Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trailing Verbena

Look what I planted today! Aztec light pink and white trailing verbena.

I planted it in front of the new butterfly bush to give that spot a little color while the bush grows. I'm not a big fan of annuals, but I couldn't say no to these.

I feel like I am planting something all the time...I didn't realized how few plants we had and how much I've already planted! I nearly bought a mandevilla vine today, too, but resisted. I am still thinking about covering the other side of our icky shed, but haven't quite figured out what to do yet since whatever it is will have to be in a pot and will therefore be in great peril in my hands.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Loving Tracy's Pretty Posts

My sweet friend Tracy is celebrating her 100th post! If you haven't checked out Pretty Little Things yet, you are missing out. She is such a doll and has an incredible sense of style. She has the sort of home that you walk into and are constantly surprised by little touches - perfect bookshelves, lovely cloches, a precisely ordered hutch filled with incredible dishes. Then she finds time to make delicious dishes for her family and post her recipes. Amazing. It is fun to follow her ideas on her blog and so easy to be inspired by her chic style! Of course, in addition to her decorating and cooking, I love her garden. What's not to love? It is filled with David Austen Roses, a hedge of lavender that is swoon-worthy, trees and flowers all around - it is just so Tracy. Thanks for all you do, are a treasure!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The garden then and now

It is always so nice to see progress, isn't it? I thought it might be nice to see how things have changed around here.

First up is the herb garden. What a sad little thing that started out as! First just holes cut out in the weed paper and now totally uncovered and beginning to take shape with some bricks. I still need to dig out a leveled trench for the bricks and place them permanently, but what a change, right? We have Sorrel, dill, nasturtiums, lavender, fennel, rosemary, basil, carnations, chamomile, thyme, lemon balm, sage, chives, tarragon, and bachelor's button growing here now.

Next up is the basic view of the garden. Here it is shortly after planting on March 21st, looking quite small and bare. Then, pow!

Just over a month has passed and things are really getting taller. The Sunflowers are halfway up the garden wall, the scarlet runner beans have reached the second string of the bean teepee, and the tomatoes are past the third rung of their cages. I have already had to rearrange the tomatoes in their cages several times due to their eager growth. I hope your gardens are growing, too, and loving the warm spring weather!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

An Anniversary Tree

On the 21st, my husband and I celebrated 8 years of marriage, hooray! Gardening is something we've found that we really enjoy together and so I thought it was fitting that the planting of our new tree happen at anniversary time. We planted a Tabebuia Caraiba (Yellow trumpet flower) tree, which is the most beautiful tree in the world. The bright golden blooms are always the first signs of spring while nothing else is blooming yet here in SoCal.

My sweet husband dug out a hole from our St. Augustine grass for the tree and then dug out (using a pick axe!) an even bigger hole for my new little garden around the base of the tree.

I have now planted Allysum on the outer ring and Delphinium grandiflora (a perennial) around the inner ring. Now I'm just waiting to figure out what the perfect yellow flower is to plant amongst the others. Rudabeckia Indian summer might be the one, but we'll have to see. I don't feel like I'm in too much of a hurry right now.

For those of you who might be thinking of planting a tree, you should check out the great giveaway from the eco-friendly sterling jewelry company Figs and Ginger. If you plant a tree between April 13th and May 6th, take a picture and send it in for a free pair of earrings or a tie tack!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day - Plant something for the bees!

So I've come to the conclusion that there just isn't one plant we can all plant together. Not only do we have different climates and surroundings to consider, there is also style and color. However, there is one thing that can bring our gardens together...bees! Did you know that we can help the bee population by planting flowers that they enjoy? Bees are disappearing and we can encourage them to thrive and continue pollinating many of our food sources by simply planting a few things that they love. Bees pollinate ONE THIRD of the world's food resources (check out this great website for more info - yay Haagen-Dazs!) and so planting a few flowers for them is surely a great way to celebrate Earth Day. Here are my top three choices for bee attracting perennials...plant one today or sometime this week! Take a picture and post it on your blog and then leave a comment here. For everyone that participates (with these or other bee plants), I will send a packet of Sunflower seeds for you to plant in your garden this year...another fun plant that bees love!

Nikki's top bee-friendly plants:

1. Rudbeckia hirta - Indian Summer. A beautiful yellow with black center that looks like a daisy

2. Echinacea purpurea - Purple Coneflower. A pinkish-purple flower, also looks like a daisy

3. Herbs! Lavender, rosemary, and thyme

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Earth Day Planting Invitation

I have so enjoyed planting this Spring, and it has been greatly enhanced by getting to blog about it and see all of your plants, too. I was thinking this morning of what I want to plant on Earth Day and that it might be fun for several of us to plant the same thing and share our pictures. What do you think? Something small, and it would need to be able to live across different zones. I'm going to take a trip to the nursery to see what I come up with, but leave a comment if you have an idea!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An invitation to butterflies

I took the kids to visit their grandparents in the desert this week and while we were there we went to a zoo that had a beautiful butterfly pavilion. It was so fun to watch the kids watch the butterflies! Some of them landed right on the kids, who were in love with each one. That sealed the deal on my decision to plant some butterfly attracting flowers, and today I went to the nursery to find some new plants. I came home with two perennials, and they are so perfect.

The first is Scabiosa Columbaria, commonly called pincushion flower. I love the delicate blue, which works perfectly with the soft yellows and pinks of the front bed. It is already flowering now, and should flower through the fall, hooray!

The second is Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii), which has pink to purple flowers and has a lovely scent. I realize it doesn't look like much now, but it is a fast grower (reportedly) and can get up to 7' tall and 3-4' wide! Oooh, I hope it does - it is planted right under my son's window and he will love it if he can see butterflies landing on it!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

I am so sad that I missed posting these on actual bloom day (the 15th), which is a wonderful thing started by May Dreams Gardens. Here are some pictures of what is blooming right now...I love seeing everyone's pictures!

Chamomile in the herb garden

Strawberries in my son's strawberry patch. He really carefully weeds this and picks out the slugs with his bare hands. He is only 4 and he loves to garden with me!

Thyme in the herb garden

David Austen Golden Celebration Rose is still in the first round of blooms

This lovely peach tree doesn't belong to us, but it is planted on the back wall of the garden and hangs over quite a bit. We enjoy the Spring blooms tremendously, so I feel justified in adding it to the list of blooms.

Oranges are just forming on the Satsumi dwarf orange tree

Huechera Key Lime in my mostly shady Huechera garden

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Yesterday's Garden Salad

I finally got my salad ready in time for a late dinner, but it was worth the wait! Just being in the garden in the cool of the evening cutting my own food for dinner was so pleasant. Represented here are oak leaf lettuce, romaine, arugula, sorrel, thyme, chives, sage, basil, dill, carnations, and a pansy. The flowers that look like daisies are Chamomile flowers, and they weren't part of the salad, but are now hanging in the kitchen to dry so that I can make some tea.

I washed everything and picked out the older, tougher lettuces and tossed them. After a really good wash, I spun them in the salad spinner to dry and set them aside. I washed and finely chopped all of the herbs and put them in a bowl. To the bowl I added some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, the juice of one lemon, and salt and pepper. After whisking, I tossed it with the lettuce and then added chopped pansies and carnations to the top along with an avocado given to me by a neighbor. Yum!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The lettuce row is growing

This is my first year planting lettuce and I'm so excited about the potential results! We have some Oak Leaf, Arugula, and other salad greens (not specifically listed on the six-pack tag) growing in a little row with carrot seeds planted in between everything. I planted the starts on March 21st and the second picture was taken on April 8th. I think I'll harvest today for a lunch salad...yum! I'm hoping the weather stays a little on the cool/overcast side for a few more weeks so that I can harvest again before things heat up and the lettuce bolts.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I was minding my own business at Trader Joe's when this sweet little thing jumped right into my cart. I had no idea that succulents wanted to live at my house! Now, it is a widely known fact that I cannot keep anything in a pot alive. Not a hanging basket, planter, or urn has lasted at my house, largely do to my lazy watering. Doesn't that mean an Echevaria succulent is perfect for me? I have an adorable little froggy planter that has always needed a little succulent something, and I finally found it. The label says to leave it indoors until the blooms fade and then take it outside, but if anyone has any experience with this plant they'd like to share, I'll take it! I know it spreads, hence the common name "hen and chicks," since smaller plants emerge around the base of the larger plant. Does this mean it won't do well in a little statue pot?

Noah's pictures

Noah (my four year old) and I were checking out the veggie garden today and he decided that the ladybugs needed to be photographed. He got two great shots, one on the lemon balm and one on the white fence. The contrast of the lemon balm picture is so nice, and I'm so pleased that he loves using the camera! He really is careful with it, so I enjoy letting him explore photography with a real camera. Perhaps I have a budding artist on my hands!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Double Delight

The kids are outside playing in buckets of water, so I started poking around the roses to see what might be new. And look! Double Delight is just starting to bloom. The cool temperatures of the spring make pink of the bloom extra dark, with a smaller amount of creamy white in the center. In the middle of the hot summer (up to 110 degrees F), only the outermost petals are pink, and the white center takes over.

Gardening identity crisis

There never seems to be enough time to plant all of the things I want to see in my garden. Perhaps that is because I want it ALL. I live in a place where I really ought to be growing low-water Mediterranean type plants, but I simply can't keep myself from wanting a lush, beautiful cottage garden, overflowing with blooms of this and that. Of course, I'd also love to have a rock garden filled with mosses, nooks and crannies plants, and a pond filled with water plants. I'd have a cutting garden of just roses, a huge area for rows of corn, lemon trees, orange trees, apricot trees...oh, and yellow and pink tabebuia trees, too (Tabebuia impetiginosa and Tabebuia caraiba). There is a little bit of a space issue. We live in a small house on a small lot, and so there isn't nearly enough room for any of this. Perhaps one day we'll have a huge lot and grow everything my heart desires, but for now I think I really need to buckle down and figure out just what kind of garden I'm trying to grow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Great edible flower article

I am often at the Vegetable Gardener website for information, and today they had a great article on edible flowers! One of them, Monarda (Monarda didyma) was spiky and beautiful, and it is also known as bergamot! Now if you know me, you know how much I love tea, particularly Earl Grey tea. Bergamot is the unique flavor of Earl Grey, and now I'm going to have to plant some. My herb garden is getting pretty packed, particularly with things that seem to grow into giants, so I'm not quite sure where to plant it, but plant it I will. I'm also growing chamomile this year, in the hopes of creating some sort of chamomile/rosemary/mint tea. Interestingly, Vegetable Gardener also had an article on growing tea recently, so I may even try to have my own little personal tea crop this year. Oh, the things we can plant!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The first rose arrangement of the year

This was from about a week ago, but I never got around to posting it. I love the yellow roses (David Austen Golden Celebration) and I'm so happy they are finally giving a great show. The white rose is Honor and the peachy-pink rose is Sunset Celebration. The yellow and white roses smell especially strong this year, it seems. Also worth noting...the aphids seem to have moved along or were totally eaten up by ladybugs. Hooray!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Thyme for a recipe

My thyme needed to be cut back so I brought some into the house to put in vases and then I also decided to use it for dinner. What a delightful smell! I grabbed a big handful and washed it under the sink before tucking it in (flowers, stems, and all!) between some frozen chicken breasts that had been seasoned with salt and pepper. I put a little lemon zest on each one and then squeezed the juice from the lemon over the whole thing. About 2 tbs. of olive oil drizzled over the top finished it off and then I baked it uncovered for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Because I put them in the oven frozen, it was so easy! I served it with the harvest grains from Trader Joe's, which is a mix of baby garbanzo beans, red quinoa, and risotto and then we had a side of steamed asparagus topped with a citrus vinaigrette. Yum!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A book for California Gardeners

I love checklists. I love knowing specifically what to do and when to do it and getting to cross it off my list. This book totally feeds that need for me! "52 Weeks in the California Garden" by Robert Smaus is such an incredible resource. The book is separated into the four seasons and each season broken down into weeks. The author gives such fabulous advice about your garden for every week of the year - everything from what to plant, what bugs to look for, even which weeds are coming and how to get rid of them! I have already learned so much about gardening in California and how to maximize our year-long opportunities for growing. There is something to plant nearly every week here, and this book is really helping me to stay on track with the calendar. According to the book, now is the time to plant perrenials, so I'm off to check out the garden center. Have a great day!