Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Butterfly Bush Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile is the butterfly bush.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia) is a very hardy, sun loving plant that does well in both warm weather climates and coastal weather. Typical height for butterfly bushes are six to eight feet tall but they can grow taller and quite wide as well. Here on the coast butterfly bushes in our yard grow a good ten to twelve feet high after a severe cut back in spring to three feet tall. Do not prune your newly planted butterfly bush until it is in the ground for a year. Once the plant is established you can cut them back hard 1 1/2 feet to 3 feet from ground level. Prune your butterfly bushes after last frost in early spring. Growth of the newly cut stems tend to grow quickly, at times growing five feet or more in a season.

Butterfly bushes are sturdy plants with beautiful cone shaped flowers resembling lilac flowers. The individual flowers are very tiny, smaller than lilac flowers, but together the flowers form a long cone shape at the end of stems. The new stems and flowers grow from either current wood or newly developed wood after pruning. Some butterfly bushes are never cut back and flower regularly year after year. The butterfly bush is aptly named since butterflies travel to these plants in droves. The flowers emit a grape like smell that is very fragrant. Butterfly bushes come in a variety of colors including dark purple, light purple, white, pink, dark magenta and golden yellow. It can take a year for a new butterfly bush to get settled into place in the ground before they grow large. The plants require full sun but don't seem to mind coastal fog.

Full sun, zones 5-9

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Trimming In The Coastal Garden

In the midst of the holiday season the garden tends to get pushed to the sidelines. After the unusual freezing cold weather snap in the mid twenties we had a few weeks ago the usual fall and winter coastal weather patterns were back in place. The coastal weather in Eureka this time of year is usually a forecast of rain for weeks on end. It is rare you get a day on the weekend that doesn't feature rain. This past weekend we had a clear Saturday and decided in the midst of Christmas wrapping to get out and trim up the yard while we could.



The lawns were both in need of mowing and looking pretty overgrown. We set the level of the mower up a bit to leave the grass a little higher during the winter months. My husband took on the mowing tasks while I concentrated on trimming things up in the front yard.

I left the passionflower vine long on the fence to give it more coverage for the vines during the colder winter months. This seemed to work well last winter so I left the vine coverage full from its summer growth. I did cut back part of the vines near the rhododendron since they were growing too far over near the plant. A good four or five inches of cutting with my hand pruners and the rhododendron was given some breathing room. By spring I'll cut the passionflower vines far back so they have plenty of room to grow in by summer. I found it also helps the vines grow better during the season.

The pink jasmine is as usual out of control. At least it slows down a bit in fall and winter growth. I cleaned up the porch area so the mail carrier isn't accosted by the winding long vines of the pink jasmine. As long as the vine is kept trimmed back a bit it works well for the porch area. I usually have to trim the pink jasmine many times during the year, and last Saturday was no exception. The pink jasmine has grown farther over on the porch railing since this photo was taken and is twice as big now. It is hard to control the shaping of the vine but so far with many trims during the year it looks very pretty and is flowering well.



The hedge had stopped its growth in late fall but there were still a few inches of excess growth left from the last month. I manually trimmed up the top of the hedges. I thought getting in one more entire trim of the hedge might work but between the rain and the holidays hedge trimming had to wait until this weekend. A manual trim works just fine for winter since it requires so little tidying. I find if you give the hedge at minimum a good trim in spring and fall it should look fairly trimmed up through winter. Some manual trimming has been done here and there in summer when needed beyond the hedge trimmer pruning I gave the hedges. It felt good to clean up the front yard as much as we could. The roses already had a good trim in late summer so now the garden should be in good shape through the holiday season.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Plants For The Season

Plants for the Christmas season can be as simple as buying a red leaved poinsettia or forcing bulbs to decorate your home during the cold months of fall and winter. Holly branches from the garden covered in berries in a vase or on the table can become a long lasting, natural centerpiece for the holidays. The typical items for winter months include forcing paperwhites (always pretty and smell beautiful) and large hyacinth bulbs in a pot indoors. Instead try forcing crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs for the holidays. Grape hyacinths come in a number of colors, most typically purple, while crocus come in purples, whites and yellows. Grape hyacinths cone shape with small bell flowers and the cup shape of the crocus are both lovely. Imagine these tiny flowers in a pot on your sill or in pots decorating your table and it will be worth the effort to force these early bulbs indoors.

Amaryllis bulbs are always fun to pot up, although the timing of bloom can vary from the time you plant the bulb. Your amaryllis bulb generally will take 7 to 10 weeks to bloom so time your amaryllis bulb planting in November for bloom in December. Christmas cactus are fun to grow indoors and have beautiful flowers that open in December. My dad had quite a green thumb which is where I get my gardening gene. My dad took a poinsettia after the Christmas holiday one year and planted it up as a hanging house plant. His intention wasn't to color the leaves again for the holidays but simply grow the poinsettia as a houseplant. The poinsettia grew very large over the years with a good two feet of green leaves, maintaining a healthy looking green all year long. The poinsettia was beautiful even without the red leaves. This is another way to keep your poinsettia live and growing, with or without the festive color at Christmas.

A fun tradition my dad started in my family was planting a small live pine tree in a pot then using the tree as our Christmas tree for many years until it was big enough to plant out in our garden. We had a number of Christmas trees lining our quarter acre property when I was a kid. I continue this tradition today. Our Christmas tree in Eureka is a redwood started from a foot and a half tall tree in a gallon pot. Two years later the tree is a good three feet tall and growing, with plenty of light green tips of growth during the summer months. We stop watering the pot a week before bringing it indoors. Once we bring the tree indoors, we place a plastic saucer under the pot, cover the square pot with a tree apron and the tree is ready to be decorated. Adding a little water during the month when needed keeps the live tree in good shape. Once the holiday is done the Christmas tree pot goes back on our deck until next holiday season. My plan is to keep this tree in a pot. Once the tree grows too big to bring indoors it can still live in a pot on the deck and another small Christmas tree can be purchased to pot up. The Christmas tree is great to look at all year long and an earth friendly way to use live trees for the holidays.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Heaths and Heathers Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile are some of my favorite plants, heaths and heathers.

Heaths and heathers (Erica Carnea) are hardy woody, perennial shrubs that make good ground cover and add a great deal of color and structure to the garden. Heaths have needle-like leaves that are dense and bell-shaped flowers. Heathers have leaves that feature flowers on one side of the branch. Most heaths have larger shaped bell flowers although some feature smaller flowers like heathers. Heaths and heathers have shrubs that flower in spring, summer and winter months, some for three months time. These plants can sport either evergreen leaves or colored leaves, some in lime green, creams, oranges and reds. Many of the winter shrubs have bright leaf foliage which makes them a great addition to your cold weather garden. Plants can grow close to the ground at six to eight inches tall up to two feet tall and wide. The flower colors range from lavenders, pinks, white and reds, with single and double flower varieties.

Heaths and heathers are not fussy about planting but do need good draining soil. They like acid soil and must have good draining soil because their roots are very delicate. Once established for a year in the garden they are low maintenance and drought tolerant. Water your heaths and heathers weekly during the first year so the roots do not dry out. Heaths and heathers do not like soggy roots. The plants do not need fertilizer but if you want to add some an acid fertilizer made for rhododendrons and azaleas would work fine. Mulching works well for cold weather around the base of the plant, I would advise mulching for the first year in the garden. The general rule of thumb is to trim heaths and heathers right after they bloom. Remove the flowers from the plant and shape but do not cut down further into the wood unless you need to regenerate a plant that is sickly. Heather flowers grow on new wood. Heaths and Heathers require six hours of full sun a day. Here on the north coast they manage very well as long as they are planted in a sunny location.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EricaDarleysensis04.JPG

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Creeping Raspberry Plant Profile

During the winter months I thought it would be fun to showcase plant profiles of my favorite garden workhorse plants and new plants I'm interested in growing. This week's plant profile is a new plant I'm propagating called Creeping Raspberry.

Creeping Raspberry (Rubus calycinoides) is a dense low maintenance groundcover that establishes itself by forming runners rooting nodes that form new plants. The plant sports attractive thick evergreen leaves that change color from green to burgundy during fall and winter months. The plant likes sunny locations and does well in shady areas as well, making it a good groundcover for gardens and urban areas. It can be used in container gardening, tumbling over container edges. Creeping raspberry produces small 1/2 inch white flowers in mid-summer after which edible amber colored fruit appear. The plant is not invasive but spreads readily. Once creeping rasberry is established it needs little water except in hot summer months. Creeping raspberry is a low maintenance plant, a quick trim in the spring will take care of older foliage withered from winter.

Full sun or part shade, Zones: 6-10

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creeping_raspberry.jpg

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Planting Daffodils, Tulips and Pondering Amaryllis Bulbs

I planted the remaining boxed bulbs I got from our local store this past weekend. The daffodils and tulips ended up in the long flower bed in the back yard. The original home owner planted pink tulips and pink hyacinths in this flower bed. The hyacinths have established themselves well in the bed while the tulips are blooming but obviously have been in the flower bed too many years and are showing their years in terms of color and size of the flowers they produce.

I tried digging up and moving the hyacinths but they are buried deep down at the bottom of the flower bed. The tulips I've kept in place because they seemed to belong there. Recently I found some white daffodils with pink trumpets at the store and some dark purple tulips. I thought that they would be a good combination to add in with the established spring bulbs already in place in the long flower bed. I added in some purple dutch iris with yellow markings into the long flower bed last year and they are doing very well in their new home.

Saturday I decided to plant the bulbs and went out into the yard an hour earlier than usual since showers were predicted and its a good thing I did. It started to sprinkle enough that by the time I finished planting the bulbs I was feeling fairly damp. I surrounded the pink heather plant and the tall purple fuchsia planted behind the heather with white and pink daffodils on either side. I added the purple tulips a short distance on either side of the pink daffodils to expand the bulbs surrounding the center of the flower bed. I'm looking forward to the spring display, it will be good to see new flowers and flower colors mixed in with the original bulbs in the flower bed.

My mother-in-law gave me another red amaryllis bulb kit for my birthday. I still have last year's amaryllis pot on my work desk. I think I will take the older of the bulbs and plant it outside in a sheltered location. I've always wanted to try this and since I have two of the same bulbs it seems like a good opportunity to experiment. I have planted paperwhites outdoors before after growing them indoors and they seemed to work fine there. The obelisk outside the dining room window currently is supporting a vine of sweet peas. I think having a red amaryllis on either side of the metal obelisk would be really beautiful during the holidays. I'm going to give it a try and will see how things progress with the amaryllis bulb planted next to the obelisk.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Geraniums in the Coastal Garden

I have to say in the past I have never been a big fan of the old fashioned lipstick colored geraniums you see planted in gardens. I've learned over the past few years what a workhorse geraniums really are in the garden. I admit we removed some of the old fashioned geranium plants when we first moved here, the orange red color really was not appealing at all and the plants didn't look very good. I did keep three of the geraniums originally planted in the garden and I'm very glad I did. The first geranium shown in the photo is a scented geranium, it has pale pink flowers and lived in a pot for quite a while until I planted it near the arbor under the holly tree. Its doing great so far and is twice as big now as in the photo and full of pink flowers.

The geranium in this photo was a plant that lived in a plastic pot for the first two years we were here. I think this is closer to the old fashioned variety of geranium and I did wonder if I should keep it. The flowers on this plant are very pretty, a deep pink with darker coloring inside the flower. This particular plant flowered profusely in its abusive plastic pot in the shaded spot where it was left by its previous owner. I moved it to a brighter area and finally decided since I'd planted the other pink geranium under the holly tree why not plant this one on the other side under the other holly tree. The geranium started flowering right away after planting and the flowers have turned a deeper shade of pink. Plants under the holly trees do not always do well but both of the pink geraniums have flourished in their new partial shade locations.

This photo shows the re-planting of the dark purple geranium, another original plant in the garden. This geranium was in the white pot in the photo; planted with the geranium the huge naked lady bulbs had cracked the pot open after years of growing too big for the pot. This purple geranium has very similar leaves compared to the Johnson's Blue geranium but has a smaller flower that is distinctly purple and produces flowers all year long. After removing the naked lady bulbs from the cracked pot we added dirt and replanted the plant, watering it in well. A few weeks has gone by and today I saw one lone flower appearing amid the weary leaves and stems of the plant. I think it will recover and be very happy for its new private planter space.

Since moving to the house I've added two Johnson's Blue geraniums and they have been a great addition to the garden along with the original geraniums. I like scented geraniums and the sculpted leaved of the Johnson Blue geraniums, they add scent and shape to the garden and are extremely hardy and reliable. I had a few ivy leaf geraniums in Petaluma in a planter box because nothing else would grow there. They turned out to be good plants with beautiful flowers and leaves. Geraniums do just fine in our cool coastal weather and can tolerate some shade as well. So I'm turning into a fan of geraniums, at least some varieties of them and am glad they are part of my cool weather garden after all.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Planting Brodiaea and Grape Hyacinth Bulbs

I picked up some new bulbs to add to the garden this past weekend. I had planted brodiaea (starflower) in the barrel in the back yard last year and they bloomed beautifully in early summer. I purchased two boxes of the bulbs, 24 in all and planted them in the long border in the backyard. The blue/mauve flowers should look stunning with the pink two toned fuchsias in the border. Speaking of the pink fuchsia, I was able to root two more pieces of the fuchsia this summer and planted them in a hanging basket so they can get established before next summer season.

I was able to find some grape hyacinth bulbs (muscari) to add to the front yard under the climbing pink roses. In Petaluma our backyard was full of grape hyacinth bulbs. Unfortunately I didn't think to dig some up to bring with me and it has taken me a while to find these bulbs for sale in our area. The grape hyacinth bulbs should multiply quickly once established. They work great as a ground cover and are a bright spot in the spring garden. Besides the brilliant colored grape cluster style flowers they have grass like leaves that look attractive surrounding the flowers, and the bulbs seem to be very hardy. The bulbs I planted already had a number of small bulblets attached to each of the main bulbs. Once the lavenders under the pink roses grow larger the low growing blue grape hyacinth flowers should naturalize in swaths underneath the lavender shrubs, accenting the tall stems of purple lavender flowers.

After a few seasons in the ground the cotoneaster shrub is finally taking off. The branches are a good foot long now and they are filling up with orange berries. The cotoneaster shrub is low growing and grows horizontally, spreading its branches in an arch from the center of the shrub. The cotoneaster is planted between two of the pink climbing roses that are growing against either side of the fences that form a corner. I am hoping the cotoneaster will spread outward and back into the empty corner between the two rose bushes to fill in the gap between them. Cotoneaster is often used as a ground cover and this is what I am using it for. Birds like the berries so there will be another food source in the garden, although our holly trees provide plenty of berries for robins and sparrows in winter and early spring. In spring the cotoneaster sports small white flowers. I didn't see any flowers on the cotoneaster this past spring so I am looking forward to seeing some flowers on the shrub next spring.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall in the North Coast Garden

As fall continues on the north coast I'm still finding growth happening with new and established plants. The sword fern I planted next to the front porch is sending up a new curled white fern shoot from the base of the fern I planted in spring. I originally dug up from the main fern plant from under the holly trees, one of two sword ferns I brought with me from Petaluma. When first planted this fern it had a rhiazome with two frond stems and some roots; now a third frond is curling up from the soil. Having had good success in dividing and planting this particular fern this tells me that the new fern is now established in its porch corner and will eventually grow up to be a hardy specimen.

The sweet peas I grew in the pot on my deck were planted out and are starting to grow up the obelisk structure. It may be late in the season for the new sweet pea plant but you'd never know it since it is sports new blooms ready to open. I'm hoping the sweet peas do well over the next month so I can gather some seeds for next year's garden.

The passionflower vines on the fence have done great this year. After the hard cut back of the vines in early spring and the weekly watering regime for the vines the extra work has paid off this season. A few weeks ago I counted 34 purple and green flowers on the vines; this past weekend the count was up to 50 flowers! The foliage is so lush it can be difficult to see the pale green and purple flowers as they fade into the green leaves. Still it is exciting to see so much flowering on the once bare vines.

The passionflower vines in the trellis boxes need a top dressing of time released fertilizer and new dirt to help the two new vines I planted get a good start for next season. I replanted my small blue hydrangea plant in the front yard where the crocosmias were crowding out the area until we dug them up. After digging up the overbearing crocosmias we found two beautiful specialty grass plants hidden in in the corner. So far it looks a little bare with the specialty grass on one side and the small hydrangea in the center but soon enough the hydrangea will grow bigger and fill the space. I'm hoping to find some nepeta in the garden center to sit next to the hydrangea next spring, the local kitties should enjoy the nepeta as much as I do.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planting Heaths and Heathers

Saturday was spent planting heaths and heathers in the garden. My husband and I were out in the yard by noon, an hour earlier than usual. The forecast was for rain so I did my best to plant four gallon pots of heaths and heathers in the front yard. I had one spot open in the walkway border to the right of the house and planted a pink flowering heather there. The remaining plants were planted in the big border to the left of the house, two heathers and one heath planted there. It was busy work and I was moving as fast as I could. The heath was another large bell flowering plant with pink bells, matching in color the other heath planted there already. The other two heather plants both have pink/lavender flowers and are fairly tall and wide, they should go well with the other heathers planted in the flower bed.

As soon as I finished the fourth planting the rain started, first a light drizzle turning into a heavy drizzle, which made us head indoors quickly. I have three more heaths and heathers to plant. I've decided to plant them beneath the pink jasmine in the back yard. I have naked lady bulbs in the beds below the jasmine plants so not much is in the beds so far. I can see the three plants doing well there in the back yard. One of the heathers is "Silver King", I had this plant in the back yard in Petaluma and it grew to a huge size, it is a beautiful plant with silver foliage and lavender flowers.

The photos in this post are of two heathers in place in flower beds planted last fall. The larger pink heather is in the main flowerbed in the back yard with a new purple fuchsia cutting planted behind it in the center of the flower bed. The other plant is a low growing heather planted near the rhododendron in the front yard, it is surrounded by a ground cover of blue flowering lithodora. My goal is to add as many heaths and heathers to my garden as I can fit in. They are beautiful, hardy plants that need minimal upkeep once they are in the ground for a year. A good weekly watering for the first year, making sure the roots are not waterlogged and the soil drains well, then a yearly trim after blooming will keep them happy and looking good.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Annual Heath and Heather Farm Sale

October 4th was the annual heath and heather farm sale in a nearby town outside of where we live. I always look forward to the sale, anticipating the variety of heaths and heathers they have available. Last year I was able to purchase a number of heaths (erica) plants with large bells and I've been very pleased with the growth and flowering results of these new heaths over the last year. This year there were almost no heath plants available, unfortunate but I did manage to get two this year. The rest of the plants were heathers with their delicate leaves and flowers. Any heath and heather is wonderful as far as I'm concerned so I was happy to buy as many as possible. This year my husband and I decided we'd get more plants than usual, our purchase added up to twelve plants in all!

As in the past the farm owner is available to answer questions about the plants from buyers and holds short seminars while you visit. They always have treats of sweets, appetizers, coffee and tea spread out on a table in the backyard valley setting so you can munch and shop at your leisure. The old apple tree has a bench built around the base with tiny chirping birds flitting around in the branches. This year a small squirrel was hopping around in the branches and making squeeks at all the excitement down below him, unwilling to come down while the farm owners border collies wandered around the visitors in the pasture. It really is lovely there and feels like a mini vacation whenever we go to the farm for the sale.

I was able to purchase 5 inch pots and 1 gallon pots all at $3.25 each, a great price for such big heath and heather plants. I have a number of larger sized heather plants and one heath plant to add to the garden, probably in the front yard to add to the family of heaths and heathers already in place.

My plan was to plant up the barrel in the back yard with four or five heather plants, digging up the bulbs from the planter and replanting them elsewhere. We did just that this past Saturday, I replanted the brodiaea bulbs and daffodils around the obelisk with sweet peas climbing up the structure. We moved the barrel over into a sunny location and I planted four heathers and one heath in the barrel. One of the heathers has an open expansive growth pattern with pink lavender flowers. Two of the heathers are erect varieties, one with multiple cream orange colors on the leaves while the other has lime green and brown marking on the leaves. Two of the smaller plants found a home in the barrel. One has a lavender flower paired with deep green leaves while the smallest sized plant is a heath with deep green leaves tipped all year long with bright cream and peach colors. It is really pretty already even though it is only a 2 inch pot size plant.

I'm most excited about adding heathers and a heath to the barrel in the backyard. You can see the barrel from the dining room window, it should be really beautiful once the plants grow out and reach a year or two in the barrel. I can't wait to see the end result a few years from now.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Butterfly Bush and Fuchsia Favorites

The butterfly bushes finished flowering last month, I wish they flowered longer but they are spectacular while they bloom. This is my favorite color, it is a magenta bloom. The dark purple bloom is also gorgeous, we have two of each along with two of a lighter purple butterfly bush lining the back yard fence. I imagine if I cut back the spent bloom spikes there might be another flush of blooms during summer here. I may have to try this out and see what happens. I have a cutting of the magenta butterfly bush in a gallon container to try and root it over the winter. I'm not sure if it will work but its worth a try. Butterfly bushes are so hardy I would think rooting them would be fairly easy. I'll have to read up on rooting cuttings for butterfly bushes and see what advice I can find.

The thymifolia fuchsia is doing great under the holly tree in the back yard. It took a good two years to get this plant established under the tree. The tiny dark pink fuchsia flowers are blooming pretty much year round, much the same way they were blooming in my Petaluma garden all year long. Fuchsias love the coastal weather and grow well here in Eureka. The thymifolia plant is a good two feet tall and spreading up and out each season. Planted in front of it is one of my two-toned pink fuchsias I grew from a cutting. I have a small thymifolia plant I grew from a cutting of the thymifolia fuchsia under the holly tree. It is planted between the two Grosso lavenders in the front yard. After two years in the ground the plant is finally starting to get taller. I'm hoping for as much growth for this plant as the one in the back yard. The combination of purple wands of lavender surrounding the tall dark pink thymifolia fuchsia will look beautiful against the front of the house.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hydrangea and Heaths in the Late Summer

As summer starts to wane I enjoy watching the small hydrangea flowers turn from brilliant blue to blue and purple mix. I have two blue hydrangeas one of which is positioned near the back gate of the back yard. This hydrangea is a good two feet tall this year having grown in the past two summer seasons from a small cutting purchased at the local nursery. The hydrangea is doing very well this year and seems to like its partial shade location. The soil in Eureka tends to be acid so hydrangeas, fuchsias, rhododendrons and other acid lovers do well here. I have another small hydrangea planted in the shade border in the back yard. This hydrangea is not growing much, I think there is too much shade for it in the border. I will be moving this plant in the fall to the front yard. There is a side area that is fairly shaded. I will be digging up crocosmia bulbs from that location since they are established in the front yard and taking over just like they did in the back yard. I'm hoping this spot will not be too sunny for the hydrangea. I'm happy with the amount of growth of the blue hydrangea behind the gate this season and hoping it gets much bigger next season.

The heaths I planted last October are doing very well in the late summer season and blooming with large bell flowers. I definitely want more ericas blooming in my garden, they are lovely to look at and provide some flowers and color interest in fall and winter when not much else is blooming in the garden. The heaths I have now are flowering in summer, I will look for some winter heaths at the Heather farm sale in October this year. My plan is to plant up my barrel in the back yard with heaths and heathers to create a year long interest in the barrel. Plants and bulbs haven't done very well in the barrel so far. I will be digging up the bulbs from the barrel and transplanting them into the long border against the greenhouse this fall. I will need to find a good variety of colors in the flowers and leaves to create a striking display in the barrel. I can't wait for the October sale to buy more heaths and heathers for the barrel and am hoping the gallon pots of plants are available for a low price again this year.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Digging Up Crocosmia Bulbs, Ferns and Calla Lilies

My husband dug up the widespread amount of orange crocosmia bulbs along the side of our back yard this past weekend. The previous owner planted the Montbretia bulbs in the front yard and the result has been hundreds of bulbs along the side of the house moving towards the back yard area. I planted crocosmia bulbs in a flower bed in Petaluma and they started to take over the flower bed very quickly, much the same as the allium in the Petaluma yard. I decided it was safer to dig up the bulbs and keep an amount to plant in a big container where they would be contained better. We still have some crocosmia bulbs in the front yard, these small amount of crocosmia bulbs will be dug up in the coming weeks. As pretty as the orange flowers are they do not compare to the overtaking of the side of the house and spread into the back yard. I find they are easy to dig up but very hard to contain once they start spreading. The crocosmia bulbs would work fine for a large flower bed but for our yard they spread too quickly overtaking other plants as they go, so digging them up seemed to be the best solution. I will plant up a container full of the bulbs so I can still enjoy their blooms in their contained environment.

My husband also dug up a few calla lily bulbs and a fern from the side of the house. I will plant up the calla lilies in a shady area in the back yard, possibly under the holly trees with the other calla lilies there. The fern I planted in with the foxgloves in the shade border behind the deck in the back yard. We have some other ferns of the same variety that will be relocated to this area so it will be comprised mostly of foxgloves and ferns. It is a perfect place for both plants since the foxgloves grew a good eight feet or more, two feet higher than the foxgloves in the sunny front yard. This particular fern grows very large when it likes where it is planted. It will take a few years for the fern to get established but it is a beautiful fern that will accent the foxgloves perfectly in the shade border.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Creeping Raspberry Cuttings and Passionflowers Blooming

After a failed attempt at rooting creeping raspberry cuttings in my greenhouse I am trying again to root another six pieces of the plant. My greenhouse as I mentioned before is not really a greenhouse simply a building without screened windows. Cuttings do not do well in the greenhouse I'm finding, it is too hot during the summer so the plants do not thrive and root. Cuttings will be rooted outside on my table on the patio for the time being. So far cuttings are doing reasonably well there and better than in the greenhouse. I plan to leave my cuttings of lavender and creeping raspberry on the deck throughout the fall and winter months and hope for the best. Both plants are hardy, it is just a matter of good roots developing without frost killing off the cuttings. We'll see how it goes during the winter months ahead for my new cuttings. Creeping raspberry is an evergreen ground cover I'd love to have established in my yard.

This past weekend I did some trimming of the climbing roses and trimmed parts of the hedges, little spurts of growth on both that I was able to cut off to keep things trimmed up before fall arrives. I plan on cutting back the hedge one more time before it gets cold so it looks good through the fall and winter months when hedge growth is dormant. The passionflower vines on the front yard fence are producing more flowers this season, I counted fourteen flowers on Saturday. I plan on not trimming back the passionflower vines on the fence until spring, this way the growth will provide good coverage of the vines during winter. The first year we were here the passionflower vines were hit with a hard frost that killed the vines back to the stems. The vines came back fine by spring and other than a short delay in green leaves performed as usual for spring and summer months. Now that I know a hard trim in spring and a good amount of weekly soaking hose works best for these vines on the coast I have the formula to keep them flowering a bit. I would add fertilizer to the base of the vines but I'm afraid we'd get even more rampant growth of green leaves instead of flowers. I may try adding fertilizer this come spring and see if it helps the growth of flowers. I find Passionflower vines, at least here on the north coast, take trial and error to get good results.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Upright Fuchsia Cutting and New Passionflower Seedlings

One of the four semi-hardwood fuchsia pieces my neighbor gave me looks like it is rooting already. This particular cutting is the biggest of the semi-hardwood pieces she gave me and was planted directly in the long back yard border where gorgeous two toned pink fuchsias are planted on either end of the border. The original fuchsia from the neighbor's yard has giant sized flowers of dark purple and red and are really beautiful. This past weekend I gently pulled on the cutting stem and it seemed rooted. I noticed some new bright green growth forming all over the stem. I'm hoping this cutting does well since the original plant is a large upright and the new fuchsia would look great in the center with the two-toned pink fuchsias anchoring the border on either side. The fuchsia cutting is a good two feet tall and was placed behind a newer heather with pale pink flowers. Eventually this heather should become good sized and add some softness underneath the new upright fuchsia. Once this new fuchsia is established and growing next season I will take cuttings and root them in water for new plants. I'm excited to see how this new upright fuchsia will perform next summer in the garden.

While working in the garden this weekend I went on a hunt for passionflower seedlings to add to the trellis boxes in the front yard. The passionflower seedlings are all over the front yard lawn but they are very small spindly looking seedlings of three to five inches tall from the purple and green flowered passionflower vines on the front fence. These passionflower vines also managed to seed in the back yard near the back fence. We have a flower border that needs to be torn down and is mostly dirt and rock for the moment. I found two larger passionflower vine specimens there that were a good foot long with large leaves. I decided to dig the passionflower seedlings up and see if there was enough root system to transplant them to the front yard trellis boxes. Happily I found these seedlings easy to dig up with a large root system already established. The roots of the passionflower vines looked like small sized carrots. I had no idea what the root system was like for these vines since any passionflower vine I've encountered here was already in place when we moved here. I planted one of each of the seedling passionflower vines in the trellis boxes. Currently I have a darker purple flowering passionflower vines in the boxes but some of the vines are dying off this season and unfortunately these vines don't produce many seedlings. The new vines look like they will be vigorous, if they are anything like the ever growing evergreen passionflower vines on the front fence they should grow well there. If the passionflower vines flower in the trellis boxes I'd be very happy but even the added green of the leaves would help the display for next summer since its looking poorly this year. Here's hoping the new vines take root well and get growing for next season.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Orchids, Lavenders, Foxgloves and the Summer Garden

Saturday was spent potting up cuttings of lavenders into bigger pots and re-potting my orchid plant. The usual fog was missing today and the sun was out this weekend with windy gusts blowing through the length of the back yard. The eight foot plus tall foxgloves in the shady back yard border were spent and needed to be removed. I cut down the stems and divided the dried seed pods on the stems into smaller sections to throw on the ground in the flower bed. Having done this in the past I sometimes gain a new plant along with the natural seed pod drop of the foxgloves when they finish flowering.

I have four remaining rooted cuttings of the six Goodwin Creek Grey lavender I potted up in a six pack. Two of the four cuttings have a good root system established while the other two lavender cuttings have a small root started. I decided to re-pot the lavender cuttings into four inch pots to give the plants more room to grow during the rest of the summer season. If all goes well they will be ready to plant out next spring. The photo to the left shows a full sized Goodwin Creek Grey lavender planted in our back yard.

The three small Munstead lavenders are growing slowly under the climbing roses. One of the Munstead lavenders even flowered this year. The area could use a few more lavenders added to fill in the space under the roses in the front yard fence. The Munstead lavenders when fully grown are good sized plants. If the new Goodwin Creek Grey lavender grow in the front yard as well as they grow in the back yard in time the lavenders under the pink roses will be quite a display.

I re-potted my orchid plant into a larger plastic pot to put into a ceramic pot left by the previous homeowner. The ceramic pot is broken in places but it is such a pretty container I decided to add something to it. I placed a plastic pot with the orchid inside the large ceramic pot, it seemed like a perfect choice for the orchid's new home. The orchid produces small dark pink two to three inch flowers every summer. The orchid has grown from the original 4 inch plant to a good sized specimen. The root ball was very tight in the original ceramic pot it was planted in years ago. It has needed to be re-potted for some time now with the root ball growing above the pot rim. The new pot is probably a good twelve inches and will provide the orchid with some much needed space to grow into. This summer was the first time the orchid did not bloom so re-potting was an absolute neccessity. The orchid has new dirt to grow in and some time released fertilizer in the mix for feed. I really don't know much about orchids but this one has grown just fine without liquid feeds weekly so I'm hoping the time released food will work well for it in the new container. The long blades of the orchid looks great in its new home and the plant will continue to live on the deck near the hot tub.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sweet Peas for the Obelisk and Plants Beneath the Climbing Roses


After losing my first set of new sweet peas plants to snails I grew my second set of sweet pea starts in a medium sized pot along with some time released granulated food. The plants successfully grew larger and stronger in the larger pot using this method. I planted out the sweet pea seedlings under my metal obelisk structure and tied up a few of the taller stems to the metal to train the stems upward. I added extra potting soil and more time released plant food when planting the sweet peas. I use Lily Miller brand plant food, it works very well for the plants in general. The root system for the sweet peas upon planting were very well developed from establishing the sweet pea plants in the bigger pot with time released feed for a good month's time before planting. I used crushed egg shells to surround the plants to keep snails from reaching them. The theory is that the rough edges of the shells are too difficult for the snails to crawl over keeping them from the newly planted plants. I saved up egg shells over the past few weeks and crushed them around the base of the sweet peas. I'm not sure if the amount of egg shells is wide enough around the perimeter of the plant to keep the snails away. Unfortunately I've already seen some signs of snail activity on one stem of the new sweet peas. I'm hoping with the later blooming cycle of plants on the north coast that there will be enough time for the sweet peas to grow and flower since our weather stays warmer until October. If all goes well I will save up the seeds from the sweet pea vines and plant them up earlier next year using the same larger pot method of planting to establish strong roots and healthy plants.

I spent some time on Saturday trimming back the roses and gave yet another trim to the hedges in the front yard. The hedges were trimmed a month ago and since then have had quite a bit of growth. I will trim the hedges back one more time before the end of October to make sure once the growth season ends the hedges looks tidy for the fall and winter season. The middle climbing rose bush is actually producing some clusters of roses here and there after the main blooming finished in late spring. The roses have never done this in previous seasons other than producing a few meager blooms this time of year. I am watering longer with the soaker hose under the roses so this may be helping with the added blooms during our cool summer season. I sure miss my grandiflora roses from Petaluma blooming all summer long but the pink climbing roses are beautiful when blooming.

I mentioned before I planted a few heathers and small lavender plants under the roses two seasons ago. The heathers were small four inch pots when I planted them out and they are finally starting to grow larger, in fact one of the heathers is starting to bloom. I imagine it will take another season for these heather plants to grow to a reasonable size, they have been slow growing so far. The cotoneaster plant from two seasons ago planted in the corner under the climbing roses is finally starting to grow bigger. The stems are a good foot wide with many berries in place. Should be interesting to see if the cotoneaster grows as big as its estimated six feet wide size.

The three remaining Munstead lavenders from the small six pack I planted were very small and are now about five inches tall with a few blooms. The lavenders under the roses have been very slow to grow the same as the heathers but the lavenders are now looking promising. I'm hoping by next season the Goodwin Creek lavender cuttings will be of reasonable size to add to the plants lining the base of the climbing rose bushes. My four remaining Goodwin Creek lavender pieces I rooted are doing well. Next weekend I will re-pot Goodwin Creek lavender into four inch pots and see if they get some good root growth developed before the fall season.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Flowering On the North Coast

In our garden the summer heaths and heathers are starting to bloom. The heaths are new in the garden this year and are producing quite a few large bell shaped flowers for being such new plants in the garden. This past October the heather farm was selling larger sized plants at a low cost, the heaths and heathers were $3.50 for a gallon size plant which is a great price for heaths and heathers. Normally a four inch pot costs more than this, I've paid anywhere from $4.50 to $7.00 for a four inch pot. I'm really happy with the flowering of the gallon sized plants from last October's purchase. This October I plan on buying more heaths for their large bell shaped blooms at the annual heath and heather sale.

I've finally found the trick to producing more flowers on my passionflower vines on the fence. I'd mentioned previously the vines bloomed very little but produce a huge amount of foliage. I hedge trimmed the vines back in spring severely. Between weekly watering in summer and the severe vine trim the passionflower vines have been producing eight to ten flowers, which is much better than three or four. I'm hoping as the summer goes on and the watering is consistent week to week there will be more blooms.

One of our neighbors gave me cuttings of her fuchsia plant. Her plant is really tall and gorgeous producing huge fuchsia flowers. The cuttings are fairly woody at this point but I will see if its possible to root them and see what happens from there. This particular fuchsia plant has huge two toned red flowers and creates a tall upright fuchsia plant so I'm looking forward to getting this plant thriving in our yard if I can get it rooted.

The butterfly bushes are in full bloom and growing a good ten to twelve feet tall. We have two dark purple blooming plants, a lighter lavender colored blooming plant and a deep magenta blooming plant. The smell of the conical shaped blooms reminds me of wine, there is a fermented grape like scent to the blooms that is really lovely. The kiwi vine structure is right next to the butterfly bushes which line the back fence. The kiwi vines are very vigorous producing long vine arms that reach up to four or five feet above the kiwi structure, we had to cut back a number of vines to shape the plant this past weekend. Kiwi vines can grow to thirty feet in length and it is a challenge to keep them in line. If the kiwi vines give out someday we'll look at adding grapevines on the metal structure since the smell of the butterfly bushes will match well with the smell of grapes. My husband and I both love the shape of grapevines and the changing colors of the leaves they produce. I'm not sure how long kiwi vines live, guess its time to pull out my gardening books and do a little investigating on the lifespan of kiwi vines. Let's hope the kiwi fruit ripen correctly this season, they were a bust last season.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Summer Growth of Passionflower Vines, Pink Jasmine and Rhododendron

This past weekend was spent pruning, weeding, watering and mowing, the usual summer activities in our north coast garden. Growth is rampant for the pink jasmine vines and the green and purple flowered passionflower vines on the fence. I pruned back the rampant growth of the pink jasmine vine on the porch to keep it shaped. Next weekend I'll need to prune back the runners on the jasmine vines on the back deck. The pruning never ends here in summer season.

The passionflower vines on the fence finally started to flower this year. Not much flowering yet but between the weekly soak from the soaker hose and the severe trim back in early spring we are seeing eight or so of the green and purple flowers blooming this week. Considering the most flowers I've seen on the vines on the fence has been three or four flowers this is an improvement. I trimmed up the bottom of the passionflower vines on the fence and tried to cut back the huge amount of vine seedlings at the base of the vines. You'll never run out of passionflower vines if they seed like they seed in our yard.

The dark purple flowering passionflower vine on the trellis is starting to grow more leaves and flower better this season. The trellis passionflower vines were really growing slowly this year and possibly dying off so I tried to start some new vines from pieces of the original vines. The first pieces of vines I took from the purple passionflower vines just didn't take in our makeshift greenhouse. I decided to take four more and plant them in gallon containers in a full sun spot in the back of the garden. The greenhouse we have is not set up correctly to get enough air and light into the building. It is fine to maintain plants that are already growing over the cold months but not good for starting things off in summer. I'm hoping the new passionflower vine pieces grow better out in the garden. I'd like to add two vines to each trellis box to help build up the amount of vines that are currently in place. Not sure if the original vines are giving up yet but this is a good opportunity to add to the trellis. Once the vine pieces root up I'll add them to the trellis boxes so next year's display is better.

The rhododendron in the front yard is two years old now and although it didn't bloom this past year like it did the first year in the ground it is showing a good deal of healthy new leaf growth this year. The rhododendron I had planted up in a container in Petaluma took about five years to get to its four foot by four foot size. I had to leave it behind and gave it to our landscaping person who added the new lawn to our home when we put it on the market. My other rhododendron, a miniature purple flowering plant in a container did poorly in a shadier part of the deck last season and is recovering in a sunnier location on the deck this year. It is still gaining its leaves back but flowered well during spring. By next spring both of the rhododendrons should be in good shape.

Watching the growing patterns of the new plants in our garden on the coast I'm seeing more growth in this second year in the rhododendron and in other plants in their second season in the garden. It seems to me it takes most plants a few seasons to really get going here on the north coast. This could be due to the cooler weather patterns, certainly perennials in Petaluma showed more initial growth in their first season than the plants in our coastal garden. Once the plants get established however growth is impressive and plants tend to grow bigger than in our sunny Petaluma garden. The acid soil here on the coast makes for a number of happy plants and our rhododendron is a perfect example of healthy, impressive growth this season.

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Agastache Hummingbird Mint and Brodiaea Bulbs

This past weekend we spent most of our gardening time weeding under the butterfly bushes in the back yard and weeding under the roses in the front yard. My husband dug up some blackberry bushes that were trying to take hold again after the first disposal of blackberries. They are very persistent here on the north coast and keep you busy throughout the summer digging them up. I also spent time cutting back the roses, every few weeks during summer I go out and trim back the rampant growth at the tops of the plants. I am pleased to see a few blooms on one of the climbing rose bushes since by now these climbing roses are finished blooming for the summer.

I have a hummingbird mint, an agastache, planted in the round white planter on our back porch. The plant hasn't gotten very big, possibly because it is in a planter and not in the ground; it is in its second season of growth in the planter. The hummingbird mint is just starting to develop its new orange blooms at the tip of the plant. I haven't seen a hummingbird at the plant as of yet but one of the cats in our neighborhood loves to shove their face into the plant because of the mint scent. I've even seen the tiger striped cat climb in part way to roll around in the planter. Not an ideal situation for the plant but its pretty fun seeing the cat so happy. Guess its time to plant some catmint (nepeta) in the garden next season for the kitties to roll around in instead.

The purple brodiaea bulbs I planted in the barrel in the back yard have been blooming all month and look beautiful. The colors are brilliant and the flower is long lasting, a good three to four weeks of constant blooms. The flower stems are tall and thin with multiple star shaped flowers at the end of each stem. I've decided to add some of these brodiaea to the large flower border in the back yard next year. I'll be interested in knowing if these brodiaea bulbs multiply easily, I hope so since the brilliant purple flowers would be a great addition to the long garden border.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hebe Plant, Sweet Peas and Organic Pest Control


We went to nearby Ferndale to celebrate our wedding anniversary Saturday and walk through the Victorian village. It is always so beautiful to drive into the town of Ferndale. The hills of pine trees surround the meadows of grass and dairy farms, with the Victorian village sitting at the base of the hills. The stores in town often decorate the front of their shops with planters filled with flowers. While we were walking through town I noticed two planters containing beautiful tall plants with purple flowers. Walking further through town we found a small farmers market happening with vegetables and plants for sale. I found a hebe plant, it turns out it was the same plant I was admiring planted in the containers in front of the store we walked by. The owner of the nursery mentioned that hebes usually have white flowers but this variety had purple flowers. She told me that the hebe would grow four feet tall by four feet wide and preferred full sun. I love purple flowers and use purple as one of my main colors in the garden. I decided the hebe would be a perfect fit to fill in a final bare area in front of the fence in the front yard. With there being only one hebe plant available I didn't have to think twice about buying the plant. I planted the hebe the next day against the fence. I think the airy look of the hebe's green leaves and purple flowers will go well with the garnet penstemon planted next to it.

I planted a few sweet pea plants at the base of my obelisk near the back fence a few weeks ago. After having the first few sweet pea plants chewed up by snails I decided to grow the rest of the sweet peas in a pot for a month or more to make sure the plants were taller and sturdier before planting them out in the yard. I read in my BBC gardening magazine about a tip for organic pest control and remembered I had heard of this method before. You can use crushed egg shells to keep snails away from tender young plants. The rough egg shells scrape the snails when they crawl over them. Crush the egg shells into pieces and scatter them around the base of the new plant. This method should help deter snails on the ground. I've also heard of using sea shells broken up as the same type of method to keep snails away from tender plants. We have started carrying around a bucket of salted water with us when we garden. Collecting snails and throwing them in the bucket with the salted water apparently dehydrates them and dispatches them fairly quickly. I don't want to lose the last of my sweet peas to the snails. I'm hoping growing the small sweet pea plants for a while longer until they get bigger will do the trick and foil the snails.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Planting up Fuchsia Baskets and Penstemon

I added the new small fuchsias I bought at the garden center to my hanging fuchsia baskets this past weekend. I have one established fuchsia in each basket and wanted to build on the baskets. I matched similar colors for each fuchsia basket, white and pink with pink, lavender with purple and pink and lavender with pink fuchsias. The fuchsia baskets have trailing blue lobelia cascading down the front of each basket. The trailing blue lobelia tends to be very full, not exactly what I originally wanted in the baskets since I would prefer the lobelia lie flatter but it still looks good overall. Some of the fuchsia baskets have blooming flowers while others are working up towards blooming. Here on the coast even though it is officially summer all blooming tends to be a month or two out from the blooming patterns of typical summer blooming in Sonoma County. Basically its still early on for fuchsia blooms as they are just getting started here on the north coast.

The penstemon I planted in the front yard is garnet penstemon, it is really a beautiful burgundy color and should look great against the grey color of the fence. After planting the garnet penstemon I cut back my blue penstemon. The blue penstemon was attacked by black fly, the same as the foxglove in the same flower border near the drooping cherry tree. The blue penstemon was really gorgeous covered in blue tubular flowers then suddenly stopped blooming. I tried an organic mix of soap and water on the original black fly infestation on my foxgloves but it did not deter them. My mistake was not spraying them for a number of weeks. Next time I will spray every week with this organic mix to be sure the black fly infestation is killed off. Penstemons need to be cut back yearly for good bloom by summer. I'm hoping since its early in the summer season here that the blue penstemon will grow back this season and bloom again.

I used the organic soap spray on my drooping cherry tree this year just as the leaves started coming out right before bloom began. Usually we have a fly larvae infestation that ruins the leaves of the tree, this fly apparently attacks cherry trees and can have two or more infestations of the flies during the year. I'm not sure if the organic soap spray did the trick early on or if it was our milder winter but either way I plan on spraying the cherry tree early on every season with the soap spray.

This year the young drooping cherry tree has grown over five feet tall and is looking beautiful with its branches full of healthy green leaves. I'm looking forward to seeing how well the new fuchsias fare with their companion fuchsias and hope the baskets fill out well with blooms this summer. Can't wait to see how the garnet penstemon establishes itself in the dry area against the fence and the multitude of blooms it will produce during the summer months in the coming years.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sweet Peas, Penstemon, Godetia and Fuchsias for Summer

This past weekend we went to the local garden center. It has been a number of weeks since I've visited the garden center so I stocked up on some plants for summer. I have been wanting some sweet peas to grow up the metal obelisk in the back yard. For the first two summers I grew sweet peas from seed for the obelisk and saved seed from the plant. I was unlucky that the seed I planted from the last flowering did not come up this summer so I decided to buy a small six pack of multi colored sweet peas already started. I planted some of the sweet peas at the base of the obelisk after getting back from the garden center. I have a few more sweet pea starters to plant out. I'm thinking of planting them in the front yard at the base of the clematis so the sweet peas can crawl up the scrolled metal trellis the clematis lives on. Since the clematis is done flowering for this year it might be a good use for the trellis and brighten the corner near the stairway.

I saw a six pack of mixed color godetia in the annuals section and got one to plant in the back yard planter. I have had godetia growing in the planter for two summers now and they flower beautifully, filling the planter with color along with the dianthus and fuchsias growing there. I'm working on filling out the long planter with perennials but in the meantime the godetia fills the spaces left from bulbs in spring. I planted the godetias in the planter yesterday afternoon and look forward to the generous number of flowers they produce during the summer months.

I spotted small two inch fuchsia pots for sale at a low price so I nabbed three of them to add to my fuchsia baskets that surround the covered hot tub area on our back deck. I have two fuchsias I grew from cuttings last summer as well. I plan on planting up a second fuchsia in each of my five hanging baskets to add to the number of flowers for the summer baskets. I will probably mix colors of fuchsias since these are different varieties than the original plants I planted in the baskets. I purchased a double fuchsia with white petals and pink sepals (my first double fuchsia) that I will add to the white fuchsia I have; a fuchsia with pink petals and lavender sepals; and a two toned pink fuchsia with light pink petals and darker pink sepals. The baskets also contain a dark blue lobelia that cascades over the edge of the baskets. I'm guessing three fuchsia plants per basket would be ideal but for now I'll go with two fuchsias per basket and see how full the flowering goes this summer before adding more fuchsias to the baskets.


The last plant I purchased is a garnet penstemon. This perennial is really beautiful in the garden. I had the garnet penstemon in my Petaluma back yard as well as a deep purple penstemon plant, both flowered throughout the summer months and put on a great display. I have an area in the sun against the front yard fence adjacent to the fuchsia colored rhododendron that would work well for this colorful penstemon. This area is not the easiest one to get a plant established in so I'm hoping a hardy penstemon will work well for this spot. I plan to plant up the fuchsia baskets, remaining sweet peas and garnet penstemon over the coming weekend.

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