Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Time To Trim Up The Spring Garden

We are heading into April soon and the rains have continued, making it harder to find time to trim up the garden. There is already some rampant growth showing with new bulbs bursting from the ground, the budding of the drooping cherry tree in the front yard, and new leaves on the butterfly bushes in the back yard. Last year we started our pruning of the butterfly bushes about this same time of year. The butterfly bushes have grown so big since we moved here it takes a number of weeks to cut them back and dispose of the branches in the yard waste. Too many branches fill the garden waste, so we averaged one or two butterfly bushes each week. It looks like the rains will keep us from starting earlier in our pruning of the butterfly bushes. I am hoping this coming weekend we can get a start on them, along with a trim of the kiwi vines.

The kiwi vines are still laden with kiwi fruit that once again has not ripened. We are not sure what the difference is from the first year we were here when they ripened to the other three years when the fruit didn't ripen. We have a male and female vine, with only one vine producing fruit every year. This past year we didn't cut back the branches formed last summer and there is no difference. Guess its time to read up on kiwi vines and see what could possibly be wrong with the production of scads of kiwi fruit that never ripen.

While we start our early spring pruning the hedges in the front yard are due for a good trim. I think I will ask my husband to trim them as far down as he can since they missed their fall trim. The rain started earlier than usual and caused problems for us. We did have two to three weeks of dry weather last month, very unusual for this time of year. Unfortunately those weekends were spent buying birthday gifts and other planned outings that needed to happen. Of course the weekend after we were prepared to get out in the garden and the rains began again. It is typical to see rain in the local paper's weather forecast all week long. I am hoping for some clear weather here soon so we can at least give a slight facelift to the ravages of our weary winter garden.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Bulbs For The Summer Garden

I've been happy to see the spring and fall bulbs still appearing in our local store after the gardening center closed down. Since there are twice as many boxes of bulbs available at our local store as before its been fun to pick and choose the bulbs I want to plant in my garden from week to week. I'm hoping the bulbs last for another month so I get a good selection to plant for summer flowers. So far I have chosen mostly pink flowering bulbs since they seem to have a glut of that color in the bulbs I want.

The latest bulbs I purchased are two pink coneflowers and a Japanese windflower. I tried coneflowers once before without much success. I will be very careful with the placement of the coneflowers, but they will end up in the front yard near the roses. Sometimes finding just the right place for optimum light and growth is what it takes for a plant to really take hold. Moving my hebe from next to the rhododendron to a wider spacious area under the climbing roses made a difference for the shrub, the additional light and space appear to be what is working best for the hebe shrub, I can't wait to see it flower this year. The Japanese windflower has a bright yellow center that looks great with the pink daisy-like flower. The Japanese windflower will join the coneflowers next to one of the climbing roses. It is a lot of pink for that area, along with the pink flowering heathers at the base of the roses, but variations of one color can look great if you have enough different shades of the color together. These two plants have a darker pink than the roses so these plants should look good together.

Another box of bulbs I purchased are blue echinops, they look similar to tall allium bulbs with their large, rounded flowers. The echinops are very tall and will be placed next to the climbing roses to provide some other color to that area along with the pink flowers in place. I'd like to find some yellows to mix in with the blue of the echinops, the pinks of the various bulbs, heathers and roses, and the purple flower of the hebe shrub.

The dwarf size dahlia bulb will be planted in a pot and placed on the deck table so I can see it flower from the kitchen window. This dahlia is, of course, pink. I guess pink is a very popular color and sells well. I like pink but I'd love to see other colors offered but at half price I shouldn't complain too much. The dahlia flowers have some yellow near the center of the flower, this should be very pretty when blooming. I've planted a few larger dahlias in the garden here and there since we've been on the north coast but none have come up. Maybe its time to study up on what dahlias need to succeed.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bulbs, Rhododendron Buds and Kiwi Fruit In the Garden

The rhododendron is starting to form flower buds for spring. The flowers are the most intense, brilliant fuchsia pink color, really pretty. I have a dwarf rhododendron with light purple flowers that has done poorly in its container this past year. I plan on planting it out near the pink climbing roses and purple hebe shrub. I am hoping it does better in the ground, it has barely put out a few leaves in the last year. It's time to try something new with the shrub and hope it grows better in the ground.

The kiwi vines have a lot of kiwi fruit hanging from the stems now, but none of the fruit is ripe. The kiwi produced ripe fruit the first year we were here and the last few seasons nothing but unripened fruit. I guess the raccoons don't even like the fruit because with it unripe it is too bitter. We haven't seen our raccoon friends for at least a month now. Yesterday there was a hummingbird sitting on top of the metal structure that holds the kiwi vines. The hummingbird's feathered looked very ruffled, with a bright red head glinting as the bird's head darted back and forth. I am trying to plant more plants that the hummingbirds can use as a food source. The hummingbirds like the pink jasmine at times and drink from the passionflowers, pestemon, and thymifolia fuchsias in the front and back yards.

After the garden center closed in our store, I thought most of the gardening items would not be available anymore. I was excited to see the flower bulbs for summer are still in the store but in a different area now. I bought three boxes of $2.00 bulbs, a small pink dahlia, pink coneflowers, and blue echinops. I've had no success with dahlias before, and have never planted coneflowers, and echinops so I am excited to give them a try. I've always loved the look of coneflowers. The coneflowers are tall with large daisy-like flowers. The echinops are tall as well and look similar to large globed allium with a striking blue flower. The small dahlia is going in a pot on the patio table so I can see it from my kitchen window. The dahlia will sit next to the pot of purple and yellow tulips growing in a pot on the table. Next I need to find some yellow and white flowers to add to the front yard to help accent the flowers in blues, purples, and pinks.

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rain and A Quick Trim Of The Garden

I managed to catch a day during our unusual sunny winter weather and did a thorough trim of the passionflower vine encroaching on the rhododendron. The snails have been eating away at the rhododendron's leaves, leaving big holes in the deep green leaves. I trimmed back anything that hung over the rhodie so none of the snails would have easy access to the shrub anymore. I guess we'll need to do a good, close trim of the passionflower vines on the front yard fence, unless there is a drastic frost that wilts them back they are hardy and forever growing in every season here on the north coast. I took the rest of my time in the front yard to trim back by hand a few tall hedge pieces just to make the hedge look more uniform. The hedge did not receive its late fall trim because the rains started in earnest earlier than they usually do. The hedge looks a bit tidier now and the rains have started up again on the north coast, buckets of rain that means little time in the garden in the coming weeks but a good watering for my garden. It was strange to water the garden in early February because we hadn't had any rain in three to four weeks. Rain is a constant here in fall, winter and spring. We'll see if we keep having rain through April this year as it does most every year.

The Grosso lavenders in the front yard need to be trimmed back, the empty wands of stems should have been trimmed before now but it was one of the tasks I didn't get around to. The Goodwin Creek Grey lavenders are HUGE, jutting out from their narrow spot below the dining room window over the walkway. I kept myself from trimming them back until now, but I guess its time to do a good sized cut back and hope it doesn't cause problems with their flowering. The Grosso lavenders have numerous beautiful fragrant flowers in a very round form, while the Goodwin Creek Grey lavenders have more sparse but pretty flowers with silver grey leaves that always look good throughout the year. The bees thrive on these four lavenders during the year, especially the Grosso lavender in the front yard. The thymifolia fuchsia is doing well nestled in between the Grosso lavenders, full of deep pink tiny flowers. The fuchsia is getting bigger and I'm hoping it grows as wide and tall as the thymifolia fuchsia in the back yard. So far the front yard thymifolia fuchsia, a cutting from the bigger plant in the back yard, is tall but not so wide yet. It is always refreshing to see the thymifolia fuchsia blooming all year long, a bright spot in the quieter months of the gardening year.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rhododendrons, Snails and Passionflower Vines

Wet and cold winter weather leading into spring can bring out the worst part of the garden: snails. We work at eliminating snails every year, but with all the pruning tasks in our large garden often the snails get pushed to the bottom of the list. This year we need to make a concerted effort to pick snails every weekend we are in the garden. All it takes is finding them and dropping them in a bucket with a little water laden with salt. The salt foams them up and dispatches them since normally snails do just fine not drowning then crawling out of the watery bucket.

This year with the odd sunny weeks of rainless weather for the north coast and few frosts the snails have come out in force to attack my rhododendron. The snails have been eating big munches out of the rhodie leaves, luckily the blooms are just starting to round out and nothing is available for them to eat there. Unfortunately the past sunny three weeks have not been spent in the garden but birthday shopping and managing to rest from work exhaustion. We have one more week to do this up and I'm hoping this is the weekend to trim back the passionflower vine enough so the snails cannot easily move over to the rhodie leaves. Planting in that area is a little difficult, so the rhododendron ended up too close to where the border of the passionflower vines billows out. Even in winter, unless there are severe frosts, the passionflower vines grow and stay green and full. Our first winter here was the only time I saw the passionflower vines on the fence in the front yard killed back to the stem. Of course being the hardy vine that it is, not much gets the passionflower down so plan on it surviving well in your garden.

This weekend will be spent trimming back the side of the passionflower vine to move it away from the rhodie as much as possible. Next is the front yard hedge, not too back looking but the top needs trimming of the sparse spokes of shrub here and there as it grows in its uneven way in fall and winter months. With the rains hitting us earlier in October the final hedge trim was missed, thus the ratty looking top of the hedge has to be dealt with on Saturday. If there is any spare energy left between us the kiwi vines could use a good trim back of its long armed vines from the main stems. We're hoping the kiwi fruit are finally ripe enough to make some kiwi jam. with spring on its way the kiwi branches will start leafing out and the fruits will drop and be easier to pick. I can't wait for the kiwi vines to leaf out and bloom again, so beautiful.

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