Monday, September 29, 2008

Elsewhere in the garden

Making a fine show is an aster, noted earlier this year for reappearing after being AWOL last year.

Quite a welcome return and a nice bit of fall color

My Inferno Strip

High Country Gardens has a selection of plants to thrive in what they call the inferno strip. This is a dry hot area of your garden where it is difficult to develop beautiful plants because of space and access. Mine is a narrow strip of soil (rocks in my case) between the retaining wall on the north side of my house and the walkway.

I bought into the concept believing that if there is an inferno strip, it is this area of my yard. These are the survivors.

Starting from the bottom, we have a salvia. I am afraid that I have forgotten which one and I bought it locally, not from High Country It's not a beauty yet but it does have some sky-blue flowers and it made it through the summer with little coddling.

Next is a penstemen (pine-leaf if I recall). It blooms in the spring and the rest of the time looks like this I started with two and this one is left

Next up is artemesia Seafoam. It doesn't bloom but is is attractive most of the time. This one is a survivor of two as well.

Finally, up top is an unlikely inferno dweller a self-seeded viola She popped up all by herself (and some siblings with her) and now as summer is fading has started blooming. I don't know how to explain her but she is definitely welcome.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

What's blooming now.

The weather is cooling down. Plants are less stressed and just maybe some nice fall blooms are on the way. For now, this is what I found this morning.

The rain lilies have been blooming for over a month. They come and go quickly however and catching them has been a praoblem. Today I dound a nice white one.

Next is the mandevillea. This was an impulse buy in July to help fill the trellis which has been bare all year. This is the first of the blooms since I planted it. It seems happy mow but may not survive the winter.

Making her first blog appearance is Mmc. Cecile Brunner, looking the best for this year. She is still tiny but I am hoping in time she will make the 3 feet promised in the catalogue.

And finally, crocosmia. This is the third year I have tried to grow them and finally they are taking hold and appearing happy. I have several clumps established from bulbs planted in late spring. They were a long time coming up and once up I wondered if they would bloom. Now I am just enjoying their exuberance.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

What's Blooming Now

Now is not the best my garden has looked. There are few flowers blooming. The ones that are are either stressed or past their prime.

The best of the lot is my climbing rose shown here overexposed but still lovely.

Society garlic.

Ivy geraneum


I'm grateful they are even trying.

I wouldn't call any of them a favorite (well maybe the rose) but I have to love anything that puts out an effort in a Sacramento valley summer.


After all the hoopla. After building the raised bed. After weeks of watering and fertilizing.

My first tomato.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I have tomatoes! Two of the three plants have green fruits.

So far so good!

Scared Straight

Last week I posted my offensive effort to green up the front of my house by letting my climbing rose Mermaid grow out the window in the bell tower at the entrance to our house. Now everything is copacetic and my house looks just as bland and inoffensive as everybody else's.

By the way, Mermaid is just fine after the surgery and is directing her efforts to growing around the eaves in the courtyard.

I am growing to love zinnias

And this little guy is a big part of the reason. Last year I planted the white form of this single type of zinnia. They were wonderful, cheery, perky and tough. This year I tried growing them from seed but failed to get a single one to survive my haphazard care. Luckily I found six packs of the red ones. I only bought one pack because I didn't think I would like the color. Now I wish I had bought all there were.

This guy is having the time of his life while most every other plant I grow looks beat down.

Sunday, August 03, 2008


Speaking of roses, both of my climbers have rebloomed; this one more exuberantly than the other bad boy who has been spanked and sent back to his room (see below).

This time I am aware of the frangrance.

Saturday, August 02, 2008


I have talked about my two climbing roses in the courtyard entrace to my house. One of them, I decided to encourage to climb through the widow in the bell tower and out onto the front of the house. The idea was to prune and train the branches along the eves of the house above the garages.

As you can see the rose has quite enthusiatically followed my suggestion and I was getting ready for some pruning and tying to train it along the eves when I received a letter from the plant cops that I couldn't have anything vegetative climbing out of the front of the house.

This isn't my first run-in with the plant cops and, in fact, I started a post describing my earlier problem but never got around to finishing it. Another item on my to-do list. Suffice for now to say the I will be removing the offending vegetation this weekend. These guys mean business.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Trail

Zimmerman Trail to be specific. This is one of the trails which the developers of my community have hidden like little jewels in each of the neighborhoods.

My frustration is that they don't link and provide a way to explore the whole place.

This trail, I just stumbled on this morning on my walk. I was trying to get to the edge of the community without taking the main thoroughfare. It looked like it might do it but instead on continuing on the perimeter,it looped back to stay within one section of the development.

I was happy to find it nonetheless because it now provides me another alternative route on my walks. The pictures are actually backwards because I failed to capture the trail sign where I entered and so you see the sign where I exited.

Along the way you see the oaks and pines (mostly oaks) which form clusters on the hillsides. There will also be sycamores in the creekbeds. In February all the slopes are green but that changes to gold by May and stays until the rains start.

The last picture is an example of the oaks. This one is a particularly handsome one.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

July Blahs

This is perhaps the most attractive corner of my garden this week and it underwhelms.

July is not the best of months in California's central valley foothills. It is hot. (Last week we had temperatures over 100 degrees) This week has been relatively pleasant with temperatures in the lower 90's. Nights are usually in the 60's.

My wife and I took two days to go the San Francisco during the 100 degree spell. It was nice to have the cooler weather and get away from the smoke from the 100's of fires in the state - from which all the smoke seemed to gather at our house. We visited art museums, rode cable cars and enjoyed some good food before returning to find the smoke even worse than when we left.

Taking those two days, I got careless about having our son water the plants. I lost one plant and severely stressed my three brugmansias that were just beginning to look healthy.

Anyway this picture shows my Graham Thomas rose (upper left) with tiny, nearly white flowers that turn crispy after they open. Agapanthus in the upper right and cleomes which happily reseed and grow ever since I planted some small plants my first summer in the house.

Raised Bed Progress

Or lack therof.

My three tomatoes have achieved some size and one has set a tomato. I clearly need to stake them since they are beginning to sprawl over the other vegetables.

The pepper and eggplant have not grown very much although they seem to be getting ready to bloom.

In the front you can see string beans that seem to be stuck at 6 inches high. I probably need some fertilizer because I filled the bed with mostly bagged compost and a little topsoil.

The other thing I need to do is to secure the corners to the 2 x 6 side timbers.


This year I planted some new summer bulbs. I hoped that bulbs would prove more resilient and long-lived than the perennials with which I have been trying to fill the beds around the flat area of my back yard.

I had never heard of galtonia candicans but it was described as big and fragrant so I bought 12 bulbs and put them in different parts of the yard to see what would happen.

This is the flower stalk. It is about 3.5 feet tall and attractive. I don't find any smell. The stalks look rather lonely since I planted them about 1 foot apart as suggested. I suppose that they will form a clump over time and provide a stronger presence.

I photographed an isolated galtonia spire and one that has been overwhelmed by an agastache which burgened way beyond my anticipated size when I planted it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


Another of my new roses showing off a bit. She is in a pot and just flopping over the edge but I see a promise of a nice display of golden-apricot rosettes when it builds up some more wood.

I seem to have burned out three of the four new roses planted in the ground. Too much fertilizer, too soon. I thought I had waited long enough (maybe six weeks after planting) but clearly not. I am hoping that they will come back from the roots (I only plant own-root roses) but I am not expecting much.

Cleaning up my work areas to keep my wife happy and potting up the rest of the plants I bought last weekend. I still have two salvias and a gaura. They will have to wait until tomorrow. Last week I planted green beans and watermelons and today the beans are coming up.

Sunday, June 01, 2008


This cactus has been with me for over thirty years since our first apartment in West LA. We called it a penthouse but it was more like a trailer on the roof of an apartment building. My cactuses clustered near the slider that was the entrance because it was southfacing. They came with us as we moved to the beach, the peninsula and now to the foothills.

I repotted and broke apart a large plant this spring. This is the piece that is on the back patio. The two pots in the courtyard won't be blooming for a while yet.

I love the ethereal quality of these flowers. I don't like the fact that they only last one day.
This one only has the two buds so after this weekend, no more flowers.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Another euphorbia

This is another euphorbia, a perky plant with orange flowers. Too bad it flops. By the way, the weather turned cold. I had to turn the heat on to keep my wife happy and Saturday was rainy. The climate is lovely here in the foothills.


Two plants from my first order from Digging Dog.
This was three years ago when I had high hopes of developing beautiful perennial beds around the level part of my backyard,
Euphorbia characias and aster 'Lady in Black'.
I had euphorbias all over my socal yard. They were wonderful fillers with soft blue green foliage and chartreuse flowers. They would do the same for me up here, I thought. The aster was something new - a plant I had never grown and couldn't have grown in socal. It was supposed to be beautiful with achillea 'Inca Gold' and I was trying to develop beautiful beds so I bought the pair. 'Inca Gold' has thrived (you can see it in the lower right corner of the picture) but 'Lady in Black' and euphorbia were never seen after the first year.

Until now.

After a year when I did not see any traces of either (and you can see that my beds are far from a state where you can easily lose a plant), here they are again looking reasonably happy.

I have no explanation but I am happy to see them.

Verbenia Bonariensis

Ten years ago when I was living in Southern California, verbenia bonariensis was trendy. Everybody was talking about it and how wonderully it worked as a 'see through' plant. I had a few plants growing in my rose bed. I liked it because it was easy, had a presence and looked good as a cut flower with my roses.

I did not think that it would survive in my new garden despite seeing plants my first year in the local nursery. Next year, no plants at the nursery so I bought seeds two years ago. I am terrible with seeds and manated to grow only two plants from a packet. This plant is the only survivor but is looking quite happy. There are even some seedlings growing at the base which I keep forgetting to pot up and transplant.
It's a lovely plant.
My problem is knowing what to do with it. Art and design have very little to do with my garden style. I have a plant. I find a hole and plant it. If it looks good, then I have an unexpected benefit. Right now it is overwhelming my 'Ceclie Brunner' rose since despite being a 'see through' plant, it's got some hefty branches. I won't move it because I know it would die but I need to find some places for it's babies where they will complement other plants. My first thought is to plant them in my summer hyacinth (galtonia candicans) bed. Since I have never grown it (galtonia, not verbenia) before and have no idea what it will look like when it grows up except it will be four feet tall this is a lame idea. Heck, it's the only idea I have so here we go. You see my problem.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Too Darn Hot

The fourth day of over 100 degrees. And without our normal Delta Breeze cooling at night. They promise that it will cool down next week. I caught several of my potted plants looking dead and shriveled by the time I got around to watering yesterday. Happily, they all pulled back to some semblance of life. I fertilized, sprayed and thought about pruning but I.m done for the day. My roses are already past their prime. Next week I will be pruning off dead flowers to prepare for the next wave.

First up today is 'Midnight Blue'. Earlier in the week when it was cooler the flowers were very deep purple. No more.

Below is 'Mermaid' starting around the top of my courtyard.

Raised Bed

Here is my raised vegetable bed completed just two weeks ago with three tomatoes, a pepper and an eggplant. There is room for more but I don't know what to plant.

At bottom a partial completion shot from about a month ago. I have completed two of my resolutions.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Summer is acumen in

The weatherman says it will be 100 by Saturday. Spring is over. We will be rivaling Polecat.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

View from the Baclyard

When you leave our house to enter the backyard, you see the slope which is on the way (in it's fifth year) of becoming a tapestry of various greens and textures. Walking out, you enter a covered area which frames the hillside between the columns. The neighbors to the rear are currently visible but as the plants grow to full size, the one story house will be hidden.
The third picture is from our outdoor sitting area looking north and the final picture is of the north end of the slope where one of the three maples is beginning to create some shade

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Some Like it Hot

Not the weather which will be more than hot soon enough. Today was perfect Spring weather which we seldom get in Sacramento.

What's hot is 'Hot Cocoa' bursting into bloom. I love the smoldering ashy color of the mature flowers in contrast to the orange flames of the buds.

At the bottom, 'Graham Thomas' just opening it's first buds. It promises to be spectacular.

Calling Ethel Merman

"Everything's Coming Up Roses'

These pictures from my front courtyard show 'Ginger
Syllabub' climbing the bell tower. This is its second year and it looks like it will pull its weight this year. The buds are just beginning to open showing full quartered flowers. They are lighter than I expected but since my few flowers from last year were white in the summer heat, I will take the blush. This variety is supposed to be fragrant but I don't notice much at this stage. The second photo is a closup of the flowers.
Finally at the bottom is 'Mermaid' Only one flower open yet and I don't see many buds so far.