Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumnal Assessments

The calendar says fall although the weather, seeming to have just realized it goofed and needs to use up some left over localized heat, is still saying summer. It is the perfect time to go out into the garden and take a good look at what worked this year and what didn't, with an eye toward making changes. Of course, one year is not a deal breaker for many plants. The weather might have been a bit off from the norm, a plant might have just been settling in, watering by a busy gardener might not have been up to par. But still, fall is the time to do some hard thinking and the perfect time here, in the Central Valley of California, to take out underperformers and move on to better choices.
There is an old gardening adage of "sleep, creep, leap", meaning many plants will 'sleep' their first year in your garden, 'creep' their second year, and 'leap' the third year. In my garden it is slightly different. The usual pattern is for the first year to be "sleep or die', the second is 'sleep or die', and the third is 'might as well start growing'.  I used to think that whoever lived here before we bought this house had done something to the soil to make it hard for plants to survive, but after gardening here for 31 years with only a bit of non-organic additives of any sort, and those only in the early years, I now think it is just the way it is. No amount of compost has changed that.
Of course, some things never go away. Just like tinsel and Easter grass, there is always another bit of bermuda to be found. The nandina that I planted for movement in the garden will probably always be here. While I love the way it responds to the afternoon summer breeze I really wish it didn't want to be quite everywhere. Southern sword fern, Nephrolepis cordifolia, has been used to fill shady beds and planter boxes. It is quite the spreader but easy to keep under control. And while a frost can make it drop all its leaves it always comes back happily.
But this time of year is for looking at areas that need help. The bed next to the driveway has become too much of a mixture, both in variety of plants and in their growing requirements. I am wondering if I have the nerve ( and energy!) to dig it all out, shuffle things and make it just a bit better. After taking this photo, I found a great new gardening motivator. Seeing it like this makes me much more inspired to change things...and soon. Guess that's what I'll be starting on bright, but not too early, tomorrow morning.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Stapelia gettliffei Blooms

I bought this Stapelia gettliffei just a month or so ago. I knew it was related to the plant commonly known as carrion plant, or at least that fact hit me just about when I was paying for it. I knew the name had sounded familiar. This Stapelia is an interesting succulent, with very soft, velvety stems, quite different from the average succulent, or at least from any that I have.

I've been busy with visiting family so I really was pretty surprised when I looked across the patio table this morning and said "What is that??!!"

The stapelia bloom is big and impressive, just resting on the bench below the pot. I cautiously sniffed it. Not what I'd call an attractive scent but at the same time not strongly offensive. It is, however, quite lovely. And flies, the most common pollinators of stapelia,  are also finding it attractive!
After a few hours the bloom is looking a bit wilted, maybe from the warm day, although they are short-lived flowers so maybe it will fade away quickly. If so, I'm grateful to have noticed it when I did...and I will definitely be keeping a watch for any more of these lovely blooms.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Garden Blogger Bloom Day September 2011

Welcome to Garden Blogger Bloom Day! On the 15th of every month Carol at May Dreams Gardens invites garden bloggers worldwide to share what is blooming in their garden. Visit Carol to find links to a smorgasbord of flora!
 Today in Davis there are few new bloomers. Summer stalwarts that continue to provide color include white 4 o'clocks, Mirabilis jalapa, blooming at the edge of the original vegetable garden. A rampant reseeder that also returns from tubers, I will never be free of these. Luckily, I like them well enough and just yank out any that get in the way. I recently was given seeds for yellow and red 4 o'clocks which I was happy to get. I don't know why, since I usually avoid those colors, but perhaps a change is brewing.

The wisteria has been especially happy this year and continues to bloom lightly, even as it begins to drop some leaves. It stretches down a 35 foot section of fence and is seen here over the child's beach umbrellas standing in for plum tree shade, now that the tree is gone.

 Sedum Autumn Joy is a new bloomer and brightens the front sidewalk. Behind it Abelia Edward Goucher is a continuing bloomer.

Garlic chives, allium tuberosum, seems to be controversial  as many gardeners find it invasive. In Davis it seems to multiply just about right, and if it gets too bossy I yank those along with the 4 o'clocks.
The plumbago that has been trained up into the banksia arbor has made it all the way across and now looks the way I envisioned a few years ago. It adds a second flush of blooms to the arbor and the two plants seem to like each other. I will admit, however, that I need to keep the Lady under control with a pruning or 3 a year.

 Rosa Demitasse is another reliable bloomer that will continue into the fall.

Other bloomers include Solanum jasminoides, several abutilons, allysum, wax begonias, several salvias, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pole beans (which are just beginning to produce), cosmos, mini sunflowers, society garlic, several ornamental oreganos, bat-faced cuphea, hollyhocks, borage, and lavender trumpet vine.
 Be sure to check out what is blooming elsewhere...many gardens have definitely entered the autumnal season with some teetering on the edge of winter. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

This, That, and the Other Thing

Everyday I think of something I should post about. The fairy castle that is slowly taking shape, along with accompanying cottages, inspiration for which goes in fits and starts.

The tomatoes that are having their best year in eons, perhaps due to last year's solarization which presumably knocked back the evil root knot nematodes.

The newly restructured and yet still rather makeshift secondary compost bin.

And there is so much going on besides the garden. Moving my mother-in-law to assisted living and the subsequent hours of sorting through a lifetime of collected treasures and junk. The resulting need to sort through my own treasures and junk and eliminate lots of things that I don't need to store anymore. This will be a continuing effort, lacking an end-of-month-need-to-be-out-of-the-apartment impetus. Agreeing to coordinate the care of several garden areas at church. Life, in other words, has kept me busy without time for posting.
But not too busy to let you know that over on one of my other blogs I currently have a book giveaway happening and I wanted to make sure that everyone here got a chance to participate! Kami McBride, local Davis author, teacher, and herbalist, is offering a copy of her new book, The Herbal Kitchen, to one fortunate commenter on my review on my Davis Life Magazine blog, Digging Davis.  If you are at all interested in adding more herbs to your diet, an explanation of which herbs are used for various situations, and lots of very cool recipes that incorporate herbs into marinades, oils, sprinkles, vinegars, cordials (YUM!), and even home made cleaning products then you need to check out this book. All commenters on the Digging Davis site will have their names put into a random drawing for a copy of Kami's book. You need to comment before 8:00 PM September 21 to be in the drawing so head on over and check out the review.