In My Garden – April 2022

In My Garden – April 2022

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds at the feeder

In my garden I have birds, lots of birds including hummingbirds which are my favorites. I’ve seen (and heard) Rufous, Annas, and Allens. Earlier in the season they fought each other at the feeder, now they seem more generous and ready to share. These could be the young ones who are not breeding yet. Sometimes there are a cloud of them chirping around the two feeders outside our dining area windows. I am filling them almost every day. The Annas are here all year, the others disappear in early winter. There is a big bottlebrush nearby and they love the red flowers when it is in bloom. I think many of the nests are in that huge shrub although I haven’t been able to find any.

Bottlebrush

Bottlebrush

One of the birdhouses we erected at the end of last month has been rented, at least I have seen sparrows darting in and out. Fingers crossed they will raise a family there.

We have had some much needed rain, 4 inches so far this month with another 4 anticipated in the next few days. It’s been a strange season with almost all of our rain happening at the beginning and the end of our usual rainy season. It’s still not enough to end the drought of the past few years.

The lettuce in the first bed I planted is ready for harvest. We have company coming for the weekend so a salad fresh from the garden will be a treat.

There is a patch of arugula at the end of this bed and radishes planted between the rows. The second raised bed has just been planted, the arugula is just starting to pop up in that one.

You may wonder, why the mesh over the lettuce? Well, remember pig pen Shanna the puppy? She loves to dig (as do the chipmunks) and freshly dug soil is the best ever. My inattention has resulted in several disasters over the past few weeks. Now I plan for the onslaught.

I’ve let the mustard and parsley go to seed in another bed to attract pollinators.

Nasturtiums are a wonderful addition to a salad and they are blooming with the spring rain.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

These have come up in one of my half barrels of dwarf Meyer lemon trees. The nasturtiums, in truth, are looking healthier than the tree. It’s only borderline weather for lemon trees but I love having the lemons available when I want a tablespoon of juice to add to a dish.

Ditto the fresh chives.

Chives

Chives

The roses are showing some buds and I have noticed the appearance of aphids. Where are the lady bugs? I don’t use any pesticides with the exception of Sluggo (you would too if you saw the size of our slugs and the damage they can do in a single night). So I washed them off with a strong spray from the hose.

Aphids!

Aphids!

It appears that the Just Joey rose is going to be the first to bloom. It’s one of my favorites.

Just Joey

Just Joey

A friend on the board at the Mendocino County Botanical Gardens (MCBG) gifted me this beautiful Aeonium, I just popped it in to an existing pot of succulents where it looks beautiful. I didn’t appreciate succulents until fairly recently. They come in an amazing variety, are low maintenance and drought tolerant. Facts that are increasingly valuable these days.

The first azaleas and rhododendrons are blooming. They seem to be late this year, it’s been cold.

Azalea

Azalea

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

The rhododendron is one of the new ones and is still small, that didn’t stop it from putting out those amazing lavender/pink blooms.

The MCBG just started a ‘nature journaling club’ that meets once a month. Although not an artist I enjoy the meditative quality of looking closely at nature. Here’s my first effort:

If you live in the area, please consider joining us. You will find information on the MCBG website.

That’s my summary this month. Happy gardening everyone. How is your garden doing? Please consider commenting and giving me an update. I’d love to hear from you.

In My Garden – April 2022

In My Garden – April 2022

Spring is definitely here although we still have an occasional evening near freezing. Looking back over my post from April 2021, plants are slower to show themselves this year. This winter has been colder than the last. I posted that one on April 18, 2021, so the dates are comparable, just one year apart. It’s interesting to look back over previous years and notice the changes in the garden.

I dug up 3 of my dahlias to divide and fertilize them (just bone meal and some steer manure) yesterday. None of them were showing any signs of growth yet, I think I will wait a few more weeks to dig the rest. They didn’t do very well last year (lack of water? Crowding? Gophers? Nutritional needs? Too much fog?). Hopefully I can remedy the problems this year.

Signs of impending spring include tulips,

and buds on the rose bushes, they are happy this year. I planted them in half barrels three years ago and they did poorly last year. Doing some detective work I found that the surrounding redwood trees had grown into the bottom of the barrels and were choking the poor things. I had to dig out the roots, put in some new soil, compost and epsom salts. They are looking much better. In future I will periodically have to lift the half barrels from the soil to break any wandering redwood roots.

The ceanothus is gorgeous! This one was planted about 3 years ago and is flourishing.

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

And to my delight it is doing so with no attention or very little summer water (although I will need to weed out that dandelion I notice in the corner of the picture…sorry about that). It so inspired me that I have planted an additional 3 bushes at the front of the house. They are still small and I will have to nurture them this year but hopefully not after that. The front of the house looks a bit like the prow of a boat and the ceanothus, when in bloom, should look like the ocean. I understand the original owner of the house (and builder) was a navy man.

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

I moved the half wine barrels of bearded iris’s to the front where there is more sun. It’s doubtful they will bloom this year (fingers crossed) as they were replanted so late. But I hope they will be happier in their current spot without any competition from redwood roots. There were quite a number of iris bulbs so I planted some of them in smaller containers and gave some away. To my surprise there are California poppies coming up in the pots as well.

There are some signs of snail and fungal damage, sigh. I have not used any pesticides in the past although I do bait for our native banana slugs.

April Bearded Iris 2022

April Bearded Iris 2022

You can see the small ceanothus bushes between the barrels. They should reach a  height and size of 15′ by 15′ once fully grown.

At the first in-person meeting of the local (Noyo Chapter) Rhododendron club I won 3 new ones, a Rhododendron Pontiyak (5’x3′ light lavender color), Checkmate (2’x2.5′ lavender pink), and Emasculum (5′ pink).

Rhododendron Pontiyak

Rhododendron Pontiyak

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (of which I am a board member) has a number of wonderfully scented ones in their collection and I picked up a bush of Coastal Spice (white and pink) in the plant nursery when I was there last. If you get a chance to visit the Northern California coast, don’t miss the Gardens.

Rhododendron Coastal Spice

Rhododendron Coastal Spice

All of the new Rhododendrons have been planted in an island bed near our pump house and garden shed.

There are several new ones in this bed and I keep it irrigated. The older established ones on the property are watered infrequently due to drought conditions.

You will notice the bird house in the center of the bed. We’ve placed four of them around the property but none have any resident families yet. There must not be a housing shortage for the birds here.

bird houses in the pollinator garden

bird houses in the pollinator garden – rent free but no takers yet

Vegetables are a dilemma this year. Should I plant them or not? I worry about the water they will need. I brought up the subject with the gardener in the vegetable garden at the Botanical Gardens last week. He feels that home gardeners use a lot less water than the huge commercial farms. So, comforted, I planted two of our raised beds. Here you will see lettuce, chard, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. I was excited to find a mixed starter pack of the cruciferous vegetables. The two of us cannot usually eat 6 heads of cauliflower before they start to go to seed and I don’t really have the storage space. Two heads are more manageable.

I also direct seeded some radishes, arugula and a mesclun mix.

I am going to skip the tomatoes and cucumbers this year. We get good local ones from the farm down the road. Zucchini will definitely go into at least one, maybe two, beds. We adore them freshly picked and simply grilled.

Lastly, and new, are three small fig trees on the front deck. They were started a couple of years ago by a garden friend from scions. It turns out that her husband doesn’t really like figs so she gifted them to me. It’s easier to keep an eye on them on the deck and it’s a sunny place. I had a couple of trees in containers on my deck in Oakland but the squirrels usually got to them before they were ripe. The squirrels are more cautious here and the dogs very diligent.

My constant garden companions watch me as I putter about in the garden, it’s their happy place as well as mine.

Shanna and Quinn

Shanna and Quinn

Casey is happiest snoozing at my feet as I write this.

Casey

Casey

I hope you are in your happy place as well.

 

In My Garden – February 2022

In My Garden – February 2022

February has seen the coldest days of the winter season with several days of hard frosts.

Frost on the deck

Frost on the deck – Feb 2022

Consequently signs of spring have been slow to emerge. There are a lot of bare spots in the perennial borders and I fear I lost some plants to the cold weather. It’s still a little too early to tell.

Perennial Island

Perennial Island

A few bulbs are beginning to show themselves…hyacinths, fuchsias, daffodils and species tulips.

The driveway is covered in pollen from the pine trees which turns everything yellow, including the cars.

 

Shanna likes to help with the washing.

Shanna and the hose

Shanna and the hose

She doesn’t like to waste a drop.

Casey wandered over to see what was up.

The hellebores are in full flower, a delight in this mostly drab time of year.

Remember my post about dreams of a row of bright bearded iris’ along the driveway? That was about three years ago. Well, I have given up the dream. They simply didn’t do well. It was probably a combination of damp and foggy summers, lack of water and redwood root competition. I couldn’t bear to simply chuck them so dug up as many as I could and have replanted them in half wine barrels where I have more control. It isn’t the right time of year so I doubt they will bloom this spring but maybe by next year.

Replanted Iris Bulbs - Feb 2022

Replanted Iris Bulbs – Feb 2022 and Casey

Here’s hoping that dahlia bulbs will do better in that same spot. It’s too early to plant but I have some coming next month.

Shanna likes to dig and hunt. So far she has caught two moles, a squirrel and a bird. The digging part makes her unpopular with this gardener. I am trying a new method of scattering red pepper flakes on her favorite spots. Maybe it will discourage the critters as well as her excavations.

The major acquisition in the garden is a chipper for the brush and tree trimmings. We have a lot to clear out before fire season starts this summer and fall.

Chipper

Chipper

My husband is having a wonderful time with the new toy.

I am unsure if I will plant much of a vegetable garden this year because of worries about lack of water. We had no rain in January and only a drop at the end of February.

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – January 2022

In My Garden – January 2022

It’s still January, right? Whew! I am very late with this chronicle but wanted to slip it in under the wire and give you a quick peak around the garden before February creeps in (tomorrow, oh my!). There isn’t a lot going on, although I do see a few signs of spring. Mostly there are bare patches where plants are enjoying a winter’s nap.

Back Garden - Jan 2022

Back Garden – Jan 2022

A few plants are making statements.

Melianthus major

Melianthus major

One of the weirder common names for Melianthus major is the peanut butter plant, give it a sniff and you will quickly see what I mean. It usually likes sunny well-drained spots but these are happy with glancing sun under redwoods. I don’t usually give it much summer water, another selling point. It has the most interesting saw-toothed leaves. It can die back in winter, although not so far this year.

Winter blooming hellebores are putting out their first flowers.

There are buds on my flowering current shrubs.

Ribes sanguineum, flowering current

Ribes sanguineum, flowering current

This vining pea plant is native to Australia. Although it can wander over the ground (hence the name happy wanderer), this one is happy climbing a short trellis near our front door.

Hardenbergia, also purple coral pea

Hardenbergia, also purple coral pea or happy wanderer

The calla lilies are showing new growth. I hope to have some flowers this year. They were planted at exactly the wrong time a couple of years ago and didn’t bloom in 2021. I was shocked to learn that flower stems go for over $5 each in New York. Here they grow wild.

calla lilies

calla lilies

The pollinator garden just looks sad, but if I look closely I can see the promise of spring emerging.

Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden

Here are Shasta daisies and yarrow.

 

Shasta daisies

Shasta daisies

This baby oak tree was started from a hitch hiking acorn in a pot I brought from our old Oakland home. It’s now about 2 ft tall and showing new buds. I has yet to product a single acorn, but seems happy.

Baby oak

Baby oak

The dogs are doing well, thank you for asking. Shanna has entered her crazy teenage phase but we are all weathering it well. I included these pictures from the ‘day after’ our New Year’s Day chili party in the In My Kitchen post from earlier this month. But perhaps you didn’t see them. Our Shanna loves ice and found the pile of dumped ice cubes from the ice chest containing the beer and wine. Whenever the other dogs would pass by, she would lay on top of the pile to protect it.

In My Garden – December 2021

In My Garden – December 2021

I know I know…where have I been? Everything is okay, I’ve just been busy everywhere but in the garden. Actually I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen either. Grilled cheese sandwiches have been on the menu many a night. I am making a New Year’s resolution to be on line more frequently (and to floss my teeth every day).

It’s the quiet season in the garden, except for the weeding. There is always weeding and now is the time to get on top of it before they get big. But weeding is my least favorite activity and wet weather has thankfully put a limit on it. I will be sorry come spring.

I purchased a dozen bags of steer manure to enhance the soil in the bed that runs beside the driveway. The Spanish lavender bushes have done well but I can’t say the same for the Dutch Iris bulbs which are between each of the lavender bushes. I think I planted the bulbs too deeply, they need to have the tops of the tubers exposed to the sun and warmth. Also, maybe our weather is just not warm enough for them. They did very well in the sunnier climate of the Bay Area. But, Fort Bragg is both foggier in the summer and quite a bit cooler. So, the plan is to dig them up, add the manure and some bone meal to the soil, and replace them with Dahlia tubers. The existing dahlia tubers I have in another bed need dividing, but I am also expecting an order of new tubers from Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon. Dahlias are very successful here and will (hopefully) make an amazing display along the driveway, stay tuned.

Another benefit will be a longer display of flowers. The Spanish lavender blooms earlier than the French, usually starting in May. The dahlias will bloom later in the summer and early fall.

Lavender

Lavender – May

You can see here that the Spanish lavender was in full bloom in May but the French lavender is just starting. It reaches its best in June and early July.

The good news is that we have had some rain, not nearly enough yet but much better than last year. The dogs are enjoying the puddles. And Shanna should be named ‘pig-pen’ as she loves the mud.

 

Shanna

Shanna @ 7 months

Adding an outdoor shower when we remodeled is one of the best ideas we had. The dogs have had the benefit of a warm water bath.

I have had a couple of shipments from Annie’s Annuals (although they are all perennials). Fall is the recommended time for planting her in California. The cooler weather and winter rains give them a chance to put down roots and become established. That is especially important for low water or drought resistant plants.

I came across an interesting article in DIY Home, a fall garden guide. It contained some helpful tips on getting your garden ready for spring.

So, here I am with a quick walk about before it’s January.

The vegetable garden has mostly finished except for lettuce and arugula.

I didn’t plant much chard or kale this year, I’m not sure why. I miss them.

The garden is mostly green this time of year although there are still some flowering plants.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage – a hummingbird favorite

Cuphea

Cuphea micropetala
“Candy Corn Plant”

The Cupheas bloom almost non stop in my garden, I have several varieties. They have proved to be prolific, low maintenance, and drought tolerant. Both the hummingbirds and the bees adore them. Over the past 3 years the Candy Corn variety has grown into small bushes, they are positioned just below our bedroom windows. We can hear the hummingbirds chittering in the mornings as they sip nectar from the flowers.

House and beds from the back

House and beds from the back

You can just glimpse the Cupheas on the left side of the house. Everything is mostly shades of green this time of year.

I am working on an inviting seating area overlooking the pollinator garden (which mostly looks like a bunch of weeds this time of year).

I have scattered some new wildflower seeds and look forward to seeing what turns up come the warmer days of spring. I will give you an update each month as the garden comes to life.

You can see the lavender plants along the driveway in the back of the picture.

The wreath came from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Volunteers gather in early December to make them. Isn’t it gorgeous? You need to get there early to choose the best. All the greens are gathered locally.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Stay well and safe. I will see you in 2022.

Happy New Year!