Saturday, March 30, 2013

Rapid Changes

In January and even February my garden looked pretty drab, but suddenly in March things are changing at a rapid pace. It really feels like with the beginning of spring the garden has decided to wake up and is bursting at the seams with the energy of life. Plants explode into the most beautiful shades of fresh green and even though my garden is still not a riot of color, things are starting to bloom. This is with no doubt my most favorite time of the year!

This photo was taken in January. To the left you see a pruned 'Pretty Jessica', in the middle between the roses two geranium 'Rozanne' try to survive, 'Marie Pavie' is showing the last blooms of her winter flush and to the very right an unknown alstroemeria is already growing vigorously. She obviously liked the winter rains quite a bit. For some reasons especially in the front yard I was really longing for some color at that point.

So I went to the nursery and bought three six packs of pansies 'Beaconsfield',...

...planted some of them in containers,...

and stuck others in the ground,...

...and tadaa, this is how this section of the garden looks right now. The pansies in the container are showing off nicely, but the ones on the ground are hardly to see anymore, disguised by all the new rose leaves. I fertilized the roses and they responded by leaving out with incredible vigor. It is such a joy to observe this. The two geranium 'Rozanne' are not struggling at all anymore but growing strongly and on top of that have started to bloom. The alstroemeria is blooming already as well. I didn't prune 'Marie Pavie' at all and feel that was the right decision. She has made so many fresh new leaves and has become a very full nice bush. It is hard to see on this picture, but she has set plenty of buds. 

One that was very hidden is opening already.

On the terrace in the backyard I had a 'Mme. Isaac Pereire' growing in a container. I had transplanted her from a smaller container into this big nice terracotta one and sadly she was struggling ever since.

So I dug her out to see what the problem was. Her root ball was so tiny, it was unbelievable. It had literally shrunk, since I transplanted her from a two gallon container into the big terracotta one. My experience with pampering struggling roses is not the best and since there are so many in small containers waiting for a bigger home I decided to get rid of this rose.

To replace 'Mme. Isaac Pereire' I grabbed 'Mary Rose' from my pot ghetto,...

... pruned and deleaved her to get ready to be transplanted into the terracotta container. Do you see how nicely developed her root ball is? It is almost four times as big as the one of 'Mme. Isaac Pereire' shown a few photos above.

Then 'Mary Rose' went into her new home. That was just in Feburary.

Yesterday she looked like this! She has taken off and even though not very good to see on this photo, she has set a lot of buds. One very hidden in the middle of the plant under the leaves is already showing a nice pink color and will open very soon.

Back to the front yard, again. Here is a 'Climbing Iceberg' after it was pruned in January. 

By today the rose has leaved out nicely and also set many, many buds.

Three sad looking roses from my pot ghetto in January. From the left to the right: 'Snowbird', 'Chandos Beauty', 'Auckland Metro'. After I took the photo I deleaved and pruned them, potted them up in bigger containers and gave them some fertilizer. 

This photo above was taken this week. They have come quite around, haven't they? All three roses are supposed to flower in different shades of off-white. The very best of the three will be chosen to be planted in my White Bed, replacing a 'Climbing Iceberg', which had grown way to big for the space and was removed. For now 'Auckland Metro' seems to be the winner out of the three.

The banana-shaped bed in the front yard in January. Quite a dreary sight! The small yellowish plants to both outer sides of the bed are white verbenas, which never did well, so I decided to take them out. The rose to the left is 'Sweetness'. Then there is an alstroemeria planted in between the roses called 'Little Miss Sophie', which has grown a little bit too much so I reduced the size quite a bit. There are also four blue-violet penstemon 'Pinacolada Violet' in that bed, which I tried to revive by fertilizing and watering them more. The rose to the very right is 'Our Lady of Guadalupe'. In their pruned stage you can see that both roses are quite strong specimen. They are approximately four years old. 

The same bed now! What a difference! I decided to plant white pansies on the outer sides of the bed. The alstroemeria 'Little Miss Sophie' has started to bloom and both roses are loaded with buds. As a matter of fact, 'Sweetness' is showing quite a bit of color. Even though not so clear to see on the photo, all four penstemon 'Pinacolada Violet' have recovered nicely. I also mulched the bed with compost. I feel that this greatly helped the plants to look that good.

The area by the kitchen door, which leads into the backyard. I was unhappy with this one and decided to try to make it more appealing, since I am usually walking through this door a few times a day. It is also part of the terrace area where we normally sit and relax and this year I really want to make the whole area more beautiful.

I started out by pruning all roses and moved the roses in the black plastic containers into the pot ghetto by the side of the house. I cleaned the empty terracotta containers and put them into the garage. 

This is how the area looked yesterday. I transplanted one miniature rose, 'Jilly Jewel', waiting in the pot ghetto from a one gallon black plastic pot into a slightly bigger terracotta container. It is the one to the very left. The big roses in the large containers are two 'Charles Darwin' roses. To the very right is 'Irresistible', a miniature rose, that was there before, but has now leaved out nicely. First I intended to plant pansies in the two smallest containers closest to the kitchen door, but then when I came across these lovely 'Dwarf English Boxwood' I decided to get those instead. The white pansies that I planted in those containers the previous year didn't last very long, I guess because it is becoming too hot too soon. Hopefully I have more luck with the boxwood.

I think by now, I like the fresh green color that the boxwood provides more than I would have liked pansies. Besides this, they remind me of England. There boxwood is used intensively for hedges, topiaries or is simply pruned into spheres of all kind of sizes. I hope mine will become nice round big spheres as well when they get more mature.

On Easter Sunday I will be flying out of town and don't think I get to blog anymore, therefore I would like to wish to all of you who celebrate it a very Happy Easter!

See you in the garden!


Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tree Service was here

It is hard to believe, but we have sixteen tall Queen Palms, two giant Washingtonias (another variety of palms) and four clumps of big strelitzia nicolai 'Giant Bird of Paradise' and eight phoenix roebelenii 'Pygmy Date Palms' in our small suburban garden. I love these evergreen tropical plants and really like them as a green background to my predominantly rose garden - Think what the yews are for the English folks my tropical plants are for me here in Southern California. The palms and strelitzias are growing fast though and therefore have to be cleaned up from time to time. Ours were more than due! Considering the number of plants that need to be taken care of it is a painfully expensive job, but we had to bite the bullet, it simply had to be done.

Ideally you should clean up Queen Palms and Washingtonias and the like once a year to have them always looking at their best, but because of the costs, we only have done it every second year up to now. Since the first clean-up, to reduce costs, I take care of all 'Pygmy Date Palms' myself (or sometimes I ask the gardener to cut back yellow fronds), which is possible since these palms are not getting that tall, you just have to stay on top of them to keep them looking nice. I also cut back all yellow leaves of the strelizia nicolais as far high up as I can reach, but the Queen Palms and especially the Washingtonias are so tall that someone has to climb up their trunks to remove the old palm fronds. For that job you certainly need a professional to come in and do it for you. And so last month I called a tree service.

This is how the front yard looked before the tree service crew came in. It is pretty obvious that the tall 'Queen Palms' are in need of a good hair cut. With a little bit of a heavy heart I decided to get rid of the 'Pygmy Date Palms' in the foreground on the left side of this photo.

Here is a picture that shows these 'Pygmy Date Palms' from the side. The one to the left is growing more and more into the sidewalk. These palms have very long thorns attached to their fronds and I was always concerned that they would poke a child, a dog or even worse a baby in a stroller. The one to the right is growing directly into our decorative wall. This variety of palms becomes approximately 10 - 15 ' tall, so things will only get more problematic, and even though I liked the nice green that they provided to the front yard, they had to go.

At times the yard looked like a war zone! You wonder how the garden will survive it! But it came through it surprisingly well, even the roses only showed very little damage from fallen palm fronds. Of course, it helped that they barely had started to leave out.

Can you believe that all the green material stored on top of the truck came from my garden only? 

The front yard after they were done. It looks a little bare, but the palms will grow back quickly and fill in again.

Unfortunately I didn't take "before" photos of the backyard. Here is a guy dangling very high with a saw in the 'Queen Palms'. I was getting already dizzy, when I just looked at him.

This used to be a group of four 'Queen Palms', but they were planted too close together. The fronds of the three big palms were always in each others way and never looked really nice or as elegant as 'Queen Palms' are supposed to look. So after much inner debate I decided to take one out. You can see the rest of the trunk in the middle between the small Queen Palm in the center of the group and the tall one to the very left.

The fronds of the palms and the strelitzias look big when they are on the plants, but how big they really are you only realize when they have been cut down and fallen to the ground. Carried out of the yard by this crew member you get a better idea if you compare the size of the fronds to the size of his body.

This was the most scary part for me. These Washingtonia Palms are so tall already and it looks quite dangerous watching the guy working on them that high up there.

Here he is almost done with the first Washingtonia Palm. I was glad when the pruning of the palms was over and he was back on the ground safely.

This photo was taken after the crew left. I think they did a great job.

The strelitzia nicolais look very good, too. Some of their biggest trunks were removed and now they let more light through.

I have hired Troy Muncrief, ASAP Tree Service, to do this job for me. I was working with him and his crew for the second time and have to say I was pretty happy with them. They were on time, reliable, professional, thorough, friendly, and cleaned-up well after they finished. Besides all that what I truly appreciate is that Troy really listens to what you want to get done, so there were no unwanted surprises afterwards. If you are looking for a good tree service in the San Diego area I would highly recommend him. Here is his contact information: (858) 487 1244 or (760) 480 1670.

Happy spring to everyone!

See you in the garden!


Sunday, March 3, 2013

February Roses

February was the month where I had the least rose blooms ever since I am gardening in San Diego and honestly, I am glad that I got a few flowers at all. The reason for this is that I pruned all my roses planted in the ground in January and they are not able to produce new blooms by February. I also pruned a lot of the roses that are growing in containers in the same month, so they couldn't make new blooms either. That leaves it up to the roses in containers that are not pruned, yet. Due to time constraints I wasn't able to fertilize those and especially because they are growing in pots the reality seem to be, that if they don't get fed they don't have the energy to make new blooms.

What I am learning from this is, that if I want to have roses flowering throughout the year, I have to change my pruning strategy aka the pruning timing. This year my intention is that I will try to start pruning in the beginning of December and finish by the end of January and be more diligent with the fertilizing. It will be interesting to observe if I can coax more roses into blooming next February.

So there are good explanations why I had so few blooms last month, but one thing is really disappointing to me. I have a three year old Tea Rose, 'Georgetown Tea' planted in the ground and Tea Roses are supposed to flower year round here in my climate and that was the main reason why I planted this particular rose in the first place. But 'Georgetown Tea' doesn't have one bloom on it right now, not one. In contrast to all the others, this rose I watered and fertilized throughout the winter season, but that didn't convince it to bloom. Maybe I didn't water and fertilize it enough. It is also planted in between a group of four Queen Anne Palms and it might be too shady for the rose in the winter time to be able to flower. Anyway, for now I have decided that just for experimental reasons I will increase the watering and the regularity in fertilizing of 'Georgetown Tea' and see what happens.

Following are the very few brave roses that dared to bloom in February in our garden:

'Charles Rennie Mackintosh' surprised positively by giving me three flowers.

This rose is still growing only in a two gallon container together with plenty of oxalis (if you are not familiar with it, it is a really obnoxious weed here in my area). 

It wasn't fertilized or cared for in any special way and still managed to be one of my most beautiful roses in February. It certainly deserves more loving attention this year.

'Alexander Hill Gray', a very light yellow Tea Rose, was gifting me with one flower and very sickly foliage. 

The same bud of 'Alexander Hill Gray' a few days later. In this photo the rose looks somehow surreal to me. The color of the canes is really that red, contrasting very strongly with the pale yellow blooms.

Same rose flower again a few days later. The bloom was opening painfully slow, but at least it was opening and not balling and lasted a long time on the little shrub. I always think that 'Alexander Hill Gray' is a particular elegant rose.

This was the very last spray of  'Marie Pavie's' winter flush. Right now she is making good use of the fertilizer and compost that I threw at her feet and producing tons of new leaves and I assume, new flowers are soon to follow.

'Nimbus' was suffering badly from powdery mildew and even black spot last month as you can see when you look at his leaves, but that didn't prevent him from developing one of its gorgeous colored flowers. The shadings of pale pink, mauve, and tan are so subtle, they are very hard to capture with the camera properly, but at least this image gives you an impression.

Here is the same bloom, photographed from above. I like the tussled informal look that the rose flower is taking on in the winter time. I guess, it is mostly due to the low light conditions, which make it hard for the rose to open in a more organized way.

Certainly not a great photo, but I had to show it to you anyway, because I am very excited about this one. The rose that it pictured is 'Old Fashioned Girl', a miniature rose, which is the first rose that is planted into the ground that is producing a spring flower spray this year. So this is my very first "real rose bloom" in 2013! All the other rose flowers that I showed you in this post are coming from roses growing in containers with the exception of 'Marie Pavie', which was still on her winter flush.

'Old Fashioned Girl' is positioned in front of a South-West facing off white wall, which reflects a lot of heat and light and I think that does the trick so that the rose is able to flower this early. Also since it is a miniature rose I didn't prune or deleave it, so there was nothing to set back the onset of the buds this year. Interestingly though, there is a 'Pink Pet' rose growing very close to this rose, also not pruned or deleaved, which is usually a very easy going rose, but it hasn't even set buds, yet. There is always some mystery to growing roses, which you can't explain!

I am very curious to find out what will happen this March in my rose garden. Will I have more roses blooming already or will the spring flush only start in April? I hope you stay tuned and find out together with me.

See you in the garden!