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Combination Nation!

21 Mar

A garden is more than just the sum of its parts. It’s about getting some of the sum to party together at the same time!

Over the years, we’ve come across some pretty dependable – and dependably pretty – bloom-at-the-same-time plant combinations. And each year, it seems we discover new ones! For us, that’s a huge part of the fun of gardening – and of course, we love to share our tried-and-true, can’t-go-wrong favorites with you!

Our Springtime gardens wouldn’t be the same without our  favorite California wildflower and #1 stunner , Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes.” Once you’ve edged your Spring garden in this little slice of sky-blue heaven, you’ll be hooked! Which is fine because it looks great with everything, especially other natives that bloom at the same time. Here it looking perfectly perky with Malcolmia maritima and  fellow natives Platystemon californicusNemophila menziesii ‘Snow White’ and Limnanthes douglasii “Meadow Foam.”

Nemophila menziesii scene

Yup, looks great with the fiery red of Eschscholzia californica ‘Red Chief,’ too!

Nemophila "Baby Blue Eyes" & Cal Poppy 'Red Chief'

“Baby Blue Eyes” looking extra fine with red hot Cal Poppy ‘Red Chief.’

Another knock-out and goof-proof duo we return to again and again is Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Blue Springs’ and Eschscholzia californica ‘Apricot Chiffon.’ You just can’t beat the alchemy between the radiant Poppy and the luminous, almost turquoise Penstemon. Not shy in the bloom department, these two will go to town for months! Deer and drought resistant, they’re fine in low fertility soil and even more bodacious in regular garden soil with some compost!

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus

Cal Poppy 'Apricot Chiffon' & Penstemon heterophyllus
Okay, so say pastels aren’t really your thing. We can work with that! One of our favorite combinations pits primary gentian blue Anagallis monellii against the solar flare sunshine of Ursinia anthemoides. Throw in the peachy-amber foliage of Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and you’ve got a fantasically contrastic combo that does great in low water gardens.

Anagallis monellii & Ursinia anthemoides

From left to right: Heuchera ‘Marmalade’, Anagallis monellii and Ursinia anthemoides. BAM.

Ursinia anethoides & Anagallis monellii

Dreamiest spikes of creamiest apricot-blushed-rose blooms make this properly 3′ tall Snapdragon a perfect companion to so many other Spring (and Summer!) bloomers. Here it is canoodling with the long-blooming frothy lace caps of Orlaya grandiflora “Minoan Lace.”

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach' and Orlaya grandiflora

Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Peach,' Orlaya  grandiflora & Nicotiana 'Lime Green'
If we handed out awards to our favorite bloomers, Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ would probably sweep the floor, winning “Most Congenial,” Most Stylish” AND “Most Versatile.” Easy and exceptionally long blooming, it gets along with EVERYBODY and looks chic and fabulous doing it.  Plant it in containers or in the garden, it’ll thrive in sun (along the coast) or shade, its lime green flowers providing the perfect foil for more vibrant bloomers like Agrostemma githago ‘Milas.’

Nicotiana 'Lime Green' & Agrostemma g. 'Milas'

Agrostemma githago 'Milas'

So there you have it, folks – some simple and stunning combos you can try at home. AND, since so many of these luscious lovelies self-sow, you’ll enjoy future generations of combinations next Spring and beyond!

Spring Gardens Report Card

7 Jun

So, here’s the update on how my Spring blooming combos worked out this year. A lovely year all in all with a nice early bloom show for our Spring Party in mid-April and a perfect peak show just in time for our Mother’s Day Party.

SMALL Spring Garden U BED  left side full bloom

Papaver commutatum - Nemophila menziesii  & Agrostemma Ocean Pearls for blog

Here is the final result for the always popular mixed planting of Papaver commutatum “ Ladybird Poppy” with California native Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes” and tall, white, cottagey classic annual Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearls’ or “White Corncockle”. A fool proof-slam dunk Springtime combination – just imagine these plants repeated in groups over a larger space!

Papaver commutatum , White Cal Poppy & Nemophila 04-12 c GOOD

Here it is a month earlier before the Agrostemma started blooming and when the white California poppies, Eschscholzia californica ‘Alba’, were just coming into flower. Here along the coast in the Bay Area, I plant all these annuals in early February for a maximum bloom-at-the-same-time April – May show. You folks in Southern California would generally plant them in November – December for a late February – March bloom. Basically, they take 2 months from their 4” pot size to burst into all their glory. I plant them pretty darn close together – about 10-12” apart as you can see in my last blog, where I tried to show what they look like just after planting. This helps them fill in fast, look super co-mingly and prevents unattractive bare space (and weeds!).

Big thrill for me! My first-time experiment pairing EASY South African bulb Ixia ‘Buttercup’ and new-to-me Southern California purple California native Phacelia minor was a success! They did bloom at the same time!

Phacelia minor-Ixia Buttercup & Thomas Church

I planted the Phacelia in early March and it worked out just right. Wonderfully rich colored bells were displayed so showily atop quite handsome low foliage. A swell contrast with the Ixia, which has been in the ground for 2 years. And notice the rather perfect purple and yellow bicolored Lupinus regalis ‘Thomas Church’ in the background, making a picture perfect harmonious vertical accent. The Lupine is a perennial and so is the Ixia, which spreads politely in your garden to make a patch of bright primrose prettiness each year. The Phacelia is a bee-magnet extraordinaire and will self-sow for a repeat performance each Spring.

Lupinus Thomas Church & Ixia Buttercup bb ADJ

As I mentioned in my March post, I try to make the front bed as you enter the nursery as romantic as I can. Not everything worked out as I had imagined it (a really common occurrence!).
U BED Spring Garden Elayne ADJ & CROP

This spot is under partial shadow of a tree and I always forget that sun loving plants take longer to bloom with less sun, so my white poppies, Papaver ‘Bridal Silk’, bloomed late and you can only see one bloom on the right side of this photo. Luckily, the white columbine, Aquilegia caerulea ‘Krystal’ took its place. Still pretty, though, don’t you think? Here is a close-up of always beautiful, long lived and long blooming Dianthus ‘Pinkerton’ and “Baby Blue Eyes”.

Dianthus Pinkerton & Nemophila

Lastly, this was the first year I’ve tried this lovely new apricot colored Calendula ‘Bronzed Beauty’ in our gardens.

Calendula  Bronze Beauty  side  NICE

Calendula Bronze Beauty close PERFECT

The gentian Ajuga genevensis I had planned for the front of the bed bloomed late this year, so I added in some quick flowering Viola ‘Bolwes Black’ along with the blue Delphinium bellamosum, peach foliaged Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and Bellis perennis “English Daisy”. And here’s how it turned out for these photos – I think pretty nice!

Calendula  Bronzed Beaury Viola Bowles Black 7 Heuchera Marmalade nn

Calendula Bronze Beauty  SIDE GOOD  ADJ & CROP

That’s one thing I have learned from my years of gardening. You can never quite count on perennials, like the Ajuga, to behave the same way each year or to bloom at the exact same time – that’s one important reason to accessorize and fill in with annuals. You pretty much know what you’re gonna get and that it’s gonna look great. Besides, they self-sow for free plants every new season.

I hope my experiments lend some inspiration. Do stay tuned, as we filmed some nice videos of our Spring gardens this year, featuring more of my favorite “bloom-at-the-same-time combos” in all their fabulous glory! And hey, Happy Gardening everybody!

It’s starting to happen!

28 Apr

Looks like the gardens will peak just in time for our Mother’s Day Party on May 7 & 8! Get all the deets HERE!

Everything is blooming about a month late because of the cold and the rain and the hail (and the rain an the hail and the cold). We didn’t know if this year’s gardens would end up a complete disaster after an unusually brutal Winter but once again, Mother Nature is delighting us with her magic.

lupinus_thomas_church_garden

Lupinus 'Thomas Church' and Aquilegia v. 'Blue Barlow' looking spiffy!

The California natives seem to be especially slow, with California poppies yet to bloom and Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes” growing in slow motion. But, the Lupines are earlier than ever and thriving!

lupinus_thomas_church_spiking

Omphalodes linifolia provides a delightful white skirt to our boy 'Thomas.'

Layias were one of the CA natives not affected by the rain and it didn’t seem to mind the cold. Some of them did get a little beaten down by the hail, but they’re sure bringing their rays of sunshine to the beds right now.

LAYIA & PHYGELIUS CROP PRETTY ADJ  copy

Layia platyglossa "Tidy Tips" and Penstemon pseudospectabilis with Campanula glomerata.

layia_glandulosa_in_garden

Layia glandulosa makes the perfect partner to Nemophila menziesii "Baby Blue Eyes."

We’re LOVING the true form of Layia glandulosa. Everybody loves blues and whites in the Spring garden, but you need soft yellows to balance it out and bright pinks to make it pop. I’m so excited because this is the perfect soft yellow to go with all of our Spring bloomers!

Gladiolus carneus "Painted Lady" & Glaucium grandiflorum GOOD copy

Gladiolus carneus "Painted Lady" and Glaucium grandiflorum make odd bedfellows.

Every year is different and full of surprises. I’ve never seen these two plants bloom at the same time before, hence the unusual color combo! That’s Gladiolus carneus, a South African bulb, returning for another year and Glaucium grandiflorum (orange), blooming much earlier than it usually does for us. Both require no Summer water.

Just coming into bloom is Delphinium belladonna ‘Cliveden Beauty’, Sidalcea hendersonii and ultra-blue CA native Phacelia viscida. The Sidalcea is one of my favorite perennials, I use it everywhere because it blooms Spring thru Fall and is so very reliable, becoming bigger and bloomier every year.

Sidalcea hendersonii & Phacelia viscida Garden  copy

From left to right: Delphinium belladonna 'Cliveden Beauty,' Sidalcea hendersonii and Phacelia viscida.

Phacelia viscida

Bumblebee magnet Phacelia viscida how we love you!

Believe it or not, there are a whole lot more plants still to bloom in this garden. I think they should hit their peak just in time for our Mother’s Day Party on May 7 and 8. How cool is that? You should definitely come – bring your Mom AND your camera! MORE ABOUT THE PARTY HERE!

spring_garden

Carnival colors: Greek poppies (red), Layia platyglossa (yellow), Cheiranthus allionii (orange), Eschscholzia caespitosa (shortie yellow) and Aquilegia c. "Rocky Mountain Columbine" (light blue in background).

Bestill our Hearts – Kate Frey at the Nursery!

30 Mar

NEWSFLASH!! The incredible Kate Frey is coming to speak at the nursery for our AMAZING SPRING PARTY on Saturday, April 9 at 11 am! Kate will be giving a presentation on “How to Create a Pollinator Paradise in your own Garden.” As pollinators the world over are struggling, we think this is an extremely important talk – you must come!

Once there was a princess in Cretan Greek mythology who was changed into a bee after she learned how to collect honey. Her name was Melissa.

Bee Goddess, Q. Cassetti, Trumansburg, New York, 2010, Mixed Media

Last year, Kate invited all of us at Annie’s to visit the thrilling “Melissa Garden” she created in Healdsburg, CA for “bee-stewards” Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger. The Melissa Garden was created as a bee sanctuary extraordinaire where hives are treated as living beings. The bees are raised in innovative hives under natural conditions and provided with an exuberant garden brimming with year-round nectary flowers. I don’t think anyone else has created a garden quite like this anywhere in the world. I highly encourage you to check out this enchanting world Kate has created. The garden is open once a month to the public. Do visit it yourself and be inspired as much as we were! (Or, if you live far away, you can watch the SLIDESHOW from our visit last July).

The Melissa Garden, Healdsburg, CA

I first met Kate in the mid-1990’s when I visited the organic gardens she designed at Fetzer Winery in Hopland. It was, simply, the most awesome garden I had ever seen. Awestruck and delighted, I felt giddy. The air was alive with butterflies and bees zooming around and each plant was a glorious, perfect specimen.

Kate and her garden was the goddess Melissa come to life!

Gorgeous black compost blanketed the ground – grapeseed compost from the winery, one of Kate’s fantastic secrets for extraordinary plant growth! I was an instant convert and started using it my own gardens with awesome success. We began offering it at the nursery and it now has a devoted following – all thanks to Kate!

I see Kate as a goddess, I really do. Not only that, she looks like a princess.

Princess Kate meets The Queen

Kate's Gold Medal Garden at The Chelsea Flower Show

Over the years, Kate has sprinkled her magic around the world. She has twice won the gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and met the Queen! In 2009 she created a sustainable garden in the World Garden Competition in Hamamatsu, Japan. Her latest adventure is creating a sustainable and organic food garden in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Kate Frey!

Kate and Annie at the nursery

This is really a great opportunity to meet our wonderful Kate in person. Plus she’ll be sharing her favorite varieties to create your own Melissa Garden! How can you resist!

Visit Kate and her husband Ben’s BLOG to see more of their incredible gardens!

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day – It’s On!

15 Mar

Sometime in the last month, Mother Nature hit the “on” button for Spring here in USDA zone 9-10. More sunshine, bees, birdsong and – oh yeah! – longer days to enjoy it all. So many pretty things have woken up and unfurled their flowers, way too many to post! I’ll keep it simple with a handful of hard-working but easy going CA natives that never fail to knock our socks off.

Ribes 'Claremont' and hummer

Ah, Ribes! How you brighten up our Winters and make the hummingbirds so happy! Our mother plant of Ribes sanguineum ‘Claremont’ is in massive beautiful bloom back by the seeding shed. With extra large, pendulous, 4″ blooms, you can see how the hummingbirds are mad for it. Just don’t get too close, or they might get mad at you. Check out the habit on this lovely plant – stunning!

lathyrus_vestitus

We’re excited about this new-to-us NATIVE sweet pea that climbs by delicate-looking tendrils to 6-10′. Not thuggy like some of the other perennial peas (Lathyrus latifolius, we’re looking at you), Lathyrus vestitus can be found growing under oaks in light shade in both clay and sand in its native habitat. Supposedly deciduous, ours remained evergreen during our mild Winter and burst out in violet-pink, lightly grape-soda scented flowers in February. It’s been blooming ever since. Love!

Galvezia speciosa

The first few flowers of Galvezia speciosa are starting to peep out. This tough Channel Island native blooms Spring through Fall, with electric reddish-pink flowers and small fuzzy leaves on a pretty shrub 3′ tall by 3-4′ wide. It’s clay and drought tolerant, making it extra useful in the garden. I probably should have waited to take a picture of it next month when it will be even bloomier, but I couldn’t help myself.

Ranunculus californicus

Just last weekend I went for a walk in Briones Regional Park and was cheered to see Ranunculus californicus starting to bloom along the trails. It’s wide awake and starting to bloom in the nursery, too. Easy to grow and requiring virtually no-care once established, I dare you to find a more cheerful and quintessentially buttercuppy buttercup. It makes me happy every time I walk by it, whether on the trail or in the garden.

Of course, there are many, many other wonderful things starting to bloom right now. If you’re nearby, come see for yourself! Or visit our Flickr stream for frequent updates.

Big ups to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day! See what’s blooming on other folks’ gardens this March!

California’s Crazy Cabbages!

23 Feb

It’s a Cabbagey time of year, but not in the way you might expect! Though I do have a soft spot for sauerkraut and odd ornamental kales (last year we celebrated “Take Your Cabbage to Work Day” and a magnificent head of ‘Filderkraut’ attended our staff meeting), I mean instead to wax ecstatic on the wild, NATIVE cousins of our vegetable friends.

Caulanthus inflatus

Caulanthus inflatus doing it's thing. Eventually the stem will puff up like a smallish banana!

May we introduce Caulanthus inflatus “Desert Candle?” It’s the only annual I can think of that’s grown for its STEM, which is curiously inflated and bright yellow. It’s only during the first few months of the year that we’re able to grow this bizarrity, and after real sunshine starts to hit our part of the world, up, up it goes, like a banana that’s been bred with a balloon and we can no longer offer starts. So sad! So seasonal! If I could grow this annual year round, I would, but it doesn’t grow that way. As the common name suggests, it’s on loan to us from more arid parts of the state and it’s biological clock tells it to bloom like there’s NO TOMORROW before the scorching sets in. Given a milder climate, luxurious soil and more ample agua, some desert wildflowers carry on for much much longer than they would in the wilds, but Caulanthus inflatus keeps the window tight. Thus my very special public service announcement: should you like to grow this truly strange cabbage cousin for yourself, you must get them in the ground pretty much NOW. Go go go!

Another of our native cabbages that looks more extraterrestrial than local is Streptanthus farnsworthianus. Subtle in color, but so strange in form! The appeal is not so much the flowers, but the foliage, which starts as a tuft of ferny green and elongates and ages as the plant comes into bloom into strange winged purple forms with a pearlescent sheen. It’s very hard to capture and document properly and even our best photos seem to miss the whimsy and oddity of the plant. You must grow it and see for yourself!

streptanthus_farnsworthianus-1

Strange and pretty CA native Streptanthus farnsworthianus has purple papery wings that outshine the flowers.

streptanthus_farnsworthianus_again

Last and hardly least comes Thysanocarpus radians, whose delicate stems carry some of the prettiest seeds I’ve ever seen. Held many to a stem, they look very much like elegant jewelry. A translucent wing surrounds each seed and if you’re careful with your meadow maintenance (mind your Sluggo and keep the weeds at bay) you can get a little patch going that will reseed and return every year! This is another plant that we cannot offer late, so plant soon or you’ll miss your chance!

thysanocarpus_radians

thysanocarpus_radians_form

Here are a few other colorful cabbages of note floating about the nursery:

Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’ – Heirloom and exclusive! Also the most decadent “Money Plant” around.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey'

Heliophila longifolia – Airy, barely there foliage builds into a frothy bouquet of beautiful blue.

heliophila_longifolia_2

Streptanthus albidus peramoena “Most Beautiful Jewel Flower” – Lovely, showy, ENDANGERED. What more can be said?

streptanthus_albidus_peramoenus_diptych

Erysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum – New this year! I’ve fallen in love with this orange flowered CA native on the side of the road many times. I’m excited we can finally offer it for sale in the nursery!

Erysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum