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.

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.

Happy Nowruz!

The Persian New Year is here and so is spring!  I’m a bad Persian.  I don’t even have a Haft-Seen table set up.  Earlier tonight on the east coast my family gathered at my aunt’s house for dinner (not me. I was tricked into visiting last year at this time with the promise of good weather and got caught in two blizzards) and this weekend my father will have a huge party and invite all his friends.  Woe unto he who doesn’t show up to pay homage, as I believe my father is now considered the elder of his group of friends, and Persians have a long memory for those who don’t pay their respects.

I celebrated by driving down to Native Sons and picking up some plants.  I needed a few little odds and ends to tuck into empty spots and I also wanted to get a few more plants that I am unfamiliar with but see on wholesaler lists all the time. I would like to use them in designs but feel like I need to get to know them a little better first.  This includes four types of Ozothamnus; Ozothamnus ledifolius, O. coralloides, O. ‘Sussex Silver’, and O. ‘County Park Silver’.  Is anyone growing any of these or any other types of Ozothamnus?  Feel free to tell me your experiences and share pictures if you are.  Information online is woefully low for this plant family and pictures are often close up thumbnails that don’t give me a very good idea of what they will look like when full grown.

On my visit to San Marcos Growers last month I did see this one:

Ozothamnus diosmifolius ‘Pink’

It is sort of like a really big beefy umbelifer but it is actually in the family Asteraceae. I am KICKING MYSELF for not buying it because it was quite nice.   If all the different species and cultivars had a similar look that would be swell but from what I can tell that is not the case.  They all seem quite different and pretty much at this point all I know about them is they hail from Australia and New Zealand.

I also picked up this adorable little gem with the palest lemon flowers.

Erodium chrysanthum

While researching this little Erodium I stumbled on this interesting write up.  In Search of the Golden Fleece.

Enjoy and have a happy Nowruz and a great spring!

My Trip Home in March

I was going to start this blog in March and my first post was going to be about my visit home for Persian New Year but my old PC crashed right before the trip.  I generally only go home for visits to the east coast in July for my birthday or September for my father’s birthday so I had managed to avoid seeing snow for five years.

Every year my father asks “Do you want to come visit for Christmas?” and I answer “Are you crazy?” and then he tries again in March “Do you want to visit for Persian New Year?”.

Persian New Year or Nowruz is on the first day of spring so in the past I’ve always said no.  The weather is still pretty dicey in March.  I almost gave in last year and at the last minute changed my mind which turned out to be lucky because there was a nor’easter that tore down a blue spruce and other large trees on my fathers property and he also lost power for a week.  This year I decided I should visit and pay my respects.  Attending a family party at my aunt’s apartment in Manhattan first and then later in the week my father had a big party with around fifty guests.

That is me on the right with my brother and sister. Persian New Year 2011.

Of course it is always nice to see my family.  My father lives in northern New Jersey, my brother lives in Brooklyn and my sister is currently at the University of Pennsylvania studying to be a veterinarian. I’m the only one on the west coast so I do miss them.

But I also miss my old garden at my dad’s place.  It wasn’t my first garden or even my second and it isn’t a particularly great garden.  The setting is a busy four lane road in a New Jersey suburb of New York City, the lot is not especially large or attractive, and the materials I used to hardscape were sort of cheap.  But it was sort of an experimental playground for me while I was in school studying horticulture and some collections of plants I had held onto from my older gardens.  It has suffered a lot of neglect because even while I was living on the east coast I was often too busy with school or away  on internships.  It is amazing how quickly a garden reverts back to a semi-wild state if you leave it unattended.

The current care taker of the garden is my fathers handy man who doesnt know much about gardening but does his best.

The weather was 80 degrees in New Jersey but of course that changed when I arrived.  It snowed not once but twice so my five year snow-free record was shattered.

Snow and freezing weather are probably my two least favorite things in the world.

I tried not to let the weather deter me too much and I made it into the Bronx to visit my friends at the New York Botanical Garden despite freezing weather.  I went to my old neighborhood in midtown and took the train in from Grand Central so it would be just like the old days.

Grand Central Terminal feels like home.

I did visit the Orchid Show but I am not terribly excited by Orchids so you’ll have to check out some other blog for pictures of that.  I did of course pay a visit to the jade vine which is my favorite plant in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Strongylodon macrobotrys or jade vine. I pretty much love all the plants that come in this color.

It was very cold out but beautiful and sunny so I road around with my friend Jean who I used to work with in Plant Records as she put out plant labels and we gossiped and admired the early spring blooms.

Prunus mume Peggy Clarke was looking fierce in the Ladys Border.

Scilla tubergeniana at Wamsler Rock. From a distance it looked like snow.

Iris Katharine Hodgkin outside the rock garden.

Back home in New Jersey it finally got warm enough for me to tackle some of the woody plants that needed pruning.

These Graham Thomas roses hadnt been properly pruned in at least 5 years and were over 8 feet tall. The Cotinus, Hydgrangeas, and Vitex needed some work too.

Try not to laugh at the horrible pillars. I had a collection of about a hundred Clematis at one point and needed every surface imaginable for them to climb up. In fact some of the shrubs in this border exist for the sole purpose as suport for Clematis.

I learned to prune roses from the great horticulturist Mike Ruggiero. I think he would be happy with my work. It wasnt easy after all those years of neglect to find a suitable framework to prune back to but I think I pulled it off.

One regret I have is that I didn’t plant lots of Hellebores in the garden.  I’m not really sure why.  I think I just never got around to being a Hellebore collector. My focus has always been on late spring and summer plants and I am not a fan of winter but Hellebores definitely make later winter and early spring more tolerable.

This nameless white Hellebore near my pond is the only one in the garden. Now I wish I had planted more of them.

My quest to obtain Chiondoxa sardensis was a failure but on the plus side the garden now has hundreds and hundreds of Chiondoxa luciliae.

One of the coolest plants in the garden is a self sown Euphorbia palustris growing out of the rocks and moss in our ponds waterfall.  Palustris is Latin for  swampy or marshy and it is living up to its name by growing in a steady stream of water.  It is something I couldn’t have planned if I tried but the cool thing about Euphorbias is they are seed flingers so you never know where they might end up.

This self sown Euphorbia palustris has been in this spot for about 9 years and has formed a gnarled woody caudex. It looks like something swamp hobbits would live in.

Here is a wider angle so you can see how it is growing in proximity to the water fall. If you look closely you can see that the plant is encased in ice but doesnt seem to mind.

I found this old picture of the parent plants in 2004 at the side of the pond. They are still going strong and always look fantastic in spring.

There are many beautiful Euphorbias for gardeners to choose from. Succulent, shrubby, or herbaceous. Euporbia palustris is one of the nicest of the herbaceous types with beautiful chartreuse blooms in spring and a really nice habit through summer and fall. If it gets too leggy and tall after it blooms you can cut it to the ground and it will come up fresh.

I’m not sure how much work I want to put into further developing this garden.  My father bought an apartment in Manhattan where he will retire in a few years and it is possible that the entire house will be torn down and a McMansion put in its place and most of the gardens replaced with lawns.  But I may go back for a visit in September to renovate the big driveway border a little bit.  The center of it was taken over by some large weedy clumping grass and once that is removed there will be a lot of empty space.  And while I currently do not have a garden of my own it is nice to have one I can visit even if it is on the other side of the country.