yard to lesson the slope. I love a good tool!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Latest Project

Say good-bye to this lawn in the Buddha Garden in SJC! We are replacing it with a gravel garden and I am very excited about it! I was on a garden tour in Beverly Hills a few month ago and had the opportunity to walk through a lovely shady gravel garden and I fell in love with the ambiance of the cool, crunchy gravel and the occasional iris coming up through the stones. This area is rarely ever used and seems to be more of a walk through space when coming from the back yard (up the steps to te right) to Palm Alley and on to the pool area. I am looking for the just the right harvest table and chairs to go here and am figuring out a way to hang a chandelier from the pepper tree!

Monday, August 24, 2009


I wish this picture of the droplets of water on pink gaura were from a rainstorm, but we are not so lucky. It is only the early morning after the sprinklers have been doing their job!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Now and Then

This is an angle of the backyard in SJC when we first moved in two and a half years ago, looking out from the patio. There was a single queen palm that was smack dab in the middle of the view looking out from the dining room window. It wasn't too bad until it grew tall and all you could see was the trunk.
This is what it looks like today. It is hard to see in this picture, but there is a small 'Cherokee' liquidambar tree in the middle of this bed that will provide fall color to the dining room window when it gets bigger. The rest of the bed is filled with roses, shrubs, herbs and perennials.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Out of the Blue

The other day I went out to stroll around in the backyard in SJC when I was surprised to see this single lavender that had expired. really expired. As you can see it was between two healthy roses and not far away from another lavender of the same kind that is thriving. Cases like this when a plant just ups and dies quickly for no apparent reason are always a mystery. It requires a little investigation at least. My guess is that the soil was too wet in that spot. The area had in-ground sprinklers that change continually how and where the water hits and is channeled due to the changing and growing shrubs in the bed. About the only thing that will kill lavender in our area is too much water as they hate wet feet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sprinkler Woes

With no measurable rain for at least six months it is very evident where the underground sprinklers are inadequate. It can be a broken sprinkler head, a misdirected sprinkler, a timer malfunction, low water pressure or even a blocked sprinkler head due to the growth of a plant. I'm not sure what is going on here, but we are going to have to find out. However today there is a broken sprinkler pipe that has been leaking into the neighbor's yard for who knows how long, giving their trees a nice deep soak, that must be fixed ASAP!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Not-So-Successful Veggie Garden

With all of the best intentions starting out, the pretty little vegetable garden in SJC has been less than what I would call successful. Between the rabbits, birds, raccoons, opossums and our own dogs there has been little produce left over for us! We have not had one tomato off these enormous plants mainly because when they are green and of good size they start to resemble tennis balls and my dogs remove them to play with them.
All the other fruits and vegetables seem to disappear in the night with the exception of these big red cabbages and garlic. We will definitely need to put up a lot more fencing next season! Somehow having a Wildlife Sanctuary and a vegetable garden do not work well together. Thank goodness for farmer's markets!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cutting Back Roses in August

Roses do not go dormant in our climate and they will grow and grow all year around if left to their own devices. They become large rambling shrubs with few blooms when nature takes over. We actually force them into dormancy in the winter by cutting them back and removing all of their foliage to give them a bit of a rest. One other chore we often do in Southern California is to cut our roses back in August when they are often looking tired and stressed. By cutting them back to about knee height and giving them a good dose of organic fertilizer they are given a chance to come bouncing back in the fall and there are lovely roses in the garden for the holidays. It is much easier to cut them back in the summer because there are so many other plants in bloom that you don't miss the roses as much as you do in the winter when so many other things are bare.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Awake In The Middle of Summer

These pretty white cyclamen are blooming away in the middle of August, when they normally would be dormant. I don't know if it is the spot they are in or the mild summer weather we are having that has them confused, but they are a charming never-the-less!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tall Grass

This tall arundo variegata is a lovely sight this time of year. Its green and white color along with its tendency to sway with the slightest breeze creates a soothing, cool mood in the Moonlight Garden. It gets to be about six feet tall and it is considered somewhat invasive here in Southern California so we make sure it is tucked away and the occasional flowers are promptly removed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sweet Scents of Heliotrope

I love every kind of heliotrope, from the white ones to the lavender ones to the dark purple ones. I love the sweet flower heads, I love the crinkly dark green leaves, but I especially love the amazingly sweet scent. It is sometimes called the 'cherry pie plant' because of the scent. I think it is kind of vanilla-y. It is a short-lived perennial in our climate. It grows in either the sun or partial shade and needs to be pinched back to keep it from getting too leggy. I usually plant them from four-inch pots because they grow quite quickly. I have a lavender one that is almost four feet tall in Laguna, but most of them stay closer to two feet in height, making them a good plant in a mixed garden bed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ed Brown

This is my first 'ruffly' daylily! It is called 'Ed Brown'. Such a masculine name for such a frilly flower, not that there's anything wrong with that!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Place To Sit

Here is the spot in SJC that we can often be found in the late afternoon or an early weekend morning. It is a great place to play ball with the dogs and greet neighbors walking by the low wall to the right. It looks at the Moonlight Garden and the chair arms are just the right size for a beverage. It is especially nice when there is one of the grandkids sitting in the little chair on the right!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Purple Cloud

Agapanthus are quite common summer flowers in our area. They are drought tolerant and pest and disease free. The only downfall to them that I am aware of is that voles LOVE to eat their fleshy roots, but they eat almost everything else too. I have dozens of the light blue ones, white ones, large ones and miniature ones. I even have some with variegated leaves. But the ones that really seduce me are the dark purple ones like this 'Purple Cloud'. The color is so rich!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer Beauty

Is there anything more beautiful than hydrangeas in the shade on a hot summer day? I think not!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Odd Little Fellow

While out photographing some of the bright yellow blooms of summer I caught this interesting bug on the blooms of the butterfly weed. I have no idea what he (or she) is, but I like his transparent wings!