Monday, April 10, 2017

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm

Cutting Back the Lamb's Ears and Jasmine in the Bed by the Garage

Every day this spring I've walked by this poor Spanish Sage plant I could barely see because it was being covered by jasmine from above. That blocked its light. On April 5 I finally made some time to cut the jasmine back and expose the sage to the light again. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
Jasmine Blocking the Light the Spanish Sage Needs

Here is the same plant when I finished pruning back the jasmine. I also cut back some of the sage. Because it's been straining to get the sun, it got very leggy, and you can see its bare branches that were hidden by the jasmine. You can also see the tiny leaves on those stems. I hope they will now grow up instead of continuing towards the sidewalk. 

Next winter I will have to do this job sooner and cut the sage way back, but this winter I had the flu all during January and then had steady dentist appointments during February and most of March. After getting my root canals done I didn't feel like working in the garden or anywhere else, and I was always playing catch-up on other work. In addition to that, it rained a lot and the ground was wet. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
I pruned the jasmine that was covering the Spanish Sage and also thinned the Lamb's Ears that were trying to smother it.

Not far from the Spanish Sage was a Sweet William struggling to survive -- maybe more than one. It's hard to tell in the midst of all the jasmine and Lamb's Ears plants.  Normally the Sweet William plants that reseed return at this time of year, but this year the Lamb's Ears spread so much that they completely covered any of the seedlings trying to emerge. Although I do love Lamb's Ears, enough is enough. I will probably still have to trim more of it back. I took the photo below on March 28. I knew I had to uncover any plants under that Lamb's Ears patch, and I had to just keep pulling and pruning until I found this plant. I was hoping there would be more. Maybe there still will be.

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm

Below is a close-up of the struggling Sweet William after I pulled a lot of the Lamb's Ears away from it. I had not realized the Lamb's Ears were propping it up. It was also very leggy and fell flat. I may have to prop it up with a small stake to keep it upright. I'm hoping it will spread as time goes on. Plants have an amazing ability to recover, just as my butterfly bush did after a storm knocked it down

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
Struggling Sweet William after I Thinned Lamb's Ears Around It.
The photo below puts my afternoon's work into context. The star jasmine is in the background against the wall. Left to right: jasmine, struggling sage, Lillies of the Nile between jasmine and Lamb's Ears in middle, the space where the Sweet William tries to gain ground, more Lamb's Ears, blooming calendulas with budding irises behind them. Between the calendula and the car, you see the low green of the gazanias with a tall flowering kale behind it next to the brick trim. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm

What I Accomplished in the Front Flowerbed 

If you read my last post, you saw the state of the front flowerbed before I started weeding and thinning and pruning on April 6. The Lamb's Ears were out of control, the hyssop that hadn't been pruned was brown and ugly and taking over, the oregano in the pot needed pruning, and grassy weeds were trying to overwhelm anything the other plants were leaving alone. 

The two photos below were taken on February 13. We had had so much rain that weeding was almost impossible. I was also weakened by all the dental work I was having done. After even more rain in March, by the day I started the work the state of this flowerbed was even worse. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm

Since it was February, the daffodils were budding. My chard on the right bottom had turned red. You can see the dead growth on the oregano in the terracotta pot. That brown clump to the left of it is the hyssop. It looked even browner when I started cutting it way back on April 6. Pruning the oregano was much easier. 

The worst job, though, was getting the grassy weeds that were taking over any bare ground they could find. Their roots are very hard to get out. They also entangle the roots of the plants I want to keep. Here they are surrounding my catmint. The catmint itself has escaped from its pot and is now also running amuck, but at least I can make tea out of that.  

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
Catmint in and out of Pot Surrounded by Grassy Weeds

The photos show only a portion of the work that needed to be done. I was trying to finish the most urgent tasks before the storm that was supposed to hit later at night started. Here is how the area around the catmint pot looked by the time I was through. Not perfect, but good enough to scatter some old seeds around before the storm brought rain to water them. They were very old seeds, but I thought I'd see what happened. Mother Nature often surprises me. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
Catmint Pot After Weeding

Below you see what the hyssop plant looked like when I finished with it. Better late than never. It will grow out again before it's time for it to bloom in June. A few green shoots are already peaking out. I did miss a couple of branches, but I'll get them after I finish the taxes. After the rain, the catmint in the pot perked up again. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
Hyssop after Haircut

Here's how the front flowerbed looked after I finished working and had scattered my seeds. The rain came as promised later and all the next day, so I'm hoping maybe at least a couple of seeds will sprout. On the lower right, in front of the irises, you see a green carnation plant with the leaves of an old daffodil plant in front of it. You could not see that carnation before I cut back the hyssop which was covering it.  I had forgotten the carnation was there. I fed it. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm
A Good's Afternoon's Work in the Flowerbed

When I finished for the day, I took the pictures of the flower beds and then turned to get the sky toward the west. The sunset promised rain. And it came. I'm glad I pushed myself to get some of the preliminary work done before it started coming down. 

Garden Tasks Finished before Storm


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What's Happening in my Garden in Early Spring?

There Are Lots of Garden Tasks to Be Done

We've had a lot of rain in the past two months, and the garden reflects that. The weeds are trying to take over, but I've been too busy going to and recovering from dentist appointments to do much about them. The grassy weeds are the worst.  Fortunately, my lamb's ears, which grow as fast as weeds, are helping to keep some of them at bay. Meanwhile, the bees are really enjoying the flowers that are appearing everywhere and the kale is bolting.

What's Happening in my Garden in March
Grassy Weeds Trying to Take Over the Garden, Lamb's Ears Trying to Compete

Weeding and Thinning

In the photo above you can see some of the garden tasks I'm way behind on. Weeding is probably the most important. If I don't get the weeds out of the way, the reseeding plants may not get the light they need to sprout. Some of the lamb's ears, much as I love them, will also have to go. As you can see below, they are choking the emerging Sweet William seedlings from last year's seeds. I'll also have to cut back the star jasmine that surrounds and is starting to cover these plants. Looks like I will also have to reapply my non-toxic snail bait in this section. I usually use the cheapest brand, and it works.

What's Happening in my Garden in Early Spring?
Lamb's Ears Smothering Sweet William Seedling, while both Fight the Star Jasmine, © B. Radisavljevic 

With all this weeding to be done, it's time to check my gardening tools again. If you find yourself short, this Vremi 9-piece tool set has all one needs to tackle most weeding jobs.

Bees in the Holly
The holly is in bloom, and the bees love it. I took this photo a few days ago. I'm glad I did because the gardener trimmed some of the flowers off today. He said the bees were pretty angry with him as he worked and he had to be careful. I think there are still enough flowers to keep the bees busy. 

What's Happening in my Garden in Early Spring?
Bees Foraging in Holly Flowers in March, © B. Radisavljevic

The Bolting Kale

I currently have four kale plants growing in my flower beds. Three of them are volunteers that did not exactly grow where I would have placed them. All of them are bolting now. I will probably cut the flowering stems from the weakest plants, and let the others go to seed for next year's crop. I will also have to harvest and freeze a lot of the leaves that are left.

 My top photo showed my best kale plant. I understand now why it may not have had the aphid problems the other plants had. Its close neighbors are calendula and catmint, both of which help repel or trap these pests that bother my other plants. Also, that kale in my front flowerbed gets more regular water than the other plants, and better soil. It is the only kale plant with drip irrigation. 

The kale plant below gets less care than any of the others. It sprang up between my driveway and my neighbor's yard in the bed in the middle. There is a birch tree there and gazanias cover most of the ground. It is not irrigated unless I remember to pour some water on the kale plant. How it ever took root there I'll never know, but I have used many of its leaves. You can see from its flowers that it's bolting. So are the other plants, but the flowers are harder to see in their photos. 

What's Happening in my Garden in Early Spring?
Flowers of Bolting Kale, © B. Radisavljevic

This is actually a pair of kale plants below. I never thinned them. I sometimes use their leaves, but they are often plagued with aphids. They have poor soil and no companion plants but gazanias. They do not have regular irrigation. They grow in the corner of a bed of gazania and star jasmine beside the driveway. Like the plant above, they came from the mother plant you see at the top of this blog post. 

What's Happening in my Garden in Early Spring?
Twin Kale Plants by Driveway, © B. Radisavljevic

My Favorite Companion Planting Book

 I have used this book for years. It has provided inspiration on what to plant where and been just fun to read. There are lists of which plants discourage which pests, which plants attract which beneficial insects, and which plants help each other thrive. I love the garden design ideas, such as the wheel garden and the front yard salad garden. The information is organized in a user-friendly way so that it's easy to find what you want, and you will want to read more than what you came for. I highly recommend this to any gardener who wants to avoid chemicals.

Friday, February 03, 2017

My First Iris this Year

Today I Welcomed My First Iris of the Season

I think it liked the rain. I don't normally see this iris until April, so it's quite early this year. I fed all the bulbs last night because more daffodils are blooming every day and many of the irises which haven't bloomed look smaller than they should be. The drought might be partly responsible, but they have lots of water now. 

My First Iris this Year
My First Iris this Year

Only two days ago, I saw the buds looking as though they might be getting ready to bloom. Still, though, I was caught off guard when one actually did bloom today. It should soon be joined by other buds blooming. The plant in the pot behind the budding iris is a clary sage

My First Iris this Year
Budding Iris 1-1-2017

Iris Cards and a Baby Suit from Zazzle

All the photos of on these products were taken in my garden. The light purple iris is available on shirts for all ages, hats, and aprons, as well as on the baby bodysuit. Please click the suit to see what else is available.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

First Daffodil in 2017 Arrives on Schedule

Daffodils Can Bring Cheer to Any Winter Day

This is the gloomiest, rainiest January I can remember since moving to Paso Robles. It has rained almost every day for the past two weeks and more is coming. Today I emerged for the first time since getting the flu two weeks ago to see this daffodil smiling at me from my garden. 

First Daffodil in 2017 Arrives on Schedule
I grabbed my camera, thankful that there was no rain, and walked across my very wet yard to take the photo. 

Daffodils Bloom about the Same Time Each Year

My daffodils start blooming before January 26 each year. By the time January 26 arrives, the yellow ones are usually in full bloom, with the white and yellow ones blooming a few days later. It took a lot of work to plant the bulbs in the fall of 2013. I thought I'd never finish. Now, as the daffodil flowers arrive every January to brighten my life, I'm very glad I did the work. There aren't any garden shortcuts. If we don't plant, we don't get flowers. 

Making Planting and Weeding Easier

One thing that made the planting easier on my poor arthritic knees was my garden kneeler. It was worth every cent I paid for it. My complete review of the garden kneeler I love is here. The kneeler is not only useful when I'm planting, but also when I'm pulling all the weeds the rain brings.

If you wait to pull the weeds until the ground completely dries out after the rains, you will have a forest before you know it.  These are the California weeds you need to pull as soon as the ground is dry enough. I find it easiest to pull the weeds when the ground is barely moist and the roots come out easily. 

Bring Daffodil Cheer Inside

If you don't have any daffodils, make a note on your calendar to start planting bulbs in October or November. There's nothing like a bright yellow daffodil to bring delight to a winter garden. 

First Daffodil in 2017 Arrives on Schedule


Monday, December 12, 2016

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements

Poinsettias Are Popular for Decorating Outside 

I remember when I was growing up, we had a poinsettia plant near our back door. For some reason, my mom didn't care for it. Maybe it was because of the sticky white sap that dripped when she cut the "flowers" off to bring them in for December flower arrangements. Some people believe the sap is poisonous, but at worst it can cause skin irritation. She used to tell me it was poisonous.

Here on the California Central Coast, we can put poinsettias and sunflowers together outside at the same time, as long as there is no frost. I shot this scene in December one year as I was walking my neighborhood.

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Bench in Neighbor's Garden in December, © B. Radisavljevic 

People in frost free zones can plant the poinsettia for winter color in their gardens, as well as holly and pyracantha, which have red berries at this time of year. My area in Paso Robles is not frost free. We do have some nights below freezing. 

Many Motels and Hotels Use Poinsettias for Decorating During the Holidays

We often used to visit family and friends in Southern California for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. We usually stayed at a motel in either Thousand Oaks or Orange County, or both. We saw this poinsettia plant on a table in a public area at the Best Western Motel in Thousand Oaks. 

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Table at Best Western Motel in Thousand Oaks, CA,  © B. Radisavljevic 

This photo clearly shows the parts of the plant. It has evergreen leaves. Red bracts surround the small yellow true flowers. It appears most businesses don't want to mess with the sticky sap anymore than my mother did. They use potted plants to do their decorating. 

Many people give potted poinsettias as gifts. Whether you receive one or buy one to decorate, you may wonder how to care for it. Poinsettias like sunshine, so if they are indoors, make sure they sit by a sunny window. Try to keep the temperature in the room from fluctuating too much. Although  these plants like moist soil, don't let water accumulate in the bottom of the pot's saucer or the plants may get root rot. Your plants will appreciate it if you remove the decorative foil as soon as the holiday season has passed. 

After the red bracts and flowers begin to fall, it's time to prepare your plant for storage if you want to keep it. Prune stems back to two buds and decrease the amount of water you give the plant. It won't be as thirsty as it was.Give it just enough water to keep it from drying out.  Store it in a cool place until late spring when all danger of frost is past. 

When the weather is warm enough again in late spring, you can safely set the plants outside in the sun. You may want to let them adjust by only leaving them out for a few hours a day and gradually increasing the time until they have acclimated to their new setting. Those who live in frost free areas may be able to safely plant their poinsettias in the garden against a south wall to keep them warm and to protect them from strong winds. For more detailed information and a different perspective from a friend who is actually growing poinsettias in her garden, please read Poinsettia – How Not to Kill Them by Maria Montgomery.

San Luis Bay Inn In Avila Beach Decorates with Poinsettias 

I took these photos when we were visiting a friend who was vacationing at the San Luis Bay Inn one December. This arrangement was in the lobby. Do you notice the white poinsettias in this display? 

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettias on Display at San Luis Bay Inn in Avila Beach, © B. Radisavljevic 

I thought this arrangement was particularly striking.

Poinsettias Are Popular in December Flower Arrangements
Poinsettia Decoration at San Luis Bay Inn in Avila Beach, © B. Radisavljevic 
The San Luis Bay Inn was lovely during the Christmas season. I can see why my friend chose to stay there. If you plan to be  in San Luis Obispo County for the holidays, you might want to consider spending your vacation at the San Luis Bay Inn Resort in Avila Beach, just a short walk from the beach. It has everything you could want: kitchenettes in the large suites, wireless internet, large public areas for relaxing, swimming pool, jacuzzi, exercise room, and more.  It's a resort in every sense of the word. You can book through the banner below. Rooms fill up fast, so it's wise to plan far ahead. 


Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage

A Seedling Can Sometimes Fool You

That's why I was I was caught off guard today when I found this new garden surprise. It's a mystery to me how this baby clary sage plant I found in bloom today got where it is. I will try to solve it here.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Surprise Clary Sage, © B. Radisavljevic

Why This Baby Clary Sage Plant Surprised Me

In August, 2013, about a foot from where this small clary sage is blooming today, this borage plant was blooming. Borage reseeds easily. 

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage in Bloom and Companions,  © B. Radisavljevic

If the clary sage and borage are not next to each other and neither is blooming, they can be easily confused. This is especially true if there were no known clary sage plants in an area where you knew you had had borage.  When I saw these seedlings in January, I just assumed they were borage and that they weren't yet mature enough to bloom.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage  or Clary Sage Seedlings beside Calendula Flower  © B. Radisavljevic

The photo above shows you what I saw in that area in February 2015. What I believed to be the borage seedlings are to the right of the orange calendula flower. The eggshells are for snail control. The small plant closest to the flower, with the touch of blue, might actually be borage. It's hard to tell.

Seedlings Easily Confused with Borage

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage

All of the plants pictured above have leaves of similar shape. They all grow as rosettes,  with leaves coming from the center. Clary sage and mullein are so similar in looks that the person who sold me my first mullein had it labeled a clary sage, and later discovered her mistake. After the plant bloomed, it didn't look anything like a clary sage, so I went back to her and she was relieved to know who had gotten the mullein. She then gave me the genuine clary sage you see above.

Meanwhile, I had enjoyed the mullein so much I bought another when Fat Cat Farm was going out of business. That's the mullein you see above. The borage on the left is growing near some catmint (extreme left). There's no doubt about what it is since it's in full bloom now. In fact, in this heat it's beginning to fade and reseed. The photo below was taken during the first week of April.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Borage in Bloom near Calendula, Catmint, and Hyssop  © B. Radisavljevic

Above, the borage is in the middle with light blue flowers. The yellow calendula is nearest the lawn. In between is a pot of catmint that has escaped into the flower bed. It has the very faint blue flowers you see. The purple flowers at the back are hyssop just beginning to bloom. I love its deep color. It's in full bloom today and I'll be sharing that photo in a future post.

So How Did a Clary Sage Plant Emerge Where it Did?

I suppose seeds could have drifted over from the main flower bed. In that case, this could be  the mother plant, about five yards from the baby clary sage.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Clary Sage in Bloom beside Tricolor Sage and Oregano  © B. Radisavljevic

The clary sage is the only blooming plant in the photo above. Its leaves are curling during the hot part of the day. I'm sure this is the mother of my baby sages. Even if the seeds were not carried to the new location from here, they may have been planted in 2013. I just remembered that when I was transferring the clary sage to a pot, I had the pot very close to where those new plants are.

The Mystery of the Baby Clary Sage
Young Potted Clary Sage in February  © B. Radisavljevic

At the time I wasn't sure where I would put the potted clary sage. The pot is sitting only five feet from where my new baby plants are. By the time I moved the pot to its current location in the middle of June, it was in full bloom. It's quite possible some seeds were ready to fall and dropped as I was moving the plant. It is also possible that the seeds lay dormant until we got enough rain to germinate them. This would seem to fit the time frame for the plants being in bloom now.

To me it's a bit of a miracle that these should germinate and bloom. According to the Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, sage seeds store poorly, yet these just dropped into the ground and stayed until conditions were right for germination. Once they germinate, it takes them two years to actually mature enough to bloom. If they germinated in the rains of 2014, they are right on schedule. I believe the mystery of the baby clary sage has been solved.

What do you think? If you enjoyed solving this mystery with me, please share it with your friends. You will find sharing buttons just below, above the comment box where you can tell me what you think. How do you think the the baby clary sage plants got here?