Plant a star in your garden

July 20th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Dress up for the Fourth! Red, white and blue petunias, calibrachoa or combinations of these with lobelia, impatiens and daisies will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.
    • Plant fresh herbs from young plants. Basil, rosemary, thymes, mints and sages are just a few ideas.
    • Pepper plants should be fertilized when the first blossoms open.
    • Feed camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons with an acid plant food now. Remove dead flowers and mulch to keep the soil cool.
    • Check roses for suckers, which are tall, vigorous canes that shoot up from the rootstock. Cut them off as soon as you see them.

Plant a star in your garden

One of the most popular landscape plants in California is known as star jasmine. It is not the true jasmine, but it is a hardier plant and also has a sweetly scented fragrance. There are actually two star jasmines. The commonly planted one is Trachelospermum jasminoides, and the other is the Asian star jasmine, T. asiaticum.

Star jasmine has long been prized for its wonderful fragrance. It normally blooms through June and July with scattered flowers on through the summer. The flowers are about an inch across and are borne in clusters at the ends of the branches. The glossy, dark green leaves make an attractive contrast.

Star jasmine is a plant that can be trained to do almost anything you want. It will climb a trellis, spill over walls, climb fences and drape from hanging baskets. It is also a very graceful ground cover forming a thick cover.

Since it is slower growing than most vines, it is far more suitable for the small private garden or backyard. It can be grown in a large container for many years. Let it grow up a trellis to make a screen for the patio, or over an arbor or archway.

To cover a fence or wall, set the plants about 3 feet apart and start them in the direction you want them to grow. They climb by twining, but you may have to tie them to a trellis to start them growing up. As the plants mature, they grow faster, and can be trimmed lightly to keep them from becoming woody.

Asian star jasmine sends out long trailers on young plants and can be trained right away. It is exceptional for twining up chain link fences. It is more hardy to cold, but the flowers are a little smaller and more cream-colored than its cousin.

If you want to plant star jasmine as a ground cover, set the plants two feet apart. Use a diamond-shaped planting plan to assure good coverage as soon as possible. Any shoots that seem to grow straight up should be removed so that growth can go into the trailing shoots.

Asian star jasmine is most often used for a quick groundcover. It can be used to fill odd-sized areas or as coverage on banks and slopes. It will grow 1–2 feet high and should be sheared regularly to 6 inches high keep it tidy. The regular star jasmine forms a solid ground cover when sheared to 2 feet tall. Set plants 3 feet apart and they will fill in nicely.

Plant star jasmine in full sun or where it receives afternoon shade. Keep them well watered and weeded. A program of feeding every spring and late summer will help them grow and cover as soon as possible. Star jasmine is slow to take off growing so if you want to cover an area quickly, you might want to start with larger plants.

Both star jasmines are good-looking all year, and make a nice backdrop for other flowering plants. Use star jasmine near an entry or along a walk so you can enjoy the wonderful fragrance of their star-like flowers.

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.