Why I’m Planting Ceanothus Now

Why I’m Planting Ceanothus Now

This year, I'm desperate to plant Ceanothus now. There are hundreds of reasons to plant this sturdy, tidy, beautiful, fragrant native, but this year three of those reasons are pushing me into urgent nursery buying excursions. If not now, then soon, landscape watering is going to be very limited. So working slowly, section by section, I have been replacing plants in my gardens that need summer water with new choices that will be drought tolerant once established, like Ceanothus. I invite you to do the same.

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Fall Weed Strategies

Fall Weed Strategies

The new growing season also means an abundance of seedlings in the garden soil. In well-tended old gardens, many or most of these seedlings will be desirable plants, cool season annuals emerging from last year’s seeds. But just as reliable are the weedy seeds. Good gardening calls for an organized strategy to combat the new weed season.

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Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Late Summer Gardens, Part II

Last month, this column covered some tips on design and care of the late summer garden. A month later and we are still in the same late summer weather pattern, with mostly foggy days on the western side of the city, dry soils, and cool temperatures. As each week of late summer passes, the summer-dry garden looks more and more disheveled and dreary, unless the gardener follows a few simple rules.

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Climate-Wise Spring Bulbs

Climate-Wise Spring Bulbs

Tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses need a frosty winter to bloom successfully. Here in our mild winter climate, those who really want to see these flowers in the spring must buy the bulbs early and chill them for 4-6 weeks in the refrigerator before planting in order to get a successful show. In our climate, but the real gangbuster spring bulb shows come from bulbs which have their ancestry in climate zones similar to California’s.

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Generosity of Nature

Generosity of Nature

Every year I bring the inspiration from my annual trip the Eastern Sierra back to my own gardens, and try to create on a small scale a reminder of this generosity and strictness. To create a natural feeling in the garden, it’s important to resist the temptation to plant one specimen of each of your favorite plants. Instead, repeat the most successful and best suited plants. This way you can create the same feeling of ordered wildness we loved in the mountains.

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Grevilleas of the Perennial Border

Grevilleas of the Perennial Border

Our gardens experience a brief second spring in the weeks between the first wet storms and the cold weather which usually arrives around winter solstice. Leucadendrons and Grevilleas are perking up and starting to make a statement. These plants grow with little irrigation in poor, sandy soil. They require excellent drainage and are frost-tender, but in sandy, coastal, drought-tolerant gardens, they can’t be beat. They bring color, texture, and stature into the winter border.

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Fall Blooming Salvias

Fall Blooming Salvias

The glory of our borders right now are the late-blooming Salvias. Salvias bloom here at the GFE all year long, as the fall-blooming ones give way to the winter-bloomers. Spring is a burst of color, and the native Salvias start, finishing in summer. By late summer, most of the California native sages are dormant, and their place is taken by tropical sages, many from Mexico and South America.

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Choosing Plants for the Border

Choosing Plants for the Border

For gardeners, this is a time for action. The ideal planting time for trees, shrubs, and perennials is now, with 5-7 cool, rainy months ahead. Plants set out as the rainy season begins can establish deep root systems before the stress of the first hot dry days, usually in May.

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Gardening for Good Bugs

Gardening for Good Bugs

The blooming nectar plants, the bushy cover of California natives, the seed and berry-bearing shrubs in our borders attract birds, pollinators, spiders, and predatory insects to create a busy, diverse, dynamic growing zone in which our fruit-trees, vegetables, and tender flowering plants can thrive without harmful infestations of insects getting out of balance.

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