Thursday, April 28, 2011

Shrubs for easy gardening

Although when I began my gardens I was only thinking of the grand perennials called main event flowers, I soon realized it took more to make a real garden.  Shrubs have made a great addition, adding height, fullness and color.  A huge advantage is the easy care.  Nandina rarely requires any attention at all.  Azaleas require none.  Lilacs might be pruned once a year but we know they go on and on for generations with no care at all.  Hydrangeas, camelias, red twig dogwood, and viburnum are more great looking plants that require little to no effort.  Let them go a few years and they are fine.  Or you may like to tidy them up once a year, or cut the flowers to bring indoors. There are of course others, but these have won a place in my gardens due to their color, longevity, and flowers. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Two years ago a gardening friend Jen gave me these iris. I have never been a fan of iris, and they require replanting every few years so I thought them not worth the work.  However, I love the the wide bluegreen blades o the foliage.  So I decided to try more, and these are exceptional.  The purple in the falls blends with the other purples blooming now and the tall flower stalks are justly regal.  They are impressive during this short bloom time, then I will have the foliage as a foil to other colors and textures through the year. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


On Saturday I saw peony plants for sale in a local nursery for the first time ever.  Costco usually has bare roots that need several years growth to flower, but peonies have not been a plant of preference here.  I really do not know why.  Perhaps because we are called zone 9, and perhaps because most of our local nursery people are Puerto Rican, we get a lot more tropical type plants which do not take to our sloppy cold winters.  SoCal is where you get your real zone 9.  But now Monrovia has taken to growing and selling the old time plants like lilac and peony.  Good! 
So peonies are blooming!  The key to growing peonies is to get the eyes (those little pink shoots at the top of the roots) situated correctly in the soil.  Peonies need chill, and while we have enough for them to grow, the eyes need to be very shallow, even sitting at the surface, to grow well here.  As perennials, peonies shoot up dramatically in the spring.  The buds come up with the peonies, they flower at various times, all in April and May here, and then sit all summer with rich green foliage, and then die back in the fall, again at varying times.  The dead foliage needs to be trashed, not composted.  While peonies are lovely here, they really come into their own in cold climates with shorter growing periods.  In Alaska, Denise has peonies blooming nearly all summer by planting early, mid and late blooming varieties.  Her lilacs do the same.  I am just happy enough to have some, even though my main plant is pink.  My new species plant that Rob and Candace gave me last year does not have flowers this year.  I am not sure if it is just settling in or if it actually needs more cold.  We will see as time goes by. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Sunday

Orange blossoms:  Jerry's little taste of heaven  : ) 


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Back door garden

This is my herb and lettuces garden, right outside the back door.  Maybe you can tell I often step out for a piece of aloe for my hands.  I have veggies and herbs in various places but it is nice to have these right outside to step out and snip a bit for meals. What's growing right now?  Across the bench, aloe, seasoning celery, parsley, cilantro, and then a pelargonium for color.  At the end, lemon verbena, rosemary and potatoes.  Coming back along the ground, two kinds of chives, spinach and several kinds of lettuce.  Time to get some basil going! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Front yard redo in spring

Here is our front yard before the peach tree died and fell down. Everyone loved that tree, but we are so much happier with the new front beds. I have read that beds connected to anything need to be 2/3 the height, so a six foot deep bed in front of a typical rancher house would be appropriate.  We lived for years with the skinny little strip of azalea and fern before taking this big step to redo it all.

Paving still to come.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The new shady bed

After moving the oakleaf hydrangea to the back garden, where it is quite happy, and so lovely to see out the bedroom window, I had this space to refill.  So far I moved in the pot with the azalea, and transplanted things from other beds: a clematis from my fallen arbor, two starts from my Japanese painted fern, a white astilbe that needed a home, being a *second* good plant in a bagged bareroot last year, a heuchera, and a clump of geranium 'Biokovo' that I have spotted all along the shady beds.  I purchased one six pack of polemonium and planted five of those in a curvy row through the middle of the bed.  Then I added an impatiens that I likewise plant throughout the shady areas during the warm season.  The polemonium will have a lavender type bloom; I did not have much luck the first time I tried these, but $2 was worth the try for a new shady perennial.  The bed also has the corydalis a the front of the picture, another type of clematis on the trellis, some Solomon Seal, creeping Charlie, and the ground cover sweet woodruff. I need to add more, in particular something taller against the wall, but for this is a good beginning. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Morning pleasures

I was up early for the second day this week.  I just love watching dawn break over the black line of the Sierra's, whether there are pink clouds or not.  It is the mountains themselves that I like.  I am also entranced with these green puffs on the Viburnum Opulus Compactus, the snowball bush.  They glow in the early morning light.  They are slowly growing and will turn white, then fade back to green and then to brown.  This is the fourth year from bareroot twig and the first year with really good bloom.  I started this shrub after seeing pictures of snowballs arranged with lilacs.  I am looking forward to seeing these with the new white and purple lilacs we just bought.  I think the three colors will be amazing together.  I may not have patience for the day to day bits and pieces, but in the garden I can wait a few years to see the dream.

Snail stompin' time

I wandered outside this morning and found a dozen or so snails trailing over the tops of plants.  I stomped those and spread more snail bait.  These gorgeous spring mornings are as welcome to the snails as they are to us!  : )  I use safer snail bait, the iron phosphate stuff, primarily because with all my allergy and coughing the last thing I want is poison dust in my lungs.  Another benefit is the snails do not die immediately so you do not get gross piles of dead snails as you do with the other snail poison.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Satisfying Saturday

I am so excited!  We spent the day doing yard work, Jerry steadily working away all day and me running in and out, in and out, pulling weeds and making drinks and lunch and watching bits of P Allen Smith at Home which has been picked up by our local PBS station.  Then, inspiration struck!  What a great creative compromise!  I have always wanted to fence in the back garden, thinking it would look better and make more sense in the yard if it were contained.  Jerry on the other hand loves wide open spaces and has absolutely not wanted any fences inside the yard.  Today I very suddenly thought of using the pile of what used to be concrete edging to make an enclosure, or at least the idea of such.  I have 'ruins' made from the same concrete in the side yard, so the theme is continued.  I love this!  It reminds me of books where the characters stumble into some old ruined cottage remains and find the decades old garden still growing.  I will feel terrible tomorrow I am sure, as it was hard work, but so worth it.