Saturday, June 30, 2012

Sage and the Bee

I am not sure what kind of native sage this is, I planted it years ago in a mixed bed outside the dining room window in SJC. It is kind of woody and blooms all year round with soft, hazy gray-green foliage. The unique thing about this plant is that it attracts a specific kind of bee. I don't know much about bees and I don't know what kind of bee it is, but at all times there is one, single, big fat black bee buzzing this plant. The bee moves from stem to stem, flower to flower, gathering pollen and then takes off. He returns in a few minutes to continue this quest. Now I am sure that it could possibly be more than one bee that loves this plant, but you only see one bee at a time, all the time. I never see that bee at any other plant, or in fact, anywhere else in the garden except on this sage. Truly a match made in heaven!

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Little Heat

Although most of the colors I use in my gardens are cool shades along with white and green, I do occasional crave some heat in the way of hot, saturated color. This used to be the vegetable garden in SJC, which is still filled with fruit trees and herbs, but has been mainly turned over to pretty old-fashioned roses and clematis. The bird bath under the jacaranda tree is still surrounded by the cheerful summer perennial, yellow coreopsos, left over from the colorful vegetable garden. There are some Margarette daisies and alyssum in there too, making it a pretty, fragrant summer scene. However it does kind of clash with my romantic trellises, pastel roses and clematis a few feet away. This area is on my to-do-over list, but I doubt I will get to it this summer. Meanwhile I will enjoy it as is and pretend not to notice the color clashes.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bronze Fennel

My bronze fennel is a hold-over from last year, and although it is not very bronze right now, it is easily five feet tall. I planted it mainly for aesthetic reasons because I am not a big fan of the taste of fennel, but they say the bronze variety has a milder flavor than the green. I should find at least one or two recipes to use it in this year, just for the sport.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Perennials

Can't complain about the summer weather this year, it has been lovely compared to the past couple summers. Cool overcast mornings quickly turn into sunny days with temperatures in the high 70's. The garden is looking like summer too, with wispy, tall perennials that start blooming in the spring and will go all season long. The gaura and hardy geranium (Rozanne) in this bed have taken over and are waist-high and wonderful! What started as a few one gallon plants have turned into a full flower bed spilling over the boxwoods intended to keep them contained. I am making note of what needs to be added next fall in the back to provide some depth to this bed, but right now I'm just sitting back and enjoying the summer display!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Best Part of Gardening

When the weeds are under control, the voles are vanished, the flowers are deadheaded and the vines are tidy, it is time for the best part of gardening - spending time in the garden with family and friends. Last weekend was a busy time with lots of activity including five kids and three grandkids visiting to celebrate birthdays and Father's Day. Although the swimming pool gets lots of activity, the driveway is for bikes, tykes and scooters and the front lawn is the site for ball games, the back perennial garden is where my granddaughters like to hang out. Enough flowers for picking as many as you want, curves and corners for exploring and a patio for hanging out with grandpa on a warm summer day. That's what it is all about.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

My Patient Garden

My attention has been elsewhere these days but the garden is forgiving. I'm remodeling bathrooms, entertaining family and friends and trying to keep my shoulder in a neutral position to accommodate optimum healing. I must be starting to feel better because I am back to making lists of things to do. There is a garden list that keeps getting longer instead of shorter, but that's okay for now. I had a major issue with a sprinkler zone, but I found a great sprinkler guy and now everything is on automatic, a big weight off my mind. I need to get to the nursery, but it may have to wait another week or so, but no worries. The garden will wait.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Beginning of Summer Cutback

After a season of lush growth and an overabundance of blooms, it is time for a big cutback. Many spring blooming plants are exhausted and susceptible to insect attacks and disease. A big cutback this time of year for many roses, lavender and other perennials means that there will be a healthier summer ahead with another round of blooms. Of course some organic fertilizer, topping off the layer of mulch that has broken down and a good soak will get them off to a good start. Luckily the summer blooming perennials are taking over to make up for the bare landscape left by the cutback. It all works in unison!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

All Good Things

It seems like it took a long time to have the SJC garden become much of a sanctuary for birds. I wasn't sure if it was because there were really not many bird friendly plants before I transformed the gardens or if it was because of the large quantity of crows in the area, but there was not much variety for a while. I remember going to a backyard bird feeding store once years ago (whatever happened to those?) and the proprietor explained to me that I had to attract birds somehow and once I got a few, the others would realize that the area was safe and more would come to make their home in my gardens. Well, now we have birds! Most of the houses are filled along with nests in the climbing roses, nests on the ground that have fallen out of the new trees, and even nests behind the outdoor TV by the pool (I also have to attract sports loving men). The other evening DH and I were in the garden enjoying the late day sun and we could hardly hear each other for the chatter of baby bird demanding food! Birds are an important element in an organic garden because they dine on bugs and help keep the balance. I'm not sure what finally got the birds to feel comfortable. I quit filling the feeders a couple years ago because they were attracting rats at night, so there is no additional seeds to bring them in, but there are plenty of trees, berries, naturally occurring seeds and fruit. There are a few sources of water including running water that attract them (as well as the bees). I have noticed that there are not so many crows around this year. A few crows and ravens seem to live around here but the large roving flocks that would sometimes descend on the property have all but disappeared. Whatever the reason we are thrilled to have the wrens, sparrows, grosbeaks, orioles, tanagers, finches, hummingbirds, phoebes, and owls visit the garden. Would an occasional swallow be to much to ask?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lovely Lavenders

I ordered a new garden book on lavenders. I can't believe I have gone this long without a good guide to help me identify one from another. I have many different kinds and I love them all, but I am having trouble differentiating my 'Grossos' from my 'Hidcotes' and I thought a book would be a good resource. Lavenders start to bloom in March around here with the Spanish types being the early bloomers, and they may re-bloom throughout the season, but not with the exuberance of the early spring bloom. I couldn't imagine my gardens without Spanish lavender in the spring. Then the French start to bloom and may in fact bloom for many months, becoming a mainstay throughout the year. I do love English lavender as in the pictures above, that are blooming right now. The foliage is lacy and pretty and the blooms are a vibrant shade of purple held above the shrub, not to mention a lovely scent. Every year I vow to harvest some of the lavender to dry and bundle. Maybe the book will inspire me to finally get around to doing that this year.

Saturday, June 9, 2012


'Flutterby' is a pretty, simple shrub rose that is lovely and most important, very disease resistant in our area. There is something about all the different shades of yellow, pink and peach that appear at the same time in a cluster of blooms that is very charming. It forms a small shrub, about three feet high. I like it mixed in white wispy grasses that create a casual and light feel in the garden.

Friday, June 8, 2012

For The Love of Sweet Peas

I adore sweet peas but I usually forget to plant these cool season annuals that love to climb up anything nearby with those charming little twisty tendrils, until I see them in a vase or someone's garden and by then it is too late. This year I managed to pick up a couple pony packs in the winter (I know, I know, they are ridiculously easy to grow from seeds) and stuck them in a garden bed next to a pretty wire obelisk and forgot about them. I have been thrilled to have a massive about of blooms that smell heavenly to cut for myself as well as give to others in huge bouquets. I wish they were the beautiful hybrids that are so charming with their colors and patterns, but they will do just fine for now. I must remember to plant them next year too.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

For My Love

Happy Birthday to my Dear Husband, who humors my every whim, never tires of my narrated tours of the gardens and is the light that makes my life vibrant. Love you Jimmy.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It's All about Her

Our dog Tilly thinks any water in the garden is put there for her to drink. That includes the swimming pool, the jacuzzi, the patio fountain, puddles on the driveway, sprinkler heads and this Buddha statue . Occasionally she even drinks out of her numerous water bowls!