Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back to Everyday Life

I am reconnecting with my garden and realizing just how much being out there centers me...I can almost feel my heart rate and breath slow down when I feel in touch with everything out there. Luckily, I spent a few hours this weekend checking on things, watering, deadheading, and a bit of privet pruning that stayed safe, as opposed to this experience because today it hit 104 degrees and we have a few more days of similar weather is store. Not the best for yard work! I was happy to find a few surprises after being gone most of two weeks. The Italian White sunflowers have finally been kind enough to bloom...I've grown them in the past and enjoy them a lot. I found three praying mantises (manti?) which I just love...I swear they watch closely when you take their picture and they aren't very happy about it. The flock of bushtits that had visited before I left on vacation came by again leading me to assume they are hanging around nearby. The mantises and bushtits might give you a clue about the number of insects available to visitors. I have an impressive number of aphids, especially on the wisteria. The downside of getting wisteria to bloom late into the summer is that the blooms get coated with aphids and the choice is leave them be or hose them off...which of course will strip the flowers off, too. So I just give them a light trim to keep them up out of the walkway and enjoy the blooms from afar.
The garlic chives have begun to bloom and go well with the hollyhock that is probably reaching the end of it's bloom. The salvia Blue Hill is still adding some nice color and the dwarf carnation Evermore seems to be living up to its name well this year. The zinnias are a bit of a surprise, too. I tried, really I did, to get six packs with the fewest possible orange flowers...the results show I was not too successful! I suppose I should try starting my own from seeds next year. I didn't plan to plant these, so hadn't gotten any seeds. But they were one of those impulse buys that happen to the best of us and I am happy enough with them...and they make great "picking flowers" for the kids.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Vacation, Part 2: San Diego

After visiting NYC and a two day layover at home to water and pick veggies it was time to visit my other garden...the one connected to the condo where the sweet granddaughter lives. Since her mom and dad are busy with baby business (among other things) I get to have fun in their courtyard when she's napping or otherwise occupied. My job is to give them something pleasant to look at out the windows but not create anything that requires too much maintenance. When the condo was first purchased my daughter sent a photo of the red flowered vine on the trellis. I couldn't tell what it was...and when I saw it in person I realized why. I had never seen an ivy geranium cover an six foot trellis! OK...San Diego is certainly a different climate than Davis! Other existing plants included pink pandorea, lots of liriope, a red shrub rose and a palm tree. Over the last two years I've added a few boxwoods, nemesia, salvias, allysum, and blue margaurites. I dug up a few clumps of Biokova Cranesbill the morning of one trip last spring, popped it in a plastic bag in my carry-on and planted it in the courtyard that afternoon. It's doing well! One job I've been planning since the spring was to dig and divide a large clump of yellow iris planted by a past owner. It had gotten beyond crowded and didn't bloom well this spring. So the day before this trip I dug a variety of blue and purple iris in my yard to take and mix with her yellow. I ended up with 34 yellow rhizomes, 24 of which I planted around the courtyard. The rest went into my luggage and are now making new friends in Davis. My dad drove the 90 miles to come visit his great granddaughter and was nice enough to trim the dead fronds in the palm tree...a messy job...and harder to trim than one would think. He had already redone their non-functioning sprinkler system on a previous visit...he's my hero! I had hoped to plant some pansies for color but couldn't find any on my quick trip to the store (time with the granddaughter being precious) so I settled for some dianthus...maybe when we return next month I'll have more luck...or maybe that's what will be in my carry-on !

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vacation, Part 1: New York City

I love getting a chance to see how other people live and, of course, I love seeing how they get their gardening fixes. On a recent trip to New York City my older daughter and I walked miles every day, although apparently New Yorkers would say we walked blocks. Everything there is measured in blocks and directions are given as "five blocks", "ten and a half blocks" etc. On our first morning we took the subway to Brooklyn, then walked back across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. The pedestrian/bike path was above the roadway and we had a wonderful view of the NYC skyline. As we reached the end of the bridge we passed a lovely bed of blooming perennials and then entered a tree shaded plaza. We continued on, wandering through the Civic Center, Chinatown, Little Italy, and Soho and before we knew it (in only a few hours!) we had walked back to the guest studio we were renting in the West Village. I was so impressed with the availability of green spaces for people to enjoy...every where we went we saw garden beds, containers, trees surrounded by annuals and an incredible number of parks. I'm amazed at the amount of money that must be spent on replanting each year and the upkeep of everything! One day as we walked we passed a magical children's garden planted by a school. What a great opportunity for those children!
The view of Central Park from the Top of the Rock was unreal...what a blessing to have this retreat so easily accessible! When we got down into the park we found it filled with parents, nannies and children enjoying the zoo, Alice in Wonderland sculpture and water. Older people were out sitting on benches just getting a nature fix, and the paths were full of walkers and joggers.
We saw buildings covered in several stories of green, roof top gardens complete with trees, and greenhouses ten or more stories up, overlooking Bryant Park. I loved seeing Strawberry Fields, which was a designated quiet area ( for which I was grateful...somehow I could envision dueling versions of "Imagine" and it wasn't a good thought!).
We also visited The Cloisters, a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Fort Tryon Park in northern Manhattan. Built from parts of five medieval cloisters, all of the items are medieval artifacts. But what I found most interesting were the gardens, which were recreations of medieval gardens with different sections devoted, among other things, to medicinal plants, food plants, and plants used for dyes. The Cloisters is about a ten minute walk from the subway through Fort Tryon Park and the paths are lined with incredible beds of blooming perennials, complete with an impressive number of butterflies and bees. It was a great break from the level of energy felt elsewhere in Manhattan! I now have several things to ponder...the idea of how people will find a way to have a bit of nature among the subways and busy streets...the happy surprise at how much green was visible, how many trees and plants there actually were...and a realization that there is no way all those people could eat locally. I'm thinking that those of us who are blessed with an abundant local food supply perhaps have a responsibility to eat locally and offset the many people who don't have the luxury of that choice. For the past seven months we've worked at increasing our proportion of locally raised food but I haven't considered it a responsibility...rather just a good idea to cut down on transportation costs and environmental effects and a way to support family farms. Now I'm thinking there may be more to it than that...and as I said, there is a lot to ponder. It's a good thing to have a vacation that makes you think. Oh...and the Broadway shows were great!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pre-vacation Bloom Day

I'll be on vacation for Bloom Day this month so am posting early...and limited to only a couple of new bloomers. This clematis is the first I've had that actually bloomed. I've tried several times to grow an evergreen clematis and one of my New Year's resolutions is to keep one alive. I am planning to plant one this fall in order for it to have the best possible start in our climate. But in the meantime I've got a few blooms on the jackmanii growing up into one of my banksia roses, along with Dahlia Parakeet. The white mirabilis (four o'clock) is a persistent grower. I've always liked four o'clocks but they can be pretty invasive for my small space so I decided a few years ago to pull them all out. However, every year at least one or two of varying color show up...and I'm always secretly happy. Lastly is what was supposed to be a pink canna but is not at all what I had in mind. I'm not a big canna fan to begin with and I have a friend whose yard would be a perfect setting for this. So some winter I will remember to pass it on...maybe even this year! The other thing "blooming" in my yard is several piles of bricks inherited from one of my child care families. They wanted them gone and being a brickaholic I had my son haul several hundred here. Now I'm toying with ideas...what will I do with them?

Monday, August 06, 2007

The Freeze Revisited

There were a number of plants I thought I lost last winter during colder than normal weather. But looking at things in August shows it wasn't as bad as it could have been! Many plants here often lose some leaves but recover fairly quickly in spring. Last winter many plants seemed dead down to the ground. However, by being patient and too busy to get to the dead stuff right away I have been pleasantly surprised and rewarded!
The ferns are not as lush as they have been but I think, barring any equivalent freeze this winter, they will be up to speed by next summer. Interestingly, the ferns I had gotten going in a wooden planter boxes died to the ground also, but they have made a better recovery than the ones in the ground.
The variegated lemon looked deader than a doornail but is making a slow lemons but the leaves look promising.
The chocolate geranium still smells great but the new growth lacks the chocolate center mark...sad, but not enough to pull it out!
The solanum in the pot got cut to the soil...I then hesitated for a few weeks on how to remove the roots and put something else in without starting from scratch on the ivy and in that time the solanum must have gotten scared because it shot up to about two feet and is doing well.
All three plumbagos died to the ground but have made a good recovery...actually it's been a good thing since they were getting too of them was hanging over the other side of a six foot fence and is now a more manageable three feet tall.
The lemon verbena was reduced to several two foot tall sticks but has made an amazing recovery and is now several feet taller than it had been before...almost as if the freeze was good for it!
Other than a few small plants the only thing that didn't pull through were the limonium...they never looked good after any winter and this one was too much for them. How did your winter worries end up?

Corn Harvest

We harvested our corn today..not a big crop by any means but everyone got to taste...and even the unpollinated ears served as a good visual for the kids as to how the corn grew. It takes a lot of space for what we got and maybe next year I can work on ideas to up our yield but the kids got a lot more than lunch out of it. And we had beans to go with it...we've actually been able to have beans twice a week for a couple of weeks and my husband and I have been eating them for dinner, too. So the beans are highly successful!