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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