Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Little Down and Out

Just wanted to say so sorry for not keeping up with postings here. I've torn my meniscus in my knee and although it is not serious and should heal on its own, it is keeping me down much of the time and certainly out of the garden. Getting ready for the onslaught of family coming for the holidays takes up what little activity I can muster each day without irritating my joint so the garden is just coasting along under the supervision of my handy helpers. I did get some things done right before my injury and I hope to show them to you soon! Meanwhile I have to appreciate plants like this beautiful variegated flax that doesn't miss me in the least when I am not around.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Searching for Abutilon

Although I've been busy visiting nurseries trying to pick up some shrubs and perennials for spaces in need of reviving in SJC, I am not finding any abutilon.  They really are one of my favorite shrubs that, although considered a tropical plant, seem to bloom all fall and winter long and most of the spring. They are disease resistant and rarely are bothered by insects. Simple, easy and charming, no wonder the nurseries are sold out!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Varigated Succulents

I love green, all shades of green. I especially love it mixed with white. There is something so serene and yet uplifting about the soothing combination. Luckily I have the Moonlight Garden to allow me to surround myself in the peaceful mixture. It is not only the flowers that add to the color scheme, but variegated plants too. Here are two succulents that pick up on the theme with elegance and style.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Raven

This is the time of year our garden sculpture by Gerard Basal Stripling looks especially apropos!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Pumping It Up

Although there are a lot of fall blooms in the Moonlight Garden right now, there is also a lot of bare dirt. With the holidays coming there are lots of guest showing up and it is nice to have everything looking good, even though late fall and early winter are not exactly peak bloom times. October it the best time for planting most plants in our area, so along with the cool season annuals that will hopefully bloom all winter, I am also putting in some perennials. Even though they are called perennial, many plants have a life span of a few years before they need to be replaced. That and hungry rabbits mean that some of my regular summer bloomers disappeared this year. I especially missed the pure white gaura that lends an airy feel to the beds for the warm months and was lucky enough to find some this trip.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Just One More

Boston Ivy
 Just a few more pops of fall color and then I am done.

 After such a beautiful couple months of sunny days and warm weather, it is definitely starting to feel like autumn.

Enough lollygagging around and time to get busy, or I will regret it next spring!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Autumn Details

 Although I should be focusing on refurbishing the gardens this month, I get a bit distracted at the nurseries and bring home autumn colored potted plants to decorate the fringes of the house.

Ornamental grasses and Chrysanthemums
 Most of these plants will end up somewhere in the gardens after they finish this bloom, so it is all good.

 I am hoping against the odds that they will hang in there for five more weeks so that I don't have to replace them before the family starts rolling in for Thanksgiving.

I haven't even bought any pumpkins and gourds yet!

Saturday, October 19, 2013


The Moonlight Garden is filled with white fall flowers right now. Chrysanthemums, Japanese anemones, reblooming iris, and azaleas are doing their best to put on a show, but there is still a lot of bare dirt waiting for some cool season annuals to fill in the details throughout the upcoming holiday season. 

I reeaalllyyy need to get busy!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Hydrangea Basics

Among the fall colors I have to include the drying hydrangeas. Many of them actually dry right on the plant without turning brown and can be cut and brought in the house. 

It seems like every year there is one question that people keep asking me about their gardens and this year is was about hydrangeas. Specifically hydrangeas that aren't blooming.  I just ask them a very simple question. Did you cut them back last winter while they were dormant? Inevitably they say yes, often proudly that they kept up with what they perceive to be annual maintenance.  But you can't cut back traditional hydrangeas in the winter without cutting off the next year's blooms. Hydrangeas bloom on last year's growth, so when they are bare and terrible looking in the winter, they are filled with flower buds and if you cut them back you are removing all the next year's flowers. The best time to cut back a hydrangea (although you never really need to) is right after they bloom in early summer when there is still time for them to grow and form buds the rest of the summer. I advise people to plant their hydrangeas where the dormant plant blends in with other plants and is not in a spot where bare sticks coming out of the ground for a few months in the winter will bother them. 

That being said, there are some new varieties on the market that bloom on old and new growth and will continue to bloom all summer even when you cut the dormant stems or flowers. They are the Endless Summer Collection and I have planted a few of them and am very happy with them. They happily bloom all summer even when I cut them to bring inside for arrangements.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lovely Weather

Although I hate to see the days getting shorter, this is such a beautiful time of year in the garden. The weather has been lovely, with warm days and cool evenings and even a nice day of rain last week, rare for us this time of year. But there is something special about the light during this season. The lower it is on the horizon the softer it seams to get, casting a pretty veil over the still thriving gardens. October is the best time of year to plant almost anything (except tropical plants) in the Southern California garden, giving it time to acclimate before it gets too cold and allowing the roots to become well established in the still warm soil before the time for vigorous growth starts next spring. Time to get busy!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Autmumn Reds

 Someone once said that every room should have a touch of red, and I have found that to be very true. When I add a bowl of red flowers to my otherwise serenely colored living room it just makes the whole room pop! Think of when you add red poinsettias around the house during the holidays. It really warms things up. Although I don't have a lot of red flowering plants in either of my gardens, this is the time of year I do appreciate them most. The red chrysanthemums are actually blooming in the fall at the appropriate time this year (they have been known to bloom in the summer in past years) and the red salvia bush actually blooms almost year round. Come to think of it, it may even be a penstemon! It would get about six feet tall if I let it grow. Either way, it is a nice warm fall color!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Summer Color in the Fall

 I wish I could show you all the progress I have been making on my fall garden projects, but I'm afraid I haven't made many advances. I've been busy doing other stuff. 

 I did go out to photograph some of the fall colors in the gardens, but once again I got distracted by something else.

 There are lots of blooms that look more like spring, or maybe summer, blooming right now!

 I planted a number of dahlias (that I thought were purple, not pink) later in the season this year and they have just started blooming all over the perennial garden in SJC. I don't know where they were during the less-than-colorful summer season out there, but I hope they get an track next summer! They are beautiful!

 For the past month the front door garden in SJC has been a lovely show of reblooming iris, 'Frequent Violet'. They are long and prolific bloomers!

Not exactly fall-like garden shots, but I'll take what I can get!

Friday, September 27, 2013


After cutting back all the summer perennials and flowering shrubs, the gardens are looking a bit bleak. These are the times that it is good to have focal points and good "bones" in the gardens to carry us over until there is more color and blooming plants to add interest.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On A Happy Note

This isn't the best photo, but I am so happy with the white Japanese anemones in the Moonlight garden this year. They are full and lush and blooming like crazy while everything else seems to be struggling along in all the heat we are having. And it must be that the rabbits don't like them because most everything else  around them are munched down to stubs. I will do what I always tell other people to do and plant more of what works well in this area!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Few Figs

Well, as you can see from this picture, the birds have gotten many of my Kadota figs which stay green when they are ripe. But there were still a couple for me to eat. It seems like we go on vacation every year right when they are ripening, so I am glad I got to enjoy even a few! The tiny little tree I planted a few years ago is growing fast and I am so happy to be able to enjoy the fruit as well as the beautiful foliage!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fall Refurbishing

With a large property and lots of areas in need of some gardening attention this fall, it is a bit overwhelming trying to figure out what to focus on first. Then I remember my own advice to other people and break the task down into smaller areas. I tell others to start with a spot that they see every day, preferably right when they enter the property. Focusing on one small area and making it a lovely setting that brings you joy every day, a few times a day, will be encouraging to continue on to the next area. A lot of the projects I did last spring had to been done and are not exactly the highlight of the garden, and in fact can hardly be seen and will not look the way I imagined for a few years (the back fence for example) so I need to indulge in a little eye candy for a change. This area was first done about six years ago (hardscaping was already there, instead of dealing with the leaky fountain, I turned it into a planter) when we first moved in and is need for a face lift. The lavenders are scraggly, the iris need dividing and the roses have never done well, probably not enough sun. I will have fun picking out some new perennials and groundcovers and give some thought to new vines. Time to get busy!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Grass is Greener

Although the play lawn is not a major concern of mine, I must admit, compared to the rest of the SJC property, it is looking pretty good! If you look closely it is really just a conglomerate of mowed grasses and weeds, but they are well fed with chicken manure and they seem to be getting enough water, in spite of all my sprinkler woes, to stay pretty green, at least for now. Some of the grass is warm weather grass which will turn brown when the weather cools down. There have been lots of activities with baseball games, a bounce castle, picnics, sprinkler running and lots of games of fetch with the dogs this summer, not to mention some very hot weather, but it holds up well. I wish I could say as much for the rest of the gardens!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fall Is In The Air

Even though the temperatures are in the eighties this weekend, it is starting to feel like fall to me. The cool temperatures in the morning and the early sunset are stirring those gardening hormones in me that say it is time to get busy with the autumn chores. September and October is such a wonderful time in the garden that it always wakes up those feelings of a need to visit the nursery and load up on new perennials, winter annuals and bulbs, not to mention pumpkins and gourds for decoration. I love the ornamental grasses that are peaking this season and it inspires me to add more. But this year I am going to be very disciplined and go through the gardens and take note of what I actually need to avoid impulse buying. I will do that right after I get back from a well deserved impulse-only trip to a few local nurseries. And some out of town nurseries.

Monday, September 9, 2013

The End of Summer

After a very busy summer, filled with lots of house guests, travel and just overall fun, it is time to focus on the gardens again. Tree trimming and sprinkler fixing top the list of priorities, but there is a lot to do in the coming months as far as refurbishing the plants. We came back from vacation to a major heat wave that makes me thankful that the lush backyard has filled in with lots of shade in SJC. The California pepper trees are as tall as the house and make a big difference in the temperature in that part of the yard. Of course this means that all the colorful perennials, bulbs and shrubs that require full sun are suffering, but they can be moved. There is also a big problem with the rabbits eating many of my favorite perennials that are herbaceous and that is not so easy a problem to fix. But for today I am appreciating the serenity that a shady, mostly green garden offers in the way of a calm retreat from all this heat as summer winds down!

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Favorite Summer Perennial

The other day I was admiring a garden I was walking by and noticed the pretty, summery orange flowers. At first, being somewhat brain-dead from too much fun this summer, I wondered what they were. Suddenly it dawned on me that they were coreopsis, one of my favorite perennials! Of course I went home and went out to the back garden and sure enough, there were my coreopsis blooming away without a care, just as they have been for the past few years since I planted them. They are such a care-free perennial that blooms all summer and returns every year. They have those tall stems that I love because they bob around in the slightest breeze. I really need to spend more time in the garden and less time, well, not in the garden.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Shady Grapes

We've had a busy few weeks with lots of house guests including grandchildren, both ours and others', visiting. The weather has been mild, but the grapevine tunnel in the Moonlight Garden became a shady retreat for them on days when they were left to their imagination to entertain themselves. I grow the grapes for ornamental purposes since the birds get to them before we do, but the kids had a great time harvesting any that had turned red everyday. Baskets were filled with fruit everyday as they scoured the gardens for something to pick. They thought it was great that they could actually go outside and find something to eat instead of the kitchen!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Jacaranda Blooms, Finally

So if you look closely at the picture above you can see some purple blooms near the upper right. Those are my Jacaranda tree blooms in the SJC garden. I planted a Jacaranda in Laguna when I first started working on the garden there many years ago even though I was told it wouldn't bloom well because it didn't get hot enough. As it turned out "they" were wrong and I did get lovely blooms for a few years. Unfortunately I planted it where as it grew it blocked a neighbor's view. For many years the people that lived in the house whose view was blocked didn't complain and we all were happy, but once the house sold, neighbors started asking us to trim it. I eventually cut it down because it was always an issue and the constant trimming meant it never bloomed anyway.

When we moved into the SJC house and the view wasn't an issue I planted lots of trees for shade and the Jacaranda was one of them. It hasn't grown much yet and I was rather disappointed that it didn't bloom much when many other trees in the area are putting on quite a show. But finally this year we started getting some blooms. Not a lot, but it is a start.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Sumemr Harvest

I am not a huge food-grower in my gardens. Mainly because of all the wildlife that seems to get to most of the vegetables before I do. But I do grow a lot of fruit. It is the perfect activity for the grandkids to explore the gardens looking for goodies on the trees. Peaches, oranges, apples and lemons where all harvested this week with the four oldest ones spending the week with us. Oh, and we have a strawberry patch that yielded enough sweet berries to decorate the youngest's birthday cake!

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Whites of Summer

White daylilies are hard to find because they have a tendency to revert to yellow. This one seems to be holding on to it's "whiteness" nicely this year.

I have lots of Shasta daisies, some tall and some shorter ones.

I like really tall, big white agapanthus and these don't disappoint.

I love the airiness of gaura in the gardens in the summer. Many white ones have a tendency to turn pink, but I finally found a true white one.

White buddleia is my least favorite color of this shrubby perennial, but I have lots of room to fill in the Moonlight Garden and so there is always room for one more plant that is easy and attracts butterflies.
The Moonlight Garden is sparkling with lots of white flowers in bloom this time of year. Here are a few of my favorites and one not-so-favorite!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Big Blues (And Whites)

Five and a half years ago when we first moved into the SJC house, it was in the middle of winter. There were lots of agapanthus that looked like they had just been divided and planted. When June rolled around it was evident that they were not established yet because there were few blooms, much to my disappointment. Agapanthus do better when their roots are somewhat restricted. I do love those big blue or white blooms that signal the start of summer. They are considered a rather pedestrian plant in Southern California, but they are drought tolerant, disease and pest free and they have crazy big blooms for weeks at a time. The only thing that I have found that bothers them are voles. They seem to love those big, fleshy roots, but other than that they are care free. I don't even fertilize them. I love them and I am so happy they have finally started to settle in and put on a show!