Monday, July 31, 2006


I've put a lot of sweat equity into this Flowering Maple since I've owned it the last several years. Mainly hauling it in and out of the house each spring and fall in its heavy clay pot. And for what? A few bell-shaped flowers that hide under the leaves and are barely visible. Every spring I add another support post and it now looks like it's lashed to the stake awaiting a flaming torch. Why do I keep this plant? There's nothing really wrong with it, it's just so understated for such a big tree-looking thing. Now I hear I'm supposed to pinch the tip of each branch back 2 inches to give it more of a "hanging plant" structure. This is something lazy gardeners really don't want to know.
Its other name, Chinese lantern, sounds like something I have strung across my patio. I bought these at a garage sale last year for about 50 cents and wondered why they should be such a great deal since they came from Crate & Barrel and were unused. Once I put them together, I "got" it. Each requires 2 AA batteries which according to the instructions, will last in the lanterns for approximately 6 hours. Six hours! Let's see, that's about $5.19 for three lanterns for a couple of evenings. But I shouldn't worry because the unreplaceable made-in-China lightbulbs will only last 3 hours. So each evening I flick them on and off for a couple of seconds just to tease the moths drawn to the light. Or maybe I SHOULD torch the abutilon and then I'd have a real Chinese lantern.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Thanks to a really hot June, a lot of plants are out of whack here and they think it's mid-August already. The Russian Sage is in full bloom, and the asters aren't far behind. Blue Mist spirea can't wait either. I predict I'll be at the garden center in August buying leggy petunias to fill in the bare spots. The good thing is I've been eating Roma tomatoes for a couple of weeks now and didn't have to wait till summer is practically over to see some ripe ones. Oh, a lost opportunity the other day: I was sitting on the back porch caning a chair and kept hearing a "ticking" sound. I knew there was a Black-capped chickadee flying back and forth to the sunflower seed so I didn't think anything about it. When I finally looked up from my weaving there was a Broad-tailed hummingbird buzzing the empty sugar-water feeder. I'd taken the feeder out of the garage that morning and set it on the bench thinking I'd fill it later on. I zipped into the house and quickly made up some sugar water but of course the hummer didn't come back. The darn bird is punishing me, I'm sure.

Here's a double-flowering pink althea (Rose of Sharon) that's in full bloom in the front yard.
When I planted this several years ago, it was a twig and unfortunately, having no vision of the future, I planted a Butterfly bush about two feet away from it. (It's behind the Rose of Sharon in this photo). Both bushes grow to about 7 to 8 feet tall each year and they're a little too firmly ensconced to think about transplanting either one so it's always a race to see who can grow faster and get more space for itself. The Rose of Sharon won this year. The only time the buddleia hogged the whole area was the summer after a huge snowstorm mashed the althea flat and I had to chop it back to the ground. The Butterfly bush had some beautiful racemes that year, and the butterflies didn't need to play hide-and-seek with the Rose of Sharon to get to the goodies.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


So, after our week of rain every day, my neighbors and I feel like we're running mushroom farms. They're everywhere, in every conceivable shape and size, some areas looking like they were colonized by Martians. This is an older neighborhood, so there are plenty of underground tree roots for the fungi to spring from. Okay, the red ones are not real, this is a picture I used to sell them on eBay a couple of years ago (heavy bidding). We have giant platter mushrooms, button mushrooms, um...anatomically correct mushrooms, and everything in between. I went out one morning to find a wee forest of some darling miniature mushrooms about an inch tall shaped just like ones in a fairy tale book. They'd sprung up through the new sod I got at Home Depot. If I owned a paint set, I would have painted little red dots on them to complete the effect. But they were gone by the time I got home that afternoon. The work of elves, I say.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


This is a semi-arid climate, we aren't supposed to have moss growing on our trees. And so much rain on the pfitzers that it looks like frost. We've had rain for seven days in a row, and not just a gentle mist. Bucketsful! It reminds me of a vacation in the Yucatan where it rained so hard we thought all the water in the Caribbean Sea was going to be transferred to the grounds of our hotel.

If the weather gods had seen fit to spread this rain out over seven weeks instead of seven days we'd have been set for the summer. But we'll be heading back into the 90's tomorrow and the plants will be gasping as usual. It was interesting while it lasted. I can put my pots and pans back in the cupboard instead of under my leaking skylight in the kitchen.
And the mailman will be happier if I cut back the floppy canes on the rose which used to be Bibi Maizoon before it died back to rootstock.
The renegade canes are now arching gracefully under the weight of all the water ready to shower the unsuspecting guy as he shoves his way past them. He only brings me bills anyway.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


So I have this friend the neophyte gardener. Two years ago she walked into my back yard, pointed to a lavender plant and said "what's that?" Since then she's bought a house (actually a garden with a house attached), and spent the next two years reading all the gardening books she could get her hands on. She now rivals Hortus Third for gardening information. She happened on to a plant she called Whirling Butterflies which I'd never heard of - turns out to be a gaura. Now, a few years back I'd tried a Siskiyou Pink gaura and in my usual fashion, tried to fit it in where I needed it to grow, rather than where IT needed to grow. Disastrous results as usual. So I never gave another thought to gaura until the aforementioned neophyte kept telling me how impressed she was with her Whirling Butterflies. When I saw it for myself I was hooked. And I happened to have a spot where gaura would like to grow.
I couldn't find Whirling Butterflies on the day I just had to have it so settled for Geyser White gaura from Lowe's. The flowers DO look like butterflies perched on the end of long wand-like stalks. I know this is so because while putting together a last minute bouquet for a co-worker I added some gaura as an afterthought and the co-worker said, "These flowers look like butterflies!" Well I was pretty darn pleased.

Geyser White, despite its name, has a pinkish base to each white flower, and the leaves inexplicably have some purple spotting on them. This is not a new rust disease in my garden, but is common to gaura apparently. Now if I could just spot a butterfly alighting on my butterflies.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


"The bombs bursting in air...." or rather, the Monarda bursting in the garden on Independence Day. This sure looks like the fireworks I saw the other night. Good thing we went to a Sunday night show since the rain tonight put a damper on a lot of fireworks displays. This is "Marshall's Delight" in its third year in my garden. After languishing on spindly stalks for the past two summers and fighting off powdery mildew, this year the Monarda has reinforced the old adage about perennials and vines, "The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap."
And according to many gardeners they will leap all over the garden given half a chance. These are in an enclosed bed and if they want to crowd out the phlox that have turned a washed-out lavender they're welcome to it. Actually I think the phlox was a washed-out lavender when I received it from a co-worker who was thinning out her flower beds several years ago. That's the trouble with planting something that you can't see in bloom at the garden center, you never know what you're going to get. It was free but I'd rather have beautiful.