Tag Archives: begonias

What any kind of pruning can do.

It’s surprising how much glory has bloomed and gone, in my garden and by the creek. Well before the end of July we’ve cut back the purple explosion of germander and forced the bees to move to the echium and salvias, which continue to branch out and lengthen their nectar offerings. The Jerusalem sage and lavender I always think of as long-lasting…. How can they be done? Santa Barbara daisies at least come again and again after each shearing.

By the creek, the Queen Anne’s Lace and fennel will continue for months more, and other insects feed on them. But I never see honeybees there.

Early on when the gyms first closed because of the covid-19 quarantine and more people were walking those creek paths, I saw that many of the fennel plants down there had been mutilated and dishonored. I wished I had clippers with me so I could cut them off neatly to relieve the humiliation.

But three months later, those same plants are most beautiful! For all they cared, the breakage of their stems might have been expert pruning by loving horticulturists. Now those specimens have branched out gracefully to outshine their fellows that shoot straight up. The ladybug above is posing on one.

Last fall I planted a few begonias in pots on the patio, but so far only this older one has opened:

In the vegetable boxes many of the things I planted rather late and experimentally did not even sprout, but currently collards are coming along. And in the greenhouse, moringa! I bought the seeds two years ago at an event I blogged about: here. (I also had a bunch of little amaranth plants from that source growing nicely, but something ate them off at the stem.)

This spring I managed to keep three of the seeds warm and moist long enough for one of them to sprout. If the seeds had not been so unusual, I might not have invested in the project, but who knows… and whether I will ever use it, no one can predict that, either!

I plan to grow my little tree in a pot, and then a bigger pot if I manage to keep it alive long enough for it to outgrow containers. The leaves can be used like spinach, or for tea. It’s supposed to be one of those “superfoods,” which I’ve noticed become fads and then after a while you don’t hear about them anymore. I’m more interested in this species because it’s not a sweet fruit to add to the carb load of a diet.

My fruit trees are looking good. The plums and fig got their solstice pruning to keep the size down. For the fig, that mostly meant taking a foot or two off the top. I’m keeping them at a size where I can pick the fruit without a ladder, and take care of the trees on my own. The fig tends to grow horizontally, which makes it easy for me; it’s a dwarf species also, called Blackjack. But it doesn’t seem particularly dwarfish in its fifth season of bearing! It’s loaded with fruit. Yum.

I have four Elephant Heart plums on my two trees, which this morning I thought I better take pictures of, because in previous years they have not only started out few but mostly disappeared. My lemon tree I have in the last year or so been more diligent than ever to feed regularly, and it has responded by producing a score at least of little lemons that are getting big fast. They will be ripe next winter.

Must leave you now and go see what else needs pruning!

Glimpses of then and now.

I had just begun to eat my eggs and greens when I glanced out at the garden table and knew it was warm and cheery there, so I moved out to that sunny corner. There were two lovely bird sounds close by that I haven’t heard lately, and I wondered who was singing, and if I had identified them before…

Then a new sound, and hopping noises in the hopbush, and whom did I see but my old wren friend Bewick! I’m pretty sure I haven’t noticed him in a couple of years. The titmouse was back, too, this week, peeking from under the wisteria. The birds are telling me it’s fall.

I have yet to do most of those pre-winter chores outside; somehow it always seems more necessary to read poems, or watch and write about the garden instead of working in it. I did plant a pot of mums, and had Alejandro transfer a bunch of succulents out of pots and into my gravel area under the manzanita. After I told him which one was my favorite, I came back this morning to see that he had put a circle of small stones around it.

I spent an hour last night looking at pictures of my back yard just four years ago. It is pretty unbelievable what has “happened” since then, by which to say, what the rain and sun and tiny plants have done together, after humans arranged them to work in harmony. The next few photos are from fall of 2015:

The photo below is from February 2016, about two months after planting, through my rainy bedroom window. One of the dodoneas is already dying, and the replacement for the first, defective, fountain is already installed and running.

And this morning:

Oh, but all this new landscaping went in just a moment ago, compared to the events I will be remembering with friends this weekend: My K-8 elementary school is having a reunion, spanning ten years of graduating classes, and I am driving south to take part. Other than my siblings, I haven’t seen any of the people who will be there since high school or before. I don’t think we’ll be wanting to take pictures of our older selves in the “now” – we much prefer the “then” from our yearbooks, where we all look so cute! This one is me in First Grade.

Next, glimpses of my garden currently, and goddaughter Mary on her family’s trampoline, from last week when I got to spend a little time with them.

Work has ramped up on my remodel project. The latest delay has been over non-standard construction in the original house, which was revealed after removing sheetrock in advance of moving a closet wall. This photo shows the three main parties so far, including the contractor and the architect, who are calculating the necessary strength of extra beams they will install to bear the current load, in addition to the weight of the new rooms.

It made me happy to hear how conscientious they are about it. The architect said to me, as I listened in on their hour-long discussion yesterday, in between their tromping up and down the stairs from the garage to the great room above it, “You are learning about how not to build a house.” Everyone has been saying, “Once they get started, it shouldn’t take long.” I think we are at that point now, of having started. But until now, that point was theoretical.

I guess that’s about enough procrastination, and I must go pack a suitcase!
Those garden chores will have to wait till next week. 🙂

A fuchsia friend in need.

My garden and climate are not the friendliest for fuchsias. Not enough moisture, to start with. And to make things worse, I had them in a pot where they got no morning sun at all, but hot sun in the afternoon. Exactly backwards, as I  just read in the Sunset Western Garden Book.

A month ago I replanted the hanging pot where they had been languishing, and I replaced them with begonias and lamium. The fuchsias I stuck in a temporary pot on the other side of the garden, thinking I might give them away – or something?

They revived and sprouted buds all over, so I brought them back to the table that I can see outside my kitchen window, and many times a day I look out at them and have watched the buds swell… until this morning when the first flowers opened. I really needed this extra bit of new life today!

 

A discipline in pleasure.

I’m in a good mood, because I cleared the driveway of weeds this morning, and brought sunflowers into the house. My foot feels all better, which had been slightly gimpy merely from wearing sandals instead of boots while gardening last week.

The Monarch caterpillars are thriving on giant leaves of the showy milkweed that I bring to them in their mesh cage almost every day. If they had hatched out on the spindly narrowleaf variety where Mama Monarch had laid the eggs, they’d have run out of food fast. I bought a new tropical milkweed plant when I went shopping for begonias last Sunday, but they don’t seem to care for its leaves. (At the bottom of the page is a milkweed I encountered in the mountains some years ago.)

I’ve been too busy to write good sentences about All The Things. I am trying hard to learn to say NO to myself sometimes: “Remember, Dearest Self, you can’t do ALL the things ALL of the time!” Finally after four months, in the middle of which we think the city lost my application, we got the building permit for my remodeling project that I’ve been preparing for over the last year. It’s taking hours and hours to choose paint and cabinets and faucets and mirrors, and more time to watch caterpillars munch, so naturally there have been fewer hours with which to read, write, and cook.

I don’t know how to apply the principle that wise GKC is telling us about in this quote that I thought was simply lovely when I put it in a draft a while back. The word austerity doesn’t seem to fit with the way I behave, though pleasure and gratitude are the world I live in. I’d like to know what you all think about his twist on these qualities of our existence.

 

 

Purification and austerity are even more necessary for the appreciation of life and laughter than for anything else. To let no bird fly past unnoticed, to spell patiently the stones and weeds, to have in the mind a storehouse of sunsets, requires a discipline in pleasure, and an education in gratitude.

-G.K. Chesterton — Twelve Types (1903)