Sunday, November 30, 2014

Whirlwind Visit-The Ruth Bancroft Garden.

I arrived at the Ruth Bancroft Garden within a few minutes of the members only 9am opening time for the annual fall plant sale on an October Saturday. The parking lot was already full, so I parked on the residential street around the corner and walked in from there.  This sale has exploded in popularity , having once consisted of  a leisurely stroll around a couple of tables of plants at the entrance folly, to this years  modestly frenzied atmosphere with traffic attendants and cash only express check-outs, no doubt fueled by the continued rise in demand for succulents and xeric plants. Strategic planing is now required for both attendees and organizers. My strategy always involves taking advantage of the early opening time to take photos in the garden under  the superior pre-10am lighting conditions . October with its warm slanty light  is particularly fine for this, and the majority of the early shoppers head for the sale leaving the garden relatively empty. I wish I'd had more time-I took significantly fewer images here than I usually do . Here are just a few.

Morning light view

 The low sun backlit the Optunia thorns into halos.

Looking towards the path to the sale tables.

 And did I buy anything ? Well of course , though things were a little picked over by the time I put my camera away and hit the plant sales area. 4 plants only (easy quantity to carry to the car ) and here they are after being installed in their new pots.

Graptoveria 'Opalina' 

I love Haworthias, and have several. The tag on this just says Haworthia sp. This out of focus photo does not show it to it's best advantage.

Cutest Aloe ever, with a tag that says 'Aloe Hybrid' Shall I name it Aloe cuteii ? I beleive I shall.

Aloe cuteii bloom .

 This is  Gasteria 'Platinum' , the only one they had left by the time I got there. I'm sure I'd have bought this if I'd ever seen it anywhere before-the Gasterias are another favorite of mine.

 I hope to have a better plan and more time for the April 2015 sale !

Monday, September 15, 2014

September Bloomday

Taken in haste between wind gusts , my Bloomday offering this month highlights the bright spots in the untidy, floppy and mid-renovation garden. My shovel has been active in September as I continue upending plants which no longer please me, or play the roll they were cast in.

I typically don't plant sunflowers , not enough room for the big-uns . This year an extreme mid-summer cut back to Cecile Bruner to allow for an infrastructure repair opened a sunny spot in one of my Hateful Areas  where this volunteer popped up.

The Fuchsias are all blooming nicely, and our relatively cool summer  has kept them looking fresh. Winston Churchill here.

 Though not winter hardy for me , Salvia 'Wendys Wish' is purchased every spring as soon as she makes her appearance at the garden center.

 All of the many Oreganos I own are blooming, but I can only offer a photo of Oreganum dictamnus 'Dittany of Crete'.

 Gomphrena 'Fireworks' survived the winter here and has bloomed all summer.

Here is it's next door neighbor Caryopteris incanum, faded somewhat from it's deep blue-violet peak.

  Be sure to wander over to May Dreams , where Carol hosts our monthly bloom fest.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Cobaea Scandens-Victory At Last

 Many futile attempts have been made here to grow the allegedly vigorous Cobea scandens , a tender vine from Mexico  . It's been tried in a large container, and in various in-ground locations each attempt ending in failure. This spring I was tempted again and lingered near the row of flats at Annies and selected a well-gown specimen, resolved that this would be  the final effort.

  The placement decision was lengthy , but I ended up planting it at the base of the Bourbon rose, Madame Isaac Pereire,  where it would have the benefit of the occasional extra water provided to Madame, and the run off from nearby patio containers. Madame Isaac would be the trellis , with Lady Banks waiting in the wings above should the vine actually grow. Here looking happy and green at the base of it's rosy companion...

...and here it clambers up to the 2nd story and hangs out with Lady Banks.

  This is what you see as the bloom forms

The flower opens green and deepens to violet .

 And an added bonus, the tendrils are pretty cool too.

 Cobaea scandens is not likely to be hardy here -though I have seen references that claim it will handle zone 9. I expect it will be laid low with the first frost --now that I'm an expert maybe next spring I'll buy 2 .

Monday, August 25, 2014

What Happens to the Garden in an Earthquake

 We went outside to see where Doobie, our most skittish cat, was hiding. It was dark, no power, no moon. The night sky was dense with stars - a sight not often seen unless you are camping . We couldn't waste flashlight power outside when indoors was a sea of broken glass and fallen household contents. Violent earthquakes are shocking events, and your mind starts to organize itself into an action plan..lets sweep up the glass, lets see if the chimney is still up, lets see if we have water , listen for gas leaks etc. All these things you just do, as calmly as you can. The shock of what has just happened , a 20 second event in the middle of the night, put us on auto pilot. . But it would have been beautiful to sit in the garden, and look up at the dark skies we never see here. Our job though, was inside the house, with the flashlight and the broom.
 Later in the day we went outside, needing a break from the debris and curious to see what might have occurred there.

 The spiral Aloe fell over broken pot !

 The water sloshed out of the most popular birdbath-already refilled for this photo. Birds have a pretty good gig when it comes to quakes. It would have been nice to just be off the ground.

This birdbath fell over, but didn't break.

 A broken pot.

I am blaming the sudden and dramatic flop of this Persicaria on South Napa Earthquake 2014. Would it have flopped anyway ? We'll never know.

 But most of the garden looks exactly the same.

  I've been in many earthquakes of varying degrees of severity in my life. For all of them, I was indoors . What would it be like to be in the garden ?  Would you see plants swaying ? What sounds would you hear ? Would it be less scary?

 Sitting in the garden this weekend during clean-up breaks I reflected on this ; This was the most powerful quake I had ever experienced, and the closest I've lived to the epicenter. Yes, we had lots of broken stuff. But we and our neighbors and our pets were unharmed. And so was my sanctuary, the garden.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Strolling the Lurie Garden

 Travel season continued for me with a short trip to Chicago , business related and tightly scheduled. Every time I go to Chicago I tell my self that the next time I will take an extra day and do some touristy stuff, but it was not to be this year. Still, I always find a way to pay another visit to the Lurie Garden in Millennium park.I've blogged about this garden previously here, and here . Designed by a world class triumvirate of Piet Oudolf, Robert Israel and the Seattle firm Gustafson,Guthrie and Nicol, the garden was completed in 2004. I've visited several times and taken vast quantities of photos--this is a garden I never tire of. It remains in the top tier of gardens for me ; a space that presents a stylized version of the North American prairie .

  There are several routes that will take you into the garden, but access through the 'shoulders hedge is my favorite.

 Looking  thorough gives  you a tantalizing peek at what lies ahead. 

  Look down and you may forget you are in the middle of a great city...

 ...though  the counterpoint  between the skyscrapers and the meadow is one of the compelling features of the garden. In a city as architecturally rich as Chicago , the buildings are as beautiful as the gardens.

  As you move along the paths , different views are presented, with different light patterns -loose blocks and ribbons of grasses and blooming plants alive with bees, wasps, birds and butterflies .

 This video made by the  design firm Gustafson Guthrie and Nichol , is both the Luries 10th birthday
card and a look into the design process and concepts.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Epiphany on Rhone Street

 I've done a fair amount of garden touring this summer, in public and private gardens on both coasts. New England gardens can be both exciting and frustrating -lavish, verdant and impossible to duplicate here in Northern California. The environmental trio of humidity, summer rain and warm nights seems to facilitate explosive growth, the trade off for a bitter winter. I'll keep my winter thanks, but would welcome a modest amount of summer rain. Only when I'm at the office or sleeping of course, and nothing that would turn flowers into blobs or instigate flopping.I hate flopping.
  Portland on the other hand, has many similarities to my own zone 9/8  (like a late April Aries, I'm on the cusp) climate. In spite of it's reputation for constant rain , summers are relatively dry (find some data here )  and winters wet and mild. Intellectually, I knew all this when I stepped on the Fling bus. I've visited Portland frequently in all seasons and previous to this trip had only focused on the differences --the sensational conifers, the Delphinums with baseball bat trunks, blue Hydrangeas . When our bus dispensed us at Scott Webers Rhone Street Gardens I heard the choir . For here were many plants , in fact very many plants that I either grow now or can grow in Norcal. My preoccupation with the architectural genre of my house vs. the carefully manipulated meadow style of planting that I love blew up at Scotts..he has made it work. Gray house, clapboard, white trim. And damn, I even have cats !

  Ironically, in my excitement at just being there , I took a series of spectacularly awful photos and have weaned these out of the few that were actually somewhat in focus. Lesson learned..slow down !

 Oh , hell strips ! This corner lot makes the most of that extra real estate..I like the way Scott edged and bermed up the soil..

 Answering questions.

 Damn, my only kitty shot, the lovely feline face hidden behind the Veronicastrum.

I believe this is Rudbeckia triloba. Want.

Many plants I already grow ...not sited as well as those here !

 When I returned from Fling, I dug out half my hell strip, and a segment of my back garden.  Rhone Street made me see things I had not seen, had given me permission to ignore what I could not previously ignore and enriched me with ideas suitable to my garden...Thank you Scott !