Saturday, May 28, 2011

Happy Clematis

I added a couple clematis to the new rose garden a couple weeks ago and so far, so good. They were in five gallon pots and if you've ever tried to transplant one you know how challenging it can be. First we dug a large hole, much deeper than the pot. Then we slit the pot from the drainage holes up the sides, but not all the way to the top. Then we sank the pot and all into the ground and covered it with compost and soil to about six inches over the top of the pot. This actually covered the stems and all. Once in the ground we put the obelisk over it and watered well. Then you pretty much wait and see how the finicky vine liked what happened. It will either die immediately, get the dreaded 'wilt', or thrive. Luckily they are both thriving! This one is 'Victoria'.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Along the Street

I must confess that I don't see much of this garden in SJC. It runs between the front wall and the street and because I pull in and out of the driveway before I pass it I usually only glance at it once in a while.
It is fairly large and was one of the first things I worked on when we moved in four years ago because it was some really bad grass around the tall queen palms and not what I wanted the world to see. It is comprised of a gravel path, rocks, a pot of succulents as a focal point and a number of native and drought tolerant plants. I use woolly thyme and rosemary as groundcovers.

Many of the plants here, especially the succulents, have been started as cuttings from other places in the yard. It does get watered in the summer from the automatic sprinklers that have been adjusted from when it was lawn.
There are summer blooming shrubs and perennials such as lavender and lantana for color. Every once in a while when I go out the gate specifically to look at what is happening out here I am pleasantly surprised that it is doing so well and there is always something that amuses me. Usually it is a really big, thriving weed or a piece of trash that has ended up in a bush (I have to get out here more) or even a small aspen tree that has sprouted from seeds the giants across the street drop. But this week there were some interesting things in bloom that I will share later.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Even More Confusing

In yesterday's post I wrote about my confusion over the simple pink rose that I am quite fond of and not quite sure of which rose it is, 'Betty Prior' or 'Dainty Bess'. To make things worse, here is another rose that I have growing, actually there are three of them, in another spot. The variety of weather we have been having doesn't help the situation because the rose blossoms can vary in character based on the climate. Many of my white roses are taking on a distinct pink hue and my pale pink 'Sally Holmes' have dark pink splotches prompting many visitors to ask me what rose it is when it is such a common one.
To add to the confusion and to reiterate that I have no sense of discipline and focus when I am at a nursery, this 'Bubblicious' rose came home with me last week and hasn't even been planted yet! I am going to get my label maker out right now!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Today is the last of the formal garden tours of my SJC garden for this spring. The docents and volunteers for the Hortense Miller Garden are coming to take a walk through the gardens before we head off for a lovely lunch at the harbor. Having your garden on tour is like throwing a party, it forces you to take care of all those nagging little chores that you have been putting off. Like making sure you can identify all your roses. I'm still not sure if this is 'Dainty Bess' or 'Betty Prior', both favorites of mine! Oh why don't I label my plants?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


If there was one rose that captured people's attention last week on the tour it was 'Sheila's Perfume'. The tour date came after the first big flush of roses for the season and there wasn't a lot in bloom, which of course narrowed down the choices, but the scent of this rose that grows right to nose height was what everyone noticed.
I must admit the first time I bought it many years ago in my Laguna garden I choose it for the name, but have since come to love it for its easy ways and intoxicating aroma. Even the bright colors have come to grow on me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bright Green Aloe

I'm not sure which aloe this is, but I sure like it. It was in a small pot that was stuck in the corner of a raised bed in Laguna many years ago and has since taken over the place. Most aloes are kind of spotted and often a drab green, nothing you would think for brightening up a corner of the garden. This beauty is so vibrant and bright that I think I may just pull off some pups and spread it around!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Getting Ready

The garden in SJC will be open all day today to the UCCE Master Gardeners for their annual tour. The biggest part of getting ready? Deadheading. That and pulling out a few weeds that have grown to plant size proportions because my garden helper can't tell if they are something I planted or a weed. Sometimes neither can I!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lady Banks Blooms

I am finally getting some blooms on my white 'Lady Banks' rose after a couple years. It is in a difficult spot that is in the shade in the winter and sun in the summer and I thought it was never going to be happy enough to bloom. A thornless climbing rose with beautiful rosette type flowers, it is one that I often recommend to beginning gardeners because it is so easy to grow, doesn't require extensive pruning and puts on such a beautiful display in the winter when most other roses are dormant. At least it usually does. Hopefully it will only get better in this spot because it has reached the top of the arbor where it can get sunlight all day everyday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We are getting even more rain here in Southern California! Rain this time of year is rare, and this is the second day of it so far. Not good for the garden in SJC where there will be a couple tours this weekend and next week. The blooms on the roses are soggy, the iris flowers look like wet hankies and the daylilies starting to sag. Oh yeah... there are mushrooms coming up in the gravel garden! Not complaining - just saying. Good thing gardeners are so understanding!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Little Wisteria Tree

I realized I had not written about my wisteria trees this season. There is a good reason that I haven't included a picture of my white one in Laguna. It is gone. When an established plant like this just ups and dies overnight it can only be one thing - voles. They go underground and eat the roots without any sign of a problem, but if you look around you will see their holes somewhere in the vicinity. Because our property is surrounded on three sides by open fields it is almost impossible to eradicate them, all you can do is try to keep them in check. Oh well, the little wisteria standard in SJC is doing fine. I look at it and wonder why I bother with this distorted fantasy of turning a vine into a tree. I doubt it will ever develop a true 'trunk' that will hold up the canopy on its own. I dislike the stake that is necessary to keep it upright and I especially dislike plants over pruned and forced to be something they are not. It is all the fault of the Ito Nursery downtown where they have a gorgeous old gnarly one that is quite charming and romantic. I wonder how long it took to not look like a goofy plant-on-a-stick?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wish I Knew

I simply can't remember planting this charming little shrub in the Moonlight Garden about two or three years ago. It has been quietly residing behind some white heliotrope that is quite large and it wasn't until I was looking carefully at the bed that I noticed it.
I really like the bright little flowers and the foliage is lovely too. I haven't a clue!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Anna Apples

My young 'Anna' apple trees are filled with fruit this year. I will need to do some thinning. Such a nice and easy tree with a happy disposition!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Arches and Vines

I love them and use them all the time - arches covered with flowering vines. I think they add charm and romance to a garden.

This particular one is an entrance to the Moonlight Garden and covered with 'Avalanche' clematis and white passion flowers, perfectly framing the focal point of the garden, the huge urn across the lawn.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Clematis

I am adding some clematis to the new rose garden to take advantage of the many obelisks hanging around from the climbing vegetables and to add interest in the way of vertical elements. In the larger raised beds I have four of one kind of rose with a clematis growing in the middle. This one is 'Rogue Cardinal'. Planting clematis is always stressful due to their extremely sensitive roots and brittle stems. I feel anxious just watching hopeful gardeners toting tall blooming containers out of the nursery because I know there is a good chance they will kill them, or at least damage them quickly unless they understand the precautions needed when transplanting these beauties. I speak as someone who has murdered many and I kind of know what I'm doing! I'll let you know how it went next week!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Relocating Tomatoes

It is with a heavy heart I have been transitioning the vegetable garden into a rose garden. Well, maybe that's a bit dramatic because I have been having fun searching for roses and clematis (who wouldn't?) but the other day at the nursery I wandered into the vegetable section where the isles were filled with eager gardeners, mostly new gardeners, based on their questions, and I was a bit sad to not be able to join in the frenzy of peppers and eggplants. Then I reminded myself that I was still going to grow anything I wanted, just not in the same fashion. So now I have reverted to growing the tomatoes (I did not get a single one last year due to the cool weather and foraging animals including my own dogs) among the perennials. This is where the first tomato lives (see the obelisk?), hopefully tucked away and in disguise from hungry predictors. Now if only we get some warm weather this summer!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

An Exception

I stay away from most hybrid tea roses but I finally had to break down and make an exception for 'Nancy Reagan'. It is truly one of the most beautiful roses in my garden. It seems it is also one of the most tasty according to the big bite taken out of this bloom! Not sure what would do this kind of damage, maybe an earwig? Not something I see very often as far as rose problems go.

The color, the scent, the form and even the deep green and burgundy foliage is enough to not only allow for an exception, but two or three!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Please Indulge Me

Just bear with me while I post just a few more pictures of iris that are in bloom on this wet and drizzly spring day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I don't grow many red roses but my favorite is easily 'L.D. Braithwaite'. It is a David Austin rose (named after his father-in-law) with a tidy growth habit and a lovely scent. I have also grown the other Austin reds, 'Shakespeare 2000' and the deep crimson 'Prince', but I still like L.D. the best. Of course it may have been the location of the other roses that made them a bit more susceptible to disease, but this one seems to be the easiest to grow along the coast. The color does vary for me from a deep, true red to this color that is a bit more cherry, but I love it never-the-less. I just wish I could find a couple more!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Iris in the Landscape

I have been asked about how to use iris in the landscape and I must confess I had never thought much about it. Looking back, I remember my grandmother had an iris bed, about 6' by 6' outside the back door. I remember how amazing those purple, yellow and brown flowers were when they were in bloom, but also how intimidating that bed was to a young child when they were not in bloom!

Although I like the stiff, sword like foliage as a contrast to soft, round foliage in the garden, when grown alone, they look like a bed or swords sticking out of the ground. Not very pretty or inviting.

I like to grow them in front of a large shrub that will set the blooms off nicely my creating contrast and a pleasing background.

I have always mixed iris in with other plants, mainly because they bloom such a short time that there needs to be other interest to make the bed attractive the rest of the year.

I use them as focal points, fully integrated into a complex combination that includes other plants with similar cultural needs like daylilies and roses. They are a good mid-size plant that makes the bridge between taller shrubs and low-laying groundcovers quite nicely. These in my SJC garden are only a couple years old and haven't developed the large base of foliage and multiple stems that they will in years to come. I look forward to that display someday, but I am thrilled with what I have now too!

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Even I am in awe of this exuberant show being put on today by the roses. The climbing rose is 'Royal Sunset', a great rose with lots of interest as the large blossoms evolve from a deep peach color upon opening to a soft pink when fully open. The rose hedge further back is the 'Disneyland Rose'. A prolific, compact floribunda with orange-pink blooms. And these are all growing in a bed of about two feet across!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Boxwood Borders

I have been undergoing some changes to the back yard in SJC, adding structural interest in the way of small boxwood hedges to the flower beds bordering the grassy paths.

You can see by the top two pictures that the beds are like I like them, lush and overflowing with a jumble of perennials, shrubs, bulbs and vines, growing around and through one another.

But every yang needs a yin and that is what the boxwoods add to this garden, an important element of structure to contain all that exuberance!

Even though the new hedges are still a little rough (as far as hedges go) you can see what a difference they make.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Adding Variety

My typical pattern for buying iris is to get very excited when the catalogs start arriving in the winter and after weeks of deliberation I turn in my order and wait for July when iris are shipped. I must confess that I typically order 'selfs' which are iris that the standards (vertical petals) and the falls (horizontal petals) are the same or nearly the same color. I don't know why. I order my iris from Schreiner's Iris and they have a program where they will send you bonus iris if you order enough from them. This gorgeous iris is 'Expose' and was one of my bonuses last year. I never would have picked it out of the catalog but I love it and I am so glad that the wonderful people at Schreiner's decided I needed some variety in my collection of iris! The good news is that this year I am showing restraint and waiting until after the main iris bloom in my garden this year to put in my order so that I will have a good feel for what will add more variety. Data and not emotion will rule my choices this year! (Note: I am getting the one on the cover of the catalog this year though, 'Fame and Glory'! My DH thinks it looks like a puppy!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

What The Visitors Will Miss

There is no perfect day to have a garden tour, at least not in my garden. When you plan for a four season garden there are always blooms coming and going and it is hard to say when the ideal time to open the garden to visitor should be. The first of the tours in my garden start in three weeks and by then I'm afraid this display of Spanish lavender and roses will be past its prime, having already been in bloom for a good month or maybe longer. But other roses are just starting to open and there are only a few iris and daylilies doing their thing right now so as the season progresses there will be other scenes that come into their own in time for guests. And I always have to remind myself that although I will miss these beautiful beds when they are done with their first flush, they will still be lovely, just not so colorful.