Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Avoiding Rain While Planting Spring Bulbs

Since late October the north coast has been inundated with rainy weather. The rainy season started earlier than usual this year, quite unexpectedly. We just missed managing to finish up the trimming of the hedge, lawns, and heather shrubs when the rains hit, and there have been few days that were clear to do yard work. The few days I did have in December were spent on getting ready for Christmas, Christmas shopping, and wrapping gifts. So when there was a break in the weather on a Saturday when the forecast said it would be pouring out, I grabbed my spring bulbs and ran out into the garden. It took a few hours but I managed to plant the bulbs I had that were late in getting into the garden.

I planted two boxes of giant snowdrops near the shady area of the trellis boxes, then underplanted those with scilla. I am hoping both bulbs naturalize and fill in this shadier area since heathers won't be happy planted there. Next I planted the three boxes of alliums I had, one with round blue flowers, and the other boxes of cone shaped dark pink allium blooms. I planted a mix of the two allium bulbs in the flowerbed behind the drooping cherry tree. I have found a number of plants have difficulty thriving in this flowerbed other than my Johnson's Blue geranium, which is huge in this spot, and the heaths and heathers that happily grow there. We had four to five foot tall purple alliums already established in our Petaluma yard when we moved there, not exactly where we wanted them but they certainly did multiply and thrive. I gave in and decided the alliums were a smaller size and so pretty, I'd go for it and plant some in our garden. The rest of the dark pink alliums were planted near the porch where the clematis is planted and my small foxgloves are planted in the corner nearby. If they do well there they will take the space up with the foxgloves and brighten up the corner a bit.

The dirt was very compacted due to all the rains, so I moved to the back yard to try and plant the three boxes of tulips, a mix of yellow and dark purple flowers. I planted eight tulips on either side of the obelisk so I could see the tulips from the dining room window. I added the box of tiny windflowers bulbs into the barrel with the heathers. Having planted some windflowers in the barrel before they make a nice addition surrounding the base of the heathers and the pink and purple flowers should look pretty when they bloom in spring. My final choice was to take the rest of the tulips and plant them in a pot, placing it on top of our glass table out on the deck. I've always planted tulips in the ground other than species tulips, so this should be a fun experiment to see how well they do in a container instead.

I was pleased to finally get my bulbs in the ground and planted, it has been frustrating waiting on the rain to cease. The rains are far from letting up, storms are moving in this week and no doubt as winter begins the rains will continue to water my garden and my new garden bulbs well. Now to wait until there is another lull so I can trim back the heaths and heathers of their spent blooms from this year.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Deer Resistant Plants Part III

Deer in your garden can be a challenge. Deer can decimate a garden when they become frequent hungry visitors. One way to combat this situation is to offer plants that do not appeal to the deer. Often enough a hungry deer will try just about any plant in the garden. This list of plants are known to be rarely eaten by deer, planting plants that are not as appealing to deer may help keep the damage to your garden down. 

Here is part three of deer resistant plants for your garden:

Lavender-Cotton/Santolina - Perennial
Leatherleaf Viburnum - Shrub
Lily of the Valley - Groundcover
Marjoram - Herb
Monkshood - Perennial
Mountain Pieris - Perennial
Pampus Grass - Ornamental Grasses
Poppy - Annual
Pot Marigold - Annual
Purple Rock-Cress
Red Pine - Tree
Rose Campion - Perennial
Rosemary - Perennial
Rue Anemone - Perennial
Russian Cypress - Shrub

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Deer Resistant Plants Part II

Deer in your garden can be a challenge. Deer can decimate a garden when they become frequent hungry visitors. One way to combat this situation is to offer plants that do not appeal to the deer. Often enough a hungry deer will try just about any plant in the garden. This list of plants are known to be rarely eaten by deer, planting plants that are not as appealing to deer may help keep the damage to your garden down.

Here is part two of plants rarely damaged by deer, making these a good choice for your garden:

Common Yarrow – Perennial
Corkscrew Willow – Trees
Creeping Wintergreen – Groundcover
English Holly – Shrub
Fall Mums – Perennial
Forget-Me-Not – Annual and Perennial Versions
Fringed Bleeding Heart – Perennial
Golden Bamboo – Ornamental Grass
Grape Hyacinth – Bulb
Heartleaf Bergenia – Perennial
Heliotrope – Annual
Japanese Maple – Tree
Lamb’s Ear – Perennial
Lantana – Perennial
Lavender – Perennials

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Deer Resistant Plants Part I

Deer in your garden can be a challenge. Deer can decimate a garden when they become frequent hungry visitors. One way to combat this situation is to offer plants that do not appeal to the deer. Often enough a hungry deer will try just about any plant in the garden. This list of plants are known to be rarely eaten by deer, planting plants that are not as appealing to deer may help keep the damage to your garden down.

Here is part one of deer resistant plants for your garden:

Angel’s Trumpet – Annual
Annual Vinca – Annual ground cover
Autumn Crocus – Bulb
Barberry – Shrub
Bearberry – Ground cover
Bleeding Heart – Perennial
Blue Fescue – Ornamental grass
Butterfly Bush – Shrub
Cinnamon Fern – Fern
Foxglove – Biennial
Daffodils – Bulbs
Flowering Tobacco/Nicotiana – Annual
Heaths & Heathers – Shrub
Iris – Perennial bulb
Japanese Painted Fern – Fern

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crocus Plant Profiles

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 crocus.

Crocus (Crocus vernus) are a welcome sign of early spring, signaling the end of winter. There are some Crocus species that bloom in the fall. Crocus are a wonderful ground cover and perfect bulb placed below taller plants. Crocus are a member of the iris family and a hardy perennial. Crocus grow two to six inches tall, with a width of three to six inches. The cup shaped flowers come in purple, white, yellow, and lavender, some featuring bi-colored blooms. Crocus grow well in drifts, they have a grass like leaf that mixes in well with lawns. When growing crocus in lawns wait until the leaves have died back and nourished the bulb for next season before mowing. Crocus bulbs, or corms, form a new corm on top of the old corm. Small corms (cormels) grow around the base of each corm. Crocus corms produces from one to five blooms from each corm. Crocus naturalize well and can be forced indoors for early bloom during winter. Crocus prefer full sun to partial shade, have good drought tolerance, and like well-drained soil. Dig up and divide Crocus when crowded after the leaves have died back from the corm.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beautyberry Plant Profiles

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 beautyberry.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa bodinieri, American beautyberry) is a fast-growing deciduous shrub sporting pale green leaves with tiny lilac flowers during the year, then magenta colored berries develop in late summer. The shrub has attractive leaves which turns yellow in fall, with the shrub eventually dropping its leaves, leaving only the striking cluster of magenta berries on bare branches in late fall. Beautyberry can grow 4 to 8 feet tall and wide. The beautyberry shrub prefer light shade, planting in a protected area from the wind against a fence is a good idea. Staking the shrub as they grow is helpful for sturdy growth, the shrubs can grow up to five feet tall. Water the beautyberry shrub with one inch of water weekly. It will take a growing season or two before new Beautyberry shrubs produce flowers and berries. The Beautyberry shrub may die back in cold areas but will grow back in spring. The Beautyberry shrub needs new growth to grow berries, if you must prune do so only after the shrub has produced berries for the first time. The berries can be eaten by birds, but may be astringent and would be a last choice for a natural food source. American beautyberry is known as a natural insect repellent. 

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Evergreen Foliage and Garden Structure in Fall and Winter

When fall arrives on the north coast, plant growth starts to wane and leaves drop from the drooping cherry, Japanese maples and eventually the curly willow drops its curled leaves. As bleak as late fall and winter can be in a garden, I am always impressed with evergreen plants that stay sturdy and look healthy in the coldest, wettest weather.

The white camellia has deep green leaves that look incredibly healthy as it starts to grow bigger and taller each year. The spring flowering increased on the camellia this past year, wonderful to see, and no doubt it will flower better as it grows as it should grow, with minimal trim back. Every year the pink jasmine vine continues its greenery and blooms throughout every season, even in winter there are less blooms but small white with pink blooms nontheless. The passionflower vines on the fence stay lush and evergreen all year long. Even the first year we were here when a heavy frost killed the leaves down to the woody vine, the vine grew back perfectly beginning in spring, and was lush and full by summer. The heaths and heathers stay evergreen and in fact thrive in the cold weather. The heathers with fall leaf colors of yellow, orange, reds, and bronze are a sight for sore eyes in the dead of winter.

The curly willow and drooping cherry tree may lose their leaves in fall and winter, but their shapely branches provide a beautiful structure to the front garden. The pink roses may have bare leaves, but the hard working rhododendron and azaleas look green and lovely, with some red tints on one of the azaleas burnishing its leaves in fall and winter. The lavenders keep their green and grey leaves looking sturdy, attractive even without their long wands of lavender blooms. Trees, evergreens and colorful leaf foliage are a focal point in my garden giving added interest. These dependable trees and shrubs provide a bit of hope for the coming seasons, comfort within the sturdy structures when little else is standing in the cold days of fall and winter.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hardworking Plants For The Garden

Over the years I've used the following plants throughout my garden to add some color and long lived blooms most of the year. They may be common flowers, but lobelia, alyssum, and nasturtiums are hardworking plants perfect for baskets, containers, to line pathways, and to fill in under plants in flower beds.

Lobelia is a great addition to flowerbeds, billowing up and out wide, depending on the type of lobelia purchased. Most containers of lobelia available at garden centers are in the blue tones, some in electric blue, light blue and deep blue tones. There are varieties that cascade, ideal for hanging baskets and container gardening. There are also pastel shades of lobelia in whites and pinks, although I find the blue lobelia a little better for growing and reseeding. Ah reseeding, lobelia does like to reseed, a perfect way to expand your garden plants naturally. Beyond how well they flower, how long they flower and how easy care they are, lobelia are really lovely, fitting right in and making a small statement along pathways and mixed with other plants. Annual lobelia are a good addition to any garden.

Alyssum has a wonderful smell and virtually blooms year long in the right climate. I have had alyssum planted in my Petaluma garden, where it got to be in the 90's to 100 degrees and beyond, and in my coastal Eureka garden where the average temperature is between 55 and 65 degrees all year long. In both places my alyssum has grown with easy abandon, lighting up areas with its white fluffy flower heads. I've found the white alyssum is very dependable when planted, once in place it is in the garden for years to come. I bought some white and purple tinged alyssum to plant in my half moon shaped planter with three terra cotta pots. Nothing has worked well in these pots and I decided if alyssum can't grow happily there, nothing will. I will also plant some alyssum in the top of my metal planter that houses red lilies. The alyssum will help fill the top of the container until summer weather brings up the lily bulbs. Alyssum is always a good choice for underplanting and pathways, and great for edging in hanging baskets and containers, while sharing its sweet smell for lucky passerbys.

Nasturtiums may be considered a common garden vine, but they are one of my favorite all time plants. When I think of gardens and bed and breakfasts I've been to, nasturtiums have been one of the most beautiful parts of the gardens I visited. When nasturtiums really take hold in part of the garden they are lush and full of flowers. I have a few spare vines here and there that are in too shady an area to really get growing. I'm looking forward to the nasturtium seeds I planted back in the corner below my climbing roses to start sprouting and growing. Nasturtiums are colorful and prolific creators of seed. Once established nasturtiums will grow contentedly in your garden where they will fill areas with bright colors and green leaves. Beyond nasturtium vines, there are a number of dwarf nasturtium varieties in colors other than the traditional oranges and yellows. Varieties with varigated leaves, red and burgundy flowers and pastel cream colors are among the many choices for nasturtium lovers

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall Planting for Heathers

There was finally a break in the rain this past weekend, with enough time for me to plant the seven heathers we purchased from the annual heath and heather sale. I brought out my small shovel, some extra dirt, and five of the seven heathers to the front yard. I dug up the red rose bush that has been doing very poorly underneath the pink roses. The red rose may put out one or two roses each summer and other than green leaves sits there looking forlorn. I'm not sure if the rose just isn't viable or if its place against the fence wasn't a good choice, but I decided to dig it up and replant it in the back yard near the kiwi vines. Another spot can't hurt, and it can't do much worse there, hopefully better. The red rose was a strange placement under the pink roses and always looked out of place. I was able to dig it up with plenty of dirt surrounding it and replanted it successfully.

The space left by the red rose was taken by the heather that grows up to five feet tall. This heather has pale pink bell flowers with a darker pink edge at the tip of the flowers. It is a beautiful plant and I'm hoping it does well in this spot back towards the fence. On one side of the heather and one of the pink climbing roses, I planted a rooting of my garnet colored pestemon plant, which should look terrific paired with the pinks of the roses and purple flowers of the small lavenders growing there. Next I planted the four ground cover heathers in front of two of the climbing roses, these four plants should fill in the area next to the lawn very well and help keep down weeds. Best of all they produce an abundance of pink blooms that should look fantastic during the fall and winter months.

I decided at that point I might as well dig up the purple hebe and plant it next to one of the climbing roses. The rhododendron and garnet pestemon were crowding out the hebe. I planted the hebe with plenty of breathing room surrounding it and hope it grows even better in its new spot. After planting and replanting plants, I decided I might as well plant the remaining two heathers in the back yard. These heathers are very different, one has pink buds on green branches, while the other has the orange/yellow/bronze colors on its leaves. I planted them both underneath the deck below the pink jasmine. Once I finished all the planting I sat in my chair and could see these heathers easily from the arbor where I spend time enjoying the garden. Planting the heathers was a pretty big job all in all. Next is the planting of the various bulbs I've been buying. I will be getting a late start but hopefully the good weather will hold up through next weekend so the bulbs can finally get in the ground before the rains start up again.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seasonal Changes In The Coastal Garden

As we start our cooler weather in October on the north coast, changes in light, temperature, and blooming begin. When fall and winter arrive I am always grateful for the shrubs and vines that stay green and withstand most of the frosts and weather here.

With fall weather, the heathers sporting colorful leaves start deepening their hues from evergreens and yellows to oranges, reds and bronse, standing out more in the garden as the other flowers begin to fade. The late blooming heathers are a wonderful addition as the months grow colder since so many of them bloom from September to October and even November. The pink jasmine stays green all year long, flowering more during summer, yet, surprisingly has a small amount of white with pink tinged flowers blooming even during the coldest of winter months.

The lithodora ground cover remains green all year long after its blue flowers bloom in summer, as do my azaleas, rhododendron, and the cotoneaster plant, which features orange berries all year long. This gives the garden some color and leaf shape when the rose leaves look sparse, the Johnson's Blue geranium dies back, the garnet pestemon gives up its blooms, the kiwi vines and butterfly bushes are bare, and the other spring and summer plants go dormant.

The passionflower vines on the front yard fence have survived well through most winters here, surprisingly so. Our first year the vines were hit by a very cold winter, with heavy frost and temperatures below the low thirties. The passionflower vines on the fence died back and then quickly recovered in spring, as if the frost did nothing to them that year. Since then I've practiced a hard trim back in early spring, leaving the vines and leaves lush and full from summer over fall and winter, which seems to help protect the vines during colder weather.

The privet hedge is always green, not my favorite hedge but in winter it helps to see the green outline our front yard. Even the curly willow and drooping cherry tree that both drops its leaves by winter have beautiful bare, curled branches that are striking during the cold weather of winter. If only the passionflower vines on the trellis out front would stay leafed out during the colder months, but it seems my garden passionflower vines during winter are only full with green leaves when located against the front yard fence.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Vines Around the Coastal Garden

I feel fortunate that when we moved into our home three years ago, a number of vines were well established in our front and back yards. The pink jasmine is all over the front and back yards, planted by the previous homeowner. This is a good and a bad thing at times, since the pink jasmine is a high climber when it comes to vines. The trellis in the back yard has pink jasmine crawling up at least eight to ten feet, great for that area but not so great for the short deck area, where the vines billow out and grow aggressively. They look beautiful but so much pruning!

The passionflower vines on the fence are growing like crazy this year, flowering well even though I haven't had as much chance to run the soaker hose along the base of the vines growing against the front yard fence. There are not as many flowers this year because I have not soaked the vines on a regular basis, but the light purple and green flowers still look great draped over the front and the back of the front yard fence. I planted four roots from the green and purple flowering passionflower in the trellis boxes last spring but so far nothing. I hope the roots take hold and the vines grow from these seedlings. I've never dug up and planted a seedling root of passionflower before, so I am hoping by next spring I will see some growth.

I discovered last year that the previous homeowner had planted yet more pink jasmine, this time a plant in each of the front yard trellis boxes. The plants have been doing little growth since we've been here until finally this summer the vines are reaching the top of the trellis and building up in size. Originally after two of the four the dark purple passionflower vines died off I tried to dig up the jasmine vines because I thought they would be too much in terms of pruning in the trellis boxes. The passionflower vines behave themselves fine in the trellis and grow upwards, but I discovered they are shorter lived than I thought they would be. This summer its been pretty bare again like last summer. I planted some sweet pea seeds, added some rich soil and nothing happened. I've always had hit or miss luck with sweet peas, not sure what I am doing wrong, guess its time to study up more on them. With the lack of sweet peas and passionflower seedlings in the trellis boxes I finally realized perhaps because the pink jasmine does best growing tall these vines will do well there after all. When grown to grow tall the pink jasmine vines do not need as much pruning. I also realized the pink jasmine sports flowers and green with burgundy leaves almost all year long here, another benefit for the trellis. I am hoping by next spring I'll see more flowers and vines on the trellis boxes, even if the pink jasmine dominates the trellis, no doubt it will be a beautiful display after all.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

R.I.P. Steve the Cat

Steve the cat had been my faithful companion eighteen years, two months and one week. He left us on Friday, October 8 at 4:00 p.m. I first met Steve at my apartment complex, he was about three months old and hanging out with other stray cats at the bottom of my stairway. I've always had a soft spot for animals, especially kitties, so I put some dry food and water out for the kitties at the top of my stairs. Steve was a Russian Blue, a gorgeous grey, very tall for his age but so young, I worried for him. Steve ate the food regularly at the top of my stairs and unlike the other kitties would take that opportunity to run into my apartment whenever I opened the door for the next few weeks. Steve kept running into my apartment when he got the chance and we bonded. When he ran into my apartment after my friends left that Christmas Eve, I decided he was my Christmas present and I adopted him and named him Steve after a college friend who had passed away. He had a lot of nicknames along the way, including the one I used most, Stevecat.

My favorite memory of Steve is when he sat at the screen door looking out into the garden. I kept him as an indoor cat and he readily accepted the change, since when he was outdoors he was scared to be out there. When I met my future husband a few months later, my husband used a feather on a stick to keep Steve entertained. Steve was a one person cat, but eventually he became very close to my husband as well. Steve enjoyed sitting in the window above our bed, jumping up and scratching the wood as he climbed. We didn't mind so much because he loved looking outside. Steve loved to sit in the doorway with the screendoor opened so he could smell the fresh air and watch the world go by. When we moved up to Eureka, he was fourteen and adjusted well, sitting on a stool at the back door with the screen open so he could look out into our garden. This was a much better view for Steve and he made the most of his time at the back door.

The last six months Steve declined, but with every look he gave you he was still Steve, even up to the last few hours. Steve did a little upside down head turn when he was laying down, so cute, and he managed to do a head turn the day before he passed away. We were both honored to hold him as he died peacefully at home.

We will miss you Stevecat...more than you can ever know. Jump up in the window all you want.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Visiting the Annual Heather Farm Sale

The annual heather farm sale was this last weekend, and as we have every year since we arrived in Eureka, we went to the sale and selected some great heathers for our garden. The apple tree behind the farm's house is always a welcome sight, thick bent branches hold red apples with yellow markings, birds chirping, and a bird house hangs from a branch. The farm has hills surrounding it with fog rolling over them. The meadow where the heathers are raised has green grass, and plenty of heaths and heathers to view in beds throughout the property. Each four inch and gallon pot were selling for $3 each, a real bargain to say the least. The heather farm owners always puts out a spread of savory and sweet snacks for visitors, some packaged candies for the children who come with their parents, coffee and tea, and there is a table in the meadow so you can sit, relax, and enjoy the scenery as well. The annual heather sale is always a highlight of fall for me here on the north coast.

This time I went to the heather sale with a list and my husband was impressed. As is often the case the plants you buy the year before are not available, and this year was no exception. I don't mind too much because it is always fun to buy different heathers for the yard. There were less heather overall this year and no heaths available, good thing I stocked up on heaths last year. I only found one heather on my list, but was lucky enough to find the one heather I was most anxious to get more of, Kramer's Rote. This is a beautiful low to the ground heather that has delicate evergreen leaves that are covered in cream buds in the fall, opening to a striking fuchsia pink flower. This heather has become a wonderful ground cover mixed in with my lithodora plant, both perfect accents to the rhododendron and pestemon hovering over them. I grabbed two Kramer's Rote to add under the pink roses in the front yard. I found another heather that stated it acted as a thick ground cover, smothering out weeds. This particular heather is also low to the ground and is supposed to have heliotrope colored blooms. I selected two of these to go along with the Kramer's Rote heather, all to line up under the pink roses. The height of these heathers should be no more than six to eight inches high, but both spread out quite a bit when fully grown.

I found two other heathers that I plan to plant under the jasmine at the bottom of the back yard deck. There was a heather that I have grown before in Petaluma, very similar to my yellow/orange/bronze heathers in the front yard. The other heather had a beautiful pink flower and will sit nearby the brightly colored heather, both will be visible from the arbor where I sit to enjoy the garden. The final heather we purchase is an heather that grows 5 feet tall...I've never seen one that grew that tall available at the heather farm. There was one left and I grabbed it, glad we had arrived early for the sale that day. This evergreen heather is going to be planted near the pink climbing roses, it features pale pink flowers edged in a darker pink at the opening of the flowers, really a stunning shrub. I can't wait to see this heather perform in the garden, and am hoping it enjoys the sunny spot I have chosen for it.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Colorful Plants For Fall & Winter

When fall and winter months arrive it can be difficult to find plants with blooms or leaf colors to brighten up the garden. I have found a few sturdy plants that always look good in the garden all year long. The temperatures the plants I have chosen have endured survived freezes of 25 degrees to 32 degrees here on the north coast. I have found most of these plants are also heat tolerant as well. Heaths and heathers are the perfect shrub for color combinations in the fall when you choose plants with either colorful leaves or winter blooms. There are many evergreen heaths and heathers available to keep green alive in your garden, they stay evergreen and all heaths and heather shrubs that I know of bloom in a variety of colors, including white, pink, lavender, purple, magenta and burgundy.

Heathers have a number of shrubs that have colorful leaves ideal for fall or winter months. The heathers I have in my coastal garden have yellow, orange, bronze and even purple tinges in the leaves, and the leaves are colorful all year long. Considering some of these shrubs can grow to one to two feet wide and as tall, you can have an impressive array of shrubs that always looks good year round planted in a border or lining pathways through your garden. Heaths and heathers require consistent watering the first year, then they are drought tolerant, although I always water mine weekly. Heaths and heathers need good draining soil for their delicate roots, they do not like to stand in water, contrary to them being thought of as bog plants. Heaths and heathers need at minimum six hours of sunlight for optimum growth. A trim of spent blooms once a year, carefully cutting above the hard wood of the plant will keep them looking shaped and healthy.

Rosemary is a fantastic herb that makes for a great shrub in the garden. Rosemary has done well even in my coastal garden, although ideally rosemary does its best in warm weather climates. Rosemary plants typically are upright shrubs and there are varieties that cascade over the edge of borders. In my experience rosemary always looks good, with glossy evergreen leaves, perfect for culinary uses in the kitchen, and keeps it shape well in the border. During winter months in Petaluma my rosemary bloomed profusely with small blue flowers. For fragrance, cooking, blooms and shaping the structure of a garden, you can't do wrong by using rosemary as part of your garden design.

Lavender is much like rosemary, even more fragrant with wonderful flowers in summer, trim up your lavenders and you will have sturdy shrubs as part of the bones of your garden. Lavender has a number of different color combinations when it comes to leaf color and flower color. My Grosso lavender has dark green leaves all year long, while my Goodwin Creek Grey lavender sports a soft grey, almost silver color on its leaves. My small Munstead lavenders have a greenish-grey tinge to the leaves somewhere between the other two lavender leaf colors. Lavenders need a trim after blooming, providing you with loads of lavender flowers good for sachets, to brew flowers in with tea (great combined with Russian Caravan tea), and as well shaped, always good looking shrubs to form your garden. I have never had any frost problems with lavenders, they are workhorses in the garden.

Finally I will mention cotoneaster as a good choice to add to your garden for fall and winter color. This is a wide spreading, arching shrub with white flowers in summer and orange colored berries against the small, glossy dark green leaves of the plant. I've never grown cotoneaster other than here on the north coast, but in the past two years so far the shrub looks great, needs no trimming and is full of berries all year long, adding more color as a groundcover at the base of other plants. Cotoneaster is an easy care shrub that will brighten up a dark corner in your garden all year long.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Curly Willow and Garden Weeding

We decided to tackle the base of the curly willow this past weekend. The tree is much bigger than the photo shown, the trunk has grown thicker and the tree taller and wider. The base of the tree was a good foot high, piled with dirt and rocks surrounding the circular shape around the tree on the front lawn. As I've mentioned the past homeowner put huge river rocks everywhere to use as a border, which is hard to mow around and allows grass to grow into the border quite easily. My husband pulled out the shovels and wheelbarrow, and we started pulling away the massive rocks surrounding the base of the curly willow. We were not sure if the base of the tree was flat with roots underground or if the roots were above the lawn. We were hoping the roots of the curly willow were underground but no such luck, about six to eight inches above the ground a thick root was found, we then put back the dirt and redwood bark that had covered that area. We weeded the grass growing up through the rocks atop the dirt and rock border, and used shovels to dig out all the large rocks from the base of the tree. I pulled out some pink hyacinth bulbs that I planted to replant them elsewhere. With a small area cleared next to the lawn it was much easier for my husband to mow around the base of the tree. The curly willow looks better at the base of the tree, next we would like to put a wood border around the tree to make the area look nicer and perhaps fill the border in order to grow some flowers at the top of the wood border.

While my husband carted away the huge river rocks to the back yard, I started weeding the smaller side border near the porch. The larger side border was weeded well recently and it was time to make the other border look better. I got into a sitting position to weed between the three orange and yellow heathers that decorate the small border. As I was weeding I noticed how much more these heathers were starting to bloom. This is the first year the six brightly colored heathers lining the walkway to the front door have bloomed, and the pink and lavender flower colors are fantastic against the yellows, greens, bronze and oranges of the shrubs. The small border had a few pieces of wood separating the border from the lawn, but these pieces of wood are rotting away. Bender board or bricks are two of the ideas we had to form a line around the border, frankly anything would be better than what is in place currently. I spent quite a bit of time pulling grass from around the three shrubs and once the area was weeded the shrubs were much more noticeable in their border because of their colors and blooms.

There is one more border that needs some serious weeding, it is an oddly shaped area next to the porch with the drooping cherry tree front and center in the border. The previous homeowner did nothing symmetrical in terms of design, everything has an odd shape when it comes to the shape of the flower beds. I'm not against the unusual shapes, but it is to an extreme and makes caring for the borders a bit more difficult. Now that we've begun digging out rocks the next step for the front yard is removing the other rocks lining borders here and there and replace them with some sort of uniform and functional border. With the amount of curves in the front yard borders bender board may be a better choice than bricks.

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Plans For Next Gardening Season

As summer winds down here on the north coast I'm thinking of next season and what to do with the area under the climbing roses. As soon as October 1st hits, it is fall here, unlike Petaluma where some of the hottest weather occurred during that month. I'm a big fan of cooler weather right at the beginning of October. My fuchsias keep blooming in October, the purple geranium blooms all year long, and the heaths and heathers do well in all seasons.

The area underneath the climbing roses has had little planted under it until two years ago. I started plantings with the cotoneaster under the climbing roses in the corner of the front yard fence. I rooted a piece of purple geranium growing in the back yard and planted this new plant near the roses in the corner this spring, so far it is growing bigger but not flowering this season. I added six heaths and heathers in that same area, three two years ago and three new ones from last fall. Most of the heaths and heathers are growing well, some better than others because three of them were originally bigger plants to start with. The three munstead lavenders were tiny shrubs in two inch pots that have been in place for three years and are finally blooming. Unfortunately the lavenders are still only five or six inches tall and wide. Someday I hope they become full sized lavenders. I planted two Goodwin Creek Grey lavender cuttings I rooted from my shrubs in the back yard this spring, not much happening as of yet. The original Goodwin Creek Grey lavenders are twice as big now as the picture above, really an impressive lavender. I have three or four of naked lady bulbs I planted last fall at the base of the roses, the leaves came up this year but no flowers as of yet.

Even with this amount of plants the area under the rose looks bare, primarily from the lavenders not having grown full size. My plan is to move my purple hebe, which is being crowded out by the garnet pestemon and the rhododendron in another flower bed, to the center of the rose area against the fence where it will get more sun and have room to grow. I have a few pieces of pestemon I am trying to root, I want to add two of the dark pink pestemons against the fence on either side of the hebe. With these additional plants the climbing roses should have a good amount of color underneath them. I plan to plant one of the Shasta daisies I've potted up this summer over on the other side of the fence near the roses, there is plenty of room for it to grow there with the purple geranium planted in front of that area. Lastly, a sprinkling of nasturtium seeds are planted in the corner under the roses and should produce some vines to fill in under that area behind the cotoneaster. If there is room left, a few more heathers may find their way to the rose flowerbed after the annual October heath and heather sale.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Heaths & Heather Blooms & Leaf Colors

As I was watering this past weekend in the front yard I noticed quite a bit of blooming happening from the older heaths and heathers in my garden. I planted six small heathers a few years ago that are gold with green, bronze or red throughout the leaves. Up 'till now the heathers have never bloomed but this year the six heathers are all finally blooming. These late season heathers are good sized now after starting off as four inch pots and the colors on the leaves are really beautiful, good enough frankly to highlight the garden even if they never bloomed. This year they started blooming in August and are featuring vivid purple, lavender and red blooms. These particular heather were placed near the front steps of the house so they would brighten up the front yard during the darker days of winter. I have to say they are doing that and much more now, having grown to almost full size and are full of color!

The erica I planted near the climbing roses is a really interesting shrub, I believe it is called a bicolor heath. It is probably a good two feet wide and foot or more tall, and full of dark lavender pink bells. I've noticed that this erica is always full of blooms and took to its spot readily, growing rapidly and blooming right away. The other interesting factor of this particular heath is that the blooms never seem to fade. Most of my summer heathers bloom then the flowers brown and fade, which signals me to trim them up and cut off the brown faded blooms. I haven't seen one brown flower faded on this plant and honestly it appears to be blooming all year long. I have a few newer heaths similar to this one with big bells in the same color and they are all doing very well and growing rapidly. One of these ericas was planted last October in the back yard below the pink jasmine on the deck, even at its small size it has pink bells covering the shrub.

Three years ago when we first went to the heather farm for its annual sale I bought three low growing heathers to plant below the pink climbing roses in tiny two inch pots for a great price. Two of the three shrubs are doing well, one is so low growing not much is happening other than it is spreading out, not up. One of the shrubs is mounded and all light green, with the softest feathered looking leaves, this is an early picture of it, now it is probably four inches by four inches. The other heather variety is called Grizse and is a small upright heather that has grown to four inches wide by five inches tall with the same grey colored leaves as the Silver King heather I have planted in the back under the jasmine. This heather is producing deep pink flowers that look fantastic next to the silver grey foliage.

These three heathers all took forever to get bigger and looked poorly until this year. I'm glad they are finally thriving and growing. It is exciting to see so many of the heaths and heathers I have planted grow bigger, show their leaf colors and bloom. The heathers in the photo are a few of the yellow and bronze leaf varieties lining our front walkway, perfect for color during the winter months. Heaths and heathers are a perfect choice for a sunny location in your garden and well worth the investment of time watering the first year. These easy care shrubs will fill your garden with shape, leaf color and bloom for years to come once established.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Seeded Shasta Daisy Thriving In The Coastal Garden

I mentioned previously that a Shasta daisy from across the street seeded itself into a crack in the sidewalk in front of our house. The Shasta daisy was growing quite well where it was, so I dug out about six roots, some with flowers, and potted them up. Two of the roots with flowers were planted in the front yard in the flower bed behind the drooping cherry tree. So far the flowers are open and seem to be thriving in the potted plants and the two roots in the flower bed are also continuing to flower and thrive. Shasta daisies are a clump-forming perennial that blooms from June to September, a long time for such beautiful white daisy blooms. The neighbor's two bunches of Shasta daisies are a good three to four feet wide and almost as tall. I'm hoping my newly transplanted daisy roots will do well in the front yard flower bed. I may plant some near the roses too, just to balance out the daisies in the front yard. It is always fun to find plants seeded in your yard that you didn't plant yourself. In this case I had wanted to get a Shasta daisy because the neighbor's plants looked so good in summer, so I feel fortunate the daisy seeded in our yard. My only concern is how big the plant will get by the time it fully establishes itself in the front yard, hopefully it won't push out the heathers growing in the same flower bed.

I was reading my BBC Gardener's World magazine and came upon an article about privet. Our front yard hedges are made up of privet and boxwood. I much prefer the look of boxwood, being more delicate looking. The privet can be quite a handful to keep trimmed down to shape the hedge, especially in summer weather. The article about privet said you could simply take a woody piece of privet, stick it in the ground and it will root and grow rapidly. Now I've never tried this myself but its good to know if this is indeed the case if our privet hedge ends up with a bare spot dying off. Our privet hedge is certainly hardy if nothing else, not much will hurt it, even severe pruning. Those of you with privet keep in mind if you need more privet, take a cutting, stick it in the ground and give it a try, you never know it might just work.

Speaking of plants seeding that you didn't plant, in our back yard there is some sort of thistle that has taken root and grown a foot or so, with one of the thistle's flowers already open at the top of the stem. I don't know if this plant is a weed or something more but I decided to let it grow and see what comes of this rogue plant. The one flower that is showing on the thistle is purple and quite pretty. I'll give this plant a chance and see what happens once it gets bigger and the other flowers open.

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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coastal Flower Beds In Summer

This past weekend was spent weeding, weeding, weeding in the front yard...and fixing one of the sprinkler heads for our automatic watering system. I feel very fortunate that the previous home owner installed a water sprinkling system in the front and back yards. The controls are in the house and makes it easy to run areas manually or put them on a weekly watering schedule. The sprinkler head has not been working for a while in the front yard so my husband dug it up and replaced it with a back up sprinkler head. I'd been hand watering that area for a while and now there is less watering to do by hand, which leaves me more time for other gardening tasks.

I spent a good portion of my time Saturday weeding under the climbing roses to clear grass growing in the flower beds and another wild grass that has been growing here and there in the garden as well. As I've mentioned before, grass grows rampant here and had been long established invading the flower beds before we even moved to Humboldt county. Clearing the areas beneath the roses helped the small lavenders show up more. The lavenders are still small but are flowering for the first time this year. A number of the heathers growing under the climbing roses showed up better once some of the grass had been removed. One of the heathers is a small medium green mounded heather that is probably five inches wide now. The leaves of this particular heather is very soft, unusual for most heathers and heaths pine-tree like leaves. One of the other heathers is starting to show some blooms, a heather similar to a Silver King heather I planted in the back yard, silvery in leaf color with small lavender flowers growing on the tips. The erica I planted a few seasons ago in fall is now a good three feet wide and almost as tall, with bright magenta bell flowers that seems to bloom all year long.

The garnet pestemon in the front yard flower bed is growing bigger every week. This one plant must be over three feet tall and just as wide, covered in dark pink tubular blossoms. I have two pieces of this garnet pestemon I am trying to root in water, I hope they root easily so I can add another pestemon or two to the front yard where the warm sun will help them grow readily. I can imagine putting a number of garnet pestemons in the back yard against the back fence. I have a few pieces of what I believe to be Shasta daisy I dug up from the front yard on the sidewalk. The daisies grow in our neighbors yard across the street and seeded themselves in a big bunch in a crack in the sidewalk in front of our house. I dug up the roots of the plants and ended up with about five or six pieces I potted up. One of the pieces I put directly into the front flower bed that sits behind the drooping cherry tree. This is a hearty plant that looks great when it is big and blooming. I am hoping the daisy will take hold in the flower bed and the pots so I can grow them in our front and back yards in summer for years to come.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Weeding Flower Beds of Grass, Blackberries and Passionflower Starts

This past weekend was spent weeding two of the flower beds in the front yard. Weeding the grass from those areas, along with the starts of blackberries, is a constant job during the growing season in spring and summer. Between the blackberry starts, the grass growing through the beds and the seedlings from the passionflower vines on the front yard fence, it keeps us both very busy weeding. Blackberries really like growing near the climbing roses, where I have my cotoneaster and a few heaths and heathers growing. The cotoneaster is sending out two feet branches laden with orange berries, and has grown quite a bit since this photo was taken. I'm hoping there will be more white flowers on the cotoneaster this year, the berries from last year are still in place decorating the shrub. Blackberries are all over Humboldt county, very common in yards and although easily dug up in the early stages, can become established in the garden. The blackberries in our yard find hard to reach places next to other plants, making it more difficult to dig them out. I've found if the blackberries are young and small, they are easier to dig out with a shovel, be sure to get the full root of the plant when you dig them out. There are a number of small blackberries in the flower bed I was weeding located under the climbing roses.

My husband worked on one of the flower borders that lines the pathway up to the house. The heathers there are doing very well, growing bigger and one is starting to flower for summer. The majority of these orange and gold heathers that line the walkway on either side are winter blooming shrubs. Originally I tried to keep the heaths and heathers together for spring, summer or winter blooms but that gave way to choosing shrubs I thought would look great most of the time of year, regardless of their bloom time. This particular summer bloomer has lavender flowers that are almost a florescent color against the yellow and orange leaves of the heather. The shrubs are a few seasons old now and getting larger. In winter the six heathers with leaves of yellow, orange and bronze color are a great asset to the less colorful front yard during the winter.

I cleared a portion of the flower bed area under the climbing roses, making more room for the erica heath flowering abundantly with large magenta flower bells, as well as more room to stretch for the cotoneaster plant which is directly under the roses. The nasturtium vines in the front yard trellis had some seed developed on the flowers, making it easy for me to collect a small handful and plant them under the climbing roses where I had been weeding. There's still quite a bit of work to do over near the roses but at least the weeding is a start to clearing up the flower bed. I'm eager to see if the nasturtiums take hold there and flower against the fence area. If this is successful I plan to spread nasturtiums along the fence area in the front yard.

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nasturtiums and Foxgloves for the Cottage Garden

I have always wanted a cottage garden look for my garden and now that I'm living in a Victorian home it is even more important to me to have that look throughout the garden. If there is one plant I love in the cottage garden it is nasturtiums. We have some nasturtiums growing near the big box trellises that the previous home owner planted, but the plants have never been fully established. I was able to get a bit of seed from these vines but not enough to really plant up the garden. I've decided to buy some nasturtium seeds and add them beneath the climbing roses since the small lavenders are not thriving as I'd hoped in that area. Someday the lavenders will do better, but now is the time to line the nasturtiums against the fence for added color beneath the other plants, and the lavenders can play catch up later. I am thinking of adding nasturtiums under the butterfly bushes in the back yard to brighten that area as well since not much else grows against the back fence.

My set of six new foxgloves near the front porch are not growing much this season, they are small enough that they will probably do their full growth next spring. One of the first years I lived here the three foxgloves I planted grew tall and looked fantastic in the little corner next to the porch. I am hoping this batch of foxgloves re-seeds enough to keep the biennial foxgloves growing in this area for future seasons. Another set of foxgloves planted this year along with the current set of foxgloves would probably do the trick. I'm discovering more is better in this case for foxgloves to establish themselves and re-seed readily. The back yard shade border has a few foxgloves that have re-seeded, but not enough were planted to really get things going. Eventually I'd like to have ferns and foxgloves take over that border, I think this would be a beautiful combination in that shady area.

The brodiaea star shaped flowers I planted throughout the garden are in full bloom this summer and although the stems are thin and delicate, the bulb's brilliant purple blue flower tones are a fantastic addition to the flower beds and barrel in the back yard. The brodiaea bulbs are also planted in the porch corner next to the front steps with the new foxgloves, by next year when the foxgloves bloom they will provide a wonderful sea of color below the tall spires of the foxgloves.

One thing I have discovered in building up my cottage style garden is that I need to plant in greater numbers to achieve the effect I am looking for when it comes to nasturtiums and foxgloves. The brodiaea bulbs are succeeding, but more nasturtium seeds and foxgloves are needed to plant so the look I am envisioning will come to be in the coming seasons.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Calla Lilies and Ferns Take Over

My north coast garden was filled with established calla lilies and ferns long before we moved into our Victorian home. The garden looks lush with the calla lilies and ferns, especially in spring and summer. As wonderful as that is, the calla lilies tend to fall over quite a bit by summer after blooming. I know, a metal hoop on a stake would hold them up, but there are so many of them in the back yard in different areas I'd need a lot of stakes and have not seen any of these kind of holders locally at the garden centers. I love seeing the white lily flowers near Easter and they are stunning cut flowers for a vase at that time of year. Still they can be a pain to deal with. I suppose the thing to do is cut back the stems of the fallen lilies, something we've done in the past. The ferns in the back yard are beautiful, full and growing quite a bit bigger each year, expanding out of their areas each season. I have to say I don't mind the excess of ferns nearly as much as the excess of calla lilies since the ferns behave themselves by standing up well other than during heavy rains.

Originally I tried propping up the spent calla lilies with the hoards of driftwood the previous homeowner collected, similar to his collection of huge river rocks, both of these items are everywhere in the back yard. So far the carefully placed driftwood has not worked as well as I'd hoped in holding up the falling stems of the calla lilies. Perhaps another round of placement, a change here and there might help to keep things held back. My husband would just as soon we dug them all out and got rid of the lilies since he does not like calla lilies, but he is convinced you can never get rid of them. We had a batch of calla lilies sitting against our back yard fence in Petaluma and he tried a number of times to expedite them, but never succeeded. I like the calla lilies but what I don't like is how easily they seed when the stems fall. Currently I have a plant that has seeded and wedged itself between the back yard bench and the fence under the holly trees; the calla lily was cut back but I imagine we'll have to dig it out sometime soon to keep the bench from being pried apart by the plant.

The ferns are growing bigger each season, which works under the holly trees but then again, they have to compete with the aggressive calla lilies that can grow to five feet tall or more in a season. The ferns established in the corner near the back gate surround the camellia bush, covering most of it by summer and branches extend over the two azaleas I have planted in the corner near the dining room window. I hope the fern doesn't completely take over this space as this is the biggest, widest fern we have in the yard, rising a good four to five feet tall or more now. If it happens I will probably need to move my azaleas somewhere else. As I watch year by year the calla lilies and ferns get bigger; it must be true when north coast locals say that once you plant something in Humboldt county it grows way past any size given on the plant information tag, plants that establish well here grow huge, no doubt about it. I shouldn't ever complain really, since a lush, full garden is something I've always wanted. The calla lilies and ferns certainly achieve this lush look, making my garden especially green and beautiful in spring and summer seasons.

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