Thursday, September 17, 2015


 My fellow west coast gardeners seem to be in alignment regarding the unacceptability of August. Yes, there are a few plants that actually look good (the succulents, the grasses, the Salvias) but for the most part growth fatigue has set in along with dust, pre-fall foliage garden debris, and the unrelenting dry conditions that are likely to persist well into October. I'm always happy to show August the door, though September this year  has ushered in our first really significant heat wave, with c-note temps and a string of wild-fire prompted Spare the Air days. While waiting for real  fall weather to arrive I assess the damage perpetrated  by August.

 Stachys 'Bello Grigio' was excitedly snatched up in spring and planted in a spot where S. Helen Von Stein, having become elderly and full of dull grey blobs of furry thatch, was dug up.  Daily water after an initial planting is tolerable for awhile, but Bello has begged for water at least every other day all summer long. I finally said to hell with it, I'd rather water the Fuchsias.

Artemesia 'Guizhou' , a plant that I have seen numerous  times with wonderful foliage and dark stems has spent three years sulking. This was it's  'leap' year, and I suppose the 2015 growth was relatively leap-y compared with its' first two lackluster years, but it's not at all the plant I expected. Sited in prime front garden real estate, it's time for it to cede it's spot to a better player. I'm sending it down to  triple-A (the flipside of the island bed in the back garden) for it's last chance to redeem itself.

Origanum 'Rosenkuppel' . I stopped growing Hopleys purple because of the flopping issue, and found this cultivar in fall 2013 at Digging Dog. In it's defense, it was buried by a very robust Lantana most of this summer. In August a  worker hacked back the Lantana to gain access to a utility box, exposing the poor Oregano to view.

Salvia cardonna...what can the matter be ? A Salvia failure just seems so wrong. I have seen splendid stands of these right here in Norcal, yet mine are just utter crap.

Hydrangea quercifolia.. Here is a plant that I have committed untold atrocities upon. A wine barrel full of my beloved black Bamboo (phyllostachys nigra) sits directly upon it's root zone. In 15 years (yes 15) H. quercifolia has grown  no more than 3 feet high, with no more than two branches and no more than 2 flowers.  This summer I decided I would move it at last , but the plant must be so compromised I am considering buying a new one and seeing how long it takes me to ruin it.

   It's always good to have an excuse to buy more plants.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Containers at the Office

 I was asked to join a 'facility beautification team' last fall to help tart things up for a group of visiting dignitaries. My mission was the exterior landscape--basically we needed a temporary solution for a vast expanse of ivy and Liquidambar . It was decided to have three 15 foot long redwood planters made that would be terraced into the ivy slope with a few dg steps to access them for planting and maintenance. The plantings would be done seasonally , twice a year. In spring of this year I selected the summer plants, arranged to have them delivered and planted them. Mind you, I normally sit at a computer all day and buy stuff so this was outside my normal duties , but very consistent with how I spend my time at home !

 This box had a couple of Acubas on either side of the Asparagus meyerii , however they burned up before the landscape dudes installed the drippers. The Acubas were supposed to add height.

This is all that's left of them-only viewable if you walk up the steps and peer into the box. Because I had the mow-blow guys limb up the Liquidambars, there was less shade than I expected.

 The center planter had 2 bright red Abutilons (red is prominent in the company logo) one of which mysteriously disappeared a couple weeks after I planted -there goes the balance ! The Ipomea has also engulfed the Japanese blood grass .

In retrospect , two Ipomeas would have been more than adequate.

More engulfed Imperata. I also planted fiber optic grass (Isolepsis cernua)  on the edges , which could not compete.

Kale-o-Rama is on tap for winter.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bloomday August 2015

  An inch or two of rain would be welcome now-smokey skies, dry dry soil, and that dull patina on plants that have seen no water from overhead for many months. Still the garden grows and flowers bloom in their restrained late summer way.

 The Erygium is 'Jos Eijking'  and is growing and blooming splendidly . Unfortunately pronouncing 'Eijking' is beyond my language skills. It's Jos for short.

 A seedling Verbena hastata ...damn it's cute !

The Lantana here is one of the few plants that continues it's exuberance..a trio live on the hell strip and require frequent trimming to prevent pedestrian obstruction. They receive only occasional water.

 Passiflora loefgrenii caerulea..this plant is being carefully monitored. It is exceedingly happy. But look how cool it is! Do you think the neighbors would really mind if it took over their house ? Maybe I should do my entire garden in Passion Vine and Lantana.

 Getting a photo of Pelargoniun schiztopetalum is a challenge. This year for the first time it bloomed twice, a fleeting event both times.

 Caryopteris incanum

Erygium yuccafolium.

This unnamed seedling Sanguisorba from Far Reaches Farm is one of my favorites. The pink is fading now, but the plant remains upright and the foliage looks pretty decent .

My new Sedum crush, S. 'Cherry Tart'--I bought 4 and have taken cuttings as well. It's really about the foliage with this one, but the flowers are nice too.

 This dwarf Buddliea has been blooming since spring with some modest deadheading.

 No flowers open yet, the the blooming of Crassula falcata is always one of my favorite flower events of the year..

 Thanks to Carol at May Dreams who monthly hosts the blooms from around the globe...

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Summer Visit to Digging Dog

 Way back in June I made a Mendocino county loop that featured three Garden Conservacy open days , among them was  Digging Dog Nursery. Though they are open for visitors often throughout the summer, in my experience their private garden has only been open in conjunction with the Open Days program. I try not to miss the opportunity, and this garden as a whole remains my favorite California garden.
 As with any garden that is frequently visited, changes are noted and pending changes are looked forward to. This summer, an area that had long been enticingly viewed in the distance  over a barrier  of caution tape for the last few years was open at last.

 The abundant borders were in their summer best- the tail end of the 'green times' here in summer-dry Northern California. The nursery is in our coastal Redwood belt, and only a couple of miles inland from the Pacific, so summer temperatures are moderate.

 Sanguisorba (which one ?) hangs out with Nepeta.

The proprietress , Deborah Whigam , collects and propagates a wonderful selection of Kniphofias.

 The path that runs along the west border has seen many improvements. On the right is the vegetable garden , an area that has been in development and off limits for visitors for several years , the left side is the magnificent west facing border that will feature prominently in a future post pending my fall trip back to the coast.

I took this photo in Oct 2009, where we see the juvenile versions of the Hornbeam pillars that now provide a vertical accent throughout this area of the garden.

Mature Hornbeam pillars...

In this photo from Oct 2011 , one of the pyramid features can be seen in the distance.

 The same view , current. The pyramid tip can barely be seen above the jar.

  Now in 2015 we see the pyramids completed and planted with what appears to be Tuechrium fruticans.

Steel pond , formerly a caution tape festooned hole.

 In the private garden, paths meander through portals a- device seen frequently in this garden -that move the visitor from shady retreats like this ,

..into sunny colorful borders.

Rammed-earth columns lead the way .

 And June was Thalictrum season out on the coast. This is a challenging plant for my garden-I have grown them with success but they would prefer cooler summers. It's a matter of the absolute correct location.

Lobelia tupa season too...

Digging Dogs fall plant sale this year runs 3 days , October 9th 10th and the 11th. Guided tours of the gardens are offered at specific times throughout the weekend.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Turf No More

  As drought marches on, we are asked by the State of California to reduce home water consumption by 20% in our county. I took out my front lawn many years ago- not because I was a pioneer of water conservation, but because I needed room for more plants. Don't we all ? Since I had little interest in maintaining lawn it looked pretty crappy most of the time anyway. 
 In the city of Napa, emergency drought regulations are in place subject to a 500.00 fine for non-compliance. Water during rain or within 48 hours of measurable rain (a moot point this time of year) watering on consecutive days, excessive run-off and hosing off sidewalks or driveways are a few of the new restrictions in place. None of these are in any way a hardship for me-common sense procedures one and all, most of which I already practice.My garden gets watered once a week or less, I never hose off sidewalks or driveways, and why would anyone water within 48 hours of measurable rain ? Useful guidelines they are for people who are not particularly interested in their landscape and have a set and forget approach with regard to their irrigation controllers. It's unfortunately not rare to see lawn sprinklers spewing that precious resource in December or January.
   Around my neighborhood, it would seem that many are heeding the restrictions. I took a stroll early Sunday morning with the camera , interested to see up close what I had noticed only fleetingly when driving in and out on my commute.

  Several lawns appear not to be being watered at all -or mowed in some cases as seen in the first photo below. Others, as in photo two, are continuing to trim and mow . Perhaps the goal in some of these cases is to let the lawn expire and then remove it.

 This former lawn is gone and the resident has made a decent effort at planting for our summer dry climate. I think it will look nice once it fills in.

 No lawn here, but judging from the appearance of the soil (such as it is) they are diligent about their herbicides and have signed on to the school of meatball landscaping. I never see these folks outside so I assume they have a mow-blow outfit coming in to keep the weeds and debris out of the bon-bons. No water needed though !

 This house has not had a lawn in years , though I expect  it's a pragmatic solution to the challenge of landscaping a tiny front yard in the root zone of  a mature Redwood. Once the Agapanthus (snail motels) have gone over there won't be much to see.

 Here we have our first faux-lawn in the neighborhood.

 It doesn't look too bad on an overcast day, though it has a bit of a sparkle effect when the sun hits it. The plants in the stock tanks are not legit either. They certainly don't need to put one drop of water on this  front yard but it is rather a jarring sight when compared to the withering and sparsely watered lawns of the neighbors around them.

   A recent removal and xeric installation..hopefully they have a plan for weed control.

 This resident removed half of the front lawn, a nice compromise with good plant choices. 

 This was one of my favorites ..the plantings are well maintained, on drippers , and clearly there is more planting to come . Construction here (note plywood) is a chimney re-build from the August 2014 South Napa Quake.

 These folks no doubt removed the lawn so they could continue to water the  thirsty Brugmansia. Note that the house is painted to match the plant.  I will be interested to see what they do for winter protection with this Brug..but who can fault anyone who loves a plant enough to re paint their house ?

 Really nice rock work and plant selection here. This one gets my no-lawn first prize.

Another recent installation-it includes a dry steam bed that is out of the photo.

I guess they meant well...

      The homeowner just finished removing his lawn last week. Since I drive past here almost every day  I will be able to observe the progress ..

 Our neighborhood park has dialed down the irrigation too-glad to see the city is compliant with their own rules.

 I guess this household has given up laundry and showers.