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July 2, 2007

Beginning

In this blog I hope to venture in and out of the garden as I write about food, travel and, of course, my garden itself.

I love to cook and have years of experience as a completely self-taught, fully amateur cook for family and friends, or as I like to call them, the ever willing victims of my experiments. My cooking has been influenced by several trips to Italy, several stints with vegetarianism and an addiction to television cooking shows stemming back to my childhood when Julia Child’s “The French Chef” aired on the same station as Sesame Street.

I recently joined a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Fairview Gardens. It is a simple but brilliant concept. Consumers pay upfront for a portion of the harvest. Each week I pick up an assortment of organic, freshly picked, seasonal fruits and vegetables. It varies each week and the surprise of it all has really influenced the way I cook and eat. I’m looking forward to sharing the recipes and ideas that the CSA experience has given me in this blog. And I encourage you to seek out the CSAs in your area and consider joining one.

As for my own little garden, it has felt a little neglected since I’m enjoying Fairview Garden tomatoes instead of planting my own this year. But my herb bed is thriving and the grapes are filling in the arbor, so it is still my favorite refuge and outdoor room. So, in or out of the garden, let the blog begin.

July 3, 2007

Lavender in the Summer Garden

My garden in July is dry, dry, dry. Even though it is set up with drip irrigation, the plants never have the same lush look that they have in early spring. This year is especially dry because we had so far below our normal rainfall. Luckily I have plenty of lavender, rosemary and other herbs and plants that love the nice hot summer days. With all the nice warm days we've been having lately, I really notice the wonderful scent of the lavender.

I have planted several varieties of lavender: English, French, Spanish and one called Goodwin Creek Grey that seems to do particularly well, but has a more medicinal scent. One of my favorites for how it smells has the unlikely name of Lavendula Grosso.

The English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Munstead) is blooming and I am thinking that it's time I tried using it in some sort of culinary experient.

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It is supposedly the sweetest and best tasting of the lavenders. I've used it garnish everything from appetizers to chocolate cakes, but I haven't yet tried cooking with it. Perhaps I should try a lavender cream sauce? Lavender ice cream? Or lavender infused honey? A quick search on the Epicurious website turned up 19 results for recipes with lavender in them. This includes a couple for ice cream, which might just the thing for a warm summer day in the garden.

July 4, 2007

Photo of the Garden

An overhead look from the upstairs deck.

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July 5, 2007

A Little Bit About the Garden

About three years ago we embarked on a major overhaul of our garden. It is a fairly small garden situated on the slope of a canyon in Santa Barbara, California. The garden had been planted with a mish mash of everything from bamboo to citrus trees to drought tolerant shrubs. With our dry climate, keeping plants watered on the sandy soil slope was an ordeal. Even the drought tolerant shrubs were barely getting by. It needed to be terraced!

With the help of a landscape designer, we came up with a plan that would utilize the local sandstone to create paths, raised beds, patios and even a small fish pond. The walls were built to a comfortable seating height and a curved bench was built into one of the taller retaining walls. On the paths and patios we chose a tumbled flagstone set in mortar so it would be easy to sweep and maintain.

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Continue reading "A Little Bit About the Garden" »

July 11, 2007

Burgundy Plum

My sad little "Burgundy" Plum tree is finally producing plums! The first year we planted it I think we got one or two plums, then the next few years, no plums at all. My husband kept asking me if it was an ornamental plum tree. Then last year we got about half a dozen plums and this year there are easily three times that many on our little tree! A couple have already ripened, but most are still on the tree and look like the photo below.

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When they are perfectly ripe the skin turns the lovely burgundy shade that the variety is named for, and the flesh is a deep red and very flavorful. But I really had no idea what they would taste like when I chose this variety, since you never see Burgundy plums at the market. I selected it purely on the basis of its description in the Sunset Western Garden Book that said it was self-fertile and didn't require a lot of winter chilling. It's a Japanese variety as opposed to a European variety, which generally means that it's less cold hardy and it blooms earlier. In our climate this is not a problem since we rarely have any frost, let alone a late spring frost. But generally, it's hard to grow really good stone fruits along he coast of Southern California. So many of the varieties of peaches, nectarines, plums, apples and pears require a certain number of hours of winter chill. So selecting the right variety is key.

Then there's the whole pruning issue. One year I didn't prune it all, another year I pruned it too much. This last year I went to a workshop at our local nursery (La Sumida Nursery) and I learned that you don't need to prune it too much because it bears on one year old stems. I think the one year I pruned it, I cut off every bit of one year old growth and that's why we didn't get plums that year. But you do want to prune and shape it each year and make sure it doesn't have too much of the little twiggy growth that it tends to get. I wasn't entirely sure it all made sense, but I went home and clipped a little here and and chopped a little there. Then I really meant to spray it with dormant oil but somehow never found the time. And all this laziness has paid off in the largest crop of plums yet. My formerly sad little plum tree is now one of the features of my garden.

July 16, 2007

Iceberg Roses

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For instant gratification and long-term dependability, plant Iceberg roses. They bloom like crazy and are far more tolerant of benign neglect than any other rose I know.

I am not really a rose gardener. I just love roses. I especially love antique or old roses. If you’re wondering what an antique rose is, it’s not some old dusty thing you find in a thrift store. It’s a rose variety introduced before 1867, when the first hybrid tea rose came on the scene and breeders began focusing on bright colors, strong stems and perfectly shaped flowers. Still, the older roses had some distinct advantages — hardiness, disease resistance and scent. But maybe even more importantly, it’s the sense of history and the evocative names of the antique roses that appeal to me.

I love to read about antique roses. Imagine growing the same variety that Josephine Bonaparte grew in her garden or one that was named for her garden (Souvenir de la Malmaison). Or how about the White Rose of York (Rosa alba ‘Semi-Plena’) and the Red Rose of Lancaster (Rosa Gallica Officinalis)? The War of the Roses was named after those two. You see, I would gladly be one of those rose junkies who plants every obscure old rose I read about in the catalogs. But I really don’t have the space or the energy to devote to an entire rose garden. Instead I have a few roses sprinkled around my beds and some climbers wherever I could squeeze them in. So in complete contradiction to my love for antique roses, I find myself devoted to the Iceberg Rose, a thoroughly modern floribunda.

Now despite all the wonderful qualities of the Iceberg rose, there have been years when mine (I have two flanking my tangerine tree) have succumbed to powdery mildew and black spot. They are supposedly resistant, but there are some years when all bets are off. Luckily most years, including this one, they tend to thrive. They are also nearly thorn free and, in my climate, can be nearly evergreen. Though I find that they look better if I clip off all their leaves and give them a light pruning each January. I think this is an easy enough chore for the amount of bloom that I get the rest of the year.

July 27, 2007

Tree Orchid

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My tree orchid is blooming! This cattleya orchid was established on a big cedar tree when we bought the house. It survives beautifully on benign neglect and even rewards me periodically with these gorgeous blooms. Cattleyas are known as "corsage" orchids, so if I'm unexpectedly invited to a prom, I'm covered. I like it when things that I grow in my garden have a practical purpose!

Edited to add this photo of the tree where the orchid grows:
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August 12, 2007

My New Dicliptera

dicliptera.jpgMy husband brought me this present back from a visit to the Berkeley Botanic Garden. It's a Dicliptera suberecta — commonly known as a Hummingbird Plant. It's not a plant I had heard of before or seen at any of the nurseries around here, so I was thrilled to get it as a present, and I think I have a good spot for it. It takes full sun to partial shade (I have lots of that in my garden) and a moderate amount of water. It will definitely need to be on the drip line. My Sunset Western Garden Book says that it will get 2 ft. tall and 1 1/2 ft. wide. I like the look of the soft gray/green round leaves. The pretty orange flowers bloom summer through fall and, as the name suggests, are extremely attractive to hummingbirds. So a perfect gift me and for the garden.

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August 13, 2007

In and Out of the Garden: A Poem

Someone asked me why I named the blog “In and Out of the Garden” and I realized that I probably should have addressed that in my very first post. So, a little late perhaps, but here is my slightly long explanation.

I was very close to my maternal and paternal grandparents when I was growing up. My paternal grandmother was an extremely talented writer, artist, musician and more than anything loved children. In short, a perfect grandmother.

GrandpaH.jpgMy paternal grandfather was a cantankerous, partially deaf old thing who had a tendency to repeat long winded stories about his colorful past. But he had the greenest thumb I have ever seen. His passion in his retirement years was his garden. They moved to the small Northern California town of Red Bluff where they had a modest house with a huge dirt lot which he turned into his garden.

When we visited he would take us for a tour of every fruit tree, grape arbor, chicken coop and row of beans on the property. And I ate my first real tomato from his garden. Fruits and vegetables from his plot of land were a real eye opener for me. At every visit, I would be amazed at the type of food they would make for us.

These were not elaborate meals, just traditional homemade food — meat and potatoes and lots of vegetables. We would often have simple salads of lemon cucumber slices or a salad of just sliced tomatoes with salt and pepper. Lunch might be a big slice of watermelon and some bread and butter. At breakfast we might have a bowl of just-off-the-tree ripe peaches topped with a little cream. These were the most delicious things I tasted in childhood. You see, I grew up eating predominately canned and frozen vegetables. My mother hated to cook and relied on convenience foods and eating out. We ate out a lot. So, it is thanks to my grandfather that I discovered how wonderful vegetables can be and I really treasure the time that I spent with him.

When he died about fifteen years ago, I wanted to write something to read at his service. I sat down the day before I left to fly up there, and I wrote a poem that I titled “In and Out of the Garden.” It just came out of me, and it was just the right thing to read at his service. Here is the poem that inspired the name of the blog.

Continue reading "In and Out of the Garden: A Poem" »

August 14, 2007

Our Grape Harvest

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We planted grapes two years ago and this year we actually got a little harvest. It wasn't much (we managed to eat them all in one sitting), but they were delicious and they looked pretty on the little fish shaped platter that I found in Taormina a few years ago.

We have four grape vines, each a different variety and each planted at one pillar of the gazebo. The two that are planted on the north side are a bit stunted and have not produced fruit, probably they will never get quite enough sun. The one on the southwest corner is a Flame Seedless and though it produced a decent amount of foliage, it only produced one cluster of grapes this year.

On the southeast corner we planted a Himrod, and it was our winner. We picked this small plateful of grapes and there are still a number of clusters on the vine. Though the grapes are small, they are seedless and the flavor is excellent — very sweet and delicious. It may not be a vineyard, but we are content with our grape harvest.

September 5, 2007

Eating Locally

I was just reading an interesting blog called The One Block Diet. Sunset Magazine has embraced the local food movement with an experiment to grow and raise everything they need for a big feast. They have teams of people in five areas: beer, chicken, garden, olive and wine and the blog tracks their progress and their learning curve.

It does remind me that every year about this time I start looking at the olive trees growing at the end of the driveway and I think about picking and curing olives. I have tried before, but I have not had much success. Some years there aren't many olives. One year when there was a big crop, I put them in a brine solution. Unfortunately they didn't stay submerged, and I ended up with a moldy mess. But maybe this year will be different. I will keep an eye on the olives. I seem to remember that they are ripe in late October, early November so I have plenty of time to research curing methods.

I became really interested in eating more of my food from local sources after reading Michael Pollan's The Ominovore's Dilemma and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. For years I've loved going to our Farmer's Markets, but I found that it was sometimes too easy to skip going. I realized that my diet relied far too much on grocery store produce and unseasonal foods. So this year I joined a CSA, and I haven't looked back. I still enjoy going to the Farmer's Market, but now I have a guarenteed batch of local, seasonal produce every Thursday afternoon. The variety and quality have been good, and I enjoy the fact that I don't really know what I'm going to get that week until I pick it up. The element of surprise is a nice thing.

As for really eating locally and growing my own food, I'm not really set up to do it at this point. I do have a small number of edibles in my garden: grapes, a plum tree, 2 orange trees, 1 dwarf blood orange tree, a tangerine tree, a lemon tree and some peppers. But none of these produce a large crop. I just enjoy even the small amount they are willing to give me. The trees would probably benefit from more water and fertizer than I currently give them. So someday when I have more time for the garden, I would like to have a lime tree and perhaps an avocado tree and a small plot of seasonal vegetables. Of course I would also have to find room for them.

In the meantime I have a number of perennial herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon verbena, lemon thyme, lemon balm, oregano, chives, winter savory, curry plant, lavendar, and bay. They all are relatively care free. I usually plant at least parsley and basil each season. And so, for now I am happy with my small amount of local produce.

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A shot of the curry plant with citrus in the background.

October 29, 2007

Ashes in My Garden

The recent fires in Southern California have been distressing to all of us who live here and those who have family and friends that have been affected. I am one of the fortunate ones who hasn't been directly affected. The worst that I have had to deal with is bad air conditions and a little falling ash.

Actually the worst of the ash falling was a couple months ago during the Zaca Lake Fire. For days we watched the fine particles of ash falling on Santa Barbara and coating the sidewalks, our cars and our gardens. I wondered then what kind of effect the ash would have on plants. Would it be somehow beneficial to my garden? It would be nice if it was some sort of fertilzer, wouldn't it?

After looking through a couple of my gardening books and giving it a quick Google, I found out that ash could be benefical to some plants.

Wood ash can be a good source of potassium, so that's good for soil that has a potassium deficiency. I've never tested my soil, so I have no idea if my soil has a potassium deficiency. Also, wood ash will tend to make your soil more alkaline. Good news if your soil is highly acidic and you want to balance it out more.

The bad news is that it won't be particularly good for any acid loving plants. These include Azaleas, Cyclamen, Impatiens and Primula to name a few (a few that I happen to have in my garden).

Since you can't get rid of the ash in your garden, apparently the only thing to do is to water it in as best you can. I will also be sure to give some acid fertilizer to my acid loving plants, and hope for the best.

October 30, 2007

Peppermint-Scented Geraniums

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In my last entry I mentioned the ashes falling on the leaves of my plants. The plants that are, unfortunately, most affected by the ash, are my Peppermint-Scented Geranium or Pelargonium tomentosum. You can see from the photo above that they grow in a big mass and love to flop over my flagstone walkway. They do well in the dappled sun and light shade that I have in that area.

geraniumcloseup.jpgI love their big fuzzy leaves and their very distinct peppermint scent. They are from South Africa, so they will only do well in climates that don't get below 25-30 degrees. In our climate they thrive year round with small sprays of white flowers in the spring. I suppose you can use their leaves in potpourri or even in cooking. But I just enjoy the look of them in my garden. Except, of course, right now when they are magnets for the ash. The fuzziness of their leaves makes it nearly impossible to brush or wash off all the ash. We’re going to need some serious rain to get my garden and my Pelargonium tomentosums clean again.

January 12, 2008

What’s Blooming?

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What’s blooming in January? It should be a pretty dormant month in the garden, but I'm finding that there is more blooming in January than there was last fall. I picked these double pink camellias and floated them in a bowl for my dining table centerpiece. Then I walked around the garden with a camera, and I was surprised by the number of things that were flowering. I know Santa Barbara is known for it's mild climate and year round growing conditions, but I remember past winters when my garden looked a little bleak. I guess, as my garden has matured, some of the plants have extended their blooming season. Perhaps my strategy of benign neglect is paying off!

Here are a few more things that are blooming in my garden right now:

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The orange trees are blooming.

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These are the blooms of the Pink Powder Puff tree (Calliandra surinamensis)

More photos in the extended entry...

Continue reading "What’s Blooming?" »

February 12, 2008

Lotus Flower

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The lotus flower is one of my favorite flowers. I've always been drawn to water gardens and, although I don't have a big enough pond to grow my own lotus, I do so appreciate them. Luckily I live in fairly close proximity to the Mecca of lotus gardens — Lotusland — where I took this photo.

The lotus is a member of same family that brings us water lilies, but it is its own genus called Nelumbo. I think Nelumbo has a far nicer sound to it than lotus, which sounds too much like locust to be a pretty name. But the flowers are beautiful and the huge circular leaves are dramatic. If beauty isn't enough, the flowers are also sacred to certain religions, and the roots, seeds and leaves are edible. I've never actually cooked with lotus root. I'm not sure where I would even find fresh lotus root, but I have seen it in cans. It would be interesting to try it out in a soup or salad. Now how is it that I started off writing about a flower and somehow I have ended with cooking? The garden and the kitchen are never too far apart.

February 15, 2008

Curry Plant

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I have an interesting herb in my garden called Helichrysum angustifolium or Curry Plant. It's not the origin of what is commonly called curry (which is actually made up of a number of different spices). Instead it's an herb which smells more like curry than it tastes. It is edible, though, and I hear it is sometimes added to cream cheese sandwiches and salads in Great Britain. I just may have to try that at my next afternoon tea party. In the meantime it is a very pretty plant in my garden, and I love trimming it. Anytime you brush up against it or start pruning, the smell takes you away on an exotic Indian escapade. That is reason enough to have it in a garden.

A couple notes, if you're interested in growing it:
- it likes full sun to partial shade
- it needs good drainage and normal water for best effect
- USDA hardiness zone 5
- it can get to be about 2-3 feet tall and wide and blooms in the summer
- scroll to the bottom of this entry to see a picture of it in my garden

February 19, 2008

In a Garden

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I have an old photo of my mom, my aunt and my uncle in a garden. I love these types of old photos — the grainy black and white image, the deckled edges. I'm not exactly sure when or where it was taken. It looks to me like perhaps my grandfather was testing out a new camera in the backyard and said "why don't you three stand over there so I can take a picture of you." They have that kind of posed but spontaneous look about them. And where else but home would the girls wear those short shorts? Today I'm thinking about the girl in the middle, my aunt. Happy Birthday Kristine, hope you've had a wonderful day.

March 8, 2008

Back in the Garden

I seem to have taken a little break from blogging while I was busy with a conference, but now I am back. Today I took my camera into the garden and documented what is blooming in March. It is not technically spring yet, but with our above average rainfall this year and the current sunny weather, it sure looks like spring. Here's what I found in the garden:

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A double bi-colored daffodil

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The wisteria in bloom is one of my favorite times in the garden

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The blooms of the plum tree mean that there will be plums by mid-July

More photos in the extended entry...

Continue reading "Back in the Garden" »

March 10, 2008

A Couple New Cymbidiums

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The Santa Barbara International Orchid Show was held a week or so ago. I was too busy preparing for a conference at work, so I didn't go. But I did manage to squeeze in a quick visit to my favorite orchid grower in Carpinteria—Gallup & Stribling. They hold an open house/sale the same weekend as the Orchid Show. It's a great opportunity to get some really beautiful orchids at fantastic prices. The photo above is one of the cymbidiums that I got at the sale. The petals are so delicately colored with pale green and pink tones. When the light hits it from behind it really has a translucent glow.

Right now I have it in the house enjoying the flowering period. Once it's done, I'll put it outside. Despite their delicate tropical appearance, cymbidiums do well outdoors here in Santa Barbara. They need cool nights and are tolerant down to freezing. They like a somewhat shady location with a little dappled sunlight. Like other orchids, they like moisture, but they cannot stand poor drainage or over watering.

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I put this yellow cymbidium in a pot on my front porch where it lights up a shady spot. After it's done blooming, I'll move it into a spot that gets a little more light. And I'm going to try to remember to give them a little orchid food once in a while, It does seem to help them re-bloom.

I know some people have a knack for getting orchids to bloom, but the only luck I've had is with outdoor orchids. I have not had one Phalaenopsis I have ever bought re-bloom. I have resigned myself to considering them cut flowers. They last a long time, so I have to be happy with that. As for my two new cymbidiums, I plan on getting them to re-bloom next year, so stay tuned.

March 11, 2008

View of the Garden

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Here's a view of the garden from the upstairs deck. Though perhaps hard to see any of the individual plants, it does give an idea of the structure and hardscape in the garden. We chose to use a lot of the local sandstone for the retaining walls and a tumbled flagstone for the paths and patios. It warms up the garden—literally. On sunny days the rock soaks up the heat and radiates the warmth back out after the sun goes down. But since we're in a canyon, this is a helpful feature. The extra warmth and the fact that we are facing south and east keeps the garden from being too shady and cool. And, I find, on a warm pre-spring day, it's difficult not to want to just sit out in the garden all day.

April 6, 2008

A Gardening Seminar

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I just attended the San Diego Home Gardening Seminar at the University of San Diego. This was the third one that I have attended and what a fantastic event it is! There were three 1 1/2 hour sessions. The hard part was picking from the eight different concurrent classes during each session. I could only pick three classes, but I think I did pick wisely. I came away from the seminar with three new inspirations: natives, planting from seeds and succulents. (I also managed to find time during the lunch break to buy a pot of succulents that you can see a close up of in the photo above.)

Natives
It does seem a bit ironic that I went all the way down to San Diego to hear the first speaker, who happened to be Carol Bornstein, the director of Nursery and Horticulture Outreach at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. I love the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, so when I saw her talk on "Imagining the California Native Garden," I signed up. She was an extremely knowledgeable and articulate speaker and she gave a good overview of the diversity of natives that we have in California. I came away from the talk with a renewed interest in increasing the number of natives in my garden. Some of the plants I'm particularly interested in adding are: Manzanita, Ceanothus, Erigeron, and perhaps a Coffeeberry shrub.

Planting from Seeds
One of my favorite garden books is "Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening: A Month by Month Guide." My friends Bertie and Mike gave me this book years ago, and I have lived and gardened by it. It is that good. Pat has been a speaker at every Spring Seminar, and I have attended her classes at every one I've been to. Even if the topic doesn't initially appeal to me, I know that Pat's way of presenting it will be inspirational. This talk called "The Magic of Planting with Seeds" was no exception. She arrived with a number of props—seed packets, flats of dirt, small rake, even a kettle for boiling water. She showed us her simple techniques for planting seeds and gave us a really wonderfully detailed handout of what seeds to plant when and how. I was surprised by how easy it could be. After all, there are many seeds that reseed themselves—and at the very least, that's where I will start. And, who know, before long I may have a big wild flower garden like hers, entirely grown from seeds.

Succulents
The last, but not least, class that I took was "Designing with Succulents." Now, succulents are something that I always thought I should have more of, but didn't really know how to incorporate into my garden. Well, I really couldn't have picked a better class for getting enthused about using succulents in my garden. Debra Lee Baldwin is so enthusiastic about succulents, you can't help but get inspired to use them, too. She is a photojournalist who has written the wildly successful book "Designing with Succulents." Her talk was accompanied by some of her many beautiful photos of succulent gardens. It was amazing to me the variety of succulents and the interesting combinations of succulents that she presented. My first step is going to be to start using them in containers. I always have problems keeping my container plants watered and healthy. Succulents are my answer there. And then I will see if there aren't some other ways I can creatively combine succulents with the rest of my Mediterranean plants.

So, I am very glad I had the chance to attend another of these Master Gardener seminars. April is just the right time to get thinking about the garden, and I am literally ready to put on my gloves!

April 7, 2008

There Will be Grapes this Year!

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Last year we had a small showing of grapes from the vines that cover our little arbor, but this year looks a little more promising. There are lots of these baby clusters all over the Himrod variety that we planted. The other three varieties (Chardonnay, Ruby Seedless and Perlette) have leaves but no buds yet. The roof of the arbor is rapidly filling in. Hopefully it won't completely fill in, because there is something magical about the dappled light that comes through the grape vines.

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April 9, 2008

A Rose in Bloom

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My Abraham Darby rose has started to bloom and it is stunning. Do you see the little spider that is trying to hide in the bottom left petals? What a heavenly home for that little guy. This rose smells delicious!

April 29, 2008

A Rose Centerpiece

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The roses in my garden are at their peak. The blooms are heavy and just beginning to show signs of slowing down. The extremely hot weather we've had this week is punishing them—pushing them to all open and be done. But before that happens, I plan to get maximum enjoyment out of them. I picked this bouquet and put it on the dining room table, so I could enjoy the fragrance every time we sit down to eat. I think the subtle smell of roses is one of the few fragrances that doesn't compete with eating. Lilies and many other fragrant flowers are too overpowering. This centerpiece doesn't compete with anything, and I think I'll enjoy it while it lasts.

May 14, 2008

The Matilija Poppies are Blooming!

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These dramatic California natives are one of my favorites. Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) are difficult to get established, but once they decide they like a place, watch out. They grow about 8 feet tall and spread into huge clumps—they are aggressive. I have them growing in a large raised bed next to our driveway. You'd think that would contain them. Not quite, they are constantly trying to send up shoots through the tiniest chink in the asphalt driveway. The only plants that have survived in the bed as their neighbors are bougainvillea and a large jade plant (Crassula ovata). These plants are left to fend for themselves. Most of the year it just looks like a jumble of overgrown and untidy plants.

Then come May, the Matilija poppies erupt into bloom and remind me why we put up with their aggressive ways the rest of the year. The flowers are big, about the size of your outspread hand and so stunning. Here's a slightly closer shot.

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You can see how the bright yellow pollen is staining the white petals. I've not tried using them as cut flowers because I think they would be a bit messy. So instead I just enjoy looking at them every chance I get during the month of May.

November 14, 2008

Tea Gardens Fire

Yesterday evening a devastating fire broke out in Santa Barbara. It started in the foothills at a place known as the Tea Gardens or Mar y Cel (Sea and Sky).

Although it is just ruins now, it was a fantastic garden with pools, waterfalls, Romanesque arches, Greek statues and an amphitheater. It was built sometime around 1917 by Ellen and Henry Bothin on a portion of the old Piranhurst Estate. Much of the garden was constructed after the 1925 earthquake by famous garden designer Lockwood de Forest. After the death of Ellen Bothin in 1965, the property passed through a couple of hands and then in 2000 the portion of the property where the Tea Gardens was became a conservation easement. With a one half mile trail easement, it has been accessible from the Cold Springs hiking trail (see these photos of a hiking tour to Mar y Cel).

Sadly, now it seems it will be remembered as the start of a fire that has taken over a hundred homes.

February 2, 2009

Victory Garden

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I love the concept of victory gardens — in times of hardship, the government encouraging citizens to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Here are few links to find out more about victory gardens, past and present:

Farming in the 1940s: Victory Gardens

Revive the Victory Garden

Fenway Victory Gardens

SFGate Article: Victory garden movement showing real growth

Victory Gardens 2008+

February 4, 2009

Somebody Else's Garden

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I like the idea of visiting somebody else's garden on my blog. So for my first virtual visit, I've chosen my Mother's garden. This photo is a couple years old, so her garden actually looks quite a bit more fabulous now. She plants a lot of Australian and Mediterranean plants in her San Diego garden, but it never has the drought stricken look that some gardens get. Her garden is abundant and colorful—a real inspiration.

February 6, 2009

Rain in the Garden

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Yesterday and today we got some long overdue rain. The plants are loving it! I took this photo this morning of one of the many volunteer nasturtiums in my garden. I love the way their leaves look like water lilies, and they capture a bead of water perfectly.

February 7, 2009

Another Rainy Day in the Garden

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The rain continues and this time I capture a water logged Iceburg rose. I haven't had the chance yet to prune back my roses. The heat wave in January made me think it wasn't the right time yet. But now it has finally turned cold and rainy. If it breaks today, I will try to get out there and start the job.

February 11, 2009

Earthtrine Farm

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We visited another beautiful farm today. Earthtrine Farm has fields in both Carpinteria and Ojai, and we were in Ojai today on a cold but sunny morning. The farm is sort of a Platonic ideal of what a California farm should be: rich soil, vibrant green plants all organically grown and a backdrop that includes citrus trees, oak trees, the mountains in the distance and the odd palm tree here and there for architectural emphasis. The farmer, BD, showed us around and had us munching on things like Persian cress, flowering bok choy and fenugreek. He also grows an amazing variety of vegetables, from fennel to rapini to fava beans and a huge variety of lettuce greens and herbs. You can find all this bounty at his stand at three farmers markets each week: Tuesday on State Street in Santa Barbara, Saturday in Santa Barbara and Sunday in Ojai.

February 19, 2009

Wisteria Spring

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My wisteria is just starting to bloom. I love the long drooping flowers that open from the base to the tip. And the bright green color of the foliage works perfectly with the shades of lavender in the flowers. Our wisteria is on a trellis attached to our back fence next to the driveway. I took this photo this morning right as I was leaving. I actually hopped out of the car to snap the photo.

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