Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Summer Heaths & Heathers In Bloom

My summer heaths and heathers are starting to bud out and bloom this month. The heathers near the rhododendron are budding quite a bit, the early spring trim back has really helped shape them for a good profile and extracting abundant bloom on the shrubs. The heaths seem to bloom longer, their cupped bell shaped flowers are bright and colorful shades of pink and purple. One particular heath is doing very well near the climbing roses, probably due to the sunlight available there. This heath almost never stops blooming all year long, it is impressive, and obviously loves where it is planted! The tiny dark pink flowered heather is due to start budding up soon, it is such a beautiful combination with the electric blue flowering ground cover of lithodora, which is already starting to bloom.

The back flower bed near the gate has been an eyesore since we moved into the house. This summer we are going to try to pull part of it down since it is mostly made up of giant river rocks (the favorite of the past homeowner) and frankly was always a wasteland of weeds and dirt, other than a big bunch of wild seeded ferns growing out of the side of the bed. I do have two spring flowering heathers in part of this misshapen flowerbed that are huge, probably two feet wide and just as tall. This past spring the leaves of the shrub colored but there were no blooms, making it pretty clear its time to dig those shrubs out and replant them elsewhere. I'm thinking back near the kiwi vines might be a good sunny location, plus we need a lot of room to plant them since they are so big now. There is a wild seeded passionflower vine growing up from the back of the fenced walls that shape this triangle flower bed and every once in a while a flower blooms on it.

We are not sure how much of the triangle shaped fence is left intact behind the dirt and rocks. This photo is a cleaned up version of the bed from last year. The flower bed will be attacked in the coming weeks to see how difficult it will be to disassemble it, pulling down a corner of the bed is probably the way to go in case we have to put things back together. If we can successfully disassemble this bad looking flower bed it will give me another place to create a new flower bed and plant herbs or heathers in its sunny location.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Full Growth Mode Of Vines & Shrubs

As summer on the coast takes hold in July, the days are a little sunnier with less fog and a warmer feel to the garden. The light filters through trees and plants and makes the yard look bright, which can be unusual with our coastal foggy weather. Its not heating up too much however, the low sixties is still where we are at and usually if you sit outside for the Fourth of July you need a sweater. I'm not complaining about the weather, I love it here. Apparently the plants aren't too fussy about it either, because they are in full growth mode. In summer the fog arrives at 3:00 p.m. instead of 2:00 p.m. in our yard, its always a welcome cool breeze after hours of weekend work in the garden.

The butterfly bushes have grown one and a half to two feet tall since we trimmed them back in mid April through early May. They are so big now with thick trunks it takes a few weeks to cut them back because one or two of the bushes totally fill the garden waste can. The magenta butterfly bushes are already starting to bloom at the tips while the other bushes are still forming flowers. I only wish the blooms lasted a little longer, generally three or four weeks bloom is the maximum if we are lucky.

Speaking of butterfly bushes, I planted a rooted cutting I took from the magenta colored butterfly bush in the front yard. There is a section of the yard on the left side past the drooping cherry tree that is bare except for ornamental grass and hoards of orange crocosmia lined up against the back fence. The butterfly bush was planted right in front of them, plenty of room to grow but I'm guessing it will take a season or two for the cutting to do much since it is so small. Nonetheless the thought of a towering shrub with the brilliant magenta flowers makes me happy just to think of it filling up that empty space in the front yard.

In the back yard the kiwi vines are especially wild and leggy this year. The spring growth has produced long arms reaching upward and hanging over the lawn area, with arms of four or five feet hovering in the sky. I can see some pruning of the vines needs to be on the schedule in the coming weeks. The vines are covered in large ivory colored flowers and kiwi fruit is beginning to form. The leaves are as big as the palm of my hand if not bigger, when looking up through the vines with the sun shining around the large fleshy leaves they look other worldly. Now if only the kiwi fruit would ripen correctly this year, all would be well in our world of kiwi vines.

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Weeding, Hedge Trimming and Tasks In The Garden

When summer hits on the north coast I know there will be so much growth in the garden that my husband and I will spend much of our garden time pruning, trimming and weeding. As wonderful as it is to see the plants blooming and growing, along with the beautiful blooms we encounter weeds that grow just as vigorously. My husband decided to give the front hedges a serious trim since even after my initial trim back in the spring and my hand trimming of the top of the hedge it was growing a few feet taller with the warming weather. My husband trimmed off a good foot of hedge off the top and trimmed back the sides. The hedges really needed this kind of trim and luckily my husband is good at getting the hedge down further than I generally am able to, since he has more practice using the hedge trimmer. He also cut back the undergrowth of the curly willow tree so we can mow the front lawn more easily.

Weeding is something I'm not fond of doing since I don't seem to be able to get all the roots I'd like to, typically what we battle at this time of year is the overgrowth of grass that gets into the flower borders. Our front and back yards are not blessed with real lawns but scraggly grass that has been here for years before we arrived. The previous homeowner thought using large river rocks of four or five inches tall and wide would be a good idea to line the flower beds in the front and back yards. No, not such a good idea of course, and since that time, long before we arrived, the rogue grass has made a home everywhere possible in the yards, creating quite a mess in spring and summer.

I began my gardening time weeding around the two new fuchsias near the obelisk near the back gate. Not a great job of weeding but it did clean things up and gave the new fuchsias plenty of room to breathe. The upright fuchsias are blooming like mad even though they are a small 4 inch pot size and were only planted last fall. The next weeding time I spent was in the front yard where the penstemon and rhododendron are planted. This time the results were better than usual for me, giving me some encouragement to tackle the next area to weed, which will be under the climbing roses. Of course, there was the mandatory trim of the climbing roses and their tall shoots of new growth, often towering a foot or more over the rest of the rose shrubs.

In the future I'm hoping to get some bender board, railroad ties or bricks as a barrier that will actually work between the rogue lawn and the flower beds. There is so much else to do that adding barriers around the flower beds may take a while to complete for our front and back yards. Still I'd like to start with the front yard and experiment with something that works far better than the large river rocks. As pretty as the river rock idea is, unfortunately it is not the way to keep the grass separate from the flower beds in our garden. The real question will be what can we do with all that river rock once we replace them with a real border. I'm not one for maintaining a pond, especially with a lively neighborhood of cats around. Time to ponder what to do with so much river rock that will help, not hinder the garden.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Garnet Penstemon And Johnson's Blue Geraniums In Bloom

As the weather on the north coast finally starts to heat up a tad to the low to mid sixties near the end of June, the summer plants are rapidly growing and blooming beautifully. The garnet penstemon is making a great show for one year's growth, which is unusual since most of my new plants take a good two years to really get going here in the coastal weather. The garnet penstemon started with a few blooms on the plant and in the last two weeks has a good amount of large brilliant garnet red tubular blooms on the plant. The penstemon loves its warm spot against the front yard fence and is growing quite big and tall already for being in the ground for such a short time. I love penstemons because you simply plant and let them grow, the only maintenance besides a weekly deep watering is to give them a trim off the top after summer blooming ends or cut down by half height if the plant looks worn. Penstemons are very hardy and are a foolproof bloomer for late spring into the summer months.

The purple flowering hebe next to the penstemon is taking its sweet time in terms of growth, I'm hoping it starts getting taller and fuller. The leaves are thicker and greener than this original photo, and there is some top growth but growth is going slowly so far. The hebe looks very pretty next to the penstemon and rhododendron, providing a different type of leaf to accent the other two shrubs. I can't wait for the hebe to start blooming. I'm hoping it will flower this summer since it is larger than when first planted. The size of the full grown plant flowering is really lovely, I look forward to seeing it bloom.

The other plant that is growing and flowering well is my Johnson's Blue geranium, planted below the drooping cherry tree. The flowers on the geranium are a brilliant purple/blue shade that is so striking in the garden. The other Johnson's Blue geranium is in a shadier area near the porch and is smaller, blooming less than the other plant. I am considering moving this plant into a sunnier position to get the most out of it in terms of size and bloom, possibly a place near the climbing roses would be a good choice. In the meantime I want to try to take some cuttings from the garnet penstemon and plant it behind the Johnson's Blue geranium in the flower bed where the drooping cherry sits to add some height in the back between the growing heath and heather plants. The bright color of garnet red would be a welcome addition to the other side of the front yard.

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