Saturday, September 29, 2012

My Green Fig

A couple years ago I planted a kadota fig tree in SJC. Although there are lots of wild fig trees around here, I wanted one that I know has good figs and this green fig is what I chose. It was less than a foot high when I planted it, and every year it had two or three figs that always seem to disappear before I picked them. This year the tree is about six feet tall and there were a number of figs on it that were not ripe yet (figs need to ripen on the tree) when we left for vacation last month. I forgot all about them until I noticed a smashed fruit with lots of seed in the driveway. It was most likely that a bird dropped it and a car ran over it. Upon closer inspection it dawned on me that it was a fig. I hurried out in back to check my tree and there was only one ripe fig left on it. I am happy with one ripe, delicious fig if that is all I have this year. Unfortunately after I took this picture something came up and I put it down on an outdoor table while I went off to take care of whatever the distraction was, and when I remembered it, two days later, it was mushy and bad. Oh well, I will have to wait until next year for my figs, cheese and honey. I think I will plant a brown fig tree this year too. If it ever cools down.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flying Rabbit Island Evolves

First Year

Third Year
Fifth Year

Fifth Year

Fifth Year
The weather is still in the high 80's around here. Although September and October typically have some very hot days, overall it tends to start cooling down. I am waiting patiently, still pretending it is summer, although the days are getting considerably shorter and the calender says it's fall. After a year of little change or additions, there is one big thing (other than the privacy screens) that needs to be addressed. When I put in this large island in the middle of the backyard lawn a few years ago, there were two things I wanted to accomplish. First I wanted some shade. The yard seemed very hot and unappealing in the summer. Second, I wanted something interesting to look at from the windows and the chairs on the patio outside the living room doors. When we moved from Laguna Beach, we gave up a lovely view that we really missed. I decided to create my own views and Flying Rabbit Island was one of the first (named after a lovely sculpture we installed the first summer). When I planted the island of dirt that we dug out of the middle of the lawn, I planted three California Pepper trees. I know they aren't everyone's favorite, but I like their fern-like foliage, the way they sway gracefully in the slightest breeze and their multiple trunks. I know they are messy, but in a large bed, away from any pathways or patios, the debris doesn't bother me. When they were planted they were rather small. Fifteen gallon pots were all we could easily get through the gates. I planted a whole bed of flowers all around them that was quite stunning for the first few years. At first the trees suffered from too much water as I tried to get the perennials established, but then we cut back the water and everything was happy. Until this year. It turns out the trees have grown into a lovely respite of shade, making the sun loving roses, iris and daylilies quite unhappy. Although one side of the "island" still gets enough sun for those plants to thrive, my other lovelies are without blooms this year. It is time to make a change to a more shade loving group of plants that don't need a lot of water. As soon as it cools off a bit!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The First Anemone!! Not Aster!!

The first anemone (I had previously posted this as an aster, another fall flower) of the season is opening in the Moonlight Garden. I am thrilled because everything else is looking a bit ragged and tired in this heat. How nice to have a fresh new autumn flower to greet me!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

First Fall Project

 When we bought the property in SJC one of the things we liked about it was the feeling of total privacy. The one plus acre was completely surrounded with a thick wall of foliage that you couldn't even see through. We literally had lived there for months before we even realized that the back of the property was enclosed with a chain link fence. We had assumed it was a wooden stake fence or a cinder block wall like the front of the property. The entire back yard perimeter was planted with oleanders which had filled in and were at least twelve feet tall and very thick. Not my plant of choice, but it worked fine. Then a few years ago oleander leaf scorch disease came to Southern California and everyone was losing their oleanders. Two of our neighbors that also had them surrounding their properties lost all of them a few years ago and now their beautiful homes are surrounded with bare chain link. Knowing that disease attacks stressed plants first, I tried to keep our oleander as healthy as possible. They are very drought tolerant but I gave them a bit extra water in the summer to keep them robust and prune off any sick looking branches. Every so often one out of the blue would die and we would replace it with another type of shrub.

Unfortunately it looks like I am starting to lose the battle in some areas and now it is time to take more aggressive measures. The properties on either side where the gaps have become obvious are remote areas of the neighbor's yards (there are horses and chickens on one side), but it is still nice to have the privacy. Next month we are removing most of the oleander and replacing it with a variety of screening plants. I'm taking a trip out to Tree of Life Nursery to discuss with them some of my native plant options. I'm also considering adding some bougainvillea for some color.

This is what I am aiming for. This is the foliage screen on one side of the property that works well. The podocarpus, ficus and Carolina cherry all provide a thick, lush wall that is about 20 feet high. I have learned one important lesson though - choose a variety of plants to create a permanent screen if privacy is important to you. That way if a disease comes along (and they often do) that takes out an entire species, there will still be plenty of vegetation to fill in the gaps!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Palm Tree Blooms

This is the time of year that most of the hundred plus palm trees we have bloom. This is also the time of year I call my tree trimmers. I am not an overly tidy person, at least not in the garden, but there are a few palms that are situated where the falling flower debris makes a constant mess for weeks. There are some paths, chairs and patios that are covered daily in yellow "stuff" from the blooms that are way too high for my gardener to safely reach. It is still a bit too early to trim some of the other trees that have sap running. I've learned the hard way not to trim the Monterey Pine over the wood steps in Laguna except when it is truly dormant during the cold months. Sap dripped all over the stairs gets tracked into the house and it is a mess! It would be nice to get all the trees trimmed at once, but they just seem to need it at staggered times of year. Luckily I have a nice tree trimmer and I don't mind having him around more than once a year!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Getting Ready for Fall

We're back from a vacation full of rest and relaxation and I am eager to get started with the fall gardening. My shoulder is feeling better and I am ready to resume what I had little enthusiasm for all year, thank goodness! Unfortunately the weather is prohibiting much activity other than watering, due to the heat. Upon returning I have noticed that many plants are showing signs of stress. Of course the ferns and tree ferns are taking it the hardest and I have had to do some spot watering to give them a break. Other plants like this duranta thrive on the hot days and are loving this summer weather. I had purchased a number of pretty one-gallon summer perennials that I slipped into various pots around the house, but they were all expired when we returned. I had hoped to enjoy the blooms for a few weeks and then plant them in the garden for reblooming next year, but I guess I am the only one that bothers to water some of my pretties.  My gardening chores this week will focus on watering, planning and list making and enjoying the rest of summer!