All the photos in this blog were taken by me. The information is taken from friends, books, magazines, conversations at nurseries, the internet and a few of my own amateur-gardener thoughts. Please feel free to share your own knowledge and experiences in the comment section that follows each posting.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Garden Visuals

I love visual surprises. They ignite your curiosity and create a desire for more. A garden is full of surprises that seduce all the senses, which is probably one of the reasons I like them so much. But it isn't the plants that I am talking about right now. For example, I placed this metal lizard on the edge of a vegetable box. Many people have walked through the trellis, seen the lizard and reacted with slight alarm. Its obviously not real given its size and the texture of the metal, but its just enough of a surprise that it makes the person more alert. Now I've got you. You're paying attention to my garden.
I bought this stone mask in Belize a million years ago. Its faded from the weather and the top of the head broke off. I tucked it under the foliage of this day lily as if the leaves are long hair coming out the top. Its very hidden and few people have ever seen it, but it makes me smile when a new hairstyle emerges. A fun garden visual. 

I also love putting subtle things in pots. Just a little something to make someone look twice. Kathy gave me this beautiful silver garden spoon that personalizes my garden. I was very touched by her generosity and quickly put it in one of my favorite pots!  

Guaranteed Deer Repellent
For every One Gallon of Water add:
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1t vegetable oil
1t detergent 
Whisk together and put in a watering can or spray bottle
Spray every 4-5 days
I haven't tried this yet because I don't have a deer problem but  one of my Garden Gurus, Melinda gave it to me. Give it a try if you've got the need! 

I'm going to an informational meeting regarding applying to the Santa Clara County Master Gardeners Program!  This may be just the thing for me to pursue as one of my babes moves onto college. They only admit 50 people and I've heard there are several applicants. If I don't get in, I just won't talk about it anymore... wink,wink. 

GARDEN FAILURE: Perhaps this isn't the best thing to write following my possible desire to become a Master Gardener, but I imagine the Masters would appreciate honesty. Okay, here it is:  One of my tomato plants turned an unpleasant brown color. It was large and healthy otherwise, which makes me think it was not due to water. It must have been something systemic. Its the one I bought at Love Apple Farm. Of all the plants! I had to pull the whole thing out because I couldn't stand looking at it amongst all the beautiful, healthy, sea of green.   Yikes... They better let me into this program. I need help! 

We just got back from a week at Pinecrest Lake.  Natural gardens are truly amazing because they are taken care of by Mother Nature. Her sun and her water. We take 5 mile walks around the lake during the week. This was a beautiful surprise. One of those bonus visuals I've been talking about. Someone carved a chair into this old tree stump. It was irresistible.
This is the Pinecrest Crew. We've been going there for 11 years with this same group. They are irresistible too. 

I went on a Magical Mystery Day. It was a day that two wonderful women created for an auction item to benefit The Los Gatos New Millennium Foundation. I have some beautiful pictures from that day that I plan to share on my next blog. Until then, I will leave you with a "Garden Blessing" that was posted outside the Le Potager (vegetable garden) at Maison du Lac in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 
Le Maison du Lac gate
Le Maison du Lac
Pinecrest Lake

"May your garden be a place where you can find peace. Where time stands still. Let it refresh your senses, opening you to the hum of insects, the songs of birds, the splash of water, and the sound of wind through the trees." 

And that's why I find gardens irresistible.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Flower of July

Flower mania! Taken at The Bouquets to Art, de Young Museum, San Francisco

In the book, Gardening Month by Month in Northern California, Bob Tanem and Don Williamson claim that "July is the month to relax and enjoy all of your gardening efforts". I think that's true, for the most part. Everything is planted, growing and even beginning to fruit or flower. Perhaps the one thing that may not be too relaxing is all the watering. Most gardens in my area need a little extra water during these hot summer days. Especially pots, which tend to dry out more quickly due to their size. I am watering differently this summer, as I have mentioned a few times and I am beginning to see the benefit. The water in my tomato bed is turned off completely and therefore the plants rely on my once a week, very deep watering. I try to do it in the morning to avoid any mildewing.  I've noticed that the base stem is more sturdy than years past and even the growth that towers over the cages seem to be strong and upright. I will continue to track this as the fruit flourishes and let you know how my study is progressing. The rest of the plants are on a drip every other day and seem to be doing fine with a deep watering (not as much water as the tomatoes)  a couple times a week.

It's also a good idea to make sure you have a nice layer of mulch around the plants. You may notice your mulch is thinning in areas and will benefit from some replenishing. This will help keep the soil cool and moist as well as keep the weeds to a minimum. Lastly, its time for deadheading in order to keep your plants blooming. For example, my roses were amazing mid to late June and started to look parched and spent by early July. I pruned them back heavily almost taking every flower off. Beautiful Roses Made Easy, by Teri Dunn and Ciscoe Morris provides these five "compelling reasons to deadhead your roses as often as you can:
  • It looks better. Plus you can make beautiful flower arrangements for inside or to take to friends.
  • It conserves energy. Removing the rose before rose hips (its seed pod) form averts the tiring process of seed formation.
  • It encourages re-flowering. The plant can now focus on flower production and thus, a longer blooming period.
  • There will be a better show next year. The plant will have energy to generate new buds on stems, and new flowers for next season.

My roses line the edge of the back patio. They weren't planted in the best sun-spot, so they have to be tended to extra specially!  And given a little forgiveness for some of their behaviors. 
What amazes me about a rose is how it starts with this tight small bud and keep opening and opening.

I am also getting ready to fertilize again. Some say to feed a rose every six weeks. I can't maintain that schedule, but I can fertilize once in the Spring and I'll do it again shortly. Elaine, one of my Garden Gurus gave me this rose fertilizing recipe from the Mercury News. I've watched my roses get healthier each year.

Rose Fertilizer Recipe - from Livermore rosarian Dave Lowell. 
Dave says to use this recipe on established roses only; roses must have been planted at least six months.
1/2 cup 12-12-12 fertilizer
1/2 cup bone meal
1/2 cup sulfur (Ironite, soil sulfur or iron sulfur)
2 T Epsom Salts
1 shovelful chicken manure
Sprinkle the fertilizer, bone meal, sulfur and Epsom salts around eac plant, mixing into soil if possible. Top with chicken manure, then water in. 

Rose Gardening Tip: 
A node is: "The joint in a stem where a bud, branch or leaf starts to grow. The area of the stem between the nodes is the internode.  Some books call it a Bud Eye. At the beginning of the season, a bud eye is brown or reddish. Check it out. Its pretty easy to see, once you know what you're looking for. The trick is to cut about 1/4 inch from the bud eye or node. Do not cut right across the bud eye as it may not grow too well. Its always best to cut on a slant (water will run off a slant and not allow disease to enter the stem).

Its July... sit back and enjoy. And make sure to harvest your vegetables and your flowers. When I have time, I go around my yard with a basket and cut all sorts of things... not just flowers but also branches with interesting leaves. Then, I come inside, line up some clean vases and create. I don't claim to be anywhere near the florist as the people at Bouquets to Art, but its awesome to combine a bunch of things and see what you get. Much better than buying an arrangement!
 This is what I call Hydrangea Row.  Its spectacular right now. I fertilized them generously and have been giving them a lot of extra water on hot days. 

Fruits Of My Labor... I mean, Flowers of My Labor