Cutting back Geranium maderense.

There comes a point where Geranium maderense finally exhausts itself and starts to look pretty ugly. Its beautiful architectural leaves and reflexed petioles that once helped to hold the plant up finally shrivel and the plant collapses under its own weight. Thousands and flowers and seeds take up a lot of resources.

“When should I cut this beast back?” I wondered.

It got a brief stay of execution when a male California quail decided it was the perfect spot to watch out for danger.

He would watch attentively as the rest of his covey ate in the garden below and cry out if he saw any danger.

When the quails stopped coming around the plant got another stay of execution when it threw out a new flush of blooms but finally it fell over and I decided it was time to go.

The branches of the inflorescence are massive. I had to prune them off one at a time and then untangle them from each other.

They are a little bit unpleasant to work with because they are covered with little glandular hairs that secrete a sticky sugary substance.

The leaves from the main stem are all dried up and dead. The leaves you are seeing here are from two pups. Lower side branches from the base of the plant. I wanted to save one of them so I had to work carefully so I wouldn’t damage it.

Here you can see the old leaf petioles flushed against the trunk. They start out upright and as the plant grows taller the lower leaves reflex and act as a support for the plant. They do a pretty good job at it. The main stem gets three to four feet tall and at least another two feet while in bloom and is quite top heavy. But the leaves helped hold mine up in 30-40 mph gusts of wind.

This is the base of the plant where you can pretty clearly see that the pups are new stems coming from the base. I have had people insist that the plant is completely monocarpic and that my pups were just seedlings but obviously that is not always the case.

I carefully sawed off the main trunk and the weaker pup and saved the one that was more upright.  It has been doing fine and should hopefully bloom next year. Not a problem if it doesn’t make it as there are tons of seedlings already germinating. It is definitely a bit weedy but the seedlings are large and distinct so they are pretty easy to thin out or remove.

Vorpal

There are some vorpal winds blowing on the California coast today.  Vorpal is a word that Lewis Carroll made up to describe a sword that was so sharp it could cut off a head in one fell swoop.  So, yes, it is so windy today here in Los Osos that it might blow your damned head off!

My Geranium maderense looks like it might snap in half and blow down the street like a tumbleweed. Here it is a few days ago when the weather was calmer.

I’ll be sure to take another picture if it snaps in half during the night and I am left with nothing but a stump. Hopefully that won’t happen.

Another plant I am a bit concerned about is Echium ‘Mr. Happy’.  But right now he is only about four feet tall and is standing strong against the wind.  He has been growing wider with lots of side branches. His main branch however has become fasciated.

Fasciation is one of those things that I think is cool when it happens to other people’s plants but I am not that keen on when I see it in my own garden.  It is generally caused by some sort of damage in the growing point and causes flattened abnormal growth. Maybe it will look really cool.  Time will tell.

I already shared a picture of the garden from my kitchen window but the other day I was admiring the garden from my living room and thought I would share that view as well.

Again this is from a few days ago.  My street has become a dirt road from all the sewer construction so this wind is blowing sand up like it is the Sahara or something.  This window is now covered in a film of grit.  Nice view though, right?  I think it is really important for the house and garden to relate to each other and be connected.  When I look for my own home to buy I will be looking for one where the lot is visible from as many of the windows as possible and preferably something on one level where it is easy to create an accessible indoor/outdoor feel.

I talked about Craspedia globosa right before the construction started.  I was thinking of getting rid of them because even though they are Australian they are not from the mediterranean climate region of Australia and require more water than I am giving my medit garden. The construction did most of my dirty work for me and four plants were lost during the excavation.  I decided to leave these last two little ones and it was worth it for their cute drumstick blooms.  I’m not going to give them any special treatment this summer. If they make it great. If not that is OK too. But at least I get to enjoy their blooms this spring.

This clump of Mentzelia lindleyi has been blooming for a while now and seems pretty sturdy in the wind. A few solo plants snapped this morning but this group seem OK so far. My neighbor said they look like weeds! I think people brought up with “lawn culture” are accustomed to thinking of anything with coarse foliage and bright yellow flowers as dandelions and that = bad to them.

I am pretty happy with this little vignette. Clockwise from the top: Layia platyglossa, Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’, Aloe variegata, Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’, and newly planted Dianthus ‘Fire Star’. A few of the Layia have been damaged by the winds but I have so much of it that I’m sure it will be fine.

I love Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’.  Back in New Jersey two of my favorite hardy Euphorbias were E. polychroma and E. palustris.  But here in California there are so many more to choose from.

So that is a little taste of what is going on now. I’m hoping the winds die down soon and I will have a garden left in the morning.

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?

 

 

Cayucos Courtyard Update

Back in November I posted about my first installation with Gardens by Gabriel.  This beach house courtyard garden in Cayucos. The design featured mostly plants from Annie’s Annuals.

This morning Gabe and I stopped by to check things out.  It is looking pretty good.

The first bed has a purple, pink, and blue theme going on.

The second bed adds some chartreuse to the mix with Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’.

And the third bed is orange at the moment.  Very, very orange.

Eschscholzia ‘Apricot Chiffon’ is doing really well.

As I’ve mentioned before California poppies are seed grown so there is always going to be some variation.  The one below is kind of neat even if it is more yellow than orange.

We moved the Musschia wollastonii to a new location in January but it looks like it didn’t miss a beat.

I’m not even sure these pictures can convey how blue Anagallis monellii is.  It is very, very, intense, deep purply-blue.

I like this violent combination of Anagallis and Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’

Nicotiana mutabilis is just getting started. I wanted something that would be tall but not overwhelming for the space.  It is sort of a see-through plant so I thought it would work well.

Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ and Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ have been blooming since November.

I’m very impressed with how big these November planted Trachelium ‘Hamer Pandora’ are.  Mine were only planted in February and are quite boinky and little in comparison. Nice combination with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’.

Altogether I am very happy with the way the garden turned out.

Winter Walk-Off: Fifty Shots around Los Osos

Les over at A Tidewater Gardener is hosting his annual “Winter Walk-Off Challenge”. Since I have been so busy working on installing my gardens I haven’t had much time to explore town the past month so I thought participating would be a good excuse to get out and go for a walk.  I’ve done blog posts about walks to the north, south, and west so I thought for this one I would head east towards the more rural part of town.

I ended up taking tons of pictures and chose fifty to share which is a bit much so feel free to just scroll through and click on any that catch your eye for a bigger view.

Ceanothus is still in bloom.

There is this cute little honor system honey stand of honey on a busy street in the middle of town.  Apparently it is all local honey.

Echium candicans starts blooming in winter and will continue into spring.

Nice little water wise garden in front of this house with natives, mediterraneans, and succulents.

Cotyledon orbiculata is in bloom.

Cistus X purpureus

Acacia have been in bloom for the past month. This species is quite common though I am not sure what it is.  Maybe Acacia longifolia.  If anyone knows feel free to correct me.

Close up of the Acacia.

The further east you go the larger the lots get.  I’m not sure what is going on in this front yard but I am totally imaging gardens here.  I would kill for a yard this big.

Leucadendrons are still looking magnificent.  Like this yellow one…

and this orange one.

Quail Decor

It looks like they are getting read to do some work in this gated yard on the east side of town.  I love their view of Hollister Peak in the background.

Not all ice plant are evil invasives.  This one is quite lovely.

I wanted to get a closer look at this garden room and what appears to be a small field of lavender but there were two loud and aggressive dogs guarding that were not happy to see me.

This large front yard has a coastal dunes planting theme going on.

And heading back towards the west end of town this yard had a Japanese inspired collection of bonsai and an ornamental lathe house for Cymbidums to shade them from the sun.

Another species of Acacia.

LOVE this.  What a welcome entrance with a Cantua scrambling up an arbor.

Cantua buxifolia

California poppies have been in bloom since our last (brief) rain storm.

LOVE everything about this.  It is a canary aviary, with a green roof, featuring daffodils, decorated with a metal sculpture.

Their yard is also protected by some alien artwork.

They should seriously win an award for awesomeness!

More Leucadendrons.  They are almost as common here as Rhododendrons and Azaleas are back east.

This Leucadendron ‘Jester’ goes nicely with the red garage in the background.

Love these houses!  The one on the right is for sale.

Linaria which goes by the common names of toadflax or baby snap dragons is a common escaped weed in California.  I loved the color combination of this one.

This house had native plantings including this Salvia spathacea or hummingbird sage.

Close up of their flowery coolness.

Pretty sure this little chuckle patch is Leucanthemum hosmariense.  I love any type of daisy flower.  I probably should add some to my garden.

I made my way back to my neighborhood and the bay.  I believe this is a female northern shoveler.  Look at how crazy her beak is!

Dutch Iris by the bay.  The north-western part of town is called Baywood or Baywood Park.  This is one of the few areas that actually has some shops and restaurants and bed and breakfasts (and the laundromat where I do my laundry).  We are a “bedroom community” for San Luis Obispo so most of the rest of town is just houses without a real downtown.

A very fragrant Psoralea pinnata. Some people say it smells like Kool-Aid.  It is definitely fragrant but I’m not sure if I even know what Kool-Aid smells like so I don’t know if that description is accurate (I was more of a Hawaiian Punch kid growing up).

Close up of the little pea flowers.

Geranium madarense are in full bloom now.  These monocarpic plants die quite spectacularly after they finish blooming and reseed quite a bit.  There were tons of seedlings around this plant.

Close up of the exquisite detailing of the flowers.

Looking back south over this little arm of the bay.  My neighborhood is beyond the break in the trees toward the left.

Calla lilies are lovely but are also a pernicious, nearly impossible to remove, weed.  I’m glad I don’t have any in my yard.

Before I headed home I decided to stop at the Audobon Societies Sweet Springs Nature Preserve which is just a few blocks from my house.  This is the spring running into the bay with Morro Rock in the background.

This is the doomed Eucalyptus grove that makes up the preserve.  There are over one hundred trees here and they are planning on chopping them down so they can add more natives.  I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand they are established trees hosting communities of wildlife (hummingbirds and monarch butterflies to name a few) and provide some windscreen. I can see this grove from my house where it is already very windy. I imagine it will be worse without them.  On the other hand it will open up the view of the bay (which again I will be able to see from my house) and the addition of more native plants might be quite lovely over time.  Of course there is a bitter debate raging and there are people trying to stop the destruction of the trees.

View of Morro Rock from the preserve.

Lots of different birds make this area of the bay their home or use it as a resting place during their migration.  I believe these are cinnamon teals.

And I believe this is a group of green-winged teals.

This is a view from the north of the field near my house.  See those three palm trees over on the left? I live right across the street from them. I think it is because of this field that we have bluebirds. I have seen him several more times since the first time (and I never have my camera handy!).

Mimulus aurantiacus in an empty lot.

Chickens at my neighbors house!  Lots of my neighbors have chickens. I can hear them clucking sometimes as they lay their eggs in the mornings.  No one in my part of town seems to have roosters but I did hear some crowing on the east side of town this morning.

More ice plants in bloom.

There are lots of empty lots in town because there is a building moratorium due to a lengthy (over 30 year) battle over the switch over from septic to sewers. This lot has a nice little vegetable garden at the far end.

Finally home sweet home.  I took this shot to show the view of Montana de Oro in the background. I can’t actually see it from inside my house by it is nice to know it is there.

Hope you enjoyed this (rather long) walking tour of Los Osos.  And be sure to check out A Tidewater Gardener on the 19th of March to see the rest of the tours that people have taken around their neighborhoods.

January Garden Design Update

You may remember my post back in November titled Inspiration. Well I am excited to say that the construction for that design began this week. The crew over at Gardens by Gabriel are hard at work preparing the landscape for the planting that is to come in this Morro Bay garden.  Normally “before and after” pictures would be in order but I am too excited to wait for the after so you will get the “before and during” pictures today and the after pictures will have to come when we are finished. The “during” being the hard work behind the scenes that make the garden possible.

This is the lower lawn of the property. The entire home is on a pretty steep hill.  The balcony in the upper right corner of the photo has a beautiful view of the bay which is just a block away.

Dan drives the Bobcat while Victor checks the level.  This area is being prepared for a Bocce Court!  It will be surrounded by the homeowners existing fruit orchard and new, mostly succulent, plantings.

This is the before shot of the front entrance and the upper lawn. All of the palms on the upper lawn were removed to make way for the new design.  One way for homeowners to save money on the construction is to do some of the preparation work themselves.  He killed and tilled the lawn and removed the palms before we began our work.  He will also build the bocce court himself.

The palms are all gone and some of the foundation plantings were moved to other areas.  Garden mascot Cody watches over some of the plants that have been delivered.

The upper lawn.  I believe there were six palms that were removed. As you can see the property has a pretty severe slope.  We will remedy this by creating berms.  Unfortunately there is also an unsightly telephone pole in a pretty prominent spot on the property.  There isn’t a lot you can do with utility poles or lines.  In this case we are going to do our best to disguise its view from the house with large plants.  There is an existing Otatea acuminata aztecorum right up against the foundation of the house.  Since it was poorly placed to begin with we will move it to a better spot and use it to try to soften the utility pole a bit.

As you can see some of the foundation plantings are gone.  Some Cyperus have been moved near the driveway and some small palms removed.  More Woodardia ferns will be added to the remaining foundation plants.  Irrigation is being prepared and soil that is coming out of the lower lawn to level the bocce court area will be brought up to create the berms.  Another ten yards of soil will be purchased and delivered tomorrow. The lime tree on the left hand side of the lawn will be moved down to the lower lawn.

Garden design books always talk about using “borrowed views” to enhance your garden. I’m pretty sure all of those books were written about huge English estates with vast lawns and beautiful vistas to frame.  It is a bit frustrating when your own view consists of a large telephone pole.  The view to the north isn’t so bad though.  Sadly Morro Rock is hidden behind some trees (you can just make it out peeking out behind the trees in the upper left) and we have a pretty solid view of the infamous Morro Bay smoke stacks.  But we also have a nicely landscaped neighbors yard.  One thing that caught my eye right away was the two beautiful Arbutus ‘Marina’.  So I capitalized on this and included two of our own to mirror the neighbors along the fence.  The street planting consists of a Melaleuca and some Helichtotrichon. I feel that our planting of Knifofias, Thamnochortus, and Grevillea will compliment the neighbors bed perfectly.

Our order from San Marcos Growers down in Santa Barbara arrived already and I am pretty excited about the quality of the plants. The weird plant above is Berzelia lanuginosa a South African plant that I think will look great with the Protea themed garden.

Aloe ‘Hercules’ is a tree Aloe that can grow thirty feet or more.

I originally wanted to use Chondropetalum elephantinum but when I saw Thamnochortus insignis I liked it better so we made a last minute switch.  Here it is along with some of our succulents and our two Arbutus.

The large berms will be held in place by two and a half tons of rock so Gabe and I went down to the quarry so he could handpick them and have them delivered next week.

He marks off the ones he wants with tape.  Hopefully I will be able to get up to the garden to watch as they are installed and get some photos of the machinery required to set them in place.  I find the whole thing a bit intimidating so it will be fun to see it all unfolding. I’m just the plant guy so some of this stuff is very new to me.

Now for a bit of a change of pace we’ll go check in on another one of my garden designs.  You’ll remember my post on My First Installation back in November and my courtyard garden designed with mostly Annie’s Annuals plants. It was super thrilling but also a bit nerve-wracking as well.  Would the clients like it?  Would the plants get enough or too much sun?

Well altogether the garden is looking great.  There was an unfortunate (and rare) heat wave right after they went in so we did lose a few plants and a some of them got a little crispy but now two months later and Annie’s plants are filling in just as beautifully as I knew they would and we are on our way to a very exciting spring.

The garden is beautifully mulched and we already have blooms in January.

Bed one was originally full of canna lilies and a giant tree fern.

Bed two was an overgrown mess full of weeds and Coleonema. While we were here Gabe and I did a bit of weeding and we pinched a few things back.  We decided to swap the Musschia and Cantua to give the Musschia more shade and the Cantua more sun.  I don’t think it will change the overall design too much even though they are very different plants. Sometimes what works on paper just doesn’t work in real life.

These Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ are already charming now in January.  Just imagine them in a few months when they are in full bloom!

I was surprised by how big Trachelium caeruleum ‘Hamer Pandora’ had grown in just two months.  This is one of the key plants that is included in all of the beds to help tie the design together.  *Mental note to buy some of these for my own garden in a few weeks!

And just a reminder of the view from the backyard of this beautiful house.

Our last stop was a nearby garden that Gabe had recently designed himself.

He designed the plantings in front of this guest house around the homeowners hardscaping design.  This is another home with beautiful ocean views.  This time from the upstairs balcony of the main house.

I am a little bit in love with this little vignette of Phylica pubescens with a beautiful piece of driftwood.  Hmm…I think I want some driftwood for my garden now!

I hope you enjoyed this design update.  I’ll be posting more updates as the work continues on the Morro Bay property so be sure to check back next week.

Snowshill Manor

Snowshill ManorLily PondArmillary at Snowshill ManorThe astrological thingieCorydalis lutea and Asplenium grow in every rock wall in England.
Geranium x magnificumLimnanthes douglasiiA narrow double border at Snowshill Manor.Oriental Poppies and Alchemilla at Snowshill Manor.Papaver 'Patty's Plum'Cephalaria gigantea
Eremurus robustusGreenhouse at Snowshill ManorMore frippery.

Snowshill Manor, a set on Flickr.

Once again I am falling behind with work so have not had time to update my blog with my England pictures so now I’m doing it at 4 am.

Snowshill Manor is in the Cotswolds to the northwest of London. The garden is small but arranged in several different levels and separate garden rooms and beautifully planted and maintained.

Just getting to the manor from the parking lot is quite a long hike down a long lane surrounded by hills and sheep. The garden itself is maintained organically by the National Trust.

Once again you can click each picture which will bring you to my flickr page where you will find descriptions and names of plants.