Thursday, July 28, 2011


There are some plants I grow just because they are fun and bananas are one of them. I was given some banana shoots by a friend many years ago in Laguna and I planted them, moved them around and always enjoyed them. They are easy to grow with no real problems in our climate. It is amusing watching the hanging bananas grow out of the large flower (okay, maybe I'm easily amused). Orioles love to build hanging nests in the leaves. I did add some to the SJC garden too so we could enjoy them there. Side note: the leaves make great decorations for a tropical themed meal or party!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's True

This is the time of year I hit the wall as far as the gardening goes. When you live in a mild climate and have the luxury of gardening year round it can lead to burn out if you don't plan time to let it go and just enjoy the fruits of your labor. I am lucky to have help that makes sure it doesn't all fall apart while I spend time lallygagging around with friends and family that are visiting or while I take a vacation. I used to worry that I would never get that feeling back that surges through my veins while walking through the garden. That feeling of what can I put here... what if I moved that plant over there... where are my pruners? But with age comes wisdom and I know that as sure as the leaves turn yellow in the fall, when the cool weather returns I will be as passionate about gardening as I was last spring. Until them, I'm going swimming!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I like a garden with lots of options.

Steps to climb or descend.

Paths to follow.

Bends to explore.

And trails to take me away.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Easy Summer Color

There aren't many plants easier once established or more colorful than bougainvillea. Not everybody is crazy about this tropical plant which is very drought tolerant, but I love the classic Mediterranean ambiance that it lends to any California garden. Just don't try to dance with it, there are huge, sharp thorns among the beauty!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I am quite fond of this offspring of 'Gourmet Popcorn' called 'Pillow Fight'.. It is a charming, fragrant, small to medium shrub rose with lots of blooms. I have it grown as a standard. I'm not really crazy about rose standards but this one had such a dense and draping structure that I made an exception and added it to the garden about eight years ago. On the Weeks Roses website is says that it does well in dry climates which is good news. It rarely get any disease. I would certainly buy it again if I ever found it at a nursery!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Deep Shade

The hydrangeas in Laguna thrive on neglect. They never get anything other than a good mulching from the dropped avocado and liquidambar leaves and weekly watering. Because they are in the deep shade they don't really require as much water as you might think. The liquidambar trees above them are deciduous so they do get some sunshine during the winter when they are forming their buds. They are some of my favorite shrubs!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Just Fun

My Laguna garden has a lot more fun and unusual garden decor than my SJC gardens. They are both beautiful, just a bit different in feel due to the different ambiance of the design of the houses. The SJC house has a Mediterranean feel and the gardens (hopefully) reflect that, while the Laguna house is a funky little beach cottage, thus the funky garden art. I'm just glad I don't have to choose which is my favorite because I love them both!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Peeling Bark, Swaying Branches and Fragrant Leaves

I know people have mixed feelings about eucalyptus trees. I happen to love them, having inherited a number of different kinds in my Laguna garden. I have taken many of them out to protect the neighbor's views, but they do pop back up rather freely. The great big silver dollar eucalyptus is especially charming and adds a wide swath of lovely shade.

I am also fond of the rather common ones that are straight and tall, mainly for their interesting bark. All of them have draping branches that sway in the breeze adding movement to the garden with the slightest breeze. They are often perches for the lovely peregrines and hawks that frequent the yard. The foliage is considered a natural insecticide and I used to bring branches in to put under the beds to discourage fleas. We never have had a problem with them so maybe it works!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bee Glad

This glad has to be at least ten years old. It just comes back year after year no matter what is going on around it, much to the delight of the local bee population.

Friday, July 15, 2011

No Vacancy

I do not put out birdseed anymore. It is more than an attraction for the birds, it is a staple for the rats. They live amongst all of us like the birds, just a bit more clandestinely and certainly less welcome. I miss watching the birds at the feeders, but I find consolation in the fact that the gardens are filled with plenty of fruits, seeds, berries and running water to keep the birds happy without any additional sources from the pet food store. Proof is that every year without fail there are baby birds in all the birdhouses scattered through the Laguna garden. I regret to admit that these houses do not get cleaned out annually as recommended, at least not by me, but the birds do not seems to mind any mess left by the previous tenants and settle in comfortably. The sounds of hungry baby birds fill the garden with another sensory delight. The sound of nature's music.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Angel Time

This is the time of year the Angel Trumpets (brugmansia) are in full bloom, sending their sweet scents out at sunset to add to the overall intoxicating charm of summer evenings in our gardens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Oklahoma Redbud

About six years ago I became enamored with redbud trees. I specifically remember going to the old Laguna Hills Nursery in search just the right one to add to the garden. I carefully chose this particular one in a five gallon can and brought it home, hauled it down about 75 steps to the lower part of the Laguna garden and picked out a spot near a rustic flight of steps so it would grow and shade the steps in the future. It was really no more than a scrawny shrub. For years I watched it struggle, getting only a few leaves every year and if there ever were any spring blooms, I missed them. Finally this year I was going up the steps and noticed a large, robust plant with these lovely leaves. I had almost forgot what it was until I realized that the lowly redbud had finally kicked into gear and was growing! I'm sure it must have been the abundant rain we had this year, and I hope it is established enough to keep thriving because as you can see, it is a lovely tree.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Though technically not a climber, 'Graham Thomas' rose gets very tall in our climate and I have grown it on this arbor as an "almost" climber for years. 'Sally Holmes' has been left to her own devices for years and has worked her way over to mingle in with Graham, quite gracefully. They work together because they are a similar hue.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Another Carpet Rose

Okay, I confess. I do use carpet roses more than I thought! I took a picture of this one the other day in Laguna and I though it was a polyantha rose I had planted years ago but the closer I looked I remember complimenting the original rose with a few low growing 'Coral' carpet roses. I have no idea what happened to the polyantha, but the carpet rose is thriving nicely on neglect!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Few Feverfew

I used to have feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) throughout my Laguna garden. It is an herb that spreads readily through self-seeding and will cover an area quickly. It has an interesting story, having been been used for many years for reducing fever, treating headaches, arthritis and digestive problems. I just use it as a pretty filler in the garden. I was actually quite fond of the cheerful little daisies and its easy ways until I read that many people are allergic to it. I had a dog at the time that had terrible allergies and suffered considerably throughout the spring and summer. I ended up removing all the feverfew and it did help my dog. I also removed a few of the other plants that were considered high on the list of allergy irritants like the powder puff bush (calliandra haematocephala). That dog has unfortunately passed away and so the feverfew is working its way back into the garden.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Strong Foundation

The lower forty in my Laguna garden is a mass of plants that provide the backdrop for the evolving seasonal interest. The massive burgundy colored New Zealand flax (phormium) is a lovely backdrop for these Matilija poppies (romneya coulteri), a California native that has self-seeded here from the other side of the garden. It has been years since I have added anything to this part of the garden and it just keeps getting better and better due to the strong foundation shrubs, grasses and perennials.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Up With The Birds

One of the best things about our home in Laguna is that it is built on a hillside. The house and deck are at the same level as the top of the trees that are in the garden below. This allows for some great birdwatching! I took this picture of what might be a goldfinch (???) early one morning in the fog last weekend. In Laguna there seem to be many more birds than at our SJC house. I'm not sure if it is because there is more wilderness in close proximity or it is just easier to spot them because of the tree top thing. It is such a delight to spend time with them when we are staying in town.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Shrub with the Red Stems

If you were the person that was asking about this shrub during the Master Gardener tour in May, my apologies for not remembering the name of it, but my son knew it immediately. It is African boxwood (Myrsine africana). His brain is much younger than mine.

Friday, July 1, 2011