Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Early Spring and North Coast Rains

With an excess of sunshine on the usually rainy north coast, plants have decided it must be spring already. I think we are gearing up for more rain starting next week, no doubt battering the new sprouts and bulbs popping up in the bright sunlight. Our winters are full of rain here, generally from October/November through April/May, with heavy rains eventually leveling down to showers in late spring.

The white camellia is putting out big round flower buds, these are the most gorgeous flowers when they bloom, small but sculpted finer than most fancy roses. With rain still coming the blooms can brown and fall off more easily. I'm hoping the buds do not open for a while to give the flowers a chance to bloom and look lovely before the rain batters them. The ferns are still died down next to the camellia, but the calla lilies, as always, are growing tall and steady for an Easter bloom. If you have calla lilies in the garden they are pretty much fool proof for healthy growth and bloom.

My hebe that was transplanted in late fall is doing wonderfully next to the climbing roses, in fact, it looks like it is thriving in this new location with even healthier looking leaves, twice the width and some added growth in height. I hope the shrub will be big enough to bloom this year, I am eager to see this variety's purple blooms in action. The pink heathers I planted below the climbing roses are faring well in their new spots and don't mind the rain or chill of winter at all. Talk about sturdy shrubs! We finally had a freeze or two but the garden looks non the worse for wear. Spring is coming and fighting against the normal north coast rainy weather to take over early in the season.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Maple Trees For The New Year

Last year the city provided homes that wanted them free trees to landscape the sidewalks. Our lot is big enough that we were given three trees. The volunteers came and planted the trees towards the end of last year. My choice was three japanese maples. Apparently there was only one larger japanese maple and two very small japanese maples, small enough that they barely looked like shrub size. Comparing the photos here you can see how much bigger the large japanese maple was to the left compared to the other two trees. Within the first few weeks one of the small japanese maples was dug up and stolen, no doubt at night since we work from home and would notice a commotion out front. In the following weeks other trees were damaged and ruined around town. The other small japanese maple tree was kicked and damaged, possibly enough to kill it, but the stem was not broken in half fortunately. We had already reported what happened with the first tree and now we had to report yet another. Luckily the larger japanese maple was big enough it was not damaged. It is hard to imagine someone bored enough to destroy trees or needy enough to steal a tree from someone else's home but unfortunately it happens. 

Our choice was to wait until 2011 and have new japanese maples to replace the smaller two trees, or choose new trees. We chose new trees and decided to have the two japanese maples replaced with three October Glory Maples, and hoped the large japanese maple was big enough to be replanted in another yard and thrive. The trees will be bigger (we wanted smaller trees in front) but in fact the leaves are more colorful, a brilliant red that will be stunning in fall. The thought of having to keep the trees trimmed back so they are smaller was thrown out as we decided let the trees be as big as they want, the more colorful leaves the better. Japanese maples are slow growing, which didn't help when it came to the vandals stealing or damaging our trees. The three October Glory Maples are closer to the large size of the large japanese maple tree and are supposed to be fast growing trees, making stealing them or damaging them more difficult.

Once the October Glory Maples have more time in the ground this spring I will take some photos to track the growth of the trees. The green leaves will turn to red in fall and apparently are late to color for maple trees. There were a few stray red leaves on one of the newly planted maple trees and they were a beautiful color. I am looking forward to the bright colors covering the maple trees when fall season begins this coming year.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Peek Of Spring Blooms In Winter

We are having a few weeks of sunny but cool weather, strange for the north coast where most of winter and parts of spring are spent in rain. This second week of sun is urging my tulip bulbs to the surface of its green pot situated on the table on our deck. I can see from our kitchen the green leaves coming up about an inch or more from the soil. I planted a number of yellow and dark purple tulips in a pot to see how well they would do in a container and am excited to see them bloom in spring.

The large pink hyacinth that were planted by the previous homeowner years before we moved here are coming up in the long flower bed in the back yard, one of the bulbs fully up from the ground and blooming. The purple dutch iris in the same flower bed have already sent up their stems preparing for the coming spring weather. Crocus leaves are sticking up from the round ceramic pot on the deck, typically the earliest bulbs to fully appear in my garden. This year the pink hyacinth has beaten the crocus for blooming. The bluebells leaves are tall already beneath the obolisk where they slowly naturalize in the ground.

The new bulbs I am most interested in seeing appear in the front yard are the large snowdrops. There is a batch of them in front of each trellis, with blue scilla underplanting them. I am hoping the snowdrops do well here, so little grows in the shade of the trellis since it is large and casts a shadow on part of the winding flowerbeds leading up to the front porch. The winter heathers stand guard throughout the front and back yard, no weather seems to deter them as they wear their winter colored leaves and blooms to dress up the garden.

It is these little glimpses of spring leaves here and there that makes me smile as I walk through my winter garden and see the coming of the new season even in the coldest of winter weather.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Freesia 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 freesia. 

Freesia are a wonderful bulb (corm) that is available in vivid colors, producing many fragrant flowers featuring sculpted green leaves on wiry stems. Freesia are natives of South Africa, the care for freesia bulbs is very similiar to how you care for gladiolus bulbs. Freesia flowers open in sequence along the plant stems as they bloom, the same as gladiolus bulbs. Freesia flowers come in shades of Magenta, Pink, Purple, Red, White, Blue, and Lavender, and have a tubuler shape with a sweet fragrance. Freesia bulbs look best planted in larger drifts to showcase their delicate blooms and flower color. Freesias are not hardy, they like full sun, and do best in zones 8 to 10, preferring warm climates. Freesias can be grown indoors in colder climates, providing a great flower display during the winter season. Freesias typically grow from 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall, blooming in early Spring to early Summer. Freesia can be lifted the same as gladiolus and replanted in cold areas, or you may leave the flowers to die back and allow the bulbs to self-seed. Freesia make a great choice for container gardening, paired with other spring and summer flowers.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons:

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