Sunday, January 24, 2016

Garden Visit Between Rains

 I should have done some much-needed cleanup and rose pruning today , but it's been gloomy and rainy and it seems like I've been nowhere but the grocery store and the office for ages. It was time for a winter visit to Berkeley Botanical Garden-maybe some Aloes would be in bloom ?

   Unfortunately I was a couple weeks early for most of the Aloes. There was a plethora of safety cones and barricades where paths were washed out , and care had to be taken not to step in mud.  Nevertheless, it was a reasonably pleasant day for January and there was plenty to see.

  Unnamed Aloe with one of the many fabulous Cycads in Berkeleys' collection. And speaking of Cycads, sometime last year I decided I was going to collect them -modest sized specimens of course since the prices are palpitation inducing. This is likely justified- I have had a Dioon for at least ten years and it has exactly 4 fronds.

 I'd have to win the lottery to get anything resembling these cone producing guys.

 I swear though , I'd be happy with a frond or two..

 I think most of these depicted are Encephalartos cultivars, but I was a bad blogger and took no notes. Worse, I resolved before I left home to write down names. A one hour drive listening to sports talk radio (one of my sad addictions) and good intentions went where they always go.

 Always the last stop on the way out---would there be Cycads ? Alas no.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Chefs Gardens

  Food---cooking it, eating it, and pairing it with wine consumes a lot of band width here  in the Napa Valley.  In the last several years the trend toward fresh and local food has led to a wellspring of gardens that are located near or on the property of some of our best dining establishments-including the venerable French Laundry.

  The French Laundry Culinary Garden is directly across the road from the restaurant -3 acres laid out grid style , it is a no nonsense working organic farm pristeenly maintained.

 Nice digs for the egg factory..

a peek inside the greenhouse ..

 I was surprised to see so much lawn--and very green at that. This photo was taken in August when most residential lawns were at their water-deprived worst.

 A mile or two north is the garden of Mustards Grill , a garden with a much more informal feel .

Flowers for the tables and a seasonal farmstand

 In the city of Napa, the gardens a the former Copia Center for Food Wine and The Arts have been rescued by a group of local chefs .

 The buildings and garden of Copia have been recently purchased by the Culinary Institue of America. The CIA has a campus just north of St Helena in the old Christian Brothers Greystone Monastery, and the Copia facility should be an ideal fit .

 The destiny of the Napa Chefs Garden is an unknown- the gardens they tend though part of the Copia property are divided from the facility and the main garden site by first Street and were not included in the sale to the CIA.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Postcard from Wine Country

 It's my habit every Thanksgiving to go out with my camera as close to sunrise as I can mange and take some shots of the vineyards in their fall finery. They were a bit 'gone over' this year , but I enjoyed the tradition never the less. I hope you enjoy whatever tradition is yours this holiday!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Update on the Back Corner and a New Project

 Way back in March (you know, when it was Spring !) I posted about my renovation of the sadly neglected northwest corner of my garden. Though the transformation is not complete it looks improved and the plants are starting to fill in.

 Here it is in April, after the new plants were installed. Looking pretty sparse...

Lobelia tupa is somewhat discernible in the center of the photo next to the soaker hose , and the trellis is the new home for Passiflora loefgrenii caerulea.

 And taken last week, the Passiflora has made a statement..I'm keeping an eye on it. Lobelia tupa has achieved knee-high status. A couple moves still to be made here over fall and winter; Sanquisorba officinalis 'Red Thunder'(out of the photo) is too close to the Weigela and was shaded in summer. It will go where the Penstemon 'Raven' lives on the lower right, and the Penstemon will be moved to the left.

 This infrastructure issue is unfortunately calling the shots in the bed  have always referred to as the Rose Garden.  The roses are mostly gone, but the design needs to be punched up.

I just don't see anything dynamic here. I've been staring at this all summer with dissatisfaction and a dry rot timber does nothing to improve the view. As a result I drew up a plan which I hope to execute over the next few months.

 The 'Goodwin Creek' Lavender  mid left is the only relief from a palette of plain mid green. The Yucca 'Color Guard' in  the container was too small this season to make a statement.

  Calamagrostis 'Overdam' did not bloom this year. Mystifying. Non-bloom added to the overall blah effect. There are two Overdams here, they will both be dug up this fall and replaced with Panicum 'Heavy Metal'.

 On the lower left is Overdam #2. Salvia 'Wendys Wish' is a bright spot. At the base of the fountain is one of two fancy-schmancy tetraploid Daylilies that need to be sited elsewhere.

    A year from now I hope to see a completely different scene.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Natures Garden

 My brief trip out to our coast in October included a stroll to the Pt Cabrillo lighthouse station . Multiple shipwrecks on this rocky and turbulent shore in the early days of logging  the redwood forests above the headlands led to the construction of the light station in 1908. The visitor parks in a lot just off the highway, and walks the 1/2 mile paved road that slopes gently down through the grassy headland to the cliffs. Sadly, I can't name the grasses and sedges that grow here in spite of frequent visits and have vowed to learn before my next trip out.

 The view down the road  walking in.

As I look on either side of the road  bands of color range from greens to greys to golden brown.

At the lighthouse , small but powerful.

Amaryllis belladona has natualized in places here in Mendocino County.

View from the cliffs

The lighthouse keepers cottages have been restored and are available as vacation rentals.

A last look towards the sea as I head back to the parking area.

 Though we love our cultivated gardens,there are design lessons that nature provides . The simplicity of these views can be soothing -nothing here that is hectic or over-stimulating. The constant background sound of the surf , the breezes rustling the grasses and the sounds of the sea birds all have a  strong component of tranquility.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mendo Botanical

  In the course of an all too brief road trip I spent a day at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden which is bordered on the west by coastal bluffs overlooking  the Pacific . The spectacular beauty of the coastline in Mendocino County itself is a feature of this garden, as the trails that meander through the forests and meadows of the garden terminate at the sea.

 The garden is is USDA zone 9b, the same zone as mine; an indicator of the limited usefulness of the USDA zones here on the micro-climate laden west coast. Sunset (the go-to zone guide for gardeners in the west) classifies this area as zone 17 , mild wet and frostless winters with summer fog and lack of heat.  Growing a tomato in Mendocino is an exercise in futility, Fuchsias can sit out in the sun all day long, and frost is rare. The perennial gardens here are planted with tough customers that can withstand winds, pounding rain, fog and salt air.

 They grow some dandy Kniphofias out here on the coast.

 Verbena bonarienses, Melianthus (evergreen here) and large scale grasses anchor this bed.

Verbenas are used extensively and effectively.

I failed to note the name of this grass, but it made a dramatic transition between the lawn and the borders, and even the mist couldn't keep it from lighting up the view.

 There were several really nice Astelias in the garden, this is Astelia chathamica .

 Astelia nivicola 'Red Gem'

Angelicas love the climate here, not so much at my house ! Of course I grow (and coddle) them anyway.

 The heather collection is particularly splendid and one of my favorite features here. This is not prime season so I didn't take nearly as many photos as I usually do . This collection has received recognition as a collection of  national significance from the American Public Gardens Association.

 Had my lunch on a bench looking at this..