Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Red Green Blue

Nandina berries Leucojum and shasta sprouts
Solar light in lemon grass
David Perry has challenged bloggers to post three photos...one red, one green and one blue. Here are my offerings, taken on a depressing post-holiday afternoon. He's right...being outside with my camera lifted my spirits. At least for a little while!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Why I Garden

Mary Ann at Gardens of the Wild Wild West has asked the question "Why do you garden?" My answer is simply "Because I have to." There are a number of things I do because they bring me pleasure and I find them enjoyable. Things like reading, cooking, going to the gym, seeing new places. Gardening is different. It is the thing that gets me out of bed on a beautiful Saturday summer morning and the thing that brings me peace on a foggy midwinter afternoon. It reminds me of being a child...there is so much wonder and reward in a garden. Some years there are major projects that bring change to the garden, some years things are simpler. But always, always there is a sense of belonging, of joy, of purpose...of rightness. I liked playing in the dirt as a child and I guess that is still true. So I garden simply because that is who I am...a gardener.
Of course, there are many rewards resulting from this personality trait. For example, being able to make a meal from things quickly gathered when dinner time suddenly appears. Being able to use a variety of herbs in cooking without having to buy those expensive, too large bunches at the market. Having flowers available just about all year long. Introducing children to the miracle of seeds. Sharing plants with new gardeners. Providing a pleasant place for friends to gather...be they human, avian or insect.
Gardening provides constant entertainment and just like books or movies that entertainment can run the gamut of emotions. Gardens have it all...mystery (where did that come from?), murder and death (I knew I should have watered those yesterday...), humor (I hope no neighbors saw that!), suspense (will this be the system that finally protects my lettuce from those sparrows?), joy (the first tomato!plum!lettuce! of the year), peace (that moment when you suddenly stop with your hands in the dirt, look around and say "Thank you.")
I'd be crazy not to reap all these benefits. And that is the last reward I will mention...if I didn't garden I'd go crazy. The garden feeds my soul as well as my body. I garden because I have to.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

GBBD November 2009

The miniature roses in the front door bed are having a little bloom fest. This unknown pink mini was given to me years ago by my good friend.
Chater's Double hollyhock has bloomed off and on for months and the cooler November weather isn't a deterrent at all.
Lavandula pinnata buchii has likewise bloomed for months...actually it's been blooming for over a year. Last winter it shared the warmth from the lights I had strung up to protect the Meyer lemon in the pot behind it. That was enough to keep it blooming all winter.
I know that there is a bit of negative thinking about mums and some, like Elizabeth at Gardening While Intoxicated think they are unnecessary. I think to a large extent I agree with her but I do like these passalongs...blooming in the trident maple bed where I can see them from the dinner table.
Solanum jasminoides is another long term bloomer.
And my Camellia sasanqua Kanjiro has put out one early bloom...just in time for bloom day!
The more or less complete list of blooms in my Davis garden this month...

Wax begonias
Solanum rantonnetii
Plumbago auriculata
Rosa Flower Girl
Dwarf carnation Evermore
Lavandula pinnata bucchii
Anisodontea Elegant Lady
Anisodontea Hibiscus Bits
Pink pandorea
Salvia Victoria Blue
Salvia Dwarf Indigo Spires
Salvia greggii
Salvia Dancing Dolls
Hollyhock Chater's Double
Abutilon Pink Parasol
Unknown pink abutilon
Culinary oregano

Monday, November 02, 2009

L'Orto Botanico di Roma

L'Orto Botanico di Roma is the botanic garden in Rome. It belongs to the University of Rome and is the former garden of the Palazzo Corsini. We visited the garden last June on our first day in Italy. It was a lovely morning but by the time we arrived we were a bit tired as we had taken one wrong turn and walked up an unnecessary hill or two before regaining our bearings. I found the garden pleasant even if a bit disheveled. The young mothers playing with their children on the lawns reminded me of other botanic gardens I have visited...from Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas, CA to Boboli Gardens in Florence I'm pretty sure moms and kids are standard features in most botanic gardens.
I wandered the paths and saw a few interesting plant groupings, including a bamboo collection that also reminded me of Quail Gardens, but it was for the most part unexciting. When I saw the above sign, however, I found something that I felt was worth the wandering. The Orto dei Semplici is an herb garden with an emphasis on medicinal uses for plants. That being said, it seemed to me there were an excess of plants capable of causing moderate to severe digestive reactions...I'm not sure I would appreciate being the recipient of some of these cures.These curious fuzzy fruits on a cucumber type plant were not what you'd want to find in your salad!
L'Orto dei Semplici was set out in raised brick beds, the whole of which was also raised so that you entered it by climbing a few steps.
Leaving L'Orto dei Semplici I found a strange but beautiful 18th century staircase, designed by Fuga, complete with water feature that seemed cast adrift from whatever purpose it once served.

And even further into the far reaches of the garden I found the Nicchione, also designed by Fuga in the 18th century.

One of the last things I saw here was the star shaped Giardino degli Aromi or garden of aromas. This area featured many scented plants and plants that have pleasant tactile characteristics. There were quite a few scented geraniums...a pretty way to end my visit.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Herb Harvesting In The Dark Or How I Finally Made Simple Syrups

Last night on Facebook I saw that my daughter had made basil simple syrup. It reminded me that I've been planning to make some simple syrups myself before the herbs were done for the year. The more I thought about it the more motivated I got so before I thought too much about it I grabbed a flashlight and went out to get some basil and lemon grass. I decided to make a batch with the licorice basil that I have not cooked with much as well as the Genovese. I haven't liked the texture of the licorice basil, especially raw in things like caprese. In no time at all I had cleaned about a cup each of the basils and the lemon grass. After cleaning the lemon grass I crushed the stems a bit to allow the flavor to permeate the syrup more easily. Each went into a separate pot and into each pot I added one cup of sugar and a half cup of water. I brought them to a boil and simmered them for a few minutes. I took them off the heat, let them sit for about 15 minutes and then strained them through a fine mesh tea strainer into half pint canning jars. This was a super simple (no pun intended) endeavor and the syrups smell fantastic! I think I'll try some with lemon verbena tonight.
I meant to do a better taste test to compare the basil syrups but decided one Lemon Basiltini on a work night was sufficient.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Post Storm: Project Number Two

From this angle it is obvious...but I walked past this tree twice on the way to the compost pile without noticing that a good part of my ornamental plum, Prunus c. Purple Pony, was now in the neighbor's yard.
The storm had softened the soil and the winds finished the poor thing off.
I decided it needed to come down before it took the poor old fence it was hung up on down with it.

It was actually easier than I thought it would be. Trying to recover from the flu that knocked me back for the better part of a week I took it slow and cut a few branches two days in a row. Then Saturday I cut the trunk down to a two foot stump. The stump is still there...it's not going to cause any further damage. I'll have to get it out in the next week or two. The question is...what am I going to do with that space now? I do know Cecil Brunner won't complain about more sun. And that privet is on short time anyway. Possibilities abound! RIP Purple Pony.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

GBBD October 2009

Abutilon Pink Parasol is slowly filling in and blooms Tuesday in the back border.
However, she is going to need a bit of help if I think I want her to make it through the winter. Miss PP, stake and all, was horizontal after the storm that blew through here yesterday. OK...I admit I meant to get a decent stake and was making do with a lightweight one...but it's only October! Oh. Guess I said that yesterday.

I am amazed at the fact that most of the photos I took Tuesday are still valid today...this little hollyhock blooms so close to the ground that the wind didn't faze it.

Abutilon Souvenir de Bonn has bloomed a bit all summer. I know, I know, I don't like orange flowers. But these are so not gaudy and look at that foliage! And when she came home with me that tag said 'used almost entirely for its foliage' so I sort of figured the blooms would be nondescript. While I'm not going to be buying any orange cannas anytime soon this little sweetheart is staying. But in a bigger pot before it really gets cold.

Devil wing begonia is lovely on Tuesday in this photo. Not so much today darn it.

Rosa Berries and Cream is putting out a few blooms still although slowing way down. This was Tuesday but the petals hung on yesterday...they're just not quite so perky today.

Pelargoniums bloom around the yard and really didn't mind the wind.Solanum rantonnetti got whipped around but stood up to the wind like a trooper. And I love the blooms. But I am going to have to find a less enthusiastic replacement for this spot on the edge of the patio. And when I do I will repeat 'right plant in the right place' over and over.

These purple basil blooms have been left because the leaves are too pungent for me (the basil lover!). But who doesn't love those blooms?

One more round of blooms from Alstroemeria Regina. Reliable, long lasting and easy. What more could I ask?

Other bloomers include allysum, erodium, plumbago, wax begonias, pink pandorea, lavenders, garlic chives, various salvias, bat faced cuphea, anisodonteas and possibly pansies ~guess I should check tomorrow morning and see if they got washed away.

Check out other bloom lists by visiting our esteemed leader Carol, at May Dreams Gardens. See what's blooming today around the world!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Post Storm: Project Number One

One of my favorite little vignettes in the back garden was this small table where various succulents have decided to hang together and be happy. They really needed to have been put away for winter but fall has just arrived and I was so happy with the way they look that I was trying to squeeze a few more weeks of enjoyment from them. I mean...it's only October! Once they are relegated to the patio shelves out of harm's way for the winter they will be pretty much out of sight.

Here are those same plants this morning after an unusually early winter storm barreled through knocking out power to many homes (including mine), toppling trees, snapping branches, spreading leaves and, sadly, knocking over tables of unprepared succulent growers. Amazingly, only one pot broke and I think all the plants are there and not shoved up against the fence somewhere.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

CobraHead Rocks Against Bermuda

Carol at May Dreams Gardens had a contest recently for which the prize was to be a CobraHead Weeder. Having seen these weeders and lusting after them at Spring Fling last May in Chicago I of course promptly entered the contest. I wanted to try one out against the bermuda that infests my yard. As one of my previous neighbors said, the only way to completely get rid of bermuda is to move. Which he did. As for me, I've been beating it back into submission for 29 years and I had to wonder whether the CobraHead could be my new best weapon in the ongoing war.
Imagine my surprise when Carol announced that the wonderful family who owns the company had decided to award all of the entrants a weeder! Not only was I to get one, it arrived within days of my sending in my actual address for shipment!
Today was the day of our trial run. It was easy to find a good spot in which to experiment...my brick path seems to attract that annoying plant overnight. I went out with my lovely CobraHead, a bucket and gloves. Within no time at all (seriously...maybe 10 minutes!) I had cleaned out a bucketful of burmuda. I like the way the weeder feels in my hand and am amazed at how it sliced through the soil and roots so I could pull out the weeds. The CobraHead completely rocks against bermuda! I know I will never eliminate it in my yard and, truth be told, it helps fill in the bad spots during the summer in what little lawn I have. But for getting it out of the paths or other inappropriate places...I'll be using my CobraHead!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

True Confession

I have a confession to make. Something is wrong with my garden. Not the ornamentals. I'm talking about the summer vegetables that love the Central Valley weather and are made to grow here. The ones I used to be really good at growing. The last few years I've tried to ignore the signs. The zucchini plants that didn't set much fruit. The peppers and eggplant that just weren't happy. The tomatoes that just weren't as lush as they should have been. Actually, none of the plants were as lush as they should have been. So I tried some organic fertilizers, adding compost and mulching well. After all, I've been gardening in the same space for over 29 years and while I try to take care of the soil I thought maybe I'd been negligent in some way. I added a new vegetable area and that seemed to be better the first two years but this year...let's just say my neighbors are safe from finding zucchini on their porch. I'm sure many of you are saying..."well what does the soil test say?" I have to admit I have not done any such testing. But today that has changed. I've put my order in at Peaceful Valley Farm Supply and will soon...I hope...have a few answers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

GBBD August 2009

There was plenty blooming here on Garden Blogger Bloom Day and I took photos and uploaded them...then did nothing. I just couldn't get too excited about most of the blooms. Why?
Ornamental oregano, O. laevigatum Herrenhausen. I'm really happy with this cute filler that flows over the rock edging. I'm happy that it's happy but...
Dragon wing begonia is bigger than I expected and quite lovely.
It's just what I wanted for this pot that sits near the patio table. But...
Mirabilis...white four o'clocks. They used to have more color but over the years I've ended up with only white. Is that why I'm bored with these blooms?
Fagoli Nano Marconi...Italian green beans. I love these! It won't be long before we are eating them! OK...these I'm happy about.

A little vignette near the front door...dwarf Indigo Spires salvia, pink gaura, Butterfly Blue scabiosa and variegated society garlic. Hymenocallis foliage although I've yet to see the bloom. I divided and moved a couple varieties last year so don't know which one this is and won't unless it decides to bloom. I'm glad I've changed this area over to more heat tolerant plants so it's no longer sunburned cranesbill all summer...but...

Society garlic is a summer-long dependable bloomer. Could it be that seeing those same blooms for months is a bit...boring?
Solanum rantonnetii, purple potato vine , is another constant bloomer for many months. I know why I'm tired of these blooms...this plant has exceeded its care requirement quota once too often. I've been cutting it back almost weekly all summer. Don't tell it but it's days are numbered...I'm in the market for something that will be a bit better behaved here. As in the right plant in the right space.
It's still summer here in Davis and not really time for planting much. Maybe I'm suffering from summer doldrums. Pelargoniums, salvias, abutilons, begonias, alyssum, even the wisteria have bloomed for so long and there is nothing really new to see. Summer has always been my favorite season but maybe I'll be happier when fall begins to sneak in.
There will be no itemized list this month...I just can't make myself do it. Probably be the same as July's anyway!
I hope you've checked out what's blooming elsewhere..probably with more grateful gardeners. To do so visit our esteemed leader Carol, at May Dreams Gardens!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GBBD July 2009

Just in time for Bloom Day summer decided to make itself noticed by sending the thermometer over 102. We have been so lucky this year...the temperatures have been below average and really quite lovely. This week I remembered where I live...in the California Central Valley where the best descriptive word for summer weather is hot! We can live with it though because it is a dry heat and because we typically get a late afternoon Delta Breeze (Shortly after noon in the Sacramento River Delta at the outlet of the Straits of Carquinez, an onshore sea-breeze circulation develops. As the afternoon progresses, and the onshore thermal gradient increases, the sea-breeze front attempts to advance, continually being mixed out at its leading edge - usually somewhere between Suisun and Davis - by the convective currents of the hot and dry valley air. If the marine layer is sufficiently deep to sustain this erosion, the sea-breeze front can advect to and through the Sacramento and Stockton metro areas. This produces not only a marked temperature decrease, but also a wind shift and enhancement known as the Delta Breeze. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/sto/CWA.php )
That Delta Breeze cools our nights and makes us able to get up in the morning without crying.
When I look out my window around 3:00 PM and see no leaf movement I know we are heading into a period of weather where the Delta Breeze doesn't come through, it stays hot into the evening and barely dips down into the 70s at night. The garden and gardener are unhappy and for the most part go into maintenance mode. Some parts of the garden, however,are perking up...the tomatoes, eggplant and peppers have been waiting for this. They've actually been a bit slow this year due to the cooler temps and are enjoying the heat for the moment. Prolonged heat would slow lycopene production but another thing about the Central Valley is those 100+ temps don't usually last for long.

In any case, here it is Bloom Day and I managed to go out early enough to beat the heat. At top is the narrow bed between the larger vegetable garden and small lawn area. Four-o-clocks that have reverted to all white, May Night salvia, pink pelargoniums and volunteer borage separate the two areas. Next are shastas that blooms in clumps here and there and offer homes to the d**n earwigs that eat their centers, ruining many of them. Below that is Little Pete, my new favorite agapanthus that blooms on stalks barely taller than its leaves. That white lily may not be exciting but it scents the air up to 10 feet away at times. Guess I'm glad it only has the one bloom!

One of the older agapanthus blooms on taller stalks and makes me realize (again) that I have an awful lot of this color in my garden. Something needs to change.

And here is more of that color...plumbago auriculata is being trained up into the banksia arbor to provide some color during the warmer months.

Rosa Flower Girl has lost her lovely pink in the heat and looks almost white. The first year that happened I thought I'd planted a white rose!
Hymenocallis narcissiflora (peruvian daffodil) is one of my favorite blooms of the year. I'm so happy it didn't finish blooming before I got back from vacation!
The large pot near the far bench is happy right now...two pelargoniums and a Rozanne geranium make a nice combination.
There are lots of blooms in Davis right now, in part thanks to the cooler June and early July weather. In truth, many of these bloom over half the year so while they may not seem too exciting they do add a nice amount of color...even if a bit too much of it is that light blue!

Solanum jasminoides
Solanum rantonnetii
Rosa Flower Girl
Scabiosa Butterfly Blue
Ivy geranium
Anise hyssop
Glossy Abelia
Lavender Society Garlic
Salvia greggii de Otono
Pandorea jasminoides rosea
Rosa Berries and Cream
Salvia nemerosa Blue Hill
Salvia nemerosa Caradonna
Salvia nemorosa May Night
Salvia Dancing Dolls
Salvia Mulberry Jam
Salvia Victoria Blue
Salvia sclerea
Dwarf carnation Evermore
Portulaca Sundial mix
Anisodontea Hibiscus Bits
Anisodontea Very Cranberry
Anisodontea Elegant Lady
Abutilon Pink ?
Bush mallow
Wax begonoias
Angel Wing Begonia
Marguerite Comet Pink
Felicia amelloides
Star Jasmine
Peruvian Daffodil
Nepeta Walker’s Low
Plumbago Royal Cape
Alstroemeria Regina
Rosa Demitasse
Shasta daisies
Gaura Siskiyou Pink
Gaura white
Lavandula pinnata bucchii
Lavandula Wings of Night
Agapanthus standard
Agapanthus Little Pete
Lemon Verbena
Origanum herrenhausen
Blue Lake beans
Italian green beans

Check out other bloom lists by visiting our esteemed leader Carol, at May Dreams Gardens. See what's blooming today around the world!