The winter that wasn’t…

This morning I enjoyed a fellow garden blogger’s new post entitled Snow Day from gardeninacity (a Chicago area writer) and my eyes were once again opened to the vast differences in gardening cycles across our country. Check it out and be sure to like, comment and or follow to let him know you’ve found his site.

On opposite side of the weather spectrum, most of us here in California are not buried under snow and would probably pay to have Chicago’s fluffy, white stuff trucked in to dump in our yards.

I always refer to my garden as being in a mild winter or temperate winter zone–not a dramatic winter with ice storms or snowfall but a winter where historical lows have been in the 40-50 degrees daytime, colder night and some early morning frost or fog. This “winter” is really our only hope of annual rainfall with almost all of the year’s precipitation occurring in December through February.

This year our winter has been more like a Southern California winter and So Cal’s winter  has often approached conditions that many other areas never see in their warmest winters. In January, my Orange County gardening bff posted pics on Facebook more than once showing her thermometer in the mid nineties. Late to the Garden Party is a great Southern California garden blog to check out if you want to see what’s going on down that way. Here in the Central Valley I have been shirt sleeved gardening since Christmas with temperatures pretty consistently in the mid 60s and 70s. Our mountain cabin at 5000 feet elevation has had no appreciable snow and has also seen much warmer than average temperatures.

All these extra degrees have not been accompanied by much measurable rain with the exception of the massive overnight storm which caused the devastating mudslides down the fire ravaged hillsides of Montecito near Santa Barbara. Our rainfall season in Fresno County runs from October 1-September 30 each year. Rainfall to date is 1.64″. Our normal or historical average is 6.74″ at this point and 11.5″ for the full season. Last year was a banner year for us in which we reached our normal full season number by mid-February.

There are both positive and negative consequences of all this lovely spring like but dry weather in months when we should be inside eating soup and binge watching Netflix. On the plus side, I have gotten an enormous amount of maintenance work done and will approach actual spring with a much shorter punch list. We also have been able to actively work on yet another lawn removal effort–with a wet winter we would have been looking at bare dirt until fall 2018.

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Since these photos were taken we have started tilling and amending–more on this project soon.

Not so exciting is the prospect of a summer with even tighter outdoor watering restrictions (we are at a single day per week NOW with watering only before 9 am and after 6 pm) and a garden full of trees, shrubs and perennials which will enter the most heat stressed part of their year all ready somewhat starved for deep ground moisture. Many plants which normally gain the new season’s strength from their winter rest have never gone dormant and many others have all ready flushed out new growth which may be in danger of damage from an unexpected late frost.

Here’s a smattering of what’s blooming now in my garden:

Clockwise–Fernleafed lavender (Lavandula multifidia); Cherry Sunblaze rose; calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

Clockwise–Pulmonaria ‘Tivoli Fountain’; Veronica ‘Georgia Blue’; Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’; unknown cultivar of pansy; Anisodontea x hypomandarum ‘Slightly Strawberry’

Clockwise–Geranium sanguineum striatum; Penstemon ‘Midnight’; Salvia chiapensis

I noticed this bloom stalk on one of my bearded iris just peeking out of the foliage on February 1st and photographed it on February 8th. I often have several remondant bearded iris bloom off and on all winter but this is by far the earliest I have seen a single bloom cycle iris with a bloom almost open.

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So while I am sure gardeners in snow covered areas are longing for spring, I am a little envious of those of you still tucked in for your garden’s long winter’s nap–at least it is a season you can count on!

 

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.

 

Amaryllis aftercare…

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Here is what’s left of this holiday season’s amaryllis crop. I started the cycle with 15 bulbs held over from the last couple of years and 36 fresh bulbs from my favorite grower, Van Engelen, Inc.

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A veritable forest of blooming beauties–this shot taken December 6, 2017. These are the two new varieties I tried in 2017: ‘Rozetta’, a ruffled double, and ‘Blushing Bride’, a paler pink single.

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Amaryllis ‘Rozetta’
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Amaryllis ‘Blushing Bride’

I give away many potted bulbs throughout December, including dropping off small groups at local retirement centers and at businesses I patronize throughout the year. The majestic blooms towering over a few green sword like leaves never fail to elicit a smile from the recipient! For many years I attached a card printed with directions to answer the perennial question “What do I do with it when it is finished blooming?” but lately I have had to field that question less often–probably Alexa and Siri are doing my work for me.

In the first photo you can see I still have several pots with stalks in bud or bloom. For many of these pots you are seeing the 2nd or possibly 3rd bloom stalk. I have had amaryllis continuously in flower since the week after Thanksgiving and expect to enjoy them several more weeks.

Three options exist for your post-holiday amaryllis: thank it for its service and show it the compost bin; plant it in the ground; hold it over to force it again next year. I am going to assume you are not hell bent on the first one or you would have skipped this post!

For either of the remaining paths, start by keeping the potted bulb inside until overnight temperatures reliably exceed 60 degrees F. Give the pot a sunny spot so the plant will continue to produce chlorophyll and healthy green leaves. Many amaryllis will continue to bloom off and on throughout spring and summer if you do not force them into a dormant period. Remember–growing in the ground these plants are naturally spring blooming perennials, waking up due to soil temperature and day length after a long winter’s nap. As each bloom fades you can cut it off but try to leave the stalk intact to die back naturally as it helps to feed the bulb.

If you live in USDA Horticulture Zone 9 or warmer, the bulbs can be planted in the ground. Remember to shelter them inside until your nights have reached the 60 degree mark and then harden them off gradually, introducing them to sun gradually over several days. They need well-drained soil, bright filtered sunlight, a neutral pH soil and will be most reliable if planted in an area getting no supplemental rainfall from mid-summer through fall. One of my Georgia neighbors (shoutout to Shelly T.) has an entire bed filled with amaryllis from Christmases past and it was spectacular in the spring. My success with these bulbs planted in the ground has been miserable. It is challenging for me to find a spot where water can be limited July-October because everything else in my garden must have irrigation to survive those months AND the snails send out their house party invitations as soon as they hear the whisper of the ‘A’ word.

I have had pretty good success keeping the potted bulbs through spring and summer with the goal of forcing them for another season. It never hurts to try!  When your area has reached appropriate night time temps and you have brought your pots out into the sunlight gradually (hardening them off), find a resting spot for them with about 6 hours of sunlight. Warning—Fresno gardeners need to make that filtered sunlight! I keep my pots corralled in the plastic bins (I have a set in which drainage holes have been drilled) you saw in my post Winter’s royalty… making them easier to move as a group if I need to adjust for sun or water. Give them a little shot of diluted houseplant fertilizer every month. The foliage will be floppy and unattractive but do not trim it back. Water regularly until mid-July when it is the time to convince your bulbs it is winter and nudge them into dormancy. Store the pots in a dry, dark location and withhold water. The lack of water and darkness will cause the bulb to go dormant with the foliage dying back as nutrients are reabsorbed by the bulb. If the stars are correctly aligned you will be rewarded by a nicely fattened up bulb when the big reveal is made in late October. A little soil refreshment may be done at that point but keep the same sized pot–amaryllis like to be cozy in their pots.

It took me many years to realize that the neatening up I do on my tablescape plants–cutting off each spent flower stalk close to the base–is detrimental to my success in forcing the bulbs for a second year. In achieving an attractive display I was removing much of my bulb’s future nourishment. It is a hard line to walk for me but at least now when I whack that stalk I am making an informed choice and accept that I may diminish the return of my bulb.

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Still to look forward to–my large pot of 10 Royal Dutch Amaryllis ‘Hercules’. This class of amaryllis takes about 4-6 weeks longer to bloom than the Christmas Flowering group. I should have a mass of blooms by Valentine’s Day.

I simply could not have Christmas without amaryllis and poinsettias. It is part of human history to associate particular flowers with special seasons or events in our lives and we hold these  associations as dear to our hearts as the memories of the blooms our parents or grandparents nurtured. It is also uniquely human to revel in our ability to control the bloom periods of our favorite bulbs, enjoying them in seasons when they would not naturally bloom. There are many other bulbs that can be easily forced for indoor beauty in winter–narcissus, crocus, hyacinths and lily of the valley to name a few. I have only tried a couple of these but am going to revisit my bulb catalogs in the fall and make some selections for 2018!

 

 

A little cleanup and a few new friends…

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Below–another SLO Botanical Garden find is Dorycnium hirsutum, the hairy canary flower.

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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’.

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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!

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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.

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‘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.

 

 

 

Autumn musings…

As spring is the most anticipated season to those cold weather gardeners whose labors lay under a blanket of winter ice and snow, autumn is the season that hot and dry climate gardeners eagerly await. And we don’t wait patiently either. We grouse, we commiserate, we complain daily about the soaring temperature, crispy plantings and the lack of rain–you would think we have actually forgotten where we live. Somehow it always seems to be ‘the worst summer ever’.

Autumn is my favorite season. Autumn is the busiest season in my garden. It is the time to reflect on how first season in the ground plantings have fared–declaring both winners and losers; plan for additions to beds and borders; complete essential cutting back and dividing of perennials; refreshing the humus topdressing everywhere and a myriad of routine maintenance tasks. If I have a productive autumn my spring must-dos are reduced exponentially. With various injuries having kept me out of the garden since late spring for all but the least physically demanding jobs, there is a great deal to be done!

Over the last couple of weeks our temps have dropped down into the eighties and nineties, allowing for a human being to actually be out in the garden for more than 30 minutes at a time. Take a peek at what’s going on.

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Working this wide front bed entails dividing dozens of bearded iris–over 20 cultivars which were last divided 4 years ago. July and August are more preferred months for iris division but it is simply too hot and thus my iris seem to have acclimated to September division and replanting. Multiple salvia cultivars await their final pinch back and the Santa Barbara daisy–now reduced to wee fist sized clumps–had totally obscured the soil.

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I am declaring Salvia ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ a winner! I found 3 bedraggled 4″ pots last fall and dug each one into a different spot in the garden, hoping for the best. This is one which is sited in full on all day sun.

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Iris divisions are settling in; asters and salvias have been neatened up. Not much to look at right now but most of these perennials will bounce right back for another short bloom before shutting down for winter in late November.

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The driveway circle bed completed early spring 2017 is looking great. The most time consuming care this bed has required through the summer is the periodic removal of the crape myrtle suckers whose growth was no doubt stimulated by all the shovel work around their huge roots systems.

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Disappointingly, none of the Correa ‘Carmine Bells’ in this new bed survived. Three were planted last November and grew steadily through the rainy season and spring. Above you can see that one has already been removed, the one in the foreground is flat dead and the one behind and to its right is starting to fail. Below you see a shot of the same plant in March of this year.

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I guess DEAD assumes it to be in the loser category for me. I have read a lot about these drought tolerant Australian natives trying to discern what happened. Ruling out overwatering (they grew like gangbusters during out wettest season) I am leaning toward too much reflected heat from the street and driveway. They are in a morning only sun position as they require but just inside the shade canopy and the literature does caution against reflected heat. The three Correa were the only plants lost in the new bed–any thoughts about the cause?

I’ve made my first two additions to the 12′ X 140′ side bed. The burgundy foliage and rigid form of Berberis ‘Helmond Pillar’ is a good contrast to the weeping grey-blue ‘Tolleson’s Blue’ juniper as its backdrop. It’s tucked behind the boulder Dave dragged out from under the juniper’s canopy (see my Labor Day post). Around the corner I dug in a $2 (yes, two dollars!!) Grevillea ‘Pink Pearl’ I picked up on my Sacramento trip. It looks like a drop in a very big bucket now but literature puts it at 6′ X 6′ in average garden conditions. My Virginia and Maryland travels in June have cemented my goal to get out of the small leafed, medium green rut and strive for more variety in foliage shape, size and color. Mature trees and compacted soil are making this new lawn-free bed a challenge to plan and plant–look for a spring post when the project is completed.

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Just to make sure there is no rest this fall and winter, we have targeted another lawn area. The lawn has been chemically killed and awaits a man (or woman, I guess) with a shovel to remove the remnants. The foreground of this photo is the site for my Little Free Library to be added along with a sturdy bench. Stay tuned on this area also!

A couple of other winners from this year–

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Aster novi-belgii ‘Henry I Purple’ has been blooming non-stop since June
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Leucophyllum candidum ‘Thunder Cloud’ has almost white foliage and sporadic small dark purple blooms–one of the smallest cultivars of Texas ranger

One of a few staging areas for special finds, potted up divisions of perennials and crate after crate of iris in holding mode ready to go into new bed areas. I am really excited about the weeping redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Ruby Falls’–gorgeous heart shaped burgundy leaves! Autumn is the best time for planting but the worst time to find plant material so I accumulate specimens throughout the summer months in areas I can count on them having some afternoon shade and a nearby hose.

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A mixed bed in the back garden still sports nice blooms–mostly small flowered salvias.

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This Salvia ‘Fancy Dancer’ was cut back about 3 weeks ago and has rewarded me with fresh green foliage and another nice bloom cycle.

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No horticultural degree needed to know I have totally lost control of this climbing rose, ‘Morning Magic’. Yes, that is a cane about 6 feet long laying horizontally. Definitely moving this tidying up task toward the top of my list.

Autumn is my favorite season. Autumn is the busiest season in my garden. That just about covers it.