The Natural Garden Coach

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Japanese Garden in Winter

Descano  Gardens' blue-tiled Japanese teahouse

During the holidays I accompanied my husband on a short research trip to the Los Angeles area. For me, it was a garden-seeking trip. I spent an entire day at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, which was pretty amazing and deserves its own post. The next day I drove into the foothills of La CaƱada Flintridge to see Descano Gardens. Descano Gardens is an interesting mix of garden types, mostly highlighting southern Californian plants, but also showcasing other odd bits such as a rose garden, a Japanese garden, and an extensive collection of camellias (disturbingly procured from two nurseries during the Japanese-American internment of World War II).

Sozu water fountain

Since I arrived early to the gardens, and since I'd had to endure zillions of people touring the Japanese garden at the Huntington, I decided to head first to the Japanese garden here. It was small but incredibly peaceful and serene. And yes, I was the only one in it!

I want some of these!

The Full Moon Teahouse, seen here and in the first photo, was built in 1966 yet looked brand new. I really loved these lights. The teahouse is open in summer for tea.

A peak at the arched bridge and the farmhouse in the background

Though nothing was in bloom at this time, and of course, very few Japanese gardens depend on blooms, the diversity in textures and interesting pathways still held a lot of interest for me.

Arched bridge and stream

There was a koi pond and a stream that meandered throughout the small space. And as you can see from a few of the photos, one Japanese maple was mostly still full of leaves. I don't know whether the leaves of that tree are always red, or if they had turned for fall/winter.

Koi pond

The last photo I leave you with is mostly a study in reflections. I appreciated the simple beauty of this Japanese garden.

I've seen quite a few Japanese gardens over the years. Though they all share common traits, I've found myself truly favoring only a few of them. But this one I've added to my favorites list.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2015. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Monday, December 15, 2014

December Bloom Day, Help Needed, and Teaser

Viburnum mistflower, Eupatorium viburnoides

I was surprised this morning to see that it was already Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for December. Where does the time go?? So late this afternoon I went into the garden expecting only to find the plant above, viburnum mistflower, in bloom. But I also found a few more! Back to this plant - I love it because of its late blooms (normally in November but I think the early hard freezes delayed it a bit). It's about the only plant that I see the native pollinators on this time of year. It was swarming with them! It's lightly fragrant, woody and about 6 feet tall now, and, I think, hard to find. If you do find one, snap it up!

Midnight Glow pansy

I'm not usually much of a pansy person. I think they're pretty and all, and I think they look great in containers, but they've never really done much for me when I see them in gardens. They get kind of lost sometimes. Or they're lined up like regimented soldiers. But much to my surprise I got over my aversion to petunias by planting the Wave variety, so I thought maybe there was hope for my pansy aversion. This is a very pretty pansy with big blooms, but I'm still reserving judgement on all pansies in the garden (mine at least) until spring. :-)

Blooming rosemary

It's beginning to be that time of year again - time for the rosemary to bloom. Oh, I should have snapped a photo of the sweet olive, too! Such a heavenly scent, but only during the cooler months.

Burkwood viburnum, Viburnum x burkwoodii

Okay, these are not blooms but they're colorful nonetheless. A few weeks ago the fall colors were brilliant around here (and elsewhere). This viburnum is about the only one left with much color. It's semi-deciduous and doesn't always put on such a pretty show in the fall/winter. Earlier in the year it was mangled by a large oak tree limb that fell on it. But it's seems to have survived just fine.

I need some help with this one - the name escapes me! I know some of you know what it's called so please let me know. HELP FOUND! It's pincushion flower, Scabiosa sp. Thanks everyone!

Lizard Lips aloe blooms, indoors

And now here is my teaser below.

Not a bloom either but it's exciting for me! This is the beginning of a timber and gravel set of steps from the raised beds down to the mini-deck and pergola. Stay tuned for more.

I know there are bound to be some more blooms around the world right now. To see them go to Carol's blog at May Dreams Garden!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fall Surprises

Blue pickerel

Fall is here, hallelujah! And with it come a few surprises in the garden and life in general. Probably one of the biggest surprises is that I'm finally doing a blog post, haha! First one since late June. And I've seen a boatload of beautiful gardens since then and lots of things have been happening in my own garden. What can I say except that I've been super busy? But that's always been one of my excuses. Onward... I thought I'd show a few of the happenings here that have been both little and big surprises for me in the last two months. First up is the blue pickerel. I bought it for my stock tank pond just for its height. Little did I know how much the bees and hummingbirds would like it.

Callicarpa dichotoma ‘Issai’ - beautyberry

Though beautyberry is not that surprising, this cultivar called 'Issai' produces tons of light purple berries that are immediately eaten by all the birds in my backyard. They're eating these berries while the plant is still making them! By now all the berries are gone. Another surprise is that this plant is supposed to be about 3-4 feet by 3-4 feet. Mine is 4 feet tall by 9 feet wide!

Lycoris radiata, aka spider lily, amongst 'Compact Margie' sweet potato vine

We had a great showing of spider lilies all around town this year. I love how you can never predict where they'll show up. I know the general vicinity of most of them but I always get surprises like this one.

'Amistad' salvia

Okay, it's no surprise that I like salvias. What did surprise me was my failed attempt to grow a salvia that didn't make it through a relatively mild 2012-2013 winter. It was a freebie 'Amistad' salvia from Southern Living Plants, so I let them know of that issue. Then I totally forgot about it until two of them showed up on my doorstep this June. I have been LOVING them ever since. They're not too tall, maybe 3 feet by 3 feet, and they bloom nonstop, no joke.

Milkweed assassin bug and bee on garlic chives

I had a fun time watching this milkweed assassin bug waiting for potential victims. Every time a bee landed, he turned to face it. I never did see a capture, though.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs on milkweed

Speaking of milkweed, here are some different insects - the milkweed bug and its nymphs. They are certainly startling when first viewed! They suck the sap from the milkweed pods. I didn't see them on any other plants, and plenty of seed escaped unharmed (as you can see below). But I did end up squishing some when they got too plentiful.

Milkweed bugs and nymphs with milkweed seed

The surprise with these milkweed seeds was the feel of the "coma," the silk-like threads that the actual seeds hang on. I swear they're as soft as kitten fur!

Oxblood lily, Rhodophiala bifida, aka hurricane or schoolhouse lily

I've planted quite a few 'Hill Country Red' heirloom oxblood lilies here and there but gotten very few blooms. But this year I had great success! I think it may be because I've finally started to get the graveyard grasshoppers under control, and maybe they just needed to settle in a bit. Sometimes bulbs are like that. BTW, I love the size of the ones I get from Old House Gardens. I actually ordered more of them after this year's wonderful show.

Anyone know what these caterpillars are called? They've had fun munching on my Chinese hibiscus,  Hibiscus paramutabilis

'Firecracker' cuphea

The first surprise with this 'Firecracker' cuphea is that I planted the original one two years ago. It's supposed to be an annual but I just cut back the plants and they made it through our mild 2012-2013 winter and rebloomed. Of course, they didn't make it another year because of the fierce winter we had in 2013-2014. But lo and behold it had seeded around and then in October I found these blooms.

'Indian Spring' hollyhock

The 'Indian Spring' hollyhocks I grew this spring did great except for the usual rust problem. When I went to remove them after their bloom period it looked like some of them wanted to keep going. So I cut them back, continued to remove rust covered leaves, and they're still here. It'll be cool if they make it to next spring and start blooming again.

Nonstop bloomer - 'Fireworks' gomphrena

My 'Fireworks' gomphrena has continued to bloom since late May when I first planted it. I even had a stray one pop up and bloom in the gravel path.

'Climbing Pinkie' rose only three weeks after planting

I decided to add another climbing rose to my little pergola since the 'Sombreuil' is doing just so-so (too much blackspot and too few blooms). I had a 'Climbing Pinkie' rose in the front but she died suddenly from a mysterious ailment, as did the climbing rose that was there before it. (Roses are no longer allowed in that area!) But I loved Pinkie since she was a showstopper in spring. So I'm giving a new one a go in the back. I can't say enough good things about the Antique Rose Emporium when it comes to their nice, healthy roses.

'Peppermint Stick' Swiss chard

My chard has picked up considerably since the cool weather arrived. It's no longer flopping about, as you can see.

Fall aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, with gulf muhly

I thought all the fall asters I had purchased from the Wildflower Center last fall had died. But then this one popped up. It was most surprising since I don't remember planting it there but I guess I did. I'm liking it.

'Lindheimer's Muhly' grass

Since we're really into fall now, I'll show some not so surprising things in my fall garden. The 'Lindheimer's Muhly' is like Old Faithful. Every year I say I'm going to move it but that hasn't happened yet. I guess that's no surprise since it's so big!

Moon vine, Ipomea alba

Every year I grow moon vine on my tuteur, so I guess that's no surprise either. But I do love it when they stay open long enough for me to catch them in the morning.

That's it for around the garden right now. Soon I'm off to a more tropical destination where I hope to visit some gardens and blog about them. Stay tuned!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Beautiful Bibury and Awkward Hill

Victoria's Awkward Hill cottage in Bibury

Ah, the wonderful things that happen when one blogs and travels. Through garden blogging and a few Garden Bloggers Flings, I met Victoria Summerly, author of Tales of Awkward Hill blog and a forthcoming book about the gardens of Gloucestershire. I had the good fortune to travel to England this month, so I contacted Victoria and suggested a meet up and perhaps a garden viewing or two. Luckily for me we decided to first go to her relatively new home in the beautiful little village of Bibury.

The back terrace

Victoria moved from London to what was described by the nineteenth-century designer William Morris as the "most beautiful village in England" - Bibury. Bibury is an old village, and the mostly seventeenth-century homes, churches, school, and businesses are built of lovely Cotswold stone. The amount of work Victoria has already accomplished in her garden is astounding. Take a look at a few of these photos to confirm!

Part of the back and the side garden

I can't wait to see the garden in a more mature state. The side garden will remain wilder than the back garden and Victoria has plans to put in a really interesting pond there.

View from the back terrace

The entrance to the side garden

A shady nook. I just love the hostas in pots, the trough, and the tin birds that she picked up at the San Francisco Fling. (I have some similar ones I bought there as well.)

The beginnings of our walk

After enjoying the weather and her gardens for a little while, Victoria suggested we take a walk around Bibury, and of course I said yes. We headed up what I thought was a path but what was actually a street. Wouldn't you like to live on a street where every front yard had blooming roses and other interesting plants?

A view towards the village

Soon we were heading into countryside where wildflowers were blooming...


...and sheep and lambs were bleating.

A flower bedecked bridge!

The river Coln runs through Bibury and at one time there were two mills operating here - the Bibury Mill and the Arlington Mill. This little bridge is near the old Bibury mill and Bibury Court Hotel.

Arlington Row cottages

The Arlington Row cottages are quite famous (especially with the tourists!). They were originally built in 1380 to store wool, and then transformed into cottages for the weavers in the seventeenth century. Victoria's home is way up at the top of this hill (thus, where the "awkward hill" name comes in).

The gardens near the trout farm

We decided to go the long way back instead of climbing the steep hill. On the way we came to the most beautiful trout farm I've ever seen! Actually, I've never seen a trout farm before but I doubt I'll ever see one that had been landscaped like this again! The trout farm is near the old Arlington mill, which is now a private residence. (Many years ago, my husband and I stayed one night in Bibury and saw the mill when it was a museum. It was very interesting.)

Victoria and Rufus and Awkward Hill cottage

Eventually we made our way back to Victoria's home and then decided to head out for more adventures. We went to one of the largest and coolest nurseries I've ever seen (in Burford) and then checked out Misarden Park Gardens - lovely! But that will have to wait for another blog post.

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

¡Viva Muchos Colores!

The home of Lucinda Hutson

Let's celebrate the start of June, which I consider the start of summer, with a look at one of the most interesting small gardens I've seen in a long time. And the house as well! I had the privilege of touring the home and gardens of the very generous Lucinda Hutson, author of the new book, ¡Viva Tequila! Cocktails, Cooking, and Other Agave Adventures. Lucinda is also the author of that great cookbook, The Herb Garden Cookbook, sadly now out of print. I have to say, I'm really enjoying reading the Tequila book - it's part travelogue, part history, part cookbook, and all very interesting! Don't you love the color of her house? Well, there's more color in store here!

Bird friendly seating area in front yard

From the street, you can't really tell that Lucinda has a couple of cozy seating areas right in the front.

Second seating area in front. The tree in the background is a gingko, unusual for Austin.

The front garden has an interesting combination of plants: daylilies, 'Peter's Purple' monarda, datura, kumquat, zinnias, chard, tomatoes and eggplant in containers, last of the winter pansies, coleus, ajuga, violets, bronze fennel, and even a heart-shaped wax myrtle shrub. The plants provide privacy from the street and though there are lots of them, it's very calm in these hidden oases. But wait till you go through the side gate...

Side entrance to the back gardens

A giant concrete fish and mermaids on the gate signal you're about to enter a magical world. Unfortunately, I didn't manage to take a decent photo of the pond and waterfall that are behind the beautiful limestone wall. But I think you can tell it's there by the fish and mermaid motifs.

Mermaid hangout

Lucinda utilizes ordinary objects in uncommon ways. Note the sanseveria mimicking seaweed. The copper trough was an insert to a window box. And take a look at this table made out of a beautiful blue container.

Glass-covered pot as a coffee table. Is that mermaid also a bottle opener?

Lucinda told me a funny story about this table. Recently she found the glass neatly placed alongside the container and the starfish that was under the glass was missing all its arms. Your neighborhood raccoons at work.

Haitian tin art work 

Just to the right of the side entrance, the house is graced with some cool art work. As you move past the pond and mermaid seating area, you come to the greenhouse. But first, check out this window you walk past...

Corn tiled window

I never thought of tiling a window frame but it now makes complete sense to me.

Greenhouse to the left

What I really like about Lucinda's greenhouse is how it doesn't look like a greenhouse! She has covered the outside in rough cedar (juniper) branches so it blends right in. This is the start of her herb collection. Just to the right is a raised bed.

Limestone-edged raised herb garden

The raised bed is large and commands the most sunlight. It's filled to the brim with an array of herbs from Mexico, Asia, the Mediterranean, and one other part of the world that I can't remember. I'm assuming the purple structure used to be a garage but is now used for storage. Can you see the small chairs to the right hanging on the wall? Lucinda says you can't find those anymore in Mexico. Between the orange part of the house and the purple structure is a gate to yet another world...

Deck and studio

Now we're in the back-back, where Lucinda's to-die-for writing studio is located. I wish I'd taken a photo of the inside of it. Lovely smooth cedar walls... And the deck has a nice large table for al fresco meals. But there's still more. Walk to the left of the studio into ...

You're almost to the cantina

... the cantina area. This area is more informal with a picnic table and flagstone patio and more tropical-looking plants.

La Lucinda Cantina

And what's this?

Is this an outhouse??

It may look like an outhouse but it's not. This is an outdoor shower! Just what I could use after some serious gardening.

View from the cantina area towards the house

Walk back towards the house as there's more to see.

Opened door to the house with Mexican tin ornaments

Tiled stairs to the house

As you go through the back door, you see these beautiful tiled stairs to the house proper.

Folk art room

And to the left of the stairs is Lucinda's former studio, now being converted into a room filled with Mexican folk art. Can you see the tin ceiling?

Muchas gracias to Lucinda for welcoming me into her home at a rather early hour on a Sunday morning! And for welcoming me to the extension of her home - her garden. I hope you're inspired to look for ways to bring more color to your landscape, as I am. Hmm, wonder what the neighbors would think if I painted the house turquoise??

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2014. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.