Father’s Day in the Garden

June 17th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • There’s still time to plant summer vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and corn will bear for you if you plant them now.
    • Attract birds to your garden with a concrete bird bath. They come in many attractive styles and make good gifts.
    • Attract hummingbirds to your patio this summer with hummingbird feeders, so you can enjoy their iridescent beauty and charm. The new Big Gulp™ holds 40 oz. and is easy to fill.
    • New Guinea impatiens have variegated foliage and giant, impatiens flowers. These striking plants will take more sun than regular impatiens and will bloom all summer.
    • Check roses for black spots on the leaves and treat immediately to prevent defoliation.

Father’s Day in the Garden

My father loved dahlias. He had a flower border that surrounded the little lawn in our backyard and in it he grew gorgeous dahlias and tall, colorful gladioli. There was also a big, beautiful apricot tree and a large bed of strawberries. He would deliver a big bowl of bright red strawberries to the kitchen with pride and anticipation for the strawberry shortcake that would appear after dinner. How we enjoyed the fresh fruit from his garden. He loved gardening and I loved being with him in the garden. I think the garden was his escape from the stresses of life.

Lots of dads enjoy gardening. Tomatoes and peppers are favorites with many of them. And dads like fruit trees. It gives them lots to master with the pruning and thinning and then the harvesting in the fall. There always seems to be room for one more fruit tree.

Grape and berry vines are easy to grow and so much fun to harvest. With just a few grapevines you can harvest enough fruit for delicious fresh grapes, grape juice, grape jelly or raisins. Plant early, mid-season and late varieties for an extended harvest. The sweet, ripe berries are loved by everyone.

Raspberries and blackberries are easy to grow in our climate. Raspberries come in a variety of colors: red, purple, black and yellow. From the classic dark red berries with rich raspberry flavor to the extra large Bababerries and the yellow Fall Gold, there is a wide variety of colors and flavors. With a little planning, you can have fresh raspberries from spring through fall. There is very little maintenance and you are rewarded with succulent berries year after year.

Blackberries are known by many names: boysenberry, nectarberry, loganberry or olallie berry to name a few. The berries range in color from jet black to red, from sweet to tart, and all have distinctive flavors.

Olallie berries are large, firm black berries 1.5 inches long. They are sweeter than others with some wild blackberry flavor. Marionberries have sweet, bright, shiny black berries with a faint wild blackberry flavor. They are excellent for fresh eating and desserts.

Loganberries are thought to be a wild cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry. Their large, light red berries do not darken when ripe. The unique, tart flavor is highly prized and loganberry wine and pies are enjoyed by many people. ‘Triple Crown’ blackberry is named for its three crowning attributes—flavor, productivity and vigor. In addition, it is thornless and produces very large berries.

Boysenberries, also called nectarberries, are extremely large, dark maroon berries up to two and a half inches long. They are soft and very juicy with a rich, tangy flavor. They come either thorny or thornless.

Gooseberries and currants almost never show up in the grocery store, so if you like a tasty gooseberry pie now and then, you better plant your own. They are very flavorful and can be eaten fresh or made into pies and jams.

Blueberries grow on bushes that produce bountiful crops in just a few years. There are many varieties and they ripen over a long season. The soil needs to be acidic and kept moist but with a little effort, you can harvest delicious blueberries all summer long.

Celebrate Dad this weekend with fruits and flowers and a day in the garden.

Create a Shady Oasis

June 8th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Cover cherry trees with bird netting to protect your crop.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White or white latex paint. This will keep the soft bark from sunburning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons can be pruned now without sacrificing next years bloom. Ask at your nursery if you need help.
    • Spray roses every two weeks with Neem oil to keep leaves free of black spot and mildew.

Create a Shady Oasis

There are many beautiful shrubs, perennials and ferns that you can use to create a shady retreat on your property.

First it’s important to determine how much sun or shade you have. Areas that receive three or four hours of morning sun in the summer and shade the rest of the day will be able to support more flowering plants than fully shaded areas.

Such areas are perfect for rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. These lovely shrubs will thrive there and put on a beautiful display of flowers each spring. Japanese maples will also do well and they will add some height and grace to the landscape.

There are many perennials that will bloom beautifully here and come back year after year. Columbines, with their delicate and graceful flowers, are familiar harbingers of spring. Astilbes, known as false spirea, are truly splendid shade plants with showy, graceful flower plumes and fern-like foliage. Foxgloves are tall, colorful plants for the semi-shady garden.

For deep shade we turn to leaves for most of the color. The gold dust plant, Aucuba japonica, is a fine, evergreen shrub for full shade areas. It fills out to be a round, 5-foot-tall shrub and its yellow-spotted leaves will lighten up a dark corner.

The beautiful leaves of hostas, which come in silvery-blue, yellow-green, and all manner of variegation, are treasures of the shade garden. Their colorful leaves are attractive all summer and later in the season they send up spikes of lily-like flowers in white or lavender, which can be quite showy. Some are even fragrant. In general, the blue-leafed hostas require full shade, while the gold, yellow, and white-leafed hostas like morning sun.

Bleeding hearts have a charming beauty with their arching stems of delicate, heart-shaped flowers in spring. They grow best in partial to full shade in moist, well-drained soil. The tall showy flower spikes of Dicentra spectabilis die down after they bloom.

Fringed bleeding heart, Dicentra eximia, has deeply cut, grey green, fern-like foliage and dainty, light pink, heart-shaped flowers. Its foliage stays green through the summer and the flowers bloom over a long season.

A third variety, Western bleeding heart, Dicentra formosa, is native to the redwood region. It is very similar to Dicentra eximia, and is surprisingly drought tolerant during the summer months. Use it in woodland gardens.

Jacob’s ladder is an attractive upright plant with clusters of small, nodding lavender-blue flowers atop tall stems. A variegated variety, ‘Touch of Class’, has bright green leaves that are richly edged with cream. It bears lavender-blue blossoms in spring, and grows 18 inches tall.

Ferns are the mainstays of the total shade garden. There are many hardy ferns that are long-lived in our region. Their leaves add texture and variety to the area. Look for sword ferns, giant chain ferns, five-finger ferns, Autumn ferns and Japanese painted ferns.

Add a bench and a water feature and create a lush, restful oasis where life can slow down a little while you escape from the heat.

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

June 8th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Cage or stake tomatoes while still small so that you can train them as they grow.
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Petunias, in bright pink, red and purple, will add beauty and color to sunny borders all through the summer.
    • Fragrant star jasmine is in full bloom right now. Plant one in a semi-shaded spot where you can enjoy its lovely perfume.

Attract Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Hummingbirds are some of the most interesting and colorful birds that visit our gardens. The best way to attract hummingbirds to your backyard is by hanging up feeders, planting nectar-rich flowering plants and even putting up water features that hummingbirds love.

Hummingbird feeders provide hummingbirds with nectar critical to their survival, especially during fall and spring migration. Fill the feeders with sugar water and be sure to change the water regularly to keep it fresh. Hang the feeders where you can enjoy watching them drink and dart about.

But it’s even more interesting to watch them sipping from the flowers in your own garden. They are extremely active birds and will visit hundreds of flowers each day to meet their nutrition requirements. Sugary nectar makes up 90 percent of a hummingbird’s diet and supplies fast energy for the tiny birds.

Many flowers are dependent upon hummingbirds for pollination. Red, a color which is invisible to bees, attracts hummingbirds’ attention, but they also visit orange and pink flowers. The flowers that they pollinate are often tubular, rich in nectar and usually lacking in fragrance.

Some of the annual flowers that hummingbirds like the most are red salvia, snapdragons, petunias and nicotiana. They love fuchsias whose drooping flowers they can reach while hovering beneath them. They also enjoy the flowers of morning glory vines, impatiens and zinnias.

There are many perennials that attract them. In spring they feed on columbines, foxgloves and lupines. In summer there are many good nectar sources for them: lilies, penstemon, summer phlox, cardinal flower, Lily of the Nile, bee balm, hollyhocks, coral bells and daylilies. In late summer they will visit California fuchsias and rose of Sharon.

The orange trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, which blooms most of the summer, is very popular with hummingbirds. Honeysuckle vines are also well liked as are red hot poker plants, which send up tall spikes of tubular orange flowers, gladiolus blossoms, and the unusual red or pink flowers of Grevillea.

The silk tree or mimosa with its fuzzy pink blossoms is a regular stop on the hummingbird’s flight. Butterfly bush and Weigela are also favorites. Choose plants with different blooming periods so that there will be a steady supply of flowers throughout the growing season.

The hummingbird garden should have enough open space for hummingbirds to put on their aerial displays. About one fourth of the yard should be shaded, one fourth partially shaded and the rest open to the sun. Choose plants that will provide blossoms throughout the season. Hummingbirds do not use traditional types of birdbaths, but prefer ones that spray a fountain so they can fly in and out of the spray of water. Or set up a mister and watch them enjoy flying through the mist.

Hummingbirds have good memories and will return year after year to an attractive garden. The more plants you have that the hummingbirds like, the more you will be able to enjoy them all season.