Maintenance Information

If you are searching for particular maintenance information, please see the blogs for the months that correspond to the time frame that you are searching. Also check the labels of the blogs (at the base of the blog page) for blog subjects that might be helpful.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Makin' Jam

Well, after growing fruit for more than 20 years now I am finally learning how to make and can fruit, jam and preserves! Good grief- I feel so silly that I haven't done it before but made a lot of excuses. Was always worried I would give the whole family botulism mainly! So this year when I harvested the fruit I cut it all up and froze it (killing a few germs in the process!).

I usually give away tons of our lovely fruit to family, neighbors and friends but in the poor economy I horded my gorgeous, juicy apricots and peaches. Peeled a lot of pretty hard bosc pears- they actually softened up a bit after de-thawing. A client gave me some huge granny smith apples and those also froze very well. Last of all I usually get a crate of organic strawberries out by Pescadero and guessed it, those got cut up, bagged and thrown in the freezer.

This was all a bit of work but was spread out over the summer and fall so was not too bad a chore. The great part is that I can take my time and make the jam over many months also.

With my daughter, Christines, help I learned to boil the jars and after a few trys made some nice, thick jam. She and I made yummy strawberry-pineapple gauva (another gift from a client) jam. I am aghast at how much sugar goes into jam- yikes. I am using low sugar recipes but am going to decrease the sugar a bit more to allot for the sugars of the tree ripened fruit.

Last night I made apple-pear butter. Woweee- it is so much better than any apple butter I ever tried before and actually has texture!
I am loving trying different combinations of fruit. Today I am going to do some pomegranate-apricot jam using juice from our pomegranates (they juice well using an electric juicer with filter).
Well, you can guess what we are giving for Christmas this year! This is one way to avoid the malls and give something that is useful and delicious!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Salvias- got to love 'em

Salvia (Sage) should be the poster child for the easy, low water requiring perennial. It is one of the best border plants for our semi-arid area and comes in many sizes, colors and growth habits.

I have always wanted to design a garden using predominantly Salvias with a few companion plants like Roses and Lavender. That is how varied these plants are- you could create a whole garden with just Salvia hybrids.
Salvias also have annual forms which are great long term color for hot areas.

The colors tend to be intense i.e. hot pink, red and varied blues. The trumpet shaped flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds and bees providing food for them over at least 6 months.

The one thing you should know about caring for Salvia is that it should be pruned back, usually hard, after blooming or in the winter. You will often see the new growth sprouting from the base so all the woody areas can be trimmed off.

They like some water but can take dry periods between watering quite well. Salvias vary in water needs, sun exposure preference and ability to withstand freeze so check Sunset Western Garden Book for tips and info. Many of my plants that were damaged by freeze came back from the base so it is worth trying the tropical forms where they have some protection i.e. tree
or eave cover.

Oh yeah, Salvia has a culinary form too. You can use the hybrids as an herb but for good flavor use the Sage labeled for use as an herb. Some of the bush forms taste nasty.
Salvias have little trouble from bugs and the deer tend to leave them alone too- yippee.

I put a Salvia blog in this month because they are great fall color- they tend to like the warm, dry months.

Hope you will try growing some and if you have them already that this will encourage you to notice them even more!

Fall Check List

All of a sudden its fall! Scarlet, yellow and orange leaves glow in the late afternoon sun and the air is kind of cool and warm at the same time.
It is a great time to get out in the garden before the yucky cold weather and hard rains.
Here are a few things to take care of before all that:
Clean off the roof and clear the gutters.
Trim back long branches and excess growth in trees and large shrubs to let the air move through and to give them a good shape.
Rake up falling leaves so the snails don't make a home in them and have lots of eggs.
Spread slow release fertilizer for the rains to wash into the garden.
Turn down or off the irrigation controller as the rains pick up.
Pick up fallen fruit and any fruit still hanging on the trees that are over ripe to avoid
disease problems.
Check areas in garden where water can collect i.e. cans, pots or carts and turn over.
Put in cushions, umbrellas and outdoor decor that can be damaged in the storms.
Check drainage points and clear inground drain outlets that have collected debris and leaves.
Well that sounds like quite enough to do. I forgot to list- sit in a lounge chair and have a nice warm beverage!
Happy fall- it looks like it will be a great one.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Chlorosis- a condition in which leaves turn yellow with veins remaining somewhat green.
Above on the left is a chlorotic citrus tree with yellowing leaves and some curling of the leaves.
Above on the right is a healthy citrus with good looking green leaves- lots of them.
In our area we have a lot of heavy clay and alkaline soils which tie up nutrients to trees and plants. In this case some of my Citrus are showing these signs of chlorosis or the lack of available iron. Sometimes a lack of zinc or manganese can also cause this. Believe it or not the healthy tree is in the same garden but is planted in better soil where the bunny hutch used to be!
The extra organic matter helped to loosen and fertilize the soil so that tree is doing great.
For the other trees I am using 'liquinox' chelated iron and zinc (in liquid form) diluted in a
bucket of water and then fed around the drip line of the trees. This is done every 3 months in the growing season. Our large Orange tree I will give several buckets full around the much bigger drip line.
This should help the trees green up, fruit better and be more full. It is a good idea to add compost or mulch around the base of chlorotic plants and carefully work it in if you can. This will break the heavy clay surface and allow nutrients to penetrate the soil. Try not to break up the root mass too much. For citrus it is important for the leaves to shade the thin bark or the branches and trunk can get sun scald. So the fuller the canopy the better.
Citrus are just one of the trees effected by this condition. Gardenias are also especially susceptible along with Hibiscus, Avocado, Azaleas and Rhododendrons. Nutrient deficiency can effect any plant but these are some that are prone to iron deficiency in our area.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Life with Hummingbirds

There was a hummingbird in this picture but he zoomed off! It is hard to get a shot of those little guys they are so busy.

Pictured above is Salvia leucantha- Mexican Bush Sage one of the sages that the Hummingbirds love in our garden. They consistently favor tube shaped flowers or the mini tube shaped blossoms of larger flowers like Lily of the Nile (agapanthus) or the salvia stalks.

This year I realized that we were on the 8th or more generation of a hummingbird family that lives in our garden. This made me happy to think that we had created a consistent habitat for these amazing creatures. Over the years they have become quite at home in the plum tree and I have watched them bathe in the waterfall and even in the spray of the hose as I water the plants.

They have become accustomed to my presence near them and will light on the branches right above me as I work in the garden and sometimes fly up near me as I pull weeds.

We have provided lots of flowering plants to feed at and our pond as a water source so they are well fed. I need not put out nectar because they have plenty. The trees give hidden areas for their nests and to this day I cannot spot the nest in the plum tree!

They are territorial and chase off other hummers who come near the nest. Throughout the day I hear them chatting and hovering about the garden continuously busy from sun up till sunset.

Its lovely to have these little companions and be entertained by their movements and wild play.
Despite our cat they have little fear and I feel they are as much a part of the garden as the flowers and stones.

For your garden to be a place for hummers just provide a source of clean water, bird cover in the form of trees (small trees are o.k.) and lots of tube shaped flowers i.e. sages, abutilon, agapanthus, penstemon, mallow, california fuchsia etc.............

I think that flower nectar is preferable to nectar from sugar in feeders just like fruit juice is better for kids than soda!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Re-potting Orchids

Orchids are tree dwellers thusly they don't really grow in soil but are planted in bark. Special orchid bark as a matter of fact.

Orchids are commonly given as gifts in tiny containers or even in plastic sleeves. They like to have their roots crowded but after awhile they sap the energy out of the old bark and it is time for new.

We were just potting up some the other day and thought I would pass on a few notes about the

Choose a container with a hole in the bottom (no water logged roots that way).

The container should only be a little bigger than that of the original (crowding is good).

Leave air roots exposed. These are roots that have grown up out of the sides or crown of the plant over the pot or into the air. These roots like to be misted by the way.

Add slow release fertilizer to the orchid bark- Osmocote is good but not too much.

You can use pebbles or broken pot shards in the bottom of the pot to avoid the hole getting blocked.

Gently lift out your Orchid and place it in the pot and fill around the root ball with bark. Don't break up the roots or score them. This can damage the plant.

Clean the leaves with a damp cloth. Remove any dead leaves.

Orchids like light but not hot direct sun. They enjoy heat too but not to the extreme. Create humidity by misting occasionally.

Orchids will actually bloom again if you put them on a regular fertilizing schedule and give them good light- a room that gets strong morning sun is the best.

Cymbidium orchids are the easiest and actually live outdoors in a protected spot that gets morning sun.
The hothouse orchids are harder to get to rebloom but they can surprise you if they get their food and some nice warm diffuse light. Hey, that sound like a greenhouse!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tinkering with Irrigation

The hot weather is upon us and I have been out tinkering with the irrigation.
I thought I would check for overspray, adjust heads and work on adding drippers to pots.

You can adjust radius on sprinkler heads (somewhat) using a small screwdriver to turn the little
srew on the top of the sprinkler head/nozzle. This will adjust the throw of the water farther out or reduce it down a bit. My heads were throwing a lot of water onto the paving so in an effort to save water and avoid hitting walking folk I adjusted them down. I will now check periodically and see if the adjustment resulted in some of the plants not getting watered.

If you have a drip hose in, it is easy to add drip emitters and drip feeder tubes for added pots or plants. Only a hole puncher and parts are needed so this is an easy fix. To add a new drip hose and drip feeder tubes a valve with filter and pressure regulator is needed or you can run drip off of a hose bib with a battery operated 1 station controller (Gardena makes these). The slow watering is great for narrow areas and pots. I really like soaker hose too and it can be run in the same way.

As the garden has grown in and areas have been changed I have a few spots with plants blocking heads and one spot where a head waters nothing at all. That one was easy to fix. Using a tall threaded riser I just dug down and unscrewed the existing head and riser and put in the new riser with a cap for now so it can be used in future if needed.

The head that was blocked by a plant needed to have the riser extended up with a pop-up or shrub head on top so it can spray over the offending shrub. Not too pretty but it works. If I am worried about aesthetics I either move the head over or use a high-pop (taller head).

Other checks I have been doing are to work on leaky heads, clogged heads or drippers and leaky valves. Some of these are easy fixes- tightening screw on areas of heads or valves, using seal tape on threaded areas, removing nozzles and cleaning them out, and replacing worn or broken parts. Replacing valves is a pain and I usually have one of my contractor buddies come over and help me do those. I hate working on valve manifolds. ugh.

Overall, this work will help to save water, avoid water damage to areas and increase the efficiency of the irrigation system. I usually work on the system once a year about now then make small checks during the growing season to check for breaks.

The good part is that you get sprayed by water sometimes to cool you down!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Handrail Project

Steep Stairs? No Problem- well,
at least not after figuring out how to build it!
We are all getting older and so a
handrail was needed on the steep stairs going up to my Mom's House.
She lives up in Marin and it is not a garden spot. Between the thin soil, hords of Deer, very large Hares, Gophers and drought it is a challenge to say the least. But it is a beautiful spot and we love it there. My Mom and Dad built the house and the concrete stair going up to it about 50 years ago. About 30 years ago we got lights for the stair and now the time has come to have a handrail.
It was quite a thinker to figure out how to build one as the stair is very wide, there is an electrical line under the ground on one side plus stones in the way and the other side has a concrete gutter. The budget did not allow for the hiring of a contractor so Lois had to put on her thinking cap.
This became quite the green project! We recycled these old clay drain pipes (rectangular boxes) from the property as post bases to pour concrete in. I had some long 2x6 redwood planks that we sanded down for the cap and we purchased the 2x4 running boards that sandwich the posts.
I used 2" diameter sch 40 pvc for the posts and spray painted them with some paint I had.
The reason for the plastic round posts was to allow for the rail to be able to turn slightly at angle
to follow the stair as it goes up (with wood we would have had to route the posts- no tools for that!
We put lovely polished stones, left over from my daughters table settings for her wedding, in the surface of the concrete and left a cavity to plant some succulents in the front of the boxes.
To hold back the concrete I scrounged some leftover wood from another project and we used old bricks to hold it in place.
The wood was bolted through the plastic pipe and the rail was screwed on. The hard parts were getting the holes to line up right with the angle of the stairs and mixing and pouring the concrete.
Luckily I had some helpers- my younger daughter and her boyfriend really saved the day and my back! Mom was out there too supervising, sanding and placing pebbles.
The finished product may be somewhat rustic but I think it goes with the place and it does a great job helping us up the stairs. It was great to utilize a lot of things we had and to work it out to be compatible with Lois' skillset!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Christine's Wedding at the L.A. Arboretum

Christine and Carlos Got Married
at the L.A. Arbortetum in April 2010!
It was a lovely wedding and the happy couple made a great choice in venue- an Arboretum!
The rose garden to be exact. Full of scented old fashioned roses and surrounded by Citrus trees this was a lovely and delicious smelling place to have the ceremony and reception.
My daughter is a grand planner and did a fabulous job with all the arrangements and settings.
Her Mom, the nature girl, was overjoyed.
The Arboretum is in Pasadena and is a great place to visit if you are in the area. It is huge and is broken into many distinct sections. I love the trees there. They are huge and very unusual.
Think of us if you go and seek out the Rose Garden- it is heavenly.

Summer Gardening Tasks

I am just getting ready to thin the fruit on the Peach and Apricot.
I am a little late but still can get the weight down on the limbs to avoid breakage. Looks like some propping with 2x4's is in order too.

Summer in the garden is an easy time. Just a bit of weeding and a lot of watering (or spot watering with the irrigation system).
If you have a vegetable garden or fruit trees then it is keeping up with the produce-yum.

Just a reminder to keep an eye on your fruiting plants- including vegetables to check for heavy areas and thin out the numbers. Citrus don't usually need this but if the limbs are long and leggy sometimes the branches on the citrus can break too.

The fruit trees that are in the most danger are peaches, apples, nectarines, persimmons and
apricots. Plums and pears self thin for the most part.
Heavy branches may need propping and I usually thin fruit down to be spaced evenly on the branches rather than in bunches. I want to be greedy and leave more but that has lead to breakage in the past.

Other garden tasks include: keeping up with snail bait and or patrol, dead heading (removing dead flower heads), deep watering trees (once per month in the summer and early fall) and
lawn fertilizing (and of course mowing!). For other parts of the garden use a slow release fertilizer that works for 6 months. I usually apply this in the spring and fall. Watch for yellowing or leaves that have green viens and yellow leaves. This is a sign of iron deficiency and the liquid iron or chelated iron formulas are best for this.

Enjoy the long,warm days and evenings. Keeping a nice garden and patio area really pays off in the summer!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Violet Agression

Heart shaped leaves. Lovely little dark purple flowers. Green
lushness. Who would have guessed such a nice ground cover would become a rampant pest. Well, I should have.

I didn't plant it and yet these wild violets have emerged and spread throughout the garden at an alarming rate. Beware!
Now I spend my evenings digging it out and plan to spray any
new shoots with Round-up. This is what it has come to.

I think this weed got past me by being so nice looking and I was further seduced by my Mothers exclamation of "oh look, violets!". She loves them but now I know the reason they call them "wild" violets.

So just a warning- don't let them go crazy in your garden or they will squeeze out all the nice plants that you have actually planted!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Time for some Lawn Care

I have been noticing a lot of yellowing lawns of late. It is time for some lawn fertilizing! This year we have these late rains that will help wash down the fertilizer into the ground even better.
Fertilizer gets tied up easily in our heavy clay soil so it needs a lot of "leaching" or heavy watering or rains to get it down into the soil. The lawn above is looking good- a nice medium to dark green and very even in color.
I don't really recommend any certain brands as there are a ton but you can go with your preference as to organic or un-organic type. A balanced 10-10-10 or some close variation of those numbers is good. Use a drop spreader or broadcast spreader to apply the small granular and wash in well because fertilizer can be very burning in any form. Follow instructions on the bag carefully to avoid burned patches.
Lawn fertilizer comes with or without weed herbicides. The "weed and feed" type controls broadleaf weeds in the lawn and works well- do not use in planting beds! It will kill your plants.
If you get lawn fertilizer without herbicide in it then it can also be used for flower beds around your home. Wash leaves off after application to avoid burning.
You will probably use both types over the course of the year so having the two types on hand is o.k.
For planting beds I like to use 'Osmocote' slow release fertilizer because it lasts for 6-10 monthes and is relatively non-burning. It takes awhile to work into the soil so if you need fast results this is not the thing. It can be used on lawn but is not as good as regular lawn fertilizer due to its slow action.
Lawns typically are fertilized every 6 weeks in the growing months- March-November.
I have noticed that gardening services are pretty random about this and are lax in feeding the garden. You don't want to over do it by fertilizing if your gardener has already done it so a frank conversation is in order. In general if the garden has a light green-yellow tinge in late spring/early summer it is a sign that no nitrogen/fertilizer is being applied.
In planting beds adding fertilizer then mulching or adding compost to the area in a 1-2" layer
will help feed the plants and hold in moisture. Pull mulch or compost away from plant crowns to avoid crown rot.
Topdressing lawn with fine soil conditioner is a similar idea to this for the lawn. This is normally done when adding seed for thin spots. Fill dips, low spots or holes with clean, coarse sand and over seed as needed then topdress. This helps keep the lawn even.
Dethatching and aerating is the last task in lawn maintenance. Aerating can be done every other year. Dethatching is done every 5-7 years or more. A lawn service can do this or you can rent the equipment to do it yourself.
Last note- do not use Chem-lawn or services that come out to do fertilizing for you. They are using too much chemical fertilizer, too often and making a toxic environment for your family and the community -not to mention the creatures living in the garden! It is better to under-do than overdo it with chemical fertilizers!
Enjoy the green and protect your lawn health for a longer lasting turf.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

It has long been my Mother's Day tradition to spend the day in my garden. I am often too busy to spend a whole, entire day in my garden so this is a luxury for me. This year it is kind of rainy but that will be refreshing- I guess. I am re-doing a path that has sunken about 2" and is now kind dangerous to traverse.
Usually I spend the day planting flowers and the tomato plants. This is a great day to do this after the cold weather but before the heat of summer sets in. The tomato is a slow plant anyway just taking its time until we get some hot days. But yum- there is nothing like a plump, homegrown tomato.
My kids always understood. They knew what their mother was really passionate about. They thought it a good excuse to lounge around in their rooms. We avoid the restaurant crowds and get a tan instead! The garden appreciates the care and is more beautiful for it. All I ask is that I be left in peace to do my thing with an occasional- "hey, Mom how ya doin?" Then back into the house they go or off to see friends. Its great.
Now the girls are off on their own but the tradition continues and I enjoy it just as much. The phone brings the "hey- Mom how ya doin?" instead of their shiny faces but that is o.k. too.
I hope you all have a lovely Mother's Day and can get some time to relax and enjoy the people or things you are really passionate about.

Friday, April 23, 2010

California Poppies!

Another stop on our journey into the southland was the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve about an hour north of L.A.. Wow! We saw a lot of wildflowers on the trip but this was absolutely dayglo. My daughter had planned her wedding to coincide with the poppy bloom so we could go out there and now I know why. We hit it right at the peak and had a wonderful time hiking the hills with millions of blooms.
Interspersed with the poppies were lupine, gold fields, phacelia, and daisies of varied types.
The area is a high desert and sage covers many of the hills giving the air a lovely scent.
The preserve has nice, easy trails and picnic area. It tends to be very windy here but the day we went it was just a breeze.
My mother had always wanted to visit Antelope Valley and so this was a wonderful outing for us and she had a dream come true to arrive on the perfect day!
My daughter said the hills looked like they had been colored with a highliter!
I didn't see a single Antelope though.
This is a spring place and is barren the rest of the year so the time to visit is March through the beginning of May.
I hope you can go some time too!

Huntington Cacti Garden

On the recent wedding trip down to L.A. we got to do some touring and stopped at the Huntington Garden and Library in Pasadena.
This is just a section of the huge garden area. A whole hillside showcasing cacti and succulents from around the world. I love all the barrel cacti here and we were lucky to visit during the blooming season.
There are also pond areas, giant specimen trees and acres of formal gardens i.e. chinese and japanese gardens, rose garden and sections devoted to regions of the world. Oh yes, there is a library too! The library has rare documents on display and changing exhibits of paintings and books.
If you have not been there it is a great place to go and is a full days worth of sites. The cafe has good food. Beware of the heat and start early or go in the cooler season. I have gone twice in the summer and it was very humid so I would recommend the early spring or late fall.
I have to say that this is my favorite cacti garden so wanted to share the info. with you.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Late Spring Flowering Bulbs

At the end of the spring flowering bulb season the Dutch Iris, Tulips and Watsonia take the stage for a last burst of vibrant color. It is magnificent and sad at the same time knowing that these will be the last of the spring bulbs until next year. The summer flowering bulbs do their thing but are not quite as much fun as the easy and joyous blossoms of spring. The summer heat also gives the flowers of summer a hard time and shortens the petal life of many flowers.
Next comes the big Rose bloom which is always the best with the first cycle in spring. Some of our Roses are already in full throttle especially the vines that I didn't prune back very far.
The Roses take the heat of Los Gatos very well except in the extreme hot weather. It will be exciting to see them all open in the next month or more.
The big wedding is finally here and I go next week to help out and enjoy the activities. Will post some photos of the ceremony in the Rose Garden- weren't we just talking about Roses?!- should be fun and exhausting!
Happy Spring and I hope that you all have a chance to be out in the garden. It is lovely out there!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Wisteria

I wish that you could smell the fragrance of these blooms. The air of the whole back garden smells of sweet perfume of the blossoms.
Wisteria is the most gorgeous of vines. Rampant but beautiful.
The flowers and the foliage are lovely and it is a fast grower so is good for arbors.
The key to living with a Wisteria is control. They need trimming heavily in winter and a lighter pruning in fall. The vines should be kept out of trees, off power poles and roof tops of homes. Without a certain amount of supervision they quickly run amock and grow over, under and through all the surrounding area.
Watch for ground creeping tendrils also as they can emerge 20' away after growing along the ground below other plants.
Wisteria has long fuzzy pods that break open to drop dime-sized seeds. To avoid the pods clip the dead flower heads after bloom is over.
Feed the vines with a slow release fertilizer in spring and fall and let the rain wash in the granules. 'Osmocote' works well. Keep the area at the base of the vines clear to avoid suckers sprouting up and deforming the shape of the larger vines. Thin canes in the winter during the heavy pruning.
This vine is moderate water requiring and needs summer water to thrive. It is tolerant to many different soil types.
Enjoy but beware! Wisteria can be a beauty or a beast!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring cleanup- The Pond

For those who have ponds it is the yearly big filter clean in the biofall- the mats and rocks in the waterfall tub.
It is a big job for us and I had my daughter, Carolyn, helping me with this gooey chore.
We scooped out floating algae, brushed off the boulders in the pond, cleaned the mats in the biofall and skimmer and added some fresh water to even out the pH.
I had a fish die off one year in spring due to a pH spike so I am now careful to do the pond clean-up before the heat of the late spring sets in.
As you can see the pond is large and full of plants so I usually thin out the plants in the pond a bit too. This allows flow to the pond skimmer and gives room for our waterlilies. My favorite!
Don't forget to add the good bacteria back in with Aquaclearer or Mircrobiotics so that the rocks and mats will be replenished with these helpers.
Enjoy the cool water and say hi to the fish for me!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Garden Reminders

Wow- spring has sprung!

A few tips for garden tasks in the early spring:

*spray fruit trees with dormant oil spray just as the flowers buds are about to open.

*Apply snail bait often- they're herrrrrrrrre! Use "Sluggo" for gardens with pets and wildlife.

*Trim back subtropicals to keep them from getting leggy i.e. fuchsias, abutilon, bougainvillea,
hibiscus, angels trumpet etc....

*Pull weeds just after the rain- they come out with root and all when the soil is wet.

*Fertilize plants and add iron chelate for yellowing plants so that the spring rains will wash it in.

*Prune tips of Crape Myrtles and old flower heads (seed pods) for better flowering and a fuller tree.

Enjoy the garden- it is a great time of year and so much fun!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Early Wildflowers of the Redwood Forest

Trilliums or Wake Robins (white 3 petaled flower), Slink Pods (delicate white-purple flower with spotted leaves) and Redwood Sorrel (shamrock leafed) grace the cold hollows of the Redwood forest this month along with some stupendous ferns!
It is a big year for trilliums which are allusive most years but are having a big bloom with all the rain. You have to go out early in the wildflower season to see these as they bloom in winter not spring.
We saw these out at Samuel P. Taylor Park or Camp Taylor in Marin last weekend while walking along the rushing Papermill Creek. Not too many mushrooms or newts yet but the unusual flowers i.e. Slink Pods made up for that!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

First Spring Wildflowers

Milk Maids are the first
wildflowers of the year
blooming in winter months.
Hounds Tongue just came
out with tall stalks from
tongue shaped leaves at the
It is always so exciting to see the Milk Maids blooming in the hills. This means that many beautiful wildflowers will soon start to appear. With the green grass the colorful blooms decorate our forest and foothills making spring a celebration of new growth. Poetic- huh!
It all just makes me want to go for a hike and see what flowers I can find. Along with the wildflowers this year came a new baby faun up at Mom's in Marin. The deer roam freely and enjoy eating what we plant there but don't bother the wildflowers and can't keep up with the grass!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Time to plant summer bulbs

I was out at the nurseries this week checking out stock and getting some plants to fill in gaps in my garden. I was happy to see the summer flowering bulbs for sale and now is a good time to get those in.

Lilies, Gladiolas, Tuberous Begonias, Dahlias and Peony are available in tuber form and can go into pots with annuals or perennials or into loamy soil.

This year I made a small plateau in the garden with sand, potting soil and garden soil about 6" high so that the bulbs could drain quickly and have some nice loose, fertile earth to root into.

The tuberous begonias I plant in pots in the shade and they last for quite awhile that way.

Add some slow release fertilizer to the planting areas and remember to stake the tall flowers as they tend to fall over.

Most of these are good cut flowers and the Lilies smell good (remove the anthers as the red pollen dust falls off onto your tablecloth!). My goal is to have flowering bulbs blooming all year and I am almost there!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Garden Jewels

Tiny bulbs make shining jewels in the gloomy winter cold. Pictured are golden crocus, a miniature daffodil and super dwarf iris. All under 4" tall! So small they are easily hidden by fallen leaves.

Post-winter pruning

I have been out doing the big winter pruning this last weekend. Quite a job- as you can see! I clipped down the perennials to about 12" or less off the ground, pruned roses, pulled weeds, shaped shrubs and low trees and cleaned up old leaves below plants.
The purpose of all this hard work is to prepare for the spring growth. The plants will rejuvinate and bloom more heavily. Removing the leaf litter gets rid of fungus spores, insect and snail eggs in the debris and allows me to see any sprouting weeds to be pulled and maybe a tiny bulb blooming. The winter pruning also keeps the garden from getting too overgrown, which it was, and keeps the plants full rather than scraggly and leggy.
Weeding is definitely the most tedious job of gardening. I do not use pre-emergent herbicides because of my bulbs and pond so must get down low and pull them out. Doing so after the heavy rain made the job somewhat easier.
I do get some weeds in the cracks of the pavers which I hit with a shot of round-up, staying well away from the pond, this gets done several times in the spring usually.
The cats have enjoyed hanging out with me during this process and finding out what is below the old growth. They now have much more room to play. I enjoy seeing the edges of the pond again and the new look.
I don't always get to such a heavy clean-up but it really helps the garden when I do. All I have left to do is the fruit trees and climbers on the arbors. Remember to spray your deciduous fruit trees with dormant oil spray right before the flower buds begin to open.
Now for a little rest sitting doing landscape plans!

Pre-winter pruning

This is how the pond area looked last spring/summer. The next blog entry shows post pruning with notes.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miniature S.F. and Train in the Conservatory of Flowers

We had a lovely trip to the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco on New Years Eve. On special display (until April) is a miniature version of the famous sites of the city made from recycled stuff- so much fun! A train circles with a bonsai rock garden landscape. There is a game of "what can you find in the scene" for the children and a also a childs fantasy train with some inventive characters.
It was great to escape the cold day and see this display as well as the rooms of orchids, giant ferns and lotus'. I had a little trouble with my camera lense fogging up but enjoyed being in the sauna atmosphere!
Catch it if you can- it really cheered up our New Year!

The first Crocus!

It is always a great treat to see the first spring flowering bulb bloom, in this case a Crocus, a tiny harbinger of what is to come. Contrary to their title many of these spring flowering bulbs bloom in the dead of winter. These little crocus' are among the first and I had a lovely mini rock garden iris pop up the other day too.

This weekend was spent carefully clearing away leaves and weeds so that we would not miss out on any of these lovely jewels.

Also hidden in all those fallen leaves were a bunch of snail eggs, slugs and snails who feast on my lovely flowers so getting rid of as many of those as possible is definitely called for.

If you would like to grow crosus' or other spring flowering bulbs, they are planted here in the late fall (early November) and can be stored in the fridge in paper bags until you are ready to plant them.

I will publish more photos of our bulb garden next month as they come into full bloom.

The Sleeping Beauty Rose

I was out pruning the roses on the weekend, as is the custom during the football season, doing battle with the giant climber that grows on an arch by our front path. I call this rose "The Sleeping Beauty Rose" because it grows to mammoth proportions engulfing not only the arch but much of the front yard. It has some pretty scary thorns too. So each January, and sometimes during the year too, I pull on my leather gloves that come up to my elbows and go in armed with some long handled loppers. It is a job that requires 2 huge green waste bins and usually a few bandaids.

My daughter, Carolyn, cracked me up one day when we drove up to the house and I remarked that this huge climber reminded me of the rose that surrounded Sleeping Beauty's Castle. Carolyn piped up saying that that was good because Sleeping Beauty lives here. She had just been in a play where she had played Sleeping Beauty ( a good part as it involved lying motionless for most of the play- perfect for a teenager!).

From then on this climbing rose, which is actually 'Mermaid', has been known around the house as the sleeping beauty rose. Pictured here after its winter pruning.

All of this is a reminder to prune the roses this month. Hopefully yours will be a piece of cake compared to this one! Also it is a good idea to remove all the leaves in addition to the pruning.

Rust spores and fungus' can overwinter on the back of the leaves so removing the leaves and raking up under the plants helps to avoid diseases next year.

Enjoy the winter chill and the sounds of cheering football fans as you clip and rake!