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!

In My Garden – September 2021

In My Garden – September 2021

It’s officially the fall season and I can feel the difference in the air. It’s crisper and mornings are cool, I smelled woodsmoke from fireplaces on the air the other day. Many folks still heat their homes with wood around here. And the first v’s of Canadian geese flew overhead this afternoon. And even better, it rained last Saturday! We got just over an inch. It was such joy hearing it on the roof. Fingers crossed that it’s a rainy winter, we sorely need the water.

The vegetable garden is prolific. I finally have tomatoes as well as zucchini, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, arugula, kale and chard. Even the broccoli and cauliflower are starting to head up.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

The pollinator garden is looking the worse for no summer water. Hopefully it will come back in the spring once we have a little rain.

Pollinator Garden In September

Pollinator Garden In September

I cut back the perennials this month, and will do a little reseeding in late October.

In the flower beds, I’ve done a little replanting in two spots where it looked bare, plants were not thriving. The baskets are to deter digging by my favorite puppy. The new soft, enhanced and enriched soil was too attractive to her. I came out the morning after I planted the bed to find deep holes and plants tossed everywhere. Luckily they hadn’t been damaged too much, I had found the disaster early enough to replant without too many fatalities.

 

Shanna's handiwork

Shanna’s handiwork in another part of the garden, she’s digging gopher tunnels. This time, thankfully, in our mostly dead front lawn. A victim of no summer watering.

The rest of the garden is ‘getting by’ but looking a bit sad. This is not the best time of year for gardens in California.

More and more I am becoming a fan of succulents which don’t require much water or even attention.

Shanna 5 months

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna at 5 months finds boxes endlessly entertaining as Quinn looks on

Shanna 5 months

Shanna – don’t let that angelic look fool you.

The dogs keep me company and entertained in the garden.

I will end with this picture of an amazing zucchini flower that looks like an alien.

zucchini flower

zucchini flower

Aren’t plants wonderful?!

Happy gardening everyone, I hope you are enjoying the change of seasons.

May 2021 – In My Garden

May 2021 – In My Garden

As I said last month, spring is where it’s at in Northern California. Everything is blooming after the winter rains, trying to attract pollinators and set their seeds before the dryness of summer puts an end to things. I do water a portion of the garden through the summer, but this year it will be much less. Our lawns turn brown and dry, being without any summer water. Being summer dormant they will return to green come late fall. Our experiment with barley seeds didn’t turn out very well, the usual long winter rainy season never really happened. The new sprouts dried before they really had a chance. It has been the second driest winter in a century. As if there wasn’t enough to worry about, now we add the possibility of a dry well and a bad fire season.

But, in the meantime, the garden is glorious. Pink and blue columbines are almost 3 feet tall, the red and orange geums are in full bloom, salvias are putting out red and blue stalks of flower that attract hummingbirds, and the buzz of native bumblebees fill the air. It was a dry but cold winter, the bumblebees have been late making their appearance.

Grab a cup of tea or coffee (or a cool glass of rose) and let us wander through the garden. Starting with the veggies, my friend Linda provided me with some healthy starts of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini.

Tomato, zucchini and cucumber starts

Tomato, zucchini and cucumber starts

I’ve planted the tomatoes in the raised beds under plastic to keep them warm.

Lettuce is still abundant, this soft head with a bronze blush is one of my favorites.

Lettuce

Lettuce

 

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

These apricot nasturtiums have found the way into one of the larger pots, and then they would their way into some botanical gin and tonics. Just the thing for celebrating the first BBQ of the season.

Botanical Gin and Tonic

Botanical Gin and Tonic

We are mulching the garden with a heavy layer of chips from trees we had taken out a couple of years ago. I’m hoping it will cut down of the water required in the flower garden.

The rhododendrons, lily of the valley bushes, and azaleas are blooming.

There are native wildflowers.

And the red salvias are still blooming like crazy, drawing lots of hummingbirds to the garden.

Back Flower bed

Back Flower bed

Columbines…these were originally seeded from my first packet of wildflowers.

And of course there are poppies.

 

Thanks for joining me today. I’d love to hear from you.

In My Garden – March 2021

In My Garden – March 2021

In My Garden I have hummingbirds. They are voracious at the feeder which hangs just outside the dining area window. From the kitchen I watch the nectar disappear seemingly overnight. In past years, the garden has been populated exclusively by Allen hummingbirds. They would disappear in early January, migrating further south, to appear again in late March. Sometime last summer the Annas arrived, they are year-round residents here on the coast. All summer and fall there were fierce battles between the two species both at the feeder and near their favorite flowers. I’d hear an orchestra of their calls whenever I worked in the garden, and my head was often buzzed. Things are currently much quieter right now. I expect their explosive fighting to resume soon as the more aggressive Allens return to fight for their territory and claim supremacy at the bottle brush shrub they all seem to love.

In my garden I see the very first signs of spring. It’s not only the shy green shoots emerging from the base of what looks like a dead stick, but also something about the light that’s different. It’s the clarity and piercing quality of the sunlight, like the shock you get when emerging from a long grey tunnel. You may not have even realized you were in the dark until the brightness hits your eyes. The plants must feel like that as well, a sudden awakening after a long sleep, emerging into new light. Part of the joy of the early spring garden is the search for those signs of new life, so different from the sometimes exhausting exuberance of summer.

The main flower beds still look a little bare except for one of the winter flowering salvias with its bright red blooms. This one is Salvia gesneriflora ‘Mole Poblano’. 

The hummingbirds have already discovered it.

Back flower beds

Back flower beds as seen from the patio off the master bedroom

In the vegetable garden I’ve planted lettuce from 6-pack starts. You’ll see chives, chard and spinach in this bed as well. I will start lettuce from seed in another few weeks.

lettuce

lettuce and chard

The lawn (if you can call it that since it is dominated by dandelions) is green up. Although the weather is still cool, the longer daylight hours are stimulating everything into sudden growth.

The daffodils are flowering, their sunny yellow faces welcome sights in the rain. And the freesias are just about to bloom.

Daffodils

Daffodils

Freesias

Freesias

Later this month I will be putting out a layer of compost over the new shoots to support their rapid growth. It’s still a little cold and our last frost free date isn’t until next month so I want to wait as long as possible.

In my garden, or rather on my feet, I have new gardening clogs reflecting the colors of a spring meadow. The clogs brighten my mornings as I wander through the garden in my bathrobe, a cup of tea in hand, to check for new growth and any overnight damage by marauding insects or slugs. I find these solitary early morning check-ins one of the great joys of having a garden.

Gardening clogs

Gardening clogs

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – February 2021

In My Garden – February 2021

Well, it is still February although admittedly near the end. My In My Garden – March 2021 post will not be too far behind. Spring is finally just starting to show its face around here. It has been an unusually cold winter for these parts, although not nearly as cold as those poor souls in the southeastern part of the U.S. Still, it has delayed the emergence of spring by a few weeks.

I spent the early part of February packing and moving into our second home in Oakland (see the March version of In My Kitchen, which is yet to be posted). So I didn’t spend much time in my Fort Bragg garden. In Oakland, which is over 3 hours south of here, spring has definitely sprung. The tulip magnolias are blooming and folks are walking around in the shirt sleeves. Not so here, we are still bundled up.

There are, however, some first signs of spring.

The pollinator garden has early daffodils.

Pollinator Garden - Feb. 2021

Pollinator Garden – Feb. 2021

Following is a picture of the front garden. Remember from an earlier post we decided to seed the front garden with barley seeds. The tip came from what they used on the dunes in San Francisco when they created Golden Gate Park. Our soil in the front is mostly sand and of very poor quality. Anyway, the barley has quite successfully seeded itself. We’ll have to see what happens later in the season.

Front Garden - Feb. 2021

Front Garden – Feb. 2021
Barley is emerging

In the vegetable garden the cabbages are heading up and the baby kale looks very healthy.

Cabbage heading up

Cabbage heading up

Baby kale

Baby kale

I was going to compare this year’s garden to the same time last year but, it seems I never got around to writing one in February of 2020. Who knew at that time that we were on the brink of a major pandemic.

Be well everyone, get your vaccine when it is available, practice masking and social distancing. Things are looking brighter but it is not over yet. We need to look after each other.