Saturday, June 28, 2014

Editing the Garden

So, in spite of my good intentions, I didn't get much gardening done this week (or any). But I did make some important decisions that are long overdue. There are a lot of plants that just need to go, or at least go somewhere else. My SJC garden is in need of big time editing. Plants that were put in years ago when I originally designed the gardens and have never done well like this Angel Trumpet (brugmansia). I have three of them here and they all look terrible. I thought it was San Juan Capistrano they didn't like, but I was at the Mission the other night and couldn't take my eyes off their huge brugmansia tree dripping with hundreds of trumpets, so it is just my yard they don't like, although they grow for me with no problem in Laguna. Oh well, no need to over analyze, just get this awkward thing out of here. Cut them back, dig them out, put them in a pot and stick them in the "nursery" on the side of the house to deal with later. I went through the whole yard and tied red ribbons to things that need to go while that was my focus. A good editing is needing every once in a while! At least I got that done!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Time To Make Time

 Yesterday was the first day of summer. I love summer. Next to spring and fall it is my favorite season. It has long been my rule that I officially declare a truce on anything but maintenance in the gardens and just enjoying what is already there, but this year I may make an exception. (What happened to those 150 lily bulbs I planted six years ago? Really? Only six or seven left?)

 Next to the fall and winter holidays, June, July and August are really busy months for us. When you have a large family and network of friends there are so many weddings, graduations, birthday parties, visiting vacationers, pool parties, overnight grandkid parties, camps, concerts, art festivals and just plain fun stuff going on that there is little time to worry about anything but stocking up on food, drinks and sunscreen! 

 I do most of my work on the gardens in the spring and in the fall, which is actually the right time to work in the garden. But I often find that the selection of plant materials in the way of perennials somewhat lacking in inspiration, if not dismal. 

 The other day I was getting ready for a party at the house and I needed to refresh some potted plants on the deck that still had some spring annuals in them that were past their prime. I stopped in the nursery and made a cruise through the aisles and I was blown away by all the beautiful perennials, some new introductions, some old favorites that I just hadn't seen in a while and had forgotten about. (Did my dozens of fancy iris bloom when I was not paying attention or just not bloom at all?)

 Unfortunately I had a to-do list a mile long for that day and had no time to do anything but fill up my car with the summer plants for the deck that I had come for (although I did pick up some abutilons that I had been searching for forever) and I had to leave disappointed, but motivated to come back.

 I have a confession to make. Although all the pictures that I post are current (unless otherwise stated) of my gardens, there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I have lots of help to keep them up, but the design choices are all mine and there are so many plants that have just disappeared over the years, popped up where they shouldn't be, or are just tired and need to be cut back, removed or transplanted at my direction that they are in dire need of my attention. There are lots of days that a walk through my gardens leave me cringing at what I see.

 Although summer is not the ideal time to garden and certainly the middle of a drought does not help either, I intend to carve some time out of this busy month to focus on my SJC garden and take advantage of some of those lovely perennials that seem to show up at the nurseries when I am not paying attention.

 I actually have some time this week and if I cancel an appointment or two I can make some more. It is just a matter of priorities. (When the agapanthus are the best looking thing in the garden it is time to refocus!)

 There are lots of sad spots in the garden due to the cut back in watering. I took pictures, but I'm not sure I want to dwell on the bare cracks in the flagstone paths where there used to be baby tears and the brown spots in the lawns, I just need to find new solutions for those spots that don't require so much water. Even the succulents are looking a bit stressed because even though they may be more drought tolerant than some annuals, they still do require regular water.

 Don't even get me started on the fact that the containers I bought last winter for my container vegetable garden are still empty! If one more person asks me how my tomatoes are doing and I have to explain that I haven't quite got around to planting any yet - well don't get me started!

Meanwhile I need to remember that overall most things look pretty good.  That is because of the basic structure and reliance on trees, shrubs, grasses, natives and hardscaping that I put in when I designed the garden a few years ago. And I need to divide the iris, which is actually a summer job anyway!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Old Pepper Tree

 A few years ago when we converted a back grassy yard to the gravel garden, we removed most of the sprinklers and changed over the remaining ones to a drip system specifically for the few plants that were left in the area. 

 The main tree that shaded the area was this mature old pepper tree (schinus molle) that is very drought tolerant and was pretty much left to survive on rainfall. Since then it is starting to show signs of stress from the drought. There are lots of dead branches and foliage hanging down that will need to be removed when the tree trimmers come in the fall this year. For the first time I will need to put a sprinkler down there to give it a deep drink of water at least every month to get it through the summer and keep it healthy until the rainy season. This was not something I had anticipated due to the advanced age and type of tree which seems to be able to withstand any abuse in a native setting.

The rest of the gravel garden with the drip system is doing fine and hanging in there nicely.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hello Dahlia

The first dahlias of the year are opening and it isn't even the first day of summer yet. Not sure how many will be left this year. I don't dig them up and I don't add knew ones every year so it is just a surprise as to what shows up.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

An Early Taste of Summer

 My gardens are filled with all kinds of fruit trees. I am not much of a farmer, but I do love the look, smell, feel, touch and of course, the taste of fruit growing that can be picked and eaten right from the tree or vine while strolling through the garden.
 They do get a bit of organic fertilizer once or twice a year, at least the citrus do. The others get compost mostly.

 I don't go to any lengths to protect them from the birds, so it is everyone for themselves when things start to ripen.

 Naturally I don't spray them with insecticides and with the exception of a few bothersome bugs after a long summer, they all seem to hold their own against any serious damage. This is probably because I only have one type of plant here and there and because there are so many other scents in the garden that is not easy for their natural enemies to hone in on them. At least that is my thinking.

They do get thinned this week, but that is because my granddaughters will be here and can't wait to start picking fruit. I give them baskets and instructions to only chose three or four off each tree and it will keep them busy for a while. It is too soon for their picked fruit to ripen, but we will put them in a bowl and then enjoy some already ripe and washed fruit that I have ready for them. They are too young to know what you can and can't eat in the garden, so the rule is everything comes into the kitchen for inspection and a good wash before tasting. Summer is coming!

Friday, June 6, 2014

If I Had To Choose

  My gardens are full of fat, full, sensuous roses with dozens of petals, but...

 ... I  love the simple, five petaled rose just as much. If I was forced to chose between the two...

... I just wouldn't. You couldn't make me!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Beseiged by Blight

All is not rosy in the SJC garden, but then is it ever in any garden? Many of the Pittosporum tenuifolium are besieged with what appears to be bacterial blight. Not a deadly disease, but definitely not a pretty one. I guess I should just be thankful this is the first time I have ever had a problem with it, probably because I am not a over zealous pruner, but last winter my garden helper was, and everything growing got cut into tidy little squares and circles, much to my distress. Pruning at the wrong time of year can lead to blight like this and although the new growth will definitely cover it all up in a short period of time it has been looking ugly for months. Pruning should be done in the spring once the damp season is over to avoid blight. I do not fertilize the pittosporums so they should not need much pruning, but as it is with many plants in Southern California, the long growing season means they often get much bigger than stated on the tags and do need some cutting back. For instance this particular hybrid is 'Golf Ball' and although Monrovia claims it will get to be 24" by 24", mine need to be trimmed to keep them at 36" by 36". Thank goodness summer will be the cure all for at least some of the garden's woes.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Lusty Lavenders

Lavender is as at home in a Southern California garden as most natives although they are from the Mediterranean and southeast Asia, and I strive to include as many different varieties of lavenders as I can in my gardens to prolong the lavender season. They are what are considered a short lived perennial that needs to be replaced every few years in order to remain looking attractive, although they will live for a long time, albeit taking on a rather ragged look. It seems like as every variety comes into bloom for their peak couple of months, I swear it is my favorite hybrid, but as soon as those blossoms disappear and another variety starts to peak my fickle admiration switches. There are times I think about just planting only lavender throughout the gardens and making my life much simpler, but as lovely as they are in the spring and early summer, they do fade into the background and become a rather boring perennial the rest of the year and I would find that a bit tiresome for my wandering eye. I have tried the white and pink lavenders and never had much luck with them. I am just not fond of the fern leaf lavenders with their wiry stems that seem to be so popular in all the big box stores, but that is just a personal opinion. I always plan to be more organized and start a number of plants from soft wood cuttings (I did fifty of them one year for a Master Gardener project), but maybe this will be the year I get my act together. I had to replace all my beloved Spanish lavenders this year because they were looking so tired and woody, so I didn't have the big, beautiful show they put on in the spring. Because June is typically such a mild month here we still have time to plant before having to settle down for the summer, so maybe I'll look for a few more lavenders today to add the garden for next year's bloom. They do handle the drought well and are a benefit to the bees and other friendly insects. They are wonderful for adding scent, texture and movement to the garden and have many culinary and medicinal uses. Practically a perfect plant in my opinion!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Privacy Hedge Update

 The hedge along the back fence in SJC that was put in a little over a year ago to replace the oleanders dying of oleander scorch is filling in nicely. This picture was from a couple months ago and there is actually a lot more growth since then due to the hot weather we had been having. We keep them topped for now to encourage side growth.

 Although these are all considered drought tolerant plants when once they are established, since they still have only been in the ground a little over a year and are in a heavy growing mode they require regular water to keep them from getting stressed. We have invested too much time and money to lose them now due to neglect so we keep a close eye on them during this drought.  A truckload of mulch is being delivered this week to help keep the soil cool and moist.
 Although there were old sprinkler heads that had been converted to a drip system for the older plants, we are giving these young shrubs long deep soaks a couple times a month to make sure their roots go deep. There are still a few oleanders that are hanging on around the far side of the fence, but they are all slowly showing signs of dying off to the disease that has taken hundreds of the shrubs in this neighborhood alone. Soon we will have to deal with their replacements too, but the choices may be different due to the location in the yard and how they fit in with the other landscaping. The neighbors on the other side of these fences haven't done anything to enhance the privacy, but our other neighbors on the other side have already planted some bougainvillaea to take the place of the oleanders.

We had also planted some quick growing vines along this fence to give us some privacy a little bit sooner than the hedge will be complete and they are filling in nicely too. I am anticipating almost complete coverage by the end of this summer.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Late Spring in the Moonlight Garden

Carpet Rose

Rice Flower




Shasta Daisies



Bush anemone (Carpenteria californica)

Giant Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai)
As the spring starts to evolve into summer we are having lovely weather, not too hot like a few weeks ago, not too cool and overcast as is typical for this time of year. Great for finishing up the last of the gardening chores before summer gets into full swing. The white flowers in the Moonlight Garden are all looking good and keeping their cool ambiance, making it a lovely place to spend the morning of a long holiday weekend.