Friday, July 27, 2012

Butterfly Bush

The front garden has (basically) three beds - the main one, the dry creek bed, and the "filled with rocks" bed. For the first year, there was nothing in the latter (other than rocks, which I inherited with the house) because there was no way to get water to it. After finally fixing the third sprinkler valve, I picked out two Buddleja davidii 'Black Knight', which are surprisingly drought and heat-tolerant.
These haven't  been pruned to the ground since they were planted. I'm still trying to decided if I should?
These plants taught me an important lesson - plants have to suit the site! See how one (in the background) is much bigger than the other, even though they were planted at the same time?
They were the same size when I bought them!
That's because the smaller one (foreground) spent about a year in a different spot - right next to the front door. Which only gets full-sun for about 2 hours in the morning, before the column and roof line put it in full shade. It was NOT happy there, so I moved it its current spot. In less than a year, it about doubled in size (and started blooming). But obviously the other one is still bigger...

The smaller plant - that's now hiding the sprinkler valves and hose reel. Full sun = good
Their dark purple flowers have the best scent, and look great against the white of the house and garage

This means, of course, I can't even change the paint scheme of my house! :)
  Last year, something was eating the leaves (turning them into lace almost!) but it doesn't seem to be impacting them this year. They started blooming in early June, and if I remember to dead-head them, will keep going! There is a new one in the back garden - if it blooms this year, I'll be interested to see if it's the same one or a different color...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Garage Cleaning

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a tool (my ultra-sonic distance estimator). No wonder I couldn't find it:
My tool storage in the garage. That black stuff is weed fabric for a project...
   Wait, maybe it's here:
In that box? Or under the pile of potting soil bags?
The orange ball just showed up on my lawn one day. It looked like an ING commercial. I'm not sure why I still have it.
And the mess wasn't even contained to the garage! Maybe I put it here:
On the back patio. the cardboard box that I put on the patio three years ago and has been sitting there (through rain and what not) since then.
Hm - maybe its time to clean and organize?

Step 1: get all the stuff off the shelves and "organized" into categories:
The random pink umbrella (unused!) is another mystery item
Believe it or not, that's "organized" into piles right there. And I don't know why I left my car in the garage for all this - you'd think I would have moved it.

While cleaning, i squealed many times because of spiders and other creatures. In the desert, even the spiders are deadly:
Black widow! You bet I jumped...
I usually let creatures live, but I draw a line at kinds that can kill me living in my garage...
I know my organizing style is more "put like items in containers" than "put everything in an exact place on a peg board" (knowing your shortcomings is important!), so some clear plastic bins (with no lids) later, it looked like this:
Much better! And I can open my tool box without having to reach into dark places...
It's all organized in "areas" now: painting, outdoor irrigation, gardening equipment, indoor plumbing, tools, car washing, etc. I need a couple of more/larger containers - one for my parents' motorcycle stuff, a larger box for the painting supplies, but it all looks much better. The weed fabric is neatly rolled up on the top shelf.
On the other side, there is now room for the black bin. That's my compost bin (an on-going experiment). I have to keep it in the garage if I have any chance of keeping it "semi-moist" like its supposed to be. I refuse to water my compost-pile on a daily basis...

Compost bin plus extra "brown" materials in the bag - maybe it will turn into leaf mulch?
I even managed to condense all the stuff from the other side of the garage also, making room for my soon-to-be-improved wheelbarrow:
The orange ball is still there...
And I finally got rid of the mess on the patio:
Now i can actually use the grill!
I found an even-larger black widow in the "box of horrors", which I ended up just throwing away (without touching it!)
I discovered I have three watering cans... how did I end up with three? However, my ultra-sonic distance estimator... is still missing!

Friday, July 20, 2012

(sort of) Garden Visit - Santana Row

This isn't really a garden, but an upscale, outdoor shopping area in San Jose, CA. I was struck by their landscaping and use of plants while visiting family. I remembered when this opened, the goal was to create a "European", "urban village". I'm not sure how many villages have Gucci, Tesla and Crate and Barrel stores, but they did do an excellent job with the plants...

There is a riot of color to greet you at the entrance:
There are Canna's, butterfly bush, and a mass of annuals... and it really clashes with the red curb...

In front of Pottery Barn, there are some purple bananas and a big container with a single Agave in it:
The Agave was in remarkably good shape for being right by the enterance
There were three containers with the purple banana planting in them. Pretty cool!

In front of the "fancy" shops (can you tell I don't shop there?) the color palete calms down some - mostly whites and greens in very large round containers:
These seemed like they were in part shade - which explains the hostas and ferns
Maybe fancy stores need more "sophisticated" plantings, rather than "loud"? They also have some impressive topiaries, this time in large square containers:
I'm not sure that tree likes being that shape, but it was real...
Walking down the street, there are interesting plantings everywhere - mosiac pots, hanging baskets and some plants in the ground...

I wonder how they water them all?

At the end of the street, there is a Tequila bar, which had some of my favorite containers, and use of non-plant art:
The white toppers on the pillar match the agave - appropriate for a Tequila bar!
And I have never seen this before - giant A. americana, underplanted with... impatients?

Or whatever they are - they looked like those generic bedding annuals you can buy flat of at the big box stores. I wonder what made them chose those, instead of rocks, or a plant that has similiar water needs?

Walking back up the street, there are more colorful containers (in front of the more affordable stores. Hmm...)
Cheaper stores = more colorful containers outside. I like the Aeonium arboreum in the bottom right picture - they look like alien eyes...
I wonder if there is some sort of research that supports the store type to container color ratio?

I did find another Agave on a side street, that I was tempted to steal some pups from.
All the tips were clipped off!
On that same side street, there was a public square, with a music stage and a (fake) grassy field. It had two pretty cool things - serveral planting beds with an explosion of color:

and this cool water feature that looked like the palm trees around it:
Or maybe it looks like a blue agave..
Another neat thing they did was use and protect the native oaks that were still in the area:
The wood planks on the right are not on the ground - I'm assuming to protect the roots?
Too bad no new ones will ever be able to grow there though... But it is good that they didn't cut them down when they built the place. And they're trying to protect the roots from being walked on.

I also found this container, that was supposed to look like an A. bracteosa growing out of the rock... with herbs?
This was another odd plant combo - and I don't know how they water them either.
And this cool water feature:
There was a red one on the other side of the pond. Cute!
Santana Row certainly has a lot of different-than-normal plants and plant combinations.  I liked the single plant in a large container look, and the impact really, really large containers can have. I'm still not sure whether impatients and Agaves really go together though!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Weekly Front Garden - 07/14/2012

This week in the front garden:

After a week of hot weather, the garden still looks sort-of lush. The roses are starting to rebloom, which is nice! Digging up and dividing a bunch of the grasses has been added to the fall to-do list, and the Jackimanii is making another stem! I'm probably way too excited about that...

Other than that, not much has changed. Just today (about 3 days after this picture was taken) another lily started blooming! It adds some color and a lot of scent to the area right by the front door. Maybe I should take this time to think about what I would replace the lawn grass with... Or what kind of other plants I want to add here. I love planning the plantings and finding new plants to use.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Foliage Follow Up in July

After Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, its always good to look at all the foliage in the garden too, especially when the crazy weather has been causing issues in the garden.

One of my goals for this first year was to find a way to make the garden look "lush", even in the desert and summer heat. My solution seems to be working - plant vining vegetables and fruits! The water melon ('Sugar baby') seems to be doing really well:
The Optunia is having some problems - the wind blew it over! The watermelon hasn't tried to climb it yet...
The Feathery Cassia (Senna artemidiolides) is trying to out-grow the watermelon, I think:
It's put on a lot of new growth lately - and I've been keeping the watermelon off it.
It's open leaf structure and feathery look means it will shrug off the desert heat once it's established.

The yellow watermelon, next to the Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) and Yucca rostrata is also contributing to a look of lushness:
Two different views - and I found my first yellow watermelon while taking these pictures.
The Vitex is actually blooming, but the blossoms are so washed out, you can't see them.
Even if this pea plant never produces peas, it's adding an excellent lush, vertical accent to the garden:
Pea plant, with A. parryi, Salvia gregii and more watermelon in the background.
The Optunia macrocentra is also looking lush, in its own spiny way:
It's making more blooms and more pads. Not more giant spines yet though...
and this picture of the spine imprints on my Agave bovicornuta (? - I think) is too pretty not to share:
my not so good picture doesn't really do it justice...
Several of the grasses are growing in too - I love purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum')
This one was dancing in the wind as I was trying to take its picture
But I can't figure out if it's hardy here or not... too much conflicting information. But I'll find out this year! The Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) in the back garden is also growing in. I love the contrast of yellow and green:
This one was planted this year - it's amazing to see how much its grown!
Both the back and the front gardens' dry stream beds have pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I like how different it looks in different spots:
From left: first year in the back garden, in the front garden, full sun with last year's blooms left on and last, in the front garden, in part sun...
But sadly, the heat got to one of my hostas:
Blurry picture, but you get the idea. It only got worse today...
It will come back next year. The funny thing is that this one gets more shade than the other one, and that one is fine-ish.

The warm weather has been good for some of the houseplants, which get to come outside (when it's not crazy windy). I think this is Monstera deliciosa, which has to be one of the funnier latin plant names:
I now call this plant the delicious monster!
It just recently got moved to that giant pot (post coming soon), and really seems to like it. I love it's giant leaves, which are starting to develop the characteristics "splits". Sadly the giant leaves tend to break in our crazy winds, so I have to lug that pot in and out every day...

The ZZ plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolia) is also making new foliage, which are super shiny:
5 new stems help to balance out the plant again.
It also seems to like its new home from Earlier this year.

Finally, there's the foliage on this plant; Chlorophytum amaniense, or Mandarine Plant:
It's orange! And rarely needs watering or much of anything, really...
I love the orange color on the leaf stalks... Even in house plants, foliage is really the backbone of the (indoor) garden!

To see more beautiful foliage, go to Pam at Digging and see all the links to other bloggers' gardens.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It has been insanely hot here for the last week (just like the rest of the country, I think). In our case, this meant it's been at or above 105 deg F since Monday (7/9), with the humidity hovering around 10-15%. We've now "cooled down" to the mid to upper 90's, with about 20% humidity. We didn't really get any rain - a few drops here and there - and you could see the water evaporate before it hit the ground, but then we don't usually get any rain from about April through October. Oddly enough, all this weather hasn't been considered an official "drought" here yet - I guess expectations for rain (we're at about 1.65 inches for the year, total) are pretty low out here.

Despite that, there are still some plants blooming in the garden! Thankfully I got a picture of the toad lily bloom in the front, before the hot weather dried out the blossoms:
Tricyrtis formosana 'Amethystina' with its beautiful spotted flowers.
Hopefully now that the weather has cooled down some, the other buds will blossom. The Buddleja is still going strong, pretty much unbothered by the heat:

Buddleja davidii 'Black Knight' in the front garden
 It will keep blooming as long as I remember to dead-head it! And the new one in the back garden bloomed! It turned out to be white:
Unknown cultivar of Buddleja davidii with huge inflorescences
 It is growing next to the tomato and melon plants, and seems to be happy for now. I need to dig through my landscape paperwork to find out which one this is. Also in the back garden, various Lantanas are putting on a show, including "Miss Huff":
Lantana 'Miss Huff'
Close up of the flowers with all the different colors
 I love all the different colors on the same plant... and especially since this one was tiny when it was planted (back in may). Another lantana is more red, and a bit bushier:
Lantana camara 'Bandito' - there are two, but they haven't grown much bigger since being planted
 If these survive the winter, I hope they grow in as ground covers to fill in the area. There seems to be conflicting information about their winter hardiness in sunset zone 11. 'Miss Huff' should definitely be hardy, since that's one of its characteristics, so it will go into the ground in the fall.

The red and yellow theme continues with the Coreopsis, which are still blooming:

Coreopsis 'Creme Brulee' is buzzing with insects most of the day.

Coreopsis 'Route 66' foliage feels wonderful to touch, especially on hot days.
 And also the yellow blooms on the various melons (cantaloupe in this case):
Cantaloupe blossoms in different shades of yellow.
 The main big blooms on the sunflowers are done (post coming soon!) but some of the smaller side blossoms are still opening:

Heliantus anuus - this is the seedling that "popped up" in of the pipes - it doesn't look like any of the seed packs I have.

Helianthus annus 'Mammoth' with some lazy, early morning pollinators
There are seeds everywhere around these flowers, and the birds sit on their stems. They're such a presences in the garden, especially since everything else is still growing in. The red Yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Paprika') is also blooming:

The three 'Paprika' plants have started to grow together. Now if the yellow ones would catch up!
And so is the Russian Sage (Perosvskia atriplicifolia) which isn't red or yellow, but adds some cooling blue:
This one made a different-looking spray of flowers
And finally there are two blooms I'm really excited about - the Echeveria subrigida:
It has 2 bloom stalks about 10 inches tall... I was hoping they were going to fully open for July GBBD...
It looks like it will be pink!
And the Hot Lips sage (Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips'), turned full red from the heat, is reblooming after its pruning earlier in the summer:
These smell so good when you get close.
Which is exciting, because the hummingbirds love it!
It looks like it's flying into the wall, but there's actually a blossom there!

And they will try to chase you away if you get too close!
I should work on taking better pictures of these guys next time!

To see more beautiful blooms, and hear what the weather is like elsewhere, go to Carol's May Dreams Gardens and look at all the links. And thanks for visiting mine!