Tag Archives: pruning

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!

The wren sings and insists.

ebird.org

The song of a Bewick’s Wren came through my bedroom window as I was waking to the morning. I’ve never heard one of these birds carrying on so long.

If you are not familiar with it you can listen here: Bewick’s Wren

What busyness in my life all at once. June warmth makes my blood to move faster, and days fill up and empty themselves, as the thermometer on my patio rises and falls. A few of the many things:

**Half the plants in the garden need trimming already! I severely pruned the plum trees, trying to keep them small, as per Grow a Little Fruit Tree. Santa Barbara daisies, wallflower, helianthemum, gazanias, bush lupine and salvias, all needed a midsummer shearing. Then there were all those one-gallon salvias and such for which spots must be found in the ever more crowded landscape. I’ve been gardening for hours every day.

**Still seeing butterflies and wasps that I don’t know, and which I can sometimes identify. These wasps that my Seek app says are paper wasps ignore the sunflowers that are open, and hang out on the fat buds. I wonder what they are doing…

**Rats seem to be eating my garden as they did in 2016. Then it was tomatoes. This time is was the single collard plant that came up from some old seeds. After it grew back for a few days they ate it again. Then they tried the unripe Painted Lady runner beans but evidently didn’t like them. I’ve planted fresher collard seeds and am trying to figure out how to protect them when they sprout. Rats spurn Swiss chard, and all the other current offerings, though they did nibble on snow peas back in April.

So as not to attract rodents unnecessarily, I’ve been bringing the bird feeders into the garage at night. At first light finches and mourning doves and even crows are waiting for the sunflower seeds to reappear.

View from my bedroom window.

This morning, as I often do, I pulled on my robe and went out to hang their “chapel” feeder on its hook above the patio, and then I looked up into the redwood tree, because I could tell that the wren was broadcasting from there at that moment. But I couldn’t see him. A junco and titmice and a hummingbird flew back and forth from that tree, to and fro across the yard from tree to rooftop to tree; but the wren followed his routine of staying out of sight while visiting in turn every tall tree in the neighborhood, making sure he communicated to each household, insisting on joy.

**I’ve been cooking a lot. I love having fresh tarragon with which to make the Tarragon-Parsley Salsa Verde. This time I used walnut oil instead of olive oil and it’s great. The yellow in the picture above  is lemon zest.

I took all the remaining Painted Lady beans I’d stored and soaked them together. The older they get, the more they turn dark and red and shiny. The older beans took longer to soak, and longer to cook to tender.

**My computer comes and goes with my Computer Guy, and while he’s always interesting to talk to on almost any topic, the other day when he came merely to pick up the PC he wanted to talk for an hour before he even unplugged it. He has lots of ideas for how to improve the state of the nation. I told him he’d need to be king so he could make unilateral decisions.

new shower curtain

**The construction workers came back! The new bathroom is perfectly usable now, though it has a couple of details unfinished. I soaked in its tub the night after my most strenuous day of pruning. Lovely. My master bedroom walk-in closet is almost done — maybe tomorrow I will be able to start moving into it, after more than a year of shifting my belongings from one room to another. This was the closet that I basically wanted to get unextravagantly spiffed up before the major remodeling was begun. And it has been the biggest inconvenience. That is sometimes most aggravating to think about, but on days like today, the wren makes me laugh aloud.

**I pulled this weed out of the germander and was impressed by the little black seeds. I think it is Black Medick.

**Yesterday morning I was surprised by daughter Pippin appearing in my front garden and calling “Mama!” up to me where I sat by a sunny open window. Such a familiar voice and word… ❤ How she happened to be here is too long a story, but we enjoyed the best hug ever — well, at least since I saw them in March. And then we sat in the garden and chatted and it was so good for our mother-daughter hearts. She and I are not phone-talkers at all; we really need to be together in person to be fully satisfied.

Violas surviving in the shade of asparagus.

**I don’t like to write much here about things that are expected to happen in the future, because they aren’t real yet. But the excitement I feel is terribly real, over the imminent arrival of Kate and her family; they will stay with me for several weeks! She is my youngest, whom I went to India to see, and whose two babies I was blessed to see come into the world, one in India and one in DC last summer. Her family actually contracted the coronavirus and got over it while cooped up in their DC apartment; otherwise they would have been leery of coming to California to see all the grandparents before they go abroad again.

We’ll see what kind of blogging communications I will be able to accomplish in the next while — maybe it will be the little boy voices that wake me morning by morning to the important realities of this particular summer season. That will also be music to my ears.

“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the universe.”
-Psalm 19:4

Pink flowers are not all she gives.


It may not have been fellowship exactly, but my time today with my fellow creatures the plants was intimate and  lovely, and I spent hours pruning three of the trees. That is something God does to us, and maybe that’s why it makes me feel particularly tenderhearted toward my horticultural “children.”

First the plums, for which I had to move up their solstice pruning a week because I won’t be here at the summer solstice. Lots of other weeding, feeding, planting — and naturally, trying to take pictures of insects. I was eating breakfast in the garden when I noticed syrphid flies on the toadflax, and wondered how I could ever have confused them with bees. They don’t have the same flight pattern at all, and they even buzz more like flies.

 

The last thing I did was to spend an hour with the manzanita bush that I’d named Margarita a few years ago, about the same time I told her history. (You can see more pictures of her via that link.) It was this task that brought me into the sweet communion with the plant that is enjoying her 15th spring on the property! I can tell she is happy because she’s putting out lots of new green leaves, while the berries are still mostly green, too. I must never have paid much attention to this tree in other Junes, because I hadn’t seen the contrast of the new growth with the old leathery leaves, many of which are turning brown, which is normal.

In order to survey the wandering branches and find the dead wood and make decisions about how to thin Manzanita while keeping her twisty and graceful form, I must have walked around and around her a dozen times, noticing and snipping twigs and whole branches that were revealed as needing removal, one by one with each changed view. I mused about how she has grown and changed; countless parts of her have died and been cut away, but she gradually has become a little taller. Since her youth when I realized that she wanted to grow northward, time and again I have helped her to do it in a nice way, and every year she gives me pink flowers for Valentine’s Day.

She is a dear.

Gardening in sunshine and breezes.

The picture below shows clearly how I’ve kept one of my Elephant Heart plum trees (far left) to about half the size of the other, by my prunings over the last few seasons. I don’t know why that is, but I seem to have continued the trend today. I pulled on my jeans and was out with the loppers before breakfast, because my gardener-helper was coming and would be able to clean up after me.

The north side of my garden is especially shady on this winter day, but it is a sunny and drying-out kind of day in any case, in the midst of a series of also welcome waterings. Everything is damp, and the sunshine drew out the scents of all the plants that we were trimming and cleaning up: a little bay tree in a pot, rose geranium, lemon. Alejandro said that even the fig branches gave off a pleasant smell where we sliced off a few branches in our team effort to shape that tree.

I found a flower on the fava beans, and buds on the azealea. The strawberry runners that I staked into the soil have taken firm root under the rice straw that is now so sodden that we threw it out. I hope it’s true, what those “old-timers” predicted when they saw the lizards last summer, that we will have a mild winter.

But the midwinter of 2018 was mild, prompting the fruit trees to bud early enough that they got frosted later on, ruining at least the plum crop — at least, that’s what Mr. Greenjeans, my youngest old-timer friend, told me.

I hated to stop my gardening this noon; I never get my fill of seeing the new buds, and pine boughs waving in the breeze – but A. and I both had tasks elsewhere to tend to. As the days grow longer there will be plenty more work to provide us with happy times in the dirt and leaves and fresh air. Every day in the garden reveals change and new beauty.