Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Blooms after the Frosts in December around Paso Robles?

Poinsettia in Mid December at Fat Cat Farm
Spring and summer are bursting with colorful flowers and blooming trees. In autumn, the deciduous trees dress in shades of yellow, rust, red, and  gold. It is a season of splendor and sadness, as it precedes the stark bleakness of winter.  After the first frosts in December, as I walked through my usual haunts in Paso Robles and looked at my own garden in Templeton, there was little color to be seen, so I went looking for it. I wanted to see just what does bloom here in the second half of December.

My first stop was Fat Cat Farm, about a mile east of me on Highway 46 West. I was sure if anything was blooming anywhere, I'd find it there in the herb garden. I found the last poinsettia (in top picture) on display, and remembered the one in my childhood home that was quite tall, growing in a bed beside our driveway.  I also found the plants below, most of which were in the pansy / violet family. Of the herbs, only the rosemary was blooming. Here are the pictures I got at Fat Cat Farm. I am very sad that Fat Cat Farms has had to close. I will miss it.

Rosemary after First Frosts

Pansies always add a happy face to the garden and provide winter color. 

Violas also add cheer -- especially these yellow ones. 

Pale Violets at Fat Cat Farm

After leaving Fat Cat Farm, I went home in search of color and was rewarded by my faithful calendula plants. They add brightness to my garden all year, but in winter they and the rosemary are the only things beside the white flowers of the coyote brush and the red berries of the cotoneaster that provide any color other than green.

Calendula adds color all year. 

I let the fallen leaves protect my gazanias in winter.

Coyote Brush in Bloom

Cotoneaster Berries 

On December 19, I was convinced there must be something else in bloom as winter was about to descend upon us, so I visited the garden at Veris Cellers on Bethel Road, not far off Highway 46 West. I was not disappointed. Although the frost had killed most flowers, some winter flowers were still blooming -- even if some on the same plant were brown. I don't know the names for all these. the leaves on some look familiar but I can't place them. If you know them, please let me know in the comments.

Mums with Sweet Alsyssum at Veris Cellars

White Roses at Veris Cellars

Pink and White Roses at Veris Cellars

Mystery Plant One at Veris Cellars
Mystery Plant Two at Veris Cellars -- Could it be a mum?

White Snap Dragon at Veris Cellars

After leaving Veris Cellars, I was convinced that I might find still some other source of color at the city park in Paso Robles. Here's what I found there. There were some wimpy red roses, but they were gradually changing into these lovely red rose hips. So, even though they don't count as flowers anymore, they do count as color. I also found these red trumpet shaped flowers, but I don't know what they are.  

Red Rose Hips at City Park in Paso Robles

Mystery Plant Three at City Park in Paso Robles

If you have some flowers blooming here in North San Luis Obispo County that I haven't mentioned here, please feel free to tell us in the comments what they are, since I'm hoping this can be a resource for people planning gardens with some color all year. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Finally, an Early Evening in the Herb Garden

I finally attacked the weeds that have been overwhelming my herb garden. This pile shows what I accomplished. The picture below shows the bare ground the weeds were occupying. 

The bare ground shows where the weeds used to cover.

What's left is mostly leggy or almost dead calendula -- the yellow flowers. The blue one is the lily of the Nile I planted about two years ago, blooming here for the first time after I transplanted it. I also noticed as I weeded the distinct smell of mint, and discovered some had escaped the pot it was planted in and spread. I didn't care. If I'm going to have weeds, I prefer good ones. The yellow wave in the back of this next picture are the weeds I couldn't get to this evening.

Herb Garden

In the picture above, are some of the surprises I discovered. One was the tall plant left of the blue Lily of the Nile. I have no idea what it is. I planted it a couple of years ago, and I'd thought it was dead. When I first saw it tonight, I thought a tree had mysteriously appeared, perhaps planted by a bird. A closer look revealed it was in a gopher cage, so I must have planted it. I can hardly wait to see if it blooms. ( As I later discovered, it was a variety of yarrow I had not grown before.)

Right behind the blue lily is the clump of mint that's still growing in its small pot. To the right of the lily, in front, are two unlikely companions -- a purple bull thistle and a pot of lambs ears. The bull thistle is definitely a weed, but somehow it seems to fit and I didn't have the heart to yank it out. I think its flowers are lovely -- even if prickly.

To the right outside the picture I have another lambs ear plant in the ground. When I was weeding part of that side last week, I noticed it had numerous progeny -- even quite far from it. I didn't mind that, either, since I prefer it to the weeds that would displace it were it not there. I wish the little ones much success in their growth.

The oregano, marjoram, and thyme are lower plants and they are behind the taller ones that have grown up in front of them. I was delighted to see they have survived my neglect. One thing I've learned over the years is how much neglect members of the mint family can take and still thrive. 

Butterfly Bush
The butterfly bush I planted about three years ago has really taken off. It is surrounded on either side by different varieties of sage. It all needs pruning, but only after it has finished blooming. This morning I saw a hummingbird visiting the purple flowers, so I guess it's not just for butterflies. I planted a white version of it on the left side, but it doesn't seem to be growing much or blooming. I suspect it's hidden in the sage and / or the rosemary that has really spread.

As I was pulling weeds tonight, it was very difficult to avoid accidentally pulling up some of the calendula with them. Their roots often intermingled. Also, right near the inside edge of the gopher cage where the tall mystery plant is, was a large mustard growing part inside and part outside the cage. It was also very difficult to extract and separate. I had to cut it down on both sides with pruners so I could isolate the root. It reminded me of the sins that so easily become rooted in our lives and even intermingle with the good things so that they are hard to separate. It often takes drastic measures for the Master Gardener to remove them from us. The picture at left I took of the intermingled roots of weed and flower. The skinny weed stem is at the top of the heap. The broad green leaves are from the calendula plant. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Apple Tree's Will to Live

I wanted you to see that the delicious apple tree we've been following since it split in half is still alive. I was unable to photograph it while it was in blossom, but I did want you to see that it is leafing out again. This is how it looked on May 13, 2011.

I'm not sure if we should go ahead and let it try to bear fruit this year or not, since it probably should put it's energy into repairing itself.

We now have two other apple trees to care for, a young Fuji and an older prolific tree that looks rather like a McIntosh, but we didn't plant it, so we aren't sure what variety it is. I think it's time to get this book that's just about apples -- The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist . The reviews indicate it's just the book we need at this point in time. I want the Fuji, which does have some tiny apples on it, to get what it needs to bear delicious fruit, and the older tree badly needs some attention, as well.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Neglected Fruit Trees Can Still Produce Tasty Fruit

When we moved onto this property, the former owner had planted an orchard. Unfortunately, we were traveling so much those first few years we had neglected it. Also, I was not a great fan of quince, so I never did much with the quince tree, even though it faithfully produced a great crop every year. I didn't know what to do with all those lovely quince, either, every winter, except cook them with apples, raisins and cinnamon for a fruit compote, which was tasty. The video shows how this tree appeared last May.

The former owner also planted a plum tree that produces delicious green plums every year. Only in the past few years did I realize it was there, so it was also neglected. This is how it looked last spring.

These blossoms matured into fruit in the summer, and then in the fall and winter the leaves died, but they didn't fall off. That is amazing, since you can see how twisted the base of the tree is, and how many suckers are growing on it. It seems every time we are about to cut them off it rains. So they didn't get cut off. That's on my "to do" list for the weekend -- if it doesn't rain again. This is how the tree appear last week. In the first picture, taken from a distance, the tree appears almost dead, with all those brown leaves hanging from the limbs. 

Now take a closer look. There are some new blossoms that show life is, indeed still present.

A very close look shows the blossoms that still haven't opened, as well as the ones that have. It looks like this tree will thrive this year if the rain doesn't come during pollination. Soon the bees will be all over this tree, as they have in years past. 

It is God's nature to want every living thing he created to thrive and bear fruit, even when we haven't done all we can to help it along. These trees were watered once or twice during the entire dry summer and never got any nutritional supplements. They weren't sprayed or pruned. Yet they bore fruit. Their roots went deep into the soil for water and nutrients that God gave them. Maybe if I make a real effort to care for these trees this year, they will not just survive, but thrive. 

Some neglected children can be like these trees. I remember when we met my son, who was four at the time. He had been neglected by his mother and his father was in jail. Finally his mother took him, along with his older sister, to the county and abandoned them there. In spite of a distinct lack of attention, his natural and God-given compassion, curiosity, and survival instincts helped him to survive and thrive until he came into our home through foster care, and stayed there through adoption. We did not neglect him. You can read his story here.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

This Badly Damaged Apple Tree Still Wants to Bear Fruit

God seems to have built into every living thing the urgent need to be fruitful. Gardeners are reminded of this every spring after the rains when the weeds begin to sprout everywhere. But it's also true of the larger plants, such as the apple tree you see here.  This is a huge tree, spreading as far on the side you can't see as on this side. Since we moved to Templeton in 1993 it has borne truly delicious apples. Unfortunately, we did not have the time nor knowledge to properly prune this tree those first years and last year it caught up with us. Here's what the tree looked like in May, 2010, while it was recovering from a severe blow to its growth which is explained in this short video.

Of all trees on our property in Templeton, this red delicious apple tree was our pride and joy.  We counted on its bountiful crop each year. We were sure 2010 would bring us more apples than we'd know what to do with. And then the tree split from the weight between the two main branches. I cannot locate the pictures I know I took when the tree first split and we took measures to tree to save it.

Our friend Tim and my husband tried to tie the tree together and prop up the branches with all manner of improvised supports, since the tree was loaded with fruit we were hoping to save. We thought it might still ripen. But it didn't. Tim was here again yesterday. This is how the tree looked when he arrived. You can see some of the props still there, made from whatever we had at hand.

Kosta (my husband) and Tim decided drastic action was necessary and that there still might be a chance to save the tree. As you can see in this close-up of the limb ends (above), this tree is still alive in spite of all its been through. Were we to leave it alone, it would still try to burst into bloom and bear fruit. That's the nature God built into it.  Kosta and Tim decided, though, that the tree needed to save its energy to repair itself if possible, instead of trying to blossom and bear fruit. This is how the tree looked by the time Tim went home. Sad, isn't it?

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, as Job learned long ago. With Job I echo, "Blessed be the name of the Lord." Perhaps he will yet resurrect this tree and make it fruitful again. It wants to live. that is obvious from its buds. I have given up my expectations, and will be pleasantly surprised if I ever see another of its apples. Meanwhile, I still have the hat I made last year when the tree was in full blossom. If you like, it, you can get one, too, by clicking on the link below.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Change in Focus

As you can probably tell, the squirrel attack left me pretty discouraged. I have no plans for a real garden on the Templeton property this year except for a few herbs and flowers which are already there. I don't have time to feed the squirrels anything that doesn't grow on a tree, and I have a lot of web projects that are mandatory this year. I may grow a tomato or two in Paso Robles if I can prepare the soil, but I simply haven't the time and energy to put in a big garden. Farmers Market, here I come

That does not mean, though, that I won't be observing and appreciating the gardens of others or trying to have producing fruit and nut trees. I have learned much about the power and creativity of God through gardening, and now I will look for his creativity on the land that surrounds my land, the trees and vineyards my neighbors grow, and anywhere else I'm in  a position to observe nature. I will be sharing my reflections on God's power and creativity as seen in nature and life as the new focus of the blog and will be changing it's name to more clearly define that focus. The calendula flower in the picture above is the only thing blooming on my slope. It was able to survive the squirrels and gophers, as well as the cold temperatures this January. It brings glory to its Creator. I did not plant the seed. He did, from the parent plants that bloomed last year.
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