Monday, April 30, 2012

Duvet days and joyful riots!

Last week we had a couple of dull days and the promise of rain. The ideal time for me to transplant my hardened off tomatoes and peppers into their new bed. I like to transplant before a rain-shower, when possible, to give my babies a chance to get really soaked in.

The day was so dull that even the poppies where having a duvet day and not even bothering to unfurl.
I had approached my bed building in a very lazy manner - I simply threw horse manure over the mulch that was there. I maybe should have dug it through the soil beneath, because I had forgotten how deep I plant the tomatoes. I hope they will be able to root in the deeper more solid packed soil. The top 4-6 inches is still loose enough and should be fine.... I hope!
I'm experimenting with straw bale gardening, basically because I had a bale of straw left over from the crib at Christmas. It is essential to use straw as hay has seeds in it, and straw is cheaper anyway. Also you have to leave the straw to weather. Mine has been sitting outside since December, so it is starting to compost in the middle. I will add some fish emulsion too to "lace" it with nitrogen.

I had planned to made a little trough in the top of the bale and fill it with soil and then plant some seedlings but it was really hard cutting through the straw. I even resorted to using a saw, but it was still slow work.
Eventually I made a 4' hole - big enough for a tomato seedling. The straw that came from a hole expanded to nearly fill a bucket!
I planted two tomato seedlings in the bale -one at each end. I may even add a winter squash, something that vines, later.

As soon as I'd finished it rained for the rest of the evening.

In the days that followed the sun came back out and the garden celebrated with a joyous riot of blossom. The poppies opened up and I caught this bumble bee practically rolling in the anthers!

 The monkeyflower bush amped up it's profusion of blossom to near gaudy extremes.
 The Chinese houses are blooming lovely!
I'm particularly proud of the foxgloves that I grew from dust-like seeds. They were the first seeds I'd sown that needed sunlight for germination.
I have a particular fondness for bell shaped flowers, and foxgloves are a reminder of home. I have them planted in the shady, part of my garden that receives regular water, right along the front of the house to give it that cottage garden look.
Everywhere I look, the garden is bursting out in blossom. In the foreground are irises and the color is repeated in the sweet-pea patch against the back fence.
Some of the irises have come up pink and purple. I love this combination.
And in a forgotten corner a broken pot, left for dead, has sprung back to life. It seems there is no such thing as an annual when the weather is a lovely as it is here!
Just when I thought that my garden was at it's most beautiful in April, May is promising big things!

Byddi Lee

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Advertising California Native Plant Week

My garden has been celebrating California Native Plant Week by not just blooming profusely,  but  by producing blooms on plants that I have on several occasions given up on.

This was labels as a Western Columbine when I bought it at a native plant nursery. It was hard to spot much of last summer, with just a hint of life in its slowly growing leaves. When it blossomed I was surprised that it was all white. I'm hoping it . This year it is definitely at the top of my favorite blossoms list, with its deep nectar reservoirs for feeding hummingbirds protruding out behind the flower, adding to its intricate and complex shape. It may not be the native plant I was hoping for but it looks too pretty to remove. Any thoughts?

This is a shot of the entire plant. Its foliage is quite nondescript and this one is about 12 inches high.
The bush monkey flower, Mimulus aurantiacus, has begun to blossom. Last year this kept flowering almost until the end of August. This enhance any garden all summer long.
The blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum, grows in a swath around the little brick wall that retains the slope of the garden. These cheerful blooms are great for borders.
In one line of sight you can see 5 different colors of blossoms, from the blur of blue eyed grass in the foreground, past the creamy yellow of the bush monkey flower and the pink checker bloom. Of course the poppy's vibrant orange steals the show, but just behind it is the demure white of the Western(?) Columbine.
Here's a closer look at the checker bloom, Sidalcea malvaeflora.
Tucked in against the wall of railway sidings the blue flax, Linum lewisii, has blossomed for the first time ever too. I started these from seed and am so pleased to see them blossoming in a "proud parent" kind of way!
The bush anemone, Carpenteria californica, was once described some where as a plant to "brighten up a dark corner" and it certainly lived up to that reputation.
I wanted my native garden to showcase native plants that could produce as pretty a garden as non-native blooms are know for. I think that as these plats have certainly accomplished this. I hope that folks who are nervous about moving away from "conventional" plants in their yards will see that native gardens don't have to be about wild-looking, meadow-like landscapes.

Every native garden is an advertisement for planting with natives, and with that in mind, think about keeping your native garden so that your neighbors and all who pass by it will admire it and be inspired to venture into the realm of going native.

To view other native gardens you can go on the Going Native Garden Tour this weekend. You need to register first but it's simple and free. Just go to their web page.

There is a CNPS Native Plant Sale at Hidden Villa today too.

Byddi Lee