Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Try Honeywort

There are some simple plants that I am just crazy about and cerinthe major purpurescens, or Honeywort, is one of them. It is an old-fashioned shrubby plant that is considered an annual, but it reseeds itself so easily that it has lived in my Laguna garden for many years with no need for any help from me. It has the most lovely shade of blue-green foliage with bluish brackets and those charming pinkish-purple flowers that hang like sweet little bells. It blooms for months in the spring and on into summer and the bees love it.  It likes full sun and I understand it makes a good cut flower when the ends are sealed with boiling water. I highly recommend you try it!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Honey Perfume

I adore this rose! 'Honey Perfume' is a pretty little floribunda that has a heavenly scent, is rarely ever effected by disease or insects in my garden and blooms profusely. And just look at those pretty flowers! I would highly recommend it!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sprinkler Head (Aches)

This has been the story of my spring - leaking sprinkler heads! I can't count how many we have replaced this year and every time I turn around there is another one! My sprinkler expert suspects it is caused by a plumber that installed an overflow valve at the property line last fall and didn't properly flush the system when he was done, resulting in lots of dirt and debris making it to the sprinkler heads and clogging them up. In Southern California we rely on our underground sprinklers to keep everything alive, especially in dry years like this one. I am hoping we won't have anymore problems because I think we have had to replace almost every head so far!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Front Door Feast

 I must admit one of the favorite parts of my gardens is the small area right outside my front door in SJC. It was a small patch of grass when we moved in which I promptly ripped out and planted a birch tree. The color scheme in this area is one of my preferred - purple, chartreuse,  and gold. Roses, iris, euphorbia, heliotrope, hardy geraniums, flax, status, lavender and many other annuals in addition to background shrubs, grasses and annuals make it a feast for my eyes and nose.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Beverly and Abraham

Two of my favorite things about this time of year - 'Abraham Darby' roses and 'Beverly Sills' iris. If my gardens had only these two beauties I would be a happy woman, at least for the spring!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Easy, But So Pretty

I'm sure everyone has a spot like this in their garden. One that is almost no-maintenance, but makes them smile every time they walk by, at least for most of the year. This is one of those spots for me. Two native-ish plants that are drought tolerant and reseed easily every year. The pink ones are Mexican evening primroses (oenothera speciosa) and the little daisies are Santa Barbara daisies (erigeron karvinskianus) although I have seen many other common names for both of these plants in different parts of the country. They can be invasive in small gardens, so either plant them in a contained bed like I have here or be diligent about weeding out the seedlings in the spring. Of course you can always let them just take over and sit back and put your feet up in the pretty splendor all summer!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

My Secret Clematis

Things don't always turn out as planned in any garden. I had planted this pretty white clematis vine an a wire obelisk in a new flower bed I had dug out in the Moonlight Garden when we first moved in to the SJC house. As my vision for the area clarified, I modified the bed and created a path and seating area in the middle of it that winter, while the clematis was dormant. I had forgotten about it, although I doubt I would have attempted to move it since they have such delicate stems and roots. The determined vine not only survived, but blooms like crazy along the ground behind the seating area. Little secrets like this are what make personal gardens so wonderful to explore!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Pink Grapefruit

What a treat I have been enjoying all week, eating my sweet, juicy pink grapefruits from my little grapefruit tree! A wonderful way to start the day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Sexy Garden

This picture has everything I love about a garden. Beautiful, loose flowing roses, a bold iris, fragrant lavender, waving grasses. There is even an orange tree in the back with sumptuous fruit. Everything intertwined making a feast for the senses. This is a sexy garden!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Iris Time

Everyday is a treat when you have dozens of bearded iris, each opening and showing off at their own sweet time. Today we have an unusual rainstorm (thank goodness, we really need the rain) but iris stand up well to the rain and will look just as good when it passes.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Easy Orchids

Cymbidium orchids grow outside quite easily in our mild Southern California weather! I purchase them almost every year in containers for brightening up the house in January or February and they bloom for months. Afterwards they are kind of just stuck in a corner in the potting area or some go in the ground in a spot that gets filtered sun. These beauties are blooming right now in my orchid/bromeliad patch in SJC. Without the diligent fertilizing required for some orchids to bloom annually, these survive on neglect. I am hesitant to cut off the whole stem to bring inside because they are so pretty, but a few blooms floating in a shallow bowl will be just as effective!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Dietes: Love Them or Hate Them

D. iridioides

D. bicolor
There are a lot of reasons not to like dietes, also known as African iris or fortnight lilies. They are very common plants in Southern California and can be found in most strip mall planters. They spread like crazy and can take out less aggressive neighboring plants in a few seasons. Their foliage is rather dull, stiff and spiky, nothing to rave about. The flowers, although pretty, only last a day so they don't work well in cut flower arrangements. They look horrible when they get thick and die out in the center, in need of dividing with a sharp spade. But I still kind of love them. They are very trouble free and drought tolerant, no need to fuss over them. They have charming little flowers that kind of hover above the foliage, earning them the nickname of butterfly iris and they are fire resistant. I think their charms outweigh their vices.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Consider Ajuga for Sun

I think one key to a lovely garden is choosing the right groundcovers. I like to think of them as little throw rugs in my garden. They add interest, color and texture, but probably the most important role they have is just what their name implies, they cover the bare soil which means there is little chance for weeds to get started. This dark bronze groundcover is a patch of ajuga reptans, sometimes called carpet bugle, that is growing in my Laguna garden and has been for probably the past eight years. It has charming little vertical purple flowers in the spring, but the bronze foliage is the real reason to grow it. I had always thought of it as a shade plant and used it that way, but it seems to grow even better in this full sun area in our mild climate. This bronze cultivar (I think it is 'Chocolate Chip') also adds a nice contrast to the typically green shrubs and perennials that it surrounds. Pretty, easy and prevents weeds, what's not to love?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Climbing Rose Tricks

There is a little trick to growing climbing roses the "right" way. By that I mean like the 'Royal Sunset' rose in the top picture with blooms all up and down the trellis holding it up. In the bottom picture you can see both the yellow 'Graham Thomas' rose and the light pinkish-white 'Sally Holmes' rose growing with their blooms so high you would need a ladder to get a good look at a flower (there is also a passion flower vine trying to choke out poor 'Sally'). Both these pictures are from my SJC backyard and the difference is the way the roses are trained. In order to get blooms from top to bottom, climbing rose canes need to be trained in a horizontal pattern back and forth up the trellis while the stems are still young and pliable. If allowed to grow the way they want to, which is straight up to the sky, your blooms will be sparse and at the very top of the trellis or arch like in the second picture. The 'Royal Sunset' rose is right outside my door and I was diligent in training them (there are actually two roses, one on either side of the window).  The others I was a bit distracted and they grew too fast for me and this is what I'm stuck with. The solution? I'm going to cut back the roses on the arch and start them over with daily inspections and lots of twine!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Big Dig

The big project in SJC continues as we replace the very old and very large oleander hedge that is dying from scorch, a disease killing all the oleander in Orange County. The hedge was thick and lush when we moved in five years ago and you couldn't even see the chain link fence or the neighbors' yards. As we watched the oleanders around our neighbor's yards diminish we knew it was only a matter of time before ours would start dying and we were right. Now we are removing the dead, dying, and soon-to-be-dying shrubs and replacing them with podocarpus and privet in 15 gallon tubs. We did a long stretch last fall, hoping this area would hang in there for another year or so, but no such luck. It is a very difficult project due to the old roots being very deep and wide. I have hired extra help this week and probably next, since this is such a difficult job. One of the issues with all this is that now our dogs have a full view of the neighbors' yards and everything going on there is of utmost interest to them. We have even discovered a gate between our properties! One neighbor has horses and the other has a lovely little garden and orchard. I have to admire their pumpkins!