Monday, December 24, 2012

Sweet Garlic

Merry Christmas 
to you, your friends and family!    

I wanted to share this wonderful plant called Sweet Garlic or Tulbaghia fragrans.  Most people know Society Garlic. That is Tulbaghia violacea green(yuck) or variegated and is planted often in SoCal because it is easy. I use the variegated one all the time. But that is whole other post   This is in the same family but doesn't have that strong garlicky odor and it blooms in winter instead of warm weather.  T. fragrans flowers have a wonderfully perfumed odor! The plant grows 1-2 feet, likes full sun, is a little frost tender and is blooming right now!   It is most often found in lavender but also comes in white.   I had so many in pots when we moved and didn't know what color they were when I planted them. Most ended up being white.  I'll have to find more lavender.  

We are having family over tonight for Christmas Eve.  I didn't have any decent roses for a bouquet so I cut a bunch of Tulbaghia.  I of course couldn't find just the right vase for 11 stems for my kitchen windowsill.   So I got into my little bottle collection and made a multiple vase bouquet thing going on!  

Try to find some Tulbaghia fragrans in your local better nursery.  I bet you'll like it.  

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Red Salvia

Oh, it's not the Red Salvia you think. This is Salvia splendens  Van Houtii.  Originally from Brasil, this Saliva grows to 4ft and is blooming it's head off now.  When I used to grow it in a pot, it would sit all year and then bloom in Autumn.  Now that it's in the ground, it has grown quite a lot and blooms a lot longer too.  I'm growing this one on an east side.  It gets tons of summer morning sun and is shaded by late afternoon.  It's not getting that much sun now as the sun is low and over our Cedar tree.   Compared to the common Red Salvia that grows to about 2 feet and had red-orangey blooms, this one has burgandy-red blooms.    I love it but it's only fault that I can see is that it's brittle. If you tripped over it, you would break off branches easily.  Not easy to stake after it gets big. It must be staked when little.  It is easy to deadhead by snapping off the spent stems.  Salvias are super easy to propagate and this reminds me that I must do so maybe in Spring.  Enjoy this dark flower this Autumn and Winter.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


Yeah, I should have posted this around Halloween. But it was still hot, I forgot, or maybe the plant didn't look this good then? We had it so hot for so long that most of my plants just shut down and sat there. Anyway in this awesome weather we're having finally, this wonderful Petunia called 'Phantom' is looking fabulous! You'd think a Petunia would look wonderful all summer. But here now(temps in the 70's) it's like a second Spring! My roses are blooming great! So, enjoy the weather and my Petunia pic because it might not make it through the winter(the plant not the pic). I hope it does because its awesome!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Turkey Day

Just wanted to share my yellow/orange spidery Chrysanthemum. I pinched, staked and watered when it when wilted every other day all summer. I got it as a division from one of my clients about 8 yrs ago. Now that it's in the ground it's blooming like crazy! You just can't find the fancy Mums in the nurseries. Divide after Christmas.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


I just wanted to post the first Praying Mantis egg sack of the season I've seen this year. She must've recently laid it and died. They do that around Nov here in SoCal. Watch for them and don't throw them away. They'll hatch with new baby Praying Mantis next Spring and will grow up to eat all the bad bugs.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Purple For November

I have loved this plant for many years but have never seen it in anyone's garden!   It is Hypoestes aristata.  I wrote a little bit about it last year when I cut it for a bouquet:  Nov 2011 post  It is native to South Africa(as so many good Mediterranean plants ARE), grows 3-4 feet and likes part shade/sun. I saw it in a very cool nursery called Desert To Jungle in Montebello about 15 years ago and bought one.  Since I was gardening exclusively in containers back then, I planted it in a whiskey barrel with some other plants.  It flowers every November and gets cut back almost to the ground after flowering. I had to leave mine at the old house because it was with a tree that was too big for our moving van :-(  But I was able to buy a couple more after our move.   I planted this one in early Spring in my own garden near our very tall Cedar tree on the east side of the house. It is blooming like crazy now!

All it took was a little pinching through the summer and some staking and water.   I had one more in the backyard on a north side that got bushy but didn't flower.  I planted it about 10 feet away from the other one in the front yard last week but it was kinda hot and I had to cut it back.  We've had a hot autumn this year in SoCal.  It was 90º today.  I am so looking forward to cooler weather.  

You may be able to find this plant in independent nurseries, you know the one you go to find something different.   I got one at The Huntington Library & Gardens: The Huntington        I love it and you might too :-) 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cute Groundcover

This is a groundcover used in frost free areas. I've seen it with frost burn in SoCal but rarely. It grows in sun or part shade to only 6" high but as much as 6' wide. I've always known it as Pink Clover. But I've read it to be called Pink Knotweed, Pinkhead Smartweed and I'm sure there are more names. The botanical name is Polygonum capitatum. This photo was taken at one of my jobs in Pasadena. It is spilling over a rock wall. I've always thought the cute pink fowers look like the puff from Dr Seuss' "Horton Hears A Who" on which the whole land of Whos live. The plant can be a weed to those who don't want it. Groundcovers travel and therefor often grow to compete or swallow up other plants. Keep it contained and enjoy the cute little flowers of Pink Clover.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


I stopped to get gasoline this week AND while my little truck was sucking up all my money I noticed a beautiful plant growing in the median strip on the street in San Dimas.  It was so gorgeous, I had to take photos.  The common name is Poinciana or Red Bird Of Paradise.  The botanical name is Caesalpinia pulcherrima.  I was taught to say it; SAY-sal-PIN-e-ah.    This one was spectacular, about 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall.  It'll grow to about 10 and is native to the West Indies.  It blooms in Summer to Fall.  Here it is semi-evergreen, might lose it's leaves in winter depending on how cold we get.    None of my clients grow it.  It is a little uncommon here but stop-your-car-beautiful when you see it :-) 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rose Propagation or I Thought I Was Done With Potting Soil

I had been gardening in containers for over 20 years.  So, when we finally bought our house 2 yrs ago I thought I would be mostly done with potting soil as I am a GROUND gardener now!  Well, I still like pots.  They're good for moving up baby plants to a larger pot before putting them in the ground. AND they are good for rooting cuttings!  **Please be advised that it is not allowed to propagate patented roses. **    I mostly propagate hard to find roses or very old roses to give away or donate to the rose society. It IS a lot of fun.  The rooted cuttings shown here are from the rose Alba Meidiland.  I used to have it at our old house but had to leave it in a whiskey barrel that I couldn't move.  Last January I took a BUNCH of cuttings of the it that my friend and client Alice grows. I think ALL of them rooted!  There were 8(7 shown as I had already potted one up when I decided to photograph).  I think that's my record.  If you've never rooted roses from cuttings before you wouldn't know that some TAKE and some DON'T.  I was surprised to separate SO MANY with roots!  I probably should have separated them sooner.  9 months is awhile!  But I didn't until today.   

Alba Meidiland is a double flowered groundcover rose.  Maybe that's why so many rooted as you can't keep it down!  It is very beautiful and I was sad to have left it behind.   It IS available commercially.  

 The other rose that I separated today was Guy de Maupassant which is now called Seduction.  Either name, YOU CAN'T FIND IT ANYWHERE!   I got that rose at a rose society auction about 10 years ago.  My friend Jennie Gaines(who we lost last year) and I were bidding against each other for it. She won, as she always bid on MANY auction roses.  I was so mad at her that I yelled at her in the parking lot.  And SHE GAVE ME THE ROSE!   That's how Jennie was.  I grew it for about 8 years and by then it was in a large 15 gallon can.  So I was doubly disappointed when someone stole 6 rose bushes in pots from my front yard.  I had 250 roses in pots waiting for the right time to plant(grass had to me removed, Bermuda grass had to be Round-Up'd, too hot weather).   So I was able to take cuttings from my friend and client Joanne's garden.  2 rooted! Yay!  
So try to root some of your favorite roses.  I do some in January when the roses are severely pruned, cuttings aplenty!  And I have done some in warmer weather as well.   I just dip the ends in a rooting hormone, place the cuttings in a pot in potting soil. And sometimes I put a cut off water bottle upside down over the pot to make a little greenhouse.   Remember, that some take and some don't.  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Curly Leaved Willow Revisited

We had our annual visit to the LA County Fair today and did have a lot of fun.  Last year I saw that they had removed one of the 2 Curly leaved Willow trees on the Fairplex property. Today I went to go see the one left by the First Aid building to find a new building there and NO TREE!  See my 2011 post about this tree here: Willow   I am so mad at them for this.  I couldn't even find the name of this tree searching the internet!  Didn't they know what rare trees these were!!!!!!!  I guess NOT!

THANK GOODNESS I was able to root cuttings and have 2 of them growing, one I just planted in the ground 2 weeks ago, the other is still in a pot.  I know it was a little early to plant(since it's still freakin' HOT here). But I moved the pot disturbing the roots.  It then pouted and dropped a BUNCH of leaves. I cut it back and thought I better get it in the ground before I lose it!

LA County Fairgrounds has been around since 1922.  Who knows how old those trees were.  It is such a shame to see them gone :-(   But I am so happy to have mine :-)

Monday, September 17, 2012

New Pruner Blade!

Anyone who grows roses will tell you that high quality pruners are a must! And any professional gardener better have the best as they're used every day! I am loyal to the FELCO brand because they work easily, they have replaceable blades and I've used the #2 pruner for about 25 years(I think I'm on my 3rd pair). I tend to be brand loyal on a LOT of things :-)

So, this morning I got to my first job, pulled out my pruners and noticed the tip of the blade had broken off! They still worked on my 2 jobs. But I knew I had one extra replacement blade at home. So just now I took my Felcos apart(just need a screwdriver), cleaned the pieces up with 409 and a green scouring pad. I put them back together with the new blade. Yay, it's almost like having new pruners! Add a little WD40 and they're good to go!

So if you garden, invest ($55 or so) in good pruners. It'll make gardening easier!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bulb Time!

Just a reminder that now is the time to plant bulbs in SoCal for Spring bloom! I planted in the ground last week a bunch of Daffodils, Leucojem, Sparaxis and Homeria I had in pots from last year. Here is my Leucojum post from last year .  Leucojum  And my Sparaxis post Sparaxis.  Better nurseries will have a good selection. Or you could mail order them.  If you have endless $$$, you could plant a bunch of Tulips. But they only are a one-shot deal here. I like the easy bulbs that return every year like those listed above. Go buy some. Don't miss out!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sweet Peas!

Just wanted to let you all know that it's time to plant Sweet Peas! I planted mine today and you should do so soon. I only say this because I don't want you to miss out. Sweet Peas are the only flowering annual I know that you have to wait 6 or 7 months from seed to flower. I bought these special peachy seeds at a nursery back in May or so because if I hadn't they'd be gone when I returned. You know how that goes. I'd never seen Sweet Peas in the orange realm of colors before. Sweet Peas want half to full sun and a trellis or fence strings to climb. Go plant some and you'll have bouquets of fragrant flowers next Spring!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Crazy Fern

I have grown this one Asparagus retrofractus for about 12 years.  It started out for me in a one gallon can as I most often try to buy smaller plants that are cheaper.  It then got potted up into a 5 gallon can, then a 15 gal. and now is in a very large 24 inch pot.  It is called an Asparagus "fern" and there are other varieties.  But Asparagus ferns are not really ferns because they do not make spores.   Some make little white flowers like the Asp. sprengeri (the cascading type that is SO obnoxious in the ground).  Some make no flowers like this one.  Asparagus ferns are propagated by division.  Most have water holding pods on their roots. That's what makes them so drought tolerant.   My big Asparagus fern sends out new shoots right from the ground that come up like bamboo maybe once a year.  They're almost as quick too!   And they do look like the edible Asparagus when the new sprouts emerge.  

My good friend and garden guru Alice G. once told me not to cut off dead stems because they will sprout new leaves along the branches.  I thought she was CRAZY!  I had NEVER seen them do that!  A branch dies, you cut it off!!   So, last week my A. retrofractus started to drop lots of those needly leaves.  Before I knew it, new sprouts were coming along the branches!   Crazy, I know :-)  But it's just like Alice said.  It was really difficult to capture this in photos.  

See the tighter needles in this photo.  That's new leaves coming along with older leaves!  

 Asparagus retrofractus is a wonderful plant.  It will grow upright to about 6 feet when at it's happiest.  It likes some shade but will tolerate some sun.  It is a great filler for cut flower arrangements and can be used short or long.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vegetable Garden Progress

This is my own first vegetable garden. I had worked vegetable gardens for clients but that was about 10 years ago.
On March 26 I planted pumpkins, tomatoes, chives, basil, strawberries, artichokes, radishes, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers and baby bottle gourds.

5 pumpkins seeds sprouted and 3 pumpkins grew. It was fun watching them get bigger. But the foliage wilted EVERY day despite my watering every other day in my sandy soil. A couple weeks ago the foliage started to get crispy and die back leaving brown vines sprawling across our backyard. Our summer wasn't THAT bad until August arrived with it's oven like heat! Last weekend I noticed that 2 of the pumpkins were rotting! Ugh! :-(.

The 2 tomatoes have produced nicely but are looking crappy now. I left the radishes in too long. The cucumbers were tough. The zucchini stopped producing about a month ago. The chives are doing well. The carrots never sprouted. I was taught that one could grow them any time. But maybe they do better in cooler weather. Strawberries are spreading. I lost one of my 2 artichokes because I moved it remembering how huge they grow. The basil is still growing like crazy! The gourds are very happy and have about 10 gourds on them!

Last evening I ripped out the pumpkins and zucchini.

I'm not the best vegetable eater but I'm a huge salad lover! I'm really looking forward to planting cool weather veggies like spinach and many different varieties of lettuce and carrots. I know broccoli gets aphids and cabbage gets worms. Maybe I'll try snow peas.

I'm still learning and will adjust next year from my mistakes. How did your vegetable garden grow this summer?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Autumn Evidence!

I hate summer!  I hate working out in it and sweating in the heat.  Every year I look forward to Autumn, when the sweltering ends and I don't have to get up super AM early to go to work to beat the heat.  Today I SAW evidence that summer is near the end, Floss Silk or Chorisia trees are starting to bloom!  The first photo I took in Glendale, the others are lifted from the internet.  

 I will always call them Chorisia  (KOR-EE-SEE-a) but THEY(the botanists) recently changed the botanical name from Chorisia speciosa to Ceiba speciosa.  Whatever!   The tree's flowering signals the change from summer to autumn!   Chorisia are native to South America and grow very well here in SoCal.   Research says they'll grow to 80 feet but I have only seen them grow to about 50 feet here.   The large pink flowers can be between 4-6 inches in size.   

They have wicked thorns on their trunks to store water in dry times. And those trunks are green with abundant chlorophyl to be able to photosynthesize even when the tree is leafless.  That makes sense because I have often seen these trees confused.   They're supposed to lose all their leaves in winter, put them on in spring, and flower in autumn. But sometimes they'll be half in flower and half in leaf, or all flowers and no leaves or any other unusual combinations.  Older trees are often grayish.  

After flowering they produce a large avocado-ish looking seed pod.  Inside are seeds held together by kapok(white fluffy stuff).  Pillows once were stuffed with kapok here(they might still do so in South America).  Now mostly polyester fiberfill is used. The kapok helps the wind catch the seeds to blow them around, thereby spreading the tree to more locations.  

Enjoy the flowering of the Chorisia tree.  But don't slip on the flowers.  To me it is more than pretty because I know that summer is almost over! 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Greenhouse or Not?

This will hopefully be the only time I post about a weed. Remember my bottle border of 680 wine bottles? Well it seems that one bottle(I hope it's not a trend) wants to be a little greenhouse! See the weed growing up inside it? I think it's a spurge. Let's hope it cooks itself dead so I don't have to do border surgery to remove it!

Monday, July 30, 2012

680 Planted Bottles

I realized that I forgot to post this here(posted on Facebook already).  I finally finished my wine bottle garden edging about a week and a half ago!  I saw a photo on Pinterest (find me there Aprille at Pinterest) of wine bottle edging in the garden and thought it looked really cool. I bet people used to do it in the 60's or 70's.   I  began gathering bottles in Feb.  My oldest niece Heather works in a restaurant and started saving them for me. I'd pick up about 30 or so every 2 weeks.  I had to soak them and scrape the labels off because I like how they look better label-less. Also my friends Gregory(see a link to Gregory's photo blog to the left) & Joey have really been into wine lately and saved bottles for me.  I got some from my friends Kelly and Jen and one of my clients Sharon K.  It took 5 months to amass, soak and plant 680 bottles!  I can't tell you how many linear feet that was because it was curvy and counting them was enough for me!  We live on a corner.  So I went across 2 front sides of the house, down the neighbor's fence, across the street side, around the corner, across the other street and up to the second walkway.  It involved digging a trench and "planting" the bottles upside down.  It was fairly easy with our sandy soil.  But about 4 times I had to inset a rock instead of a bottle because of tree roots.  If you look closely there's ONE cobalt blue bottle that a neighbor left for me.  It was from Vodka.  But I love cobalt blue so much that I saved it for near the end.   I think it looks funky and fun :-)  As you can see, I still have lots of space between the plants for them to grow.  And I'll do one more brick edged center circle that includes our Deodar Cedar tree.  I haven't decided what to put as the path which at the moment is dirt. Brick is too expensive. NO GRASS!  I'm leaning toward decomposed granite.   We'll see in the fall when it's not too hot.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Fairy Garden or Cute Overload!

Have you ever seen a miniature garden?  Sometimes they are called Fairy Gardens.  I think they are adorable!   My friend Donna recommended a speaker to come give a talk on Fairy Gardens to one of my garden clubs last Oct.  Her name is Kailay and she has a website called Small  There is a gallery of photos and she sells mini accessories too.  She demonstrated how to plant a miniature garden and sold lots of stuff. 

I planted my own mini garden late last year.  But it was small and not photo worthy then.   I was reminded today of that when I stopped on my way home at Sheridan Gardens, a nursery in Burbank.  They had inside their shop a section with Fairy Garden accessories.  I refrained from buying because it's my poor time of year and I have enough stuff for several more mini garden pots that I bought from Kailay.  So, I just cleaned mine up today and added another little plant(that I hacked off of my big Meulenbeckia).  I think it still needs one more but I wanted to share.  

The tall plants(or mini trees) are:  Comprosma "Tequila Sunrise" or C. "Rainbow Surprise"(I honestly can't remember which) on the left, Serissa foetida "flora pleno" which has tiny double white flowers on the right and is used as bonzai often.  The groundcover on the right is Dymondea margareta.  I always think it looks like a miniature Gazania.   The little plant on the left is Meuhlenbeckia axillaris nana.  It makes a cute little green matt.   That is not to be confused with Meuhlenbeckia complexa or Wire Vine.  I have that too but it is very viney.  I had some Irish Moss planted there too but it wasn't happy and died.  It seems moss only grows where you DON'T want it.  

I used two little fence pieces, two chairs and a table to which Kailay glued two coffee cups and saucers. TOO CUTE! There is a small birdbath on the left in the back.   I used some small bits of flagstone and Rick's donation was a little lavender amethyst rock.  

Fairy Gardens are easy.  I just have to be delicate when I water it and try to not knock over the furniture ;-)   Try planting one yourself.   There are a ton of mini gardens on the web.  See my board on Pinterest miniature-houses-gardens here.   Happy Fairy Gardening! 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pink Phlox

I know I shouldn't have gone to the nursery. I always tell my clients that "smart gardeners don't plant in the heat of the summer". I don't even do planting jobs again until Oct. But I was out that way and stopped at one of my favorites, La Crescenta Nursery a few days ago. There are a few plants for which I am still searching since I had to leave them at my old house. I didn't find THEM, but did find this beautiful pink Phlox. I've been growing the white form Phlox paniculata David for about 10 years. I got it from a client I used to have and actually posted about it here last August. You just don't see them in SoCal very often.

The flowers rise up to about 3 ft in summer and bloom several times on the same stems. It starts to look crappy in late Autumn and needs cutting almost to the ground.

I tried to talk myself out of this pink one. But after going back to it 3 times and telling myself that one has to buy unusual things when one sees them, I bought one! I'll keep it in it's pot and plant it in the garden when it's cooler.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Who doesn't like Daisies? There are many different kinds from Asters and Chrysanthemums to Euryops and Dahlias to Marguerites. Even Marigolds are related! All are in the compositae family and are native to Asia and Europe. This is a Shasta Daisy or Chrysanthemum maximum. There are many kinds of Shastas, tall short or double flowered. I'm not a big fan of the tall growing varieties because they grow all floppy when in flower and lay down. This is my first Shasta Daisy in my own garden and it's a short variety. They like full sun and bloom in Summer. Like mums they need to be cut almost completely down after flowering but always grow back. They make great cut flowers even with short stems. Plant a Shasta and your garden will be as "Fresh as a daisy!"

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


This is a lovely plant called Calliandra tweedii or Trinidad Flame Bush. It grows about 6- 8 ft tall, blooms off and on and likes full sun. Native to South America it has red flowers kinda like a bottlebrush but round instead of cylindrical. I thought all flowers that look like stamens were from
Australia. But I was wrong. You learn something new every day! It's got ferny foliage and is related to the Mimosa tree. This one is in a huge pot at one of my commercial jobs. About once a year it threatens to die(they have difficulty watering it). And I freak out because it's not easy to replace that big. But it's happy now and a wonderful plant.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

White Summer Flowers

It seems so many fragrant summer blooming flowers are white. Star Jasmine is still blooming and my Stephanotis is just starting to bloom. The Jasminum multiflorum that came with our house seems to always be in bloom(that'll be another post).

I wanted to share this other fragrant white flower, Mandevilla laxa. I saw it blooming on the wall at the nursery of The Huntington Botanical Garden about 5 years ago and was happy to be able to buy one. I had it in a 15 gallon can with just a few stakes until a few months ago when I planted it in the ground of our backyard. It has already reached the top of the trellis and is looking fabulous!

The genus Mandevilla was named for Mr. Henry Mandeville, hence we pronounce Mandevilla- MAND-a-VILL-a and NOT with the spanish y tortilla sound.

It's a wonderful plant if a bit hard to find. Maybe the fragrant flowers will make my summer a bit bearable(I hate summer heat). Enjoy your fragrant summer flowers.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Plant Search = Paydirt!

I used to grow this plant about 10 years ago.  I forgot about it until last November when I saw it growing at a new client's house because you just don't see it very often.   It is a wonderful perennial called Tracheluim caeruleum or "Throatwort" because it was used to treat throat problems.  It is a Mediterranean native and that's why it does well here. It comes in ranges of purple and white, likes sun to part shade and makes a great cut flower.  Trachelium grows to about 3 feet tall in flower and has unusual bronzy foliage.  My client's plants are in bloom now and are looking fabulous!  I have been nursery hunting for it for 8 months and finally found it TODAY at San Gabriel Nursery!  I bought all 3 of them that they had and will plant them tomorrow in the garden.  I am so happy I just had to share.