Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm not sure if you would call 'strappy' a texture, but that is what this New Zealand flax (phormium tenax) adds to the garden. Sometimes it is hard to find easy to grow, medium sized plants that interest and color, but flax seems to fit the bill in our climate. I grow all kinds of different ones to reflect the color scheme in a garden bed (see yesterday's post) or as an accent in an otherwise ho-hum area. It is actually easy to forget about them, they are that carefree! They will grow in sun or partial shade, although their colors fade a bit in the shade. They do bloom and put on quite a show with the tall flower stalks that the hummingbirds love. Nice!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mums In July

The gardening books say to stop pinching back chrysanthemums this month to allow flowers to form for fall bloom. Too late! My mums can't wait to appear and are happy to mingle with the summer flowers, like the osteospermum. If I were ruthless I would cut them all back one more time, but I just can't do that right now!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Black Stems

I don't use too many tropical plants in the garden, but every once in a while I lose focus while at the nursery and end up bringing home something that is way out of the plan. That is what happened with this taro (colocasia esculenta) plant. But I must say I am intrigued with these beautiful black stems and the contrast they add to the garden.
Taro is used in many regions of the world as a food, the root being the edible portion. I have grown it around my pond in Laguna and it loves the water and actually moved right into the waterfall causing all kinds of problems. It is also called elephant ears for obvious reasons. I know it is out of place in this bed with the scabiosa and roses, but it has my attention for now.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Banana Trees

I grow banana trees because they are fun! After at least fifteen years of growing banana trees I think I have only eaten one or two actual bananas from my own trees, but that doesn't stop me from appreciating them. They are easy and simple to grow in our climate. They are dramatic to look at, the orioles love to build their nests in them, and the fruit stalks are just cool to have in the garden. I have some large trees in Laguna but I put these small ones in SJC to get some growing here. They haven't done much yet, but I expect them to take off next year!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Furnishing the Gravel Garden

There seems to be a curse on the Gravel Garden. I have been having a heck of a time getting the thing finished! It seems that everything I order for it in the way of adornment, including the table, chairs and lighting has been riddled with issues and problems. I finally am at least at a point where it is somewhat what I had envisioned; a cool, romantic location to spend warm summer evenings with friends over a good meal and a bottle of wine. (My original fantasy included a meal from the home grown vegetables from the garden, but I have abandoned that idea until some serious fencing is appropriated for the veggie garden.) Now if only we would get some "warm" summer evenings!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Second Flush

The gardens are looking a bit quiet right now, at least compared to what they are in the spring. The iris, except for a few rebloomers, are done, the lilies are wrapping up their show, and the roses, only blooming here and there. The exception is this amazing second flush of the climber, 'Royal Sunset'. I cannot say enough good things about this rose. It is lovely, fragrant and dependable. I may find a spot for another one next spring!

Friday, July 23, 2010


I am quite fond of this bulb, liatris spicata or Gayfeather. I always seem to plant it as a side note that comes in a package of mixed bulbs. Every year when it blooms I wish I had planted more because it is a happy camper in the garden and makes a stunning flower for arrangements. I walked into a building yesterday and there was a huge arraignment of beautiful flowers including about thirty of these tall spiky blooms. It was stunning. Now I just need to plant about 27 more!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Drizzly Days

The unseasonably cool and drizzly weather is back after a week of sunshine and high temperatures.
I know there is much worse weather happening elsewhere in the country, so I'm not complaining. Besides, some of the plants prefer this weather and are quite happy.
Those that crave the sunshine (including me), are just going to have to be patient because it's an el nino year for sure!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Garlic Harvest

We harvested some garlic from the garden that was ready to be pulled up and be cured. I plant it in the fall around where the tomato plants are going because there is a rumor that it discourages hornworms. I don't know if this is true, but I never am bothered with the nasty buggers, so I'll continue the practice. Now if only I could find a deterrent for all the furry mammals that are eating the tomatoes before they even ripen!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Dahlia - Finally!

I was thrilled to see this beautiful dahlia, 'Jammin' Jelly' blooming in a perennial bed in the backyard in SJC. I have been trying for a couple years to get some dahlias established. The first year I forgot to order them. The second year I ordered them but they never got planted before they rotted. This year I ordered them, they came and I got them in the ground immediately. I have been watching the sparse growth on the ones I have seen come up and have wondered if I was going to get any blooms, when - viola!
I do love things that you stick in the ground, cover with dirt and then forget about only to be surprised by their appearance months later. And this was no disappointment!

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's All About Location

I am big on "the right pant in the right place". In my opinion it makes all the difference between a pleasant, successful gardening experience and a frustrating one. Here is a good example a happily located plant. This brugmansia, or Angel Trumpet, is in the Gravel Garden, in a spot that gets dappled sunlight and the runoff water from a planter behind it. It gets maybe one good dose of organic fertilizer once or twice a year and as you can see is growing and blooming quite happily. I have another one that is near the back door (so we can theoretically get whiffs of that lovely fragrance in the evenings) that should be happy, but is not. It is a scraggly mess that rarely blooms and will be relocated soon. Maybe right next to this one!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Do Plant Lilies

Asiatic lilies are one of the easiest bulbs to grow with such stunning results in the summer garden. I can't even remember planting these but they seem to survive on neglect and offer up their blooms when the exuberant spring blooms have died down.
My guess is that these were bought in a mixed package of bulbs from Costco a few years ago when this area was all lawn. They were at the front of the flower bed at one time, but as the bed expanded, are now at the back.
The only thing lilies do not like is shade and poorly drained soil, as most bulbs don't. Damp soil may cause the bulbs to rot. After the blooms are spent, remove the flowers so all of their energy doesn't go into producing seeds and into feeding the bulb for next year's blooms. Leave the foliage until it starts to die in a few weeks. If you are so inclined you can always give them a handful of organic fertilizer, but they will do fine without. They are not bothered by disease or insects in my garden, and the bees love them. If their beauty and their ease of growing doesn't win you over, remember too, they make wonderful cut flowers!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Defining Perfection

Down the street there is a vacant lot that the owner uses to grow mainly roses. I have been told he grows them to show in competition. There are a few other plants like dahlias and an iris growing there too. It is not a garden, just a plot in the middle of a dirt field with wire fencing around it and the most beautiful roses you could imagine. I have driven by when his truck is there and I have noticed the containers of insecticides and the chemical fertilizers all over the place. It is quite an operation.

I was walking by the other day on my morning walk and ventured in to take a closer look at the amazing roses. Remarkably there was not a spot or hole in any of them. They were all perfect. "Stepford" roses, so to speak. But there was something missing. The sounds of the garden. There were no birds, no bees, no rabbits, no life. It was eerily silent.

It was reassuring to walk back into my garden, full of movement and sounds, everything that takes place in a comfortable, natural setting, and smile at the signs of life, however frustrating they can be at times. My plants will never look perfect like my neighbors roses, but to me it could not be more perfect than the way it is.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Purple Potato Vine

I grow the white potato vine (solanum jasminoides) a number of places because it is so easy and lacy-pretty. I thought I would give the purple version a try, mixed in on an arbor with some 'Graham Thomas' roses to pick up the deep yellow centers of the flowers on the vine. The purple vine is much slower and denser than the white version, although I have only had it about a year. Still haven't enjoyed the intermingling of the vine and roses, they are slow to get established. The soil probably should have been amended much more than I did when I planted them. The spot used to have grass that was treated with chemicals, therefor very dead. I used a lot of organic fertilizer, compost and mulch, but it takes a while to reestablish life underground. Maybe next year!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Cooling Effect

The Moonlight Garden (with all white flowers) is more than just an evening pleasure. Green and white has a cooling effect on the psyche on the hot days of summer.
A soothing, calm place to hang out with the high shade from the trees, the lush foliage in the deep shade and the gentle swaying of the palms and grasses that pick up the least little breeze make this a destination to sit on a warm summer afternoon.
Vines that add overhead shade in addition to the trees, ferns and ligularia add to the tropical, cool feeling. Everything thought out and coordinated for the desired effect!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Bee

I have been feeling a little left out of the summer phenomenon of gardeners posting awesome pictures of bees on their blogs! I love reading about and seeing these amazing little creatures working away in their world of flowers and pollen. I have been really lazy about getting out in the garden with my macro lens to capture some pictures until the other day when I spotted this huge fellow, covered in pollen, scouring a sage plant outside the dining room window. He was kind enough to stay until I got a good picture. Now I am happy. But the birds... I need bird pictures!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Blackbird and Silver

One of the easiest and most dynamic plant combinations in my perennial garden this time of year is this dark euphorbia 'Blackbird' next to the Japanese Silver grass. I swear that euphorbia has looked just like that for well over a year. Excellent staying power with very little care. Of course the grass gets cut back in the late winter, but comes back with a surge in the spring and looks great all summer long. Summer should be about easy plants.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I scoured my photos for a picture of the David Austin rose called 'Evelyn'. I had one in my garden in Laguna and it was a beauty, one of my favorites. I eventually took the rose bush out because it became overrun with growth from the 'Dr. Huey' rootstock. The reason I have been searching for a picture of this beauty? We have a new granddaughter and her name is Evelyn!
I have a new favorite Evelyn!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Aptly Named

Okay, I must admit that I do have a lot of peachy-pink rose varieties. This is one that I like a lot. As the name implies 'Livin' Easy' is an easy rose to grow. I never have any problems with pests or diseases with it, even in this weather we have been having where the sun rarely shines. It stays a reasonable size and has a lovely structure. Aptly named indeed!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pretty, But Sprawling

Alyogyne huegelii ( Blue Hibiscus ) is a show stopper in the garden this time of year because of it's intense purple flowers (it comes in a number of shades of purple as well as white). Oddly enough, it is not really blue or a hibiscus, but a member of the lilac family. It was once in the hibiscus family and everyone knows that gardeners call purple blue, thus the name. It grows easily in Southern California, maybe a bit too easily because it is hard to keep it looking neat and compact.
It is one of those plants that needs almost weekly pruning. It will get out of control if you go a couple weeks without looking at it and then it is hard to get back into shape without sacrificing a great number of blooms. My advice? Plant it where you walk by it everyday so you can remember to cut it back regularly, and so you can admire those beautiful blooms!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bye-Bye Betty White

If you grow roses and live near the beach, you learn that big, overblown cabbage roses do not like it there. Just not enough heat to open their voluptuous blossoms without turning brown on the edges.
When we moved to SJC a few years ago one of the first things I did was run out and buy the most beautiful, full blossomed hybrid tea I could find and that was 'Betty White'. I brought three of them home and put them in a lovely spot in the garden with the lavender and jasmine that were already here. SJC is about two miles from the shore and supposedly much warmer than Laguna Beach.
Well, I finally have to admit that it is not warm enough for what should be a beautiful rose. I must have two dozen photos I have taken of this rose in the past few years and not one of them has ended up on my blog. They just don't look very good.
I finally must admit that roses with a high petal count will just not do well in either of my gardens and stick to the ones that like it here. Luckily the David Austins do well in our climate and I do love single petaled roses so I will be happy with what I have. My three 'Betty Whites'? They will find a new home in the fall with someone who lives in a very warm climate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Daylily Dilemma

I am having a tough time with my daylilies this year. There are just not many blooms. It may be my own fault because I have been moving them and dividing them while I get the garden beds the way I want them. Or it may be the cool, cloudy weather we have been having isn't delivering enough sun or warmth. Maybe I have chosen the wrong ones since I order out of a catalog and not all daylilies adapt well to mild climates. I do have a few that are blooming consistently, like this 'Ed Brown'. I hope they are just waiting to put on their show later in the summer - if summer ever comes to Southern California!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Moon Over Miami, Maybe

I have always known this rose as 'Moon Over Miami' which is what it was labeled when I bought it. I have one in my Laguna garden and went out and bought two more to put in a prominent spot in my SJC garden because I am so fond of it. All three look like this picture, although when they first open they are much more pink. It is one of those roses that evolves into a different look as the bloom matures, each more beautiful than the last. It is not bothered by bugs or disease and has a tight, small stature that blends into the flower bed with other plants well. The only problem is I can't find a reference to it on the Internet. The only rose that comes up in a search for the name is a white hybrid tea. That is not this rose. I am confused!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Happy Mistake

Remember last year when I bought all those Asiatic lilies that were supposed to be white and turned out to be pink? I moved them from the Moonlight Garden to the Perennial Garden where they blended in nicely. I am thrilled with them this year. They have beautiful blooms and nice structure. However I am missing quite a few due the the fact they are located right on the inside bend of Flying Rabbit Island and when the puppy races around the island they were just too convenient for her to grab the small stems in her mouth as she raced by and run with them in her mouth. Nevertheless, those that remain are lovely and turned out to be a good mistake!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fourth of July Red

I do things that would make any respectable garden designer cringe. Like the year I planted these reddest-of-red cannas. I did it because I never had red flowers to make red, white and blue flower arrangements on the Fourth of July to take to parties. I had lots of blue, lots of white, but no red, thus the cannas came to grow in my Laguna garden. It wasn't long before I realized that they just didn't belong in my garden. I love cannas but they are definitely a tropical plant and my garden is far from tropical. I have tried many times to remove them, but they are stubborn buggers and insist on staying. At least I'll have a red, white and blue flower arrangement on the Fourth this year.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Perennials of Summer




While many of the plants that have been putting on a show for months take a break, the billowy, bushy perennials of summer take over. These form the backbone of my summer garden beds, often going months with little care or concern. They are not show-stoppers in their own right, but do bloom nonstop all summer. Along with summer ornamental grasses, they tend to pick up every little breeze, adding interest and movement to the scenery. An additional characteristic that make them indispensable to the summer garden; they attract the butterflies!