Some very pleasant fall days and moderate improvement to the various spring and summer injuries which have largely kept me out of my own garden for the last six months have provided the opportunity to do some much needed cleanup and and dig in some plants that have rested in my holding area for far too long. I am still only able to work in blocks of a couple of hours at a time so I focus on small areas and tasks with the hopes of actually being able to get the job done and tidy up whatever mess I’ve made in the doing of it before I give out!
In my October 2nd post Autumn musings… I showed you this curved bed near our back patio, ruefully pointing out that I had totally lost control of this climbing floribunda rose, ‘Morning Magic’. The confusion is rounded out with a huge clump of bearded iris needing division and a stand of Penstemon ‘Raven’ (lower right) which totally obscures the stepping stones and is laying on top of any number of other small perennials along the bed’s edge.
The climber got a pretty drastic haircut for November. Warm days have encouraged lots of new growth in the couple of weeks since this photo was taken. Gardeners here often deadhead and strip the leaves off roses in November to encourage them into dormancy, following up with the annual major prune in January. I resisted this practice the first few years we were here because I just hated to chop on roses that still looked fabulous but have come to accept that the practice does force them into a needed rest and offers a chance to dispose of diseased or damaged foliage before rains knock those leaves including whatever is attached to them to the soil below. Woo hoo! Check out those great stepping stones. The penstemon probably needs to be relocated to an area which would better accommodate its 4′ X 4′ late summer size. It is cut down to about 12″. The bearded iris have been divided with 5 nice fat rhizomes in place for next season. I potted up another half dozen for relocation to other beds.
Dave and I continue to work on the long side yard bed–site of the great Labor Day rock relocation. Digging and amending is VERY slow as minimizing tree damage is a high priority. In September, this entire stretch was treated (along with the rest of the yard) with John & Bob’s granular blend which is a combo of their products Optimize, Maximize and Nourish Biosoil. It also got a good drenching of their Penetrate Liquid Biotiller. John & Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions was a Garden Bloggers Fling sponsor this year and John toured gardens with us as well as giving a great presentation of their product line. Check them out at http://www.johnandbobs.com for more information.
This bed gets a lot of sun at various times throughout the day and so needs plant material that can take the heat and also survive the root competition for water. The huge Juniperus scopulorum ‘Tolleson’s Blue Weeping’ is clearly the focal point and we are just nibbling a little around the edges with some additional foliage interest and a bit of color. Transplanted from the backyard, a ‘Double Knock Out’ rose occupies a void amidst the graceful weeping branching of the juniper. A couple of dark purple Salvia greggii had shown up as ringers in the large grouping of Salvia ‘Mesa Azure’ we planted in the driveway circle bed last fall so I moved them across the driveway to snuggle up against the boulder. I have had 2 replacement 4″ ‘Mesa Azure’ waiting in the wings for a good long while, ready to pop in once the darker purple ones found a new home. A single carpet rose ‘Pink Splash’ will eventually fill the driveway/street corner area–another repeat from selections used in the driveway circle. For street side consistency the ‘Wheeler’s Dwarf’ pittosporum were also repeated but I expect they will end up being only a green blur beneath the weeping blue branches overhead. A six pack of snapdragons, purple trailing lantana, and bearded iris from my copious supplies of potted up divisions will fill in quickly to give cover while the other plants fill out.
Turning the corner I have worked my way down this long narrow bed about 25 feet–so far concentrating on an open area that is in full sun until 2 pm or so in the summer months. The shorter days have certainly brought the dappled shade sooner. In years to come the youngest of the three Bradford pears may may totally shade this area out except for the eastern rising sun but now this area still requires plants that will withstand strong sun at least part of the day.
I decided to use this stretch as sort of an experimental area to test out some plants I have not grown before. With the trend toward water conservation we are seeing many interesting and reputedly tough plants become much more available. The challenge for me has been to be able to integrate some of these in beds which all ready have mature shrubs or perennials that take average water. I am doing quite a few ‘one of’ large scale shrubs/ woody perennials–trying to determine what will fill my extensive real estate and prosper with minimal attention. Many drought tolerant shrubs will accept more water than they require as long as they have excellent drainage and to that end we are paying special attention to each planting spot selected.
This trio of Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’ is a wild card. Sunset lists mature size as 4′-6′ feet and wide while the plant tag (well known grower but I can’t remember which one) lists 18″ X 18″. I think I have actually purchased this plant once before and gave it to a gardening friend when the Sunset Western Garden Book scared me off. The lemon and lime green edged leaves brighten up this small opening at the base of the tall juniper and I stand ready to dig them out if I wake up one day and they are 3 feet tall! Notice how my fresh humus top dressing is a porta-potty beacon to every cat within 5 miles…
I introduced you to Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ (far left) in a previous post–since it was planted in September it is looking great and has put on buds at its stem ends.
To its right are three good sized seedlings of Aristea ecklonii dug from near their mother plant by the pool. In this spot these prolific reseeders can just have their way with the open ground. The cheerful, blue flowers and spiky stems are almost indestructible. Below you see the blooms from their mother plant.
Teucrium betonicum, still in its pot in the wide shot above, has now been planted. This is one of my San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden purchases. Its leaves are hairy and aromatic and should sport purple flowers in spring and summer. This plant matures at about 3 feet high and wide and withstands poor soil and dry conditions. Given irrigation it must have excellent drainage.
I am trying out a Texas ranger in this bed called Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Everblooming’. Purported to be a dense grower which flowers profusely, it sure doesn’t look like much now.
Below–another SLO Botanical Garden find is Dorycnium hirsutum, the hairy canary flower.
This perennial shrub is low growing at about 2′ high but with a spread to 6′ and useful as a dry slope ground cover. I’ll be looking for its tiny, white flowers with pink touches next fall and the red winter fruit will contrast nicely with the silver grey leaves. Another selection which I hope will not suffer totally from the afternoon dappled shade.
Two more test subjects are Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’ and Cotoneaster horizontalis ‘Variegatus’.
I have also add a white flowered plumbago and several groupings of bearded iris divisions. I have moved down to the far end now and will work toward the middle for as long as the weather holds. The very center of this long strip is the most compacted with tree roots AND has the sharpest slope to the curb AND is is full shade except for first thing in the morning. I’ll take any suggestions for this area!
A shout out to another 2017 Garden Bloggers Spring Fling sponsor–everything in this latest round of planting has gone into its hole sitting right on top of a FUHGEDDABOUTIT! Root Zone Feeder Packet from Organic Mechanics. These packets provide a measured dose of fertilizer, mycorrhizae, biochar and micronized oyster shell flour (4-2-2) and are intended to be used along with a regular fertilization program. All Fling participants got a bag of a dozen to try in their gardens–I am always open to try a new product to give my new friends a solid start!
I am working diligently to add more variety in foliage color and texture to the garden. This side strip is a good place to see how plants perform and evaluate whether I want to expand their use to other more visible parts of my garden. I specifically bought 1 gallon specimens to be able to try more selections and even though many of these will grow to fairly substantial sizes, they look like little specks in a broad sea of mulch right now!
I have been gradually cleaning up the front walkway bed to make a place for my new prize find Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’. Iris were dug and divided in October and several perennial salvia cultivars nipped back to encourage some fresh growth and reevaluate available space. I once read a blog post in which the gardener described her planting style as ‘layer cake planting’–layering up plants by growth season and height so that when one perennial declines, another is coming into its peak to take the place. Pretty impressive. While I aspire to that, I think my planting style is more accurately described as ‘dump cake planting’–year after year I add things in, not recalling what I put there last year. Everything just climbs and falls all over everything else. Closely planted would be an understatement!
The bare ground is actually full of Santa Barbara daisy sprigs which will fill back in within weeks, if not days. A quarterly hard cut back of this perennial ground cover goes a long way toward keeping my snail population down.
‘Ruby Falls’ is just starting to drop its large heart shaped leaves. I saw this newer redbud cultivar advertised in a gardening magazine and was really taken by its unusual weeping habit and small stature at maturity. Really so excited to see this little tree next spring!
This has been a wonderful autumn to work in the garden. The weather is inviting and my recent travels have allowed me to purchase interesting plants not as readily available in my community–the only improvement would be 15 hours of daylight and a second set of hands.