Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Break Time

Everyone needs a break sometime, even if you love what you are doing. It is time for me to take a break and spend time with my DH playing in a paradise far away!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tree Ferns

Some of the easiest, most reliable plants in the garden we have a tendency to take for granted. That is true of the Australian Tree Fern (sphaeropteris cooperi) for me. It is the go-to plant I always use for shady circumstances where I want a large, easy plant to fill in space. It will tolerate wet or dry shade and makes a nice understory plant to my tall palms that can lack eye level interest.
I love the lacy foliage and the airy feel that it adds to our 'Palm Alley' in SJC where it tolerates less than ideal conditions planted among the tree roots. They can grow quite large with ideal conditions, but I have a couple in Laguna that have been there 20 years and are still only about six feet tall. They will survive almost near death (as I have witnessed while planted in some neglected pots) and come right back to their former glory in no time. They are a nice solution for difficult spots that are shady and somewhat dry, although they will flourish with regular water.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Dangerous Task

The beautiful agave is living in a lovely pot in our front courtyard. It has been there for a couple years and seems to be quite happy based on the amount of growth it has shown. However if it is to continue to grow I'm afraid it may need a bigger pot because it has filled the one it is in to the brim. It is going to be a case of breaking the pot I'm afraid because this beautiful succulent has very sharp tips and the thought of dislodging it from its home fills me with fear of impalement!

Friday, August 13, 2010

White Passion

The first couple of passion flower vines (passiflora) I planted in the Moonlight Garden that were labeled as white turned out to be not-so-much white as lavender. I let them stay solely out of appreciation for their willingness to grow quickly and cover the arbor that was looking a bit sparse in the new garden. I tried again last spring, but this time I didn't trust the label and only bought vines that had actual flowers on them that I could see were actually white. As passifloras do, they grew quickly and I now have lovely white passion flowers on another arbor leading into the garden. Will I remove the lavender ones? Maybe someday, but for right now, their exuberance, beauty and "passion" for living are allowing them to keep their place in the all white garden.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tomatoes on Hold

It has been a tough year for tomato lovers that live near the coast in Southern California. The weather has been so cool and overcast that there has not been enough heat to ripen the tomato crop. There is hope however! It looks like we are expecting a heat wave which may do the trick and turn those green tomatoes red quickly, but we'll have to wait and see. Of course it will be just in time for us to go on vacation and miss the whole crop!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Fancy Flycatchers

Our house in SJC is in horse country and although we don't have any, there are a couple horses the neighbors own a few yards from our back fence. You can't see them and with the exception of an occasional whinny and a whiff when the breeze is waifing a certain way, you wouldn't know they are there. That being said, there do seem to be more flies at this house than our other house. Not a lot, just a few, but more never-the-less. How to cope? Why sarracenia of course. Pitcher plants are some of the most unusual, beautiful plants that you can grow, but they are also entertaining! One summer my husband and I spent hours every weekend just sitting on the deck watching a group of them lure and capture their prey (okay, it was a slow summer). They are actually Northern California natives and quite easy to grow given the proper cultural requirements. If you are interested in growing carnivorous plants I recommend you read The Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato and skip the little cellophane wrapped versions you find in most nurseries and look online for some interesting, sizable and healthy specimens!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Lure of Running Water

One of the easiest ways to attract wildlife to a garden is to include water features, especially those with running water. The sound of running water adds a pleasant dimension to a garden that is hard to duplicate with any other source. We were lucky enough to have running water features in both of our homes when we bought them and I can't imagine living without them. We have spent many happy hours sitting and watching the life around the fountains and ponds in our yards. Even at night the croaking of frogs is a pleasant melody from deep in the Laguna garden.
As it turns out, it is not only the wildlife and people that appreciate the running water, but overzealous pets get in the act too!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Amber Flower Carpet Rose

I am not crazy about all of the 'Flower Carpet Roses'. I use a lot of the white one, my favorite, but the yellow one gets too tall for my taste. I have a number of the pink ones that someone gave me and I like them too, although probably not as much as some of the pretty pink miniature roses like 'Minnie Pearl'. I do however like the new introduction, 'Amber'. It stays compact and the color of the blooms are quite nice. I have it mixed in with some Spanish Lavender, but they seem to bloom at different times, the roses later in the season than the lavender, at least this year. The blooms on 'Amber' take on different hues as they mature, another quality that I like. Very sweet, very pretty.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Disney on the Rebound

The 'Disneyland' Rose put on quite a show in the spring, but the foliage was a mess. They had a terrible case of black spot, some rust, rose slugs, a bit of mildew and anything else that can besiege a rose. I attribute this to the poor soil and the transition over to organic methods. After cutting them back to almost nothing and stripping all the foliage as well as amending the soil and a dose of alfalfa tea, they have come back looking robust and healthy, although not quite as full of blooms as a few months ago. I am happy to see them rebound, now hopefully they will stay that way!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Right now the front door garden in SJC is filled with a number of these beautiful reblooming iris 'Frequent Violet'. I think it is the only rebloomer that I actually sought out because of its ability to come back after the initial spring bloom. I have already added six new iris this summer, however none of them were rebloomers. I'm rethinking that strategy right now because these and some 'Frequent Flyer' white rebloomers are bringing me so much pleasure this summer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Tubular Clusters of Purple

This unusual but beautiful bloom of Royal Queen Purple Violet Tubeflower (Iochroma) always amuses me. It is a tall scraggly plant that is over my head now, but its height helps it stand out at the back of the flower bed. As you might guess, it is a favorite of the hummingbird which most likely is the only pollinator that can get into the flower head with their long tongues. From South America, it does well in out climate, but is not hardy in colder climates.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rogue Veggies

I cannot help but be amused by the interesting places vegetable plants pop up in the garden beds. There are a number of squash plants like this one, here and there throughout the property, most likely the results of viable seeds in from the compost pile. You can see by the mildew on the foliage the results of this cool, damp summer we are having. We may not have much sunshine, but I guess there is enough to keep rogue vegetables happy enough!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sharing Succulents

The Laguna Beach Garden Club will be passing out free cuttings of succulents at the Sawdust Festival this Saturday. They ask members for cuttings from their gardens and I am more than happy to participate. Cutting back succulents is good for them as they have a tendency to get a bit leggy during the growing months if not trimmed. Succulents can be cut and sit for days without being planted, it is actually preferred that they dry out a little before being planted to avoid rot. I have about twenty pounds from my SJC garden and I will be heading over to the Laguna garden to gather some more. They are such easy plants to share!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August Chores

What are the priorities in my garden this month? Making sure the sprinklers are working as intended, deadheading flowers and removing the damaged and diseased foliage from the roses!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lion's Tail

It has taken a while but my Lion's Tail (leonotis leonurus) shrub is finally coming into it's own this summer. As is often the case with native plants, it has taken a while to get established, but it seems to be settled in and ready to put on a show. It is one of those wonderful drought tolerant plants that need little care once it makes itself at home, requires full sun and excellent drainage. As you can see, there was a heavy "dew" on the morning I took this photo. The orange color has a softness to it and the blooms have an interesting texture, which makes it a wonderful background plant that mixes well with other specimens. Keeping it pinched back will help maintain the full appearance and avoid the leggy, scraggly look that it can sometimes have.