Monday, January 31, 2011


This is the first time I have planted cineraria in the ground. I have purchased it many years and used it for seasonal color in pots, but never planted it to see if it would come back the following year. Many of the early spring shade plants that should be perennials do not make it past the summer to return the following year in our area, so I guess I had low expectations for these. It sure is a pretty burst of color and if it does return it will just be an added bonus!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Spring Urges

Even though it is still the middle of winter, you couldn't tell by our weather during the day (it still gets pretty chilly when the sun goes down). It is this kind of weather that releases some chemical in the brains of gardeners that stimulate the urge to plant, at least it does in my brain.

So it was understandable to bring home a couple flats of some of my favorite late winter, early spring flowers. The purple anemones will go in the front door garden and the peachy primroses will be used to fill in some pots on the deck and the rest will be added to palm alley to add a little lightness to the shade. Who could resist?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Primroses and Pansies

We have an annual party this time of year based on a popular sporting event. It is the one time of year that we open our home to a wide variety of family, friends, coworkers and neighbors. People actually fly in from all over the country for this event, (and to escape the east coast weather). For many of them it is the only time of year they see my gardens in SJC and I hear lots of comments on how they are looking forward to seeing them. Understand that this is the time of year that the roses are all cut back, the ornamental grasses are hacked off to the ground, the hydrangeas are bare as well as many of the trees and shrubs. It is also the time of year I appreciate being able to go to the nursery and have tables and tables of annuals and perennials in bloom to choose from for instant gratification. Flats of pansies and primroses came home with me this week as well as gallon pots of cannas, daisies, candy tufts and cinerarias. A few doses of liquid seaweed, mulch and some sunny weather should help turn the bare spots into somewhat less disappointing beds of early spring inspiration for our guests!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Big Trim

It takes my tree trimmers three days to clean up the hundred plus palm trees we have on our SJC property. Removing dead and dying fronds is half of the work. Removing heavy seed pods is the other. These gentle giants are not self cleaning and removing dead and dying material that harbors bugs and disease keeps them healthy and happy. Tons of debris has to be hauled to the dump because palm materials don't decompose in the compost pile and I'm not into basket weaving. It is a big job but everything looks so neat and tidy when it is done that it is worth the headaches.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Low Limb

I love an interesting tree, especially a weeping tree and I loved how this part of one of the California Pepper trees was growing outward and hanging over the grassy path in the backyard. Unfortunately with all the rain it started getting lower and lower until you couldn't walk under it without getting on your hands and knees. I finally made the decision that it was becoming a hazard and had to go.

This week the tree trimmers came and removed that whole section of the tree. Although I do miss it's weeping character, the open path and sunshine is a welcome change to the rest of the garden. I'll get over it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cutback Time

Although some of the ornamental grasses were cut back in the fall, most of the big fountain type grasses (like this purple fountain grass) start showing signs of new growth around this time of year which is the best indicator for our area that it is time to cut them back. I know it is necessary, but they look so sparse and sad for a couple months that I try to put it off as long as possible, but it is better to just bite the bullet and cut them back now so all the plant's energy can go into the new growth.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


I have to commend these white reblooming iris in the Moonlight Garden, they have been blooming non-stop all year long including the rainy season and the chilly nights. I have two kinds and they are very similar so I don't know which ones are consistently putting on a show. It is either 'Immortality' or 'Frequent Flyer', or maybe both! There is never a time that I can't find at least one in bloom!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Till Next Time

The last bouquet of roses will be gathered this week as they are cut back to force them into dormancy. See you on the other side of winter my botanical friends!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Good, The Bad....

I must admit that this is not the prime time of year for my gardens, especially after all the rain we have had. The perennials and shrubs are cut back and the grass is dormant in some spots. What were overflowing flower beds in the warmer months are now just muddy patches. That overhanging limb on the California Pepper tree has to be cut off because it is so low to the ground that you can't even walk under it anymore. The grassy paths are too muddy to walk on without boots. (Sigh)

But I must admit that the one part of the garden that looks good all the time is the gravel garden! After all the rain there was a lot of debris from the overhanging trees but it all kind of just worked its way down through the gravel. Even though the row of hydrangeas are dormant, there is enough other foliage to keep the area from looking bare. I am growing more and more fond of this place all the time!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Very California

Some days it is impossible to imagine being anywhere else but here in California. The cold and damp weather has taken a reprieve and the sun is warming everything up. The citrus are particularly happy with their wet roots and warm foliage creating the ideal situation for sweet, juicy fruit! Very iconic California!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Big Camillias

Although camellia blooms do not like rain (they turn brown at the slightest dampness), apparently they do like it when it soaks the ground before they bloom because this year my white camellias are bigger than I have ever seen them! It is hard to tell from this photo, but I would say they are about a third bigger than the previous years on the same plant. I do fertilize them with organic acidic fertilizer once a year after they bloom, but the only thing that would be different in their care is the heavy rains we have had all fall and winter while the buds were forming. They do make great cut flowers for this time of year when the pickings are sparse and I usually float them in low bowls of water. This is the time of year to plant them and the weather is lovely this week so I may just add one or two new shrubs to the garden!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Wicked Weeding

Q: How do you weed a bed of blue agaves?
A: With a very long-handled hoe!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Thanksgiving Tree

See that scraggly looking liquidamber tree in the middle of the window? That is my Thanksgiving tree. I love these trees, also called sweet gum, for many reasons. They have beautiful bright green leaves all summer, gorgeous color in the fall and lose all their leaves to let the sun in during the winter months. They do have spiky seed armatures that can be a nuisance if they are planted near sitting areas or places where kids run barefoot, but they have never been a problem for the three trees that I have planted in the Laguna garden. I chose this spot to plant it so that during the Thanksgiving holiday when you look out that large dining room window you will see the fall colors. There are quite a few of these trees in our SJC neighborhood and a lot on our street giving the whole area a distinct "fall" feeling as the leaves turn various colors based on the hybrid that is planted. Some are yellow, some red, some orange and there is even one a few blocks away that I swear must be grafted three different hybrids on one tree because it has different colored sections. And yes, it does drop its leaves which I am looking forward to for some good old leaf mulch!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The First Grapefruit

I have a lot of fruit trees in my gardens, but I must confess that they are pretty much on their own. Other than fertilizing them I do little else to pamper them as I probably should. There is no fancy pruning or dormant sprays. They grow and I must confess that most of the fruit goes to the wildlife which is fine with me. We do harvest lots of citrus though (they seem to tolerate my neglect better than most fruit trees) and I planted my first grapefruit tree last year. There are a few grapefruits growing on it already although it is still small and I am keeping my eye on them because I am looking forward to my own garden grown grapefruits in the summer!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy (Damp) Campers

So what is loving all this wet weather?




Monday, January 10, 2011

Cold Weather Means More Color... least as far as these 'flapjack' succulents go! They are normally green with a touch of red around the edges but with the chilly nights we have been having they have taken on a distinctive red hue. Funny thing is last summer I saw some at a nursery that were much more red than mine and I almost got them because of the color. Now I wonder if they had just been in a chilly greenhouse!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

On The Green Side of Things

What are the advantages of a year's worth of rain in two weeks? The hills around us are a beautiful shade of green and will likely stay that way until spring when they turn into yellow fields of wild mustard and then dry up in the summer.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Candelabra Effect

I have seen aeoniums flower before, the yellow blooms of 'Zwartkop' are quite common in my Laguna garden. I must say though that this is a rather unique display for me. This unnamed variety that grows in my street side garden in SJC has taken on a somewhat "candelabra" look with each of the six offshoots as well as the center sporting a tall blossom stalk. This is a taller aeonium than I usually grow in the garden. I like them flat and close to the ground and cut them before they typically get this height, but it is growing amongst a stand of scented geraniums and I let it grow taller to compete for the center stage I guess. It is definitely stealing the show right now!

Friday, January 7, 2011


After weeks of not getting out into the garden I ventured out this morning to see what this weather trend has brought us. In a word - mud! The compost that was added last fall has become mud. The mulch that was used to tidy up the soil and insulate the roots this winter - mud! Even some of the shallow rooted ground covers that were living in lower spots have become mud. Not really much you can do to alleviate this problem but wait it out and pray for sunshine. Please excuse me while I get on my knees!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Rain

It has been a while since I have posted on this blog, mainly due to being busy with holidays, visitors and even a brief vacation, but there really wasn't too much to say except it has been very, very wet!

I am always being asked about how all this rain will effect the garden and I must say that we are just going to have to wait and see. Of course we have had wet winters while I have had my Laguna garden and other than a few small slides in some of the sloped beds, the excess water just runs off down the hillside eventually making its way to the bottom of the canyon and on into the ocean. It is an established garden and the deep roots keep most of the soil in place. It is another story in SJC where the property has been terraced to create flat areas that do not drain well with this much water. Of course most of the plants that are drought tolerant have roots that tend to rot with too much rain in the summer when they are dormant, I'm just not sure if they will be able to handle the wet during the winter when it is this much. I had already cut back many of the woody shrubs and perennials and I'm afraid that may have put them in peril due to not enough foliage to try to transpire away some of the moisture. But like I said, we will just have to wait and see!