Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Scrappy Place

I'm not sure every gardener has a place like this in their garden. It is a spot where everything that doesn't have a home elsewhere gets stuck. In this case it is over the septic tanks that I found out the hard way need immediate access occasionally. All of these random plants have been propagated from others in the yard and were in need of a home. This is a walkway by the pool equipment and is usually just passed right by, but still an opportunity in the sunlight to do something interesting. We'll see how it develops.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The White Azaleas

I have never been a big fan of azaleas. Not sure why. Maybe they are so overused for shady areas that I overlook them as an option for my own garden (although I will use impatiens all day long - go figure). There were a number of them on the property in SJC when we moved here and I gave many of them away and transplanted the rest. I must say over the years I have grown rather fond of these white ones that grow with little care in the deep shade in the Moonlight Garden. They do add sparkle this time of year when the days can be dreary. I just wish they were self cleaning because the blooms hang on way past their prime. Can't have everything I guess!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Peeking Through

I love spontaneous moments like this in the garden where a persistent Knockout Rose 'Rainbow' weaves its way through an aggressive helichrysum that is dominating the bed. A soft and pretty backdrop for a bright little rose!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sunrunner or Sunsprite?

I have always thought this was a 'Sunrunner' rose that I planted, but I'm starting to think it may be 'Sunsprite.' 'Sunrunner' is a low mounding ground cover type rose with five petals that I grow in my Laguna garden. I wanted it in my SJC garden but I must have bought the wrong one because this one is a small floribunda with many petaled blooms. Still a nice rose though!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


My European birch tree is an indulgence in our neck of the woods. It requires regular water to look good (I have a few in my Laguna garden that I put in way before I understood anything about plant requirements and they show it!). This is my little garden outside the front door in SJC and it is filled with plants that need more water than the typical drought tolerant selections that populate the rest of the property. I get to see the leaves change on this graceful weeping tree in the late fall and look forward to the buds of new growth in the spring. It sways with the slightest breeze. I can plant all kinds of flowers at the base and not worry about it being over watered and prone to disease. It is a romantic tree in a bit of a fantasy garden, just a tiny one, and it is my indulgence!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Basal Growth

I think that correct pruning methods is one of the most difficult concepts for new gardeners to understand. When to prune, how to prune, what to prune is enough to fill books. In our area now is the time to cut back many scraggly perennials that tend to get woody in the center and lose their compact shapes. There are some that can be cut back to the ground with no consequences, but I think the easiest rule of thumb to remember is to look for basal growth and cut back to just above that growth. Basal growth are the new shoots that start showing up at the base of shrubs like this Margarete daisy. It is a good sign that the plant is ready to put out new life and by cutting back the long floppy branches it allows the fresh young shoots to take over resulting in a compact shrub that will bloom profusely in the spring. It may be difficult to cut off those remaining blooms, but it will be worth it in the long run!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Such Sweetness

This time of year it is hard to find a shrub in bloom with sweeter flowers than abutilon. In my gardens it blooms during the cooler months, from the fall to summer, but maybe because it gets more water from the rain during those months. It will survive on moderate water, but likes regular water.

I have it growing in both light shade and sun and it does well either way. It can get a bit scraggly, so keeping it pruned will maintain a full appearance. The foliage is shaped like maple leaves which lends itself to the nickname, 'Flowering Maple'. And if the delicate little hanging flowers weren't enough to make you love it, the hummingbirds are crazy about it too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Too Tall

In Southern California the roses do not naturally go dormant. The sprawling ones will continue to grow until they take over the entire yard if allowed to do so. The upright ones will grow into small trees with blooms like this one that is at least six feet tall on what is normally a medium sized floribunda rose, 'Easter Basket'. Next month they will be corralled in and cut back to about three feet tall with three or four stems and all the remaining leaves stripped off to prepare them for their spring debut, at the size I prefer where you do not get a kink in your neck from trying to admire the blooms!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Late Fall Surprises

I must admit that most of my garden observations this time of year are quick glimpses I catch while getting the mail or carrying things in from the car. It is so cold that it is too tempting to stay in bed in the morning and it gets dark so early in the evening that my prime garden times are limited. I did however catch sight of these pretty pink hibiscus blooming along the side fence during what seems like an unlikely time of year for theses tropical beauties to make an appearance. Maybe the cold has forced them into a last ditch effort to reproduce before the frost does them in! Although they look more like summer and a bit out of place at this time of year, they are always welcome!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Princess Gardener

My granddaughter insists on spending time with me in the garden when she comes to visit for the holidays and watering is her favorite pastime. You can tell she is a gardener by her eclectic choice of clothes and you can tell she is a princess by her headgear. She 'waters' the flower heads "because that's where their mouths are!"

Monday, November 29, 2010

Soooo Cold!

The weather here has been unusually cold this week with nighttime temperatures dipping down into the 30's. There is a threat of frost which will play havoc with the tropical plants like this banana tree that finally has started growing this year. Although it will recover and put out new growth from the base, if the temperatures do get down to freezing it will most likely lose these lush green leaves that have been flourishing with all the rain we have been having. We'll just have to wait and see how cold it gets!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Colorful Ivy

I have always wanted Boston Ivy growing on my house. For many years we lived in a house with cedar shingle siding and that is not where you want to grow any kind of clinging ivy that can pry off the shingles. Our home in SJC is stucco and in my opinion can benefit from a little softening that comes from growing ivy on it. I know there are some people that would cringe when they see this because it can ruin a paint job, but I don't care, I love it. I especially love it in the fall when the leaves turn color and signal the changing seasons, like now. Makes me happy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Permeable Pavers

One of the most environmentally sustainable attributes of our SJC house are the permeable surfaces. There is a long driveway and motor court that uses these charming pavers that allow the rain to penetrate to the ground below and return to the water table as opposed to a solid surface that forces the water to drain to the street and into the storm drains, taking any environmentally unfortunate debris along with it. I also like the way the moss grows happily in the cracks creating a pleasing pattern. It took me a while to convince my gardener that this was acceptable and even encouraged because he was so accustomed to clients that wanted their "cracks" to be plant free and austere. Little by little!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

One Confused Perennial

I have dozens of agapanthus that grow in my gardens and bloom throughout the early summer. This little guy has decided that November might be a good time to make a showing. Maybe it figures there is less competition for pollinators?

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Cooperative Vine

I do love vines however it is important to know the nature of the vine and where it will live before choosing one to plant. One thing I like about this passiflora (passion flower vine) is that it will offer some of its blooms on the underside of the plant so that when you look up going through the arbors it resides on, there are flowers to enjoy. Some vines have a tendency to bloom only on the sunny side of the plant so they would all be on the top of the arbor, out of sight when walking under. I like a cooperative plant!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Flop

The unseasonable amount of rain we have been having is good for almost everything, except for weak stemmed perennials that should be staked. These mums are flopped for good now unless I get out and get some round supports and there is a good chance that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Oh well, they're still pretty!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Almost Missed These Firsts!

I've been quite busy lately. We're getting ready to attend our son's wedding in New York as well as coordinating a number of to-do projects around the houses. There have also been a few community projects demanding attention. Couple a busy schedule with a rainy month and I must admit I haven't spent much time in the garden. I finally had to add "take garden photos" to my list of things to do just so I would have some inspiration for my blog entries. It rained heavy in the early morning hours this morning, but the sun finally came out and the dogs and I headed out for some pictures. There were lots of things going on in the garden that I knew would be happening, but I was surprised to spot my first narcissus of the season! Can it be that time already? I guess so!

Then as I wondered on I spotted my first camellia of the season. I really do need to get 'out' more!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Even More Mums

Giving the fall garden another shot of easy color are these deep red chrysanthemums against this pretty gray artemisia, which is color itself all year round.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ligularia Blooms

I do love my various types of ligularia and often post pictures of the lovely foliage, which is why I grow them. I get questions about the blooms, which are quite sparse on most of them since I grow them in shady spots. I even cut off the blooms on many of them so all their energy goes into the foliage.

However right now my "leopard plant" ligularia is blooming away and since there is not much else going on in the area, I've left the blooms on to enjoy. So if you were wondering what ligularia blooms actually look like, here you go!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rice Flower Plant

There are some plants I grow to use as fillers, both in the garden and in cut arrangements. The rice flower shrub (ozothamnus) is one of those plants. It does well in both the sun and partial shade, although it tends to get a bit scraggly in shady areas and needs to be cut back to maintain a full look.

I have grown it for years and I like the way it looks light and airy in the garden beds when mixed with other plants.

The pink one has a tendency to fade in too much sun. It holds it's flowers for a long time and blooms almost all spring and summer in our area.

It also lasts a long time when cut and dries nicely too. The books say it has a pleasant fragrance although I must admit I've never noticed. Now I know someone is going to ask if this is the plant that rice comes from and the answer is no!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My Weeping Cedars

I have a passion for weeping trees. They seem so romantic to me with their grace and subtle movement at the slightest breeze. I remember falling so in love with this one that is planted in my Laguna garden when it was at a nursery near where I worked. I think I must have lusted after it for a good six months before I could afford to buy it and cram it in my car, lug it down fifty steps and into the garden. That was about twelve years ago and the poor thing has not had an easy time surviving on the hillside where it resides. It is a bit top heavy and tends to want to lay down and so it is propped up precariously.

When we moved into the SJC house one of the first things I did was replace an over sized palm tree planted much too close to the house in this planter in the motor court with another weeping cedar. it is a fairly vertical tree so I thought it would be a good choice.

It turned out to be a happy combination because the tree has grown more in three years than my other one has in twelve I think. It is an interesting specimen that adds a lot of character to the house and I see it every time I come home. Not everybody sees the beauty in it's twisted shape and muted color, but it works for me.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Crested Palm

I am not expert on palm trees although I am responsible for quite a few of them in at our SJC home, but I do know an anomaly when I see one! I don't know what type of palm this is, but it is definitely sporting a mutation known as a crest or fasciation. Basically what this means is the plant cells that normally grow up at the growing tip of the plant, start to grow sideways instead, creating a crest at the top of the plant. It is most often seen in succulents and cactus, but can happen in almost any plant that grows from the top. Scientists are not sure why this occurs, but suspect it may be the result of a virus or insect infestation. It doesn't really hurt the plant and this palm one seems very healthy. Just different!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Five Days of Rain

There is nothing like a good rain to clean off the spider webs, dust and dirt and show the garden at it's best. The greens seem a little more saturated and the colors of the fall flowers pop. There is new growth on the summer perennials that were cut back last month and everything is looking lush and sparkling in the Flying Rabbit Island planter bed.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

What's Loving The Rain?

These banana trees in our SJC backyard are quite happy with the unusually wet weather we've been having lately. Although they will tolerate drier conditions, being tropical, they thrive in the wet, mild weather. The deep soaking they are getting from a week of rain will leach out the salt accumulation from the soil which will be good for them. They stop growing if the temperatures go over 80 degrees or under 55 degrees, so they are suited quite well to our climate that has temperatures in that range most of the time. Our trees in the Laguna garden gave us bunches of fruit every year and I'm looking forward to these little ones eventually producing too.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Still a Few Blooms

Although they are getting few and far between, we still have a few roses blooming in the rain. This is one of my favorites that does well in both my gardens, 'Sentimental'. I'm hoping it will bloom through the holidays because I think it would make a nice flower for Christmas arrangements because it reminds me of peppermint candy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Brighten Gray Days

To say the weather here has been gray the past few rainy days is an understatement! It has been the kind of days that require the lights to be on inside all day long. That's why I am so glad that the first thing you see when you step outside the front door is this very brightly colored garden. The chartreuse, purple and green color scheme is lively all summer long, but especially appreciated when those bright greenish-yellow mums bloom in the fall. The purple comes from the last of the tall ageratum and the reblooming 'Frequent Violet' iris. The pale green shrub on the right is helichrysum and the bursts of chartreuse grasses near the front are Japanese ribbon grass. Although it is not really a 'fall' color inspired garden this time of year, I am just happy to have any color at all to brighten these gray days!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

On Days Like This

It has been quite the day for weather here in Southern California! We have had rare thunder and lightening storms all day with lots of rain. I can't even remember the last time we had storms like this, it has been that long. We need the rain and I am not complaining. Our many trees with their deep roots will be happy for a long time to come. The salts that accumulate in the soil from the alkaline tap water will be flushed out and the natural balance will be restored. On days like this it is a nice to enjoy the garden - from inside!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Falling Grape Leaves

This is the first year that the grape vines have actually grown enough to create a tunnel effect in the Moonlight Garden in SJC. They create a shady drive through over the "tricycle track" that surrounds the yard. In the fall grape vines lose their beautiful leaves and go dormant. It will be interesting to see how the mood changes in this part of the garden, although there are a number of other vines mixed in on these trellises that do not lose their leaves so we'll see how much sun hits the trail in another month or so when all the grape leaves are gone. We did get some grape clusters this year, but as usual, the birds got them before we did!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sterling Silver Dahlia

My white dahlias were a bit of a disappointment this first year. The foliage was molted and sparse and the stems were weak. The flowers, however, were beautiful! All the energy must have gone into the blooms. I am worried that the Moonlight Garden doesn't get enough sun for some of these summer flowers to flourish. Even though I use lots of compost and mulch as a top dressing, I also know that I didn't spend enough time amending the soil out there and it is still pretty weak after years of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides used by the previous owners. I will give them a good dose of organic fertilizer and we'll wait and see what next year brings.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Nice To Be Home

After being away for nine days it was nice to come home to the fall weather! Cool and damp is much more inspiring for putting out the pumpkins and doing the fall planting than the warm weather we were experiencing when we left. A quick walk around the garden in the mist this morning made me happy I have so many different kinds of chrysanthemums in the garden. Most of them are just left over from indoor floral displays using potted plants in years past that were planted after the flowers were spent with low expectations. Although some of them bloom earlier in the year, most of them are just coming into their own while the rest of the garden flowers take a break. More than enough for cut arrangements to enjoy this time of year!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Taking off for a few days. Ready to jump into fall planting when I return!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Colors, Shades and Hues

If you are only relying on flowers for the main source of color in your garden, you are missing out on an important element in nature that comes from foliage. Green is the most prominent color in most gardens (the exception would be dry or desert gardens that rely on hardscape color as a background) and yet so many gardeners seem to forget that it is actually on the color wheel! There are at least a dozen different shades of green and as many textures in this corner of the Moonlight Garden in SJC at this time of year. Since I have been a bit negligent in getting in my fall annuals that I use to add a pop to areas like this I am grateful that it remains interesting as it is on a regular basis.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Mystery Dalhia

I am still getting some new blooms from the dahlias I planted in the spring, but I'll be darned if I can figure out which one this is from my invoices and notes. It is in a prime viewing location in the back yard in SJC, where I can enjoy it while sitting in my rocking chair in the evening, so even if I don't know what to call it, I can still admire it on a daily basis!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Right On Time

My mums seem to bloom any time they feel like it, although we tend to think of them as one of the dependable fall flowers. Finally I am getting blooms on these perennials at the time I expect and look forward to them, October! There are a number of them scattered throughout the gardens and they all have buds waiting to open. Now let's hope they can hang on for at least seven weeks so they will adorn the gardens at Thanksgiving! Am I wanting too much?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Little Summer

Since I whined about the weather all summer, I feel I owe it to Mother Nature to praise this lovely fall weather we have been having. It was a bit hot for a day or two, but now it is just balmy! The skies have been filled with glorious cloud formations and there was event a bit of a sprinkle from a random cloud yesterday. The leaves on the native sycamores are starting to turn brown and fall off and the hydrangea flowers are drying out on the bush, but it could be a late summer for those of us that are willing to suspend belief just a little!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I've been waiting patiently for the "autumn-urge-to-garden" feelings to overcome me after a too brief summer. I used to burn-out in the summer and worry that I would never have those feelings of the need to plant, prune and plan for gardens to come, would return, but they always did. Last week I was thinking about pumpkins and mums and I had on my to-do list for this week, a trip or two to the nursery. Well, it was 107 degrees here yesterday. Record breaking heat, no doubt. Nothing like heat stroke to dash those ambitions of grandeur in the garden! At least I didn't go out and buy all those fall annuals that would be shriveling in this heat. I can only imagine the panic at the nurseries that are packed with pansies this time of year. At least pumpkins don't wilt!

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This ligularia is so happy in this dappled shade that they have grown so large that they are crowding out the other plants that share this area. Time to rescue the others and relocate them because I don't want to interfere with a happy plant!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Waiting for the Colors

I try to plant a lot of plants that turn colors in the fall in my gardens. I like the signal from nature that it is time to slow down and get ready for the winter months. Our warm temperatures that are typical for this time of year have yet to produce too many turning leaves, but bougainvillea is putting on a colorful display throughout Southern California this month. This can be a too common plant in some people's opinion because it is so content that it grows to an enormous size and is almost impossible to get rid if you try . It also has some nasty thorns! Oddly enough it can be difficult to get started due to it's overly sensitive root system that is quite delicate and falls apart when transplanting. It is not uncommon to have a young bougainvillea sulk for a couple years before taking off and becoming a beautiful specimen, which is one of the few extremely colorful, yet very drought tolerant plants available. I want more!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Lions Spitting Water

My DH and I have a running joke about "lions spitting water". When we were first married and house hunting it seemed like we had very different tastes when it came to real estate. I liked quaint, funky places and he liked stately, dignified homes. To clarify my point one frustrating day I told him that I would never live in a house with lions spitting water. What is the first thing you see when you pull in the driveway of our SJC home? Well it used to be a lion spitting water. Now it is a lion overlooking a funky basin of succulents spilling into a basin of "splashing" liriope. A fitting compromise I would say!