Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My Shady Porch Corner Needs a Fern

I decided the perfect plant for my shady porch corner would be a sword fern. I've tried a number of plants in this corner and only a heather and Johnson's Blue geranium did well there. Part of the problem is the large pink jasmine vine growing on the porch railing, it is such a rampant grower that it shades the already shady corner area quite a bit more. I like the pink jasmine in this spot so shade plant it is. Originally the previous home owner had a low wooden planter with another pink jasmine growing out of it. The jasmine vine didn't do too well in the low wooden planter and ended up growing out of the bottom of the rotted planter box and getting established under the porch area, then the original jasmine plant started to die off. Not the best choice on the home owner's part but what are you going to do? So the wooden planter came out and created a bleak area where little else would grow.

There is still a good sized spot in this section that needs to be filled. The other fern in our yard (see photo of fern above) tends to get huge when it likes where it is planted. The area next to the front porch has limited space so I decided to use a sword fern with its upright leaves to help fill up the corner. I remembered I was able to dig up pieces produced from the huge sword fern in my Petaluma garden since it always had new fronds coming up outside of the original plant. I took a chance and looked at the bigger of the two sword ferns I brought with me from Petaluma that were established under the holly trees. I was lucky enough to find a new frond in the back of one of the plants. I dug it up, roots and all, and planted it in the corner spot next to the porch. The photo on the left shows the single sword fern stem from the newly planted fern with the Johnson's Blue geranium leaves in front of the new fern. It will take a season or two for the fern to get bigger but for now it is a good foot tall piece that should do well in the corner. I'm looking forward to seeing the porch covered in tall fern leaves in a few year's time.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Passionflower Vines

The purple flowering passionflower vines on the trellis in the front yard are growing slowly this year. It could be because of the lower rain levels for the year or because of the cooler weather that has been happening in June, cooler even for the coast at this time of year. It is finally started warming up to the 60's in the past few days with some bright sunshine. I'm starting to see some minimal growth on the trellis passionflower vines this past weekend. Usually by now there is a good amount of growth on the trellis vines. I'm concerned that the vines may be dying off. I took some pieces of the vine that are still growing and potted them up to see if I can create some new vines in case the purple passionflower vines are giving out. Last year I succeeded in potting up a vine but didn't plant it soon enough and lost the plant. This year I have four pieces potted up and hope for good results. I will need to replant them once they root into gallon size pots I have so I can make sure they are a good size with plenty of roots before planting them out in the two trellis boxes. The purple passionflower vines on the trellis flower profusely while the passionflower vines on the front yard fence do little but grow leaves although they are very healthy looking. I have learned that passionflower vines require a good amount of water to flower well. I'm concentrating on watering a little longer for the trellis vines to see if that helps them start growing. The purple passionflower vines in the past have really put on a show with many flowers, the vines are really beautiful.

The passionflower vines on the fence on the other hand continue their lack of flowering this season. The vines on the fence are growing like crazy but as usual have produced green leaves the same as the past two springs and summers with a huge amount of greenery but only a few lime colored flowers during the season. I've begun to water with a soaker hose weekly at the base of the vines and plan on cutting the vine back to trim it and to encourage blooms. If nothing else the vines look lush and covers the fence with green all year long. The only time the vine suffers is when the winter season is especially cold with frosts then it dies back a bit but comes back just fine in spring. This variety seeds like crazy with unwanted passionflower seedlings covering the lawn. I'm hoping there are more blooms this year, I've given the vines two summers to bloom and do better after increasing watering and trimming the vines back more often. After this summer I'll need to decide if greenery is good enough for these vines. If I were to replace the vines with other plants I think it would be difficult to dig up one of the two vines against the fence as the base of the vine is a good three to four inches thick. I may have to settle for greenery in this case. Lush greenery looks great for the garden but I do wish the vines would produce more flowers. With an established garden like this one sometimes it is difficult to make changes and I hesitate to dig up plants that are healthy and thriving.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ferns in the Eureka Garden

I love ferns and can think of nothing better than adding more ferns to our Eureka garden. I brought what I believe to be two sword ferns I propagated from the huge sword fern in our Petaluma yard. The original sword fern started as a half dead four inch pot on sale for $2.50 at a local store. From there over twelve years the fern grew to be at least four feet wide by four or five feet tall, sitting happily in a twelve inch high brick border under the filtered shade of our wooden arbor. I found that if I looked carefully under the plant new bulblets of the fern sprouted out here and there under the plant, making it easy for me to take a few pieces with bulb and root and start up a new plant. I brought two sword ferns from my Petaluma yard and planted them in my Eureka garden. So far so good, they are both living happily under the holly trees mixed in with the ferns and calla lillies.

The ferns that are growing in the back yard of my Eureka home are really gorgeous and grows to be four or five feet tall and just as wide if not wider. The fern in the corner near the back yard gate is the biggest fern in the yard, it is quite a sight when it hits summer and fills out the area surrounding the white camellia plant. As I mentioned before plants grow bigger here from what everyone has said and from what I've seen over the past two years this seems to be the case. The picture above shows a smaller sized version of the fern. The picture to the left shows the beginnings of the largest fern growing up around the camellia, by the summer it has grown up and through and around the camellia and reaches over to touch the gate and hangs over the azaleas planted in the corner near the dining room window. I wish I knew what the name of this fern is, I will have to investigate since they were planted by the previous home owner. This variety of fern is really beautiful in every way. As much as I love my sword ferns this fern is the prettiest fern I think I've ever seen. The fern has small seedlings throughout the yard that I have successfully dug up and replanted to increase the amount of ferns in the yard. My next job is digging up one of the larger fern seedlings and planting it out in the front yard in the corner near the porch. I'm hoping this area in which very little grows will be the perfect shady spot for this striking fern.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Foxgloves in the Coastal Garden

One of my favorite plants is the foxglove. I guess you would say my style is cottage garden more than anything else and the foxglove certainly fits into this scheme. I started off planting foxgloves out in the front yard in the corners surrounding the window that juts out in a square shape near the porch. The first year I had them established in the corner near the porch. Last year I planted foxglove on the other side of the window in a sunny location. Both areas are doing well as I try to establish the foxglove there to reseed and grow back every year. The original plants have grown back smaller with more stems to the plants. Foxgloves are biennials so I've planted a number of them to keep the plants growing in those selected areas.

The first year I planted a few foxglove under the holly trees but they did not reseed. It was more difficult to get the foxglove established there, I imagine mostly because they are competing with drier conditions as well as with calla lillies and ferns for room to grow. Last year I also planted some foxglove in the shade behind the hot tub deck. I started with three plants and two more have seeded. The foxgloves have gotten quite tall there, its seems ideal as its generally cooler, moist soil. I'm hoping to grow as many foxgloves as will seed themselves in this area, they are tall and full of blooms and a wonderful sight to see when driving into the parking pad in our back yard. I plan on adding ferns to fill out the foxglove flower border. Luckily there are a number of ferns that self seed I can plant up in the foxglove border. It should be quite a show once the foxgloves are blooming in the spring and all the plants are well established in my shade border.

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