Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Great Green North

Greetings from Vancouver B.C. where the city seems at times more like one great park. Lots of little parks and certainly lots of people with gardens but also many, many streets lined with trees. It's a gardener's city, with lots of spring rains, summer sun, long days from May to September and plenty of inspiration from neighbors. Nurseries though are not quite as plentiful as in the Bay Area but there are enough to keep one's garden growing strong. And if there aren't flowers to bring in from your garden, there are no shortage of flower shops. Vegetable gardening is just as popular here in Vancouver; I've spotted many a garden growing tomatoes, beans, squashes and more. Not that there aren't plenty of places to buy fresh, and sometimes locally grown, produce. All in all a wonderful place to live -- and I did from '69 to '71 -- except for one small detail. The long gray/rainy winters. Alas! That of course only makes the city greener and cleaner so perhaps not too great a price to pay.
It's nice to have a break in tending my own garden and equally nice to get inspiration from other gardens. But then it will be nice to be back home and get reacquainted with my own little slice of paradise ...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On Tour

I'm up in Vancouver B.C. visiting family but also taking in the local public gardens. People here also love gardening in a big way and the mild West coast climate allows for a long growing season. Yesterday I made the trek to the famous Butchart Gardens outside Victoria, on Vancouver Island. It's more of a large park-like garden than a botanical garden, with lots of instant color achieved through mass plantings of annuals, but the foundations are there, especially a great number of magnificent Japanese maples. The Sunken Garden was lovely, with great views from multiple angles and the Japanese gardens were peaceful and inviting. There is a large rose garden and a wild planted Mediterranean garden as well. For some reason those in charge of the flower selection really like heliotropes and calceolarias, as there were tons of them planted everywhere. I'll post photos on my return.
Today my nephew and I head up to the University of British Columbia to take in two gardens there, the UBC botanical garden (which I have seen in a previous visit) and a Japanese garden next door. It should be quite stimulating.
Everything in Vancouver is so lush, given the 60 inches of rain the city normally gets. And clean. It's a beautiful city, one I enjoyed living in for two years many a moon ago.
By the time I return it will be August, which I know is disconcerting for many of us gardeners, as it seemed like we never quite had a spring and summer is just now starting it seems. Our local nurseries are already beginning to stock some early fall plants like rudbeckias and toad lilies and there are many salvias available. Going on vacation is always invigorating but there will be so much work to do when I return. For now, though, the bliss of amnesia.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Happy Fourth photos

Top left: Livingstone daisy. So colorful; so tough.
Top right: Red day lily. Such an intense blood red!
2nd line left: Cosmidium. The "other" chocolate smelling annual.
2nd line right: Clarkia amoena. No other word but glorious!
3rd line left: Centaurea "Amethyst-in-Snow." Love this plant.
3rd line right: Cynoglossum. Top of the list for lovers of true blue flowers.
4th line left: Flemish Antique breadseed poppy. Isn't Nature wonderful?
4th line right: Grevillea 'Moonlight.' Very large showy flowers and THAT color!
5th line left: Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero.' Orange lovers unite!
5th line right: Scyphanthus. My new favorite flower of 2010. Charming climbing annual.
6th line left: Leycesteria formosa. I call this the Pagoda plant because the flowers look like little Chinese pagodas.
6th line right: Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' A lovely bi-colored helenium.
Bottom left: Canary Creeper nasturtium. One of my favorite scrambling vines.
Bottom right: Dietes vegeta. It may be common but that doesn't mean it isn't pretty.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Container Water Gardens story

For those of you who may have missed my feature article on container water gardens in the June 27 edition of the SF Chronicle, here's a link to that story. This was a fun piece to write and Timber Press in Portland was kind enough to let me use some fabulous images from several of their books. Three water garden authors also shared their thoughts. I even had my photo in the paper for the first time, as a Chronicle photographer came out for a step-by-step assembling a water feature photo shoot. My first thought in seeing the photo of me cradling the pot was "Wait; I'm that old?"
Sadly, I had to disassemble the pot as I'll be putting a small rhodie in it for a decorative pots corner in the back yard.
Meanwhile, though it's hard to believe, given the late, late arrival of spring, we find ourselves in July. Most of the spring annuals are done blooming and need to be replaced. This is a reminder that growing a garden is a cycle and is part of nature. We know that annuals do eventually die once they've run their course but that can happen to short-lived perennials as well. We shouldn't be hesitant to replace these plants. In fact, we tell our nursery customers not to worry about pulling out a sickly plant, or one that no longer meets the needs of the bed it's in. Gardens are ALL about change. Once you embrace that philosophy then it's easier to replace plants.
An important reminder: To paraphrase real estate agents, the most important element to a healthy garden is soil, soil and soil. If you temporarily have an empty planting bed because you're swapping out plants or re-doing the bed, it's an excellent time to add soil amendments. Loose, rich soil is healthy soil and healthy soil = vibrant plants.
July in my garden is equally about summer bulbs (lilies, glads, daylilies), summer perennials (verbascums, hollyhocks, heleniums etc) and summer shrubs (marmalade bush, Australian bluebells, swainsona). Though I understand having a garden using drifts of certain plants, my love of plants and need for constant interest has led to a huge variety, which means there's always dozens of things in bloom. Summer is for enjoyment and upkeep. And short term amnesia that fall (with it's seasonal work) will ever arrive.
Enjoy your garden! (and your friends').
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