Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring Arrives On The North Coast

Spring is officially here on the north coast. The early crocus and grape hyacinth bulbs start coming up at the end of February and by early March the large hyacinth and daffodils start to open up. The back flower bed is full of large hyacinth and a few daffodils so far.

This past weekend was spent hedge trimming, you can tell we have come into spring season when the hedge starts showing four or five inch sprouts of growth on the top of the hedge. I trimmed down the top and sides of the hedge for its yearly spring trim to help keep it in shape through the growing season. If I trim it enough then it's just touch ups here and there until fall when I give it another trim before winter hits.

While I had the hedge trimmer out I also trimmed up the passionflower vines on the front fence. I still have to trim up the lower portion of the vines since there are tons of seedlings at the bottom of the vines that need to be cut back. This severe trim gets the passionflower vines ready for summer season and the huge amount of growth that happens in a few short months. After last summer's successful watering and production of flowers I'll start watering the vines early on to help produce mass amounts of flowers.

I bought a box of windflower bulbs and a purple daylily from my local grocery store. They have half price bulbs in spring and fall, it's a great deal so I stock up weekly until they are sold out. I planted windflowers in the barrel with the heathers last fall and the windflowers look great surrounding the heather plants so I will add more in the barrel this spring. The daylily will be planted out in the front yard next to the passionflower vines and climbing roses. I have a piece of the purple geranium in that same spot, it is starting to grow so pairing the purple daylily next to it will be a pretty combination beside the purple and green passionflowers on the vines.

The box of giant columbines contained four plants with roots, they were planted in the front flower bed adjacent to the flowering cherry tree. I'm hoping these plants take hold, the last batch of columbines I planted were small columbines and they didn't seed well. If the giant columbines seed well in this flower bed it would be a good addition to the heaths, heathers, fuchsias, foxgloves and penstemon already planted there.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pruning and Planting Summer Bulbs In Early Spring

It's time to prune as spring begins its rampant growth in the garden here on the north coast. I started off my first hour in the garden by planting some summer bulbs and plants. I had a box of freesia in purples and pinks I added to the flower bed behind the cherry tree in the front yard. I have heaths and heathers planted there as well as a few fuchsias, a blue penstemon and a Johnson's Blue geranium. The purple and pink freesias should look good with the color combination in the flower bed. Besides the freesias I had a box of four giant columbine in mixed colors to add to the front yard garden. I planted some smaller columbines in the back yard two years ago and they didn't do too well, its possible the area was too shady planted under the pink jasmine vines lining the back deck. There is plenty of sun in the front yard in this flower bed, I'm hoping the columbines self-seed well as they are supposed to do in this location. I found a great sale on impatient seed, never grown them before from seed so this will be an experiment in the garden. I took a little time to sow some impatient seed surrounding the shady areas of the camellia, azaleas and ferns near the back gate, a perfect spot to brighten up with impatient flowers.

The next hour was spent starting my pruning duties. I started off pruning by working on the kiwi vines in the back yard. Normally I cut the long arms back in winter but the rains came early and haven't let up most of winter. I spent time cutting the tall arms off the vine with my pole trimmer and cutting them up in smaller pieces for the garden waste can. Some of the kiwi vine arms can grow five feet or more in a season and last year was no exception. The kiwi fruit did not ripen correctly again this year, so much of my time pruning was spent avoiding dropping old kiwi fruit, another job my husband and myself will get to in the coming weeks. The vines look cleaned up for the moment, a few of the higher branches will have to be left to my husband to cut down.

The butterfly bushes are already starting to show a growth spurt, another spring job that my husband takes care of. One of the butterfly bushes is a good 12 feet tall with the new growth. When pruned back to 4 feet the bushes put on another 4 to 5 feet of growth or more by the summer season. I can see its time to prune the passionflower vine on the fence, the curly willow and the hedge in the front yard. Since its still raining quite a bit here on and off they will have to wait a bit since mowing the lawns are the next big garden priority. I will try to fit in trimming the hedges along with the mowing next weekend if its not raining.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Camellia And Hyacinth In Bloom

As we get closer to spring, the garden is filling with early spring flowers and color. The camellia opened the first of eight blooms a few weeks ago, just beautiful. The leaves of the camellia are dark shiny green while the flowers are small and a brilliant white. I've become a bigger fan of white flowers over the years and this camellia is really stunning close up. I hope one day the camellia plant is covered in blooms but for now I'm happy to see any blooms after the past pollarding of the shrub by the previous homeowner.

The back yard flower bed next to the greenhouse is filled with large white and pink hyacinth. I planted some new white hyacinth bulbs this year, the pinks were already established when we moved into the house. The rains in February knocked over some of the taller hyacinths as they were coming up and more scattered rain continued over the past two weeks. I don't know if I would have originally planted large hyacinth in the flower bed but after three years I enjoy them and added more to fill the flower bed out this past fall.

I spent time during the past weekend cutting back my fuchsias, I usually cut them back sooner than this but the rain came early and was pretty relentless throughout winter. The base of the biggest fuchsia is leafing out with small green leaves, the plant is eager to start growing long before summer hits. A few stray tulips are coming up, they are new tulips I planted in the fall and what a pretty fuchsia pink color they are. The bluebells as always are growing tall and flowerbuds are setting up at the tip of the bulbs. I planted some grape hyacinths surrounding the bluebells, should be a very pretty combination by the time spring officially arrives.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grape Hyacinth 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 Grape Hyacinth.

Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) are lovely little bulbs that multiply rapidly in your garden, a great investment for a swath of color in spring. Grape Hyacinth are not related to the larger Hyacinth bulbs you see in spring, but in fact are members of the Lily family. Grape Hyacinth are short plants no more than 10 inches tall, making them ideal for planting under and surrounding other plants. You will want to plant a number of these bulbs as they look best in mass plantings. A planting of 25 bulbs in the fall will multiply rapidly by next season. The bulbs are very easy to grow and are early bloomers. The bulbs rise up through grassy areas looking much like grass itself with their grass-like arching leaves, capped by cone-shaped purple blooms that are long blooming in early spring. The bulbs do not like poorly-draining soil, otherwise they are pretty much bullet-proof, even deer do not like them. Grape Hyacinth bulbs come in colors of purple and blue you can find in most garden centers, as well as white and mixed color bulbs you can find through bulb catalogs.

The purple version of Grape Hyacinth looks fantastic planted under yellow Daffodils and are wonderful accents lined up against paths and walkways or planted in mass in fields or in lawns. Allow the leaves to die back naturally since leaves feed the bulb for next year's growth. Grape Hyacinth tolerate cold weather, down to 0 degree temperatures. They grow well in full sun or light shade. You can use them in a container but be aware they are rapid multipliers. A pot of Grape Hyacinths will cheer you as you wait for the rest of the garden to catch up to spring. Plant this bulb and enjoy the mass of color they produce season after season.

Full sun to light shade, zones: 3 to 9

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Japanese Maples Line The Sidewalk

Its been raining quite a bit here on the north coast during winter, more than in the past two years since we moved here. This winter has been warmer than the past two winters as well. We had another 6.0 earthquake last month a few weeks after the first 6.5 earthquake, but it was minor since it was farther away from Eureka, just a small shake and it was finished as soon as it started.

Our home was a part of the beautify Eureka project. This project provided free trees to place into the sidewalks in front of homes throughout Eureka streets. Our trees were planted a few weeks ago after a long wait. Families that accepted the trees were given a choice of trees to choose from. Our lot is big enough that we received three trees for the front of the property. I chose three japanese maples to be planted in front of our house. The previous home owner gave the front and back yard an asian flare, designing the front trellis, gate and back yard bench in this style. I wanted trees that would not get too big and have some space in the leaves so the house would not be covered up too much. Asian design is not what I would have chosen myself for our garden, my wish has always been for a cottage garden effect surrounding our Victorian. I guess you could say we have both in our garden, adding in cottage garden plants along with the structure already in place. The style is minimal so I think these two styles will live together well enough since I'm not going strictly by planting only cottage garden plants. The structure of the original garden has been in place for many years, planted by the previous homeowner. I don't want to disturb most of the structure of the garden since many larger shrubs and plants were well established when we moved here. The japanese maples should fit in perfectly in front yard and give the house a nice look once they are fully grown.

For now the japanese maples trees are very small, two of them probably no more than four feet tall and one of them is over five feet tall. The largest of the japanese maples is starting to leaf out this week. I wish they were all uniform sizes but you can't be choosy with free trees. The program workers set the trees up with a pipe at the base of the trees to collect rainwater so this is helpful for the young trees. I'd like to underplant the trees eventually with white alyssum and blue lobelia. If this works well then planting some grape hyacinths at the base of the trees may look nice mixed in with the alyssum and lobelia during spring. I think the japanese maples will go perfectly with the style of the garden. For now I have to wait to see the full effect until the trees grow bigger in the coming years.

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