Wednesday, March 22, 2017

OMG! OMG! Its Early Spring--Daffodils, Tulips, Iris and Friends

Wild mustard, daffies, and tulips.

Mendax and the varied daffies.
The blooms of early spring--I get so jazzed, like a little kid-- more fun than opening Christmas gifts. This is the best side of 'reaping what you sow' which is usually a solemn warning about wild oats--but in the garden it is wonderful advice for future floral joy.

The bees overwinter here, so I allowed the wild mustard and dandelions to grow. Bees don't considered them weeds--wildflowers , maybe. I will admit to thinning out the mustard, and dandelions in the more 'dignified' parts of the Butterfly Garden to have less competition for water when I plant sunflowers, lantana, and other annuals. The back garden, much more of a Wildlife Refuge, will have lots of whatever 'weeds' (wildflowers?) choose to survive the high desert here SoCal.

Early morning, closed tulips waiting to open.

Iris making a grand entrance.
New tulip bulbs in what will soon be in the vibrant Rose Garden. White House, eat your heart out. Old iris tubers were transplanted 2 years ago and chose this year to be spectacular--Van Gogh would love these!

I purchased collections of bulbs online, called 'English Garden' and 'Cottage Garden.' That's funny, my garden climate is so far from an English garden, and I do not have a cottage, but a little mission style home--but the variety of bulbs are welcome, and doing well after a satisfactory El Nino winter.
Hyacinth--perfumes to whole neighborhood.
Crocus outside Mendax' door.

All the effort in the summer and autumn, the choosing and purchasing online bulbs from around the world; the gathering of bulbs from my garden shelves in the laundry room; the dig-dig-digging during the hot desert days--all is nothing compared to the scent and site of the hyacinth!
Master Liberamens on Tulip Memorial Day.

The splash of color on a late winter's day--crocus and daffodils in February, tulips and hyacinth in March, iris making a royal appearance--very cheerful,
reminding there is warmth and anticipation for spring.

Anemone--also red and white.

Crocus, intense, tiny beauty.
Grape hyacinth.

I sort of have a 'Chef's Garden,' I say sort of, because I am truly not a chef or even a particularly good cook. But I love to grow herbs, garlic, onions, working on greens. Just the smell of the mint and rosemary is worth it. But I digress. I plunked some flower bulbs in my backyard herb/veg area--so while  I wait for Tre Verde--spinach, chard, and kale--I have hilarious flowers and very pleased bees.
Early spring in the herb--oops--bulb flower garden. My funky little solar water fountain looking to catch some sunlight is in the center.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Happy Presidents' Day--Thanks to the Primrose

It isn't that easy to have a red, white and blue color bowl for President's Day here in Zone 7b. 

But thanks to the lovely, hearty primrose, here we have a lovely display. Happy President's Day1 Who is your favorite president? 

Most folks say Abraham Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson or Teddy Roosevelt.  But my #1 is John Adams.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Plant 'Rescue'--Buying A Christmas Tree Eleven Months Early

Meet Gael of the Whimsical Wind

Christmas Tree 2017! I 'rescue' trees and plants--this one was 50% off this week. I will baby it all year long and around Thanksgiving put it in a jolly planter, take it with me to Las Vegas to celebrate the holidays with my grown kids--then one year from now--Jan. 2018--will plant it in my yard to stretch and grow. Christmas Tree 2009 is now about 25 ft tall in the backyard! My friend suggested I name this one--so it is Gael of the Whimsical Wind. (can you tell I'm a teacher and a writer?)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Days Like Today Is Why I Plant It Forward

Dreary, rainy few days before Christmas. Waiting for spring.
We have literally hundreds of flower bulbs inground concentrating on blooming this spring, starting in about six weeks. If you have experienced the glory of screaming yellow daffodils in February or jolly red tulips in March in the midst of the grey, grey, grey of winter---you will joyfully plant it forward.

Added many more bulbs this year.
Last year provided such magnificent incentive. So lovely, and even sweet smelling.

Here are some shots from last year--wish I had smell-a-blog for the hyacinth.

In our growing zone (7b) crocus blooms first in the very early spring, then daffodils, then tulips, iris and hyacinths. Or when they feel like it.

Little jonquils.
Nature is sometimes unpredictable.

Tulips, simple and fancy.
This autumn, I have invested in many new bulbs for groups called 'Cottage Garden,' 'English Garden,' and, what you would expect for a gardener in the Mojave Desert, bulbs for rock gardens. Many of these will be new to me--loving the anticipation and challenge.

Irises, Van Gogh
Along with bringing bright beauty during winter days, bulbs
Early Iris.
 help with preventing erosion, and the early blooms are great for the bees who overwinter with us. The bulbs of the early spring flowers will multiply every year. Gardening is, obviously, an excellent STEM project for classrooms. Having a resilient garden of bulbs that comes back every year is a great project for students. How marvelous to expect the recurring success of blooming daffodils or tulips every year as you go through your school experience. And a bulb garden is so easy to plant and nurture. Teachers--how can you resist doing this? And of course, the STEAM asset of a bulb garden--not only are some of the most famous paintings by artists like Monet and Van Gogh been of bulb flowers, but what a lovely chance for students to create art of their own, dear flowers. How cool is that?

Beautiful to look at, beautiful to smell! Hyacinth.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Tra La, Its May!

Roses blooming and our Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly Family comes out to visit our Certified Butterfly Garden
The magnificent, extreme activity of  spring in the garden makes me hysterical with beauty overload!
All the hard-work investments of autumn and winter explode in growth, life and action. All the days of hole-digging, bulb planting, raking, and mulching fade in memory with the elaborate sensory extravaganza of color, scent, and burgeoning growth that includes plants and garden critters.

I know where the ladybugs live!

A residential wildlife habitat encourages plants and critters to thrive. I've spotted my ladybugs--on rosemary, in the pine tree, and looking expectant on a sunflower leaf.

  Our familiar butterflies have greeted us, the Cabbage Whites that love the bright blue of the lobelia. I have lots of blue in my garden just for that reason. Here is one on our apple tree-that's where it sleeps at night, or in the grasses. We have the habitat for the several types of butterflies to go through their life cycles.

Happy to help, earthworm.
Sowbugs doing their thing.
We have such a huge community of lovely earthworms, I call my yard the Mexico City of Vermiculture. 
 And they have been prospering in the composting over the winter--leaves, paper, tidbits from the kitchen--paradise for them and their fellow biodegraders: sowbugs (pillbugs.)
Early Iris.

We planted lots of bulbs in the autumn, and were rewarded with lovely colors and delicate blooms in the months February through March. Here are early iris. We had narcissus, daffodils, tulips and crocus, too. I plan on a special post about all these when the late iris shows up.
Heavenly color.

 I have been spoiling the butterflies with a variety of blue flowers. These are delphiniums. But truth be told, they aren't fussy. They also love dandelions and wild mustard. Of which I have much!

Busy morning in spring.

In our area, the hummingbirds remain all year. But they are overjoyed in spring! The fruit trees, this one a 35 year old apricot, are enthusiastically blooming!

Bee-ing busy.

 The bees are also always with us, but very much appreciate all the new blossoms! We have a couple thousand different varieties her in our area. I must confess I have let the mint grow crazy just to please the bees!

Peach jam?

We are optimistic about fruit on our little dwarf tree-please, peach, really try!

Pass the Tajin!

I started squash and other veggies very early indoors, so we actually have zuchinni in April!  Amazing!

Peace out!

 I realized growing roses is far from rare--but what a boost of sensory beauty every year! Eyes and noses blessed. Too bad they don't sing. Don't tell the other rosebushes, but I kind of favor the Peace Rose.

I am not too stuck up to hang a store-bought basket of butterfly-bee-hummingbird-pleasing flowers. The sweet smell is marvelous! The color and delicate shapes are too, too pleasing! Tis spring! Tra la!
A hanging basket with the sweetest smell.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Negotiating With El Nino

El Nino playing it coy with a rainbow before a winter storm.

El Nino has come through these parts big time thrice since I've lived here in the High Mojave Desert of SoCal. In the 80s, I recall heavy rains and a bumper crop of tumbleweed. Living on a hill, the yard began to slide down the cul-de-sac. In the late 90s, it was a real doozy:  long and violent seasons with thunderstorms, monsoons and floods. Being a military family, we actually had lived in hurricane locations, and I recognized the storms of the 90s were definitely tropical storms at the very least. I recall coming home one night from grad school--and as we live in a valley, we have a big sky--and the lightning looked like someone was playing ping pong with it. There was so much standing water, we jokingly called them Lake Central and Lake Kiowa, after the streets they engulfed. Then came the wildflowers (the good part of El Nino) and the mold, weeds and rodents (the bad parts of El Nino.) More of the yard slid down the hill.
Slowly down the run-off.

Not a giant gopher--just me.
But this year El Nino has been helpful. The rains, rather big in November and smaller in December and January, softened up the sand and clay soil that becomes like concrete in the frequent 100-plus degree weather of the summer and autumn. So, I've been digging, and the yard looks like a giant gopher moved in. First, a trench filled with large river rock because the yards to the east of us, up the hill, provide a river bed of rushing water in a big rain. This tactic is working, no torrent going through our yard.

Then, as our yard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat and Butterfly Garden,
Rich, mulchy 3 year-old berm--notice the mint taking over!
I've built up natural berms and shelters for birds and bugs and butterflies, using the limbs and branches of our trimmed trees, and mulching the leaves from the fall.  I do not live in a gated community with rules about dignified landscaping, so it looks a little wild. But, I must say, our garden community of birds, bugs and worms loves it, and it is both a natural way to provide more soil as it mulches, and prevent further erosion. I have rescued plants (buying them on sale) to provide a line of privacy so we and privacy in our home, and the neighbors don't have to view our wild yard. Unless they want to, then they can visit.
Filling in the gaps.
Iris-functional and lovely.
I am slowly filling in the parts of the western part of the yard that have eroded with sandy soil which slid down from the neighbor's yard into the eastern part of our yard. It is going to take a long time, but there is progress. I am also planting drought resistant trees and bulb flowers, like iris. Why iris? Aside from my devotion to Van Gogh? Anyone who has attempted to dig up iris (or daffodils, for that matter) knows they really get entrenched. and are a task to dig up. So, they are also great at stopping erosion--and are so magnificently beautiful. They are already coming up.

Prelim veg patch.
There is one section of my yard that adjoins the neighbors, they have a lovely tiered vegetable garden. I've always wanted to duplicate it on my property--now that the soil is softer and I have designated time digging this--that's just what I'm doing! But not as fancy. And there will be less run-off when it rains. Thank you El Nino, for softening up my yard.
Beginning a berm with roadrunner approval.

Climate change in general means drought here in Cali. The natural berms, et al, are vibrant, growing parts of the yard that discourage fire. That's the big threat here. I'm considering creating a hugelkultur, meaning hill culture or hill mound . That keeps in the moisture. All the garden creatures would love it.
It may seem that Californians are so obnoxious bragging about the warm weather, but too many sunny skies brought the drought that created epic fires over the last several years. Hoping El Nino will change that.