Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Gloom

Laguna Beach

San Juan Capistrano

There is a lot of whining going on around here about the weather we have been having. The overcast skies, drizzle and cool temperatures is not what everyone wants to see in July. It is typical for our area, but that doesn't make anyone more accepting of it. In SJC the sun occasionally comes out in the late afternoon, but not this week. Laguna hasn't seen a glimpse of the sun in ages. Our visitors coming this weekend from other states are going to freeze in this cool, damp weather, and fireworks will be obscured by clouds. As far as the gardens go, mildew is setting in on some susceptible plants and growth has slowed. But it is good weather for working in the garden, if you can motivate yourself to get out of bed!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More Sparkling Whites

Shasta Daisy

Alyogyne Huegelii (Blue Hibiscus)



Oakleaf Hydrangea

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Whites




Clematis 'Miss Bateman'

Rose 'Bolero'

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Last Project

I make it a point to stop planting around the first of June. You can practically plant year round in our climate, but I find it is good to take a break from putting in any new plants until fall. Summer projects, if any, focus on hardscaping.
So what are all these plants doing waiting patiently to go in the ground? Well, I have one last project to complete. It is where the septic tank is in SJC (yes, we have a septic tank) that had to be dug out a few months ago to put risers in. It has been bare ground for months and I have decided to put in a wispy, drought tolerant garden with stepping stones to make access to the tank easier in the future.
This is one of the replicated aged wood pavers that I bought from Essence of the Tree. It is made from a recycled material that is formed over aged wood and looks very natural but is lightweight.
Here is what the spot looks like now. I need to go get some sand to place under the stones and then I can finally get the plants in the ground... and then I'm done for the summer!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Buttery Yellow Rose

I could never name my favorite rose, but if I had to name my top ten, Graham Thomas would definitely be in the list. Please indulge me as I have to post a picture of this beauty from the garden this year. Planted behind some Jerusalem sage, the contrasting gray foliage is nice, but the neon yellow blooms of the sage clash with my pet rose and so will need to be moved in the fall.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Pot of Flapjacks

Our street side garden in SJC had a problem area in it where a large queen palm had been cut down prior to us living here. Palm tree stumps are very difficult to remove because you can't use a stump grinder on them, they have to be dug out which is quite a chore. Instead of removing it we incorporated it as a termination point for the gravel path. I looked for some sort of ornamentation to put on it for a long time, but never found anything that felt right. Last summer I bought this pot and asked my son to fill it with something dramatic and this is what I got. I love it! He filled it with kalanchoe thyrsiflora or what is commonly known as the flapjack plant. He then added some in the ground around it as if they has spilled over the sides. To add to the whimsy, there is one plant in the pot that has decided to bloom on it's own and if you look carefully you will see little "ears" sticking up from the mass planting. A year later this still looks as good as the day it was planted. The kalanchoe grows slowly and holds good color with the few hours of direct sun it gets in the morning. Of course being a succulent it is drought tolerent and almost carefree.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Haven't a Clue

I have been watching this plant grow for the last few months in the garden with curiosity. I have no idea where it came from, coming up in the middle of a cotton lavender plant. It looks like an amaryllis, but not like one I have ever bought or grown. There is a chance it it a 'gift bulb' that a vendor through into my order sometime. They do that. But I certainly don't remember planting it in this new bed! I'm not complaining, because it is a striking bloom and I am very happy to see it, as mysterious as it is! In fact once I figure out what it is I may buy some more!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Signs of Summer

You can tell it is summer in Southern California because the days are overcast and gloomy until the afternoon and the beautiful blue agapanthus are blooming. Few plants grow more abundantly around here than these South African natives commonly called 'Lilies of the Nile'. When helping friends with their gardens I always recommend them although they are considered rather pedestrian around here. They come in the most beautiful shades of blue and purple available in any plant, have no disease or pest problems, require little water, make great cut flowers, bloom over a couple months in the summer (I have one that I swear for some odd reason blooms year round). They have lovely strapping foliage and are one of the largest and most dramatic flowers around. What's not to love? Too big for a small garden? No problem, the 'Peter Pan' cultivator is half the size of the common ones. I have dozens of them all around and stick them in problem areas where few other plants would survive. The only problem I have had with them is the voles in my Laguna garden absolutely love their thick, fleshy roots and have taken down more of these lovely plants than I care to think about. Summer is here - so are agapanthus!

Monday, June 21, 2010

My Photography Assistant

Last weekend we had the pleasure of having our son's family come for the weekend. There were lots of June birthdays to celebrate as well as Father's Day. Although my grandson enjoys the yards as places to play softball and run around the paths, it is my three year-old granddaughter that really appreciates the gardens. She patiently walked around the garden with me (in a Minnie Mouse hat) at sunset, pointing out and positioning all the blooms for me to photograph. Later she told her grandfather that I knew how to grow "really beautiful flowers". I may have a prodigy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pomegranate Promises

We inherited a pomegranate bush with our Laguna house. It was probably planted by the birds and existed on nature alone for many years. It produces a good supply of fruit every year with no intervention from me. For some reason it has really exploded this year with more blooms than I have ever seen on it in the 20 years we have lived there. There will be pomegranates to pass around this fall!

Happy Father's Day to all you wonderful fathers!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buff Beauty Is Just That

I fell in love with the hybrid musk rose, 'Buff Beauty' while visiting a garden on a tour about eight years ago. It was used as a climber and I guess I never realized it wasn't actually classified as a climber until many years later. It does stretch nicely over an arch I have in my Laguna garden and is an easy rose to love. It has a lovely fragrance, blooms off and on throughout the growing season and has few problems with disease that I have experienced. I don't see it very often in nurseries for sale, but I would spend the time to seek it out. The peachy color of the blooms vary based on the amount of sun it gets, but every shade is soft and lovely. One of my favorites!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Easy Natives

I have always loved Mexican Evening Primroses (oenothera berlandieri). They are a pretty little native in our area that blooms profusely for months, are very drought tolerant and self-cleaning. Unfortunately they have a reputation for being invasive, especially when they are given more water than nature provides. Because I have a large garden in Laguna that has a "wild" section where they can ramble forever, this does not bother me. I also use them at the base of my roses and they bloom for months easily. In SJC I have them contained in a planter that is very dry with some other natives and they put on a show for months too. Oddly enough I rarely see them growing anywhere but in gardens so I don't know why they are considered to be so invasive. They do spread somewhat but not to the extent of smothering other plants. Sometimes I think invasive is synonymous with happy and prolific, something I admire in a plant!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Crazy About Coreopsis

Do you ever forget about plants that you like a lot? That is what happened to me with coreopsis. I had grown it before in my Laguna garden and I don't know what happened to it. It must have disappeared during some hardscape project or maybe the voles got it. Anyway I know it was a good summer plant, blooming for all the warm months on end with regular deadheading. It is very colorful and has those tall blooms that sway in the breeze that I love. The butterflies love it too. I had originally put in marigolds around this birdbath in the vegetable garden in SJC, but I always prefer a perennial if at all possible. I had to wait until it became available at the nurseries (it was not around in the fall) but I finally got it established this spring. It is a jolt of color that pulls the eye from across the garden to this focal point. Now if I could only get that jacaranda tree behind it to bloom the picture would be perfect!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Forever Annuals

This planter always amuses me. I planted it about eight years ago in Laguna when I used to have a lot of containers on our large deck there. There are actually two of these faux cement urns that I brought over to SJC a couple years ago to place on empty pillars outside the pool house. I have not touched them as far as the plants go for all these years and they still bloom away. The rose is 'White Meidiliand', not sure what kind of lobilia that is other than very long-lived, and there is actually some lovely peach colored verbena that is not in bloom. It gets a drink from the hose once a week and that is about it. A good case for the right plants in the right place makes everyone happy!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sweet Surprises

Tucked in a corner under an avocado tree in Laguna I stumbled across an old plastic pot that was filled with the loveliest lilies in perfect bloom. It was probably a gift or something I picked up to brighten the house at a holiday many years ago that never made it to be planted in the garden proper, so it just lives on with little care or notice year after year. It is sweet surprises like this that I cherish from my garden.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tripod Weather

Writing a garden blog requires more than just a knowledge of gardening and the ability to communicate, it also requires some skill as a photographer if you want to be successful. Luckily there are lots of resources available to teach basic picture taking skills. I am lucky enough to have good equipment and especially lucky to have a very talented daughter who is a professional photographer and always happy to give me advice. (Her website is Jessica Peterson Photography). The one piece of equipment I am lacking is a good tripod. I have never really felt the need for one until this year. I'm more of a walk around and shoot photographer. But recently our weather has been so gloomy that it is almost impossible for me to get an in-focus picture. I typically go out early in the morning and walk through the garden snapping shots of whatever catches my fancy. I download them all and then every morning go through them and pick out one to edit and write about. The choice lately as been dismal because most of them are somewhat blurry like this one looking into the vegetable garden. On my list of things to-do this week, buy a tripod because it doesn't look like June gloom is going to let up anytime soon!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Take a Photo, Quick!

When I went out of town two weeks ago the 'Black and Blue' saliva and 'Stella de Oro' daylily blooms in this planter had yet to open. These were planted last year and the saliva was on my list to move to another, more open spot in the garden. That didn't happen. It does look lovely against the color of the house and picks up the colors in the stained glass windows, but as many plants do, when planted against a wall, this one gets devoured by insects as the summer wears on. I'm not sure I ever figured out what was doing all the damage, but it looked terrible by July last year and had to be cut to the ground leaving a bare planter. I think when plants are in a protected spot like this the birds and predator insects that keep most plants free of damage don't like to come so close to the structure and overlook the meal on the host plant. At least that's my suspicion. Also being in a small planter like this with little soil and no air circulation may add stress to the large plant, making it even more susceptible to insect damage. But so far this season it is beautiful and I will appreciate it while it lasts! It is a lovely saliva with striking colored foliage as well as dramatic dark blue flowers.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Welcomed Home

After being in New York for ten days I was looking forward to coming home to see what changes had taken place in the garden while I was gone. As soon as we drove up the first thing to catch my eye in the street garden was the big showy blooms of the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri). I was thrilled to see them in bloom, their tall stalks swaying in the breeze making the flowers look like they were waving hello to me!
This California native is one of my favorites and like some of the finicky natives in our area, can be a challenge to grow. I have some in Laguna that took me years to get going and I noticed this year that they have relocated themselves about fifty feet away from where I first planted them. At least they stuck around! Although I have grown them for a long time, I have yet to have developed a huge stand of them that they are capable of producing. I get a few lanky blooms a year, but even that makes me happy. They are very picky about having good drainage and are much more happy with sandy feet, something that is hard to get in most gardens in our area. Because California has such a variety of climates and topography, just because something is a native doesn't mean it will be happy on your street, in your garden without making a few adjustments to meet it's needs!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Ghosts of Gardens Past

'Love in a Mist' (nigella) is one of my favorite annuals to grow from seed. It is close to a true blue flower that comes up readily and the lacey foliage adds interest on its own. But I must confess, it has been many, many years since I have sown any annuals from seeds in my Laguna garden. It is pretty packed full of plants and my focus has been elsewhere. The ones that reseed easily have even faded away it seems. So you can imagine my amazement when I spotted this little flower growing in a crack in the steps in the garden. It has been at least five if not ten years since I have seen my lovely 'Love in a Mist' and it was a wonderful surprise!