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What I’m Doing in the Garden

29 Mar

People are always asking me when they come in the nursery what I’m doing in the garden right now. They want just a few simple new plant combinations that they can try at home.

Here at the nursery, the goal for me is to get everything to be in full bloom for our SPRING PARTY on April 14 & 15. Each year, I try to do something new so that when people come in, it’s fresh and exciting. It’s thrilling and creative for me and folks are always happy and inspired to see something new. Plus, it’s fun!

This is the first demonstration bed you see when you enter the nursery. I want it to feel romantic, Springy and welcoming as visitors walk through the front gates.

center bed newly planted

Filling in the space around established Cephalaria gigantea, “Giant Scabious” – which won’t bloom until Summer – are exuberant Spring favorites Nemophila menziesii “Baby Blue Eyes”, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ and Agrostemma githago ‘Ocean Pearls’. FYI: the white speckles covering the soil is Sluggo, my favorite non-toxic snail bait. NOTICE THE AMOUNT of Sluggo I’m using here. It’s been raining for the last three weeks straight – and that means its super snacky time for resident slugs and snails. I’ll re-apply it every five days while it’s raining to make sure my baby plants are safe.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s an example of this combo with Orlaya grandiflora stepping in for Agrostemma ‘Ocean Pearls’. Pretty!

Super popular in the garden last year was Ixia ‘Buttercup‘. This year I’m trying it with purple flowered California native Phacelia minor in hopes that the pairing of bright purple and yellow will look exciting together. Will they bloom at the same time? Let’s see what happens! (In case you’re wondering about the orange stuff on the soil surface, I’ve added a light layer of lava rock. Because we top-dress with compost several times during the year, we add the lava rock once a year to maintain optimum drainage).

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Ixia hybrid 'Buttercup' close-up

Ixia, meet Phacelia.

Phacelia minor

Phacelia, meet Ixia.


It’s a month before the Spring Party and here I am adding in the quickest to grow and bloom annual – Malcolmia maritima. I looove Malcolmia with “Baby Blue Eyes” and just about any Dianthus. Last month, I planted the Delphinium and Papaver. The Dianthus are from last year – they remain my favorite long-lived, long blooming, old-fashioned, fragrant, perennial stand-bys for the edge of the garden.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

Here’s a peek at at how sweet and wonderfully SPRINGY this combo looks.

Last year I was enamored with this new two-toned peachy-ruby Calendula, ‘Bronzed Beauty.’ So this year, I planted it near the entryway.

Photo courtesy the lovely Floradora Gardens.

Here, I’m just adding bright gentian blue Ajuga genevensis in the foreground and Delphinium ‘Bellamosum’ in the back. Bouncy white English daisies (Bellis perennis) will fill in any emtpy spaces. For foliar interest, there are a few grasses plus harmoniously peachy Heuchera ‘Marmalade’ and ruby-ribbed Rumex sanguineus.

Click to see a larger view of this garden!

So there you go! With just a few well-chosen Spring bloomers, you can make great combinations that will delight your eye and make you and your garden feel so totally successful!

Show us your Echiums!

27 May

There’s just something about Echium wildprettii that makes people want to stand up and vogue! In fact, it’s the SEASON for Echium action shots, as “Tower of Jewels” everywhere reach for the sky and say “CHEESE.”

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These 8’ monsters in pink are in-spire-ational! (Photo courtesy Chuck B. http://back40feet.blogspot.com/)

We’ve been growing Echium wildpretii for over 15 years and consider it an old friend, but somehow this 6-8’ tall pyramid of flowers never ceases to drop our jaws. Even though it’s got a spectacularity rating of 10, it’s a 1 on the simple-to-grow scale. In its first year, plant it out in a sunny to partly shaded site (most soils except the soggiest are perfectly fine) and wait. Year one, it will make a pretty but understated rosette of leaves. After its first winter is when the plants will go up up up!

Our buddy Les and his best triffid Buddy in Berkeley, CA.

When we say that this plant can stop traffic, we mean it!! Bees and hummingbirds far and wide start circling in when it starts to bloom, but so do cars! If your Echium can be seen from the street, expect some curious visitors.

Carri from Sacramento looks a little bit dubious about getting snuggly.

Carri’s curbside Echiums have brought MANY people to her door. How many? Well, let’s just say that her husband is petitioning to install a sign out front to stop the friendly interruptions.

WHAT IS THIS THING?

Why, it’s an ECHIUM!

WHERE DID YOU FIND SUCH A THING?

Well, at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, of course!

John from Downey, CA got this Echium for his birthday last year. Watch out for the hummingbirds - they don't like to share!

“Tower of Jewels” is the common name for E.wildprettii, but it could just as easily be called “Tower of Bees” or “Tower of Hummingbirds.” It does a magnificent job of advertising its wares and the payoff is HEE-UGE!

Alex - Queen of the Jungle! Everyone reach for the sky!

Echium wildpretii "Tower of Jewels"

Here's another cutie!

Rough soil? Harsh site? Full, baking sun? Echiums don’t care! See below: this gaggle seems perfectly at ease on a vacant lot.

Glenn Park posted this photo of E. wildprettii growing happily in an empty lot in Lompoc, CA.

Pots are also *generally* a no-no (a confined space makes Echiums suffer and sometimes go kaput) BUT we’ve now had a number of experimental gardeners prove to us that it *can* be pulled off. If you try it, a big container is prefereable.

Echium wildpretii "Tower of Jewels"

Megan and Matti from the Far Out Flora blog grew their Echium in a pot, and lo! It did just fine.

Megan from Far Out Flora suspects that their amazing specimen might be growing through the bottom of the pot, but even so, it seems like containers (BIG CONTAINERS) are worth a try – especially if it’s the ONLY way you zonal denial folks can make your Echium dreams come true.

Gardening

Master mugger Matti for scale.

After blooming, these towers of loveliness will pass on into the great garden in the sky BUT they almost always leave behind a few seedlings to carry on another day. If you must relocate the babies, do it quickly when they are still very small.

Eunice in San Francisco attributes her Echium's vim and vigor to a bucketful of mop water (no soap) every other week and plenty of sun.

echium wildpretii curve

Are your Echiums in action? Post it to our Facebook page! Special points for dressing it up in a baseball cap and sunglasses, giving it a moustache or maybe a Hawaaian shirt. We’d be all for that.  Echiums, away!!

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.

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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.

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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).

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!

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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!

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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