Sunday, July 2, 2017

A jungle welcome!

After a horrendous 22 hour journey with two delayed flights and a missed train, I arrived back at our little UK house. I say house, as Palm Springs is really 'home' these days! The front garden greeted me - all lush and colorful - not many flowers but still lots of wonderful foliage. The biggest surprise was the Cercis 'Hearts of Gold'' which was a frail small tree when I left and is now quite established and covered in lush gilded foliage. Biggest disappointment in the front is the dead Schizophragma 'Moonlight' - just a woody skeleton still clinging to the brickwork. Wonder why? Tetrapanax towers above everything and the pretty little Gymnocladus dioica 'Variegata'  grows slowly and steadily but still a miniature tree. (There is a story behind this little tree and you can read it here!)

The front garden
The front again

Tetrapanax 'Rex' and Leycesteria 'Magic lanterns'
Impatiens omeiana - surprised this survived

Gymnocladus dioica 'Variegata'
Cercis 'Hearts of Gold'

To my relief the front door key - unused for two years, worked! Quick look round - house clean and tidy - thanks to Mike, my wonderful tenant! Next stop - must see the back garden - oh WOW! The back is an amazing jungle of foliage.
From the patio doors

The Cercis 'Forest Pansy' is huge and overshadows the kitchen window but rather lovely.  Arundo donax must be 10ft + towering over everything.  Somewhere I have a tiny bubbling fountain that erupts from a bed of cobbles but that is all lost beneath a soft purple leaved Cotinus  - I believe the cultivar is 'Grace'. A plant of Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold' is producing lovely lush foliage but its not very gold! And the 'Fire Island' hostas have been eaten by slugs! Next to the patio doors, an Abutilon megapotanicum has almost covered the fence and is in full bloom but the Clianthus has died. Never mind - it had a short flowering season! A small Schefflera taiwanense is still surviving, protected by the surrounding lushness.

Arundo donax

Cotinus - probably 'Grace'with Hakonecloa and a leaf or two of golden Catalpa

Acanthus 'Hollard's Gold'
Abutilon megapotanicum
On the shady side, hidden under the Cercis is a fine Fatsia 'Spiders Web' and Brunnera 'Jack Frost'. My tiny greenhouse is almost hidden behind a variegated Pittosporum 'รrene Patterson', planted only 3 years ago. Towering above all this is a chunky Trachycarpus fortunei, now a small tree, although it came to me many years ago in  a small pot from a Cornish gardener.  When we erected the greenhouse, a Paulownia had to be removed but I see there are now 6ft suckers competing with everything else. 

Cercis 'Forest Pansy' and Pittosporum 'Irene Patterson'

Fatsia 'Spiders Web' - was never sure of this initially - looks decidedly like a bad attack or red spider mite !

Top of the Trachycarpus

Up on the bank at the end of the garden the Aralia elata 'Argenteo Marginata' is now a striking specimen. This was the most expensive plant ever when I bought it! The nearby variegated bamboo is making attempts to escape in every direction - a planting mistake I think but still rather lovely! The rest of the bank is a lovely jumble of foliage, flower and sadly mares tail!
The bank!

Elaeagnus 'Coastal Gold'  - Correction Olearia 'Moondance' - thanks Chad!

Now despite my lifetime abhorrence of excess pruning I had to do some jungle busting so out came the long arm pruners and the bow saw. After a couple of hours judicious pruning, there is now sunlight back in the kitchen and I can get to the trash bins. The garden waste bin is full so any more pruning will have to wait. Not a bad start and it still looks good and lush! Finally - MANY thanks to Pauline Mordue who has looks after my garden and plant collection lovingly for the last two years!

The yard after an hour or so pruning!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Quick trip to Provence?

It constantly amazes me that just a short drive from Palm Springs and we are in a different climate and landscape. Gone is the barren, dusty desert and craggy mountains and instead we have trees, lush fields and temperate gardens. Last Saturday Jim and I went out to Cherry Valley, just 35 minutes from Palm Springs. The purpose was to see an exhibition of David Fairrington's portraits which were lovely. The main road in to town was lined with the most wonderful avenue of deodar, cedars which sadly I didn't photograph. Just imagine mile after mile of majestic cedars!

After enjoying the gallery, we went in search of lunch and ended up in the local Lavender Festival. It was like being transported to Provence with sweeping fields of blue, groves of olive trees all under the hot midday sun. Pieces of ancient farm equipment littered the landscape gracefully rusting away and a horse drawn cart trundled visitors around the farm. The event was inevitably commercial and there were sales of everything lavender. I did avoid the burgers with lavender mayonnaise! Otherwise a lovely day. 


Persimmons I think

The thousand year oak. Me thinks it needs some tree surgery if its to live much longer!

Wild curcubit - the stinking melon I think.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Waterwise Botanicals

Back in 2006, the UK suffered a rare heatwave and drought. My publishers ask me to write a book about gardening in a dry climate, which was published in 2008, a year that turned out to be excessively wet with storms and floods. As you can imagine, the book didn't sell well! Here in California after several years of severe drought, we welcomed the rains this last winter and sighed in relief when drought regulations were lifted and our parched gardens started to grow again.  

All of  this came to mind when earlier this week Jim and I paid a visit to Waterwise Botanicals, a plant nursery in Bonsall near San Diego. I had read of this nursery on Facebook and seen some wonderfully colorful pictures.  The real thing was however way better than our expectations. It's mainly a wholesale nursery but as visitors, we were able to wander freely and there is a sales area for individual customers. Near the entrance there are some ponds and planted display gardens.

For two hours, I was in horticultural heaven, wandering among batches of beautifully tended plants with not a weed in sight. There were inevitably cacti and succulents, but also shrubby plants, perennials, roses and a whole lot more!
The huge and diverse range of plants suggested that the owner was a real plantsman rather than just a wholesale grower. What's more the staff were friendly and chatty. Jim and I bought a few plants, including a small tree for Jim's garden. Whilst we debated whether we could get it in his car, the owner announced that he was in Palm Springs the next day so would personally deliver. You can't get better service than that! 

Finally we asked for a recommendation for lunch and were directed to Nessy Burgers  about two miles down the road. Now whilst I am not normally a fan of little roadside food wagons, the lines waiting to order and the crowded picnic tables suggested that this might be OK. It was more than OK - the best burger and fries I've eaten in a long time! A great end to a lovely morning!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Huntington once again!

No apologies for posting about the Huntington Gardens once again. This is a wonderful plant collection and beautiful garden, and probably my favorite place to visit.  We chose last weekend, as it was the Spring Plant Sale and yes I did buy just a few new plants. We also wanted to catch the cacti in bloom in the desert garden. Two years ago at this time we found a spectacular plant of Echinopsis  'Apricot Glow' in full bloom - absolutely captivating and now I have a plant of my own. This year the original plant at the Huntington was just a rather dull untidy cactus - I think we missed its showtime spectacular this year but there was plenty else to see. The different types of Puya with their vivid colors caught our eye, many of them with flower spikes 6-8ft tall. First a few pictures of the desert garden. Please feel free to correct my naming if you see any errors or gaps!

Aeonium and aloe
Aloe cameronii

Erythrina acanthacarpa

Euphorbia milii CV?

Opuntia and Lampranthus

Puya berteroniana

Puya chilensis

Puya caerulea

Puya - species unknown - ideas?

After lunch we explored more generally and particularly loved the rose garden in full bloom. It always amazes me that just two hours away from Palm Springs, we find ourselves in a garden that has not only desert plants but the more temperate species that remind me of gardens back home in the UK. And rose gardens - so very English! We also loved the little orange and green humming bird on the Echiums

Alyogyne 'Moon Indigo' - love this plant but can't seem to grow in Palm Springs

White climber - possibly Beaumontia grandiflora


Digitalis mertonensis (thanks Chad for identification)

Look carefully - little orange humming bird!

Eschscholtzia and dune primrose

Grevillea -nope - my bad! Chad says its Calothamnus quadrifidus! Thanks!

Blue climber -Bignonia callistegioides - thanks Chad for ID.

Leucospermum - species? - L. cordifolium - thanks again Chad!
 And a couple of trees that caught my attention.  Wigandia urens is a wonderful exotic-looking tree with big leaves and blue flowers like borage. I recall reading that it was inclined to be irritant and cause skin rashes but this tree was right next to a path. Homalanthus populifolius is also known as the Queensland poplar or bleeding heart due to the red coloring produced in senescent leaves. Altogether a lovely day in warm spring weather!