Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Racing Against The Rainy Season In The Garden

When you live on the North Coast in Humboldt County, California, you know to take advantage of any rainless days in fall and winter by heading out to the garden. It has been raining pretty much most days of the week since late October. With my busy schedule I just missed getting out in the garden to do my winter trimming and the rainy season started earlier than usual. Now a few months later we finally have some sun in January, enough time to do some quick trimming and mowing.

The first order of business was mowing the front and back lawns, which were very overgrown since we didn't get a final mowing in before the rains took over. There were heaps of grass piles that needed to be swept up after the mowing was completed, enough to take up a good amount of time for our afternoon's work. I did a quick trim up of the hedge, cutting only the tallest stems of the privet back by hand. Its a pain to do, but overall quicker and easier than doing the full trim with the hedge trimmer for now. We kept the hedge trimmed back well during spring and summer, but just missed the final trim back before the rains began.

I took some time to trim up the front yard heaths and heathers of their dried up flowers to insure they have new blooms for the coming year. Most of my heathers are fall and winter bloomers, with a few spring and summer bloomers mixed in. I was careful not to cut any lower than the last dried flower bloom, if you cut into the center of the hard wood it make take a season or more for the plant to recover and bloom again. The small, delicate curved trimmer my husband gave me as a gift is the perfect tool for trimming up my favorite heather plants, fitting right into the small stems of the heaths and heathers with ease. I managed to trim back most of the plants in the front yard this session, the plants in the back may have to wait until the next sunny weekend.


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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Pink Blooming Heathers And Hungry Robins

During November and December the robins have been picking the holly tree bare of its bright red berries. I'm so glad the trees are huge enough that they produce enough berries for at least three or four weeks of food for the groups of robins that start visiting at the end of October. In December there were still robins here and there picking at a few berries but spending most of their time sunning themselves on branches (when it was sunny between the rain storms of fall and winter) or sitting on top of our Victorian's pointy roof. I walked through the garden before planting my spring bulbs late in December and the cotoneaster plant still had its orange berries, I guess the robins and other birds haven't discovered this little plant yet.

During my late spring bulb planting I walked through the front yard to see how the new heathers were doing, along with my transplanted hebe shrub. It had been weeks since I planted them and it had been raining so much I hadn't been able to go out and see how they were doing. As I suspected the heathers were doing very well, they are so hardy and adapt so well to our garden I really haven't ever lost one here on the north coast. The Kramer's Rote heathers that were newly planted under the pink roses are blooming just like the original Kramer's Rote near the rhododendron. The original heather is covered in every square inch with deep pink flowers with a cream colored edging, just beautiful. The two new small Kramer's Rote heathers are also covered in the same blooms and although small look striking where they are planted. The hebe looks good, in fact very good, nice and green and nestled up next to one of the pink climbing roses.

If the dark fuchsia pestemon cuttings do not grow near the roses I'll need to invest in two new Garnet pestemons to fill that area up along with the hebe. I'm pleased to see the heathers all doing so well, including the heather destined to grow five feet tall, even this heather has a good covering of tiny light pink bell shaped flowers with a dark red edging at the flower tips. I'm eager to see how the plants all grow when spring arrives and growth spurts begin.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snowdrops 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 snowdrops.

Snowdrops are a little reminder that spring is on its way. This small bulb is great for naturalizing, and works wonderfully under shrubs and trees. Planting snowdrops near the edge of walkways showcases the tiny bulbs. Snowdrops grow from 4-6 inches tall with 1 inch flowers generally in white, sometimes with a tinge of green at the tips. They multiply easily, which make them a great addition to the garden. Plant snowdrops in the fall, it may take two to three years for the bulbs to multiply over time. Snowdrops do best in northern gardens compared to warmer areas, they dislike warm winters, they do not do well in Southern California, Florida or hot climate areas. The bulbs can be left undivided for many years of enjoyment. Snowdrops are not bothered by pests such as rabbits, deer, squirrels or mice making them a great choice for your garden. Snowdrop bulbs can dry out easily so plant them soon after you purchase them.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Snowdrops_in_Scotgate_-_geograph.org.uk_-_77314.jpg

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lambs Ear 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 Lambs Ear.

Lambs Ear (Stachys byzantina) is an herb, an easy to grow ground cover that is known for the softness and shape of its plant leaves, hence the name Lambs Ear. The plant spreads easily and grows in a thick pattern, perfect for sunny areas on garden banks or in places where not much else will grow. Lambs Ear tends to be invasive in warmer climates, the roots spread easily and the plant may self-seed profusely, so plant carefully. The thick mat that Lambs Ear creates is ideal for areas under shrubs or lining walkways, the plant's leaves are soft, woolly, and downy feeling, making this a great plant for children to enjoy. Lambs Ears require full sun to partial shade for best growth pattern. Most Lambs Ear varieties have green leaves and bloom with tall spikes of pink flowers in late spring/early summer. The Silver Carpet variety does not bloom, but instead sports a lovely silver leaf color, and tends to grow slowly. Lambs Ear prefer full sun and well-drained soil. The plant may need dividing every two to four years, a good covering of mulch helps this low growing plant do its best for the garden.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stachys_byzantina_flowers.jpg

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