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!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Harvest Moon Blooms

What's blooming brightly in the Moonlight Garden just in time to capture the moonbeams from the magnification Harvest Moon?

Hibiscus, Shasta daisies, daylilies and roses, just to show a few.
The first days of fall are being welcomed with a flush of flowers throughout all the gardens.

The warm days ahead that are somewhat typical of our fall weather will be much welcomed by the plants that were waiting for a summer that never happened along the coast in Southern California.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Cutting Back the Grasses

Many of the tall ornamental grasses in my gardens have been looking a little tattered and floppy for some time now, but I have been waiting for signs of new growth to show in the center before cutting them back. As you can see on this variegated miscanthus sinensis, the new shoots are coming up which is a good indicator that the plant will withstand a sever cut back, look tidy all winter and be ready to bounce back in the spring. Finally!

Monday, September 20, 2010

A Love/Hate Relationship

This bright grass in the front SJC garden is Japanese Forest Grass (hakonechloa 'Aureola') and I love it in the spring, fall and winter months when it gets mostly shade in this spot and turns a bright chartreuse color. The texture is beautiful and it brightens the garden of greens and purples wonderfully. However...
...for a few months in the summer it gets full sun here and turns pale and scraggly looking. I'm inclined to dig it up and move it to full shade year round, but it just goes so well in this bed. We'll see.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Than Just a Pretty Face

Look at the tall, sturdy stems on this 'Ahoy Matey' dahlia. No staking needed here. Look for characteristics in the description that indicate strong stems when buying tubers, such as "sturdy" or "good cut flowers" and there is a good chance you won't need to do much staking. I also tend to keep to the mid-size blooms since the sheer weight of the flower can cause the stem to bend. I'm pretty laid back when it comes to staking plants and would rather just invest in plants that don't need the extra support to make a good show in the garden.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

While I'm On The Subject

Planting "en masse" isn't just for garden beds. This old wooden container that sits by my front walkway in SJC is usually filled with annuals. When the spring annuals were spent, only the dirt remained, I'm embarrassed to say, all summer. I was walking by the other day and on the spur of the moment decided to do something about it. With a few minutes I had broken off about a dozen young aeonium off shoots and filled in the container. No tools were needed and it has been over a month and they are doing quite well. I will probebly rotate the container 180 degrees every once in a while so they grow evenly since the light is to the left. Now why didn't I do this earlier?

Friday, September 17, 2010

En Masse

There are three ways I like my succulents; all alone as an accent, mixed in with other plants, and grouped together. That says a lot about the versatility of this family of plants.

In my front garden along the street I am developing a drought resistant, low maintenance garden and since it is a fairly large space it is perfect for planting succulents in groupings.

The repeating designs make a pronounced statement throughout this garden bed and I am fortunate that I have the space to experiment with this type of interesting structure. There are still some spots that need attention and I look forward to finding other succulents to plant "en masse" in this garden this fall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Appropriate Name, or Not?

Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceumis) one of the most appropriately named plants that I can think of, with a true "fountain" shape. But it really isn't purple, is it? More like a burgundy. Hmmm.... wonder why it wasn't called Burgundy Fountain Grass? Anyway, it is at it's glory this time of year and truly adds a fall feeling to the garden. It is starting to show up on some invasive plant lists, but I have never had much of a problem with it spreading in my gardens (unlike it's cousin, the green variety), so I will continue to grow it and recommend it for people in our area.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Garden Pests

I was in a discussion the other day with some gardeners and the question came up; what is the biggest pest you have in the garden? Gophers, aphids, rose slugs? I have to admit I can deal with all those problems. My biggest pest? Our seven month old German Shepard, Tilly. Luckily she is not much of a digger, except maybe to hide a bone from our other dog. But if there is anything full and lush, like these ferns or tall wispy grasses, she sees it as an invitation to jump right in it and stomp it down to make a temporary resting place where she can keep an eye on me just in case I may suddenly have the urge to play with her. See that enthusiastic, energetic look she has? She is like that from the first thing in the morning until she collapses at night. If she could talk she would be saying "Wanna play? Wanna play? Wanna play?" Where is our other dog? Hiding from Tilly, no doubt.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Some Like It Cool

Just to illustrate what a mild, cool winter we have had, the foxgloves (digitalis purpurea), that stop blooming as soon as the weather heats up, have not gone out of bloom since I planted them last spring. I guess that's one advantage to this lost summer.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

End of Summer 'Chokes

There is nothing I don't love about artichokes. I love to eat them, I love their foliage and I love their amazing blooms. They add a lot of interest to the garden and I grow them mixed in the perennial beds throughout the gardens. The even make great cut flowers in all stages of their development. Not a lot of plants in the garden can deliver on that many levels.

Friday, September 10, 2010

An Easy Solution

At the front gate of my SJC house is what has always been a problem planting bed. It was kind of a joke because every time I pulled up and saw it I commented that "I had to do something with this spot." It originally was a huge bed of Bird of Paradise, which although I like their easy nature and beautiful flowers, I am not crazy about the foliage and a whole bed of them as the first thing you see when you pull into the driveway was a bit much for me. I had made attempts to plant a number of combinations of other plants in this thin soil and shallow bed, but none of them were too happy and those that were became a feast for the many rabbits that hang out there. Last spring I finally just added to an existing clump of BOP with some of my old standbys from cuttings of other plants that were flourishing elsewhere like green agave and green aeoniums, threw in some native deer grass and waited. I lost one clump of deer grass, but everything else seems to be quite happy, rabbit resistant and flourishing. I need to fill in to cover some more of the bare soil and add a little color, but I am at last happy with this easy, drought tolerant bed that greets me when I come home!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September Iris

'Victoria Falls'

Many years ago was the first time I ever ordered iris from a catalog. I had a half an acre garden and was dreaming of planting hundreds of iris. Unfortunately the selection was overwhelming and I didn't know where to begin. So I started with the "A's". I order ten iris whose names began with "A".

'Beverly Sills'

When they arrived I planted them and made up neat little markers with my Brother P Touch to assure that I would never lose track of them. The following year I did the same with "B's".

'Frequent Violet'

That was as far as I got in the alphabet. By then I had dozens and dozens of all kinds of iris. Labels got hidden or lost, but I was thrilled with the amazing show they put on every year. Each was a surprise package every time it bloomed!


If I was advising a gardener new to iris on what ones to choose, I would suggest starting with the rebloomers as a base, because they will bring you flowers throughout the year. Then you can pick out some of your favorite colors or especially fragrant ones to complete your collection. These are four of the iris that are blooming in my SJC garden right now.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hosta La Vista...

I would like to think that I am a conscientious gardener, taking into consideration the adaptability and appropriateness of the plants I choose to use in my gardens. For the most part I am, but I also have a romantic side that explains why I would buy and plant a hosta when I know darn well that it will never survive in our climate. Those showy foliage darlings of east coast shade gardens that we gardeners on the west coast covet so, show up in the nurseries every spring even though they are pretty much an expensive annual here. The one in the picture above has been there for a couple years, slowly getting smaller and smaller until it will disappear all together I suspect. Best to enjoy it while it lasts and look for a more appropriate replacement soon.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Dahlias Doing Their Thing

'Peaches and Cream'

Well, it's been a tough summer for dahlias that like the heat, but I am finally getting some blooms from the new tubers I planted this year.


Although it seems late in the summer for them to start blooming, I guess it is the normal time since the dahlia festivals are all happening around now. It's obviously been a while since I grew these beauties.

'Ahoy Matey'

The foliage is showing mildew on some of them, since the sun has been a bit scarce until the afternoons, but the flowers are lovely never-the-less. They are all standing up well without staking with the exception of "Diva' which could use some help. Overall the garden is not very colorful this time of year so these blooms are a welcome focus.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Deep Soak

After being away for a couple weeks it is nice to come home to summer weather! The first order of business in the garden is to give all the large, established plants a long, slow soak to assure they are deeply watered enough to hang in there through the warm temperatures of late summer and early fall. A dripping hose for a long period around the bases will do a lot to bring relief to the palm trees and screening hedges until the rains replenish the deep soil moisture in the ground. Even the drought tolerant plants will welcome a good long drink around this time of year. And that is about all I have the energy for today!