My trip... to buy your trees

After pounding Southern California off and on the rain has taken a break, the sky is clear with little puffy white clouds and I am ready to take it on the road. By taking it on the road. I mean that I am headed out to Fillmore to shop for trees at Valley Crest Tree Company. They have amazing trees and I want to buy them all but I only have a small installation. Since I’m only getting one tree I can take my CRV and load up the back.

My drive on the 126 is always a pleasant one, a gently curving highway it is never too busy when I go. I plan my trip in the mid morning and enjoy the scenery as I listen to KCRW on the radio and relax. If you have never been to Fillmore, you really should think about a day trip… it’s really quite a quaint town. It has a few nice restaurants, a some very cute stores on Main Street and even Goodwill.

Soon enough I am at Valley Crest, and the grounds are just beautiful. The day is perfect and both the boxed tree and the landscaping is stunning. I first check in to make sure that they have my invoice ready and of course my friend Bill has it all arranged. I hand in my check sign on the dotted line and I’m back in my truck and headed out into the fields.

With the handy little map that Bill gives me, it is easy to find where they keep the variety of tree I am looking for, and one of the workers lets me select the exact tree that I want from a wide selection before loading it into the back of the truck. The Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) that I’m going to use in a Native garden fits fairly well but I can see that picking my son, Aidan, up at school will be interesting. He’s used to me picking him up will an assortment of plants, and I try my best to keep the sharp ones away from his spot in the front seat. He’ll be fine, as long as he limbos under a couple of branches. Since he’s a good sport, I’m not worried.

Before I leave the grounds, I drive around and snap some photos. The sky is beautiful and the trees are very happy. As I meander through the rows and rows of trees, know that in my mind I’m selecting the best ones for you!

For more information see my website www.thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


Wordless Wednesday - Camellias

The Camellias are starting to bloom.

Yueltide Camellia

Buds of a Pink Flowering Camellia about to pop

Silver Waves Camellia


February in the Garden - SCV, Southern California

I’m a little late… so shoot me. Finish up whatever you can’t get done in the next week in early March. I thought it would be nice if you had a list of things that you can do this month. I touched on some earlier in the month.

Buy rubber boots so that you can garden in the rain – or at least go out there and check things that look like they need some help. They might be on sale now, so you can put them in the potting shed or garage for next year.

Photo by Christie Gelsomino - Vision to Be Organized

Repot cacti and succulents after bloom if they are pot bound

Planting time for bare root fruit trees
and bare root roses
and bare root shrubs and vines
and bare root trees

Plant citrus trees

Watch for frost… protect citrus and other subtropicals like Plumeria from frost damage – details on 1/29/10 post

Cut back Ornamental Grasses – details on the 2/13/10 post

Plant Gladiolas, Tuberose, and Gloriosa Lilies --- Summer blooming bulbs

Keep an eye out for snails and slugs… as it warms up they come out. Try copper strips, or decollate snails for some non-toxic ammunition in your war against the garden pests. A little FYI – opossums actually eat snails, so if you have some as nighttime visitors you are receiving back up troops

Prune evergreen shrubs

Prune winter flowering shrubs and vines after they bloom (think Hardenbergia – Lilac Vine and gelsemium – Carolina Jessamine)

Prune flowering fruit trees while in bloom

Set out seedlings of warm-season annuals

If you like to plant from seeds you can sow seeds for warm-season annuals

Feed houseplants that are growing or blooming

Plant or transplant cool-season vegetable seedlings

If you like to plant from seeds you can sow warm season vegetable seeds
Weather permitting, divide perennials

It’s not too late to plant the following Spring Flowers:
o Anemone
o Ranunculus – bulbs that will come back
o Delphinium – these can be planted all year because they are not light sensitive. They are perennials but are best replanted every year here in California. So save your money and buy them small and locally. Don’t waste your time on mail order Delphiniums from back east… they won’t last here. They are a high water plant so if you add some water retaining polymer to the soil when you plant them, you will be able to mix them in with other less water hungry plants.
o Iceland Poppy
o Pansy
o Primrose
o Stock
o Sweet William – very long lasting


Wordless Wednesday - What's Blooming in Santa Clarita

Very Early California Poppies

Breath of Heaven in Bloom

Not blooming, but beautiful and delicious Oro Blanco Grapefruit

Visit me at my website: www.thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


February - Is it Spring?

One day it’s cold and rainy, the next it’s bright and sunny. As you can see by my last post there is still a lot of color in Southern California and yes in Santa Clarita too. In addition to the color of fruit and berries, there are flowering plants too.

As I walk around my neighborhood I find some beautiful early spring bloomers, so I’m going to share them with you.

The first sign of spring, or is it snow? The beautiful Pyrus calleryana – Flowering Pear is blooming everywhere at this time of year. Take a look at its gorgeous blossoms both on the tree and on the sidewalk below. An added bonus comes after a rain storm (which we’ve had plenty of) look at the way the bark turns black and glistens in the rain. This tree is a true treat for your senses.

The deciduous Magnolia is beginning to burst into bloom, over the next few weeks take a look and watch them turn the trees pink, lavender and white.

A real harbinger of spring are the daffodils, if you planted early in the fall, you are reaping your rewards now. If not, there are plenty of neighbors that remembered to plant so enjoy their display and don’t forget to pop a few bulbs into your container designs this year so you can be “surprised” next spring!

Now don’t think February is all long walks and flower watching. By mid to late February you should be cutting back your Ornamental Grasses. Cut back Ornamental Grasses to 4 – 6” or even back to the ground Miscanthus is named Deer Grass for a good reason. Pretend you are a deer and just mow it down! You want to cut them back before the new spring growth begins.

Don’t be fooled by the trimmed look of these grasses … they have been cut but not cut back properly… Don’t make this ugly mistake in your garden.

When you are done with your work take a break and be thankful that we have this fabulous Southern California weather, and that you can actually be gardening today and not our shoveling your way out of your house.

For more information see my website www.thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


Wordless Wednesday - Color in Santa Clarita, Ca.

Daffodils behind Sedge

Kumquats after a rain

Berries of a Heavenly Bamboo

For more information see my website www.thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


How to Plant and Care for A Fruiting Banana

I am in love with edibles, I especially love subtropical fruits, and I have been very lucky to find an amazing resource almost right in my own backyard! As a matter of fact this nursery actually is someone’s backyard.

I have been trying (in vain) to grow a fruiting banana but the weather here in the Santa Clarita Valley has been conspiring against me. I’ve killed two already (yes, I have a kill list where they are prominently displayed) and I will try again because given the right circumstances I will grow my own bananas! In the meantime after negotiating with my friend Alex (who you will meet below) I was allowed to buy a somewhat rare (and not at all cold tolerant) banana called a Misi Luki. Which I promised to plant at my best friend’s house down in Huntington Beach, I am very proud to say that it has fruit on it!

So… in honor of that fruit I am posting information from Alex Silber of Papaya Tree Nursery who is a wealth of information on the world of sub tropical plants. Please be sure to visit his website to see all the great plants that he has, and if you want to see them in person just make sure to call ahead… they are by appointment only. Please tell him, “Julie sent me.”

Banana Planting & Care
Papaya Tree Nursery (Alexander Silber)

You can grow top quality bananas at home in most of Southern California (Sunset Magazine zones 18 – 24). It’s a matter of selecting the correct variety, providing the banana’s special fertilizer needs and performing a few thinning operations. Your reward will be beautiful, tropical foliage and annually about 40 lbs per bunch of unusual, vine ripened fruit.

Banana Facts:
· Most banana plants fruit 18 months from first planting and every year thereafter. They are self-fruitful.
· Dwarf types average 7’tall, midsize 12’, tall types 24’
· Dwarf types, which can be container grown indoors are:
Raja Puri, Cavendish, Dwarf Orinoco and Dwarf Jamaican Red.
· Cold tolerant types include: Manzano, Cardaba, Raja Puri, Dwarf Orinoco, Monthan, Hua moa and Dwarf Brazilian
· Cold sensitive types include: Cavendish, Williams, Iholena, Lacatan, Dwarf Jamaican Red, Mysore, and Enano gigante.
· Bananas are free of pest and disease problems in California.

Growing Tips:
· Bananas are decorative and distinctive; they require only 4 square meters of growing area and thrive when planted next to south facing buildings (their roots are noninvasive).
· Locate in full sun; choose a wind-protected site.
· Incorporate an abundance of planting mix or compost.
· Water weekly; they are shallow rooted and benefit from a deep (3”-6”) layer of organic mulch.

Fertilize Abundantly:
· Use chicken manure plus a source of potash such as Sul-Po-Mag (K-Mag) or sulfate of potash. Or apply 6 lbs. Per year of (10-5-40 or similar) using three split applications.
· During the first season cut out all “pups”. Thereafter, each year leave the first two pups appearing in spring; and remove all others.
· Cover the fruit with a large light blue plastic bag open at the bottom.
· Cut off the flower bud when emerging fruit stop hanging on while leaving approximately a 6” long stub at the base.
· After the harvest, cut the stalk off at ground level. A machete works well for this. You can also use a spade to cut the base at ground level. Remember to peel away any dry tissue to facilitate the use of the spade.
· Prop the heavy bunches with two poles, or tie it to an adjacent building.

For More Information see my website: Thegrassisalwaysgreener.net


It's Time To Prune Your Roses

Super Bowl Sunday is a great day to prune your roses in Southern California. It’s easy to remember and if you’re not a football fan give you something to do. If you are a fan, there is always Saturday or the morning of the game. Pruning too early in the year (like when the mow, blow “gardeners” prune) is not good for your plants. They will be sending up new growth when it’s too cool out and there is more chance of damage and disease. Tell your mow blow guy to stick to the mowing and take control of pruning your roses! The information below is a guide to pruning hybrid tea and grandiflora roses. Shrub roses (including icebergs) don’t really need the same drastic treatment and climbers and miniatures need to be handled differently.

The first step is to remove dead or damaged canes. Select the old and diseased branches and cut them away.
Prune away all cross branches – any cane that is growing across the plant should be removed – you want to keep canes that grow away from the base not into it.
After that is completed it is time to prune away the sucker growth. Any canes that arise from below the bud union ( which is the swollen area on the lower trunk) should be cut back as closely as possible to the main stem.
The healthiest canes should be pruned next. These are the ones that are bright green and fairly thick (depending on the age of your rose. All of the other canes should then be removed. Select canes that are spaced evenly around the plant. You want to leave plenty of room in the center for circulation of air. On young plants select 3 or 5 canes for your base and remove the rest, older plants you can leave more canes. If you find old canes that are thick and unproductive, remove them completely. They are just an eyesore and will not produce blooms. Your rose will now look like a vase or if you hold your hand out in front of you and cup it upward… that is the look you are going for.

Now that you have your good canes selected cut them back to between 12 and 24 inches. Yes, that sounds drastic… it works! You want to trim each can at an outward facing bud – so that the cane will produce growth growing out and not in to the rose plant itself. Remove any remaining leaves on your rose. This will help your rose go dormant, which will reduce pests next year. In Southern California this can be a problem… since we have such a great long growing season.

Next you want to throw away all your debris, clear away all the leaves and stems and dispose of them properly. The cleaner you keep the area under the roses the more likely you are to prevent diseases on your roses next year. To further protect your plants, apply a dormant spray next.
Dormant spray is a combination of copper and horticultural oil – take a trip to a nursery (not a big box store) and get a recommendation. Don’t wait to do this, if you do and spray after tender new growth has begun it could be damaged.
You can fertilize with a high nitrogen organic fertilizer when you see some new growth in a couple of weeks. Yes, it’s a tad early to fertilize but in Southern California the soil stays relatively warm.

Visit me at my website: www.thegrassisalwaysgreener.net

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