Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More of Erle's garden photos

The garden is loving the recent sunshine and many of my favorites are now in bloom. Here's a representative sampling. Don't forget to click on the image to see a larger photo. Top to bottom: Cobaea scandens; Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paw); Streptosolen (Marmalade Bush); Iris pseudacorus; Echium plantagineum 'Blue Bedder'. I'm loving this new camera!

Spring ... or Winter?

Wasn't it 90+ degrees only a week ago? Now it's 50 and I'm sure plants in my garden are very confused. I have an Hibiscus 'Torchy Red' in a wine barrel that sent up new shoots during the mini heat wave and is now shivering in its knickers I'm sure. It was buried under an overly enthusiastic matthiola tricuspidata till I cut that plant back. I recommend the latter for it's incredibly lovely silvery, deeply lobed foliage and night-scented lavender flowers. Unlike most stock, it gets bushy, to two feet tall and wide.
Now is the time to be weeding and cleaning out any overgrown late winter/early spring plants. I've finally yanked out my Iceland poppies and pansies, making room for some of my spring favorites like coreopsis, agastache, clarkia amoena and delphinium. Don't forget to amend the soil before you plant and to use Sure Start or a little slow release fertilizer.
Normally we top dress with mulch in order to save water and keep down the weeds but mulch has the added benefit of protecting young roots from extremes in temperature, a good thing given our crazy weather these days!
Hostas -- they're back! And you know what that means. Time to pull out the Sluggo and protect the young hosta shoots. Hostas are a treat but they're near the top of the list of snail delicasies.
Spring is a great time to go shopping for California natives. They're showing up in great variety in local nurseries and they're wonderful for adding color and interest, especially for the impatient gardener. For the color blue, we have the lovely phacelia species, blue gilias and the popular Baby Blue Eyes (nemophilia menziesii). Pinks? That's clarkias, although there are coral and salmon colored species there as well. Yellows? Cream Cups and Tidy Tips come to mind, as well as the Bay Friendly Cosmos bipinnatus (Yellow Cosmos).
We're in heaven now and you can be forgiven for feeling like a kid in a candy store when you go shopping for plants. When people ask me what I like about gardening, I tell them it offers not one but multiple joys: window shopping on websites etc.; actually buying the plants; getting my hands dirty as I plant my new treasures; watching them grow, letting the anticipation build; and finally the payoff when plants bloom. I even enjoy the 'dirty' work --prepping the planting beds, trimming and bed maintenance. I think it's the true mark of loving your garden; you don't mind doing even mundane work, knowing it will all contribute to beautifying your oasis.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Photos of the Week

Here are the first photos in this new feature. I'm learning to use my new Nikon D40 with a Tamron zoom lens. Top to bottom: Narcissus 'Curly, 'Halimiocistus 'Merrist Wood Cream,' and Gaillardia 'Burgandy.'

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Living in our Gardens

Spring weather has finally arrived and if you're like me you're trying to find a way to be out in your garden as much as possible. Doing the dishes? That can wait. On the other hand, the newly arrived warm weather means that some of us are back to watering our gardens again. In my case, it's renewed my resolve to install an irrigation system. Most of my beds are mulched, which helps on the watering but my spring resolution is to get some combination of drip and soaker hose system in place. That will free up more time to do the things I enjoy (planting, trimming, photographing) and the things I have to do (weeding, restoring neglected areas).
Rather than bore readers with a To-Do list (and everybody's list is different), I thought I'd share a couple of my favorite plants that are coming into bloom. As I've mentioned, I have over 500 different species or varieties of flowers in my garden and thus there's always something in bloom.
The big news in my garden is that my agave vilmoriniana has sent up a huge flower spike. These plants take 7-10 years to bloom and I think my plant is six or seven years old. I swear, it's growing a couple inches a day and is already 12 feet tall. They can reach 15-20 feet. When in bloom, the entire spike is covered in small white flowers, making for an incredibly dramatic display. I'm psyched!! Photos to follow.
Another wow! plant in my garden right now is my streptosolen bush. It's making its common name -- marmalade bush -- very apparent, with loads of orange, peach and gold flowers. It's large (5x5') and sassy, definitely commanding passersby's attentions. Mind you, it has a little competition right now, as my echium gentianoides is in full, glorious bloom, sporting hundreds of small, electric blue flowers. For those of you who love truly blue flowers, put this echium on your must have list.
And of course this is a clematis lover's favorite month. I have a number of these vigorous climbers in bloom, including the rich, wine-colored niobe, the double form pale lavender Belle of Woking and the large purple H.F. Young. New varieties are starting to show up in nurseries so keep your eyes open!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Rainy Tuesday thoughts

I'm not adverse to getting out in my garden in a bit of light rain but let's just say I'm not a duck! As long as we don't get rain non-stop for a week, some soft rain is welcomed by our gardens. I believe there's more prana in the rain than in city water, plus there's no chlorine. For those of you who haven't top dressed your planting beds with bark mulch, now is an excellent time for such a job. Mulching helps prevent water evaporation and weed growth plus it can improve the appearance of your beds. In general, match the size of the bark mulch to the size of the plants in your bed. For annuals, perennials and small shrubs, micro bark is best. For medium-sized shrubs and larger perennials, plus large open beds, fine bark (a medium grade). For trees and large shrubs, consider using medium bark. We all need to conserve water.
Many of us are in a planting frenzy right now. One tip: don't forget to take note of where you are locating plants, especially bulbs and deciduous perennials. And don't forget to save your plant ID tags. We get a lot of people coming into our Ace nursery doing their best to describe a plant in their garden they want to add more of. Identifying plants this way can be an adventure. Saving the ID tags means you have the genus and species of the plant and, sometimes more importantly, the specific variety.
What's newly in bloom in your garden? I've got breadseed poppies beginning to bloom, plus bearded iris, Dutch iris varieties, the first of my spring annuals (Baby Blue Eyes, gilia, larkspur) and a couple of lovely shrubs -- a dwarf syringa and verticordia plumosa. Even my fuchsia boliviana 'alba' is contributing its first pendulous flowers. Ahh, spring!
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