Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Today's bouquet

Snowballs in spring

I was so excited to see my viburnum opulus compactum covered in snowballs this year.  This is the fourth year since planting a tiny bareroot twig, and the past two years there have only been a few blossoms.  These greenish flower heads will continue to grow and turn white.  I work at finding the green to white, or white to green flowering plants like this one.  Now the big question will be to cut or not to cut.  Since I see them right out my office window, I think probably not.  Too bad the lilacs are just a couple weeks ahead; I have seen gorgeous bouquets of lilacs and viburnum.   

Monday, March 29, 2010

Working weekend

Wow, things changed in the garden this weekend!  Jerry got busy with the saw and limbed up the tallow tree over my shady garden, allowing more light in once the tree leafs out.  He trimmed up the orange tree to keep it more in bounds and tidier looking.  Then he pruned down the wintersweet turning it into a shrub, about 8 feet tall, instead of the tree shape of 15 feet that it was.  As the neighbor's deodar tree grew the two were becoming entangled.  THEN the big job commenced.  He went up on the roof to cut a branch off the deodar so it would not hang on the house and discovered a branch had fallen on our roof and as the needles dried and fell they collected dirt which with the rains had turned to adobe covering the shingles.  He worked for four or five hours with hose and broom and blower and brush, gouging off the mud inch by inch.  What a mess!  
I worked on the new asparagus bed, moved plants and generally continued with my plans to reshape parts of the garden. 
Then Sunday afternoon I cleaned out the garden shed and the potting table while Jerry cut all those tree branches into teeny tiny pieces, filling the yard waste bin.  It is amazing how much he can fit into that small space.  So, what a difference it all makes.  We feel it has been a long time since we were on top of things, garden wise, and otherwise.  It feels good to have something accomplished.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Under the Lilacs

This picture shows the lilac best, and the bench snugged in under against the north facing wall and so always in shade.  'Little tree' is on the right, out of picture, offering more shade in summer.  The falling down arbor aside (which Jerry has promised to replace with a homemade copper one), this is the first area of my far back redo that is pretty much done and to my liking.  There is a new broken cement path to the bench.  Along the left side from the arbor to the lilac there is a swath of violets with columbine.  Swinging to the right are foxglove, hollyhocks, larkspur and monarda, a 'tall' bed.  To the left is the orange tree and to the right a row of roses against the fence.  Clematis grows on the arbor, joined by cardinal climber vine in summer. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Shady garden

I think the side yard is about at peak bloom right now with over two dozen kinds of flowers. Right now it is not really shady because the trees have not leafed out.  Most of the woodlands plants bloom in early spring and then it is all pretty much done, thus the impatiens and the various foliage colors that carry on the rest of the year, along with hydrangea and a few others.  

The northern most shadiest area, with the more delicate plants.

The southern most edge, where the plants transition to sun.

From the center, looking south toward the sunnier end.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Some plants should be loved better than they are, but for the roots.  Violets, for example, spread by both running roots and seed.  The roots are tenacious and must be dug.  Since they bloom from November into March, violets earn their keep, with color and fragrance both, but they must be kept under control.  Another decent plant with running roots is Japanese anenome.  These are easier to control in shade than sun, oddly enough, since they are considered shade plants.  One of mine was happy in full sun, happy enough to spread and spread while I was busy with other things, but in this case the plant's good points do not outweigh the bad.  The white flowers that bloom in September are appealing but do not cut well, which is a prime consideration for me.  Plus, the foliage gets quite burned and tattered in the sun.  They do not earn the four feet cubed of space and more that they gobble up.  So out they come.  The problem is all the little pieces of roots happily continue to grow.  Today has been a very frustrating day for several reasons making it a good one to engage in digging roots and clearing clumps of violets and anenome roots.   

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Eupatorium 'Chocolate'

This eupatorium, which has just recently emerged and will grow much larger, is one of my favorite plants.  I like it because it holds the deep 'chocolate' color of stems and leaf shading through the year, and in the shade.  It is one of the few perennials that waits until late September or October to bloom.  Since our perennial bloom succession begins here in February most are done blooming by June.  The few that actually wait until fall are desirable plants.  The creamy puffs of flowers on this one belong to autumn.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Work day

Treated myself to a work day today.  : )   We started off the day with fresh orange juice from our few remaining oranges, and hot scones with tea and coffee.  Then we went to buy lawnmower parts, and summer bedding plants at the nursery.  Since lunch I have planted 36 summer annuals, mostly impatiens which will now happily bloom in the shade until Thanksgiving.   I also tried to divide the orchid but it was such a solid mass of roots, and so filled with debris, including black widows, that I just heaved the whole thing into the yard waste bin.  Then I divided and replanted the aloe vera and lemon balm.  Cleaned up debris and reordered the herb pots and generally made things tidier.  Oh, I tossed out the old parsley and replaced it with a calibrachoa. So, the side yard is looking ready for summer, except Jerry needs time to trim a few low branches off the trees.  He spent his day in the garage rebuilding the lawnmower engine in hopes of making it last the distance.  So far, no go. 
Next, I have a flat of Irish moss to plant around the stepping stones in the back, and some cucumbers and dill to put in. 

Woodland flowers

Even though I say my favorite flowers are what florists call 'main event' flowers, such as roses, lilies, peonies, and similar flowers, I am not sure that is true.  I really like annual poppies and larkspur and foxglove and sweetpeas and all those cottagy flowers I prefer to grow.  But the flowers that really catch my eye and heart are the sweet but fleeting spring woodlands flowers such as these Solomon Seal.  Just a few weeks ago they had not emerged, and now here they are in bloom. 

Friday, March 19, 2010


I hired two thirteen year old girls to help in the garden and I am so tickled with what they got done.  They pruned "little tree", my pruple potato vine standard, whch is significant because pruning messes up my shoulder, laid a path, cut down the overgrown phormium, grubbed out the overgrown Japanese anenome and generally got weeds out around the stepping stones.  Overall, with a few hours work, for which I did not have time, they got everything tidied up and pretty and ready to go for spring.  Lovely! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring spring and spring again.

Wow, just two more weeks into the season and already I have three dozen flower types blooming instead of the two dozen of the first of March.  Very nice!  

Here is a colorful spring bulb, sparaxis,  cool name huh?  It is one of the South Africans.  Another, ixia, will be along later.  Good scrabble words  : ) 

Sunday, March 14, 2010


A few days ago I noticed one of my ducks had a snail in its mouth!  Good duck!  : )


I like snapdragons planted in clusters so they look bushy instead of stiff and straight.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Mushrooms, etc, are no cause for alarm.  They are just part of the process.  They tend to show up as soil ph is adjusting.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Genes at work

I grow white hellebores, but I recently found these happily snugged into one of the white bushes.

Monday, March 8, 2010

California poppies

Jerry's favorite flowers, and ones he carefully edits to give the best display, are the California poppies, which grow huge in the garden, compared to in the wild.  Not poppies at all, but rather Eschscholzia californica, which is nearly unprounceable : ), the pretty orange poppies bloom from late winter into hot weather.  California's nickname the golden state comes from the valleys and hillsides covered in poppies when the explorers first came to California.  These days it would more often seem the name is from the more muted gold of the wild barley.  But I remember Jeffrey, about age 7, wrote a paper on spring in which he said, "driving south on I-5 in the spring one sees, 'hey mom, what is the Latin for California poppies?'"  We do still see the hills covered in gold, but not every year and certainly not to the degree they once were. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Solomon Seal
We love the excitement of watching to see which perennials will return each spring.  Our daily search for new shoots brings us face to face with the miralce of life.  These Solomon Seal, just pushing up last week, are now a foot tall.   

When Rob got the new asparagus last week I wasn't sure the roots I planted in January were going to sprout and welcomed the chance to maybe replace them.  Today Jerry found several of the thinnest of stalks, maybe 1/10" in diameter.  I think I will go ahead and plant more anyway, since I have them  : ) 

Friday, March 5, 2010


The fruit trees are blooming but there is no sound of busy buzzy bees.  We need bees! 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Great deal!

Robby was in Lowes and the sales person pointed out their clearance sale on bareroot food plants.  He got me four raspberry bushes, two blueberry bushes, and six asparagus all for $2 includng tax!  Sold regular price they would be $35.  Plus he was moving around plants in his yard and gave me some of them including a bay leaf bush, laurus nobilis.  I picture them as six foot topiaries in pots in front of fancy homes, but turns out they can grow to 100 feet.  I think this one will live in a pot.  Silly builder landscapers put it in the one foot deep spot in front of Rob's garage!  I have wanted one of these for the aromatic foliage, and the option of a plant with a formal shape, should one decide to do that, but a little herb pot sized one runs $13 and it's not like anyone ever uses enough bay leaf to warant that price! 

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Fruit trees

It is interesting to see the differences in the fruit trees as they blossom and set fruit.  Right now the plum tree is frothy with blossom while the cherry tree buds are just beginning to swell, but the cherries will be ripe a good month earlier than the plums. The apricot tree blooms a few flowers here and a few there over a month or so, and likewise the fruit comes ripe at random times.  Since there are rarely more than a few ripe at once we like to go out together, pick an apricot or two and share them.  It is in fact one of our favorite dates and we treat it as such.  : )   The nectarines are also in bloom with the threat of breaking the tree with the subsequent heavy fruit.  While the plums will wildly fling themselves from the tree in the late spring fruit drop, essentially self thinning, the nectarines must be carefully removed, leaving only one or two per twig.  Spring blossom on fruit trees is another harbinger of hope.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1 flowers

There are a couple dozen flowers blooming this morning, quite big show compared to a month ago.
Still blooming from February 1 are:
alyssum (as always)
Virginian stock, Malcomia maritima
muscari, the little grape hyacinth
wax begonias

And new this month:
apricots, nectarines and plums
California poppies
corydalis 'Blackberry Wine'
a little orange geum
geranium 'Biokovo'
a leftover impatiens
sparaxis just opening
freesias all budded up and ready to open
alstromeria ready to open