Howdy from Austin…

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Ninety two garden bloggers from 28 states plus Canada and the UK met up in Austin, Texas last week for the 10th anniversary of the Garden Bloggers Fling. The Fling started in Austin in 2008 as the brainchild of garden writer Pam Penick and so it was a fitting that it return to its roots. Host/Chairperson Diana Kirby and her committee arranged great accommodations, transportation and meals for us in addition to a stunning itinerary of private gardens, public gardens and the hottest in Austin’s retail garden center world.

As a second time Flinger I was not quite as shell shocked this time at the sheer amount of gardening knowledge and talent surrounding me as we toured and dined together for several days. This year Pam asked each of us to send a photo and short bio to be included on the Fling’s website to help us recognize and get to know each other–especially useful for first timers. In addition to hobby gardeners (i.e., ME) our numbers included professional landscape designers, freelance garden writers, garden authors with multiple books to their credit, horticulturalists who find and develop new plants and seeds, the publisher of a spectacular garden magazine and the editor of another, many current and former Master Gardeners, garden speakers, garden coaches and those whose passions are the pursuit of about any gardening niche you can name. If you are interested in Who’s Who at the 2018 Fling go to the Fling’s page at http://www.gardenbloggersfling.blogspot.com and click on the OWL in the right hand column for a look at the bios.

As a first timer last year, I conscientiously sat down every night, no matter how late or how tired, dumped my camera’s memory card onto my laptop and sorted through the day’s photos. Along with my notes on each garden I could at least develop a framework for each post I wanted to write based on my best photos. I think I posted 3 times while still at the Fling and then used the next two or three weeks to cover the rest of the gardens. This year, with my trusty Mac Book Pro at the St. Apple Hospital for the Near Fatally Wounded getting a $900 solid state transplant there was no place for my photos to go! I have been using that nightly shoot and dump regimen for years–in fact, the only memory card I owned for my Canon was the 1 GB one that came with it. My first Austin stop was Precision Camera–one of the Fling’s local sponsors–to purchase a handful of extra memory cards.

Arriving home a couple of days ago, life encroached on my blogging time immediately–the garden, left under my husband’s care in 90 degree weather for 8 days, had to be walked and any emergency care needed was dispensed. I will do a separate post on the deadheading chores awaiting me. Now with 1095 photos downloaded and ready to be reviewed, the fun starts. My fellow blogger Kris Peterson (her Late to the Garden Party blog is at http://www.krispgarden.blogspot.com) set a great example in her first post-Fling offering this morning by comparing her photos to old time postcards. You’re all ready at home and unpacked by the time your travel postcards reach your loved ones, giving them just a glimpse into what a good time you had. I am going to follow her lead by offering a single pic peek for each location now and follow up with more complete profiles as time permits.

ANTIQUE ROSE EMPORIUM

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I had a couple of free days before the fling itinerary started so I took a road trip to Brenham, Texas to visit the Antique Rose Emporium. This iconic retail and mail-order rose source has been featured in many gardening magazines. The multi-acre location includes a number of demonstration gardens filled with roses and perennials and is a popular wedding venue.

NATURAL GARDENER

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Back in Austin, this destination nursery has a farmyard vibe with lots of display gardens featuring edibles, herbs, fruit trees and perennials. I loved this flowing stream highlighting riparian friendly Texas plants. The Natural Gardener was slated to be our luncheon location on the first full day of touring which I would miss so I was excited to fit it in on this day.

LADY BIRD JOHNSON WILDFLOWER CENTER

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The Wildflower Center is a groundbreaking botanical garden featuring only plants that are native to Texas. This gem was first up on the Fling’s itinerary, falling on the day I would not be able to travel with the group. Their late closing time on Tuesday allowed me to add it into the first day I toured on my own.

SOL’STICE

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The following day, heading west to Fredericksburg, I ran across this funky local art/plant place and landscape design firm in Dripping Springs. I so wanted to take this rusted birdhouse (made by Steve Southerland) home!

FRIENDLY NATIVES NURSERY

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Matt Kolodzie and his nursery/landscape design business are all over Central Texas Gardener’s pages, both web and paper. Specializing in Texas climate and soil friendly plants, his Fredericksburg location was a delight. Matt is definitely a Friendly Native–he spent a lot of time talking plants with me and even offered to take me around to see Texas gardens done well!

PEACE GARDEN

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This serene scene was an unexpected addition to the second day on my own. The Peace Garden sits directly behind the Museum of the War of the Pacific in Fredericksburg’s historic downtown and was a gift from the people of Japan. I happened to pass by its open gate on my way to Main Street to have lunch and window shop a bit.

WILDSEED FARMS

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Wildseed Farms is a retail nursery business and event space on the highway between Fredericksburg and Austin. I made a quick stop on my way back to Austin to find a pretty ordinary garden center operation within some nice display garden areas and pleasing Hill Country architecture.

Fast forward…after a less than 24 hour trip from Austin to Atlanta/Athens, GA to see my future daughter-in-law receive her Masters Degree in Social Work I joined up with the Flingers to find out that torrential rains had kept most of them under cover at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Natural Gardener and the day before’s 3 private gardens. I had never glimpsed the sun and the the skies had threatened on the two days I was on my own but apparently Mother Nature was saving it all up for the other 91 bloggers. Whew!!

SATURDAY

GARDEN OF COLLEEN JAMISON

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Shady respite is the theme of this tree canopied garden which incorporates lots of casual seating amongst borders and beds filled with subtle color.

GARDEN OF PAM PENICK

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Texture and diversity rule in this sloping back garden. The space boasts several large shelves of rocks around which Pam has planted all manner of visually pleasing and wildlife friendly plant materials. This garden is full of interesting garden art and artifacts –watch for the full post with more photos soon.

GARDEN OF B JANE

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B Jane’s stated garden goal for her own garden was to “create a resort vibe” and if this gorgeous outdoor shower off the master bedroom doesn’t do that there is just no help for you. B Jane is a professional landscape designer and builder–see more of her work at http://www.bjanegardens.com.

GARDEN OF DONNA AND MIKE FOWLER

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A small town rural garden filled with Texas natives, reseeding wildflowers and whatever else strikes the owners fancy. Yes–there is a hippo story to tell…

TANGLEWOOD GARDENS

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Skottie O’Mahony and Jeff Breitenstein relocated from Seattle to Austin in 2013 with the dream of establishing a daylily hybridizing nursery. Their 1.7 acre garden overflows with tropicals and Moroccan influences.

SUNDAY

GARDEN OF LUCINDA HUTSON

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Cookbook author Lucinda Hutson’s La Casa Moradita (the little purple house) in historic downtown Austin cottage bursts with color at every turn and has been featured in magazines and PBS gardening shows. A devotee of all things Texican, this unique gardener greeted with open arms and wearing purple cowboy boots. This is one of the most personal garden I have ever visited–I am saving the best pics for the full post!

GARDEN OF RUTHIE BURRUS

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Ruthie’s Garden Haus was featured in Southern Living magazine in April 2017. Built from stone gathered on the property and salvaged tin roofing, windows and doors it is the backdrop for a climbing rose called Peggy Martin, sometimes referred to as the Katrina rose.

GARDEN OF MARGIE MCCLURG

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A trip to Butchart Gardens on Canada’s Victoria Island inspired this homeowner to transform her courtyard back garden into a beautiful space to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

ZILKER BOTANICAL GARDEN

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The Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, along with the Hartman Prehistoric Garden, are popular Sunday afternoon strolling spots.  We took time for lunch here before moving on to the final few gardens.

GARDEN OF TAIT MORING

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Local landscape architect Tait Moring has gardened this spot since 1997. His goal to celebrate the Texas Hill Country’s natural beauty is reflected in his use of native trees, shrubs, perennials and succulents. He characterizes his garden as a “test kitchen” for regional plants and is committed to the garden being a safe haven for local wildlife.

GARDEN OF KIRK WALDEN

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This relatively new home and garden (2013) replaced an abandoned house surrounded by invasive shrubs and weeds. Being in the front seat on the bus worked well for me at this garden–not everyone was able to photograph the terraced patio, spa and pool (and its phenomenal view) without anyone else in my shot. The home sits high on a bluff overlooking deep blue Lake Austin. Just bury me here.

ARTICULTURE

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We ended our day with a Texas barbecue dinner at Articulture, a creative indoor gardening boutique with a plant filled back yard event space. This happy hour with food and drinks inspired by Lucinda Hutson’s cocktail recipes was the perfect way to end our Austin Fling.

Every one of these gardens has so much more to see than the single photo I chose for this postcard peak. Hopefully I’ve lured you in and you keep an eye out for the longer, more complete posts as I publish them.

This eagle has finally landed…

 

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I recently wrapped up the seemingly interminable lawn removal/replanting of the long side yard bed between our side fence and the street. Living on a corner lot comes with blessings and curses. The biggest advantage is a little more privacy as we have no neighbor on one side. The curse (challenge?) is having a lot of area to landscape and maintain which is pretty well disconnected from the rest of our front garden and is not visible from any where inside our home.

As I have chronicled in several other posts, in June 2016 we initially chemically killed the ragged Heinz 57 variety grass planted the length of this approximately 140 foot bed along with grass in 3 other areas, including the large driveway circle bed tucked between our two driveways.  We finished the replanting of the other areas very early in 2017 and they all had successful summers. Our stamina flagged and the heat came and so we did not get back to it until fall 2017. Check out posts Now THIS is a Labor Day… to see the great rock relocation project; Autumn musings… for the plantings closest the driveway and A little cleanup and a few new friends… to see the second wave of new plants added to the bed.

We left number of the original elements in the bed, including 3 Bradford pear trees, which are all planted smack up against the fence. The trees are critical to us for privacy  plus shade AND as 2 of the 3 are original (18 yrs old) to the landscape I deemed removal of  some of the shrubbery whose roots are amongst and surrounded by tree roots to be a risk without benefit. The Rhaphiolepis indica and nandinas of unknown cultivar were trimmed up, along with several mature podacarpus, variety also unknown.

The pear trees drop an unbelievable number of leaves over a couple of weeks in late winter, usually early to mid January depending on the weather. The last areas of new plants and final mulching down had to wait until leaf fall was completed and cleaned up. Their bare limb stage is very brief and they are all ready showing buds.

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It is almost impossible to photograph this bed without crossing the street and standing on my neighbor’s porch! Even though many of my plant selections look very small–I opted for 1 gallon on almost everything–quite a few will be large scale shrubbery at maturity. A number of my SLO Botanical Garden purchases went in this bed. My goal is moderate to low water usage. The trees need regular water so I had to find a balance of materials that would tolerate summer water. As each section was hand dug around major tree roots and planting points determined, every hole was filled with water to sit overnight to test drainage. Luckily I had to change only one intended planting spot–far fewer than I had anticipated!

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Looking from the furthest point back toward the driveway. This pitiful tree is a crape myrtle that we moved about 5 years ago. It also was right up against the fence and we moved it midway between the fence and street. Last summer the tree actually bloomed for the first time ever since we purchased the house in 2008. It is a gorgeous, clear purple–possibly a ‘Catawba’.  At the base of the tree is a 2 year old colony of Convolvulus mauritanica ‘Moroccan Blue’. There are also quite a few bearded iris in blues, whites, and purples that have been moved to this sunny end over the years as I have had divisions with no other place to go. Two lavender lantana will fill the area closest the curb–readily available and easy to get going. I am using them throughout these renovations as filler plants while more permanent shrubs mature.

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The area fully in the shade canopy of the pear trees needed an evergreen backdrop and I chose Pieris japonica ‘Tiki’ to fill the bill. The common name of this plant, lily of the valley shrub, is evocative of the pink to white pearl like clusters of drooping blossoms. ‘Tiki’ is on the smaller side of the pieris selections, topping at about 3-4′ tall. My group of 5 should make a nice show once all the buds open!

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Also in the shade canopy area but getting a good bit of the rising sun I added a hardy geranium with chocolate hued foliage. This unmarked find came from Branches & Barrels in Encinitas, a great little garden and event center in north San Diego county. It has lots of new foliage, a brighter green than the more mature leaves, and I anticipate that when I have blooms I may be able to identify it from my resource library. It is hard for me to leave a hardy geranium not already in my collection behind for someone else to snap up!

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No shady area in my garden is ever complete without a few hellebores. I added 2 groups of three plants each, hoping for a pretty full look in a reasonable period of time. The top photo is Helleborus orientalis ‘NW Cotton Candy’. Its ruffled double light pink flower has darker pink veins–the first one opened yesterday and you can see it up close at the beginning of the post. The single pink flower just above is Helleborus orientalis ‘Pink Frost’As this bed slopes nicely from the fence to the street it affords a better view of the flowers than if it were totally flat. I hope to have placed them forward enough to catch the morning sun but back enough not be trampled by people getting out of parked cars.

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Another Branches & Barrels find is Leptospermum scoparium ‘Star Carpet’, or prostrate white tea tree. The foreground of the center pear tree is ground zero in its need for a cast iron plant selection. It is sloped more sharply than the surrounding areas and to find planting crevices amongst the mature, close to the surface roots is challenging. The reference material for this lesser known variety of the upright New Zealand tea tree characterizes it as a good bank cover tolerating dry conditions. The leaves are tiny but plentiful on delicate weeping branches which should spread 6-8 feet. The wild card on this one will be sun–hopefully the morning sun will be adequate for production of its small star shaped white flowers. I think dry shade is perhaps the hardest condition for which to find plants. Three of these went in the ground about 2 weeks ago and I do have new growth. Everyone, keep your fingers crossed!

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The canopy opens up near the newest of the pear trees, requiring plants with more sun tolerance. Even though this bed faces east and gets only morning sun; that sun can be quite strong at the peak of summer. Complicating the issue is that, over time, the area will be ever more shaded. At some point there will be more shade than sun except in the very early hours of the day. Breath of Heaven is an evergreen shrub native to South Africa and much used in my valley as foundation plantings. Their delicate character is appealing and their leaves are aromatic when bruised. The Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold’ is lower than the species and bears tiny pink flowers on yellow gold stems. It has actually been kind of fun trying a little bit of this and a little bit of that in this new bed!

The plants below were described in the previous posts about this bed renovation but here’s a look at them one more time.

Left: Teucrium betonicum Right: Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Lynn’s Everblooming’

Left: Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ Right: Cotoneaster horizontalis variegatus

Left: Plumbago auriculata ‘Alba’ Right: Lonicera nitida ‘Lemon Beauty’

Left: Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Sungold’ Right: Dorycnium hirsutum

The larger part of the bed has filled in very well–most plants were added in October. We did have the treelike weeping juniper professionally trimmed in late summer and I think it looks better than it ever has.

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No doubt I will add a few more bits and pieces over time–a plant collector’s wheelbarrow is never truly full–but I feel as though the time is right to let this initial go around of plants settle in and see how they fare through the summer.

 

Sierra Azul and Sculpture IS in the Garden…

Happy New Year to all my gardening friends! A very warm December and early January has lured me away from my computer and into my garden more than usual for what is supposed to be winter. Before I catch you up on what’s going on in the Queen’s little 1/2 acre I want to close the loop on the Watsonville trip I wrote a bit about in my December 6, 2017 post Gardening with Goat Hill Fair….

One of the facets of chronicling my garden travels for this blog that has proved an unexpected pleasure for me is learning a little about the history of the communities, events and gardens I visit. Even as a native Californian there are so many places in my own state that I have never visited!

Watsonville is the second largest community in Santa Cruz County. The city of  Santa Cruz has always been a popular beach destination for Central Valley residents and those of us who stayed in town for college thought that our friends who went of to UC Santa Cruz had died and gone to heaven…to party forever! I am pretty sure Watsonville–just a few miles away–was never on our radar. Watsonville was settled in 1852 and named after Judge John H. Watson who arrived in the Pajaro Valley and set up a claim on a portion of the Bolsa Del Pajaro, a land grant belonging to a prominent Mexican-American settler. Watsonville’s history is based in agriculture, growing products such as strawberries, apples (it is the home of Martinelli Cider), berries, lettuce, mushrooms and cut flowers. The rich, fertile land and favorable agricultural climate of the Pajaro Valley remains the basis of the area’s agricultural success today.

I have been buying plants grown by Sierra Azul Nursery from my local garden centers for many years and so I was excited at the prospect of visiting the nursery and meeting its owner, Jeff Rosendale. Jeff’s wholesale operation, retail nursery and demonstration garden are located on E. Lake Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Santa Cruz Fairgrounds and enjoy a spectacular view of the distant mountain peaks. The nursery’s name is taken from the mountain range of the same name. The southern half of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range is divided in two by California State Highway 17 into what the colonizing Spanish called the Sierra Moreno, “brown mountains”, to the north and Sierra Azul, “blue mountains”, to the south.

Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens specializes in plants from the 5 Mediterranean climate zones–remember the great mosaic art piece at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden (see November 6, 2017 post SLO down for this Central Coast botanical garden) describing these 5 zones? Most of what the retail part sells is grown on the property.

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Owner Jeff Rosendale’s 2 acre demonstration garden adjacent to the retail nursery offers insight into what many of the plants he grows will look at mature size during various times of year. While it is not a manicured garden, it is a very realistic representation of how a wide variety of native and non-native trees and shrubs can work together in large scale borders.

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The rocket ship like conifer in the background is Sequoia sempervirens ‘Mt. Loma Prieta Spike’, unfortunately no longer being grown for retail purchase. I loved it!!

In 2006, Sierra Azul’s demo garden became the backdrop for a project of the Pajaro Valley Arts Council dubbed Sculpture IS in the Garden, an extensive installation of art pieces from California artists. The open air exhibition now runs from June 1-October 31 yearly. Even though the event was technically over when I visited Sierra Azul many of the art pieces were still in the garden, along with pieces Jeff has acquired for his permanent garden collection. The 2017 event showcased over 90 pieces of original art. Included each year are works (many for sale) in a variety of styles and media, including steel, wood, ceramic, bronze, glass and concrete. Many are large scale. Some are static, some bend in the breeze. The winding open spaces of the garden drew me through the beds and borders, finding something new to admire at each turn. Over 1,000 pieces of sculpture have been featured in the garden in the past 11 years. Here’s a small sampling of what I saw.

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This playful Pisces greets visitors just inside the property’s gate.
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This organic representation of earth hangs high in the trees.
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Bird and Gear by William Huffman was one of the pieces offered for sale.
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Another large scale piece rising from the landscape–I loved the fanciful rusted iron face!
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One of a series of colorful ceramic totems–I am obsessed with totems in the garden.

This huge bronze and steel sculpture entitled Woven Ring by Paul Cheney was my favorite piece–it can be yours for $7000.

Recognizing that I was lucky to even see a few of the pieces displayed this year I am putting a 2018 road trip to Sierra Azul on my calendar DURING the exhibit dates so I can get the full experience, including taking in the plantings during their best season.

I  spent a very enjoyable hour strolling the retail nursery and selecting a few interesting additions for my garden. The retail area is compact and gardener friendly. Like plant families are grouped together with lots of variety in each area. I am assuming that having your growing operation just steps away allows Jeff to keep just a few of each plant on display with the possibility of providing a larger quantity of a single species  upon demand.

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Phormium and Cordyline varieties  with the demo garden in the background.
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Lots of Pittosporum on the left and Leucadendron just past them

Garden centers in Southern California, the greater Bay Area and Central Coast are finding that plants of Australian and South African origin fit the bill for drought tolerant plantings in their warm winter climates. I see more and more varieties of Leucadendron and Banksia–genera with both interesting foliage and flowers. We see few of these in my somewhat colder winter valley. Sierra Azul has a nice selection in both these plant groups. They are fascinating to me but I am not sure about long term winter survival in my garden.

This huge Banksia integrifolia dwarfs the little redwood check out cottage!

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Lots of Banksia, including integrifolia, await shoppers
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Leucadendron argenteum or Silver Tree
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Leucadendron salignum ‘Golden Tulip’

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I had to keep my hands in my pockets while passing this Correa ‘Wyn’s Wonder’. I love the dainty bell shaped flowers BUT the three Correa, although a different variety, I planted in the driveway circle last year were the only plants I lost–dead, dead, dead!

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This was a new one to me–called Astelia nivicola ‘Red Gem’–and described as an evergreen perennial for shade.
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There were many Grevillea to chose from–including this one Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’.
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I never met a sage I didn’t like!
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My booty accumulates!

Some of my purchases have all ready found places in my garden, others are resting in my holding area awaiting the right spot. Take a look!

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Salvia repens x namensis–a low selection with leaves similar to scented geraniums
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Salvia repens x namensis–bloom closeup
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Salvia semiatrata–very delicate looking but purported to be 4 feet tall and wide
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Salvia semiatrata–bicolor bloom closeup
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Pelargonium quercifolium–common name oak leafed geranium
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Salvia mellifera ‘Calamity Jane’
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Heuchera maxima–a California native with huge leaves
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Salvia somalensis–bright green velvety foliage

So many of the specimens I purchased are new to my gardening experience. It will be fun to see how they perform and share their success or failure with you. Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens has a permanent place on my ‘make time to stop’ list if I am anywhere at all close. Check out their website at www.sierraazul.com for more information and contact information–also a series of pictures of lawn free landscapes Jeff has designed. A++ for a great selection of plant material, helpful gardening advice and a welcoming garden for a picnic lunch when I have done my shopping!

 

 

Perfect poinsettias…

I know I am not the only one for whom the arrival of truckloads of bold red poinsettias to every type of business in possession of a cash register signals the coming of Christmas. I recently had the opportunity to spend an hour with Belmont Nursery owner Jon Reelhorn and learn more about the journey all those plants make in the months before they end up on our mantels, holiday tables and front porches. Thank you to my friend and blog follower Ann D. for making the introduction to Jon–I learned so much!

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What we think of as the blooms are actually bracts–a leaf modification. The flower is the tiny yellow center!

Within minutes of shaking hands with Jon and stepping into the first of several covered greenhouses I would see, he disabused me of my clearly outdated understanding that growing poinsettias is a process of precise calculations of  daylight hours and manipulating those daylight hours on a schedule of black-clothing to the ultimate end of bringing the plants into bloom just at the right point for retail sale.

Let’s step away from the poinsettias at Belmont for a brief history lesson which starts with the Ecke family of Southern California. In a 2008 article, the Los Angeles Times characterized the 4 generations this way: “The Ecke family of Southern California is to poinsettias what DeBeers of South Africa is to diamonds.” I’ll try to put the story in a nutshell for you. German immigrant Albert Ecke and his family established a dairy and orchard in northeastern Los Angeles in the early 1900s. The green and red poinsettia shrub native to Mexico and Central America grew wild throughout Southern California and Mr. Ecke started to grow the plants outdoors on farmland in Hollywood, selling them from street corner stands.

Albert Ecke’s son, horticulturalist and businessman Paul Ecke Sr., saw the plant’s commercial potential. Through his closely guarded propagation efforts the somewhat straggly outdoor plant was turned into a sturdy floriferous potted plant and he moved the operation to Encinitas on  the San Diego coast. Paul Ecke Jr. expanded the family business and by the 1960s the plants had been moved indoors to greenhouses. Where the family once shipped thousands of plants by rail all over the US, Paul Jr. saw the benefit in selling the cuttings to other nurserymen to be grown locally. The uniform plants with multiple branches emanating from a single stem are still referred to as the “Ecke style”.

In the early 1990s a university researcher published an article revealing to the horticulture world that the Ecke poinsettia secret was not in the pollination or breeding but in the grafting of two types of poinsettias, thus opening the door to competition. The last poinsettias were grown for sale at the Encinitas ranch in 2006 and the business was sold in 2012. Breeding efforts in the last 2 decades have produced plants of many hues and plants with crinkled or marbled bracts. Most importantly, advances in breeding have lead to plant cultivars which bloom naturally early enough for the Christmas sales period–no more counting the daylight hours and black-clothing. Now, back to Jon and the Belmont Nursery poinsettias.

The poinsettia’s botanical name is Euphorbia pulcherrima. Indigenous to Mexico the plant derives its common name from Joel Poinsett, the first United States Minister to Mexico, who introduced it to our country in 1825. Today there are over 100 cultivated varieties and they remain one of the most popular holiday flowers.

Most of Jon Reelhorn’s poinsettias are pre-sold for use as holiday fundraisers. A single greenhouse at the retail location houses plants ready for shoppers; to see the breadth of Belmont’s poinsettia crop we hop into Jon’s car, along with a friendly white lab, and head for the nursery’s nearby propagation grounds. Our first stop is Henderson Experimental Gardens on McCall Avenue. Jon’s brief history of this site which has been used for plant production since the 1940s leads me to believe it is worthy of a blog post of its own–I’ll save that for another day.

Wow! The greenhouse door opens (with a small motion from Jon, the lab acknowledges that this is a no dog zone and waits for our return) to this breathtaking site.

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These are ‘Premium Red’–Belmont’s most popular poinsettia. Very sturdy–they are not caged or staked like the ones you can pick up at the big box stores-and fully red; these are the classic Christmas potted plant.

Belmont’s poinsettia crop begins with unrooted cuttings from South America. In general, the nurseryman manages the production of each variety based on its genetic flower initiation date and the desired ready for market date. For the varieties Jon favors September 21 is the target date to have his cuttings in production–making them a perfect  crop to fill some of his seasonally empty greenhouses. At Belmont Nursery the cuttings are planted in their finished sized pots (there is no successive ‘potting up’ from small to finished size) and misted only until the bracts emerge. Drip irrigation meets their water needs from then on. The plants get no extra temperature control–they grow with whatever day and night temperatures prevail. The sticky yellow tape running along the rows attracts white flies and other pests and clues Jon in to what is going on in his greenhouse so that he can treat appropriately. A very specific regimen of pinching is the key to a sturdily branched plant meeting the grower’s size desires.

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At yet another growing site–the vast majority of the several thousand plants Belmont produces each year are in 6″ containers but in this greenhouse there are a few 8″ pots being grown of some varieties with fancy Christmas Rose bract shapes. On the right above is the variety ‘Jester’. It has a much more upright bract than ‘Premium Red’, allowing more of the lower green bracts to be visible. The plants in the middle photo are slightly less mature than the ones directly above–they just need a little more time.

Jon’s favorite variety is called ‘Ice Crystal’. This year he ordered 200 cuttings but his suppliers sent him the cream and pink ‘Marble’ by mistake. The one above looking as though it has been dusted with pink sugar is ‘Ice Crystal’.

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‘Ice Crystal’ is exceptionally prized by Jon this year as he has so few!

In response to my query about my preferred bright pink plants, Jon explained that the reds are overwhelming more popular and after many years of running out of red and having the other colors left over,  he sticks to the sure winner–clear medium red like that of ‘Premium Red’.

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He did offer up this petite fuchsia called ‘Princettia’ which had lots of flowers on a small scaled plant. I checked this one out online and found that it is one of a series which includes white, several shades of pink and a red. It is being promoted as a bed and border planting in mild winter areas, blooming right up to first frost.

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The development of a Thanksgiving poinsettia called ‘Gold Rush’ has expanded the plant’s traditional season. There were a few of these left for retail sale on the day I visited. They were truly beautiful and now that I have them in my sights I plan to make them a part of my late fall tablescapes from now on.

Thank you to Jon Reelhorn and Belmont Nursery for expanding my knowledge of and appreciation for what goes into producing these iconic symbols of the Christmas season.

 

 

 

 

 

Garden goodie gazing in Cambria…

THE GARDEN SHED

On every road trip to the Central Coast I visit this Cambria East Village gem without fail. The Shops at the Garden Shed offer a whimsical small boutique shopping experience which includes several small shops clustered around the back courtyard of the aforementioned Garden Shed which itself has a lovely selection of garden art, home accessories, pots and plants. Even though I have never really been a rusty metal, upcycled, vintage kind of girl this place just makes me smile. It is perfectly in step with the woodsy, redwood and glass meets Victorian cottage vibe of this seaside village.

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When you walk through the inside retail space of The Garden Shed you emerge into this courtyard, a riot of colorful plants and pots, displayed in creative and unusual vintage vignettes.

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This charming rusted gate on the shady side of the courtyard is the shipping and delivery entrance–what a loss for gardeners that it remains propped open all day, literally disappearing into the fencing.

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There are lots of succulents and some seasonal color to be found. Many plants are sourced locally from wholesale growers.

The Junk Girls make all kinds of interesting and unique items from recycled materials and parts. This vintage truck/planter leaves no doubt as to their skill set and the rusty bicycles pedal across their roof, watched by another Scarecrow Festival entry. I am SO without  succulent knowledge and can’t identify this monster for you but it looked truly alive.

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The back of the courtyard is occupied by Grow, a specialty nursery focusing on rare succulents. They also have an inside area with pots and lots of garden themed treasures.

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This old tractor, acting as both art and landscape,  is at the very back of the courtyard behind Grow.

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This architectural specimen may be run of the mill amongst gardeners who are knowledgeable about the wide variety of succulents but it was pretty spectacular to me!

CAMBRIA NURSERY & FLORIST

This was my first opportunity to check out this full service nursery and florist perched  high on a hill above the village. Although their emphasis is on coast friendly, drought tolerant plants with proven track records in local climate conditions there is a little bit of everything to be found on the 4 acres nursery grounds–vegetables, perennials, succulents, shrubs and trees. A number of quaint outbuildings feature seasonal home decor. Cambria Nursery also does an extensive Christmas light festival which was in the preliminary set up stages on my visit.

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Who wouldn’t be charmed by entering through this classic red barn?

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This fun display rack houses a bevy of Tillandsia, the so-called airplants. Most species in this genus are either epiphytes (growing without soil while attached to other plants) or aerophytes (having no roots and typically native to areas with shifting desert soil).

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Decorated for fall, the grounds are easily wandered on paver patios and decomposed granite paths–the latter being a little challenging on which to maneuver your wagon loaded with garden additions.

Cambria Nursery 9Great succulent displays are ubiquitous in the mild winter parts of California but few are as well organized and labeled as this one.

I especially liked the Japanese Tea House and its small koi pond. The Tea House provides a focal point around which are grouped all those plants we typically think of as having an Asian garden aesthetic.

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Colorful signage helps shoppers negotiate the meandering paths to the many demonstration beds and the nursery stock represented in them.

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A wonderful and seemingly life-sized whale topiary is settled into the hillside next to the Kids Garden. The topiary material is Pittosporum tenuifolium ‘Marjorie Channon’.

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The condition of the plants available varied widely. The six paks and 4″ pots were fresh as was some of the wide selection of woody shrubs. Many of the woodies looked a little long in their cans but frankly did not look much different than drought tolerants and natives in late fall even if they are in the ground. The staff was very attentive and knowledgeable. I did snap up a great looking Sollya heterophylla (Australian bluebell creeper) that is bound for my in progress side yard renovation. I am putting this nursery destination back on my list to visit in early spring–I’ll do some research on selections whose names I jotted down and be ready to fill up my wagon.

 

 

 

The Garden Gallery in Morro Bay…

California’s Central Coast towns are home to a nice mix of kitchy tourist shops and upscale local art and craft galleries. Mixed in you will find a wonderful variety of dining experiences along with all the charm of any town from whose streets water is visible. Morro Bay is no exception–and it is home to a lovely garden shop that has as much appeal for those who do not dig in the dirt as those of us who do.

The Garden Gallery is located on the Embarcadero just across the street from the water in Morro Bay. Even though the wood and glass indoor/outdoor shopping experience is by no means a full service garden center it is a must see destination for me every time I am anywhere close to this stretch of Highway 1. The highly creative staff combines plant materials in interesting ways and containers and I admire the care that is put into the ever changing displays.

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The magic starts immediately at the unique front gate. This stunning living screen is a 44 year old Melaleuca nesophila, commonly called pink melaleuca. This coast friendly tree or large shrub is impervious to beach winds and salt spray and is drought tolerant to boot.  This one is an ongoing bonsai project and, having just been clipped in the last few days, has very little visible green–making the gnarled trunk structure even more prominent.

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It is a very overcast morning and the grays of the buildings’ wood cladding, the sky and the tree all seem to meld together.

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Take a closer look at the patinated detail on the gate…I want this gate hanging man so badly!

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The shop is compact but spread over several buildings and several levels around an open courtyard–lots of steps to take care with–and has a bench or two on the wooden landings for shoppers to take a breather or just plop down and take it all in. More than once I have found the bench next to the sculpture below occupied by someone reading the daily paper or a book. The fog has burned off enough to catch a peek of blue sky!

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This piece of art is called Leap Frog and can be yours for $8,500. I’ll take two.

The majority of plants are succulents and bromeliads. At every turn another vignette offers ideas for potting and displaying these very coast friendly specimens. The tree like green shrubs are mature Hollywood junipers.

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The Gallery offers many ideas making use of wall space to move the green up from the ground with wall mounted pots, boxes and metal baskets.

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Check out these great hanging metal fish–available in several sizes and finishes.

These great Mother Nature faces also caught my eye.

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It was all I could do not to come home with this spectacular birdhouse!

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The weather protected surrounding small sales areas have a eclectic mix of high quality decorative home items. The overall vibe of the goods the Garden Gallery features is that of elevated natural materials–definitely a Sunset magazine aesthetic. The seasonal tablescapes and displays are always beautifully done.

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One of several shapes of turned wooden vases and lamp bases

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Shallow woven baskets as wall art

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Great large mirror framed with wooden shoe molds

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Fall and Thanksgiving accents

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My quilting friendship group has decided we are good enough with our hands to carve these primitive birds. We are going home to find our husbands’ old boy scout knives and you may see us in your yards picking up nice fat sticks!

The Garden Gallery is an inspirational place to browse whether you are looking for a special plant, a unique display idea or nature inspired art. Don’t miss it! Still to come–The Garden Shed and Cambria Nursery & Florist in Cambria.