In the Garden – June 2018

In the Garden – June 2018

I don’t even know where to start this month, so much happened during the month of May. Biggest, our fence was finished! The dogs love being able to safely roam around the property. I think dogs are happiest when they know their territory. We found that our normally well behaved (as much as an Aussie can be anyway) dogs heard the “call of the wild” when up at the Fort Bragg house. We had to keep them on leash when outside to prevent them from chasing the ducks in our neighbors pond, chasing the deer that wandered across the meadow, chasing the wild turkeys that raided the bird feeders, chasing the one lonely squirrel who lives in the pine grove…you get the message. They were completely out of control and sometimes disappeared long enough for us to worry. But now they are calm and know their place. The fence is 7 feet and will keep out the deer and neighboring dogs, I’m not sure about the wild turkeys and other critters. It probably won’t keep out a mountain lion or a bear, but maybe it will convince them to go somewhere slightly easier to get into.

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New Front Gate – Fort Bragg

There are dangers in letting them roam though. A game of chase ran through one of my island beds, trampling the plants. I have had to cut some of the poppies back, but it will bring in the sun to some of the later blooming summer flowers. The dogs will learn where they aren’t supposed to run (unless there is a squirrel in the yard…then all bets are off).

 

The other big news is the beginning of my new vegetable garden. I was waiting until the fence was complete before putting in the first plants. I would have been very sad to come out one morning and to find that a herd of deer had destroyed all the plants. So far the plants are in half wine barrels (available in abundance here in the Mendocino wine country) and large pots. But it is the start. Eventually I will put in raised beds. Meanwhile I don’t have to worry about gophers.

My friend, who knows the area and plants that will flourish in this climate, gifted me 3 tomato plants and 1 squash. I found 2 more squash plants at the nursery. These are the varieties I planted.

 Bloody Butcher

A sensational and very popular, very early producing tomato variety. A good choice for a tomato as you wait for later varieties to harvest. Our organic tomato seeds produce indeterminate, vigorous, potato-leaf plants that yield copious amounts of 2″, 4 oz, fruits that are deep-red color, inside and out. Five to nine fruits per cluster with a rich heirloom tomato flavor. Plant produces well until frost. A good tomato variety for cooler growing regions since fruits ripen quickly. A good canning tomato.

Days: 54

Size: Indeterminate

Season: Early Season

Nyagous

A rare Russian heirloom “cluster tomato”.  Regular leaf plant producing beautiful, smooth, 6oz, round “black” tomatoes that are dark mahogany with dark grey-green shoulders.  Nyagous is a wonderfully firm and blemish-free tomato with lots of sweet, complex fruit flavors and a clean acidic finish.  Up to 6 fruits per cluster.  A good market variety that has become a favorite of the Russian varieties.  Resistant to cracking.

Days:  76

Size: Indeterminate

Color: Purple-black

Season: Mid-Season

Yellow Bosnian

Old heirloom tomato from Yugoslavia. Seeds were sent from her friend Aleksandra Wiz in Zagreb Crotia. A shorter, regular leaf, indeterminate that produces a very heavy yield of 10 oz., slightly-flattened, yellow, oblate beefsteak tomatoes with deliciously rich, well-balanced. slightly sweet flavors. RARE

Days: 73

Size: Inderminate

Color: Yellow

Season: Mid-Season

Astia Zucchini

Zucchini Astia

Astia is a well-bred French bush zucchini variety, developed especially for container growing and planting in small space gardens. These non rambling, compact squash vines are also highly ornamental with big silvery-green, deeply indented leaves. Early bearing and productive, Astia bears abundant zucchini near the base of the plant where they are easy to harvest. These uniformly smooth, lustrous, glossy-green zucchini have excellent flavor and are delicious whether roasted, sautéed, steamed or baked.

Plus I added two additional summer squash varieties, Black Beauty bush type and a Costata Romanesco, one of my favorites from Oakland. I don’t know if the Costata will flourish in a large container much less the cooler climate here.

Small summer squash, picked right off the plant and grilled, are a BBQ treat.

Vegetables in the Garden

This section of the garden gets quite a bit of sun, certainly more than my tiny side yard did in Oakland. There is good potential.

Finally, the bottlebrush bush is blooming! Why is this important? Because the hummingbirds have returned with the blooms. I see and hear them buzzing around the flowers as the nectar is a favorite. The rest of the garden has been planted with lots of other flowers which are supposed to attract them, but so far only the Salvias are blooming. It hasn’t been enough to keep them around.

Bottlebrush shrub

I understand that in the “old days” the flowers were actually used as a bottle brush. The seeds are also quite rough and I can imagine would give things a good scouring.

That’s all the big news from up here on the California Coast. I hope you are all enjoying your gardens, be they big or small.

 

In My Garden – May 2018

In My Garden – May 2018

Things are blooming, oh my are they blooming! It has been so exciting to see the tiny plants that were put in the ground in March take off and literally take over. I find it difficult to imagine that a tiny plant in a 4 inch pot will, within a few months, turn into a sprawling 2 foot wide plant.

Baby Blue Eyes and California Poppies

You can see why they call this native wildflower baby blue eyes. They will reseed themselves for next year.

Baby Blue Eyes

The California poppies (or state flower) were grown from seed and obviously like it here.

California Poppies

In fact they have almost taken over one of the island beds.

Island Bed with California Poppies

Remember the stock I transplanted from our open house? It not only has repeat bloomed, but has a third bloom.

Deep Purple Stock

And there are lots of other poppies, some planted from seed. With a mixed packet of poppy seeds it is a surprise what comes up. In addition to the California poppies, there are larger ones in shades of red, orange and pink. The bees are loving them; we found a native bumblebee either asleep or completely blissed out in the middle of an orange poppy. You can see how much pollen there is in a single flower.

I plan to collect seed for next year as most of them are annuals and will die back once they finish blooming. The California poppies are considered a short lived perennial. Once they set seed I can cut them back almost to the ground. They will return with a second bloom in the summer but not so vigorously.

The irises that I brought from the Oakland house are blooming although they look a little shell shocked. It might take a year or so for them to adapt. It seems I could have brought a little fungus with them as well so they are not looking as happy as I would like. When I cut them back this fall I will treat with horticultural oil and hope to get it in control for next year. Please comment and let me know if you have successfully countered this problem.

The native Douglas Irises are blooming in the woods as well. We removed three old and overgrown and diseased pine trees. With the new sunlight I notice more of them coming into flower.

And the rhododendrons are finally in bloom.

These very large shrubs were probably planted in the 70’s when the house was originally built. It takes many years for them to reach their current size. I’ve planted 4 new ones since we purchased the house, they are only about 3 feet high and didn’t bloom this year at all. I see new growth though and have high hopes for 2019.

Spring is the most beautiful season in California. Come summer most things go dormant. My garden plan is taking this into account with summer and fall blooming perennials. Most of them are lagging behind and waiting till the weather warms, then it will be their turn to shine.

Remember the Lily of the Valley shrub? It has now put out wonderfully scented flowers. The bees love them, I can see them flying around outside my window as I type this post.

Lily of the Valley Bush

So the garden is buzzing with bees and hummingbirds as well as other pollinators.

I heard the first chirps of baby birds somewhere in the woods this afternoon. Spring is definitely here although our weather has been cool so far.

Thought it would be fun to close with a before and after picture. I’ll try and do this as the year proceeds so you can see the changes with the seasons. Same island bed. You can tell I like a bit of a messy cottage look with a mix of annuals and perennials.

How is your garden doing this spring?

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – April 2018

In My Garden – April 2018

 

Spring is definitely in the air, and my first crazy wave of planting is over. Now I just have to wait and see what likes the (very compost enriched) soil and the Fort Bragg weather. We are expecting a major rain system later this week, very late in the season. Fort Bragg usually gets about 40 inches of rain during the winter, we are about 60% of that so far this season. We are going to be spending a good chunk of the spring and summer clearing the underbrush and lower branches from the trees in preparation for fire season.

The daffodils have been blooming in waves, continuously since late January.

Amazingly the hellebores, also called the Christmas Rose because they bloom in mid-winter, are still going strong.

Hellebores

I was gifted some tulip bulbs several years ago at Christmas. At the time we were only spending occasional weekends at the cabin so I planted them in a half wine barrel with a butterfly bush. Even though the container was close to the house, the deer still managed to get to them before they bloomed. This year has been different, the barking of the dogs has kept the deer at a distance even without a fence and they are lovely.

Tulips

This unusual variety came with the daffodil bulbs I ordered in the fall.

Tulips

The Dutch Bearded Iris bulbs I transplanted along the driveway from the Oakland garden have take off, several are showing flower stalks. I expect there will be a long bloom period for them since there are multiple varieties and sizes.

Bearded Siberian Irises

 

It is almost time to trim the grass in the front meadow. We had to re-seed much of it because of work on the septic leach field.

The Lily of the Valley bush continues to flower but now has the most brilliant colored new growth. There are four on the property, two in the front as foundation plantings and two in the back near the tool shed. The ones in the front have bright red new growth, i understand that this is the Mountain Fire variety.

Mountain Fire Lily of the Valley Bush – Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’

The two near the tool shed could be the ‘Compacta’ variety, they are definitely smaller and the new growth is yellow to orange.

Lily of the Valley Bush

I have been encouraging more birds into the yard with multiple feeders. We live in the middle of a redwood forest, which is generally a quiet place with few birds. Along with the birds came a midnight visitor to raid the sunflower seeds, he bend the feeder to the ground. The second night he came back we caught him on camera.

The midnight marauder

i’ve decided to leave the sunflower seeds off the feeder, he doesn’t seem to bother with the thistle seeds. We are hopeful our new fence will encourage him or her to seek easier food sources.

Meanwhile, the dogs like to be in the garden with me enjoying the spring sunshine. In lieu of the fence we settle for a long leach. They are entirely too interested in mountain lions, bears and deer.

Casey and Quinn enjoying the sunshine

Their favorite form of gardening is digging for gophers.

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – March 2018

In My Garden – March 2018

It’s time to chronicle the progress of the garden in Fort Bragg (CA), this a monthly update on progress with the new garden. At the end of the year I will post a summary so you can see the changes throughout the season as the garden matures and I learn my way around.

A new garden is exciting and definitely a learning experience; often by trial and (many times) error as well. It’s a challenge to learn the soil, climate (not to mention mini climate zones throughout the garden), as well as how the sunlight changes through the year. All those influence what will flourish. The soil of the Fort Bragg garden is very different from that in Oakland. Fort Bragg has sandy soil which is very low in nutrients (Oakland was clay), but Fort Bragg drains nicely which was a problem in Oakland. It is also quite acid due to all the conifers surrounding it, Oakland was more alkaline. Both gardens are cursed with browsing deer; but add rabbits and gophers in Fort Bragg (plus the occasional mountain lion and bear).  In Fort Bragg I am about 1/2 mile inland from the coast, so thankfully I don’t have to worry about the salt spray.

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Garden Plan

The garden came with mature plantings of rhododendrons, Lily of the Valley bush, bottle brush bush, ferns, and a few azaleas. The rhododendrons bloom in late March into April and May. They are gorgeous. In planting additional garden beds my preference is to have flowers throughout the seasons, emphasizing plants for pollinators and birds. I was shocked to hear almost no birds for the first year we owned the garden, that was 5 years ago. Since retiring we have spent most of our time at the house and the birds have found us…much to my joy (after spending many dollars on bird seed and feeders). We now have flocks of junkos, chickadees, song sparrows, goldfinches, robins, hummingbirds, and an occasional thrush (seen for the first time last week). The property sings.

As you saw in last month’s garden post, hellebores do well here. They have been blooming continuously since late January. They were among my very first plantings when we bought the property because nothing eats them. They have not only thrived in a long bed beside the garage, but self seeded themselves as well. They are happy with very occasional summer water and a side dressing of compost in early winter. You can see pictures in my post from last month. This year I planted 5 new ones of various colors, some in a new island bed with a transplanted rhododendron and a couple of azaleas.

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Lots of buds on the rhododendrons 

Dahlias do very well here, the Mendocino botanical garden is famous for their dahlia show. In Summer that area is completely booked for weddings and other events. Before putting the house on the market, I dug up most of the tubers from the garden in Oakland. Here is the beginning of a new dahlia bed. It needs to have a lot more compost added to enrich the soil. I am reluctant to put them in with the rest of the plants because their water and nutrient needs are so different. But I originally put them in pots, where they did not thrive. So, hopefully they will sprout once the weather warms and I can move them to a new home which meets their needs.

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Future Dahlia Bed

The Daffodils are blooming (both in the garden and pots) like crazy, new ones coming out almost daily. IMG_7227

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There were several mature plants that the landscaping stager used in the Oakland garden. The ones in the ground I left for the new owners. But the ones in pots I brought to Fort Bragg. This lilac vine will grace the railing near the front door, blooming in winter. I understand it is a native of Australia and only needs a deep watering once a week or so, which will suit the other plants nearby nicely.

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The bearded iris tubers I transplanted from Oakland seem to like their new location in full sun along the driveway.

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Along the side of the back patio I planted a row of candy corn (Manettia Luteo) along with lime colored creeping thyme and some red sedum. The candy corn plants are supposed to reach a shrubby 4 feet at maturity, be drought tolerant, and a magnet for hummingbirds. We shall see if they live up to their hype.

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They look a little sad at this point but I see new growth.

I am a sucker for hummingbirds, this mature  bottle brush tree has been a favorite for the local Allen’s hummingbirds. It is just starting to bloom, and I have seen a couple of males at the feeder in the last few weeks. The Allen’s migrate and are just now returning. I have read that the males will stake out a territory before the females arrive. Last spring there were several nests in the tree as well as a nearby rhododendron; I was buzzed when I passed close by them in the garden.

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The flowering current beside the garage is starting to bloom. The new growth is a lovely shade of green which sets off the bright pink flowers.

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And lastly there are a couple of rather messy island beds, recently dug and planted.

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I found digging garden beds very therapeutic and calming. They keep expanding in size and may eventually have a nice even shape, or maybe not.

I planted sweet peas in a half wine barrel. They are one of my favorite flowers, my English grandmother always had a trellis of them in her garden outside London. They are just getting started but should take off as the weather warms. The wire baskets are there to protect them, or at least give them a bit of a head start.

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Most of the plants in the garden are listed as deer resistant, but nothing is really safe if the deer are hungry. We are starting to look at fencing which will keep the deer outside and our dogs safe inside.

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You talking about us?

 

February 2018 – Garden in Fort Bragg

February 2018 – Garden in Fort Bragg

I am going to start a monthly regular post recording the changes in the garden in Fort Bragg. We have now owned the house for almost 5 years, but with the remodel and addition, there hasn’t been much time to spend in the garden. As well, without a fence, the garden is prime dinner material for the gophers, deer, and rabbits…not to mention the 6″ banana slugs. So, the garden currently consists of deer and gopher resistant plants. I don’t think anything is completely deer and gopher proof, they like to sample things especially when young. But these plants have survived without our constant presence and without a fence.

It’s a new challenge. A brand new garden, in a brand new mini-climate. The soil is different, the weather is different, the sun and shade patterns are different. The garden is also surrounded by redwood tress with their invasive root systems. In the winter when the sun is low, the meadow surrounding the house is shady. In summer when the sun is high, it can be quite warm and sunny.

What does it look like now in the beginning of February? Well, we are in another drought and the weather has been up to 60 degrees. The plants think it is spring. The daffodils are coming up, some are blooming. The hellebores are gorgeous, I planted several from the Oakland garden when we first purchased the house and they are thriving, even self seeding themselves.

The snowdrops are up, these were planted only a few weeks ago and I was surprised at how quickly they bloomed. They were one of the first winter blooming plants to appear in my Oakland garden. I planted several different varieties up here. Although I understand they are not deer and rabbit proof, so far they have left them alone.

The daffodils are up and some are blooming.

The first grape hyacinth are up as well, some in pots and some in the ground with the hellebores. The larger hyacinth bulbs were planted in a pot last spring to escape the hungry critters, they are blooming as well. IMG_7150IMG_7148

Two of the azaleas, the pink ones are starting to bloom.

In a freshly dug bed, amended by lots of compost, are native California poppies, regular red poppies, and other bulbs. IMG_7146

And what is going on in the cage on top of the wine barrel? Well, one of my favorite flowers is sweet peas. It’s my effort to keep off the deer until they can get a start. IMG_7132

The rhododendrons have large buds but no bloom yet. It is a little early.

The grafted plum tree has a lot of buds. The graft has taken. Yippee, it was my first. I plan to cut some scions from the wild plum trees bordering my Oakland garden and graft them on the baby tree. Hopefully we will plant it in the garden this spring. Once we build the fence.IMG_7156

The belladonna lilies have put up their green leaves, so far they have not bloomed for me but I understand it can take a few years and these were transplanted which they don’t like.  IMG_7153.jpg

And finally this wonderful shrub is blooming, the early native bumble bees are crazy for it. It was a sad little thing when we first moved in, this year it is thriving. I don’t know what it is, let me know if you do. IMG_7154

The potted Meyer lemon has lots of blooms, and my potted lime tree has both blooms and limes. The lemon looks like it would like an inch of compost.

It’s a busy time. It has been so warm and dry that I think the plants think spring as sprung. The garden is alive with the sound of chirping chickadees and junkos, plus the occasional pine siskin. I am looking forward to the return of the hummingbirds.