Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pottering Around

This month I finally found some time to garden in my beloved little green patch. Right now in parts it is not so beloved, to be quite honest with you, because due to time constrains I have severely neglected the garden in many areas and it shows. But what better thing to do than start to get going and do something about it? The weather was mostly splendid for November, in fact it was unusually warm, which certainly helped with the motivation.

Before: The camellia bed needed some serious fall clean-up. The strelitzia nicolai to the right and left were overgrown,  the hydrangeas needed deadheading and the whole bed some weeding and a fresh layer of mulch.

I wasn't too happy with this everblooming hydrangea called 'Penny Mac'. It bloomed just once like any other hydrangea. The flower color was a very ordinary pink, instead of the blue that I was after.

This lacecap hydrangea was an unnamed one that I got from Home Depot. Also nothing to write home about in terms of the flower color.

So off to Home Depot I went and got some nice compost. These eight bags of course were just the start.

After: I cut the Strelitzias back substancially, weeded the bed, deadheaded the hydrangeas and while I was on it decided to cut them back a bit and de-leave them as well. Around the hydrangeas I put soil sulfur and aluminum sulfat in the hope to get blue flowers next year. Since the white flowering camellias, the variety is 'Nuccio's Gem', and the gardenia looked a little malnourished I fertilized them just a tat. The bed appears a little bit boring to me, but it is very hard to keep such a small bed interesting at all times of the year. I am thinking about hanging something on the fence to give it some bling.

Both hydrangeas are showing already new leave buds. 

Aren't they supposed to go dormant and rest for a while? Gardening in Southern California is often a strange thing.

To my disappointment the 'Nuccio's Gem' camellias have not been growing very much since they were planted into the ground about a year ago. I also think that they have set less buds in comparison to when they were still growing in containers. But at least the buds that are there look promising. I am curious when they will start to open this year. Usually they bloomed pretty late in my garden, but this year the buds are showing already white tips.

This is 'Georgetown Tea', like the name says, a Tea Rose, which wasn't flowering very much anymore probably mainly due to the lack of nutrients in the soil. The palms that are surrounding it require that I feed the rose much more than usual, because of the strong root competition. Since Tea Roses are supposed to flower through the winter in Southern California I fertilize this rose year round. All other roses in the ground I stop fertilizing by the end of October.

For a quick fix I watered 'Georgetown Tea' with diluted fish fertilizer. Since fish fertilizer can get quite pricy I use Sea Grow Fish Fertilizer from the Grow More company, which I get for a good price at the annual fertilizer sale of the San Diego Rose Society.

After that I put twelve cups of organic rose fertilizer and some alfalfa meal down before this whole area was mulched with compost, too. Actually my husband was so nice and did the mulching here for me. It always is amazing to me how much compost one needs to spread to achieve a decent layer that covers the soil. It is hard on the back to handle the big compost bags and spread the compost around. On the photo above you can see the rose roughly two weeks after the treatment with the fish fertilizer. The difference isn't dramatic, but it blooms a little more. 

I find the blooms of 'Georgetown Tea' quite charming, but I am not so keen on how the bush looks. I really would love to see more leaves!

This flower of 'Georgetown Tea' is a good example of the drooping way Tea Roses hold their blooms.

These containers clearly have seen better days! They once were gracing the front door and were planted with heuchera 'Key Lime Pie', which were lovely for two to three years, but then perished and now obviously needed to be changed out.

I opted to replant them with geranium Martha Washington 'Regal Elegance Rose Bicolor', which also don't look that great in the moment, but the plants were bought a long time ago and were waiting in my pot ghetto to be transplanted into their permanent home. I assume they will recover and look better soon and will hopefully bloom in spring. The containers will go back to the sides of the front door. The geraniums are already bigger than the heucheras ever were and I think they will be more in proportion with the entry of our house.

This sad looking fellow was once a lovely blue flowering lobelia gracing a pillar in the front yard, which didn't make it through the summer heat. 

During one of my latest visits to Home Depot I spotted a nice batch of white flowering zonal geraniums (of course, they didn't bother to name the variety properly) for just $ 4.48 per plant. Usually I am not into zonal geraniums, but this one won me suddenly over with its nice white blooms and the healthy soft dark green leaves. I am not sure if it will continue to flower through the winter here, but it certainly would be nice.

The blue container also belongs to the front yard. It was holding the rose to the left, a miniature named 'Vi's Violet', which was just not doing well in the summer heat in the location where I had positioned the container. So I transplanted it into the terracotta container and it will now live in the backyard, which has some cooler areas. To substitute for it I placed another geranium Martha Washington 'Regal Elegance Rose Bicolor'. The blue container will go back to the location where the rose wasn't doing well and I hope the geranium will tolerate the heat better. I intend to show you some photos of how all the newly planted containers featured in this post will do in the front yard, soon.

My pot ghetto is still way bigger than it should be and I am making a serious attempt to reduce it by planting plants or giving them away. There is nothing wrong with these two agapanthus 'Midnight Blue', but I have decided not to plant them in my own garden. They have an unusual dark blue flower, which is very attractive, but I don't have any space left in the front yard and in the back yard I don't want to plant for strong contrast anymore but rather go for a muted, light color palette. So these went to a friend's garden, who is doing a garden makeover and needs plenty of new plants. 

As it sometimes happens, this rose has lost its label, but I am relatively sure that it is 'Chandos Beauty', a Hybrid Tea rose, which was quite hyped about. It hasn't done too much for me so far, but it seems to be a very healthy plant. So I thought I would transplant it into a bigger container and hopefully see it bloom soon, so that I can identify it for sure.

It went into a twenty inch diameter terracotta container and will now hopefully beautify our terrace in the backyard.

There is always more to do in a garden. When I was in one of my favorite nurseries lately I couldn't pass up these beauties. They are primula obconcia 'Libre White' and I was told that they would bloom in December/January in our climate. That would be great since this is a time in my garden where it is looking pretty bleak and any flower is welcome.

By the way, this is my one hundredth post and I just crossed one hundred thousand pageviews. Thank you all for visiting my blog!

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving!

See you in the garden!



  1. Bravo to you for getting your compost laid down! What a huge job! And yes I think hanging something from the fence would be spectacular! I can not imagine gardening in Southern California! The weather patterns must take some time to figure out though how lucky are you to see green and those gorgeous "Georgetown Tea" blooms!!! All I see is brown!!! A very happy week to you!!!

  2. Congratulations on 100 posts! I can almost feel your renewed enthusiasm for the garden coming across the internet - you certainly got back into the work with energy!

  3. You've been very busy Christina and the result of your tidy up and maintenance looks fab! All that care and extra nourishment you've given your plants now will reward you later on. And wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and Congratulations on your 100th post mark!

  4. Ton espace n'a rien d'un jardin mal entretenu, et en voyant les bourgeons de tes hydrangéas, je me dis que l'an prochain, tu devrais voir une floraison éblouissante. C'est tout à fait normal de voir des bourgeons énormes, les hortensias ont cette particularité de mettre des bourgeons précocement. Le paillis que tu as installé au pied de chacun va être bénéfique. j'admire les gros boutons sur tes camélias, je devine la superbe floraison que tu vas obtenir.
    Belle journée jocelyne

  5. Congratulations with your 10th post! You did a lot of work in your garden and according to me it all looks nice and tidy. A good thing to give your Hydrangeas aliuminum sulfat for getting blue flowers, but you have to repeat it every year. I also wanted blue Hydrangeas, I bought blue ones but they always change to pink and red, our soil has not got enough iron for Hydrangeas. I tried aluminum sulfat and they turned a bit to blue again, but I neglected to repeat it again and again, so I leave them now how they are.

  6. Happy Thanksgiving week dear Christina ~ Your gardens look lovely as always, and it is always a bummer when we lose plants, but it is all part of gardening in this world. I love your roses and this post has inspired me to get out and keep working in my own gardens.

    Love and hugs to you and congrats on your 100th post and passing the 100,000 visitor mark.


  7. Hi Christina, nice to read about your late summer "problems", while the first snow falls and whitens my garden....

  8. Nicole, we just started to put down compost. Ideally we would mulch the whole garden with compost every year, but that is never happening due to just being too much work and it is also too expensive. So what I do is mulch the very prominent sections of the garden yearly and the less prominent ones every other or third year. That works relatively well!

    Lyn, thanks, you are right I had some more time and energy to steer towards the garden this month and it was so much fun to be able to do so!

    Mark and Gaz, thanks, your comments are always so encouraging! I know that putting down compost pays off later, but it is really back breaking work that I dread a little bit for that reason. I always alternate this chore with others like planting containers that bring more instant gratification and joy!

    Jocelyne, I didn't notice in my garden that the hydrangeas set leave buds that early in the last years, but it might just have slipped my attention. I just wander what will happen to them if we get a light freeze. Would be sad if the plant has to start all over, again!

    Janneke, thanks! It is good to know that aluminum sulfate worked in your garden to turn the hydrangeas back into blue flowering ones! I hope I can keep up with putting it down every year. I have too many pink flowering plants in my garden and it gets a little bit boring, so I would love for the hydrangeas to become blue, again.

    Lorraine, I still have a hard time to accept that loosing plants is part of the gardener's life. But on the other hand it promotes change and change is good. How boring would a garden be if there would be no change, especially a small garden like mine? Wishing you a nice Thanksgiving week as well.

    Rudolf, I remember from living in Germany the magic that happens, when the landscape is suddenly covered with the first snow of the year. There is definitively something enchanting about it!


  9. Everything looks good with the attention you've given it. So nice to see someone putting in new plants this time of year.

  10. Bei dir ist es wirklich so anders als bei uns- Primeln im Januar und dann auch noch draußen.

    Deine Geranien kannst du doch prima überwintern, ich mache es nicht, zu dunkel und warm im Untergeschoss. Fischdünger habe ich auch noch nie gesehen.


  11. Gardener on Sherlock Street, thanks, in Southern California you can basically plant year round. Putting plants (perennials) in in autumn is particular recommended, because they can develop a strong root system to withstand the summer heat next year. Of course, annuals are a big hit in the winter time, because they bring some nice color into the garden landscape which is also mainly green and brown at this time of the year.

    Sigrun, yeah the California climate is very different from what I was used to in Germany. One reason why we moved here ;-)! But I was also astonished when I saw that they offered these primulas at the nursery. We will see how they do. I know that geraniums survive the winter here, but I wonder if they would bloom through it. I believe fish fertilizer is relatively commonly used in the US. It is a good "quick fix" fertilizer for the organic gardener, because the nutrients are readily available to the plants.


  12. Wow, Christina ! So much work in the garden ! Everything is just perfect for this time of year. Bravo !
    If the sun will shine in the next weekend I must follow your example :)
    Have a lovely week !

  13. Olá amiga,obrigada pela visitinha!!!Amo sua atenção!!!
    Belas imagens do seu jardim , apesar do trabalho, mas compensador!
    Volte sempre!!!
    Beijos, Marie.

  14. Congratulation on post number 100, a milestone! I have also thought about adding to the soil to get my hydrangeas blue, but since you have to do it every year I decided to just let nature decide. Some years they are pink, some years they are dark purple and some years somewhere in between, depends on how much I need to water and how much of the free stuff from above I can rely on. Your garden looks lovely, I always say I love to garden in London as so much survive here, but gardening in California seems to be a whole different thing, I’d love to do that!

  15. You have put in long hours in your garden. I have a very hard time with hydrangeas. They die. Congratulations on 100 posts. Hope you have many more. Happy Thanksgiving and good luck with the duck.

  16. Dani, I was surprised how long it took to get the things done that I showed in the post, but it was fun as well. With the exception of a very few chores, I truly love working in the garden. Wishing you a great time in your garden this weekend as well!

    Marie, thanks, you are right working in the garden is so rewarding!

    Helene, thanks, gardening in California is certainly fun, but my real challenge is not getting plants over the winter. It is getting them to survive our summer heat! I most likely have lost quite a few roses in containers this year :-(.

    Ann, yes, I have put in hours into the garden, but it was so nice to have the time again to be able to do that :-)! I will dash out right now and get some container gardening done until it is time to start the Thanksgiving cooking. Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving as well.


  17. Liebe Christina,
    so herrlich bei dir :-) So sommerliche Bilder!
    Ich wünsche dir trotzdem eine gemütliche Adventszeit!
    Ganz viele liebe Grüße zum 1. Adventswochenende
    sendet dir Urte :-)

  18. Urte, it can be spring like here in the winter n the middle of the day, but by 5:00 pm it is pitch dark and cool (we have big temperature swings between day and night). So no problem to get cozy inside with candles lit, wearing warm woolen sweaters and curling up under a throw on the sofa :-)! Wishing you a nice 1st advent as well!


  19. You fence colour really shows up the green. All my pots are in that same blue. I love them.

  20. Barbara, blue containers can add so much to the garden, can't they? Especially because true blue is a very rare color to find in flowering plants. I would love to add even more blue containers to the front yard.