In My Garden – October 2018

In My Garden – October 2018

Oh dear, I think I have missed a couple of months. The garden has managed to limp along without me for September while we were traveling, a very competent gardener house-sat for us. But, since she gardens for a living, I didn’t want her to do much more than water my plants. She had quite enough to do taking care of the two dogs. So here we are, in fall. Time clean up, prune, cut things back and put the garden to bed for next spring. It’s a bit of a sad chore because many things are still blooming. But they will be all the happier for it next year. I expect the delivery of half a truckload of compost tomorrow afternoon and 10 yards of organic soil the next, everything will get a few inches of nutrition to carry them through the winter months. The organic soil is for filling my new raised beds and to amend the newly dug beds.

October is all about putting things down for the winter, getting prepared for spring, and weeding. There is always endless weeding, although I don’t mind it too much.

I am starting to dig an expansion of the garden bed in the back of the house. That bed is all about flowers and herbs. My intention is to have flowers blooming 12 months of the year. Cut flowers to make me happy in the house, and to keep the pollinators happy outside (including the hummingbirds).

Beginnings of new expanded island bed

By the end of this week I hope to have dug over to the bed on the right, with a 4 foot path between them. Since we had a little rain this past week, the ground isn’t as difficult to dig.

Updated and now finished, it took a few days. Originally I had planned a more off-center path, but the dogs like to run straight out the sliding glass door and across the meadow. So, in respect to dog paths, we have placed it more to the center. I am afraid that otherwise they will run over the middle of the plants. I once read that, if you have dogs and are planning a garden, you should first see where the ‘dog paths’ are, then plant accordingly. They were wise words if all creatures are to live happily in a garden.

Garden Islands with the Path laid out

I’ve had my exercise digging and Casey has been a help as well. She is sure there must be reason I am doing all that digging…something down there…maybe a gopher if she digs deep enough!

Both Anna’s

Annas Hummingbird Photo from UC Davis

and Allen’s

Allen’s Hummingbird female, at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. May 2008. Photo from UC Davis

hummingbirds are commonly found in this area. But only the Anna hummingbirds are known to stick around during the winter. Unfortunately all of the hummers I’ve seen in my garden are the Allen’s, which migrate. The Allen’s start to disappear about this time of year (it is a sad day when I notice they are gone) and come back in late February or early March. At least that is when I first noticed them earlier this year. Last winter there were no hummers in my garden for months, I was worried they would never come back. I would like to attract more of the Annas so we have those delightful little birds all year round. We were so busy with getting prepared for the sale of the Oakland house at end of last year that I wasn’t paying much attention to winter food sources. This year is different. I am hopeful with a year-round food source there will be more birds.

Salvia Amistad

Among the plants that they like, the salvias and sages are still blooming; also nicotiana, abutilon, and cuphea (although the hummingbirds don’t seem to have discovered the cuphea yet). The salvias should bloom through the winter. I planted 6 large ones and they bloom almost all year, 3 more plants are ordered for the expanded bed. I won’t cut any of them back until spring. The new plantings this month include 2 pineapple sages in large containers. The hummingbirds have already discovered the red tubular flowers, although the plants are still small.

I had swarms of native bumblebees in the garden this spring and summer but their numbers have now dramatically decreased, the weather has been cooler and they may have retreated to their dens. I am seeing a predominance of European bees.

The idea is that by keeping a wide variety of plants I will attract more pollinators to the garden, that’s my goal. So much of our agriculture is based on a mono-culture, not good overall for nature. In my own garden I am less concerned about a color or “pulled together” scheme, and more focused on a large variety of plants.

The dahlias are beautiful although they seem to acquired a dusting of powdery mildew in my absence. It has been a very foggy summer (thankfully because of all the fires) but that has taken a toll on the plants and I wasn’t here to spray with anything to help them. I think it is too late now, I will be cutting them back as soon as the foliage dies. I was able to cut a large bouquet for the kitchen counter from the ones that are still blooming.

Dahlias

The yarrow is prolific, the white one was part of a package mixed wildflower seeds and seems to really like it in the garden.

Yarrow

That is Lucy, our cat, enjoying the sun in the middle of the bed.

There is still quite a bit of color…dahlias, yarrow, black-eyed Susan’s (from that same wildflower mix), white and purple toadflax, snapdragons are on their second flowering (with our mild winters they are considered short-lived perennials), and rudbeckia.

Mixed Island Plantings

I am in love with the Verbena bonariensis, it floats above the other plantings. The sparrows love its seeds and perch on the long stalks as they wave in any breeze. It is so open and airy that it doesn’t block other plants.

Verbena bonariensis

The tomatoes are mostly finished, they haven’t done very well with our foggy summer. Maybe next year I will have a small greenhouse.

Tomato plants in a half wine barrel

Sad looking aren’t they?

Anyway, that’s my quick catch up. The compost and soil have been delivered so next month I will include an update on plantings and the raised beds. Seeds have been ordered for a winter vegetable garden.

Mom, I’ll just keep the dirt from blowing away. Casey on the job.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

July – Intermingling in the Garden

July – Intermingling in the Garden

No, this isn’t an X-rated post about steamy things going on in the garden. Intermingling is a new term in horticulture, a mix of ecology and garden design. I first heard the term a week ago at a talk by Thomas Rainer at the International Master Gardener Conference in Portland, OR. I attended his lecture out of curiosity, knowing nothing. I came out having had an almost spiritual transformation. He gave an inspirational talk. Intermingling in the garden refers to designing lush plant communities which mimic the wild places we are rapidly losing. It is about designing plantings that look and function more like they do in nature, more robust, more diverse, and more visually harmonious while requiring less maintenance. For those of us who have spent hours weeding mulch, this was an “ah-ha” moment. In nature plants richly cover the ground, any bare spots are quickly overgrown. So, why not design for that overgrowth? In his book Planting in a Post-Wild World Mr. Rainer proposes designing with plant communities that link nature to our landscapes, that bring together both ecological planting and traditional horticulture. The focus on layered plantings means that there can be more beneficial plants in small spaces. What does he mean by layered planting? He suggesting thinking of garden design in three vertical layers. The upper design layer would include those plants that create color and texture. The lower layers, that may stay hidden, provide essential erosion control, soil building, and weed suppression.

  • Structural layer – tall species that tower over other plants, this would include tall grasses as well.
  • Seasonal theme layer – plants that create color and texture at certain times of the year. These plants are placed as they would be in nature, not all in drifts.
  • Ground cover layer – those plants that occupy the lower layer of grassland communities. They generally have shallower root systems that do not compete with the deeper roots of tall plants.

Although this is a fairly new concept here, gardens in the U.K. and Germany are already being designed this way. And in many cases they are using our own native plants because of the enormous diversity of species in the U.S.

Another book which explores this idea is Planting, a New Prospective by Piet Oudolf. I have it on order. Mr. Rainer mentioned Piet Oudolf in his talk. The description sounds perfect for helping design the Fort Bragg garden since we are starting from scratch. “Planting: A New Perspective is an essential resource for designers and gardeners looking to create plant-rich, beautiful gardens that support biodiversity and nourish the human spirit. An intimate knowledge of plants is essential to the success of modern landscape design, and Planting makes Oudolf’s considerable understanding of plant ecology and performance accessible, explaining how plants behave in different situations, what goes on underground, and which species make good neighbors.”

You can read more about this concept on his website. He has also written articles for fine Gardening, here is a link.

We spent the weekend in our Fort Bragg garden, using a pick ax to break through the compacted soil to create a garden bed. I don’t think that soil has ever seen a speck of compost, it soaked it up like it was dying of thirst. It is not the ideal time of year to be doing this, grass seeds are going to sprout when I water the soil. They will need to be weeded out before I plant. But, we have to work with the time we have and those irises need to go in before the rain starts this fall. Meanwhile I am researching plants to intermingle. I do think there is a role for mulch as far as moisture preservation, especially in drought torn California and before the plants are established.

The beginnings of a garden bed

The garden has a long way to go. Gardening is a patient occupation that often takes years to see results. Hopefully my back will hold out.

February – My Winter Garden

February – My Winter Garden

This post should contain a disclaimer, “reader beware”. If you live anywhere in the frozen North of the U.S. (or another country where it is currently a snowy winter), it could produce longings and the compulsion to move to California.

That would not be all bad,  I would welcome more gardeners with open arms.

Here in Northern California the plants go dormant in the summer, waiting for winter rains. In late February they burst into flower while it is still winter in many locations in the Northern Hemisphere.

The recent warm weather has brought an amazing transformation to my garden.

Hardenbergia or purple coral pea

Hardenbergia or purple coral pea

This purple flowering vine is native to Australia, it is flourishing in my garden up a trellis in semi-shaded conditions.

Pink Magnolia

Pink Magnolia

The two magnolias in my yard scent the air sweetly for a few weeks each February. Their blooms appear before the leaves come out. Although lovely the petals are treacherously slippery on a sidewalk. They make great compost because they break down quickly.

Loropetalum or Fringe flower

Loropetalum or Fringe flower

Fringe flower comes in pink and white, the leaves on the pink one are a lovely chocolate color.

Salvia elegans or pink pineapple sage

Salvia elegans or pink pineapple sage

The hummingbirds have established a territory around the pineapple sage, I can watch their territorial fights from my office window. Each fall I cut it back to around a foot in height, it is now about 6 feet tall.

Snow Drops

Snow Drops

The Snow Drops are in bloom with the Hellebores, which are a little late this year having been flattened by our dogs as they chase after squirrels through the garden bed.

From the edge of the deck

From the edge of the deck

From the edge of the back deck you can see into the side yard where the wild plums are blooming. These little trees product small purple plums which are quite delicious, they make the most marvelous plum preserves or plum brandy. Come late summer there is an abundance, I have to move quickly to harvest them before the deer and the birds.

And then there are spring flowers…

Borage

Borage

Dutch Iris in bud

Dutch Iris in bud

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth