Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Science Project

If your child is looking for a science project I would suggest this one on showing the process of transpiration. Transpiration is is the loss of water vapor from parts of plants, especially in leaves. First purchase a large (is there any other kind) elephant ears plant (disambiguation) and place it on a table indoors. Place a material that will not absorb water underneath it and wait overnight. In the morning there will be puddles of water on the surface below the leaves where the water has dripped from transpiration. Right now I am conducting this experiment daily on my good table by the front door.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Easter Lilies in June

While mentioning lilies, I must comment on how reliable and lovely these Easter lilies ((Lilium longiflorum) are that were a gift a few years ago, blooming in the garden. Next Easter I think I will buy a bunch that are in bloom for holiday decorations and then retire them to the garden to add to the show in the Moonlight Garden for years to come. And maybe the year after that and the year after that until I have a whole garden full of them!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Take a Whiff

It is a fact that smells can alter our mood and behavior and the sense of smell is more connected to emotions than any of the other senses. You don't have to tell me twice because whenever I catch a whiff of jasmine I am immediately awestruck with a happy feeling and memories of being a little girl in my grandmother's garden. No wonder so many perfumes use jasmine as a main ingredient. I just wish you could smell this wall of star jasmine (rhynchospermum jasminoides). An amazing garden to me is one that has many wonderful scents like this that create an emotional response for the visitor, while enjoying the beauty.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lovin' the Lilies

These Asiatic lilies are just delightful. They just come up on their own every year and bloom like crazy in June. No diseases, no bugs, no worries. I must plant many more for next year.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Colors From The Perennial Garden

Blues and Purples

When I went out to take some photos yesterday, what struck me was not individual flowers as much as the entire summer palette in the Perennial Garden in SJC.


Most of the roses have been cut back and stripped after their big show for the spring. The excess rain and overcast days have done a number on their foliage, but they will bounce back in a few weeks.

Yellows and Oranges

There are still a few iris blooming adding accents to various beds. Of course this time of year the agapanthus are bursting like small fireworks displays.

Reds and Corals

There are some lilies in bloom to draw the eye, but it is mostly the mass flowering perennials like gaura, hardy geraniums, mums and lavender.

Pinks and Peaches

Many of the native plants are in full bloom this month and with a little water will maintain those flowers throughout the summer. Plants like California fuchsia, penstemon, salvias, and yarrow are the foundation for the summer show of flowers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

With Gusto

I thought I was going to lose this 'Royal Queen Purple Violet Tubeflower' (Iochroma) this spring when it came under attack by what I figured may have been thrips. I cut it back to almost nothing and it has rebounded to the best it has ever looked. The blooms are heavy and full with a beautiful deep color. I must remember to cut it way back again next year, although I could do without the thrip scare.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Admiring Tamora

Not sure what kind of bug this is sitting proudly on my "Tamora' rose, but he appears to be quite content!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Fine Blues

Hydrangeas that start out blue do not stay blue in our area without some work. The blue blooms are indicators of "ph" in the soil and Southern California has very alkaline soil and water which makes the blooms naturally turn pink. To keep them blue the gardener must amend the soil and treat it regularly with either a commercial "bluing" agent or there are a number of old wives tales regarding burying pennies or adding vinegar to the water to maintain a high "ph" level. I have tried (okay, not that diligently) but the best I have been able to achieve is a pretty lavender. What about these beautiful blue ones? My guess is their roots are still pulling nutrients from the soil they came in which is keeping them blue so far. Next year I am sure they will be headed towards the pink side of the color spectrum, but I am loving them this year!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Waiting For Summer

'Moon Over Miami'

While the first day of summer is right around the corner, we in Southern California are patiently putting up with June gloom, a typical late spring, early summer phenomena resulting in overcast, cool days. With any luck, the sun comes out in the afternoon, sometimes not until four o'clock, sometimes not at all. While we all pull on sweaters with our shorts and flip-flops, and wait for the warm weather to occur, the garden goes on with the blooms that are typical for summer, depending more of hours of daylight than temperature for their cue to bloom. Soon, hopefully, soon.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Easy Amber

Not sure if I have mentioned lately how fond I am of the carpet rose 'Amber'. I do like the white and pink carpet roses because they stay close to the ground, are disease resistant, self cleaning and just easy in general. I find the yellow one to grow too tall for my taste, making it less carpet-y than I like. The amber one falls somewhere in between the yellow and the pink ones but I do love the color in addition to all the other attributes it shares with the rest of the carpet rose family. The blooms grow in complete little bouquets that make flower arrangements easy to assemble and they last for about a week in a vase. A nice accent color among my blues and purples and definitely a keeper.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Mixture of Favorites

Every gardener develops a list of favorite plants that are the go-to basis of their garden. These are plants that are proven to do well in the climate and culture provided with little work as well as aesthetically pleasing to the gardener's senses. In this photo are a number of my favorite go-to plants, with blooms in the pink range and all shapes and shades of green foliage. Included are; roses (pink carpet and 'Perdita') for beauty and scent, ornamental grass (Japanese silver ribbon) for movement and contrast, boxwood (Japanese) for structure, abutilon (flowering maple) for charm and interest, lavender (French) for scent and variety, erigeron (Santa Barbara daisy) for fill and interest, iris for a beautiful focal point when in bloom and variety in foliage, chamelaucium uncinatum (wax flower) for interest and variety. I could be very happy forever in this little corner of my garden!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

When You Don't Keep Up

It is almost impossible to keep up with everything and the one thing that seems to always get away from me is pinching back the mums. It isn't even summer yet and I already have them blooming enthusiastically. I planted these specifically for the fall color, but they are more like Fourth-of-July color!

Friday, June 10, 2011

We've Got Peaches

The new little peach tree that was a lovely gift is bearing fruit! How wonderful! Now it's the delicate balance between me and the critters as to who will get to enjoy them!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Grapevine Tunnel

An interesting garden has a degree of mystery to it and this little tunnel over the "tricycle track" in the Moonlight Garden provides that mystery. I built it a couple years ago by adding five wire arbors in a row over the DG path and planting a number of vines at the base. There are passion flowers and potato vines mixed in with the grape vines which are finally able to cover the entire tunnel this year. There are grapes on the vines, but I suspect the birds will get the majority of them, which is okay with me. A tunnel to pass through, a shady place to hide or just an opportunity to see fruit growing, it all works if you're six or sixty!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Stops Me In My Tracks?

A billowy dandelion a few steps from my front door. I see them occasionally in the lawn when they are in flower, but they rarely ever make it to this stage due to vigilant weeding (with my trusty weed-hound) and mulching. I must admit I was a bit charmed by this "Make-a Wish" moment, and I just let it be. I like things tidy, but not necessarily perfect.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

One Last Plant

Gardening in a mild climate means it is none stop. Even planting can be done practically year round here, but I force a cut off date of June 1st as a deadline for putting in new plants until the fall. Even drought tolerant plants need a bit extra water while they become established and I'm just not able to baby new additions that get added too late in the season. That being said, I am adding this sweet little (but soon to be large) purple smoke bush (cotinus coggygria) that I picked up last week. My DH and I were at a winery in Carmel a few weeks ago and he commented on their lovely specimen. It doesn't take much to encourage me so I had to get one so that when in the garden there would be something to remind us of a lovely weekend!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tall Tales

If you think all artichokes are tasty, think again. I don't know what kind this one is, but it is not very meaty or tasty, which is why I am happy to let it go to flower every year. It is such a dynamic plant with huge leaves and flowers over six feet tall that I love it mixed in the perennial borders, but I have learned the hard way not to try to cook it up for dinner. If you are planning on growing artichokes to eat, I suggest you do your homework and buy ones that are grown to be tasty, not just random ones that you pick up at the nursery.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

June Iris

Although most iris only bloom for a few fleeting weeks in the spring, there is a way to prolong their beauty in the garden. Most breeders will indicate whether a certain hybrid is either an early, mid or late season bloomers, or a rebloomer. There is a new group of iris blooming now (like this 'Dusty Challanger') and they are as stunning the early bloomers were!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Matilija Beauties

There are few California native plants that are more stunning than the beautiful Matilija poppies. They grow up to eight feet tall and there are a few beautiful groups of them along 133 in Laguna Canyon this time of year. Like many natives, they are a bit finicky about where they will grow. I have them in both gardens but nothing to brag about. They like sandy soil with perfect drainage. I only get a few blooms a year, but I'll take whatever I can get!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oakleaf Hydrangea

Back in a corner of the Moonlight Garden I planted an Oakleaf hydrangea a few years ago. It has taken some time to start growing but is finally getting some height and yes, it is even blooming! Typically found in the southeastern part of the country, these big beautiful shrubs are surprisingly drought tolerant and do well with mostly shade since they naturally grow under large trees. The foliage is very pretty and a bit dramatic. It is does have lovely fall color before it drops its leaves in the winter. The white blooming shrub in the forefront is the Rice Flower shrub (ozothamnus).

Thursday, June 2, 2011


It is truly an effort to get a picture without a dog in it around here. My two German Shepards are always within a few feet of me in the garden, or in the house for that matter.

Somehow they sense when I am focusing on something and make sure that they are the center of attention.

I typically have to call them out of the frame to make sure the main subject is the flora and not the canine.

Then there is always the cropping I have to do to remove noses and tails that are in every other photo. So many challenges!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lovely Loropetalum

There are two of my favorite shrubs in this picture and I particularly like them together. The green one is pittosporum 'Golf Ball' and the deep burgundy one is loropetalum (not sure which hybrid). Loropetalum is also called 'Fringe Flower' due to the shaggy little pink blooms it gets in spring. I do love it for the beautiful foliage, but it does not seem to love me, or maybe I should say it doesn't love my garden. I have planted it a number of times over the years and have never been very successful in getting it to grow. It most likely requires more water than I am willing to give it and therefore sulks most of the year. Moist, well drained soil in a sunny location just doesn't exist around here, but putting it in a small garden bed with partial shade and slow drainage has allowed a few of them to hang on, although not really flourish and grow. But I like the contrast it adds to this mainly foliage area and as long as it doesn't fade away I will be content!