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!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Stumble Upon Toolbar