I’m Back!

I had a really lovely time visiting family in NYC (and an overnight trip to Toronto) for Persian New Year.  But as any serious gardener knows leaving your garden for over a week is a bit nerve-wracking. Who knows what you are going to find when you come home? I’ve gone on trips shorter than 11 days and come home to disaster.  And while I was gone I kept checking the weather and it didn’t rain in Los Osos at all. We have had such a dry winter.

Happily everything was fine!

(do please click on the images to get a larger view!)

Two new thymes along the path got a bit wilty but nothing serious.  The rest looks great. Even the newly planted mediterranean garden looks fine (gotta love California natives). Yesterday I gave everything a good soak and there is a good chance we will get some rain tomorrow.

The view from my kitchen window is even more enjoyable now that my Geranium maderense is in full bloom!

More to come in the near future but I just wanted to check in.

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Spring Blooms (Lots of them!)

Tomorrow morning I am heading to NYC to spend Persian New Year with my family (Happy Nowruz everyone!). So I thought I would do a quick post on what has been blooming in my garden.  Despite the loss of most of the mediterranean garden there is still quite a bit going on. Tons of volunteer seedlings have been blooming (spring weather really started in Los Osos about a month ago), and some of the perennials I planted last year are starting to really hit their stride.

This will be a picture heavy thread so feel free to scroll through and stop if you see anything that interests you.

Zaluzianskya capensis has been blooming all winter.  All my little seed grown plants have become little shrublets (I mistakingly thought they were true annuals).  They open in the afternoon and you may remember last year I made fun of the fragrance as being too strong. Well I’ve grown to love them. You can just be walking by and suddenly get hit by the sweet scent.  They have been reseeding quite a bit as well.

The California native, Mentzelia lindleyi, mostly reseeded right along the road so most of them got tromped on by the construction guys.  Luckily this big clump was in a safer spot a few feet into the bed. I’ve put up some temporary fencing with bamboo poles and twine to remind construction guys to stay on the street and not take short cuts through my garden.

A few Nemophila menziesii seedlings came up and are blooming now.  I think I pulled them too early last year so they didn’t reseed as well as some other plants.

The adorable little South African strawflower, Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’, reseeded like crazy.  Mostly right around where they had been planted last year.

In the evening the flowers close up and look like cute little paper bowls.

Linaria reticulata ‘Flamenco’ is not for the faint of heart. I planted 24 little plants last year and this year I have about 24,000 growing in a huge 10′ x 10′ patch.  I can not even beging to explain how happy they make me. Especially all covered in condensation and brightening up a foggy day.

This is the view from my kitchen window when I wash my dishes. Almost makes me not mind the fact that I don’t have a dish washer. Almost.

Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ is another South African annual that reseeded like crazy. From a distance they look a bit like California poppies but up close they are quite distinct. This clump just escaped destruction.  See the patch of bare dirt right behind them? That was solid plants before one of the water tankers backed out of my driveway and right through the garden. After that I started parking my car in the driveway so the construction guys couldn’t park in it any longer.

Not bad for a one year old garden, right?

I’m not sure the beauty of the Layia platyglossa (tidy tips) foliage in the foreground is apparent in my photos. The leaf edges have this quality that sort of reflects light and looks all silvery. They must be covered in little hairs or something but I haven’t had a chance to really examine them up close.  This huge clump is all volunteers. I collected a huge envelope of seed but ended up not needing to use any of it so I sent it out to friends and the Mediterranean Garden Societies seed share.  If I have time to collect some more this year maybe I’ll mail some out to blog readers if anyone is interested.

The flowers are just starting to open. They should go into full bloom while I am out of town. Hopefully we get a bit of rain and they are still nice when I get back. They should be fairly drought tolerant but I didn’t think them as much as I should have so they do get a bit droopy when it gets warm.

I love the way the sticky little hairs on Geranium madersense flowering stems look when they are back lit.

The flowers aren’t too shabby either.  These should reseed like mad and make a nice big colony in front of the house.

Euphorbia lambii is another big shrubby plant that reseeds like mad.  This is the first bud on mine. It should be looking really nice when I get back into town. These can get 8-10 feet tall if they are happy though they don’t seem to grow particularly fast on the coast.

Lobelia tupa is another slow grower. This is one of those great big perennials that probably takes about 3 or 4 years to reach its maximum potential.  This one fat stem should bloom nicely at some point this year but in a few years it will be 4 feet wide and 8 feet tall and covered in blooming spikes.

Abutilon X suntense should have lovely purple blooms when I get back home. I’ve seen it in a lot of English gardens but I don’t know how happy it will be here long term. I’ve heard it is not at its best in California.  If it doesn’t succeed I will probably grow Abutilon vitifolium which is one of its parets that I know will do well.

Echium pininana (not Echium pinnata, a common mistake) is starting to expand quite a bit lately. It should grow about 15 feet tall this spring. I grew about a dozen from seed last year and only kept this one.  The others went into some of our clients gardens as a fun Dr. Seussian treat for them. Native Coreopsis gigantea is looking rather nice in full bloom now. Hard to believe that was just a tiny little 4″ pot last March.

Phlomis purpurea had to be moved to the backyard garden during the construction and has not been happy.  Apparently Phlomis have different shaped leaves in winter and then drop them in favor of more drought resistant ones during the dry summer. I’ll have to see if I notice a change in their leaves this summer.  They have really been sulking and needed quite a  few deep waterings in their new home.

Some of the former inhabitants of the mediterranean garden have found a new home in my back yard garden. I had started this bed last summer but then had to go out of town suddenly for about a month and lost most of the plants new plantings here.  This worked out in my favor because these plants needed a home quickly. The chain link fence is not cute, and my landlady was thinking of removing it, but I want to keep it now so I have a more sheltered area of the yard. A lot of my neighbors have big dogs and this is where my plant nursery is. Once the bigger plants and climbers fill in it won’t be as bad.

And speaking of the mediterranean garden this is how it looks now that it has been replanted.  I bet there isn’t a single garden designer out there that isn’t secretly delighted when misfortune gives them the opportunity to try something new. Since all my nice compost is now buried about 12 feet under ground with the new sewer lateral I was left with Los Osos sand. While I would rather work with sand than tough clay it does have some logistical issues.  It either drains too quickly or sheds water as if it was completely water-proof and it is probably pretty low in nutrients. While there are many medit plants that would be perfectly happy in poor, sandy, soil I thought it would be safest to use plants that I know for a fact are happy in Los Osos sand so I went very heavily with California natives.

Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery is about an hour east of me in Santa Margarita and their website is an absolute treasure for California gardeners. It was a huge help in deciding what I would plant in this newly imagined garden. They have detailed descriptions and pictures of many plants and even some videos talking about their experiences growing specific plants and what conditions they love or hate. I still haven’t visited their nursery in person but I will have to take a trip out there when I return in April to see their display gardens. A few great native cultivars like Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’ and Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’ are their introductions.

The garden isn’t looking quite as nice as it was a before the sewer work but I think it will fill in quite nicely.  The outer edges remain the original medit garden and the center strip is mostly natives now. There is a manzanita, three types of California buckwheat, native Salvias, Verbena lilacina and of course lots of California poppies. I went with white and lavender ones for this part of the garden.

The Dudleya pulverulenta are starting to bloom and perk up a bit after being stomped on quite a bit.

Salvia africana-lutea, Lavandula pinnata var. buchii, and Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ are all looking really nice despite the fact they had quite a bit of sand dumped on them.

The path garden got a bit of a refresh since I talked about it last week.  The succulents and other plants that weren’t working have been moved elsewhere, a few new plants have been tucked into empty spots, and the left side of the path has been replanted with plants similar to the right side.

And just when I thought I was safe I woke up to this monstrosity this morning. No worries. They didn’t harm the garden. They were just putting in the correct manhole cover at the end of the street. But I am glad I will be out of town and away from the construction noise for a bit.

I hope you all will forgive me for posting so many pictures but that I wanted to tide you all over until I return in April. I hope everyone has exciting things going on in their gardens this spring.

Winter Walk Off 2013!

A few weeks ago I had to get away from all the construction happening on my street so I decided to go for a walk so I could take part in this years “Winter Walk Off” inspired by Les of A Tidewater Gardener.  Last year my post was a bit crazy.  Fifty photos!  This year I am a bit more busy so I am going to keep it short. I’m trying to keep my blog posts at fewer photos anyway.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I don’t want busy people quickly scrolling through my posts but if you don’t have much time for blog reading DO at least scroll to the end of this post. I saved the best for last.

I walked up to the northwest part of town which is known as Baywood Park.

There is beach access there so you can enjoy views of Morro Bay and the estuary.  From left to right you can see Morro Rock, the unfortunate smoke stacks at the Morro Bay Power Plant, the Morro Bay Heights, the golf course, and Black Rock.

There are million dollar houses all along the estuary and the bay.  This one is for sale. Quite a bargain since not only do you get a house with a beautiful view but you also get  a magnificent Leucospermum cordifolium.

And a lot of Linaria. This spot is just itching for some new Protea specimens. That is Black Hill again in the background.

Orange Leucospermums are very popular in town.  I fear for this ones safety as I believe there were some lateral sewer line markings on the street right near it. If you remember my post from last month the path of destruction is pretty wide. I don’t believe most Proteaceae transplant very well. Especially when they are this size.  This is quite an artistic little house. I think leaves on the little tree in the background are fake. Made of metal or something.

They have a nice little Garrya elliptica too.

Does anyone know which Acacia this is? There are quite a few of them around town.  They start blooming in January or February and are quite pretty but I still don’t know my Acacias. There are so many of them but they get quite big so I haven’t used any in garden designs.

This is the garden I wanted you all to stick around for.  A really great design just a few minutes from my house. Nick Wilkinson from Grow Nursery had a hand in creating it.

The part that really knocked my socks off were these three HUGE Aloe polyphylla! I have seen a photo of huge specimens in their home in South Africa but never this big in California.

They are so big they are barely fit in the space allowed them!

Nick says they are about five years old and he has never had Aloe polyphylla at any other location get this big.  It must be the exact right combination of our chilly coastal climate and maybe the excellent drainage from the large raised beds.

Whatever it is these are some really happy plants! I can only hope mine are even half this glorious some day.

The entire garden is really charming and full of great specimens. This is another garden I really hope will be spared any sewer destruction.

I’m really glad that winter is coming to an end (though truth be told it has been quite spring-like here the past month). I’m going on a trip in a few days but I’ll be doing a spring bloom and garden update post soon.

El Diablo!

It is no wonder that deer have cloven hooves for they are surely the minions of the devil!  At least from a gardeners point of view.

This Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ has been munched!

All the construction for the sewers in town means that a large number of fences are temporarily down. Now I am not foolish enough to believe that any of these little fences offered 100% protection against deer but my neighborhood had a series of fenced areas that seemed to funnel the deer to other areas of town.  Sadly that barrier is now gone. Shortly after the construction began I noticed my beautiful Eschscholzia californica ‘Mahogany’ had been munched on. That seems particularly cruel since the field the deer came from has tons of wild California poppies that no one would miss. Next on the menu were my Clarkia seedlings. Clarkia amoena seems to be a particular favorite as most of the plants have been eaten to little nubs.

Finally the above Geranium was munched on and since I now live on a sand and dirt road (courtesy of our new sewer pipes) I found evidence leading right up to the plant.

There is no question who the guilty party is!

One of the annoying things is that my neighbors don’t share my horror at these hoofed vermin infesting our neighborhood.  They are all like “OMG it was a buck. It was so pretty.” and when I suggest that the next time they see him they chase him off or sic their dogs on him they look at me with horrified expressions on their faces.  As if I am some sort of serial killer.

The real serial killer here is a plant murderer though!

I’m trying out some Liquid Fence on some of the tastier plants and so far that seems to have done the trick for now.  But reapplying it may be a bit costly.  What tricks have you used to keep hungry critters from munching on your garden?

 

 

Path Garden One Year Later

My father is sick of reading about the sewer construction on my blog so I promised I would post something about flowers instead! I realized that it was almost a year ago that I installed and planted the path garden so it is time for an update.  What worked and what was a big old failure?

This is how the front yard looked when I moved in December 2011. I wondered why the little front path ended abruptly in the middle of the lawn. Turns out that is where the property line ends and the rest is all public easement.  D’oh! The sewer was going to go right through this garden but luckily plans changed and very little damage was done to this part of the yard. It is still all in the public right of way but it should be safe now.

Back in this post I described the process of creating the path(also here and here). Luckily I had help from Gabe and Victor. Those 2 X 2 concrete squares are so heavy I can barely lift one myself.

I finished planting on March 7th, 2012. The garden was basically an experiment to see what would thrive in just 2 or 3 inches of soil on top of several inches of decomposed granite. Not the best growing conditions.

Two months later and the garden was in bloom and looking pretty nice. For a full inventory of all the plants I used go here.

The picture above was taken today a year after being installed.  It is looking pretty good (aside from the sand washing in from the sewer construction). Let’s talk about what worked and what didn’t.

Dianthus ‘Shooting Star’ worked pretty well. I lost one early on but I think that was just a fluke. I replaced it and the new one did fine. From a design point my only issue is that I planted these right next to Armeria maritima and they are the exact same color and overall shape. From a distance they looked the same.

Armeria maritima is of course the perfect sort of plant for this sort of garden. It is really tough in all sorts of climates and conditions. Here on the California coast it bloomed most of the year.

There is something about Thymus X citriodorus ‘Lime’ that just makes me happy. It is such a bright golden color.  I did use it in a client’s garden and for some reason it failed but in my garden it has thrived and formed nice little clumps.

Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineum’ is another winner.  This red thyme has a creeping habit and spreads to form a nice mat.  Probably better for walkway areas than the mounding thymes because it stays so flat. My only complaint is that weeds seem to love to go through it. Particularly little yellow flowered creeping Oxalis. You practically need tweezers to get it out.

Delosperma dyeri ‘Red Mountain’ is a great ice plant that is hardy to at least zone 5. One slight problem is that the quails love to eat it.  The damage you see at the bottom is from quails nibbling on it.  It is so vigorous that it doesn’t seem to do any long term damage and the plants fill back in quickly but it is something to consider if you have coveys of marauding quail coming through your yard.

Delosperma spalmanthoides is a cutie. Perhaps too small and delicate though. The leaves are almost microscopic and the flowers are pretty minuscule too. It needs careful placement to be seen and to avoid being swamped by more vigorous plants. It bloomed heavily for me in February but seems to bloom sporadically off and on all year.

Berlandiera lyrata is a cheerful little yellow daisy that smells like chocolate. It bloomed nicely all summer and lots of little seedlings came up this winter. I’ve potted up about a dozen of them.  The thyme here is Thymus X citriodorus ‘Green Lemon’. It forms a nice lush green ball for most of the year but as you can see when it bloomed the whole plant turned deep purple.

Nepeta ‘Kit Kat’ gave me that beautiful blue-lavender catmint color on a small almost prostrate plant. Really nice here with Sesleria ‘Greenlee’s Hybrid’.

This beautiful little juniper leaved mounding thyme was sold to me as Thymus juniperifolius. I haven’t been able to confirm that this is the correct name though.  Two other that are more likely are either or T. neicefferi or of T. neiceffii. I’m not sure which is correct but it is a gorgeous plant.

It is already getting ready to bloom in early March.

Now for some of the failures.

Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’ is a dwarf flowerless chamomile. The smell is wonderful but this spot close to the street was a bit too sunny and dry. They prefer a damper shadier position so I moved them closer to the house where they are looking much nicer. Definitely worth growing just so you can squish them with your hands to release that sweet fragrance.

Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’ was a complete disaster. Again it was too hot, dry, and sunny by the street. This was the best they looked all summer so I eventually tore them out.

Saxifraga ‘Pixie’ was really cute covered in tiny pink blooms but in the summer they started to go brown in their centers and very quickly were little dried out lumps. I will probably just repeat the Dianthus and Armeria combination from the other side of the path in the space they left.

Sedum dasyphyllum has really cute succulent foliage, right?

But then when it finishes blooming you are left with this hot mess.  Ugh. Not cute AT ALL. It had to be sheared back almost to the ground and didn’t look nice again until the winter rains.  If only it didn’t bloom it would be perfect.  I think I will move this to a less visible location.

One plant I loved was Frankenia thymifolia. Think of it as a really lush vigorous thyme with little pink rose-like flowers and foliage that goes red when it is a bit stressed. I planted this along one of the edges of the mediterranean garden and 4″ pots quickly grew to over a foot across.  This is the plant I decided to replace the chamomile and Lysimachia with at the front of the path.

Another plant I considered for the path was Phylla nodiflora which I had used along my driveway. As you can see above it has really sweet little Verbena-like flowers. But after a year of observation I’ve decided that it is basically a lawn weed, it doesn’t bloom long enough, and the foliage is a bit too rough. It could be nice in the right spot but it won’t work for my path garden.

The other succulents were also not terribly successful. Echeveria ‘Violet Queen’ hasn’t really blown me away. Sedum album ‘Murale’ started nicely but got really straggly this winter. It also blends in with the mulch so doesn’t really stand out in this spot.  Geum ‘Mango Lassi’ bloomed beautifully for a few months but then faded away.  I’m sure the shallow and poor quality soil had something to do with it but to be honest I lost all the Geums in my garden. I think I just didn’t water them as much as they would like. Uncinia uncinata ‘Rubra’  also withered away by the end of summer despite my attempts to keep it moist and Isotoma is still trying to hang on but can’t compete with Chrysanthemum paludosum and other annual seedlings that have been coming up.

Overall I am pretty happy with how the path turned out.  A few tweaks and replacements for the weaker plants and I think it will look really nice this year.