Wednesday, December 24, 2014

creek dogwood thriving in a wine barrel

Creek dogwood (Cornus sericea) is a large deciduous shrub that can spread aggressively in the wild under favorable conditions. I don't have room for it in my backyard, so I chose to grow it in a large wine barrel with an underplanting or yerba buena (Satureja douglasii). It is highly suitable to container life, where its size can be held in check and its moderate water requirements met with the help of drip irrigation. The creek dogwood is attractive in spring with its fresh green leaves and white/cream flowers. However, this plant truly shines in the winter when it has shed its leaves exposing the attractive red limbs.
December 2014

after a rain

March 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Giant Coreopsis or mini Palm tree?

The giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) in this blue pot has awakened from its summer dormancy and transformed into a pair of mini palms. Large yellow daisy-like flowers will soon make an appearance.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Summerwinds in Fall

Early October is the perfect time for a native gardener to blow into Summerwinds nurseries. Around this time every year, they have their huge 40% of all plants one gallon and up sale. Summerwinds has multiple locations in the South Bay, many boasting a sizable native selection. Though plant quality varies by location, generally speaking the plants are well-maintained and some gems can be found. In particular, great deals can be had on 5 gallon containers of shrubs such as manzanitas, ceanothus, coffeeberries, toyon and others. I'm partial to the Palo Alto location because it is closest to San Mateo and has the largest selection. Additionally, the caretaker of the native section is a sweet lady with a passion for natives.
My Summerwinds haul, eager to be planted and loved
From my experience, you need to go early in the sale for best selection. So, early on Thursday, the first day of the sale, I made the trek southward to three different Summerwinds locations: Cupertino, Mountain View and Palo Alto. I came away with a decent batch of plants including manzanitas, wire grass, ferns, huckleberry and some buckwheats. With the recent closure of Blue Sky Farms, it's nice to know that Summerwinds has my back. Check 'em out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

RIP Blue Sky Farms

Blue Sky Farms, a cafe that sold native plants in Half Moon Bay, has suddenly closed. I drove out from San Mateo this morning only to be rudely greeted by a "business closed" sign. In the last couple years, this place had become my vender of choice for native plants thanks to their very reasonable prices and their impressive selection of  hard-to-find plants.  I liked the concept of cafe/nursery but evidently it was not profitable enough. My own dream - likely never to be realized - involves a combination of beer garden and native plants. Anyway, I must now regroup and find a new native plant nursery close to home. Too bad Yerba Buena Nursery in Half Moon Bay is so expensive.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Bloom: September '14

   It is mid-September and the garden hasn't received rainfall in several months. Luckily, it has been a mild summer, with temperatures hovering in the high 75-85F range. Morning fog here on the peninsula has also helped provide a bit of moisture. In the front yard I have hand-watered the herbaceous perennials (e.g. golden aster and seaside daisy) once every 10-14 days and the evergreen shrubs (e.g.  ceanothus and manzanitas) once every 4-6 weeks. Established plantings such as white sage, Santa Cruz Island buckwheat, and chaparral currant have not received any supplemental water. In the backyard, most of the plants are on drip irrigation, receiving 5 minutes, twice a week. The backyard looks decidedly lusher than the front, though plants like monkeyflowers and coyote mint have still gone dormant in the backyard even with the extra water.
     Here on September 16, there isn't much in bloom, but many of the evergreen shrubs such as manzanitas, ceanothus and coffeeberries are looking healthy and In particular, I have been pleased with the progress of the manzanitas, and I hope to add a few more plants this Fall to my growing manzanita collection. A few highlights:

-Dendromecon harfordii (Island Bush Poppy): I killed one of these in the front yard a couple years but decided to give it a whirl again last year in the backyard. It was planted last Fall and so far so good. I think it likes a bit more water, shade, and drainage then I was giving it previously. This is one of my favorite natives, providing beautiful yellow flowers nearly year round.
Dendromecon harfordii

-Epilobium: Fuschias are always the late Summer stars as they provide much needed color and they will bring in hummingbirds.  Currently, 'Hurricane Point' looks the best among my fuchsias.  'Everett's Choice' and 'Cloverdale' are past their prime and have already been cut back to their base. I will likely make changes to the placement of my fuchsias this Fall.
Epilobium 'Hurricane Point'

-Eriogonum (Buckwheats): 'Santa Cruz Island' looks amazing as always, and the 'Red-Flowered' variety is past its prime but still putting out pink blooms.
Eriogonum 'Santa Cruz Island'

-Eriophyllum nevinii (Island snowflake):  'Canyon Silver' cultivar is looking quite impressive currently with new blooms coming up and striking foliage. This is quickly becoming a favorite.
Eriophyllum nevinii 'Canyon Silver'

-Eschscholzia (CA poppy): My volunteer poppies are blooming for the third time this year. When flowers wilt, I cut the plant to the ground and it grows backs within a month, all without supplemental water. Gotta love it.

-Arctostaphylos (manzanitas): All the manzanitas are looking healthy and robust right now. 'Louis Edmonds' has displayed tremendous growth here in its second year and is quickly becoming a nice specimen in the front yard.
Arctostaphylos 'Louis Edmonds'