Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays to everyone and we're certainly getting a taste of true winter this year with freezing or near freezing temps. Those getting a freeze might want to employ N'Sulate blankets or Wilt Stop (formerly Cloud Cover) spray to protect tender plants. It's a good time to add bark mulch or compost to the tops of planting beds for insulation. I have gotten in the habit of top dressing beds containing perennials with Fir Mulch, an excellent soil amendment.
In other winter news, yes the invasive, yellow flowering oxalis has returned. And no, there is no "cure." The best you can do is to decimate it by continually digging it up or carefully pulling out the entire plant. Keep it from flowering. Where possible, you can employ Weedblock to keep it from popping up.
Now is also the time to dig out and amend any "open" beds and to swap out any plants you simply don't want in your garden any longer. We're constantly reminding customers at Ace Garden Center that this is a natural part of gardening. Some plants are doing too poorly to rebound. Or you are instituting a new design scheme and certain plants no longer fit that scheme. It may also be simply that you've enjoyed a perennial for many years and now it's time to try something new. There's no reason to feel guilty.
Fall and winter are excellent times to plant, whether it's a perennial to get it established in the winter rains, shrubs or trees to likewise establish them before the heat or even "spring" annuals that you may want to get an early start on (sweet peas, poppies, California natives). There is much that can be planted this time of year. This includes finally getting some of those potted plants in the ground.
Of course this is the time of year for pre-spring clean-up. Trimming, pruning, weeding all can serve to get yourself outdoors and give you a visceral sense of accomplishment. And make a warm house seem all that more inviting when you return indoors!
Here's hoping everyone has a safe and hearty holiday season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Winter Gardens

We are either blessed or cursed, depending upon one's POV, for being able to garden twelve months a year in the milder climates of the Bay Area. On the down side, we don't get to forget about our gardens during the winter experienced by much of the country. On the plus side, it's nice to walk out in the garden on a mild December day to see what may be changing, even if that is minimal compared to spring. Often there is a late show, plants hanging on into the late fall, and an early show, next year's bulbs poking up or buds on the trees. In the former category, my marmalade bush still has flowers, as do several salvias, including the lovely orange flowering S. Peru. My hebes are still producing flowers as is my lotus 'Amazon Sunset.' For the 'advent of spring' group, I have S. African bulbs such as freesia, sparaxis, lachenalia and babiana that have sprouted new growth. I also have my first Dutch iris up, as well as ipheion and snowdrops. I recently noticed new foliage on my Louisiana and ensata iris as well as on my sisyrinchium.
This is the time of the year for shrubs and I have several in bloom (camellias) as well as others about to bloom (leucospermums). My verticordia is coloring up nicely. To me this year round interest is the greatest reason for having a huge diversity of plants in my garden, even though I stray from the natives or drought tolerant planting that is so popular these days. Count me among those who gets great pleasure from enjoying his garden year round.
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