Showing posts from 2009


Solstice day today, a wonderful non-idealogical event that all can enjoy. Gotta love those pagans.

A brief walk about with the camera between rainshowers presented a few opportunities , and lots of mud. Many weeds were seen but not photographed . The topmost Satsumas were damaged by the early freezes , but the kale is unfazed. Fuchsias were carefully covered by frost blankets , to no avail. One hopes that they re-emerge in spring.

Closing up Shop

The process begins of moving the plants around to locations that will best facilitate their winter survival. Inside and up against protected walls go the Begonias and the other tropicals that will return next year with a bit of protection. I hover over the succulents...slow growth and expense make them an important target for extra care. The Fuchsias have been installed in a tent prepared for them in RV World . Indoors there are clusters of plants in various locations close to windows and doors;all looking splendid now but I expect leaf drop and spindly growth by January. Just like we humans, plants that are stuck indoors develop a pallor -botanical cabin fever.

The End of the Line

The GGW photo contest for this month is also the last of 09 , and I thought at once of a series of photos I took last fall on Oak Knoll Rd near Trefethen Vineyards. As one travels through this valley the vines create a lineal view-planted in straight rows and moving your eye into the distance. Combine this draftsman like view with the blazing color of the fall leaves do indeed have the end of the line. The fruit is picked , the juice is beginning it's transformation into the good wine, and the vines will soon be bare, with a carpet of mustard in the rows.

The Wind and the Squash

As I drive through the valley it is hard not to pull over every mile or so , camera at the ready..this is something that needs to happen in the early morning before the tourists have had their leisurely breakfasts and are ready to hit the road. The wind has hammered us in the last 24 hours and the hose that was put away neatly for the season is back in use. Winds are common in fall all along the length of California, though in the South they tend to come off the dessert and be hot and desiccating , the stuff that leads to bad fires in the hills. Here the hills are green.
At Franciscan, this wonderful nod to fall caught my eye.

Seen Today

Like spring, there are always new things to see in the fall garden .


Thinking here about a 'favorite ' month. They all have attributes- though those of August have slipped my mind at the moment , and I have my doubts about January . May is full of promise and spring abundance, and just about everything is blooming at least a little in June. October however, has features that are undeniably compelling, with the added urgency of the proximity to the descent into winter. If October is frost -free , everything still grows and bursts with maturity and sheer size; in this garden only the Dahlias suffer-victims of the shade that invariably comes before leaves are gone. Certain corners are damp and shady, but the hose is put away and the roses gather themselves for another display of flowers before the frost comes. In the valley the vines are turning and we see Sycamores, Pistache, Poplars -many trees that annoy us 10 months out of the year , but for whom all is forgiven in October.


A welcomed visitor- the hose will be retired at least for the next week or so; there is enough in the buckets to satisfy the containers. The first rain was windy, and heavy, no polite entry into the season this year and the soil looks uniformly dark again, the plants clean, the containers plumped up. The rain gauge logged 4.5 inches, very believable in view of the water level in the neighborhood park.

A Digging Dog of Note

I admit to being lulled by the aroma of woodsmoke. the fog laying off the coast, the funky ageing hippie vibe, and the possibility to grow anything---unless it's a tomato. There is nothing like it, and  it is not for everyone.

Digging Dog was an absolute revelation, brillantly designed borders and oddly placed 50 miles from nowhere.. how many people actually get to see this ? Fall was quite clearly arrived , but honored in a spectacular way by the design of the garden.

Back To The Coast

It seems uncomprehensible that I have waited so long to return here after the family moved away. And it feels odd-but not bad- to be a tourist again after so many years as a quasi-local. It is horribly dry here-the 2 years of less than normal rainfall have left a mark that I could easily recognize;I don't think I have ever seen it look so brown . My cottage at Agate Cove is cozy, pretty, well stocked and has a lovely view to the sea and the headlands. There is a garden and I note the spires of Echium , sadly bloomed out but with a hint of their summer glory.

Good Day Sunshine

The midday sunshine of fall is a pleasant sort, it feels good to stand in, and looks wonderful slanting through the trees and falling gently onto the flowers and foliage of the garden, lighting them back to front-seemingly from within. It seems impossible to take a photo of this , though I know that really talented lens-jockeys can do so. The reader will have to be content with this effort.

The Dilema of Lady Banks

On the ladder today the gardener of the house admitted that Lady Banks (Rosa Banksiae lutea) may be nearing the end of her tenure here; at least 60 percent of her will be gone by November - her fate beyond that dependent on the ability to keep her under control for one more year. She begins to undermine the very structure that supports her , and shade she casts in summer is welcome indoors, but not helpful to the garden to her north. Removal would be bittersweet-there is nothing quite like her in early spring, the soft yellow in profusion all along every cane and drooping over the patio. And what would replace her ? Must be deciduous, must have clean foliage, must have flower , must not take over the entire house. Is there such a thing ? Can Lady Banks be molded into submission ?


A sure sign of the fall into winter journey is the appearance of fog inland from the coast. Not to be confused with the marine layer , this fog lays low to the ground and somehow diffuses sounds into a muffled quiet. This morning I was surprised to see the fog; It was summer just a few days ago.

The Calendar Says It's Autumn

..and the temperature says it's summer. This happens in September, summertime's grasping the cliff ridge by it's fingernails before plunging into the gorge. But mornings are cool, the sun slants and hits the gardens in a pleasing way, and everything of substance that is done is forward looking- now we start to think about next year- the mistakes of this year are still right there in our face.
I continue to dig up,move or discard green-kids that don't pull their weight. Some will be given away. Things will cool off, frost will come, and then the rain (we hope) and we will go inside and write plans on paper , preparing for Spring.


Shorter days and colder nights raise the level of tolerance for the high temps in September. At least this year. Evenings are beautiful and golden , frost is (one hopes) another 4 to 6 weeks off, and the only beast is the mildew.

I start to think about winter color now, Iceland Poppies, Pansies, Snaps-- and even kale ..the experiment with kale last year was wonderful-but only briefly . Aphids seem to colonize the stuff, and the damn snails think they are Hostas. I will try again, with preventative measures.

Late Show Gardens

This inauguaral event seemed like a magnet for the Northern California gardening cognoscenti ; conversations overheard included snippets of garden writer conversations, chat of Garden Rant, Saxon Holt with his own table and the food was better than that of the the SF show. (Not a stretch). It would be neccesary to attend most of the lectures to keep one occupied all day, and I opted out- the venue for lectures was substantially smaller than it needed to be. Further, the vendors were all quality-nothing schlocky to be found, however many of them were given booths that only one or two people could access at a time.This gardener would have absolutely bought plants had the logistics been better. The display gardens were wonderful, edgy, hip and thought provoking..they were in fact living art ,not really gardens at all.

Great hopes for the potential of this show in the future, particularly if the speaker line up and the plant vendors there are any indication of credibility .


Friday is a personal favorite; the lift-off for the gardening week. No overtly muscular tasks are performed, only the business that can be achieved while strolling. This may include watering , removal of the spent flower or wizened leaf, the slight shifting of a container location , and tuna-treats for Doobie.