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Bloom Day, Early for the Show

Happy Bloom Day. This is an unusual bloom day for me because I have mixed feelings about seeing my plants in bloom. I haven’t mentioned it on this blog before, but I’m doing a display garden in the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show next month and a lot of the plants in bloom are things I want to still have in bloom four weeks from now for the show. A few are long-bloomers that I expect to keep going, but a couple are in danger of finishing too early. The biggest question is probably my two native annuals, Meadowfoam and Tidy Tips. Both of them began blooming a month ago, so I have been pinching off all of the flowers as soon as they appear. So far it seems to be working, but two months is a long time to suppress their bloom.

These are a couple of meadowfoam plants that I have given up on and am letting bloom unchecked. I have other meadowfoam plants that aren’t as far along, and the slowest ones are probably going to be the best at show time. My biggest concern is to make sure they also keep producing foliage as well as flowers.

The Tidy Tips is actually looking a lot better because of all the pinching. I decided to let this leggy specimen bloom, but most of the others are nice bushy little plants that will bloom as soon as I let them. I think the flowers will be smaller from all of the pinching, but there should be a lot of them. I keep telling them to wait; hopefully they won’t give up on me.

Other plants in the garden are doing well. Sidalcea is blooming nicely; I think it will keep going until show time. I deadheaded a Solanum today, the first time I’ve ever bothered to deadhead one of them; it should be prime in another month. Asarum caudatum is blooming, but with all respect to them, there is no way their brownish flowers will show up under the strange garden show lighting, so it doesn’t matter if they bloom or not. Mahonia repens will probably finish too early, but they’re left over from a project rather than something I intended for the show. Non-natives like the Hellebore and the Daffodils aren’t earmarked for the show, so I have no mixed feelings about seeing them in bloom. I’m not deliberately trying to exclude non-natives from the display garden, but I do want to make sure that the natives are well represented and that’s mostly what I’m growing for the show. Back in the fall when I agreed to do the show, I looked back at several years of March bloom day posts from here and from other California bloggers like Town Mouse and Country Mouse. Natives always look really good in March; even when they aren’t blooming yet, their foliage is usually at its best. This has been such a strange year, though, that I’m not confident that I know what will be happening a month from now. It feels a little ridiculous to worry about plants finishing before mid-March, but it’s better than the usual problem of speeding them up to get them ready for the show. Strange year.

I’m not sure what I have to say about doing the garden show itself. Anita and I did it once before, in 2008, though at the time we had never actually been to the show and really didn’t know what we were getting ourselves in for. We got plenty of work afterwards, so in that respect it was a success, but we finished with the feeling that we could have been smarter about it if we’d had a better idea what to expect. It’s such a strange artificial creation, and we could have done it more smoothly and efficiently if we had understood the differences between show gardens and real ones. We’ll see in another month if I actually manage to be smarter, smoother, and more efficient, but so far I’d say I’m having more fun this time. I’ve also lined up final homes for most of the plants and materials we’re using in the show, so there shouldn’t be much waste involved, though a few things like the annuals will get discarded after the show and some of the bulbs won’t be usable until next year.

The show has new owners this year who want to shift the focus of the show more towards sustainability. Partly as a result of that, we decided to conceive of the garden as a lawn conversion project. Lawn conversions are something we do pretty often, and with the crazy drought this year, a lawn to garden display seems even more appropriate than ever. It’s a little contrived to make a garden that is supposedly built on top of a lawn that never existed, but we’re going to have a sheet-mulch demonstration that should be interesting. People are often confused and intrigued when they see us covering a lawn with newspaper mulch as if we’re doing some sort of crazy landscape paper maché, so it should be fun to talk about.

The garden plan shows the concept we submitted to the jury, though the final design will end up somewhat different. I created the original concept with a partner who decided to drop out due to time constraints. I’m now doing it with a different partner, Sha-Khan Starks of Deep Rootz Design, so some of the elements designed with my initial partner are going to change as Sha-Khan and I move forward and actually build the garden. Essentially, the yoga/meditation deck and the walk-thru reflecting pool were the domain of my first partner, so now that he is out of the picture, we’re changing the big water feature into a smaller stone/water element that is more water-conserving and closer to what we personally tend to do in gardens. There are also a few other stone elements that I’m fabricating on my weekends. I’ll probably post about them fairly soon. I don’t know how interesting the garden show is to people, but it will be dominating a lot of my attention and probably this blog as well for the next month or so. In the meantime, check out May Dreams Gardens for lots of proper bloom day posts full of flowers. I have a list of what’s in bloom in my garden below.

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Bloom Day and Recent Garden Projects

Alyssum, Viola, and Zuchini in the Veggie Garden

Happy Bloom Day. Our garden is in a little bit of a transition phase. There are a number of things blooming, but none of the showier plants. A lot them need deadheading, frankly, but I’ve been working on other types of projects in the garden. So this is a bloom day post, but also a ‘state of the garden’ post.

Alyssum and Zuchini

One project happening is the upgrade of the roof over our front porch. It was made sheets of corrugated metal. The seams between the sheets would leak and the sheets weren’t quite as wide as the porch, so rain would run off and splash everything, making it pretty much a failure as a roof. Also, it blocked light from our living room. Anita convinced our landlord to replaced the corrugated metal with some kind of clear material that would cover the entire porch. There are also plans to collect the stormwater in a basin and use it in the garden somehow. I’m not entirely sure what they are planning, but our living room is much brighter and more pleasant without the porch. Instead of that project, I’ve been involved with a number of smaller tasks throughout the garden.

The Porch Roof

Western Bleeding Heart and Tasmanian Tree Fern

The fronds on the Tasmanian Tree Fern got sunburned without the roof, but it’s already putting out new fronds. The Oxalis oregana started looking ragged too, and it was time to repot them, so I divided them and moved the containers to another part of the garden. The Bleeding Heart seems happy with the extra sunshine.

Vine Maple, Acer circinatum

The Vine Maple is happy, too, though it recently drew the attention of leafcutter bees. I think some of the cut leaves look cool.

Mimulus cardinalis

The Mimulus cardinalis is blooming in the bathtub planting, but somewhat raggedly. We moved the bathtub when we built the garden shed. The tub was set deep in the ground in the last spot, but I didn’t feel like digging another large hole, so instead I’m covering the edges of the tub with scrap pieces of flagstone. I’ll probably tidy it up at some point, but for now I’m fine with just leaning the stone against the tub and letting the plants cover most of it. I recently added a pipe to carry the stormwater from the new garden shed down into the tub planting. Though if we have more winters like this past one, that won’t amount to much stormwater.

Colocasia Black Magic and Mimulus cardinalis

Colocasia ‘Black Magic’ used to be have a stronger presence in the tub, but the Mimulus has taken over in the new location. There is still some stream orchid beneath the Mimulus, but I need to pull that out and plant it somewhere else, which is a shame because they coexisted nicely for several years. The Mimulus is reseeding in all of the pots around the tub, not hard to control, but I don’t have a use for such a water-loving plant.

White Clarkia amoena

Clarkia amoena is the last of the native annuals from the seed mix I scattered last fall. We had masses of Clarkia unguiculata. I had never grown it before and realized as soon as it bloomed that I don’t really like it. I like C. amoena a little better, but they’re both too pink for me; Clarkia bottae is my favorite of the Clarkias.

Pink Clarkia amoena

Agastache

In the planting bed in front of the garden shed/office, the Clarkia was mixed in with Agastache and Calendula, which looked a lot better. I took a couple of photos of that last month, but never did a bloom day post. Now the Clarkia needs to be pulled before it reseeds and the Calendula is ready to be cut back.

Dudleya pulverulenta

Dudleya farinosa

Last fall I posted a photo of this little container I made out of stone scrap, which has very little space for roots. I considered trying to bonsai something in it, but instead I ended up putting a Dudleya farinosa in it. It’s doing well, though the container is getting a little smudgy. We have a lot of Dudleyas these days, enough that I’ve lost track of what some of them are.

Garden Shed/Office Paving Area

Last weekend I made a landing step for the office/garden shed and putting in path fines and stepping stones leading to it. The triangles of stone are from a project almost five years ago. They’ve wandered around the garden, but have probably found their permanent home, though I see that one of the Arizona flagstone pieces needs to be moved an inch or two now that I’ve swept everything off. I also made a low, wide planter beside the step, planted with Agave utahensis, Sedum spathulifolium, and Monardella macrantha. I might show it more clearly when the Sedum has recovered from transplanting; it looks a little ragged from being handled. And I have one more area where I edged the path fines with yet more scrap stone. The stones are laid out but not set in the path fines yet. When they are set, I will have used up almost every stray bit of stone knocking around the garden.

Off Duty

I don’t know if that sounds like a lot of work, but it feels like I’ve crossed a lot of things off my to-do list. Next bloom day post I’ll focus more on flowers. For a bigger bloom day flower fix, check out May Dreams Gardens where Carol has a lot of nice photos of her flowers and there are over a hundred links to bloom day posts by other bloggers. My thanks to Carol for hosting.

May Bloom Day

Allium unifolium

A quick bloom day post. A lot of the plants blooming are the same ones that we’ve had the last few years. I took almost this same photo of Allium unifolium two years ago, the difference is that our new neighbor took off the gray vinyl siding next door, revealing the red wooden siding underneath. The Clarkia is starting up around the alliums. I scattered a wildflower mix, but the clarkia is the only one that seems to have taken. It’s not my favorite of the clarkias, but that’s okay. The Bearded Iris have barely bloomed this year, I’m not sure why. Meadowfoam went to full bloom and finished since the last bloom day.

Wisteria Shower!

The Wisteria shower also came and went since the last bloom day. This was the best year yet for the wisteria, with some of the bloom stalks five feet long and a thick carpet of fallen flowers now that its done.

Western Spicebush

The Spicebush starts blooming around the time the wisteria stops. Lately we have to prune it a couple of times a year to keep it off us in the shower.

Coreopsis

Along with the Spicebush, a few other plants are starting up. The first Bread Poppy opened today, the first Leopard Lily yesterday. The Leopard Lily in the vegetable garden, with lots of compost and regular water, is 6 feet tall and will have over fifty blooms open in a couple of days. It’s one of my favorite flowers all year.

Leopard Liliy, Lilium pardalinum

Check out MayDreamsGardens for lots more bloom day posts. My thanks to Carol for hosting.

Bloom Day List

I didn’t take photos for bloom day, but for the last three Aprils I’ve posted a list of what’s blooming in the garden. It’s a lot of the same things this year and more of interest to me than anyone else, but I wanted to keep going with it. The list is below. (more…)

The Garden at the Start of April

California Fescue, Festuca californica

I haven’t posted about our garden yet this year. It’s still a little early for the showiest bloomers and I have a few projects to complete, but it’s in a nice phase. It doesn’t have a lot of plants at full bloom, but most of the deciduous plants are leafing out, and everything is happy and enjoying the spring, with a lot happening and a lot to appreciate. Before the recent, welcome rainstorm I made a pass from the street to the front door, taking some photos along the way.

Front Steps, Pots, and Galvezia

Matillija Poppy with California Poppy

Our outer yard has a large mound made of construction rubble covered with soil. Our landlord calls it Nasturtium Hill, though we’ve replaced the nasturtiums with native plants and a fig tree. This spring the Matillija Poppy is making a case for changing the name to Matillija Poppy Hill. We don’t ever water the mound, except for a monthly soaking of the fig tree on the lower shoulder of the mound, but the Matillija Poppy has exploded out with growth, engulfing a number of nice native plants and popping out runners a good five feet from the main mass of the plant. The construction rubble has kept the bamboo in our yard from spreading, so I’m impressed and concerned at the Matillija Poppy’s ability to spread. I think I’m going to rescue the other plants out from its clutches and be even more circumspect about this plant in the future. There are worse things than a large mound full of Matillija Poppy.

Annuals Starting to Fill In

The annual wildflowers, mostly Clarkia, have started to fill in, and the bulbs are starting to bloom.

Front Gate

Iris

Lilium pardalinum

We have native lilies in several parts of the garden. The one inside the vegetable garden is now enormous. Carex dipsacea in a container and a mirror are behind it. Pretty happy with the effect the mirror has.

The Veggie Garden

The rest of the veggie garden is looking a little wild with the Miner’s Lettuce, Mache, Arugula, and Love in a Mist that reseeded around the Snap Pea tepee trellis.

Pandorea Vine

We have three different vines on our front porch. The Pandorea blooms first, the Wisteria is just starting to unfurl, and the native Clematis should be last, though it’s still young and hasn’t ever bloomed yet.

Tulipa bakeri

I really like the little pot of species Tulips, T. bakeri, on the steps. I’ve been growing a different species tulip, T. saxitilis, for a few years, and we have a nice patch of them that has already finished for the year. This year I’m trying out a few others, though, I don’t remember which ones and won’t know until the flowers open. So far, T. bakeri is very similar to saxitilis. I like how the blooms have the look of a classic Tulip in the morning before they open up.

Species Tulip, Tulipa bakeri

November in the Garden

Iochroma coccinae

I meant to post for bloom day yesterday but I ended up gardening instead. There aren’t really a lot of interesting blooms happening right now. The California Fuchsia is still going strong, and the Iochroma is in full bloom, plus the Alyssum and Violas are pretty much ever-blooming. Also, there are token blooms from a few other plants: an Agastache, both of our Geraniums, one of the Galvezias, the Feverfew, the Gartenmeister Fuchsia, the Strawberries, and the culinary Rosemary. Nothing I haven’t shown many times before.

California Fuchsia with Black Sage in the Background

I redid a couple of the planting beds, taking out perennials, adding bulbs, scattering seeds, and spreading mulch. It turns out in recent years, instead of buying plants I don’t need, I’ve been buying and collecting seeds I don’t need, so I tried to use as many of them as I could. In the planting bed that is mostly blueberries and native strawberry, I pulled most of the strawberries and replaced them with compost and wildflower seeds, mostly Clarkia varieties, Linanthus, Baby Bue Eyes and Chinese Houses. I also had a packet of Collomia, which I’ve never grown before; I’m curious to see how they do. I left a few of the strawberry plants. If all goes well we should have a good wildflower show next year, and then the strawberry will start to make a comeback by the year after that.

Yesterday's Handiwork

I also took out most of the plants in the main bed beside our new office shed. This bed got a lot of the same wildflowers as the blueberry bed, plus ‘Moonglow’ California Poppy and Tidy Tips, and I added Ipheion and Brodiaea to the Brodiaea and Triteleia bulbs that are already there. Our dog likes to sunbathe in this bed during the summer months, but I’m hoping she’ll wait until after the wildflowers have finished blooming.

Acer palmatum Japanese Sunrise

Our Maples have good color this year. The Japanese ‘Sunrise’ is a beautiful yellow, the native Vine Maple is scarlet, and the seed-grown Japanese Maples are more purple than I remember. Other deciduous plants like the Chinese Pistache, the Spicebush and the Redtwig Dogwood aren’t showing much color.

vine Maple, Acer cirnatum, with Maidenhair Fern, Adiantum

Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum

One deciduous thing out of the ordinary: our Ninebark has already put out fresh foliage. It usually leafs out again in early February, so I’m curious to see if it will drop these new leaves or hang onto them. It doesn’t seem so strange to see it leaf out with the start of the rains, but it hasn’t done that in previous years. Probably the clearest sign the garden is happy the rains are here.

Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus

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