Thursday, August 28, 2014

High Hopes

My August garden is hanging in there in spite of the drought. We are allowed two days per week of outdoor water irrigation and only during evening hours. With temps in the 90's and triple digits, there are very few flowers blooming.

I have been keeping an eye on the Tree Dahlia (Dahlia imperialis) that I bought in a four inch pot at a Central Coast nursery last November. It was one of those unusual and elusive plants that I had read about but had never before seen in nurseries. Even though we are in a severe drought, I decided to buy it, because who knows when I would ever see one for sale again.

Tree Dahlia/Dahlia imperialis 'Double White'
I've read that they may grow from 10 to 30 feet in height. My little plant has reached 3 feet so far. It doesn't look like much now, but I have high hopes that it will bloom at its normal November bloom time. Hopefully it will produce its large 4"-6" double white flowers before our first frost which usually occurs in late November or early December. (You can see the double white flowering Tree Dahlia at the Annies Annuals website.)

These unusual plants are native to Mexico and Central America, but according to the plant tag, it grows in USDA Zones 8a-11. I am in zone 9b so I think there is a chance that it will make it if it survives the drought. It survived the rare "Cold Snap" we had in December when temps dropped to 27º, although I thought for a while that I might have lost it. (I wrote about it here in Dec.) I read that they are frost tender but survive to 25º. This winter I will give it a good application of mulch and cover it if frost is predicted.

cane of Tree Dahlia

It is an interesting and novel plant. Apparently the Aztecs used the long hollow canes (20 feet in length) to carry water, and they used the tubers as a food source. It's also the National Flower of Mexico.

It's fun to grow a plant that no one else in the neighborhood has, and hopefully I will have some flower pictures to post in November!

Monday, August 4, 2014

In A Vase On Monday: A Rose Is A Rose

I've been saving the recyclable glass milk bottles from Rosa Brothers, a local Valley dairy farm, because I thought they would make novel vases for an informal party.  I picture the bottles holding small bouquets of roses since the bottles already are labeled with the botanical name for roses, 'Rosa'!

Lately I've noticed some beautiful floral arrangements that various bloggers have created from the flowers growing in their gardens and then linking back to Cathy at  Rambling in the Garden in order to share their arrangements for all to enjoy.

Cathy invites bloggers to fill a vase every Monday with what ever is blooming in their gardens. And a vase can be any container.

I thought it would be fun to join in today. However my flowers, especially the roses, have gone on vacation during these hot dry summer days.

However, I did find a few roses still in bloom, along with a few flowers that are roses in name only, to fill my rosa vase.

Portulaca, which also goes by the old fashioned name 'Moss Rose' is growing happily in the sun and heat. However the pretty little flowers were not quite so happy in my floral arrangement. I think they like the outside best.

Portulaca 'Moss Rose'
I added a few of the always reliable geranium 'Rozanne' flowers for some additional color. Although 'Rose Campion' (Lychnis coronaria) was not flowering, it's fuzzy silver gray leaves added a soft touch.

I remembered that 'Rose of Sharon' (Hybiscus syriacus) grows on the south facing fence where it's not always noticed. Although it had several buds, there were no flowers. But I did include some of the nice green foliage.

Geranium 'Rozanne'

I enjoyed the challenge of filling my vase with flowers in the heat of August days. It was a fun little activity, and in addition I have some colorful flowers to brighten my Monday!

Portulaca 'Moss Rose', Rose 'Heritage', milk bottle vase
foliage from 'Rose Campion' (Lychnis coronaria), Geranium 'Rozanne', flowers of 'Rose Campion'

Monday, July 28, 2014

Plum Confused

Our friends, M and H, grow a variety of fruits and vegetables in their large garden and orchard. Last week they shared some of their delicious and unusual fruit with us. The large plums are Elephant Heart Plums, and I had thought the small yellow plums were pluots or plumcots. But I have been informed that they are actually apriums, a hybrid of 70% apricot and 30% plum. Plumcots, first hybridized by Luther Burbank in 1905, are a hybrid of half plum and half apricot, and pluots are 75% plum and 25% apricot. But I may be confused about the percentages.

All I know is that I really like the taste of the aprium. I think it tastes more like an apricot but has the texture of a plum. A very good combination!

By coincidence I had just been reading The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants ©2009 by Jane S. Smith, a book recommended to me by friend and fellow gardener JC.

Apparently the Elephant Heart Plum was one of Luther Burbank's more than 800 plant inventions. The book is a fascinating account of his life from birth in Massachusetts in 1849 until his death in 1926 in Santa Rosa, California.

Although we visited his famous gardens in Santa Rosa 30 years ago this month, I couldn't find any photos from that trip. But here is the website if you would like more information. Luther Burbank Home and Gardens

The author tells the story of this quiet and gentle man whose goal was not to get rich from his inventions (there were no patent laws for plants at that time), but to make the world a better place. It would be a great book to read as you savor some of the fruits of summer.

Elberta peaches, another of Burbank's introductions, are finally ready to eat here in the Valley and have just made their appearance at the local fruit stands. Mr S bought a few the other day and we have been enjoying them freshly sliced. No need for pies or cobblers.

Elberta Peaches

Our son has a Santa Rosa plum (another tree developed by Burbank in 1906) growing in his back yard. He transplanted it thirteen years ago from his grandmother's garden after she passed away. This year he had a large harvest, and after giving away as much fruit as he could, he decided to use the remaining fruit for jelly or jam.

Santa Rosa Plums
It was his first attempt, but now he has many jars of tasty jelly to show for his efforts. I think the few remaining plums will be left for the squirrels!

We have been the grateful recipients of several jars of the delicious Santa Rosa plum jelly.

We have Luther Burbank to thank not only for new varieties of fruits and vegetables but also new grains, nuts, and flowers. Here is a quote that I think all gardeners can appreciate:

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul." Luther Burbank

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: Another Dry July

Standard Rose  'Double Delight'
In my zone 9b garden in California's Central Valley it's hot and it's dry. It's July! And high temperatures are normal here in the Valley. However, the lack of rainfall for the past few years has made gardening particulalrly challenging as gardeners all over the state attempt to conserve water. This year I didn't plant many annuals. Instead I have been relying on perennials and other shrubs for some summer color.

Most of the roses bloomed earlier in the spring, although they still produce a few sporadic blooms from time to time.

Standard Rose 'Double Delight'
Nerium Oleander

The 'Heritage' rose has faded to almost white. 
Clematis 'Rooguchi'
The little seed heads add a decorative touch.  

Rose of Sharon from Arbor Day Foundation
Hibiscus syriacus 'Rose-of-Sharon'
Cape Mallow, Anisodontea 'Slightly Strawberry', is drought tolerant and the bees and butterflies love it:

Cape Mallow

New Guinea Impatiens:

The crocosmias ('Lucifer'?) looked terrible this year. They really need to be divided!


Amaryllis Belladonna 
Amaryllis Belladonna 'Belladonna Lily' / 'Naked Lady'
Dwarf Agapanthus 'Peter Pan'
A few Violas are still blooming in spite of the heat.

Buddleia Dwarf Butterfly Bush 'Buzz Purple'
Alcea  Hollyhock
Geranium 'Rozanne' and begonias
Crape Myrtle  Lagerstroemia

Hosta Flower 
The snails have shown the hostas no mercy this year. Usually they don't start attacking them until August. I'm blaming it on the drought!

Nicotiana sylvestris 'Woodland Tobacco'/going to seed

Below are some of the last of the larkspur flowers. Normally I would have already sent them to the compost pile, but I wanted to save the seeds to plant in another bed for next year's flowers. And since  the Farmer's Almanac lists Larkspur as the July flower of the month, I will let it linger on for a while longer.
I'm visiting Carol's blog today,  May Dreams Gardens, for a look at what's blooming in gardens from all over the world. Click on the link to see some pretty flowers on this July Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Happy gardening and happy Bloom Day!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

My Summer Vacation

We recently spent eleven days enjoying the pleasant weather and beautiful sights on California's Central Coast. Here's how I spent my time by the sea:

Beach Walks and Rock Collecting

I spent some time walking along Moonstone Beach collecting the colorful jade, 'moonstones,' and other pebbles that are found there.  Even though they are not precious gem stones, there is something very soothing about sifting through the pretty pebbles polished by the ocean waves.

Beach Reading

 I had been looking forward to reading Ruth Kassinger's A Garden of Marvels: How We Discovered that Flowers have Sex, Leaves Eat Air, and Other Secrets of Plants©2014, so I brought it along as my summer "beach read." 

The author reveals many fascinating facts about plants that are not always taught in school. But the book is written with so many humorous and amusing anecdotes that it doesn't seem like a science book. The author's intention was to learn as much about botany as she could in order to become a better gardener.

I especially enjoyed reading about her quest to find a 'fruit cocktail tree,' a tree grafted with five different types of citrus. Her observations will make you laugh out loud. It really is a fun and entertaining book. I highly recommend it!

A Purple Tree

On another day we traveled a few miles south to the city of San Luis Obispo for a movie and dinner.  I always like to visit SLO (as it is known locally) in June when the jacaranda trees are in bloom.  The purple flowers are spectacular. The one below is planted in the sidewalk by the post office. It is a marvel that it grows in such a small planting hole! But apparently the city gardeners know what they are doing, because the trees seem to thrive and produce beautiful flowers every year.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

How does the tree grow in that small space?

And the bougainvilleas were marvelous, too. This one was covering a chain link fence.


A Movie

I regretted that we didn't have time to shop at SLO's wonderful downtown Farmers' Market, but we did have time for dinner and the movie, Chef,  which featured some gorgeous shots of farmers' markets and  delicious looking food. The movie is about a chef who loses his job as a chef in a famous restaurant and starts over with a food truck.  Even though there was some coarse language (which seems typical of movies these days), I thought it was a funny, lighthearted, warmhearted  movie. Well worth viewing.

A Visit to the Gardens at Hearst Castle

It had been several years since we visited Hearst Castle, the mansion and ranch of William Randolph Hearst, the late newspaper publisher.  It's located on the Central Coast and is a  State Historical Park and one of the most visited tourist attractions in California. (click here for more information). I was curious about how the gardens were holding up during the severe drought conditions that all of California is experiencing.

So we spent an afternoon touring the grounds. I knew that the famous Neptune pool and fountains had been drained earlier in the year. But other water conservation measures were also being used.  Flower beds were heavily mulched, and there was a noticable lack of annuals.

The roses and azaleas were mostly finished blooming. Hydrangeas were still in bloom although they were looking a little stressed. But the coastal live oaks were still magnificent and offered welcome shade. Those oaks are the stars of the garden in my opinion!

empty Neptune Pool   June 2014
filled Neptune Pool April 2009

Coastal Live Oak Quercus agrifolia

Hydrangeas looked a little stressed.


a guest cottage

citrus tree
rose beds were heavily mulched

distant ocean view

The gardens were designed in the Mediterranean style, so most of the plants are accustomed to the dry conditions of Central Coast summers. But this time of drought is especially challenging. Hopefully the toll will not be too great on these historic gardens!