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!

Aut Reflect 18

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.

IMG_3721

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.

IMG_3727

IMG_3731

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.

New Friends 19

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.

New Friends 25

New Friends 15

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…

New Friends 14

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.

New Friends 22

New Friends 23

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.

cuties-3.jpg

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.

New Friends 20

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.

New Friends 21

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

IMG_4106

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’.

IMG_4105

IMG_4107

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!

IMG_4102

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.

IMG_4103

‘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.

Aut Reflect 3

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.

Aut Reflect 2

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.

Aut Reflect 4

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.

Aut Reflect 10

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.

Aut Reflect 1

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.

img_5553.jpg

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.

Aut Reflect 12

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–

Aut Reflect 7
Aster novi-belgii ‘Henry I Purple’ has been blooming non-stop since June
Aut Reflect 9
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.

Aut Reflect 17

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

Aut Reflect 19

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

Aut Reflect 18

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.