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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Tech meets (very little) turf #2…

It is a unique experience to see the inspirational garden of a noted San Jose garden designer and a very personal garden he crafted for a one of his clients in a single afternoon. The Garden Conservancy has a reputation for delivering fabulous garden touring experiences at its Open Days across the nation.

The Holden garden is only a few streets over from designer Cevan Forristt’s outdoor sanctuary. Both gardens lay in the flood zone for nearby Coyote Creek and found themselves under 6 feet of water in February 2017 when the creek ravaged its banks.  It was amazing to see how beautifully they have recovered–I would have not known the depth of the damage to the Holden garden without seeing a photograph taken by the homeowners from their 2nd story.

Hints to the global nature of the garden appear on the front of the neat stucco bungalow in the form of Indonesian style shutters.

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The front garden is no bigger than a minute but features design details in keeping with the global theme.

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A Moorish tile front walk and massive pots lead to these stylized gates. The potted bamboo provides some leafy relief from the surrounding hard surfaces. It is possible that in a former life the steeply sloped walk into this below street grade garden was a driveway–possible a garage occupied space behind the bungalow?

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There are so many details to take in I really don’t know where to look first. My initial impression is that this garden is a fabulous entertaining space–many seating and eating areas with enough green to blur the edges.

The property line fences and just about every surface has been dressed with texture advancing the global theme–remember this is the designer who made a century old Victorian into a Far Eastern sanctuary.

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I love this trough plumbed with running water. No surface is without an artistic element.

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I am immediately drawn to this massive shade structure which provides shelter for a custom poured concrete table which I think seats 12 or 16 on antique throne like chairs.

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From a slightly different angle you can see the corrugated metal storage area and massive poured columns supporting the shade structure. The colored concrete columns were poured into tubes formed from sheets of corrugated metal.

Each column is capped with a unique pottery shard element. Designer Cevan Forristt purchased an entire warehouse of broken pottery from a company whose stock was destroyed in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and has had those shards stored in numerous barrels for years, dipping into the booty to fashion one of a kind decorative elements for himself and his clients. Remember the blue pottery mosaic pots I shared with you in the post on Cevan’s garden? It is all I can do not to start collecting garage sale pottery…here are a few of the column cap designs. The substantial edge of the table also features a wide multicolored shard mosaic band.

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This garden is accessible and inviting. Nothing is out of bounds and the space is appealing to both adults and impervious to children.

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The natural materials of the green cushioned seating areas is a unifying factor. Throughout the garden there are a variety of materials used and repeated–corrugated metal, distressed/rustic wood, poured concrete, rusted iron and bamboo.

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A six sided koi pond is the center point of the garden. As with all the poured concrete elements, the pond was made by the designer. A trough like spout provides a waterfall effect. The homeowners shared that the koi did not swim their way to safety from the flood waters and had to be replaced.

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Above and below you see a few of the ceramic flora pieces created by Berkeley sculptor Marcia Donohue.

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These organic pieces rise from the greens of the plant material as totems to the plant gods. I understand that Marcia Donahue’s Berkeley garden is a fabulous experience–chock full of plants and sculpture!

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The planters and custom surround for the grill were fabricated with forms that are utilized to pour column for freeway overpasses.

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This gorgeous piece serves as an outdoor buffett for storage of dishes and serve ware used for outdoor dining. Notice the corrugated metal ‘hat’ fashioned to allow the rain to run off.

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Details evoking global travel abound.

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Looking back toward the almost invisible home.

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The second story overhang (Eastern US folks-think ‘walk-out basement’) creates a shady sitting and dining spot.

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Looking out into the garden from that shady spot.

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Same spot from the garden side. More poured concrete columns support a concrete table top at bar height.

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Every detail  remains in character.

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I am so happy I got to see this masterful interplay of materials and plants. Evocative of global travel tucked within busy San Jose, this garden transports every visitor to far flung and mysterious places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now THIS is a Labor Day…

Labor Day weekend—last hurrah of summer–has been celebrated the past few years at our cabin in Fish Camp just outside Yosemite National Park’s south entrance. The Fish Camp Volunteer Fire Association holds its annual fundraiser at which residents of this tiny community enjoy one another’s company and live entertainment, eat a great meal and become spirited bidders in the live auction. This year this small enclave of residents and vacationers found itself in the national news with the drama of the Railroad Fire which broke out on August 29th just south of Fish Camp near the historic Yosemite Sugar Pine Railroad. Highway closure and mandatory evacuations were immediately put in place and remain as of today. The news photo below shows the fire roaring just south of the Tenaya Lodge with the General Store and old gas station in the foreground. Our place is in the trees behind the structures and in front of the fire.

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The immediate and heroic response of multiple firefighting agencies–both local and traveling from other parts of California–in the first two days saved our small area of homes. Seven structures very close to the fire’s starting point were lost and some damage done to the beloved Sugar Pine Railroad’s historic railcars. The developed area of Fish Camp is now surrounded by a ‘cold line’ from which to fight any additional flare-ups. Unfortunately the fire continues to march to the east and southeast of Fish Camp and is now estimated at about 10,000 acres, 23% contained, with over 800 firefighting personnel in play. Additional areas have been evacuated, the highway remains closed and the local utility faces steep challenges in its attempt to restore power to affected areas. There is no expression of gratitude equal to the efforts of these firefighters and my every thought is focused on their safety.

So, here in the hot valley for the holiday weekend, my husband decided to tackle a little ‘rock relocation’ we have been talking about for a couple of weeks. In June 2016 we removed lawn from several very large areas on our corner lot. Previous posts gave you a peek at the replanting last fall & early spring 2017 of the large roundish bed nestled between our two driveways. The window to work the ground even a little and replant closes here in late May and so the last area has simply remained dirt (and spurge) throughout the summer. It is a very long and narrow side whose curving front connects to the north side of one driveway.

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Three Bradford pear trees and this large weeping juniper, most likely ‘Tolleson’s Blue’, will remain as anchors to the bed as will several podacarpus tucked up against the fence. These mature trees provide our back garden with privacy and some sun protection for plants in the back which rest in their canopy. They also present tremendous challenges to doing much soil amendment and even planting anything larger than a gallon size can. Rather than preplanning what goes where my landscape philosophy may end up being finding where we can dig a reasonable sized hole and THEN decide what to put in it!

There are two huge granite boulders up against the fence under the weeping juniper and it is MOVING DAY for the smaller one! Now, sweet Dave and I have moved several other very large rocks in the garden in the last few years and our process has seen some refinement over time. For the first rock (and smallest) we convinced a friend who thought he had come for Sunday dinner that he would provide just enough extra manpower that he and Dave could muscle it to its new resting place. I am not sure he has ever accepted another Sunday afternoon invitation…

#2 rock signaled the start of the rock moving equipment acquisition–we bought a pry bar and managed to lever the rock, one side after the other, to its new home. That worked very well after realizing that me sitting on the pry bar was only effective until the rock moved and took the pressure off the bar…

We got pretty serious with rock #3–our largest effort to that point–digging out around it to allow the pry bar underneath and a thick nylon rope to be looped several times. Tied that puppy to the pick up and dragged it forward 3 feet. This Sunday afternoon spectacle brought out quite a few neighbors who, I am sure, thought we were nuts.

So that brings us to Labor Day 2017. Maybe you are thinking–why are these people moving these rocks?? The whole landscaping with groups of large granite rocks is kind of a “thing” here–sort of a companion to the mature olive tree brought in as a focal point. The rock people (that’s a real job) load ’em up on the flatbed and come equipped with a crane to set them into place according to the landscape designer’s plan. The rocks act as focal points and are great starting points around which to build plant groupings. After almost 20 years, this garden’s landscape has matured to the point that many of our large rocks are totally hidden under mature shrubs–so we’re just bringing them out into the light again. In the case of what we will now refer to as the Labor Day rock, it will take up some real estate which used to be turf near (no longer under) the weeping juniper and decrease the need for additional digging to add pant material which may well be covered by the juniper’s arms in another couple of years.

Check it out!

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First challenge…avoid running over the sprinklers.

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Notice we have upgraded from nylon rope to a chain…

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Hope to now pass the chain under the rock rather than around.

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Getting ready for another go.

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A few positional adjustments and we’re there. A little digging in tomorrow after dinner will help it settle in.

Labor Day 4 A man, a chain and a rock–now that’s a love story, huh?

Thank you to all who labor, making contributions to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our nation—whether by keeping us safe from fire and flood, working the land to feed us or teaching our children; the future of this country is in your hands.

 

 

 

 

No purchase required…

When we first returned to California in 2008, my husband maintained an office in South San Francisco and frequently worked several days a month at Stanford University Hospital. Being more a Southern California girl than a Northern California one I took advantage of his time there to tag along and explore the South Bay in search of public garden adventures and good plant shopping. On one of my first days in Palo Alto, I stumbled on the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden which to this day remains one of of my favorite garden go-tos. On that same day, needing a place to kill a little time before picking David up at the hospital, I stopped by the Stanford Shopping Center to get a cold drink and sit a bit.

The Stanford Shopping Center is an open-air shopping and dining experience just minutes from the Stanford campus. It is home to some of the most luxurious raised bed and potted plantings I have ever seen. On my visit that day I never even opened the door to any of the 100+ stores–I spent my entire time there walking the wide promenades filled with comfortable cushioned sofas, chairs and glorious blooms. Massive pots were home to small scale trees, hydrangeas, camellias, dahlias and companion plantings and acted as screens and focal points. The raised beds in both sun and total shade were filled with annuals and perennials to complement the bed’s evergreen year round plant material. Since that day, every time I am in Palo Alto I spend some time in this outdoor center–often taking a book or my laptop and finding a shady spot to relax and people (and plant) watch.

Not long ago I heard a life altering rumor that the Stanford Shopping Center had redesigned their plantings in response to California’s continued water issues and all was now native grasses and drought tolerant selections. Booo…even in my understanding of their civic mindedness I was in mourning. After all, I cannot keep a hydrangea alive–much less grow them 8-10 feet tall and wide in pots larger than jetted tubs–but at least I could revel in them beautifully combined with roses, impatiens and violas for a little while with a visit to the SSC. Last week on my monthly South Bay trip for my Filoli day I went up a day early and had an afternoon to fill. I downed a protein shake for strength, gritted my teeth, grabbed my camera and headed to see what havoc the drought had wrought on my beloved garden haven.

I was excited to see that while some of the plantings were less luxurious than in previous years and many of the planters had been converted to more permanent plantings needing less seasonal change-outs–all was not lost! The thirstiest selections were fewer and farther between but no less meticulously maintained as in previous years. Have a look.

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SSC has a lovely Williams-Sonoma–this great bottle ‘tree’ is the centerpiece of one side of the store.

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Part of the core walkway of the center is in total shade. I especially loved these gorgeous raised beds boasting greens and purples–a great example to refer back to in planning an exciting shade plant combo.

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Good to know the earth has not fallen off its axis. There are still beautiful raised beds and planters to delight the gardeners who may have the need to actually shop for something other than new plants. Palo Alto’s temperate climate allows these plant displays to endure for months on end. Winter, however mild, does come to the South Bay and I think this will be the year I will plan to see what the Stanford Shopping Center offers (horticulturally) for the holiday season. Isn’t it always true that you never really appreciate something until you think you may have lost it? Truly no purchased required to enjoy these fruits of someone else’s labor.

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Casa Mariposa…

2017 Garden Bloggers Spring Fling Director Tammy Schmitt (check her blog out at ts-casamariposa.blogspot.com) flung open her own Bristol, Virginia garden gate for us to see her exuberant cottage style garden. I knew I would love this garden when we entered through a gate crowned with a freeform trellis created by a long dead but quite sturdy vine trunk!

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This precious little Clematis was making its way up the trunk as fast as it could. This downward facing bell shaped flower is not one I see often in California.

Schmitt 14It is easy for those of us who garden in areas with short mild winters and long, long growing seasons to forget that many Zone 7a gardens like this one may be  blanketed with snow well past when we have all ready fertilized our lawns and deadheaded our roses for the first time .

Keeping that in mind, the riotous summer foliage and flowers in Tammy’s back garden are all the more impressive to me. Her garden is completely organic and features many native plants and ornamentals that attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife. While perennials stay in place through the cold season, all Tammy’s pollinator friendly annuals are sown from seed while all else sleeps.

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I love the fact that this garden has no 5 or 6 foot privacy fence and can be enjoyed by Tammy’s neighbors as well as the wildlife and family dogs. This creative gardener met the challenge of her 5 rescue dogs’ favorite pastime of running back and forth in front of the low wire and timber fence by clearing the plants from their preferred footpath and rechristening it a dog run. Not even visible to those enjoying the garden but perfectly “dogscaped” for her pooches.

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A hand dug river bed over 60 feet in length ending in a rain garden prevents runoff from entering the storm drain that flows to the Chesapeake Bay.  Volunteers from reseeding annuals are free to take root in the river bed, adding to its very natural feel.

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Tammy has a great way with pots, with dozens forming living walls on either side of the steps into her home. There are some interesting posts on her blog chronicling her search for a way to get these yearly pots going through the winter weather to get the best jump on spring.

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Absolutely going to use this great idea for marking plants–mini clay pots with the plant names on the bottom casually top supports which disappear into the sea of green.

Tammy has been using a product called Penetrate from one of the Fling’s sponsors, John & Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions, to improve her clay soil.  We had an opportunity to be John Valentino’s audience as he filmed a promotional spot for the products in Tammy’s back garden.  It was interesting to hear the science behind the line of organic products and a few good questions from our group added to the filming, making us a truly captive (and quiet until called on!) audience. Thank you, John!

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A quick note to my Central Valley readers–John & Bob’s is a Fresno company. My Fling swag bag included both literature and sample products to try. We all know great gardens start with the soil–I am going to put several of these products into play in my garden. John cautioned us that these are not overnight fixes but I am willing to put the time in if I can reform my clay soil even moderately! I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, check out what these local soil superheroes have to offer at http://www.johnandbobs.com

And it is so obvious that Tammy Schmitt loves to garden–thank you to her for the three years of blood, sweat and tears it took to organize the 2017 Capitol Region Garden Bloggers Spring Fling. As a first year participant I had no idea what to expect. One description I read called the Fling “summer camp for gardeners” and I think that is quite apt. I spent time with new friends away from the normal routine of my life, shared stories and experiences, saw some beautiful scenery and created memories to last a lifetime. 2018 will mark the 10th anniversary of the Garden Bloggers Spring Fling and that anniversary will be celebrated in its ‘home town’ Austin, Texas. Don’t worry–I’ll be there and by way of photos and words–you can be, too!

A Year in the Garden…Filoli in July

So let’s take a detour 3000 miles west of the wonderful gardens I saw as part of my recent trip to Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia to check in on one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s most beautiful garden estates. I have a single public garden and two private ones still in the wings to share so don’t think the party on the East Coast is over quite yet.

I was a bit late getting on the road to Filoli, limiting my pre-class photo opportunities. I have been watching these pollarded trees since February. Take a look at how they have developed.

I think by October the leafy allee will be complete–then in a month or so the pruning process will start all over again. Just another example to remind me that this estate was built during a time of prosperity and by people with substantial resources to provide the regular maintenance required by this, and many other examples on the property, specialty pruning technique.

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I arrived in the Sunken Garden just in time to catch this interplay between a visiting heron (birdwatching friends–feel free to correct me on this) and the bronze herons who inhabit the pond.

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A bit too early in the day for these to be open.

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On my June visit the garden staff was busy clearing out the last of the spring annuals, amending the beds and putting in the summer color. Bright orange Zinnias take center stage in the boxwood edged beds, complemented by blue Salvia farinacea. Some of the last planted pots of blue pansies remain and new pots packed with petunias in purple tones have been added.

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Bed areas adjacent to the steps down to the garden are accented by small stands of apricot dahlias.  In spite of the fiery color scheme, the summer garden seems quite restrained in comparison to the spring planted beds just past.

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No buds last month…in full bloom today!

I will admit to being a little disappointed in the new planting in the Walled Garden, which lies between the Sunken Garden and the Rose Garden. Although I recognize that Filoli attempts to keep the all the gardens planted in the style of the 30s and 40s when much of the landscape was enriched by the estate’s second owners, Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, the rows of small pink begonias fell flat for me and the pale lavender petunias just disappeared into the strong sun.

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In the Rose Garden, much was still in full bloom. A good bit of deadheading was called for on some of the earlier bloomers and that worked out well for one of today’s class topics–Pruning Principles II.

In March we concentrated on the basics of pruning–why pruning is needed, what tools are available and how to make a good cut. We also learned the 4 basic pruning methods: pinching, thinning, heading back and shearing. Most of our practical application in the garden involved spring flowering shrubs that flower on old wood such as the flowering quince which is pruned immediately after blooming to permit new wood to develop for the following season’s growth. If I could take a pruning class every month year after year, I would still sign up for another. Pruning is an art and, as such, improves with practice. As a hobby horticulturalist I still do not have a wealth of pruning CONFIDENCE even though I have a pretty good intellectual grasp of the how-tos!

Yet again, instructor Mimi Clarke stressed the importance of understanding the plant’s natural habit, when it blooms and whether flowers are produced on new growth or last year’s growth. Know what you are pruning and how it grows before you even get your clippers out of their sheath. Her reference recommendation from March lingered in my head–the American Horticultural Society: Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. I found the newest edition (2017) online. I am not sure why the book no longer bears the AHS logo but I am reasonably sure it has nothing to do with the actual content and wanted the most recent edition.

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There are very specific instructions, including timing and technique for hundreds of plants. Many plants that don’t have their own listing are included at the end of each section with a notation to “prune as_____________” with reference to a plant whose pruning scheme is similar. I bought the paperback so I could feel ok about dragging it around the garden and filling it with notes!

On our garden walk in search of plants needing a snip or nip we stopped at the Rose Garden where Mimi showed us examples of correctly deadheading roses to encourage new blooms. The three Ds (dead, diseased, damaged) come into play here. Mid summer is a good time to thin out some of the interior growth, especially when the inevitable black spot, rust or powdery mildew are present, to increase air flow and generally shape thing up. For many years I have done a pretty hard cut back midsummer on both roses and perennials and find that little bit of downtime now pays me back two fold in a more healthy and longer flowering period into the fall. Even an old gardener needs a little validation now and then.

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Check out the height of these roses in relation to Mimi. In our discussion we agreed that it may be time for these quite old roses to be pruned back really hard in January to decrease their overall size and reinvigorate them.

We wandered toward the Perennial Border and found the staff gardeners nipping into the Veronica ‘Pink Damask’ and salvias that had been spectacular less than a month ago.

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Most of the fabulous garden photos we see in the magazines and books are of plants at their absolute peak. The truth is that most perennials, even those with relatively long bloom periods, are only at that peak for 2 or 3 weeks in a season. Secondary bloom flushes can be stimulated with a dedication to deadheading. Even if you have ignored the spent flowers many perennials will signal their needs to be tidied up a bit by developing new growth at the crown. Below you see the Teucrium chamaedrys used as a border in the knot garden.

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In the lower photo the Teucrium (commonly called wall germander) is the bright green in the lower left corner. In June, it was not yet in bloom. The bloom detail above shows that it will only be another week or two before all the germander will need to be sheared back. Another bloom is not guaranteed but the least you have done is to neaten it up for the fall.

We finished our morning with a pass through the orchard. The variety of fruit trees call for a variety of pruning schemes–the key, of course, is to know your tree and how it produces fruiting wood. There’s a nice crop forming on the row of espaliered apple trees.

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Thank you, Mimi, for the wonderful written resource material included in our notebooks! I can use all the visual aids I can get to work through my pruning challenges.

Pest Management was our afternoon topic. Within the 2 hour window to cover this never ending subject Mimi stated the obvious: no way we can even mention every insect or disease, much less how to handle it. She took a practical approach: you will have pests, whether insects, rodents or disease AND your goal will be to MANAGE them as best you can.

Mimi’s philosophy on problem solving starts with trying to prevent those problems from ever showing up in your garden. Prevention starts with a healthy garden. To that end: LEARN to ask the right questions when buying plants; DIVERSIFY your plant selection; PREPARE your soil and REGULATE your irrigation practices.

Determine what population level (disease or critter) is acceptable to you. Eradication may not be a practical goal. Then look at CONTROL on four levels, using chemical controls as your last resource.

CULTURAL CONTROLS might include selection of resistant varieties, companion plantings, sanitary practices, pruning and proper use of fertilizers and water.

MECHANICAL CONTROLS can include mechanical devices such as paper collars around plant stems or sticky barriers on trees, hand picking of pests, water blasts and traps appropriate to the critter.

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Filoli’s staff garden grows their berries totally encased in wire structures to discourage raccoons and deer. Below you see row cages that can be placed over seedlings for protection.

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Even parts of the extensive cutting garden used for arrangements for the house and Visitor Center are permanently covered in wire mesh. The staff gardeners creatively fashion new cages, collars and trap routines to keep all the wildlife under as much control as is practical.

BIOLOGICAL CONTROLS are defined as any activity of one species that reduces the adverse effect of another and might include the introduction of parasites, pathogens, predators or competitors.

CHEMICAL CONTROLS are used when non chemical approaches have failed.

Mimi lists these steps to use when you detect a pest, weed problem or disease in your garden:

  • Correctly identify the problem
  • Determine if you can tolerate it or if it needs to be corrected
  • If your goal is correction, use mechanical/physical controls above first
  • Still need help, determine if a biological control is available
  • When pesticides are your last resort, read labels carefully and choose the product that has been identified as the most effective
  • Apply proper amounts in confined areas

I really appreciated this process driven approach to pest management. My tolerance for insect pests and weeds has grown as I have aged. I no longer even have an expectation of a weed free or non-beneficial insect free garden–although I would still pay BIG MONEY for a snail free garden. I am not alone in jumping past the first 3 types of control and landing on my feet with a chemical control in my hands! My goal will be to make pest management a more thoughtful process in the future.

Our class year is winding down. In August we will spend our entire class time in the greenhouses exploring plant propagation. September will bring a overview of fall cleanup and the presentation of our individual projects.

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The dahlia tubers have been planted. I hope we will get to see this in full bloom before our Year in the Garden comes to a close.