What to do in the Garden in October/November

The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, so you need to make the most of your gardening time. Here is a list of some things that you should be doing in your garden now.

Plant cool-season herbs - chives & parsley & pot up summer herbs & bring into the kitchen.
Plant seeds for cool weather veggies - send me an email if you want a list. Make sure to treat vegetables with slow-release fertilizer at planting.

Dig & divide flowering perennials & ground cover - lily turf, irises, agapanthus,and day lily

Trim evergreen shrubs - remove & replace overgrown shrubs if necessary

Clean up around fruit trees and discard split fruit check those berries and remove raspbery and blackberry plant canes.

Mulch over tender bulbs (cannas, caladiums, dahlias, tuberous begonias & gladioli)

WATERING NOTE: Up to 80 percent of residential water use goes to maintaining our yards. Is your irrigation system running every day? That’s too much! Try taking a day off the timer, preferably the same day the lawn is mowed, and watch the health of your yard improve. If that day is off already… take another one off.

Plant annuals - ageratum, begonia, petunia, sweet alyssum, pansies for winter color

Now is time for the last fertilizer application of the year--including your lawn! Be sure to take this opportunity to fertilize. Make sure to feed citrus trees with a citrus fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound per food of tree spread

Fertilizer Note for Palm Trees, shrubs, and ornamentals:

Slow-release fertilizers provide a steady supply of nutrients for the plants over a long period of time. The primary advantage of a slow release fertilizer is the convenience. In general, slow release fertilizers do not need to be applied as often as water-soluble fertilizers. The optimum fertilizer regimen is three applications per year: once in early spring, once in early summer, and once in late fall. Use a balanced fertilizer (equal numbers) with micro-nutrients.

Add a thin layer of compost to just about everything - your houseplants & lawn included!

"If you are not killing plants, you are not really stretching yourself as a gardener."
~ J. C. Raulston


Lotus - A Guest Post from Ghana

As some of you may know, my eldest son, Marlon is studying abroad at the University of Ghana in Accra. Ghana is in West Africa, so he is VERY far away. I am so proud of him for taking this journey and although I worry (like any other mom) it makes me very happy to know that he is having such a unique and life changing experience. Recently he sent me photos of some plants that he saw in a pond, knowing how much I love plants and wanting to share his photos with me (and to see if I knew what they were). It came to light that he was writing an essay, so of course I asked him for it. I think that it is a wonderful thing to be able to experience so much of this amazing world we live in, so I am sharing this with you in hopes that you will enjoy traveling with me a bit, if only on the worldwide web.

Balme Pond Flora by Marlon Molinare
The pond in front of the Balme library at the University of Ghana,
Legon is home to the magical Nelumbo nucifera most commonly referred
to as the lotus flower. According to Hindu tradition, Visnu along
with Sarasvati and Lakshmi are often depicted sitting on top of lotus
flowers, symbolizing divine beauty and the expansion and unfurling of
the human soul. Among the Botany world however, Nelumbo nucifera is
admired for it’s unique structure and interesting temperature
regulation mechanisms.

The lotus flower anchors itself down to the muddy substrate of the
pond and lies with its leaves on top of the murky water. On average,
the flowers reach heights around 150 cm with radii of approximately 30
cm. This intuitive structure allows the plant to anchor itself to a
stable environment, makes photosynthesis easy by placing the leaves on
the water’s surface, and allows for easy pollination by insects by
sticking up high above neighboring plants

Dr. Roger S. Seymour and Dr. Paul Schultze-Motel of the University of
Adelaide, Australia found that Nelumbo nucifera is able to regulate
it’s internal temperature much like humans and other warm blooded
animals. It has been hypothesized that the lotus flower increases its
temperature in order to accommodate its cold-blooded insect
pollinators. In doing so, the lotus flower provides a warm
environment for the insects that sip its nectar to feed and mate,
while pollinating the plant in the process.

Another fun fact about Nelumbo nucifera is that its seeds can remain
viable for hundreds of years under favorable conditions with the
oldest documented successful germination being from a seed 1300 years
old found in a dried lakebed in northern China. The Lotus flower’s
leaves are also comprised of tiny raised bumps that make them
waterproof and allow water to bead off of the leaves with ease.

You can read about Marlon’s adventures in Ghana at his blog:



When to Plant Spring Flowering Bulbs

Autumn is upon us, so it is time to start thinking about Spring! Sounds counter intuitive, but when it comes to planting bulbs for the springtime, autumn is the time of the year to get your garden in order. Bulb planting time for the California Coast is mid-October through January.

If you live in Southern California like I do you experience relatively long cool winters, very hot to moderate dry summers and low moisture, this is quite good for growing many bulbs, especially those native to dry climates. Since So Cal is very diverse it is important that you take your specific conditions into consideration, if you live in the mountains you must take the altitude into consideration, if you live in the low desert you need to take that heat into consideration. If you live in a valley, you have another more sheltered environment and if you live near the coast make sure to take the salt spray and higher amount of moisture in the air into consideration

Let’s start with the basics; autumn bulb planting should begin when nighttime temperatures stay between 40-50°F. The literature says that it is important that you plant approximately six weeks before the ground freezes to allow sufficient time for rooting. In our case, that may not happen until January (if at all) so I guess it is best to go with the nighttime temperatures. Bulbs take root better in cool soils and will protect themselves from freezing as they acclimate to the soil. Thoroughly water the bulbs after planting this aids the rooting process.

Apply a slow release bulb fertilizer (I like an organic brand) to the top of the ground. This will supply fertilizer for the bulb later in it’s life (second year bloom) as the bulb has all the fertilizer it needs for the first year built right into it! NOTE: I read something interesting about bone meal – the modern day versions of bone meal have little fertilizing properties and they attract rodents and dogs that will dig up your bulbs in search of bones… I now think twice about using bone meal. Also, if you live in a cold weather area add a layer of mulch to the beds where you planted the bulbs when the temperatures drop, to keep the soil at a consistent temperature.

There is a variety of spring flowering bulbs to choose from, so it is important that you take into considerations a few different factors. One factor is how the bulbs grow in your garden. Do you want bulbs that last for many years and remain in the same area of your garden, or do you want bulbs that multiply and add to your garden each year? First factor then is Perennializing or Naturalizing bulbs. Here’s the scoop.

Perennializing – these return for several years. The following is a list of Perennializing Bulbs:
Globe Allium

Naturalizing – these return and multiply. The following are Naturalizing Bulbs:
Grape Hyacinth
Some Narcissus (Daffodils)

You might think, why wouldn’t I want my bulbs to multiply? Let’s think this through – if you have a small bed with not much room and a limited amount of space for other plants why would you plant naturalizing bulbs that would interfere with your other beautifully planted shrubs and perennials yet only bloom for a short period of time? On the other hand if you have the room and want the bright swaths of spring color… go for it!

Another consideration for your bulb collection is when they bloom, check out the list below for boom times, so that when you plant you will have many months of flowers and color.
Very early Spring: Chionodoxa, Narcissus (Early Daffodils), Snow Crocus
Early Spring: Crocus verunus, Early Tulips, Hyacinth, Trumpet Daffodils
Mid Spring: Giant Daffodils, Grape Hyacinth, Mid Season Tulips, Muscari, Ipeion, Liatris
Late Spring: English Blue Bells, English Wood Hyacinth, Golden Bells Daffodils.Late season Tulips
Late Spring/Early Summer: Asiatic Lilies, Allium, Hardy Gladiolus
Mid Summer: Canna, Crocosmia, Dahlia, Gladiolus, Iris, Lilium,
Later Summer: Canna, Dahlia
Fall: Colchium – Authum Crocus (these are poisonous!), Fall Blooming Crocus Autumn Daffs - Sternbergia lutea Spider Lily (not supposed to grow in our area but…see photo).

Now it’s time for you to plan, look at your garden and see where you would like a little extra spring color. Have fun! Play with them. Draw a small sketch and decide how many areas of color you want to add. Your sketch is a good tool to keep, so when you add more plants to your garden you know NOT to dig up your bulbs. You can also still divide and plant Iris, and Day Lily plants and if you need more information, look back on the older blog posts and read all about those wonderful perennials. I usually plant in groupings of three, which give a nice burst of color. If you have more space five would do well too. Remember use those Feng Shui numbers, 3 – 5 – 9. They are great for landscaping too!

Here are a two of my favorite links to mail order bulbs, but be sure to visit your local nursery, as they are very likely stocked with bulbs for planting right now.

Brent & Becky's Bulbs!

McClure & Zimmerman Bulbs


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How NOT to Landscape Your Home

I must first thank my friends Marlana, Nora, and Kim for inspiring me to post this. I have spent a good deal of my time landscaping as well as helping people design and enjoy their landscapes and I must say that I have had to deal with a client or two who has wanted to landscape their yard in a manner that were not always in my taste. I won’t go into details but if you are a friend you probably know about my venture into Disneyland….

None of the clients and friends that I have worked with can compare to some of the designs that I (and my friends) have driven by. So… here for your enjoyment is an assortment of designs (none of them are mine) that I dub, “The Hall of Shame".

Yes, these ARE plastic flowers and the fish are...well VERY interesting!

I welcome your comments; this could be a lot of fun!

I believe in saving water, so why don’t we just paint a bunch of gravel green and pretend it is a lawn?

In case you weren’t sure that it was gravel…

Since we are getting close to the border, why don’t we go with a Southwestern theme? Or is it a design that can double as a game board?

Nora and Marlana share photo credit with me on these…

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