Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Rampant Growth Requires More Pruning

This past weekend was spent trimming the rampant growth of the front yard hedges. The excessive rain this season lasted into the first few weeks of June, which is unusual even for the wet, foggy climate of the north coast. Whatever growth normally happens is quite a bit without throwing in the extra water. Weeds and plants were both growing in abundance here. The front yard hedges needed a trim on the top, putting off a major trimming that will be necessary by July. I used some lightweight loppers to cut the scraggly branches shooting up from the tops of the hedges, it was painstaking work but better than doing a full trim with the hedge trimmers, which will need some muscle behind them when the real trim happens.

While I was out in the front yard I trimmed up the newly sprouting stems of the roses that reached six or more inches above the rose bushes, making them look quite uneven. After they were all trimmed up I decided to trim back some of the lower portion of the curly willow, which never got its yearly trim in early spring and has grown very wide and tall. Many of the branches were reaching down towards the lawn, which can be a pain when you are trying to mow. I trimmed up the one side that needed the most trimming and made a promise to myself to be sure next spring to trim the curly willow back before growth begins.

As I was going through the yard pruning I noticed there were some dead branches hanging from the front of one of the passionflower vines on the trellis, so I did a bit of trimming there to clean things up. Still waiting for the sweet peas to appear after having added more dirt to the trellis boxes weekend before last, hopefully they will sprout soon. No sign of the passionflower roots I planted in the trellises last fall. Like everything else here on the north coast, it may take a season or two for the passionflower vine roots to take hold and grow. I've seen it time and time again where the first season or two plants grow slowly and there is little progress until by the next season growth is strong and the plants look healthy. I have to practice a little patience when it comes to new plants and hope that they will eventually grab hold and begin their growth when they are good and ready to grow.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lithodora, Cotoneaster and Thyme Ground Covers

I planted a 4 inch pot of low-growing lithodora last year because I love its brilliant blue flower bells and needed some ground cover near the rhododendron plant. The plant has done more than I expected, it has spread a good two feet wide and flowers regularly in spring and summer. The leaves of the lithodora look like small iceplant and its low growing habit of three to four inches tall and its beautiful blooms are a wonderful choice for ground cover in a sunny area in your garden. The lithodora is growing so well it is overtaking a small heather that I may have to dig up and move which is a shame since that particular heather was covered in small pink flowers last year. I'm thinking of trying to divide one or two pieces from the original lithodora plant and replant them under the roses where there is plenty of room bare and needing ground cover. Lithodora is thick enough it helps keeps the weeds down in the area it is planted in, making it a great choice for growing beneath other plants. I'm looking forward to its brilliant blue flowers when the weather warms up here on the north coast.

The cotoneaster ground cover I planted two seasons ago is growing but not nearly as vigorously as I expected it to grow. The plant information that came with the 4 inch cotoneaster pot said the plant could grow up to six feet within a season. No such luck here, although it is probably closer to two feet wide now. Here on the coast it can take a few seasons for plants to dig in with their roots and do well, so I'm hoping another season in the ground will help the cotoneaster establish better in its home underneath the rose bushes. The cotoneaster has managed to produce some flowers and some orange berries in winter so far. The cotoneaster is not a low growing groundcover, it sits above the ground and has extending branches that arch and grow out from the stem. This is a lovely plant covered in flowers and featuring berries in fall and winter, providing color during the season and berries as food for birds when they need it most.

Another good choice for a groundcover plant is the herb thyme. Wooley thyme is particularly good to use since it grows fairly low to the ground, no more than five or six inches tall, and is very thick, helping you to keep weeds back in your flower bed. I grew a wooley thyme plant in Petaluma and it was very hardy and even flowered with tiny pink flowers in its sunny location. Thyme is a nice addition to your flower beds when you need some filler, there are a number of varieties of thyme with different leaf color and smells. Besides acting as a ground cover a good trim here and there will strengthen the plant and provide you with thyme herb you can use as you cook. I haven't seen wooley thyme yet in the local nursery here, mostly culinary thyme and lemon thyme are offered. It looks like I'll have to hunt around for wooley thyme at other nurseries in the area.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pink and Burgundy Blooms in the Coastal Garden

My garden colors tend to go in the pink, purple, yellow and blue ranges when it comes to flower colors. I really prefer the cooler color palette for my garden and always have. I tend to mix in whites and evergreens with the other colors but I do have some dark yellows and oranges in my heathers that line the front walkway and the orange poppies that grow wild in our yards.

This year the deep fuchsia colored rhododendron is finally flowering with many dark pink buds over the shrub. I'm pleased to see it flowering more than its ever flowered before and although it is flowering a little later than most rhodies in town (April and May), my late May to June flowering rhododendron is putting on a spectacular show for being such a young plant. The buds form into one to two inch extensions of the branches and start coloring the outside of the buds, opening dark fuchsia to a dark pink as the blossoms open. I wonder if this shrub will eventually grow to four or five feet tall and wide like the light pink rhodie I had in a pot in Petaluma. It took about five years for that rhodie to fully develop and this rhodie is about three years old now and growing fairly slowly. I'm glad to see the blossoms since there were none the second year here. Some of the local rhododendrons that have been in place for years in Eureka can get as big as a large tree, many around town are six to twelve feet tall or more and almost as wide. It is a wonderful sight to see the big rhodie a few blocks away fully blooming and almost as tall as the two-story home it is planted next to.

My garnet penstemon planted near the fuchsia colored rhododendron has buds on the tips of the plant. This penstemon is fairly new from last summer and is growing quickly with new garnet colored buds showing on one stem of the plant. I had a garnet penstemon in Petaluma that grew two to three feet wide and tall, producing beautiful dark burgundy flowers. Looks like this plant is raring to go for the summer season, I expect many flowers to show up on this young plant.

Along with the dark pinks and garnet of the rhododendron and penstemon , the pink climbing roses join to make a trio of pinks in the front garden. Unfortunately the delicate pink roses last only for three or four weeks before fading out in late spring. Across on the other side of the yard the small thymifolia fuchsia is a good foot tall and full of small dark pink flowers so it will help balance out the pink colors in the front yard once the roses fade. If all goes well with my mix of pink and purple sweet peas in the trellis there will be more pinks showering the front of the house by summer. Last but not least the pink jasmine that winds its way around the front porch railing has touches of pink color, although the dominant color of the jasmine flowers is white. The forming pink jasmine flowers are a light pink color so the vine helps keep the pink theme going in the front yard since the vines typically have blooms on them all year long.

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rhododenrons And Fuchsias Are Blooming

I was happy to see my rhododendron budding and showing some deep pink fuchsia color on one of the flower buds this year. The shrub has been in the ground for a few years; although it bloomed the first year it was planted, last spring it did not flower. I'm relieved to see there are many buds preparing to flower on my rhodie. The growth of the plant has been fairly slow, which is much like the rhododendron I had in a pot in Petaluma. By the time we moved the plant was at least five years old and a good four feet by four feet in size. The location of my rhododendron is not the best, although the dirt there is home to other plants that are doing well and the rhododendron seems to be doing fine as well. I guess I'm impatient for the shrub to get taller and wider but for now I'm happy to see the deep pink of the blooms begin. My rhodie seems to bloom a number of weeks later than other rhododendrons in town. April is when the coastal rhododendrons bloom here and there is a rhododendron festival that happens towards the end of the same month. I doubt that my rhododendron will change its blooming habits to match the timing of the other rhododendrons in town, but I'm satisfied that my rhodie will flower this year.

The two lavender flowered fuchsias I purchased a few weeks ago seem to like their new spots next to the obelisk. One of the fuchsias appears to have bloom already starting to form which really surprised me. The fuchsias are only about four or five inches tall so they are small plants to start with. I'm hoping these fuchsias grow well in this spot, they stand against a grey fence and have plenty of room to grow out and upwards next to the obelisk structure.

I'm considering repotting my hanging fuchsia baskets. The lining of the baskets are wearing thin and I need to find a good source for liners. So far in town I haven't found anything worthwhile. A few more trips to local nurseries may help me find something suitable for the hanging baskets. Two of the baskets were left by the previous homeowner and have moss liners, which is what I'd like to use to re-line the baskets if I can find it. The coco liners of the other hanging baskets doesn't wear too well, far from ideal but they are functional. I think some new dirt and sturdy liners would go a long way in rejuvenating the fuchsias in the hanging baskets.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Time To Prune Pink Jasmine Vines

In spring and summer I spend every few weeks trimming back the vigorous growth of the numerous pink jasmine vines in the front and back yards. This Saturday was reserved for the front porch jasmine vine, which regularly get out of hand winding around the porch railing and sending out long runners at the base of the vine. I hadn't trimmed up this vine since last fall/winter so the vine was due for a good trim. I shaped the vine so visitors were not accosted with the tall arms of the vine as they walk up the porch to the front door. The base of the plant was pretty bad, as it always is with the runners skewing every which way. I filled the garden bin half way full just with this one vine. I cleared up the runners covering much of the area in the corner of the porch near the back yard gate. I have a fern, a Johnson's Blue geranium and a heather with burgundy flowers set in that area and all are growing fairly well there. Eventually the fern should be big enough to add some real texture to that corner while the Johnson's Blue geranium and heather fill in the lower portion of the porch corner.

When the weather is warm enough on the coast (which it rarely is) you can smell the pink jasmine flowers more. I imagine in hotter weather these jasmine vines would be very fragrant, but here on the coast you must put your face down to the flowers or hit a warm summer day to smell the fragrance of the flowers on the vines. The flowers are lovely but the vine seems to bloom best when it is overgrown on the top and even then, there aren't nearly the amount of blooms you'd see on regular jasmine shrubs. I think part of this may be the cooler weather here, when its warmer there are more blooms in summer. Still the pink and white jasmine flowers are pretty for all the work that goes into maintaining the plants.

The last part of jasmine trimming was spent cutting back the runners on the deck near the hot tub so the vines would be even again with the trellis wall. Next weekend will probably be spent trimming back more pink jasmine, this time cutting back the runners from the jasmine shrubs lining the back yard deck. Its a lot of work but the jasmine trimming has to happen at least once a month in spring and summer to maintain the plants so they don't take over the yard.

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