Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Thyme Path

Garden -making sometimes presents us with disappointments-in my case usually a result of 'operator error'. We make plans, we design, we plant our design , and sometimes it just fails. Plants die, or struggle , or clash or just don't look the way we expect them to. I've probably tossed enough plants over the years to fill a small garden center.Success is a triumph for a pastime that presents so many variables over which we have little or no control. We are at the mercy of weather, sun patterns, and our neighbors trees. I've had plenty of happy results that were completely accidental and what a pleasant surprise this is , distracting me from that combination over yonder that looks like hell.

 The Thyme path is one of those accidents..I did plant the creeping Thyme at the edges of a bed and it was so many years ago I don't even remember the intent. I know that every other plant in the vicinity is in fact not what was there when it was was originally installed. The was in fact a very old and perilously listing Apricot tree on the right, long since gone. The Thyme has spread with abandon over what used to be micro redwood bark and stepping stones . Here you see it blooming in the foreground and and curving past the Briza media and Achellia towards the fence.

  Moving closer to the fence there are a few bare spots where traffic is heaviest.

Looking back from the fence ..I couldn't resist taking a photo of my favorite Penstemon, "Raven".

The Thyme continues in this direction and hangs a left at the base of Phlox paniculata 'David' and deadends at a robust stand of Eupatorium 'Gateway'. Though it is tempting to stroll this path barefoot, it is currently alive with bees and shoes are recommended. I am very pleased with this part of my garden , and the accidental Thyme has added an important dimension.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Roses

 I rode into my life as  a gardener on a rose petal; in my twenties all I wanted to grow were roses and sweetpeas .Sweetpea culitivation was mastered quickly once I learned that in Southern California seeds must be sown in fall, for like edible peas they are a cool-season crop. I don't remember exactly where I planted them (2 houses ago) or which variety they were -probably the most common off the Ferry Morse seed rack- but I do remember the excitement of success with the first plants I ever grew from seed. Victory.
 The path to rose mastery was longer , with numerous  potholes and changes of direction. In the early 80's I read the classic "Green Thoughts" by the fabulously opinionated Elenor Perenyi, and the chapter on roses revealed to me the world of the heirlooms.  At the time , I worked in a garden center..none of these roses she spoke of -the mysterious noisettes, bourbons, portlands,chinas  etc, were in our inventory. Our growers didn't have them, our customers didn't ask for them.Everyone wanted Double Delight, Mr Lincoln or the abysmal Sterling Silver.  My first experience with mail order ..on Elenors reccomentdation I sent for the catalog of 'Roses of Yesterday and Today' . There werer no images or even drawings inside the catalog, only a detailed description-pay your money,take your chances. The front cover displayed the only photo, always a massive bouquet  with a delicate  tissue paper overlay that identified the flowers.I bought a half dozen, planted them and then I moved.The rose bed that once held Henri Martin, Jaques Cartier , Reinne Victoria, Gruss an Achen and Helen Traubel among others is now a slab of concrete.
 At one time I think I owned 70 roses here in my small suburban garden , removing more and more of the lawn every year to squeeze in another one or two . Now, it is the roses I am removing. Since last summer I dug up Graham Thomas , Iceberg, Julia Child, Tamora, Daybreaker, and Mary Rose. Some of these werer 'lemons' some had been here a decade or more and were in decline.

Bloomday Deadbeat

  I seemed to have been unable to collect myself enough to do a May BD post, even though the blooms are vast , the days are long , the camera is operational. Business has interfered;some days even taking photos is not mindless enough after a day at the office. I can always manage a stroll with a glass of wine though. One must have priorities. Here then  are a few selections I managed to snap for this faux Bloomday.

Salpiglossis over-wintered here for me  ..even though we dipped into the 20's .

This is Silene asterias from Annies, planted last summer. The plants are tidy and have plenty of flowers , but the jury is still I like it ? 

Sidalcea...back story . In 1986 when I moved to NorCal from San Diego, a new neighbor loaned me a copy of Taylors Guide to Perennials. This book, along with White Flower Farms catalog was a revelation to me --and I was in a swoon over the Sidalcea malviflora image in Taylors.   I had worked in a garden center in Socal for 10 years and herbaceous perennials were nowhere to be found. Our customers assumed a perennial was plant that bloomed all year, and could not be convinced otherwise. We lived in a sea of Pansies, Ivy Geraniums  and Euryops. Here in the north, there was a modest selection of perennials , and among my first purchases was G. Johnsons Blue (which I still have for sentimental reasons) Aster frikartii and a very poor cultivar of Sidalcea which was discarded after a couple of seasons.  Last fall I bought a few Sidalceas from Annies, and they have jsut started to bloom, with many buds still to come.

 Achellia 'Moonshine' .

Penstemon that it would bloom till fall did not prove accurate last summer in my garden, still I planted 2 more in the hopes that maturity would assist in a longer flowering . Either way a very nice trouble free plant and a vast improvement over 'Huskers Red' .

Always reliable Verbena bonariensis.

The fabulous Artichoke.

Penstemon Raven, one of my favorite non-floppers.

I grow Symphytum 'Axminister Gold' for the foliage but it's nice to have the little pinkish flowers in spring. I will cut it back moderately hard when the flowers wane, and a new batch of fresh foliage will be the result.

This is Clematis 'Arabella' which is a non-stop bloomer in my garden til the frost lays her low. Last fall I threw some sweetpea seeds around her base, and now they jockey for position on her arbor. I will have to rescue her before long-sweetpeas are not suitable summer plants here in any case.

I love this green Santolina and have them repeated a few times in my front garden.

...but one of them did this ! I hate it when that happens .Ruins the whole damn scheme.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Echium Forest

I have never attempted to grow  Echiums here in my own garden, assuming they would be doomed to failure..I never see them in Napa, and they have always seemed decidedly coastal to me. The coast may only be an hour away, but in terms of micro climate it is in another world altogether, no frost and very little heat. This afternoon I went on a garden tour -'Bay Friendly Gardens' and on the route to one of the venues I happened upon this terraced home with Echium 'wildpretii' not more than two miles from my own garden. It was pure drama.