Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Rains

If you're like me, gardening in the rain is not exactly a great deal of fun. So, what to do in this extended rainy period? Here are five productive things to do.
1. Weed. Yeah, I know, everybody's favorite thing to do but even a bit of weeding is very satisfying. And the more you keep up with it the less it can become a major effort.
2. Plant spring annuals. It's not all that much work to fill in some empty spaces with some of your favorite annuals. I've recently added ranunculus and anemones for bright bulb color; gilia capitata and baby blue eyes for lovely blue color; clarkia amoena for tons of salmony pink flowers and several breadseed poppies. They can go in the ground or you can make use of that favorite new pot of yours.
3. Top dress your beds. For those of us who are primarily flower gardeners and who thus can't start over with a planting bed, we can still top dress with soil amendments. That could be compost from your compost pile or a good organic amendment from your local nursery. Also, now is a good time to renew bark mulches that have scattered during the winter. Mulching reduces weeds and means less watering, not to mention that they can "dress up" certain beds.
4. Clean up and organize your potted plants. Pots are often overlooked but they too need maintenance. Pull out weeds that have gotten a toe-hold; decide whether certain plants need replacing and reacquaint yourself with neglected pots (what new treasure can I put in this pot?)
5. Enjoy the birds in your garden! Now is a great time for birding and you'll soon be seeing seldom seen birds returning to your garden. Clean out your feeder(s) and give them yummy, nutritious mixes. Make sure they have a source for clean water. Don't forget about ground feeding birds. Throw out some sunflower seeds or dried bread crumbs for these guys. If you don't yet have a hummingbird feeder, consider hanging one.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Go Native!

One of the joys of spring, okay we're not quite there yet weather-wise, is the abundance of California natives available for planting. This is especially true for native annuals. These are starting to show up in your local nursery and it's an excellent time to plant them as we still have some our wet season left to nourish them. The range in color and form of these natives is impressive. Start with the nemophilas, the best known of which is the sky blue-flowering Baby Blue Eyes. But there's a charming variety with white flowers with bright purple spots at the tips of each of the five petals (Baby 5 Spot), a pure white variety and one called Penny Black, with its deep maroon flowers edged in white.
Clarkias also offer a wide range of colors, from shell pink to darker pink; salmon, fuchsia even coral. They are floriferous plants and love the heat. For a splash of cheerful yellow, check out Tidy Tips (Layia) or Meadow Foam (Limnanthes). The former grows about 18" tall, producing 2" open-faced lemon yellow flowers that are fringed in white. Meadow Foam is a low growing plant with an abundance of green foliage on top of which one inch yellow flowers will eventually smother the plant.
Want blue? Phacelias (California bluebells) are a great choice. My favorite is P. viscida, with it's intricate nectary. Another favorite is the freely self-seeding Blue Thimble flower, Gilia capitata. It produces tons of 1-2" blue globes over a long spring period. It also has a species cousin, Gilia tricolor that features lavender and purple tones.
Have shade? Claytonia sibirica is another self seeding plant, a cousin of our west coast miner's lettuce, that has silky green leaves and cute white flowers streaked with pink.
Everyone knows the orange CA poppies but there are a host of other colors now available, everything from rose to purple to red. Even a white flowering variety. And look for a different species of Eschscholzia, E. caespitosa, otherwise known as Tufted poppy, with its ferny foliage and cute little yellow flowers.
Speaking of charming yellow flowers, check out Platystemon (Cream Cups), with its one inch cream and yellow flowers. It blooms so heavily you can barely see the foliage.
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