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