Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Company in the Garden and a Few Updates

Summer is here, and it is a busy time with watering, weeding, staking and pruning.

Sweet Pea, a polyantha rose

My one delight right now is Basye's Purple Rose. It has so much to recommend it: the gorgeous wine color of its blooms, their attractiveness to bees, the ease of care (I never deadhead).

However, this rose is not a pretty bush. Being a rugosa hybrid, it suckers on its own roots, and my plant has four naked canes about three feet from each other with some short branching at the top. I grow it interplanted with herbaceous perennials which conceal its ungainly growth habit yet allow me to enjoy its vivid blooms.

Most other roses are resting.

But not my indomitable April in Paris which seems to be covered in blooms no matter what the weather throws at it

It is a time of year when I try to go out as much as possible to look at the summer blooming perennials. What interests me is not so much their flowers, but who might be enjoying them alongside with me.

Now it might be carpenter bees buzzing angrily around a Hot Lips salvia because they keep falling off its slender stalks.

Now it is a honey bee busily collecting nectar from geranium Rozanne...

... or a leaf-cutter bee (?) crawling from flower to flower on a a mound of thyme.

The flowers are too close together to fly apparently.

Now it is a fuzzy gold-colored Valley carpenter bee, the largest bee in California, nectar-robbing a California native penstemon.

It is much too big to fit inside that little flower...

The bee makes a slit in the throat of a flower to get to the nectar. Because it does not go inside the flower, no pollen is collected, and pollination does not occur. That is why it is called "nectar-robbing".

Just about the only flower in my garden that is large enough for a carpenter bee is a rehmannia.

 The bees crawl happily inside, gather nectar and then wiggle out backend first. On their way out they appear not to see when the flower ends and fall right out buzzing loudly in protest. It happens every time and I love watching it every time.

The bees are not the only thing that keeps me busy. I brought 13 roses home from the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden to grow on and give back in the fall. Most of them need a bit of care, and a few are nothing but short leafless sticks.

Most were potted up and watered well. Keep your fingers crossed :).

I complained on a rose forum about lack of growth on Beaute de l'Europe, a French import from Vintage Gardens. Well, I have no complaints now. The moment the weather got hot, it took off and has been trying hard to get out of its pot. It keeps blooming too.

Here is a closeup of a bloom. It is still a young rose, and I am very interested to see what it will look like when it matures. The swirls of peach and warm and cool pink look very promising. It does have a resemblance to Mme Berard.

My William Shakespeare 2000 which refused to grow this spring and got pruned hard in retribution, is showing sings of new growth. Some basal breaks have appeared too.

Unfortunately, despite my feeble attempts to protect the canes (I just don't have enough time to deal with it properly), most remaining canes got badly sunburned. They still grow and I will  not cut them for now, but I wonder if sunburn will eventually turn into canker...

In more pleasant news, I finally have a well-pollinated pluot tree (a post on agonies of pluot pollination here)....

Splash pluot
... tomatoes are beginning to show color...

Red Zebra

...and blueberries have been ripening for weeks :).

It is a happy time in the garden.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Trip to the Past

Spring is turning into summer here. The temperatures are getting hotter, and the rose blooms more and more fleeting. I try to keep out of the sun and make sure everything stays watered (and, when I have time, deadheaded).

Magnificent Perfume

I feel that I must apologize for falling behind on blogging yet again. I have had a lot on my plate recently: getting  the garage spring fixed (the door wouldn't open and my car was inside), selling some of my photos for a book, trying to figure out why a computer sold to us as new refused to work, finding to my dismay that the workmen we hired to install a new garden gate took down the neighbors' fence instead, and, to cap it all off, being contacted by a casting agency looking for people to feature in an outdoor life show of some sort. 

Basye's Purple Rose

To tell the truth, I feel that my life has begun to resemble an Oscar Wilde play. Fun, but completely unreal.


Well, I find it hard to make a blog post out of it, so instead I would like to tell you about a trip we took recently driving along the California coast.

A seagull at Fort Bragg

 I hesitated at first about writing a travel post on a rose blog, but I always enjoy reading about other people's trips, especially to places I am unlikely to visit, so hopefully you will enjoy this post too.

We drove north as far as Mendocino, a small 19th century town overlooking the ocean.

It is full of carefully preserved Victorian mansions, salt-box cottages and water towers.

It seemed the kind of place that Agatha Christie would call picturesque in a self-conscious way.

 I found it serene, romantic and very expensive.

Mendocino thrived for many years as a logging community but went into decline during the Great Depression. Its revival began in the 1950s and it is now an artists' colony and a tourist destination.

A disconsolate client waiting at the entrance to an art gallery

Being so pretty and well preserved, the town has been featured in several movies such as "East of Eden" and "Summer of '42". Its most recent claim to fame is being a venue for several episodes of the TV series "Murder, She Wrote".

Even though we did little more than walk and look around, this has been one of our best trips.

An exhibit at the Arts Center

I enjoyed the picture-postcard beauty...,

... the absence of hustle and bustle....,

The main street with hardly any traffic

....the abundance of wild mustard and other weeds superseding the ubiquitous lawn....,

.... and the dedication with which the residents uphold the community spirit by maintaining their houses and gardens in a cohesive style and displaying creativity befitting an artistic destination.

Driftwood sculptures adorning an oceanfront garden

I hope to be back soon, taking a slow walk on a grey cool day, breathing fresh salty air and enjoying a glimpse of a different, unhurried, quiet era. Hopefully, I won't be thinking about fixing my garage or apologizing for the neighbors' fence :).