Monday, November 23, 2009

November Garden Photos

Here are a few early fall photos from my garden. At the top is the glistening porcelain berry vine, where the berries start green, then color up to pale blue, iridescent blue then royal purple. To its right is one of my remaining roses, my camera catching it at its peak. Below left is my Hebe ochroea 'James Stirling' with its gorgeous golden colors and beside it my Agave vilmoriniana, the one that had the 15' high flower spike and has now sprouted new leaves on the remaining stalk. Below that is the cool Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' and the subject of an upcoming column, Kalanchoe beharensis 'Fang.' Love its little "stalactites"underneath the velvety leaves. At the bottom is the lovely, subtle Australian shrub Correa and the "deadly" Datura 'Black Currant,' which is one of my favorite flowers ever.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fall into Fall

We are blessed here in the Bay Area with the most wonderful fall weather -- cool mornings and pleasant, mostly sunny days. Inviting weather for getting out in the garden. And while many gardeners are taking a well deserved rest from planting new plants, there's two areas of work that can be most rewarding right now. The first is winter prep, or more to the point spring prep. It's a good time to dig out a planting bed that you hadn't gotten around to amending. Add in compost or fir mulch to enrich and loosen the soil. Want something there until you plant it out in spring? Try a drought tolerant ground cover or a cover crop like fava beans or clover to fix nitrogen into the soil. Or add some seasonal color to these beds with primroses, cyclamen or pansies and violas. For already established beds, consider top dressing with fir mulch to add nutrients. This is also an excellent time to freshen up the bark mulch layer which may have been dissipated with traffic and the elements.
My other Fall tip? Try adding some South African bulbs to your collection of tulips, daffodils and crocus. Most S. African bulbs will bloom earlier than the classic spring bulbs, many of them in December and January. Many gardeners are familiar with sparaxis and babianas but may not have known they are native to South Africa. Add to this list lachenalias, commonly called Cape cowslip, the Iris family member moraea, the stunning and eerie ferraria and a number of gladiola species and winter gardeners have a whole palette to choose from. I have all of these in my garden and they've all poked their heads above ground. South African bulbs offer some of the most vivid colors and most interesting designs so are well worth the addition to your garden.
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