Sunday, May 31, 2015

Five Petaled Roses

  The cool, damp, overcast days we have been having make me glad I have so many simple five petaled roses in the gardens.

 I love them just as much as I love the big, full, old fashioned English roses, maybe a little more this time of year!

 The roses with lots of petals need the heat to encourage them to open fully and they often start turning brown before they are fully open. 

 Many of them rot before they open at all. Add to that the limited amounts of water they have been getting this spring and they also have weak stems causing some of them to hang their blooms down. Not pretty at all.

There is a lot to say about diversity in the garden and how it enhances the beauty in many ways!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Taking a Step Back

 It is easy for me to walk around my gardens and see all the problems. There are so many things that I want to fix, move, change and improve that it sometimes requires discipline to see the really cool things. Places and views that work perfectly to my eye when I step back. Here are a few that I captured today. 

I love this scene above looking east from the backyard. There are just so many shades of green and textures not to mention all the depth from the trees, fountain and canopy  in the distance and the hint of mystery of what is waiting down the steps to the right. The main plants here are all very simple, common garden staples but together they create what I consider a lovely, muted scene.

This picture is actually taken from the exact same spot looking west. If I look closely I could come up with a dozen issues here, from too much bare ground, flowers needing deadheading and of course the chain link fence showing in the background, but in this picture it looks rather inviting to me. I would like to sit and take in the lavender and rose fragrances while admiring the view from those chairs.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Drought Tolerant Tropicals

I write blog posts for the UCCE Master Gardeners which keeps me on my toes searching for new subjects and interesting things to write about that are topical to our region. It also gets me out of my focus on my immediate gardens and looking at gardening in general. I must admit that the tropical plant look is not one that I embrace entirely for an all over look in my gardens, but I do have a lot of tropical plants mixed in throughout simply because they get along so well in our climate and are so easy to grow in many cases. Oddly enough, many of them are drought tolerant and can get along with very little water once established. This is the time of year we should be planting them so I must admit I have some bare spots that I am going to consider some tropicals for simply because they add color and can get along without water. Of course California is often associated with bougainvillea and although I do kind of love it, I have very little of it grow in my gardens. It goes very well with our Mediterranean style house and adds the color I am always looking for almost year round. It doesn't have the constant issue with pests that roses have most of the time so I don't know why I don't use it more often. It can be hard to get established due to sensitive roots, but once you get it going it is carefree.

Some neighbors have a lovely peach colored flower canna with bright apple green leaves that I have fallen in love with, even though I thought I would never plant another canna after I put some in years ago, changed my mind and could never get rid of them. It is had to believe they are so drought tolerant because you would think they come from a tropical rain forest, but they are!

 I have a few hibiscus for some odd reason. They seem much too tropical for me and are not exactly considered a drought tolerant plant. But they do survive on the same amount of water as everything else and although they are not covered in blooms as you see them where they get ample amounts of water and lots of sunshine, did I mention mine are in the shade, mine do have a few pretty flowers and are pest free (as in no white flies).

Acanthus or bear's breeches are tropical plants that grow in the shade and are used primarily for their large, dramatic leaves. They use very little water once established and they do have those dramatic tall blooms (covered in spikes) if you like those kinds of things, this time of year. Years ago I sent away for a variegated one that was about eight inches across when it came. Five years later it is still about eight inches across, But I found a larger one at the nursery a couple weeks ago that I planted in a bit sunnier spot and we'll see how that one does. I do grow them because they tolerate the dry shade so well so planting in a sunny spot kind of defeats the purpose!

After following and learning from garden bloggers in Texas that have been dealing with their drought for so many years, my heart goes out to them with all the rain they are getting, resulting in floods. I hope their gardens that they have worked so hard to adapt to the dry conditions survive this onslaught of wet weather.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Eating The Garden

 May-Gray is a phrase used to describe the seasonal weather pattern we often have in Southern California that describes the overcast, low hanging clouds that cover the coast in the morning hours, usually clearing in the afternoon which often starts in the month of May after a beautiful spring. This typically develops into June-Gloom and sometimes extends into July which we have no cute rhyme for because by then we are all cranky and in need of waking up to some sunshine which is why we all live here in the first place. Last year there was very little if any overcast spring weather, we jumped right into a warm sunny summer, which delighted us all, but was probably not the best for a drought plagued region. The year before that, I think the sun didn't come out before 3:00 PM all summer.

 The May-Gray thing is caused by the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean which is still cool while the inland is heating up quickly, especially in the desert and pulling in the cool air from over the ocean. As the ocean water heats up it will stop this phenomena and the mornings will be sunny again. But it is hard to explain this to the fruits and vegetables that require a certain amount of sunshine and heat to grow and mature!

 Tomatoes especially need the heat and hate the cool weather we have been having. I typically don't get around to planting them, but this year I was inspired by a lecture I went to for the Master gardeners so I have high expectations. But honestly, these have been growing since the end of March. Pretty sad! I planted a beefsteak, a mid-sized and a cherry tomato plant, up high enough to at least somewhat discourage the dogs who usually eat them before we get to them. 

However if there is one fruit that is enjoying this weather it is probably my new blueberry bushes that I got for Mother's Day! I planted them in a planter so I could keep an eye on them and control the soil ph more closely. They are bred specially for growing in our climate and do not require the chill that most blueberries do, so I am hoping they do well. They were already loaded with berries that are very tasty when got them, so hopefully they will continue to be happy. Unfortunately my dog thinks they are very tasty too.

For some reason we don't have many apples this year. We had lots of buds, but just a few apples. I hope this isn't because of a lack of bees. We did have some rogues freezes here and there, so I am going to chalk it up to that this year, but I am very disappointed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Garden Tours and Durantas

So last weekend was the Master Gardener garden tour and I wish I had some great photos to share but I was too busy running around visiting with people to take pictures! It was a nice cool day for visiting gardens and we had lots of guests. It is always nice to have other gardeners that actually know what they are looking at visit the gardens. When someone gets excited over my tall oakleaf hydrangea or rice flower bush it is so rewarding that all the hours preparing seem worth it. One of the shrubs looking especially nice that day was this duranta in the garden by the front door. I had to tell my garden helper to stop pruning it (he prefers neat and tidy) because it is rather large and sprawls all over the place in a somewhat wild manner, but the beautiful arching branches of purple blooms against the bright green foliage make it worth the visual space it occupies.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Welcoming Garden Visitors

This weekend my SJC garden will be open to the Orange County Master Gardeners as a part of their annual tour. This is the third time over the past eight years I have participated and I am always happy to share my garden and experiences with my fellow Master Gardeners. Contrary to what most people may think, gardeners are much more forgiving as visitors to a garden, probably because they really understand just how difficult it is to create and keep up a beautiful space, especially when trying to practice ecologically responsible habits. I have to say though, while going back through pictures to find some that show the progression of the gardens over the years, it is obvious that the drought has taken its toll on the gardens. What were once lush beds and paths with overflowing edges and fillers are now bare dirt and sparse, even with watering from the automatic sprinklers. I had three yards of mulch delivered today to help with water retention and we are expecting some rain over the next couple of days but we need so much more. Luckily pretty blooms like this daylily are willing to bloom with just a little water weekly.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

High Praise for Bonica

These 'Bonica' roses in Laguna have not been fertilized in probably ten years but they continue to produce a ton of blooms every year. I must say they hardly miss me at all! I would highly recommend this rose for a low maintenance - high performance pink rose that performs all summer long! It would make a lovely shrub.