Sunday, January 31, 2010

My Potager Is An Orto

Potagers are very trendy right now...everyone wants one and if they have one they want to make it bigger. Why not? You can't get much more local than your own back yard, you can control what does or doesn't get sprayed on your delicate greens, and the varieties, allowing for zonal constrictions, can suit your tastes exactly. Don't like kale? Plant more swiss chard. Don't like habaneros? Plant Italian sweet peppers. Potagers are, by definition, planted to add beauty to your landscape. They are ornamental kitchen gardens and usually incorporate flowers and perennials to enhance their visual appeal. This is about where my garden reality deviates from my fantasy. First off, I don't have a nice big space to divide into formal, balanced beds. I have two spaces in which I generally squeeze too many things and then have to climb through tomatoes to get peppers or vice versa. (And this year I will be planting one of those beds solely with French marigolds to counteract the root knot nematodes that have become a problem.) Living in California I often have winter season crops finishing up as the summer season needs to get going. So things get tucked in with something that is in the way and beauty and balance just don't come easy with that approach. So at this point I see no potager in my future...I will be planting an orto. Orto is the Italian word for vegetable garden and that is what mine will be. I'll have my local vegies and herbs, they will suit my tastes, they will be chemical free and they will hopefully grow with abandon. And that, to me, is beautiful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Trouble With Fences or Gate Expectations

It's January and the wisteria is bare. This is a good thing right now as a problem has been detected. Most of the fence that supports the wisteria was replaced a few years ago. However, it has since wandered into old fence territory and the thing most feared by wooden fence owners has occurred. Three, if not four, of the fence posts from the end of the new fence section to the corner where the side yard gates hang have been found to be rotted. So once again I have had to decide how far back I need to cut one of my favorite garden plants. It's no use mourning the lost need to be done and it needs to be done soon. Here you see the section of fence that will be worked on. Just before dark I pruned about 15 feet off the end of the vine. Tomorrow I will have another look and see if that will be sufficient. I think with looping back about 10 additional feet of vine my trusted fence repair expert will be able to maneuver.
The good news in this situation is that a long standing problem will be fixed at the time of the fence repair. Some years ago my father built a wonderful cupboard for me along the side of my garage. It serves as a storage spot for garden tools and all sorts of garden related objects...netting, yogurt containers for snail patrol, seed starting equipment, stakes, sprinkler repair parts, etc, etc. The down side of the cupboard addition was that I could no longer open the gate all the way. And with the other gate blocked by firewood storage I have found myself running a bit of an obstacle course getting the wheelbarrow in and out of the back yard. It gets old after the tenth trip on a hot Saturday afternoon. However, after that fence repair expert finishes his transformation there will be one gate opening in the middle of the side yard. And it will open all the way!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

GBBD January 2010

One thing about January in Davis...there is always at least something to post about on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day ! The plants may look a bit worse for the wear and there may only be a bloom or two, but blooms there are. My Sasanqua camellia decided to more or less bloom one flower at a time over a period of weeks this year. Here is today's offering.
Cyclamen purchased before the holiday continue to bloom in their 4" pots tucked into the front porch pots. When they are finished they will be added to others planted in the ground in the front yard. They will bloom again in future years but never again in time for the holidays.
A few of the snapdragons planted last fall are blooming near the front path.
An ivy geranium blooms down under the Bearss lime in the back yard. It receives warmth from some piazza lights used to protect the lime when temperatures dip below freezing, as they did in early December.
A tiny bit of bloom is beginning on the Iberis. Hopefully more is not far behind.
Allysum is blooming although it's not what you'd call robust right now.
Love that Lavander pinnata buchii! Takes a beating/freezing and keeps on blooming! You can see lots of the dead parts in the background. I have to look at that for 2 more months before I'll feel safe cutting it back. Right now that's part of the protection plan.

Elsewhere there were a few bedraggled wax begonias, two bruised blooms on Rosa Flower Girl and some scraggly Dwarf Carnation Evermore...none of which rated photos.

I'm so thankful to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for creating Garden Bloggers Bloom Day and inspiring us all to scour our gardens for blooms. Otherwise I might...would almost certainly... have missed the first Iris reticulata! I'm sure few blooms have been met with so much excitement. I can't wait to see how long it takes for the rest of them to appear! While we're waiting you can check out blooms around the world by visiting May Dreams Gardens!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gray Skies Are Gonna Clear Up...Right?

I'm really not complaining. When I read about the weather that Cindy at My Corner Of Katy
and Dee at Red Dirt Ramblings have been dealing well as many other garden blogger friends who are at least used to freezing cold winters...I really shouldn't complain. But our gray Central Valley January days are just so...gray. And January.
In any case, on this gray January weekend I decided to go out, do a bit of clean up and try to get some work done. The first thing I noticed was that the carrots and beets are doing well and going to need thinning soon. Can't complain about that.

Next, I noticed this stalwart lavender, pinnata buchii, still blooming despite over half the plant being blackened from the December freeze. This part of the plant was protected by warming lights. Can't complain about this either!

I certainly won't complain about the oranges hanging over my fence from the neighboring yard. We've had a few and they are tasty...I'm hoping we enjoy more before any wandering rats discover them.

And I won't complain that on this damp, gray, chilly day I was able to plant some radish seeds and the fava seeds I soaked overnight. We are being warned that February will be unusually rainy. If so and I lose this gamble it will be worth it! But if least I'll have favas and radishes. About which I will not complain.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Touch Or Don't Touch

This pelargonium often sails through the winter with no setback. The freeze in early December got it this year. This is a "don't touch" as in I will be looking at those dead leaves for at least 2 more months. Leaving the dead foliage will protect the underneath, healthy part of the plant should we have another freeze.

Another "don't touch", this pelargonium stands less chance of surviving since potted plants are at a disadvantage in a freeze. But I will let it go for now in hope of a little life being left in there.

The Walker's Low Nepeta has pretty much died back for the winter, it's usual routine. This is a "touch". Somebody should get out there and cut it back. New growth will begin to show soon. The pelargonium behind is in better shape than many in the yard as it is under a nandina and an ornamental pear.
"Don't touch"! I love the color of the bloom on this Lavandula pinnata buchii. So I'm really hoping it hangs in there. Living next to the Meyer's Lemon in the pot is to its advantage. The live parts are where the lights I put up for frost protection warmth on the lemon reached the lavender.
This lemon grass is getting on my nerves. I want the spot for other uses but here it is with some green, even with no frost protection. So it is a "don't touch" for the moment. But in about two months I will be attempting to divide it and move part to a better suited spot. My neighbor is hoping to get some too!

Most definitely a "touch". This solanum has seen it's last summer. While I love it (and have another planted last year in a more appropriate spot) it is just too much of a rampant grower for this space. I realized I was pruning it back every other week last summer. So....
the top is gone. Now to dig out the roots. I'm not looking forward to it. But I do have a Laurus nobilis waiting to take it's place.
In conclusion here is a society garlic that thought it should put out a bloom. It's a nice reminder that a walk in the garden, even on a dreary winter morning, can yield a sweet surprise!