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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