Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Roses

In the last one and a half weeks of this month some of my roses have been starting their spring flush. It is so nice to see roses blooming in the garden again, even though there are just a few flowers open yet, but with each day they become more. We are having relatively cool weather here, which is nice since it makes the flowers last a lot longer on the rose bushes.

'Grandmother's Hat' receives the honor to open this blog post, because she was the first rose of the ones planted in the ground beginning to flower this spring. I am just in love with her blooms and the fragrance is very seducing, too. 

This rose is a found rose and its true identity is unclear, but it is supposed to grow very well almost everywhere in California. I just can agree with that for my garden. It is completely clean despite the fact that I planted it in a little bit of too much shade and it is growing like gangbusters. 

On the photo above you can see the whole rose bush. For a rose that is approximately a year in the ground 'Grandmother's Hat' has put on quite a bit of size. The longer I grow roses the more important the look of the rose bush itself becomes to me and therefore I like to see bush shots of a rose before I make a decision to buy it. So I have decided to incorporate more "whole body"- rose pictures in my posts for you, my dear readers, too. Hope you find it beneficial!

Another first rose of the season: 'Pope John Paul II'. This is my favorite white Hybrid Tea rose. He is three years in the ground now and has gained some maturity. It looks like I will be getting an incredible spring flush from this rose.

This is 'Baronne Prevost'. The blooms are so sumptuous and lovely but the rose bush itself is a disaster in my garden (click here to see it in my previous post).

A flower spray of 'Marie Pavie'. She has her home in my front yard and is almost non-stop blooming year round here in my garden. That is wonderful, of course, but by now I found out that she has one drawback. Even with the relatively low temperatures that we are having her flower petals fry easily in the sunlight and they are also extremely sensitive to water be it from the rain or from the sprinklers. So there is a lot of deadheading to do, if I want this rose to be looking nice.

'Yolande d'Aragon' also starts to open its first cluster of blooms. This Old Garden Rose is so charming and incredible fragrant. Certainly one of my favorite Hybrid Perpetual roses. 

You can see some rain damage on the petals of the first flower of 'Sweetness', but I think it is still very pretty. 

First bloom of  'Zephirine Drouhin'. I am not such a fan of the flower shape of this rose, but the fragrance is outstanding.

A real jewel of a rose is 'Reine des Violettes', another Hybrid Perpetual. The color of this one is unmatched by any other rose that I have ever seen so far. It is just a very special matte violet with gray undertones. The rose is a diva, just like you would expect from a queen, but so far I put up with it because of its incredible beautiful blooms.

The last rose that I want to present in this post is 'Moonstone', a Hybrid Tea rose. Just recently I planted it from a two gallon container into the ground and the rose is growing fairly well now. This was the first bloom this year and it was so heavy that the cane which holds it broke off. I took it in and was surprised to notice a very distinct, pleasant fragrance. There is some rust on the leaves right now, but hopefully the rose can shrug it off as it matures.

See you in the garden!


Thursday, March 22, 2012

And I Thought I Was Done

Considering that I am going on a business trip early in the morning tomorrow I certainly have my hands full with all kind of things that needed to get done before I leave, but today in the afternoon I couldn't stand it anymore. Three of my roses don't look like they have gotten enough to eat, even though I have fertilized all my roses in the ground earlier this year already. Because the weather was very nice and I haven't been gardening since last week, I felt I deserved a treat. So I sneaked out for an hour giving myself the reward of being outside gardening and at the same time trying to fix the problem.

This is 'Georgetown Tea', the only Tea rose that I have been able to plant in the ground the far. I am actually not sure how this rose is supposed to look, since I have not seen another specimen of this variety in person, but I certainly remember that last year at this time when she was still living in a container she had bigger leaves. Everything seems to be spindly about her right now and there is no basal break at all. It is a little hard to see on the photo, but there are buds, they are also very small though, and I don't think they will ever grow into blooms of the size that 'Georgetown Tea' had last year. So my guess is the rose is undernourished.

Out came the fertilizer again. As you can see I am using Bio Start from Grow More and Alfalfa Meal from E.B. Stone Organics. Both are organic fertilizers which is important to me and I have made good experiences with them last year. 'Georgetown Tea' got generous five cups of the Bio Start and two of alfalfa meal. I topped everything off with a bag of compost.

Above is 'Pierre de Ronsard' aka 'Eden'. On the first glance the rose may look OK, but I know that her leaves are substantially smaller than last year, there is no basal break either and she has hardly set any buds. I gave this rose the same amount of fertilizer and alfalfa meal as 'Georgetown Tea' but didn't have the time to put compost on top of the fertilizer, which certainly would have been better.

Now this is embarrassing and I was contemplating if I should show a picture of this rose on my blog or not. It makes me look like I am the worst gardener ever, but since you have seen some photos of other better looking rose bushes here, I hope you can deal with this one. But seriously, this is 'Baronne Prevost' and it is the most miserable looking rose in the whole garden in the moment. It just refused to leave out properly. To make up for this it has produced some early buds, which are almost open but the overall impression of the bush is more than ugly. I really don't get it why the rose looks the way it does. So this one also got four cups of fertilizer and two cups of alfalfa meal. Sorry, no compost either!

I scratched the fertilizer into the soil as good as I could underneath each rose bush and watered thoroughly afterwards. Now I will sit back, wait, and hope for the best. In two to three weeks I should see if the fertilizer does anything good or if I made the wrong decision to fertilize these three roses again. I wonder why the fertilizer that I have given these roses earlier this year is not enough for them, but seems to be sufficient for other roses, which got the same amount. My suspicion is since all three roses grow in close proximity of big palm trees or other tall tropical plants that these plants have sent their roots into the area where the rose roots are and that underground there is a serious competition for nutrients going on. That is the only possible explanation that I have come up with so far.

If you have any ideas what is going on with these roses, I would be happy if you would share your thoughts with me and leave a comment.

See you in the garden!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

Winter was not willing to give in without a fight in our area this year. We had quite a bit of rain (probably 1 1/2" to 2") and very strong gusty winds over the weekend and it was pretty cold on top of that, too, until yesterday.

A big piece of a palm frond came down and hit the bird feeder in a way that it broke. So I had to get a new one.

The wind knocked over my two white camellias, which are growing in containers. Luckily there is not too much damage on them. 

Fresh rose buds were broken off...

... and new growth on the roses, too.

A lot of the newly spread mulch was landing in the pool.

Plant labels got blown through the yard.

Plenty of debris ended up in the freshly cleaned-up flowerbeds.

New rose flowers got beaten up by the rain and are now a mushy mess.

This rose, "The Prince" was supposed to be planted in the ground last Sunday, but this had to be postponed...

... even though the hole was almost ready for it, because nobody wanted to work outside in this bad weather.

But today it is the beginning of spring and the weather changed and became more appropriate at least in the day time (65 degrees Fahrenheit), even though last night was still pretty chilly. Some of my plants have sailed through the rough times with ease and I am thankful that the damage that the storm did was less severe than I had expected. The photo above shows a spray of  'Grandmother's Hat' beginning to open. Even at this stage the rose smells heavenly already.

'Sweetness', who lives in the front yard which is more protected seemed to enjoy the rain and is getting ready to open its first flower...

... and the 'Iceberg' roses in the backyard have pumped out fresh buds with no end despite the cold.

This bud of  'Moonstone' also pretends nothing has happened and is such a welcome sight. 

Wishing you all, my dear readers, a wonderful and enjoyable spring!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Critical Look at the White Garden Bed

Ever since I have seen the first photos of the White Garden at Sissinghurst, Vita Sackville-West's and Harold Nicolson's famous garden in England, I have dreamed of having a White Garden myself. Because our property is small I can't have different garden rooms devoted to specific colors and schemes. However, I did not want to have a garden completely planted with white flowering plants so I had to restrict myself to a White Garden Bed only. On the photo below you see my first attempt to create this bed. I tried to introduce white color to it not just by planting white flowering plants but also by the use of plants with silvery or gray foliage. This is how it looked in May 2011 when the roses were in full spring flush. 

On the first glance the bed appears fine (at least to me), but there are some drawbacks. The three roses to the right are 'Iceberg' roses and even though I love them dearly and they are my most prolific bloomers out of all the roses that I am having they simply have gotten too big for this bed. It is not very well to see on this photo but especially the middle one constantly pokes me everywhere when it is time to be deadheaded. It is planted too close to the rim of the pool and the two cycads which flank it on both sides. I also don't like that it is growing quite a bit into the cycads when left to its own devices and needs to be constantly controlled for size for that reason. Besides after looking at three 'Iceberg' roses for three years I have to admit that I started to find this view a little bit boring even though the roses themselves are quite beautiful. Last but not least because these roses bloom so vigorously they need to be constantly deadheaded. The petals are not supposed to fall into the pool, because they change the chemicals in the water as they decompose. So this bed requires deadheading at least every second day (no, I am not exaggerating!) from spring to autumn when the roses are having their flushes. I am simply not able to do that anymore. So for these reasons alone I was longing for a change.

But there was more I was not satisfied with. In the photo above you can see the same bed in September 2011. The lamb's ears planted in front of the white column look pretty bad. Their leaves have taken on a yellow/brown color instead of the lovely green/gray that they are supposed to be. Behind the white column I had planted a half circle of white flowering irises to mirror the half circle of the lamb's ears in the front. Unfortunately these irises were a complete failure. I think the whole time they have been there I got one or two blooms out of them. 

Here you can see the irises a little bit better. They are almost diminished. I don't know why, but irises don't want to grow in my garden no matter what I try to do to help them along.

The photo above shows the same bed from the other side. Underneath the cycad on the left I had planted dusty millers in a circle around the trunk of the cycad, for their beautiful silvery/whitish foliage which did pretty well, but grew a little bit too large for the portions of the bed in my opinion. Underneath the smaller cycad to the right I placed five plants of artemisia 'Silvermound' in a circle to repeat a similar look like the one I was after with the cycad to the left. Unfortunately, three of the plants died and the two surviving ones were never happy and refused to reach a size that had any decent visual impact on the bed.

So by the end of last year I decided it was time for a make-over of the White Garden Bed. After having a critical look at photos of this part of the garden and analyzing what worked and what didn't I wanted to change the following things.

1. Take out the white 'Iceberg' rose in the middle of the bed and plant another white or nearly white rose instead of it, that is getting less wide than the 'Iceberg' rose and also position it further backwards in the direction of the fence, so that I don't get poked when I walk along the rim of the pool to deadhead and can also reach it better from the sides. Believe it or not, I want a rose that is less floriferous or clings better to its blooms than the 'Iceberg' so that I don't have to deadhead every other day in the high season. I also desire a rose, whose flower shape contrasts a little bit with the flower form of the 'Iceberg' roses. My hope is that a rose with a a different tone of white or that is not completely white and has a different flower shape than the 'Iceberg' roses will give some more interest to this bed.  

2. Remove the irises and replace them with a white flowering plant that is actually flowering at least once in a year so that the area around the column looks more full, lush, and complete.

3. Try to either revive the lamb's ears or take them out and replace them with something else to make the front area of the column look better.

4. Take out the dusty miller and the remaining two artemisias 'Silvermound' and replace them with either new dusty millers or other plants that catch my fancy.

5. Find the silver gazing ball in the garage that was intended to go on top of the column.

6. Use more white flowering plants and not mainly rely on the roses and on grayish foliage plants to provide the white color to that bed, also with the intention to give it more interest.

These considerations were the starting point for the make-over of my White Garden Bed. I will share with you on my blog the process of changing this bed hopefully to the better in the future. Stay tuned!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 4, 2012


Birds become more and more fascinating to me. I love when they come to our garden and I have been feeding them regularly. I think that has increased the number of birds that are visiting our yard significantly. I also like to observe them at the shore. Here are some shots of birds that my husband and I saw lately. All photos are done by him.

These shorebirds (Marbled Godwit?) were a lot of fun to watch, when we went for a walk on the beach last weekend.

This is a male California Quail walking along our garden fence in the backyard. There is an open space area behind our property where the Quails reside. Usually these birds are pretty shy, but somehow they have warmed up to our bird feeder and at certain times of the year they come into the garden.

These colorful yellow breasted guys (Lesser Goldfinch?) are very small and lively. They are really fun to watch at the bird feeder.

A Morning Dove also walking on the backyard fence.

This is a hawk (maybe a Northern Harrier) was cruising in circles above our yard today. I love this photo in particular!

Here is another picture of the same predator bird. The pattern on the wings is quite wonderful.

I am not good at identifying birds, but tried a little bit with the help of a book. If you know birds and recognize the ones that I have featured here, please let me know if I got the names right.

See you in the garden!