Friday, December 5, 2008

Amaryllis Bulbs, Christmas Cactuses and Pointsettias

My mother-in-law visited us for a few days over the Thanksgiving holiday. One of the gifts she brought with her was an amaryllis bulb kit. I had a red one I planted up a few years ago but left it behind when we moved. I always regretted leaving it behind but there was only so much room in the back of the car for my garden plants. As it turns out my mother-in-law bought a red one so I was pretty excited to get another red amaryllis bulb to plant up. The last amaryllis bloomed well the first few years then never quite got back to blooming, although it produced long leaves every year. I'm hoping to read up on these bulbs and have more success with this plant. My guess is there was a little too much light where it sat in the patio area. I'll try this one out in the house and see how it does with less direct light.

Another plant I've always wanted is a Christmas cactus. I understand that they are very long lived. I really like the bright colored flowers they produce and the arching cactus branches shaping the plant. I'll keep my eye out for one when we next hit the garden center. Another plant I've never had is a pointsettia. Up until now our cat was too active to have houseplants around, he destroyed the few plants I had when he was a little kitten and it got no better as he got older. Now that he's up in years he is more sedate and I just may have to get one for myself for the holidays, placed high up from the cat of course. My dad saved a red pointsettia plant from Christmas and grew it as a houseplant for many years. It was green from then on but huge! It was probably a good foot wide and fairly tall in a plastic planter in his house. The pointsettia was very impressive even as a green houseplant. My dad had a real green thumb and I think I inherited at least a little of the green from him. Its time to start looking for a Christmas cactus and pointsettia and see how I do with houseplant duty.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Hedge Trimming and Jasmine Vines Out Of Control

This time of year our hedge in the front yard is showing its end of summer growth spurts and sending up long branches from the squared off hedge. It looks pretty silly and uneven. There is so much trimming to be done in this yard and the hedge certainly needed attention.

Last weekend my husband brought out the hedge trimmer and trimmed it up, producing plenty of trimmed branches. At least its less than the first year, the hedge had not been trimmed prior to us moving in and there was twice as much cuttings produced off the hedges. It is looking much better now and the hedge will be ready for new growth come spring.

While my husband was trimming the hedge I spent some time trimming back the runners produced by our numerous pink jasmine vines. The vines are fast growing and need trimming multiple times a year. The previous owner really loved these vines. Pink jasmine seems to be a much more rampant grower than regular jasmine. The vine sends out runners that can be as long a a foot or more from various parts of the plant. If you have them growing up a tall trellis this works fine, as is the case with the jasmine vines growing up the trellis at the end of the hot tub area. The previous owner also planted the jasmine vines surrounding the shorter porch areas in the front and the back of the house. This means there isn't a tall enough space for the vine to grow up on.

I like how the vines look but because of our coastal weather they don't bloom much. What you are left with is green vine mostly with a few white and pink tinged flowers.

I'm considering taking out the vines on the shorter part of the deck. If you look out the kitchen window the vines are so large you can't really see much of the yard from there. I hate to do it because the jasmine vines are growing so well but the cons outweigh the pros in this situation. Between the kiwi vines, the passionflower vines, the roses and the hedges the maintenance is pretty high for trimming. At this point we are leaning towards eliminating the deck jasmine vines.

I really don't like taking out a plant that is so happy where it is growing but visually and maintenance wise I think its time to find other plants to fill out the deck railing. Sweet peas would be pretty but azaleas would stay low and look great all year between evergreen leaves and flowering time. I'll need to think on this more before the final decision takes place.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

The Garden and the Rainy Season in Eureka

Its that time of year on the Eureka coast, its rainy season. Its not easy waiting for a clear day to garden when the rainy season starts. This is the time of year to look over bulb catalogs (I love bulbs!) and to work in my makeshift greenhouse. I have a passionflower vine rooted and ready to plant in the spring. Too bad I didn't get another one ready, I'd like to add a new plant to each of the trellis boxes that currently have the purple passionflower vines winding over the trellis in the front yard. Its really something to see the vines in full flower as you walk up to the house. The kiwi vine is absolutely full of kiwi fruit. I think we decided last year that December was the time closest to harvest the fruit. The fruit is still too hard to use but we plan on taking advantage of it during the holiday season. The heaths and heathers are looking good, a number of them are winter blooming or have beautiful winter colored foliage. Even when it rains it helps to look out the window and see my garden at rest.

If I can sneak out to the greenhouse to garden and venture out on clear weekend days during fall and winter I should be able to survive the rainy season. Good thing I love fall and winter and have the holiday festivities to keep me busy.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pruning the Curly Willow and Passionflower Vines

Pruning time is almost every month in my garden. I have so many established plants in place from the previous owner that I spend a lot of my time pruning. The only tree that doesn't need pruning is the drooping cherry tree, for which I'm grateful.

My husband had planned to trim back the curly willow tree in the front yard. I pruned it back last fall after all the leaves had fallen off and it went nuts this year with growth. We both trimmed the curly willow, me with my hand pruner and my husband using the tall pole pruner to reach the top of the willow. The willow certainly put on a great display this year, growing taller and widening a good foot or more and a good foot taller too. It was full of leaves and corkscrew shaped branches this year, much better than last year. I don't think the willow had been pruned for a long time before I pruned it last year so we're waiting for the leaves to fall off to give it a second pruning to shape it. There are so many leaves this year you couldn't see where the branches started because of all the leaves.

The passionflower vines on the fence have been showing about seven to nine flowers a week since I began using the soaker hose at the base of the vines. It had grown so vigorously that it had a good foot or more to cut off to cut it back and at least one or two feet of growth on the back of the fence to cut back.

My husband brought out the hedge trimmer and trimmed up the vines very quickly. Now I know they are very hardy because the first winter it looked like the frost had totally killed back the vines but they came back perfectly for summer. My husband gave the vines a very close trim. A week later I came out to water the front yard and the vines though looking sparse were filled with twice as many flowers. Lesson learned, prune back the passionflower vines hard for fall and spring and keep them trimmed back for the best flowering.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

The Annual Heath and Heather Sale

We went to the heath & heather farm for their annual sale last Sunday. One-gallon heaths and heather plants for $3.50, which is dirt-cheap for that size heath/heather. Usually they cost $4.50 to $7.00 for a four inch pot.

The woman who runs the farm always has sessions about plant care; I got to listen in on one of those sessions this year. I verified some of what I already knew: heaths/heathers need at least four to six hours of full sun a day; they don't like their roots sitting in water; you can trim them once or twice a year (spring and fall) to shape them but usually at least once after they flower; you must trim the old flowers off in order to keep the shape full otherwise they look sparse in the middle of the plant and don't thrive as well; sounds like you can trim them back even more than the flowers to shape them; if they are growing poorly you can trim back quite a bit, they will take some time to come back but will fill in and look better afterwards; they like acid soil, using rhodie fertilizer works fine for them but no more than once a year if at all; they survive in all kinds of severe climates; heaths and heathers tend to grow bigger than their stated size in our Humboldt coastal weather.

The nursery owner puts out a spread of snacks, hot coffee and tea for buyers every year at the annual sale. The sale is set in their backyard pasture which has a beautiful view of the hills and a really old twisted apple tree in the center of the yard. The tree was full of apples this year along with a bunch of tiny chickadees chirping and hopping through the branches. You could happily have a picnic in this pasture it is so beautiful and serene a setting. We bought six plants to set out in the front yard, there may even be one headed for the back yard flower bed.

Heaths and heathers are wonderful fall/winter plants, many bloom during this time or have beautiful colored foliage in the coldest of weather. I wanted even more color for my front yard for the fall and winter months and these plants are perfect for added seasonal color. This time I bought mostly erica/heaths with the big flower bells along with a few heathers. One of the plants is supposed to grow really big. I'm looking forward to seeing how it does with our full sun front yard. There were no tiny plants like they had last year at $2.00 a pop. I will be spending some quality time this weekend planting up the gallon heaths and heathers in my yard.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Planting Spring Bulbs

Last weekend I spent some time planting spring bulbs. We visited the other nursery in town so I could see what kind of bulbs they had in for fall for spring bloom. I found the tulip "Apricot Beauty" which is a tulip I have always wanted to try and also some Ipheion starflower bulbs. I had starflower bulbs in a container in Petaluma and they multiplied quite a bit, really lovely little star shaped pale blue flowers for spring. I had a pack of dark purple Dutch Iris to plant that I bought from our local grocery store, they have a small area of plants available there. I've grown both Dutch Iris and Bearded Iris. Dutch Iris are smaller and easy to manage, no digging up and dividing like Bearded Iris. I have to say Iris are one of my favorite bulbs and I plan to have many of them throughout the front and back yard.

I planted the Apricot Beauty tulips in the front yard on either side of the walkway leading up to the front porch. The starflower bulbs were planted in the barrel in the backyard. I am hoping they multiply in the barrel so I can then transplant them throughout the front and back yards. I planted some of the purple Iris near the rhododendron on the right side of the gate and a few more under the window near the porch. I planted some of the same Iris a few weeks before on the other side of the window in front of the Foxglove, should be a pretty combination in spring with the tall spires of pink Foxglove and stately looking purple Iris.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Moveable Garden Ferns

I love ferns of every kind, the more the better. This past weekend I spent some time moving a fern from a flower bed to the the base of one of the holly trees. I had two ferns I brought with us when we moved from Petaluma over a year and a half ago. The bigger of the two plants were planted under one of the holly trees early on and it is getting good sized now, about three feet tall and two feet wide. The second fern plant was smaller. I had the fern in a pot for a number of months when we first moved here, then added it to the flower bed we created behind the deck. Once the calla lilies died back this year I saw a spot to include the other fern under the base of the other holly tree. I'd like there to be some cohesiveness with planting there and will be adding plants so the same are on each side for each holly tree. Now I need to propagate another thymifolia fuchsia (if I can do it) from the original plant for the other holly tree area. The thymifolia fuchsia took forever to root and start growing, it is finally getting big and looks great.

Originally when we moved in there was nothing but calla lilies and a few tall ferns on one side of the holly trees. I'm working on propagating two more of those type of ferns (the ferns original to our Eureka garden) to even out the planting under the other holly tree.

My original fern in my Petaluma garden was grown from a half dead fern I got on sale in a 4 inch pot. The fern was at least four feet tall and four feet wide when we moved. I hated to leave it behind but brought two smaller pieces I managed to grab from the plant. I found looking underneath the fern there were fern offshoots here and there. Pulling on them carefully brought up roots and if I was really lucky some sort of rhiazome attached. I was able to pot these up and grow new plants. I had no idea how to propagate a fern but it certainly worked in this situation.

The newly planted fern looks great in its new home. Its still small so I hope it adapts into its new space and grows large to help fill in the spots where the calla lilies die off in the summer.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Summer and Winter Heathers In the Garden

I have been a big fan of heathers and heaths for a number of years. Heathers are easy maintenance once they are established and always look wonderful as long as you give them a trim after they bloom. They provide great colors all year long, from greens to reds to golds in branches and beautiful blooms in a variety of colors. Heaths and heathers are especially wonderful when used in winter. They are a great way to add color and interest during the winter months and you have a huge variety to choose from.

In Petaluma I grew a few heathers in our backyard in raised beds. One grew to at least two or more feet wide. Another was happy in a partially shaded area, it was a winter blooming heather. Heaths and heathers like acid soil but they also do fine in regular soil from my experience. Even though they are boggy type plants as you may have seen in pictures from Scotland, they love the sun and require a good six hours of full sun to grow the best they can be.

When we moved to Eureka I brought the one heather I had left in a pot and brought it to plant at the new house. After a year and a half it has grown nicely to a much bigger size now that it is in the ground out in the front yard. Currently its sporting some pink blooms and is about eight to ten inches wide and a good five or six inches tall. Early on when we moved here I bought two spring heathers at the local nursery. A year and a half later they are getting quite big in the back yard flowerbed and leaves are coloring in deep green and deep reds. One of them, Spring Torch, is especially pretty in the spring with its cream and red colored buds displayed on the tips of the green branches.

Last October we went to a heath and heather farm located in Bayside near Eureka. Wow, that was an amazing trip! Every size and shape of heath and heathers you could think of set up in a green pasture behind the ranch with a gorgeous view of the hills nearby. Hot drinks and snack food were available under an old twisted apple tree, with a few tables and chairs so you could sit and relax enjoying the view. It really was a seasonal fall experience. The heather sale was great and for two or three dollars each I was able to buy a dozen different heathers for the front yard. Considering the price of heathers generally runs five to seven dollars for a four inch pot it was a great deal. The heathers are doing well so far and growing slowly. It seems to take a good year for them to start growing bigger, at least that has been my experience. You want to keep them well watered in good draining soil for the first year then they are drought tolerant. I give them a weekly watering even after the first year.

I have a mix of summer and winter heathers in the front yard. The summer heathers are a gold and green branch colors while there is a mix of pinks and purples for the winter heathers that are just starting to bud.

I can't wait for the next heath and heather sale in October. I'll find room to fit in more of my favorite plants somewhere in the yard.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Fuchsia with Two Shades of Pink

When we moved into our new home in Eureka there was one fuchsia in the back yard planted by the previous homeowner. I brought two of my own, a white one in a hanging basket and the other a two toned red fuchsia in a pot.

The original fuchsia plant from the Eureka garden is a gorgeous flower in two shades: a deep rose color with lighter rose colored petals at the top that curl upward. It is pretty spectacular as it grows up and out with large flowers hanging like long jewels from the arching branches.

I have spent time rooting new cuttings of the rose colored fuchsia in water and have successfully planted three more plants in the back yard. I have a number of new cuttings in water to root. I am hoping to plant this particular fuchsia in the back yard, primarily surrounding the flowerbeds below the holly trees. The area under the holly trees is usually taken up by the calla lilies on both sides. Once the calla lilies die down in summer there are a few ferns but not much else growing in the deep shade under the trees. I planted another fern on one side of the trees (there were ferns on one side but not the other) as well as a thymifolia fuchsia with its tiny deep pink flowers and a variety of pink foxgloves. My plan is to plant the rose colored fuchsias in the front of the border along the lines of the flowerbed. I already have a few in place on either side of the flowerbeds that are in bloom now and am hoping the rest of the cuttings root soon so I can get them in place before summer ends.

I have already planted one of the rose colored fuchsias in the front yard and it is blooming well this summer. I can't wait until it grows large sized like the original plant in the back yard which is about two feet wide and three feet tall, it will be a stunning display. I plan to add more of the rose colored fuchsia plants to the front yard as well. I'll know I'll be spending a lot of time pinching back fuchsia tips in the coming years.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Penstemon for The Sunny Front Yard

This past weekend I went to the local nursery and found some penstemon plants. I had been wanting to add one or two plants to the front yard since it was so sunny out there. I had a lovely purple penstemon growing in the back yard in Petaluma, it was huge and produced a lot of tubular flowers.

I found the native variety of penstemon in a gallon container. It flowers a bright sky blue, turning into purple as it fades. The flower size for this native plant are medium sized tubular flowers. Really beautiful muli-colored blooms ranging from blue to mauve to purple. I planted it behind the drooping cherry tree in full sun, in front of the foxgloves sheltered in the left corner of the front yard. I also have a Johnson's blue geranium and two kinds of fuchsias on either side of the geranium, they are planted in front of the new penstemon plant. The blue penstemon grows two feet wide and three or more feet tall. It should be striking along with the blue geranium and pink and red fuchsia flowers. I can't wait until all these newer plants grow to their actual size.

The other penstemon I found was a four inch pot with garnet red tubular flowers. I placed this plant across from the rhododendron on the right side of the front yard in full sun. This penstemon grows up to two feet tall and a foot wide so it is smaller than the native variety. Should look great against the fence with the deep pink colored rhodie flowers.

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kiwi Vines and Butterfly Bushes Growing!

I mentioned I was a little concerned about cutting the butterfly bushes back to three feet this last spring? No need for worry, they are just as tall with more blooms and wider than before. Really providing a good show this year, cutting back hard is the way to go with butterfly bushes. Next spring we'll take them down another foot or two. Even with the current cut back they grew at least eight to ten feet tall or more. The smell of the flowers is very much like wine, who knew?

The kiwi vines are in full growth spurt. I had to cut off some of the wandering branches last Saturday. If you look at the two plant vines intertwining and sending off branches skyward its kind of like seeing an octopus, the branches are like thick arms that go everywhere and oftentimes where you don't want them to be (such as hanging over the neighbor's fence). It is hard to keep them in line even in the enormous metal sculpture created for them in the back yard. I still haven't found any good information about pruning kiwi vines online but I'll keep looking. The flowers of the kiwi vines are fading away and in their place are small buds of fruit. Like last year the harvest of kiwi fruit will probably be ready in November or December.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Nasturtiums In The Yard And Barrel

Nasturtiums are one of my favorite plants, so easy to grow and they just keep blooming. They look lovely adjacent to the Victorian and seem right at home. Here on the north coast its a little cool for nasturtiums. They need plenty of sun here to get big leaves and flowers. Too much fertilizer gains you big leaves and not much flower wise. There were some nasturtiums already established in the front yard when we moved here, mostly in yellow with a few orange flowers both with a fringed style petal, very pretty. I harvested seed from the front yard to spread it in a few specific places in the front and to seed a big barrel I have sitting in the backyard. Transplanting nasturtiums doesn't work too well and its very easy to grow them from seed so this is how I always grow them.

The nasturtium flowers are doing much better in the front yard, probably due to the full sun and minimal watering the plants get. The barrel has smaller flowers and leaves. I originally planted the seeds in a bag of potting soil which may be a little too rich for nasturtiums taste. There isn't quite as much sun on the barrel area as well so they are blooming but timidly at best. Nasturtiums really prefer lousy soil and drier conditions from my experience growing them.

I'm seeing the new seedlings come up from the seed I planted only a week or two ago. I'm looking forward to the old fashioned feel, added color and ground cover they will supply in the front yard.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Learning About Passionflower Vines

The passionflower vines on the front yard trellis are really blooming well this year. Plenty of water and a bag of new dirt divided between the two planters seemed to do the trick. I finally found some real information on passionflower vines online and apparently they really like a lot of water. I’m guessing that is why the passionflower on the fence isn’t flowering much as I have never watered it much other than letting the lawn sprinkers water them. The automated watering system waters the passionflower vines on the trellis and I water them once a week as well. So I’m ready to start watering the vines on the fence and see what happens. I did find out you don’t want the vines to be too happy or there will be an abundance of fruit along with the flowers. Only have seen one fruit yet on a vine on the fence and we already have too many kiwis from the kiwi vines so hopefully water but no fertilizer will do the trick.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Pink Jasmine Vines and Dianthus

This last weekend was spent pruning back the vigorous pink jasmine vines that are throughout our back yard. I have to prune them back at least two or three times during spring and summer. As pretty as they are with deep green vines and pink and white flowers its really a job keeping them in line. They work well on the back deck vining up from the bottom to the top of the decking but grow a good two to three feet above the top of the deck railing, so much so that you have to trim off the top growth to keep it under control. Since they are well established in so many places I appreciate them but they keep me a little too busy in the growing months.

I have a good number of pink and fuchsia colored dianthus throughout the back yard flower border that sits against the frame of the wooden greenhouse. The dianthus were first planted when we moved in over a year and a half ago. This time they are flowering beautifully and have grown to a good size, filling much of the raised flower bed. The previous owner planted two of the same color fuchsias at one end of the border but did not balance it out on the other end. There are odd little things like this throughout the front and back yards. I took some cuttings of the fuchsia last summer and have grown a few new ones to add to the other end of the border. I like having some symetrical look to the yard. Frankly I would not have chosen to plant fuchsias in the border but the original plants are so well established there is no way to dig them up and replant them. So, more fuchsias for now and if I get the urge I may even add one or two in the center of the border.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Clematis Vine Near the Front Porch

I replanted my clematis vine this last weekend. It had been in a pot for years since I bought it orignally when I lived in Petaluma. I had to cut it back to the roots before we moved so I could pack it into the car, just didn't have room otherwise and I sure wasn't going to leave it behind.

The vine has always flowered for spring and it is the class of clematis that does not require pruning. It produces huge pale violet flowers in spring that are really gorgeous. The quality of the flowers have been less impressive over the last year or so. This spring the vine had grown back but there were only a few flowers produced. I felt it needed more sun than what it was receiving in the backyard since the vine was leaning towards the sunnier area. I always thought clematis vines needed shade but the nursery owner I bought the vine from said they like their roots cool and the rest of the plant in the sunshine.

I found the perfect spot for it in front of the foxgloves in the corner of the front porch. The vine was planted against the side of the house so you can still see the foxgloves. It wasn't easy planting as it was fairly root bound and we needed to cut away the old plastic pot it had been living in. The leaves on the vine are looking better already, looking much healthier overall. I took the three flat rocks that protected the roots in the pot and placed them around the roots in the ground to help keep the roots cool while the vine enjoys the sunshine. I can't wait to see how the clematis vine flowers next year!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Butterfly Bushes and Roses in Spring

Our butterfly bushes are growing fast now in late spring. Not that there's a lot of heat or sunshine here at the north coast. On the contrary, last week it rained (in June) and it has been fairly cloudy most days since then. But the butterfly bushes continue to grow back and upward getting pretty tall even after the massive pruning from winter. There are flower buds at the top of the newly formed stems growing past the top of the back yard fence. I'm glad to see they are recovering and recovering so well. Now I can feel confident when pruning them when needed.

The pink rose bushes in the front yard are trained to grow up against the fence. Their pruning yielded masses of pale medium sized roses! So many roses that one part of the corner rose bush bent forward with its load of roses. I tied it up as best I could but I can see we need to secure the rose with stronger plastic ties to hold it up. Seems the recent rain made it top heavy and over it went. Luckily the stems are thick and strong so nothing broke in the process.

I'll have to consider cutting this particular rose bush back even further this coming January to keep it from bending forward from the abundant roses. Its not such a bad problem having too many roses though, I'll get used to it.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Cosmos and Geraniums

This last weekend I managed to find a six pack of pink cosmos. I'd been looking for them and had not found any in the nurseries other than a 4 inch pot. I was trying to be thrifty and hoping for a six pack to appear, which finally happened.

Last year I planted a six pack of pink cosmos in my back yard flowerbed. I hadn't had much success with them in Petaluma due to the adobe dirt, just didn't do well overall even with all that sunshine in summer. When I planted them last spring here in Eureka they went nuts and became so huge I had to stake them. Whenever I've seen cosmos planted in Petaluma they were tall and spindely looking. Not so these cosmos, they were huge bush sized plants with thick stems, covered in pink flowers.

I planted two cosmos behind the Johnson's Blue Geranium in the front yard corner near the front porch. This spot does not get full sun all day so hopefully they will do well there in partial shade. They should fill in the space behind the blue geranium well as it has been bare since we took out the pink jasmine vine that was in the disintegrating planter box. I planted another cosmos below the front window between two lavenders that are just starting to bloom. Should be a pretty combination and in this position the cosmos should get full sun. I planted another cosmos near the fuchsia colored rhododendron, which is also in full sun. Lastly I planted the other two cosmos in the center of the flower bed in the back yard, which gets full sun most of the day.

We'll see if the cosmos behave the same way and grow to the three feet tall/three feet wide size from last year. I'm hoping so and looking forward to the large pink daisy shaped flowers they produce.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

New Rhododendron Blooming

My new rhododendron I planted in the front yard was supposed to be a purple rhodie. Nope, it turns out to be a deep burgundy/fuchsia color. I guess if I had to choose a second color it would have been that one anyway. Early in May we had a "heat wave" for three days, in Eureka that means anywhere from 75 to 80 degrees. My rhododendron was newly planted, during the heat I didn't get out there quickly enough to water and the heat wilted the flowers on the new plant. I was bummed because the rhododendron was full of flowers and they were really beautiful. I reluctantly picked off the wilted flowers and carefully watered the plant. I've been keeping a closer eye on it lately and low and behold it is blooming again! Not in full bloom yet but it is working on it with about a third of the plant in bloom again. For a gallon sized container plant that is pretty good for a new plant. The small rhododendron we bought at the rhododendron festival plant sale this year lost its purple blooms shortly after I transplanted it into its new container. It is doing well I have to say even with the short lived blooms, which were a beautiful purple. There is a good inch worth of new growth on the plant after I deadheaded the spent blooms. I'm hoping to add another rhododendron or two to our front yard in the coming year.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Elusive Johnson's Blue Geranium and Purple Verbena

We went to the local garden nursery this last weekend in my last official search for Johnson's Blue geraniums. I'd decided if I didn't find the plant this time I wouldn't go back for a while as its been disappointing over the last two months with none in stock.

I looked over the geranium plants in the front of the nursery then went to the specialty plant area. They had two tiered wooden racks along with a rack of heather plants on sale which was a good one, but since we bought so many at the heather farm nearby I thought I'd wait until the heather farm's sale in October. I started looking at the top shelf of plants and the other shelf behind me. I happened to look back at the first rack and noticed plants on the bottom shelf and there they were...they actually had Johnson's Blue geraniums! Finally...success! My husband suggested I grab two plants which I did quickly. The next time we go to the nursery if there are any left (which I doubt there will be) I will grab another geranium! Why these specialty plants were hidden on the lower shelf area I have no idea. I know many other people were asking about these plants because the main nursery guy went on about it when I asked him saying he was going to order a huge amount because so many people were asking about it. Well, there were about eight plants left (if that) so I don't think this happened unless they sold out with the new plants in one day's time. I also decided to buy a six pack of verbena in a dark reddish purple color to try out. I've planted verbena once before in Petaluma but they did not do well. We'll see how it goes this time. No Penstemons in yet however, I'm hoping they come in soon for summer planting for my sunny front yard.

I planted my two Johnson's Blue geranium in the front yard, one in the corner next to the pink jasmine plant to fill in the empty space near the porch area. The other was planted with my fuchsias in the backdrop bed of the weeping cherry tree on the other side of the porch. I know I could find a number of other places to plant the Johnson's Blue geraniums in the front yard. We'll see if there are any left on the next nursery visit. I planned on planting the verbena with my pink carnations in the large terracotta pots on the deck but the carnation roots were so solid in the pot I decided this would not work. Too bad, I think the colors would have married well together. I planted three of the six plants in a smaller terracotta pot on top of a tall wooden log on the back yard deck near the hot tub. My small pink orchid is in a blue pot next to the terracotta pot on the wooden log. The colors should go well together, a nice companion pot for the orchid. The other verbena ended up planted under the azaleas and near the primroses next to the large fern and calla lilies located behind the back yard gate. The transplanted violets are growing well in this section as well. I will have to dig up more violets to add in to other shady areas of the yard.

I feel pleased to have finally found the elusive Johnson's Blue geranium at the nursery and planted them in our sunny front yard. The blue flower color is very striking, I can't wait to see the plant grow to its full size and covered in violet blue flowers!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Penstemon for The Porch Railing

I'm starting to look for a substitute for the Johnson's Blue Geranium that didn't show up in the gardening center this year. I'm thinking of using penstemon for the corner near the porch railing. We took out a big box with pink jasmine in it. There is already pink jasmine established on that side of the front porch. The previous homeowner loved this pink jasmine plant, it is all over the front and back yard. This planter box was so old it was falling apart and in fact when we went to try and movie it the bottom of the planter had rotted through and the plant had grown through the bottom of the planter.

I love jasmine normally but this pink jasmine vine throws out a ton of runners. I have to prune the plant back a number of times during the year because it is so fast growing. Pink jasmine doesn't seem to bloom as much as the basic jasmine plant unfortunately. Its very pretty but a lot of work to maintain.

We pulled the wooden box out of place and the little bit of plant left in the box. Kind of a mess of course but it opened up the space there, which is where I wanted to plant the Johnson's Blue Geranium. I'm thinking a purple or blue penstemon would work well there. I have to see if there is enough sun in that corner, not sure if it will be enough for the plant. I'm hoping to get to the garden center this weekend to see if they have penstemons in for summer.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kiwi Vines and Butterfly Bushes in Spring

I trimmed back the kiwi vines in January, not easy to do as I'm pretty short even with the help of a long pruning stick. I have no idea how to prune kiwi vines and have found little in the way of information on them online or in my gardening books. I left a number of long arms of the vines intact and they look great so far. Whatever I did apparently caused no problem with the vines because they are full of flower buds and the leaves are growing bigger by the week. The leaves are turning from dark green to lighter green with a yellow colored fringe around the leaves. The previous homeowner had a huge metal sculpture built specifically for the two kiwi vines. The light shines through the middle of the leaves that flap around in the coastal wind. Who would have thought tropical kiwi vines would do so well in coastal weather, much less produce so much kiwi fruit?

We cut back the butterfly bushes to about 3.5 or 4 feet, they obviously hadn't been cut back in years. My husband brought out the chain saw to cut them back, the trunks were so thick on the bushes. They grew to at least 10 or 12 feet tall last year and could have flowered more than they did. I'm hoping the cutting back process will help them flower more and make them bushier overall instead of quite so tall. We'll see what happens. I love them so either way I'm happy. They are growing pretty steadily so far after pruning. I think once the weather heats up a little more they will have a growth spurt. Can't wait to see the blooms of purple and red, should be happening in a few months since everything tends to bloom later than usual in the coastal weather.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Pink Climbing Roses

I have a number of pink climbing roses in our front yard. The previous home owner trained them up wooden trellises and they cover a good third of the fence next to the passionflower vine. The roses are small and delicate. Three of the four pink roses are a pale pink; the other is a slightly darker pink looking more like an old fashioned rose. The previous homeowner for some reason put a red rose bush in the center of these pale pink roses. The red rose bush is very short and put out one flower last year, the roses are bigger on this plant than the pink roses. I'm not sure what he was thinking in including this dark red rose between the pale pinks. I wouldn't have done it myself.

I have to admit I love roses but do not have the patience to learn how to prune them properly. We had a number of red rose bushes along with a pink and a salmon rose bush in the back yard in Petaluma. I'm guessing they were some sort of grandiflora roses. The roses had been there for years and the flowers were huge. I cut them back the best I could, rarely fertilized them and they did just fine. I am sure real rose enthusiasts would be horrified by my pruning but frankly I've got too many other things to do in the garden.

I do love the pink roses in the front, they have a sweet scent and look beautiful in full bloom in late spring into summer. I don't think they had been cut back for a few years. I pruned the roses back in January and they are blooming twice as much this year which is wonderful to see. Even the red rose has five blooms on it after its pruning. I'm not sure if the red rose is in the right location but I may just have to learn to live with the red blooms against the backdrop of the pale pink roses.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Cotoneaster and Kent Beauty Ornamental Oregano

We were driving around town checking on a hardware store to see if there was a garden center. There wasn't which was disappointing. The garden center we usually go to has very expensive pots, too expensive. I wanted to find another garden center we could shop at for pots and other items I can't always find at the main garden center.

As we were driving back from the hardware store my husband remembered another hardware store coming up and we pulled into the parking lot. There was a big garden center with a wonderful assortment of plants and reasonably priced pots. I'm so glad we checked it out, its so good to have another place to find items. I was looking for some specific ground covers in the new garden center, no luck there but I did find a cotoneaster ground cover that grows tweleve inches high and supposedly spreads six feet. We'll see, I'd be very happy if this is the case. Apparently the cotoneaster is in the same family as roses. I planted the coteneaster under the climbing pink rose out in the front yard yesterday. There are already white blossoms on the plant with deep green tiny lobed leaves. Should be very pretty under the roses and provide some thick ground covering. There just aren't many places to go when it comes to reasonably priced garden plants and equipment in our area so I was very thankful we found another quality garden center.

I keep waiting for our main garden center to get their order of Johnson's Blue geraniums in, I'm beginning to think they aren't getting any in this year. I really wanted to try it out in a few spots in our sunny front yard. In the meantime I found another Kent Beauty ornamental oregano. I planted one last year in the raised flower bed in the backyard but it did not survive. We have to tear this flowerbed apart, nothing is surviving other than the two heathers I planted when we first moved in. The flowerbed is created with big rocks that allow the grass from the lawn to seep into it. The grass is not real lawn grass so its a real problem in both the front and back yards.

I planted the new Kent Beauty oregano in a white pot with a multi-colored orange and pink shaded agastche on our sunny deck in the back yard. The agastche is just starting to grow upward with it warming a bit in our coastal May weather. I added some darker pink alyssum to cascade over the edge of the pot and fill it out. I am hoping this will be a pretty combination in the white pot. The Kent Beauty plant, an ornamental oregano, has layers of blue, purple and pink hops blooms along the stems of the plant. I had Kent Beauty in a hanging pot in Petaluma, it was very pretty but didn't thrive well. I'm hoping this plant will do better in its new pot on the back deck.

I did manage to find a six pack of wax begonias at our grocery store this week, bright red flowers with almost an apple green leaf. Yesterday I planted two small wax begonias in each of the three terra cotta pots in the black metal half moon shaped planter. I haven't used wax begonias before, only hanging begonias. I know wax begonias are often used in formal settings due to their neat, compact rounded shape. I hope they will fill the small terra cotta pots and provide some ongoing color on the back deck.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Rhododendron Colors and Begonias

The purple rhododendron we bought a month or so ago from the local nursery is already blooming, even at its gallon size. The color is not exactly purple, or a deeper purple as I'd hoped it would be. It is almost a burgundy color with purple tinges, more reddish purple in coloring. I have to say its pretty gorgeous and if I'd seen it in flower at the nursery I probably would have chosen it anyway.

So all in all I'm happy with the color but am certainly glad I got the lighter purple (a true purple) small rododendron from the rododendron festival a few weeks ago. It is sitting in a large pot on the deck and looks beautiful, I believe the biggest it will get is two feet wide and not much taller.

I have a half-moon shaped plant holder made of black coated metal that holds three small brown terra cotta pots. The pansies I had in them have given out and I think I'm going to go with the tidy look of wax begonias. Our local store has some small six packs of white or pink wax begonias. I actually prefer the larger hanging begonias but haven't found the budget available yet to invest in a pot full of them. Everything here in Eureka costs more, probably because we are so far away from other cities at the northern end of California. The wax begonias will take a neat rounded shape and brighten up the back deck. I think this will end up being a winning combination.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

An Oregon Garden Visit

This last week we went to visit my mother-in-law in Oregon. She has built up her garden in sunny Grants Pass over the past ten years. Since our last visit the garden had really grown. She gave me the names of a number of plants she was using in the garden. I have to say I need to verify exactly what plants she mentioned so forgive me if in my haste I mistake one plant for another when describing them.

My mother-in-law has a number of madrone trees growing on her large property. I found them to be very beautiful, tall with the warm red bark of the tree and large rhododendron like leaves. When the day comes that our holly trees die I hope we can plant the space with madrones. Of course I need to research to be sure they are able to tolerate the cool coastal climate.

My mother-in-law is making liberal use of conifers and heathers, which are growing beautifully in the raised step borders sitting below the base of the house. Heathers are one of my favorite plants; my heather plants are smaller in size and younger, so it was good to see the full sized versions at maturity. One of the conifers is called birds nest and that is just what it looks like: round shaped with conifer branches spiraling out in a neat circle. My mother-in-law pointed out vinca as a ground cover, growing well in the partial shade of the pines and madrones; she called another ground cover bugle, a plant I've seen but never identified; I'm guessing it is bugleweed. The colors of the ground cover went from deep to medium purple tinges to paler pinks, with short spires of the cover growing upward. I will have to research to make sure of the plant name. This plant would be perfect as a ground cover in the hotter area beneath the pink climbing roses in our front yard.

My mother-in-law showed me a plant that I had seen before but she didn't know the name of it, I think it is Japonica. Still more research needed on my part because I can't be absolutely sure until I look it up in my gardening books. The bell shaped cream colored flowers hung like heath blooms off the short bowed branches of the green plant.

My favorite ground cover plant she had in place was one she called St. John's Wort. I need to research this as well since I am not familiar with this plant but know it is medicinal and have heard of it. The St. John's Wort was growing in big bunches as a ground cover in the beds. I can see this plant would be ideal for the sunny area in our backyard below the butterfly bushes. I didn't get to see flowers on it yet as it wasn't time for it to bloom but my mother-in-law said they had a number of yellow flowers when blooming. I loved the varying colors of green and healthy bush shaped growth out and upward. I can't wait to find St. John's Wort in our local nursery and try planting it out this summer.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rhododendron Festival

In Eureka there is a yearly rhododendron festival with a number of activities including a parade and a rhododendron judging and sale at a local school. When you drive through town at the end of April you will see wild rhododendrons growing and flowering on the hills above the main road through town. We arrived at the school and found our way into the building. The rhododendron society sponsors the event and passes out ribbons to the best rhodies and photos of rhodies. There were so many beautiful specimens of rhodies there, it was hard to vote for the best of the rhodies and rhodie photos.

Our main interest was the rhododendron sale they have all weekend long. Having just paid $21 for a purple rhododendron for the front yard I was thrilled to see gallon containers of rhodies for $10. What a deal. The rhododendrons were grown in Oregon. We bought a beautiful deep red rhododendron for my mother-in-law since we were headed up to Oregon to visit soon. We thought it would be a great gift for her garden.

I selected a smaller variety violet blue rhododendron to plant in a pot on our deck. The rhododendron is already full of small delicate violet blue ruffled flowers. We are running out of room for bigger plants since the previous owner had quite a bit of larger plants in place before we bought the house. I figure I can always find a space for another rhododendron, they are so beautiful and thrive here in the coastal climate. Next year...another rhododendron in a pot, maybe even two!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

A New Shade Border for Flowers

We dug up an area at the back of the deck for a new shade flower border last weekend. The past owner really liked grassy areas. Unfortunately those grassy areas were not well maintained and roots are everywhere in the front and back yards. His idea of a border to surround plants was to use large stones which looks pretty but is not functional when it comes to keeping the grass out of the borders, its all too much fun to wrangle with it all. Our garden is full of spiders too. I don't use sprays on anything unless it is an organic method. Just don't like the idea of hurting any good bugs coming into the garden. I'm also careful about using snail bait because of the visiting cats coming through the yard. Too many snails of course but plenty of wildlife comes through our yard.

So we started pulling up sod for this border, a lot of digging, breaking up of grass roots and finding small stones in the dirt. Plenty of earthworms living there so its a healthy spot. Mostly in the shade although we get some sun back there on the north side of the house.

Between my husband and myself we spent a number of hours pulling up sod and digging back through the dirt. I planted three new pink foxgloves; transplanted a small starter fern from the front yard (too much sun for it) to the shady spot; planted a fuchsia I rooted from another plant; added another small fern frond I dug up from the side of the house, hoping it will grow; and a small blue hydrangea as the centerpiece of the flower bed.

I think this flowerbed will be very pretty once the plants start growing in. I love fuchsias, blue hydrangeas, foxgloves and ferns and am so glad to have more growing in my yard. I may add in some airy looking purple geranium plants I rooted from another plant in the yard and add them into the flowerbed. My guess is they will grow fine in the shade since they are so hardy. Will have to experiment to see if they are able to tolerate the shady flowerbed we created.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Finding Purple Violet Plants

This last weekend my husband and I were working out in the backyard. I decided to take a look at the fern the past homeowner planted on the narrow side of the house next to our conjoined fence with our neighbors. After deciding it really wouldn't be a great idea to dig out the huge fern there (not a great planting choice by the previous homeowner), I discovered a number of violet plants near the edge of the fence that I didn't know existed. I was able to dig out six plants total with more plants tucked away in the grassy shade. I have one well established purple violet in a rounded beige pot. The plant has tons of violets blooming right now. The violet plant in the plant stand is so pretty sitting up on the deck. Violets at our local nursery are far from cheap so I was more than excited in finding the new plants readily available in my yard!

I planted my newly found violet plants in the shady ground section surrounding the azaleas and fern near the back gate. It is the perfect spot for them. I'm hoping they like it there and spread into a ground cover in the areas they are planted in. The bronze colored violet leaves sparkle next to the bright green of the new fern fronds curling up and outward, joining the variety of deep pink cyclamen under the massive fern plant.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

In the Garden's Greenhouse

I'm lucky enough to have a greenhouse of sorts. It's really just a makeshift greenhouse the previous owner built that functions as a greenhouse. It has a locking door but no real floor instead a dirt floor. Someday we'll fix it up but for now it works just fine.

Currently I have a number of different cuttings I'm trying to root. I don't have a great system in place for this and sometimes I just plain fail at it. Never had much luck with seeds other than easy ones like nasturstiums. I have had luck with rooting fuchsias in water then potting them up over the years. I've got four or five in water and one in a pot ready to go. I already planted two other fuchsias in hanging baskets around the deck and hot tub area. I'm up to five fuchsia baskets with two or three color varieties along with some cascading blue lobelia in the baskets.

I took a few pieces of a soft leafy looking purple geranium that was already in the yard when we moved here and put them in pots. I'm guessing since they are geraniums they will take root fairly easily. I'm not a big fan of the old fashioned geraniums but I do like this one, scented geraniums, Johnson's Blue and ivy leafed geraniums.

I snipped a few small pieces of a new lithodora plant I just bought and put them in a pot. One is actually already rooting! Pretty cool. I'd like to try spreading this plant around with their decorative blue flowers as ground cover, hopefully I can produce a lot of plants over time this way.

I have two sprigs of soft wood cuttings from an upright rosemary plant I potted up as well. I did this before last fall and rooted three new plants which are already planted out in the garden for this year. Hoping for a few more to place around the yard. I love the smell and look of rosemary, great for cooking and I love the pale blue flowers this plant produces. If rosemary roots this easily I wonder if this would work for lavendar? I have some very tiny six pack sized lavendars that overwintered in the greenhouse and then were planted under the climbing pink roses out front this spring. I'm not sure how hardy they will be or if they will survive but I couldn't pass up a six pack of lavendar at such a great price.

Lastly the tomato seeds are growing slowy with a few yellow flowers peeking out at the top of the vines. I'm more of a flower gardener than vegetable gardener but I am trying to get a few vines going in the greenhouse. Its fairly cold throughout the year here near the coast and tomatoes have a hard time of it. I'll probably keep them warmed up in the greenhouse all year and see what happens.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

BBC's Gardener's World Magazine

I have had a subscription to BBC's Gardener's World magazine for a number of years now. It is the only gardening magazine I subscribe to. I had subscriptions to many other gardening magazines, found this one and decided this was it for me. The magazine is not cheap by any means but well worth it, I renew my subscription by fax. The photos are gorgeous, the articles detailed and they cover a variety of different areas of gardening. My new magazine has an article on clemetis. Yes you have to take into consideration the difference in climate between the U.S. and England for planting information but the quality of articles is very high. There is an interesting question and answer section and a good what to do this month in the garden section by the editor of the magazine. I'm trying to propagate some primroses from info I read in an article last month. I'll know I succeeded by the end of July if the primrose leaves sprout new primrose plants in my greenhouse.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Geraniums, Columbines, Delphiniums and a Hydrangea for the Garden

Our local nursery is having a big sale this week. We went there today looking for the Johnson's Blue geranium plants I've been asking about for at least a month. I just missed getting some last year, saw them and went back a few weeks later to find they were sold out. They are still not in. I'd like to get a few to fill in some sunny spots in the front yard. I've never had Johnson's Blue geranium in the garden before and am eager to try them. I especially love blue and purple flowers. I'm not the biggest geranium fan, I prefer the scented geraniums mostly although I had a few ivy leaf geraniums when I lived in Sonoma County and they grew beautifully. In the meantime I found some great buys, a six pack of columbines, delphiniums and foxgloves all on sale. The pink foxgloves that I bought from the farmers market last year are a good foot wide and starting to grow upward. I'm adding more in shady spots around the garden. I bought a columbine plant from the same farmers market but it was pulled out when we had landscapers cleaning up the front and backyard after moving in. So, another chance to plant them and hope they scatter plenty of seedlings around. I planted a blue delphinium last year but it did not come up again this year, could be it was late in its life cycle as it was beautiful for a short while then died back. I found a mix of blue, pink and purple delphiniums this time. I found a very small blue hydrangea for less than three dollars, really surprised as I'd never seen such a small version before, probably a four inch pot size. The salesperson at the nursery said it was the first time they offered hydrangeas in such a small size. I grabbed one as I love blue hydrangeas. I have a blue hydrangea growing in the backyard against the back fence in the shade, its growing well right now, very small but getting settled in. Guess I'll need to find another shady place to plant the other one. I'd love to have it in the front yard but its pretty sunny out there. I may try it tucked away in a corner of the house near the front window. I'll figure it out when I plant this coming weekend.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Calla Lilies, Pink Climbing Roses and Rhododendron

There are a number of well established calla lilies throughout my north coast garden. There are bunches of them located under the two holly trees in the backyard. Some of the lilies must be close to four feet high. The white flowers are very striking against the green spikes of the holly leaves and the green grass of the lawn. It might be nice to have a bunch of calla lilies out in the front yard. The front yard gets the most sun, it is much warmer there compared to the back, hence the climbing pink roses trained on the front yard fence. The roses are filling out well right now, I'm looking forward to the blooms in summer. We bought a rhododendron for the front yard. Rhodies grow so well here, anything acid based loves this Humboldt soil. I had to leave behind my first rhododendron in Petaluma. Even though it was in a container it was huge...too big to bring along. The blooms were a deep bright fuchsia pink, opening to a paler pink/white hue with a light blue streak in the blossoms. Very pretty. The new rhododendron is a purple variety. Its a small one gallon size with buds on it. Not sure if it will bloom this year or just take its time to grow. I'm eager to see it blossom. I love the colors purple and blue in flowers and design most of my garden using those colors along with pinks, white and yellow. Rhododendrons grow to an immense size in this area. We'll see how this one does. It is stationed next to the passionflower vine against the front fence.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Azaleas, Calla Lilies and Fuchsias in the Garden

Last year I bought a white azalea at one of the stores in town. I planted it next to the fern and white calla lilies growing behind the front yard gate. There was a small pink azalea that was planted in a rock area with not much else growing. I transplanted the pink azalea next to the white azalea. The flowers are different shapes and both are starting to bloom heavily even with the rainy March weather. There are a number of white calla lilies blooming throughout the backyard area. Many are located directly under the holly trees in the shady area. The lilac in the backyard is starting to produce leaves and blossoms but no blooms yet. The kiwi vines were cut back in early spring. I really don't know much about taking care of kiwi vines yet, but they certainly are growing big leaves already after their spring trim, so far so good. This last weekend I potted up a start from a fuchsia I had growing in a hanging basket I potted up last year. Like the other hanging baskets I added some hanging blue lobelia to the new fuchsia basket. I'd better get started taking cuttings from my fuchsias so I can add more to my garden.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Passionflower Vines

The coastal air is really wonderful and a great place to grow some of my favorites such as rhododendrens, fuchsias and ferns. The first few months of gardening the spring rains kept me from getting very much gardening done. Good thing I like the rain because there's plenty of it in Humboldt county. I've discovered here that any sunny day that arrives on the weekend before summer is your opportunity to dive into gardening before the rain starts up again.

Walking up to our house the first thing you notice about our front yard garden is the white trellis with a pyramid shape at the top of the structure. Green hedges sit at either side of the trellis. The large home built white trellis has purple passion flower vines growing up through it. The many blooms in summer on the vines are gorgeous. I'm very surprised the passionflower vines do so well in this coastal climate. I have discovered over time the trellis boxes also have pink jasmine planted in each of the trellis boxes. The previous home owner loved pink jasmine, it is growing up the side of the deck in the back yard and up another tall trellis that is part of the deck. I love jasmine too but this variety likes to send out a huge amount of runners. I have to cut them back a few times during the year. The jasmine are not so easy to train up the wooden stakes I placed inside the trellis but I'm doing my best to get the runners to go upward. They have a tendency to flop out and hang from the white criss-cross boards of the trellis.

There are also two large passion vine growing over the front fence, part of which hangs into our backyard. These vines do not flower very much. Since I'm learning along the way about what to do with passionflower vines I decided a good trim in early spring is needed since the plant gets huge by summer. I'm hoping cutting it back will help cut back on the number of seedlings dropped by the vines into the front lawn.

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This policy was last modified on April 2, 2009

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My North Coast Garden

I moved to Eureka with gardening in mind. Ever since I first lived in my own home I had always wanted a large garden area in order to create a scene of beautiful flowers and plants and here I am with that very garden at my new home. Our first home was a tract home with adobe soil and not the best layout for gardening. It was always a struggle to grow plants between the hot weather and the adobe soil. Our new Victorian home is on the historic registry of Eureka, California. It is already very exciting to have a Victorian home but to have such great garden structure to work from is pretty exciting to say the least. I hope to include some garden photos along the way to show plantings of my garden.

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