The Natural Garden Coach

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Can this be Autumn??



We've had some very strange weather here this summer. It's like we had August weather in June and June weather in August. The first six weeks of summer (as the weather guys determine summer - June through August) were blistering hot, triple digit temperatures and no rain. The last six weeks we've had rain, cool fronts, some dry air, and most recently, low temperatures in the 60's (or even high 50's!) and high temps in the 80's. Some plants that I normally see blooming in September are already blooming and some plants that shouldn't be doing anything at all are doing strange things. Let me take you on a tour.

The top photo is of my Wavy Leaf cactus. Normally it has blooms and new growth in the spring. But those two smaller pads are recent additions and notice the little bud on the left? It looks like the beginnings of a bloom to me!



Check out this Carnaby clematis. At this time of year it's barely hanging on. You can see all the brown, struggling vines behind this bloom. This bloom! It only blooms in the spring! Well, I guess I can't say that anymore.



Now here's something that should be doing its thing soon, Sweet Autumn Clematis. I think it's more or less on time.



Garlic chives start budding about now and come into their glory in September.



One thing I've started to realize about gardening here is that my peppers don't really do all that much until the end of the summer. Then in fall they really start growing. Above is my Poblano pepper plant. The peppers are never as huge or thick as the ones in the store. But I think they're cool looking nonetheless.



When I see my Autumn Joy Sedum start to bud out I know Fall is around the corner.



Ah, moonvine. Specifically ‘Giant White’ Moonflower. This vine has been growing and growing all summer and is finally starting to bloom. I hope to see some Sphinx Moths pollinating it so I sit outside in the strangely cool air in the evening. But so far, none. The Sphinx Moth comes from the dreaded hornworm, which I know was seen at some of my friends' homes. I never saw any here so I'm wondering if I'll see the moths. They're sometimes mistaken for hummingbirds because of their size.

Speaking of which, here's a little guy I managed to capture at my feeder. I'm wondering if he's the same one I rescued from one of my potted plants. One day recently I went to water my plant and heard this weird squeaking as I watered it. It took a few seconds before I realized there was a little hummingbird lying on it's back among the leaves. I picked it up and tried to warm it with my hands. I think it hit the window and then fell into the plant. I didn't have a lot of hope for him because he looked so sad. So I made a little nest for him, put a lamp right next to it to warm him, and placed him in my storeroom so the neighborhood cats wouldn't get him. A little while later he flopped around and flew out. He had a tiny little touch of ruby on his throat, that's why I'm wondering if this is him. I'll never know but I do hope he survived.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meadow Musings



Can you imagine having this little scene right out your backyard gate? We just got back from a trip to northern California to visit all of my husband's family. While there we went to visit his sister who lives in South Lake Tahoe. This is the view she has once you go through the gate and past the pine trees along the fence.

Then as you pass the scrubbier trees you come to this:



And then this:



It's a truly lovely meadow and it's where they walk their dogs. Looking closer to the ground I found some pretty grasses.



I haven't had a chance to look up which grasses they are yet. I'll update this if I find out what they are.



A type of mullein also grows there.



I really can't imagine having that beautiful of an area available to me all the time. It would certainly keep me feeling grounded I think. But I'm happy she has it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Picture This" Photo Contest



The folks at Gardening Gone Wild have their monthly photo contest going. This time the theme is "Down on Your Knees", a great theme in order to challenge us to go at our garden photography from a different angle. David Perry is the judge this time and if you've never seen his blog, you really must. It's inspiring and many times educational.

I almost didn't enter this contest after I looked at a few of the entries. Besides some great garden blogger entries, there's now photography blogger entries, so my entry is going to pale in comparison. But I thought it worth putting this photo up anyway because I'd love to know the variety of mushroom (seems I always have to label things). Anyone know?

We've had some rain recently and these little beauties are starting to pop up here and there. To get this shot I borrowed a tip I learned from Saxon Holt - lay out a yoga mat and lie down. I risked chiggers and even more mosquito bites than I already have but I found it was quite fun hanging out at that level!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Do As I Say, Not as I Do, and Other Random Thoughts



This sorry looking sight is a direct result of not doing what I should have done. I DIDN'T READ THE LABEL!! You know how they always tell you to do that when you're handling chemicals in the garden? Well... a couple of weeks ago I brought two tomato plants home from the farmers' market. These will be my fall tomato plants. Unfortunately I saw that they were covered with spider mites, not surprising when it's hot and dry. So I went to the shed to get my insecticidal soap. But I didn't have any. The plants were a little too small at that time to shoot them with a garden hose so instead I grabbed a "3-in-1" organic spray that I had used on my roses some time ago. It's supposed to take care of spider mites (although I used it on my roses for fungus). I sprayed the first and worst of the affected plants and then something in my brain said "stop!". I then read the label. Its active ingredient is sulfur, and spraying sulfur on plants when it's over 90 degrees is NOT a good thing! Sure enough, within a day it had shriveled up. Fortunately for me it survived my stupidity and as you can see below, both plants are coming along.





This plant however, is not coming along so well. It's a variegated purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum rubrum 'Fireworks'. Or supposed to be. It's being eaten by something. My two suspects are "graveyard" grasshoppers or cats. But I've never seen either one near the plant. So the mystery continues. UPDATE - I finally caught the neighbor's cat chowing down on this plant. So I moved it but unfortunately that may not stop the cat!

We have had a very strange summer here. From the beginning of June until the middle of July we had no rain and extremely hot temperatures. Then all of a sudden it started raining. And the heat let up. But it kept on raining and soon I was having to move my potted succulents under the shelter of my patio. Here's a few of them sitting out the temporary sun.



I'd like to showcase this little succulent number, Portulacaria afra 'Variegata', also known as "Rainbow Bush".



It's a form of the South African "Elephant Bush", so named because it's loved by elephants (although I think elephants eat just about anything). I like it for its mahagony stems and variegated fleshy leaves, which are not really shown off in this photo. It spreads laterally and kind of trails down. It was an impulse purchase this year (my Big Box store has way too many nice succulents). I'll have to protect it from freezes but I'm more than willing to do that!