Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Learning Lessons

 So, I was going to write this post about my weeping cedar tree, and how much I adore it, and how much it has grown, but now I will probably write about how much your learn writing a blog about your garden!

When we moved into this house in 2008 there was a big awkward King palm in this little carve out that had out-grown the spot and was learning over the driveway. It was the first thing I had removed and relocated and I chose a weeping cedar to replace it for two reasons. First, it can be trained into a rather columnar tree which is perfect for this tall, narrow space, and second because I love this graceful, soft tree. Sure, it didn't look like much at first, but I had faith and sure enough as you can see in the top picture, with some staking and some pruning it has filled the space nicely (in hind-sight an Italian cypress would have probably been ideal and fit in with the feel of the house too).

 But in searching for pictures among all my files over the years for photos of this spot to show the progression I have made a few observations.

At first I was going to qualify the top picture saying that the 'Black and Blue' salvia that fill this planter, along with the bright orange daylilies are all dormant and cut back so it looks rather bare at this time of year, but is lovely most of the time. I then spent a long time looking for at least one picture of it looking "lovely". There were none. I take a lot of pictures, especially when things are looking good which leads me to believe that this area, which is right next to where I park my car every day, (you can tell by the tire marks on the edge of the planter) rarely looks good. Now this bottom shot with the snapdragons is not bad, but I would say that is a good four years ago. Part of the problem is that this east facing planter is very shallow and narrow and right up against the color of the house and therefor the colors of the flowers I can use is very limited and must be carefully chosen, and there is not a lot of air circulation so the plants must be tough. There are some lovely stained glass windows here too that have a rather tropical feel to them (Toucans and such), so they must also be taken into account. When I think about it, it is no wonder I have had such a hard time filling this little space successfully!

Another observation I have made today while writing this post is that I take a lot more pictures of my grandchildren now than I do my gardens! That doesn't bother me a bit!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Scent of a Spring Garden

Some of my favorite things about a garden cannot be shown in pictures or even conveyed in words. Last evening when I was walking back from getting the mail and then again early this morning when I opened the doors to let the dogs out the sweet smell of spring drifted in, from the pink jasmine I'm assuming. Or maybe some blooming fruit trees in the area or the Indian hawthorns that are starting to wake up? Whatever it was it woke up those hormones in me that say that spring is right around the corner more than anything else I can imagine. The days are getting longer and although we haven't really had a winter, and we are looking forward to the rain in the forecast for next week, the balmy, perfumed evenings are always welcome. Don't forget to think about the scent of the garden and make it a part of the over all plan or it will be missing an important dimension that makes the difference between a nice garden and a magical garden.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Do-Over For An Arbor

I remember when we first looked at this property I was already mentally choosing what I would plant on this arbor before we even decided to buy the house. I love arbors and use them all the time in my gardens to add interest and height to an otherwise flat area. This one is tall and very sturdy, however, I don't think it has ever lived up to its potential and a week ago I looked at it in dismay and told my garden helper to just strip everything that was growing on it off and we would start over. (By-the-way, this is a garden technique that I find much under appreciated, ripping everything out and starting over!) We will relocate the plants that were growing there to a bare spot on the always needy fence on the back lot.

It's not that I hadn't tried. Here is what was tangled together growing on it; 'Graham Thomas' rose (not a climber but it does grow very tall here and it did grow up over the top), 'Sally Holmes' climbing rose, purple potato vine, a variety of passion flower, and a clematis of some kind, I think.

I've decided to just go and buy two of the same kind of climbing rose and plant one on each side and then monitor them weekly and tie the growing canes horizontally along the sides of the arbor. I started to do this on the previous roses planted here but obviously got distracted as evident by the top notch of blooms showing in the pictures. This is the key to getting climbing roses that have flowers all along the sides of the arbor and not just at the top like the yellow Graham Thomas rose in the picture above. They must be diligently tied in a zig-zag pattern so they will bloom on the horizontal branches like here or here. Which roses I choose will be somewhat dictated by my choices in the nurseries or whether I am willing to order on-line. Usually we are better off choosing ones that are available locally because they are typically proven to do well in our area. We need ones that will put up with June gloom for months without succumbing to mildew. Strong foliage is always good to discourage those pesty sawfly larvae that haunt us all.  I looked a couple weeks ago and although some of my favorites from my Laguna Garden were at the nursery I usually go to, like 'New Dawn', it typically only has one long and full bloom in the spring and is flowerless the rest of the summer. They also had 'Polka', a beautiful peach colored climber that I find very difficult to get to bloom. Of course there is always the popular 'Eden', but I find it so disease prone, at least in my area, that I am a bit wary of the maintenance involved. Oh well, the search begins!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cutting Camellias

This year I've started using the winter blooms of my many camellias as cut flowers indoors on a regular basis. I always tell people that camellias are to winter what roses are to summer, but I do know that they do not quite have the scent of roses and the long stems that lend themselves to beautiful indoor bouquets so I am not surprised when I am met with a bit of skepticism over my enthusiasm for these beautiful blooms as cut flowers. Although I do sometimes cut them with stems and they do fine in small vases, my favorite way to display them is floating in flat bowls of water. On my coffee table all winter I have a large glass bowl of water that holds five to seven blooms and they last at least a week and are a lovely change of pace from the usual bouquets that are gathered from the garden. Add a few of the lovely dark green leaves tucked in around the blooms for a full look. One single bloom and a few leaves in a pretty saucer is lovely on a nightstand or in the powder room too. I did plant a couple new varieties this year for the sole purpose of adding to my choices to bring inside. My sister has moved into a home that has some established bushes and she always calls them "those peony-like flowers". Maybe I am missing the mark when I compare compare them to roses!  

On a side note, camellias are shrubs that prefer shady locations and once established and well mulched, can survive with minimum additional watering during droughts. Do clean up spent flowers under them though to prevent fungal diseases. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Fall Color Finally

 Here we are in the second half of February and while the rest of the country is experiencing a deep and difficult winter it feels like spring here and my liquidambar is finally looking like autumn! I know we gardeners are feeling guilty because we are really enjoying the weather but we know how much we need the rain. There is no rain in the 10 day forecast, and I am going to have to turn on the sprinklers for at least a good soak this week and hope for some relief soon. Maybe we'll have a wet spring!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Waiting for Rain

I turned the sprinklers off a couple weeks ago to try to conserve water while the weather is cool and plants other than natives are somewhat dormant. There are some spots in the yard like this one, that stay cool and damp in the winter with minimum water due to the deep shade and being at the down side of the slightly sloped property. This area was originally a swampy mess when we first moved in and it was only grass, but now the ferns and flowering shade plants and ground covers keep it in check. I added some primrose a few weeks ago for a touch of winter color in hopes that we get some rain this season and sure enough, we have had some this week to keep them perky, although we will need much more to catch up and make a difference in the drought conditions. It is not just the rain along the coast we need, but snow in the mountains to fill the rivers and creeks this spring and summer. We still have time in our rainy season, but today the sun is shining beautifully and there is not a cloud in the sky. As much as we love our mild weather, we understand the need for rain and will gladly welcome it when it comes. There are always some plants that can be sacrificed during a drought in the gardens and many more that will survive tough times, but let's hope we get the rain and can look forward to a lush garden this summer.