March 13, 2011

March Bloom Day (Early)

No 'long views' of the garden yet - a very cold winter and an overly enthusiastic annual pruning have left the garden looking like a plucked chicken.

Cuphea: Lovely in a terra cotta pot, it's tropical sunset colors are sparked by just a touch of purple.

Daffodils - true harbingers of springtime.

Aquilegia:  Soft, butter yellow and creamy white petals set play nicely against the lacy, blue-green foliage.

Another pairing of pale yellow with lacy foliage - but very different in feel.  These poppies are cherished in my garden - from the handfuls of seed I sow every year only a few bloom.

Pink freesia:  Sweetly scented, pink with just a hint of lavender, it almost appears to be lit from within by a tiny yellow flame. 

And finally, Geranium 'Bill Wallis'.  From Annie's Annuals in the bay area.

October 2, 2010

Heat Wave

After a cool and foggy summer, I assumed my beloved hydrangeas had made it through the season unscathed.

But a rogue heatwave clamped down on the South Coast last week; Monday morning the temperature was 80* in the shade, by mid-afternoon it had climbed to a scorching 107*.

Despite a thorough soaking just the day before, these blooms literally cooked on the stem.

Nothing to do now but cut them back, give them a heavy feeding of cottonseed meal mid- January, and pray for another long, cool spring next year.

However, "A Shropshire Lad" certainly enjoyed the last few days, along with "Flower Girl" and an unamed, heat loving aster.

August 15, 2010

Bloom Day - August 2010

Who's ready for their close up?

Fremontia - or Fremontodendrum californica. I got this last month in a 1 gallon container and it was so overjoyed to be planted that it promptly burst into bloom - although it's normal bloom time is April! It replaces an old Austin rose 'Teasing Georgia'.

An unknown Abutilon. She's a little camera shy.

Dahlia from our local farmer's market. The 4 inch pot was $0.85 - that's less than a cup of coffee!

Purple 'Iceberg'. I loathe the white and pink ones - but this dusky color won my heart.

Lepechinia - a totally fabulous garden plant! Tolerates heat, dry soil, general neglect - and re-seeds with abandon. Just cut it back to the ground in January or you'll be looking at a leggy, tatty mess next summer.

An unknown salvia that's a much loved addition to the garden. It forms an enormous shrub with very light, silvery leaves. I've never seen another one quite like this - and believe me, I've looked.

Another favorite - Gaura lindheimeri. She looks best with some summer water - but plays so well with the other plants that she's totally worth it.

August 14, 2010


One of the coolest, foggiest summers on record has left the roses mildewed and flowerless. The dahlias are sulking - also flowerless. Only the hydrangeas are happy, holding their ethereal colors several months later than usual.

Our local farmer's market offers a myriad of varieties in a 4 inch pot for only $5.00 - and although I'm rapidly running out of room in the garden their beauty continues to seduce me weekly.

We seem to have a real heat wave every year around the summer solstice - one missed watering at that time and the blossoms turn brown and crispy - never to recover. This year we were spared - the temperature on June 21st was 64*. Yes, that's summer in Southern California!

May 17, 2009

Then and Now

Emboldened by chuck b over at my back 40 (feet) ( and his wonderful post on his garden's transformation over the past several years, I've decided to share some before and after pictures of my backyard.

March 25, 2007. Two ancient, aphid infested orange trees were just removed from the center of yard, and finding myself baffled by the amoeba-like shape of the faux stone patio, I somehow had the idea that more meaningless curves would be a GREAT IDEA. The bare, concrete block walls are vaguely reminiscent of a prison yard. Note too, the spindly, struggling Eugenia hedge at the top of the photo.

June 15th, 2007: The flower bed is filling in a bit - but the walls are still incredibly barren. Note the pitiful, dark red dahlia tied firmly to the stake against the wall. It's almost like a firing squad!

June 23, 2008: The curve of the flower bed has been corrected, but if I had an extra 10k in my bank account that patio would be removed permanently. Note the cat, (far right) who after an exhausting day of doing absolutely nothing inside the house, has staggered outside to flop down in the sun.

April 2009: the walls are slowly being covered with Boston Ivy and a varigated Lonicera. The roses are beginning to bloom, and digitalis catch the late afternoon sunlight.

May 12, 2009

May Bloom Day (Early)

I work with numbers. All day. Financial statements, cash flow analysis, complex, multi-page spreadsheets. There is something intensely soothing, satisfying, about numbers and how they all tie so beautifully together.

But at the end of the day, there is joy too, in the tumbled, messy glory of the garden at this time of year.

Breadseed poppy. Grown in partial shade, the color is softer, the flower more delicate than usual.

An unknown Austin rose. Planted several years ago, it is just now hitting it's stride, it's long arching canes covered with buds.

Digitalis 'foxy'.

Pat Austin - one of my favorites!

April 27, 2009

A Visit to Tim's Nursery

No visit to Abigail would be complete without a trip to Tim's Nursery.

Nestled in the rolling hills outside Martinez, it's a very long drive down a winding country lane, past several very muddy horse pastures, a house with an amazing array of faded plastic flowers in front, and finally - this sign:

The nursery is flanked on one side by a truly amazing border, packed full of flowering trees, overgrown shrubs and tangled perennials.

The nursery itself is a complete jumble - and everything looks like it's been there forever: all the plants are rooted firmly into the mud.

With cries of delight we search through the tumble down shade house at the back of the nursery - hostas and astilbe and ferns are strewn around, pots splitting open, self seeding annuals everywhere. I unearth a perfectly gorgeous weigela in a 5 gallon can - for $12.00.

On this visit, I finally meet the mysterious Tim. When he hears that I've driven up from Santa Barbara he is silent, smoke from his cigarette curling up around his face. He finally says: (with absolutely no inflection) "That's a long way to come."

The very sweet Mario helps us load everything carefully into the car: trunk, backseat, floors - he tucks them in as tenderly as one would a sleeping baby.