Monday, January 19, 2015


I think next to getting people to really understand the importance of the role the soil plays in gardening, pruning is the most difficult skill for a gardener to master. There really is no pruning 101 in my opinion, because each case is a little bit different depending on the plant, the position of the plant, the climate, and even the taste of the gardener. Of course different types of plants have different pruning requirements. If you prune a shrub that blooms in the spring heavily in the late winter, you will remove all the dormant buds and you won't get any flowers that year. On the other hand, if you don't prune some plants at all, you may not stimulate them to bloom much at all the following year. A good gardener knows which plants respond best to a severe cut back right before they start to grow in the new year to maintain their shape, while others are best handled with a little bit taken off here and a little bit taken off there to encourage a pleasing profile. Unfortunately, there are too many gardening maintenance people in the business that have not learned the art of pruning and it shows in sad looking landscapes throughout our neighborhoods. I often cringe at what my garden helper has done in the name of "cleaning up" the garden by severe cut backs when a gentle removal of a few branches would have been fine. Most of the time, less is more in my opinion. But these days I am just too busy too do all the maintenance by myself and so I really need to spend more time with him showing him what my expectations are for my garden since I have now figured out that he is not going to spend hours pouring over gardening books and magazines in his spare time like I do learning techniques and how to handle every kind of plant to make sure it is carefully pruned and managed to optimize its beauty in the garden. That is going to be a goal this year.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Finding Inspiration

After Christmas my DH and I got away for a few days at a spa in the hills in the San Diego area. Although it was colder than usual (ahem) we did spend a lot of time outdoors and the grounds were just lovely with an exceptionally beautiful landscape of mostly California natives with some Mediterranean plants covering acres and acres of the grounds. I was so impressed with it that I was inspired to come home and look for ways to incorporate more natives in my own landscaping plan, although I do already have a lot now, I can always add more. I do think it is not as easy as it sounds to gracefully add them into the average yard and it pays to either seek help from a landscaper who specializes in native plants or spend time exploring and taking notes and pictures of native landscapes that look good year round. There is a yard in our neighborhood that has removed their lawn and replaced it with drought tolerant plants and unfortunately it is somewhat of a visual disaster. It almost looks like it was laid out on a grid and succulents that will most likely stay very small were planted resulting in a very sad display. Like I say, it is harder than it looks to come up with a visually pleasing display that is also environmentally sound. I have had my fair share of mistakes! But we should always keep trying!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Getting Back to the Garden

 It has been a while since I have been able to spend any time in the garden, let alone write about the garden, but today was a beautiful day with the temperature of about 80 degrees and I finished my "must do" list and headed over to the nursery to see what was going on there. I had just written a post for the UCCE Master Gardener blog about fertilizing citrus this month along the coast and I decided that I had better follow up on the dose I gave last summer that resulted in a bumper crop of grapefruit and lemons. I have a feeling my garden helper is a bit frugal with the organic fertilizer I buy (it is pricey) and spreads it a bit thin, resulting in weak trees with not much fruit. Citrus trees are heavy feeders and need to be fertilized at least three if not four times a year.  You might as well save your money if you are going to skimp on the dose.

Of course just to prove that we really don't know more than mother nature, my key lime tree in the front yard that was here when we moved in, never gets fertilized and produces a ton of fruit every year! I always look at the poor scrawny thing growing in a rather shady spot and think it certainly can't hang in there another year thriving on neglect, but it continues to prove me wrong! I suspect that because it is tucked away behind the grape tunnel it gets lots of natural fertilizer from all the grape leaves and fruit that fall and go unnoticed.

 The camellias are blooming all over the yard. I am going to make sure to feed them soon because I am afraid I am asking them to keep going without much care and they do seem to be giving me fewer and fewer blooms each year. I did go to buy some fertilizer today, but came home with five new camellia bushes instead, they were just too beautiful for my weak constitution to resist on this beautiful day! Now is the time to plant camellias and azaleas because they are dormant while they are in bloom. Once they stop blooming they go into a growth cycle and will need the nutrients the fertilizer will provide, so I am going back for fertilizer tomorrow! I have already cut a few but I need to get out my shallow bowls that I use to float the blooms in all over the house!

 Of course the azaleas are blooming too! I'm not a big azalea fan, but there were tons of them here when we moved in and after moving them around a bit I've grown to appreciate the sparkle of color they add to the winter garden and the low maintenance requirements. I'm sure they are in need of some food and they will use the same acidic kind as the camellias, so I will see that they get some this month too.