In My Garden – January 2020

In My Garden – January 2020

The rain has finally stopped for long enough for me to take some photos. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the rain and am very grateful on many levels. I’ve pruned most of my perennials back and even more have died back, the garden looks a bit bleak. I remind myself that it could be worse, we don’t get snow and a frost is rare. Our yard is only about a half mile from the Pacific Ocean and the weather is more similar to the Pacific Northwest than it is to the rest of California. In addition we don’t get the summer heat because of the fog. When the interior of the state warms up, it pulls the fog into the coast. But like the rest of California, our summers are dry and the winters wet.

Although the garden looks bare and dreary, there are signs of spring. Bulbs are emerging and there are some small native annuals coming up. Those are self sown from last year’s plants. They eventually find the place in the garden where they are happy and come back each spring.


The winter blooming hellebores are starting to bloom.


The vegetable garden contains mostly kale which loves the cooler kale

It’s a struggle to keep the slugs and birds from devouring the peas (both snap and sweet flowering).

The Cupheas are still going strong, they seem to bloom non-stop whatever the season. So the hummingbirds have a year round source of nectar. These are grown as annuals in the colder parts of the country but they are perennials in our milder climate.

As well some of the salvias are still blooming, more nectar sources.

Here’s a quick peak at the whole garden…

Looks a bit sad right now. But spring will be here soon, meanwhile we love the rain. Happy gardening everyone, it’s time to explore the new 2020 seed catalogs.

In My Garden – December 2019

In My Garden – December 2019

The rain is here at last, long awaited and very welcome. In fact it has been difficult to find a nice day to take some pictures. I’m happy to take a break from the necessity of watering. This will be a brief post as there hasn’t been much going on and plant growth has slowed or stopped altogether. We don’t get a lot of frosty days and snow is almost unknown so plants just go dormant.

The work this month has been to prune back the roses and other perennials, and seed sweet peas for next spring. Now is the time to put seeds in the ground so they can develop strong root systems by May and June.

Last month I also seeded snap/snow peas, two varieties. One is a wavy purple podded strain and the other green, they should be beautiful intertwined on the trellis. They just started coming up in the last week. I ordered the seeds from ROW, they are a trial experimental snow pea mix.

Snap Peas

Snap Peas

Baby kale and purple mizuma are a couple of inches tall.

baby kale and purple mizuma December 2019

Baby Kale and Purple Mizuma December 2019

The winter greens will grow slowly in the cooler temperatures but I should have greens for salads and stir fries by next month.

Fort Bragg Vegetable Garden December 2019

Fort Bragg raised bed garden December 2019

There are only a few flowers still blooming, with the exception of the cupheas.

You can see why they call this variety candy corn. The hummingbirds like it; which is good since the rain has knocked off the flowers of most of their favorite plants.

Here’s a quick look around the other flower beds.

Newly planted perennials

Another bed with another cuphea, this time pink and lavender

More established bed #2

The potted lemon tree continues to product, although the lemons are smaller than normal. I pruned it back and trimmed some of the lemons off the tree in hopes they would grow in size. Maybe I see a little difference but not much.

Potted Meyer Lemon

The big surprise is the strawberry plant growing in the pot. I know no idea where it came from, most likely the birds.

Strawberries in the lemon tree container

So far there are no strawberries but the plant is very healthy. Our cat likes to nibble on the leaves.

And that’s all right now. Have a wonderful holiday everyone.

2019 Christmas Tree

2019 Christmas Tree


In the Garden – November 2019

We are still waiting for the winter rains to start, i don’t remember them ever being so late. In truth, I am tired of watering and look forward to reading seed catalogs in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea. But instead, I am digging a new garden bed and putting in plants. I was inspired by my friend Wendy in Berkeley because I helped her design and plant a new garden. And my husband was even in favor of the plan, which surprised me. He’s the one that has to do the watering if I am away. The empty spots will be filled with dahlias that I have ordered and will arrive sometime in March.

New Garden BEd

New Garden Bed

The plants include large number of salvias plus some other plants that I know do well here. We still have to work on the path. I’ve positioned it where the dogs run, so hopefully they will stay off the plants.

Dogs and garden

Mom, do we really have to stay off the garden?

The vegetable garden has slowed considerably but I have baby chard, lettuce, carrots, radishes and kale. I planted snap peas a couple of weeks ago and I see the first small sprouts. I hope to plant my sweet pea flowers by early next week, I’ve ordered a trellis and am waiting for it to arrive. I do love sweet peas and now is the time to seed them, they need the winter rains to develop strong roots. I look forward to flowers in May and June.

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

Raised Bed Vegetable Garden

The artichoke plants are looking very healthy and bushy. Hopefully I will get some artichokes come spring.

Artichoke Plants


My time this month as been spent weeding, mulching, and cutting almost everything except the salvias back. The salvias are still blooming and are am important source of nectar for the hummingbirds.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my garden. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

In My Garden – September 2019

In My Garden – September 2019

There are definitely changes in the garden, the flowers are starting to set their seeds as they finish blooming. I’m noticing less of our native bumblebees (the furry kind) and more European honey bees. I’m not sure of the reason for the shift but it is rather dramatic.

Cuphea, the bees were swarming over this bushy perennial. It’s a favorite of the hummingbirds as well.

That’s the Cuphea in the back, Nicotiana (an unusual pink one) in front. The European bees were swarming over the Cuphea a few days ago. They haven’t been the predominant bee until now.

The vegetable garden is still producing lettuce, green beans and zucchini. My artichoke plants, which I thought had died, are sending up new shoots. I’ll be pulling out the beans and zucchini this coming weekend as we will be away for the next 2 weeks. Our house/dog sitter is not a cook, it will be enough for her to keep up with the watering (and the dogs) while we are gone.

Vegetable Harvest

We mowed down the pollinator garden last week. I am interested in what comes back with the winter rains. It was a bit too thickly seeded last year, next year everything will find their place. Also the birds have been very interested in the seeds, thinning the plants naturally.

I cut back the tall bearded iris bed, the Spanish lavender planted there is till blooming along the side of the driveway..

Iris Bed along the driveway

The Geum Totally Tangerine has been a non-stop bloomer.

Geum Totally Tangerine

And I am totally in love with this Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower, Fama Blue. The flowers are on sturdy long stems (some are 3 feet), they last a long time in a vase and are the most beautiful blue/purple. The bees love them and it’s a great color with orange or peach.

Scabiosa, Pincushion Flower, Fama Blue

My dahlias are almost finished although I am still getting some blooms. This spring I think I will separate them a bit as they are planted too close together leading to some powdery mildew. My husband has been encouraging me to add another bed and I have already ordered some additional dahlia tubers. But I think I like them mixed in with other flowers rather than in a bed of their own.


This dahlia came from my Oakland garden where it did not like the heavy clay. I am not even certain it ever bloomed. Isn’t it beautiful? And the bee seems to agree. When we moved up here I dug up as many plants as I could manage and replanted them in the Fort Bragg garden. Much of my garden there was in my neighbors side yard and I knew he would not grant the new owners the same gardening rights (in fact he completely mowed all the remaining plants down and replanted with completely inappropriate plants). Sad.

I wish you all happy gardening as the seasons change. There is something very satisfying in putting a garden to bed, cutting things back and preparing for the new season. When we get back from Scotland that will be my goal.

For those of you on the Southern Hemisphere, your gardening season is just beginning. I look forward to reading about your gardens.

In My Garden – August 2019

In My Garden – August 2019

Can you believe it is August and fall is just around the corner? I certainly cannot. It has been beautiful here with highs mostly in the 60’s and an occasional foray into the low 70’s. We live in the banana belt of the Mendocino coast, it’s both slightly warmer and sunnier because of the shape of the coast. The city of Fort Bragg is only a couple of miles south of us, but it’s often foggy while we are clear.

Fog rolling in along the coast

So, what’s going on the garden? I’ve been concentrating on the edges of the borders and filling in some of the bare spots with low plants and succulents. My target goal is to not have any dirt showing, it’s a long range plan as many of the plants are still small.

I’m after a style called ‘intermingling’ with a high density of perennials. Annuals will self seed and find their spots in any bare areas. The following is from an English gardening blog I read, (Noel’s Garden):

Modern thinking on perennial planting density tends to favor around seven to nine plants per square meter, considerably more so than conventionally. Plantings quickly look full and potentially a good canopy can develop, but only if the plant forms used mesh together – which single cultivar blocks of upright growers often never do, which is a good reason for using an ‘intermingled’ approach to planting. Both German Mixed Planting systems and Piet Oudolf use plants at this density, with the former filling in quickly and the latter potentially so, depending on what is being used. Management, which conventionally has always been focussed on the integrity of individual plants tends to prevent meshing together. Spreading and seeding can fill, and perhaps should, fill the gaps.

Speaking of bare spots, nothing seems to grow in the very center of one of the back island beds. I couldn’t figure out why nothing was thriving until I discovered it’s the favorite spot for our elderly cat, Lucy, to doze and watch the birds. Thankfully she is too old and well fed to hunt them.

Last month I said I would list some of my favorite plant combinations, those that have done well in my zone 9b climate. The combinations all need similar water and light requirements. There is a delightful book, Plant Partners by Anna Pavord, that I was given a couple of decades ago when I was starting the Oakland garden. The pictures of the combinations are truly stunning and inspiring. However, the plants require different growing conditions…water, sun, soil, etc. In reality you can’t grow them together successfully. Additionally many of them were unsuitable for our dry summer climate. It was a big disappointment because, as a beginning gardener, I tried some of them with unfortunate results.

Anyway, here us a snapshot of my favorite combinations. They have been both beautiful and successful.

Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ with Geum coccineum ‘Totally Tangerine’, with Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margareta BOP’, with Scabiosa caucasica ‘Fama Blue’, with the yarrow Achillea millefolium ‘Salmon Beauty’. In spring and early summer there are also red annual poppies, orange California poppies and the native wild flower ‘Baby Blue Eyes’. The Deschampsia “Tufted Hair Grass” is there for textural interest.

August island beds – Geum and Yarrow


Geum Totally Tangerine

This Geum is one of the most successful plants in my garden, growing into clumps 18″ tall and wide with flower talks of tangerine orange blooms that wave in the breeze. The bees love the flowers and they last quite a long time when cut for the house. I have other Geums, both red and yellow varieties, and they are slowly growing into respectable plants. But this variety takes off from the get go.


Heuchera Marmalade

The contrast of the leaves is gorgeous, but an added delight is that the foliage mirrors the tangerine blooms of the Geum.

Another favorite (and a favorite of the hummingbirds as well) combination is the bright red Nicotiana alata ‘Crimson Bedder’, with Achillea millefolium ‘Paprika’, with Cuphea ‘Kristin’s Delight’ and Agastache ‘Purple Haze’. All of them are perennials and come back larger each year.  The Cupheas are sometimes called cigar plants and are native to Mexico. The blooms have a wide range of colors but all are beloved by hummingbirds. In our growing zone they seem to be in constant flower.

On some of the following pictures you will also see snapdragons, Agastache (hummingbird mint), Scabiosa (pincushion flower), and purple toadflax as well as some annual poppies and other native wildflowers.


I’ve repeated these combinations several times throughout the back island beds.

You may be interested in what is happening in the pollinator garden. Well, since I have decided to withhold supplemental summer water, it is drying up.

August Pollinator Garden

I was considering mowing the plants under or pulling them out. But, as I walked past the meadow, a large flock of sparrows and finches flew into the air. The birds are enjoying the seeds. So, I think I will leave the dead plants until later in the fall. The seeds that survive will sprout in the spring once the winter rains start. It will be interesting to see the changes from one year to another. It does look rather sad right now though.

I’ve always loved Kate Wolf’s song about California being brown in the summertime. It’s really true.

Coastal meadows

I think that’s all from the north coast of California. Happy gardening.