Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Radishes are All Right!

I am a passionate gardener, have been all my life, but I will admit that I am a lousy vegetable gardener. Which is kind of ironic since I am a vegetarian. Somehow the thrill I get from gardening is more associated with the experience I get from being in a beautiful setting and not from eating the plants. I always grow vegetables and fruits and I have lots of herbs I use all the time (I also love to cook), but they are just not a priority. That being said, I am experiencing great joy from my little radishes that are ready for eating right now in the garden. They were planted from seed last fall and quite happily they are thriving with few problems! Most of my edible crops are enjoyed by the native inhabitants of the garden, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, birds, mice and even our dogs. But I am the only one that is a fan of radishes as it turns out. Works for me!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Daylilies Have Arrived

The daylilies I ordered from Oakes Daylilies arrived last week and are waiting to go into the ground. There are about two dozen of three varieties. 'Barbara Mitchell' is a pretty pink one that I have grown before along with 'Chorus Line', also pink but a smaller bloom. 'Louis Manelis**' is a small peachy colored one that was recommended in place of one that I ordered that does not do well in our area. We have to have the evergreen or semi-evergreen varieties because it doesn't get cold enough here for the dormant ones and the people at Oakes are good about contacting me if I order one that will be too challanging to grow in our area. I like to order from the Internet or a catalog because we don't seem to have a great variety of daylilies in the nurseries here. It is nice to have something in my garden that is not seen in every other yard on the block and I seem to be much more disciplined about sticking to one variety and ordering in bulk when I do it in my office as opposed to when I get to the nursery and get distracted with all the other plants! Now to wait for them to bloom!

** I had these down as 'Apricot Sparkles' which was the one I had originally ordered. Sorry!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Aiming for Symmetry

I have flower beds on either end of the patio outside our SJC living room. They are for the most part very different with different plants and color schemes, however I have been trying to add a bit of symmetry at the very edges that face each other and wrap around the large pots on the patio which are mirror images. On the right side is a healthy and robust perennial, Blue Marguerite (felicia amelloides). It is quite pretty and I had put one in last year at the same time in the opposite bed that didn't make it due to the fact that it is in the direct path that the dogs take when they come bounding out of the house into the yard. I am trying again this year with this little one, after creating a bit of an obstacle for the dogs, however in review, maybe I should put in a much bigger one or maybe a couple more because it looks like it is going to be a while before it resembles the one on the other side and it is looking a little sad.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sea of Blue Groundcover

My goal in life (at least my gardening goal) is to not see the soil in my garden beds. A good groundcover keeps the moisture in the ground, the weeds at bay, and just looks tidy. I am constantly adding groundcovers, spreading plants, mulch and whatever I can to cover that dirt. In this little planter in the front of my SJC house my son added this fine gravel as a groundcover among the succulents and grasses and as I walked by the other day it caught my eye. I really like the soft, cool, blue hue that it adds to the green and burgundy plants that live there. It is a bit different than the gray and gold colored gravels I use in other parts of the garden. I am going to keep it in mind for some of my other beds that have an issue with exposed dirt!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It Smells Like Spring

Southern California has a scent all it's own in the spring. It is the smell of orange tree blossoms. They are just starting to open and fill the air with the sweet, sweet fragrance that is so wonderful.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Want More

I want more of these 'Green Goddess' calla lilies! Luckily the garden show I bought the bulbs at last year is coming up next month and I will be there to get a bunch. It is a dramatic flower that grows in the shade with no problems. It even does well with little water, makes a great cut flower and I can think of a number of shady spots in the garden that can be enhanced with this pretty plant.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An International Show in My Front Yard

Finally! Spring is official underway now that I have roses, lavender and wisteria blooming in SJC! This climbing rose is an old-fashioned rose called Scotch Rose (rosa spinosissima), the lavender is Spanish lavender and the Japanese wisteria is a common one sold in our area called Texas Purple. Quite the international bed which was not intentionally planned, at least not the regional interpretation, the roses, lavender and wisteria are one of my favorite combinations for spring. Luckily I am having a gathering at our home this weekend for a local non-profit group that I can casually show off this beautiful display! The roses will only bloom once and the wisteria will be done in a few weeks so I need to appreciate it while I can. Isn't that what makes gardening so intriguing? The overwhelming yet fleeting beauty? Would we appreciate it so much if it was a daily occurrence?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not Really an Avalanche

Clematis are not a plant you see in every garden here in Southern California. It may be because they are a bit temperamental to grow and there are so many other colorful vines that do well and are very easy to grow that opt for their place. They are not drought tolerant, which may also be an issue for some gardens. I am always up for a challenge and have grown them for many years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I doubt I have spent more money on any other type of plant that I have so little to show for the expense than clematis. I still love them. One that does well for us here is an evergreen type with white flowers called 'Avalanche'. It is covered with an "avalanche" of blooms in the spring - usually. I have grown it successfully in Laguna and was quick to put it in my all white garden in SJC. This is the first year it is really blooming and is a bit disappointing so far. I'm afraid it may not be getting enough light. Or maybe not enough water. Or fertilizer. As I said, they can be a bit temperamental, but lovely all the same. I do have a Madagascar jasmine on the same trellis, so maybe that will take up the slack.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

There's Always a First Time

I like to think that I am not a plant snob. You know, one of those gardeners that turn up their noses at 'common' plants that are often overused in strip mall parking lot planters and such. I try to appreciate each specimen for their own unique characteristics and if being durable and prolific is one of them, that's okay with me. As long as I like them personally, I try not to hold being easy against them.

Gazania is a perennial groundcover that is part of the
asteraceae plant family and it grows like crazy in our area. This time of year you can see it everywhere growing like a native wildflower that belongs along side of freeway on ramps. It is actually native to South Africa and tolerates the dry, unamended soil and coastal conditions. I have never been particularly crazy about it and have never had it in my gardens. Until now. For some reason I was enticed to buy a couple (most likely because the bloom color was perfect for the bed I was creating) last year and I must say, they are putting on quite a show in an area that was a problem getting anything to fill in before. They have completely covered the ground and enveloped this iris quite happily. They close their flowers in the evening or on cloudy days and open them when the sun hits them. The foliage is a lovely blue-gray and I just hope that iris is a color that goes well with the hot-pink and orange flowers!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Red? Really?

There is a saying in interior decorating that every room needs a touch of red. The same may hold true for the garden. A bit of red draws the eye and sets off other colors. Think of how red and purple vibrate. Or red and yellow jump. Just a touch of red. That was most likely what I had in mind when I planted this 'salvia elegans' in the SJC backyard. Somehow it has grown into the dominate color in this bed, overshadowing all the other purples, blues and grays. The other day I was sitting looking over the yard and had to wonder when I put in a "red" bed. It is in front of the window in the dining room and I know I was looking for fall colors to create a lovely autumn scene at Thanksgiving. Somehow I got Christmas instead!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

My Piet Oudolf Moment

When I planted this bed last year I was reading a couple garden design books by Piet Oudolf and was in love with his natural swaths of tall plants blended together. You can see his influence here a year later where everything has grown into a lovely mixture. Of course I cannot stick to one design philosophy very well and I went ahead and threw in some roses and other singular plants that mess up the intended look. I better go back and reread those books!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hello Hellebore

The first hellebores are blooming here. I love these sweet little perennials, although they aren't a big splashy landscaping plant, but a delicate little one that perhaps only gardeners love. Their little 'faces' point down and they don't grow much higher than mid-calf, but I find them very charming. I have seen people on television showing them reseeding and filling in shady spaces with abandon, but that is not the case for me. After years of growing them I just noticed my first seedling. I love them because they make sweet cut flowers in tiny little vases and they last for a long time on my bedside table, welcoming spring indoors.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dog Daze

After what has been a wet, cold winter, we are enjoying a very warm week to kick off spring. We are not the only ones that are glad to be outside again! It has been along time since we were sitting outside in the evenings, enjoying the gardens and the dogs are loving it too!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tree Trimming Time

It's tree trimming time for our SJC yard. The trees in Laguna were trimmed last fall. It took two days to trim those trees (we were rewarded with many messages of thanks from our neighbors whose view looks past those trees). They only need trimming once every two or three years. It is another story with the palm trees in SJC. They need to be trimmed every year and it takes three whole days. They develop very large, heavy seed pods that make a mess as well as many dead fronds that hang down and eventually fall off. Some of the fronds from the queen palms are 12 to 15 feet long, quite heavy and can do considerable damage to the plants below when they land on them. My tree trimmer estimated that he took almost five tons of debris from the palm trees to the dump. Unfortunately palm fronds and pods do not break down and will not compost and we just aren't into that much basket weaving around here!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When I first started my Laguna garden many years ago I put in this little shed to store my tools. Over the years it has been replaced by a large potting area under the deck where most of my tools are kept now. Perhaps more practical, not not quite as charming.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pretty Little Cranesbills

Hardy geraniums (cranesbills) are a staple in both of my gardens. This one has been growing for years in a wild spot in the Laguna garden with little attention and no problems at all. This is the time of year they start their show and will continue on throughout the summer and into fall. An amazingly resilient plant for such a dainty and sweet look.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Chocolate Mint

This is the time of year when I spend time walking around the gardens looking for spots that need improvement. I don't like to see any bare ground which usually means having to put in more plants. Rather than going to the nursery and strolling through the aisles looking for candidates, I try to start in the garden itself, looking for what already does well. One of those plants in my garden is this scented geranium (pelargonium Chocolate Mint). Not only does it grow like crazy, it is ridiculously easy to propagate with cuttings. It does bloom, but the flowers are insignificant white blooms. I grow it for the blotchy foliage and the great scent. Yes, it does smell just like chocolate mint! It even grows in semi-shady areas, but it will lose the dark markings if it doesn't get enough sun. I have about a half-a-dozen new spots for it this year!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Stepping on Leaves

I bought these leaf steps made of copper many years ago from a catalog. They have little posts on them that penetrate the ground making them secure. I thought for sure they would rot away after a few years, but not so. They are just as charming as the day I put them in this little path around the rose garden in Laguna.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Time in the Garden

With daylight savings time upon us I always wonder if there are people who actually adjust their sundials. We have had this one that was a gift from a friend when we first started transforming our vacant hillside into a garden, for about fifteen years. I can't remember once adjusting it, probably because I rarely even think of it as a timepiece, not just a garden ornament that I love dearly.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Snowdrops? No, Snowflakes!

For many years I called these Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.), which I believe they were labeled when I bought them. But through the wonder of blogging, I have learned that they are actually Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum)! The difference? Snowdrops have three tepals, Snowflakes have six with green dots on the tips. Regardless of what you call them, I love them. They do very well here is spite of the fact they are listed as cold season bulbs (they do come from Mediteranian climites though, which is what we have here). I planted these many years ago and then just forgot about them and they put on a spectacular show every year when little else is blooming yet. I just need to remember to plant some of them in my SJG Moonlight Garden this fall!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Losing a Tree

There are many things in life that are more important than trees in our yards, but losing one is so sad. It comes somewhere in line after losing loved ones and pets, at least for a gardener. This year we lost an old myoporum tree that was one of the original 'scrap' trees in the vacant lot that eventually became our garden. It was a large shrub that I limbed-up into a tree to provide a much needed break from the summer sun while we worked in the garden. It wasn't a good looking tree shape-wise, but it had lovely spring flowers that were very fragrant and it cast a huge shadow of shady relief. I couldn't even find one picture of it in my archives, it was just an old standard that we took for granted. Last year most of the myoporums in our area were hard hit with thrips. I have about five more at the bottom of the garden that look like they are going to pull through, but this one was old in what is a relatively short life for a tree and eventually succumbed and had to be taken down. Where there once a shady retreat is now flooded with sun, to the delight of some of the ground covers and plants that struggled for light and nutrients under the tree. My heart aches a bit when I walk down the east steps into the garden past the stump, but gardening, like life, goes on.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Generous Plant

This is aeonuim arboreum 'Zwartkopt' that lives on the west side of my Laguna garden. It has been there for many years and has spawned most of my other 'Zwartkopts' that are spread throughout both gardens. It is ridiculously easy to root, just break off a rosette and stick it in the ground. It thrives on neglect and adds drama wherever it is planted. I love to mix it in with ornamental grasses for contrast. Definately one of my favorite plants!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Results of Rain

Although this is not technically my garden in Laguna, it is the open field next door as seen from our deck. It is totally wild and is only green in the spring from all the rainfall we have been having. One of the lovely silver linings to all this wet!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Deep Purple

Heliotrope is one of my favorite plants because of its sweet scent. I also love the color of this variety (sorry, I forget the name) which is one of the deepest purples with dark velvety foliage. It is not drought tolerant so it must go where it will not dry out too much and always has a good covering of mulch on the soil. It will get rangy if not pinched back and needs deadheading to keep blooming. I grow this bunch at the feet of my Iceberg roses where it makes a fragrant and colorful combination.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Forecast: Wet

Our wet weather continues. I am not complaining because I know the rest of the country is suffering much more than we are, but I have been away for a couple weeks and was dreaming of coming home to walk through the garden in what would normally be a beautiful early spring morning. I need to buy some real rain boots. List of chores to be done is growing long. I have a party coming up for a support group of the local symphony and I am itching to put in some annuals for the event and finish the gravel garden project that was put on the back burner when the holidays arrived. For now I will have to be content with just adding to the to-do lists and waiting out the rain.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What Was That Name Again

I have long forgotten what kind of bush this is with the coral-pink flowers, but I bought it because its color complemented the tile obelisk in the Laguna garden.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Grape Hyacinth

I love these charming little blue grape hyacinths that have naturalized along the steps in Laguna. Because it is on a hillside, small details like this are closer to the eye and add charm that can be lost in a large, flat garden.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Naturalized Daffodils

Years ago I planted daffodils in the Laguna garden and they have continued to naturalize and multiply every year. There are a number of different kinds that bloom late winter all the way through to early summer. They are one of my favorite plants because they are like a surprise every year.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Bird Gates

I was on my way down to the garden the other day and I realized I have never posted pictures of my beautiful gates in Laguna. They were custom made for me by artist David Wolf many years ago. These gates have 17 different kinds of birds on them, all from our area and life size. It is hard to photograph them so that they show the beauty and workmanship that went into them, but take my word for it, they are lovely!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Bare Pomegranate

This is what the pomegranate bush looks like in Laguna this time of year. It is starting to break dormancy and will fill in flush in a couple weeks. Pomegranates will be ready to eat in the fall. I have tried and tried to prune it into a tree, but it insists on being a shrub!