In My Garden – Mid May 2023

In My Garden – Mid May 2023

Our 14-year-old Australian Shepherd, Casey, is not doing well. We suspect she has cancer, and it has settled in her lungs. She wakes at dawn, coughing. We think there must be fluid accumulation overnight. Once she moves around a little and empties her bladder she quietens and can go back to sleep. I get up and stroke her, sit with her outside a bit while she wanders around, and have my first cup of tea.

Once I am up, however, I can’t go back to sleep. I like the early morning. Mornings are quiet as far as people noise. But very noisy in other ways. The ocean is roaring this morning. The tide must be high with larger than usual waves. We are at least half a mile away but can hear the surf most days.

I also hear the morning chorus of the birds. Do you know the Merlin App? It can identify birds by their song. I let it run this morning while I sipped my tea, and it identified the following birds:

  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Chestnut-backed Chickadee
  • Violet-green Swallow – they are also called tree swallows and have nested in at least one of our birdhouses
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Spotted Towhee
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Anna’s Hummingbird
  • Common Raven
  • Stellar’s Jay
  • Black-headed Grosbeak
  • Pacific-slope Flycatcher
  • and a Great Blue Heron (it must have been flying overhead)

That is quite a list and they make quite the orchestral sound.

The platform of the back deck (the one off the kitchen) is completed. We were able to set up two chairs and enjoy a glass of wine on Friday night. It’s also where I sat with my tea this morning to record the birds.

Back Deck Platform

Back Deck Platform

Yesterday I dug out two large plants (one was a huge grass) from one of the flower beds. They weren’t that attractive and were shading other plants. I’ve put in a few dahlias and other plants that weren’t doing well in their current locations. This is a sunny bed. My early morning excursion brought attention to a lone banana slug making its way towards the dahlias (they love dahlias) and I was able to intercede before any damage was done. 

I haven’t quite decided what I will put in the middle. I have a few more dahlias in pots that are just starting to emerge, I think they are fairly large and could go in the middle. Sunflowers??? I want a focal plant, something red or yellow or blue. Suggestions of things that work well with dahlias? Something tolerant of low water, redwood roots, acidic soil, and sandy loam soil.

The same bed, just around the corner, is rampant with Geum Tangerine Dream and Columbines. The Geums do very well and can tolerate crowding by other plants.


More pictures of that same garden island bed…

A lot is going on in this section of the bed…ravens wing, cuphea, geum, grasses, lavender, Verbascum, and more.

The one completed raised – raised-bed has lettuce and radishes. With our recent sun and warmer weather, they are doing well. We hope to complete one more today, I have asparagus starts I want to put in.

Spring is finally here.

The sweet peas are going to be in bloom any day.

That’s my mid-month report.

I will keep you all informed about Casey.


I hate to think about having to put her down. She’s been ‘the one’ for me. You know what I mean if you are a dog owner. There will be one special one. Casey came to us as a puppy just a week after Chris left for college on the East Coast. They have teasingly called her my ‘child-replacement-dog’. I’m her person and she is my dog.


In My Garden – Early May 2023

In My Garden – Early May 2023

There has been great progress on our new decks over the past three weeks. They are starting to lay the boards on the one off the kitchen French doors. They plan to complete this deck before they tear down the deck by the front door, ensuring we have access in and out of the house without going through the master bedroom.

We plan to eventually put a hot tub in the back portion under the redwoods. With that thought in mind, they are installing both power and water.

A walkway will connect the deck off the kitchen to the front deck. When completed, the decks will go around three sides of the house. It will dramatically increase our outdoor living space.

The deck facing the big meadow has been framed.


Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is starting to show some growth. Remember the mixed seeds I planted last month? I posted a picture on Instagram. The mix is inspired by one that Cecilia from the blog The Kitchen’s Garden wrote about. If you are not familiar with her blog, I highly recommend her as it is entertaining and very informative about sustainable living. She hails from New Zealand and has what she calls a farmy in the midwestern part of the U.S.

Cecilia’s Mixed Salad

It’s a mix of different greens for salad.

They are starting to come up. I was surprised to see the peas as one of the first types. I also see some lettuce and what might be beets or chard (a seed packet was added after the picture above). I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the seedlings are also arugula, but I can’t identify it yet. These were seeded about 2 weeks ago.

Cecilia’s mix

The mix planted last weekend (5 days ago) is also showing some tiny growth.

Cecilia’s Mix

Some of the dahlias are pushing through the dirt. Time to bait for slugs, they love dahlias.

Due to the colder winter and spring, everything is a bit late this year. We’ve also had quite a lot of (very welcome) rain.




In My Garden – April 2023

In My Garden – April 2023

Spring is finally here, weather-wise. It has been (and continues to be) an unusually cold winter and spring. Temperatures still drop into the high 30s to low 40s F at night, we’ve even had frost warnings. But, during the day the sun is shining and we are up into the low 60s F. This morning I walked around the garden, examining dead stalks of plants to see what has survived.

Last fall I planted three Cuphea micorpetalas (candy corn plants also sometimes called cigar plants) in the pollinator garden. Only dry branches have been showing for months. I feared that they were victims of the wet and cold as they are not particularly hardy. But small shoots are starting to burst from the root area. Joy! Signs of life and spring. On researching their hardiness I read that they are evergreen to 25 or 30 degrees F, but root hardy to 0 degrees.

Take a look at this plant…

Centaurea Montana

Centaurea Montana

Aren’t the flowers striking? Centaurea Montana is a species of cornflower. They are also in the pollinator garden.



Also poppies in the pollinator garden, and…

Geranium purenaicum Bill Wallis

Geranium purenaicum Bill Wallis

Geranium Bill Wallis, which self-sows itself all over the garden.

There are lovely pops of color within all that green.

The first rhododendron has a few blooms.

Everything is late this year.

Polemonium carneum - also called Royal Jacob's Ladder

Polemonium corneum – also called Royal Jacob’s Ladder

I planted several Jacob’s ladders last spring and this is the first time they have bloomed. They are doing well both in a half barrel and in the ground. The foliage is very ferny-like and I didn’t think they would be very hardy. But they have thrived. The flowers are sweet, pink with yellow centers. They look fabulous mixed with hellebores.

These trout lilies are blooming in partial shade under the tan oaks and Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’.

Yellow Trout Lily

Yellow Trout Lily


Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps',

Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’

The bumblebees are happy with the flowers.

Last year’s (at least I think) tree swallows have claimed their same birdhouse, and chickadees are hovering around another. I saw the first Rufous hummingbird at the feeder this morning. Signs of an actual spring!

Here is an update on our decks. The supports for the back deck are going in after 6 days of work and the pilings for the side have been placed.

I have a question for the gardeners who are reading this. There was a lemon tree in a half wine barrel on the old deck off the kitchen. It has been in that barrel for around 10 years and has been unhappy for the last year (at least). When we moved it off the deck the barrel partially disintegrated. You can see the tree under the bottle brush in the picture on the right, and below.


There is a spot for it at the corner of the new deck (near where it is right now) for it to be planted in the ground. Should I try and save it? Or should I bite the bullet and purchase a new one? It’s a Meyer Lemon and strawberry plants have seeded (seemingly out of thin air) themselves under it.

What do you think? I would appreciate your thoughts.


In My Garden – April 2023

In My Garden – April 2023

I am not sure where to start…there is so much going on in the garden. While we were away for almost four weeks, spring sprung.

The tulips are up with their cheerful blossoms.


There are wildflowers as well, some volunteers and some planted.

The sweet peas in a half wine barrel are starting to twine up their supports. I plant them each year in memory of my English grandmother. She had a long row of them along a trellis in her garden in Teddington. She put a sweet-smelling vase full of them next to my bed whenever I visited. It’s one of my favorite memories of her.

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

I don’t expect blooms until late May or June.

This is Silene,  I planted them last year after seeing them at the Botanical Gardens. I love their pink flowers and they bloom continuously for several months.

Silene dioica

Silene dioica

Much to the pleasure of the hummingbirds, the salvia is finally blooming.

But the rhododendrons are not blooming. It’s been an unusually cold winter, but in the past, at least one has been blooming by now. I hope to have some pictures to share next month.

One of my favorite flowers is the hellebores. They don’t seem to be bothered by redwood roots, bugs, or drought. The clumps get bigger and more glorious every year. Even better, they bloom in partial shade in winter and early spring, a time when their blooms are especially appreciated. I only regret that their flowers are downward facing.


The kale and arugula in the vegetable garden went to seed during our long absence. The good news is that the native bumble bees love the flowers.

Gone to seed

Gone to seed

I did plant a few lettuce starts this past weekend in one bed. I am delaying planting more until we have completed a total revamp of the raised beds.

I am tired of digging the redwood roots out of the raised beds. Additionally, any remaining rootlets make the soil acidic, not good for vegetables. We intend to raise the beds at least a foot off the ground and replace the soil. It’s a job that will have to wait until we have the time, or rather my husband has the time as he takes care of any hardscaping. We have a bunch of cinder blocks that were under the old hot tub, and we will also have a lot of lumber left over from the replacement of the deck.

This brings me to the big news from the garden. We finally started the project of replacing our old fifty-year-old deck. We spent Easter weekend clearing it off and removing plants from around the perimeter. Here are some ‘before’ pictures. Since Covid we have spent a lot more time entertaining outside, making that space very valuable. As it goes almost three-quarters of the way around the house, it dramatically expands our living space.

The back patio is piled with deck furniture.

The old hot tub was at the end of the deck off the kitchen. Eventually, we will purchase a new one that will go on top of the deck at the end.

You can see the circle on the left of the deck picture below where the lemon tree was located in a half barrel. It hasn’t been doing very well and I intend to plant it into the ground once I know where the final location of the deck. Hopefully it will do better there. The front and back decks will be connected with a new walkway.

lemon tree in its temporary location

lemon tree in its temporary location

When we moved it we discovered that the barrel containing the lemon tree was rotting. It was time to do something.

Workers removing the dock, Shanna enjoys the company

Workers removing the dock, Shanna enjoys the company

Since the workers bring their dog with them, ours have a new playmate.

Quinn, Shanna and friend

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for updates from the garden and deck. And I love comments of all sorts and will reply,  I love reading them.

I hope you are all well and enjoying your spring or fall weather. The shoulder seasons are my very favorite times of year.


In My Garden – March 2023

In My Garden – March 2023

I have to admit that I haven’t been in my garden much this past month. It’s been too cold and wet. I did get around to fertilizing the rhododendrons on Valentine’s Day, just before the rain started again. The ideal days for fertilizing them are easy to remember, Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day. That’s before they bloom and afterward.

It’s been an unusually cold winter with a lot of rain, hail, frost, and snow (the last time it snowed was in 1989). We can’t complain too much about the rain as we certainly need it…the cold I will complain about.



The dogs slip and slide on the deck on their way to do their morning potty.

As I go out between storms to check the garden, I see a lot of sad (read dead?) looking plants. We are zoned 9B and snow is not a happy place for many of them. April 15th is our last frost-free (fingers crossed) day. I will wait to cut anything back until then.

And then there was snow…

Shanna is fascinated by all the strange weather outside, just as long as she is snug and warm inside. She’s allowed on the bed during the day but sleeps in her crate at night.



We are having problems with our well, it seems to be contaminated with the salt that was used to clean the filter. So we are drinking bottled water at the moment. We’ve had to purge it several times, which breaks my heart as water is precious. We will meet with the well and pump folks in a few weeks to seek a solution but may need a home desalination system in addition to the filter. It’s been depressing and a worry.

The bulbs are my happy place.

We leave for a three-week trip to New Zealand in a week. This trip was supposed to happen in March of 2020 and is long delayed. Three year’s ago the Prime Minister of New Zealand close their borders 3 days before our flight to New Zealand.

The trip includes a two-week hiking tour of the south island organized by New Zealand Trails. I promise to take pictures and give you all an account of the trip when we return.

Meanwhile, thank you for visiting, and I love your comments.