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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