Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bright and Cheerful Winter Window Boxes

This is not a subtle color palate, that's for sure. Bright and cheerful was the plan, and if this isn't cheerful, I don't know what is. Cyclamen are always the star of my winter window boxes, and everything else is planned around them. They bloom with a solid display of color until March when I redo the boxes. Some years I have done a red and white color theme for Christmas window boxes. This year I chose bright pink and deep magenta cyclamen. 
I just love how window boxes bring the garden into the house. Sitting at our little telephone desk, the flowers are so close you can really appreciate all of the details. Right outside our kitchen window, the flowers make doing dishes much more enjoyable!

When planting the window boxes, I follow the "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" idea. Choose something with some height and impact as the triller. Shorter plants are the filler, and the trailing plants are the spiller. The cyclamen are the "thriller" in the box, along with the dark pink stock which will grow taller. Yellow pansies and mixed linaria are fillers. 
Stock and pansy
Snapdragons in shades of yellow and magenta are also fillers.

The spillers are white sweet alyssum for the scent, and lobelia. 
 Cheerful, they are!

Friday, October 30, 2015

From the Neglected Corner Grew a Garden

Neglected no more! This corner is finally getting the attention it deserves. From our den you look out across the deck and across the lawn to this corner. 
Because we see it from inside the house and from the deck where we spend a great deal of time, you would think we would have put some effort into making it pretty. Unfortunately it was abandoned long ago as the tangle of rose, duranta and asparagus fern created a mass of thorns 15 ft wide.
Oct. 2014
It was virtually impenetrable, with grass growing up into the branches 4 ft high. To say that it was a chore to cut it back does not do justice to that horrible weekend I spent attacking it.
Nov. 2014
The refuse pile was 10 x 10 x 5, my arms were scratched and battered but it was done. The corner was revealed. This area was once a pretty pond I made on a whim one summer. I love a challenging project and that pond turned out amazingly beautiful. I had no idea the amount of time it would take to maintain a pond, so it came out when my patience with it ran out. The pond was made with a flexible liner, and I lined it with river rock which I carried myself in 80 pound bags, lots of bags. I'm not carrying them out, so here they stay. You can see them to the right near the bench. Those rocks are one of the reasons this corner had been ignored. In order to make the area usable, the rocks had to be collected and piled in one area, next to the wall.
Once the vines were pruned and the rocks collected, a small section was prepared and planted with tomatillos and melons this past spring.
March 2015
May 2015
Behind the melons I planted a dwarf nectarine and a dwarf plum tree. As you can see, the area remained an eyesore but at least it was productive over the summer. Little by little I killed off the grass by covering it with cardboard and not watering it. As a section died, I dug it up and eventually the grass and weeds were gone.

Because we have a dog, a fence is necessary. Bessie doesn't test her limits so a 3 ft wire fence reinforced with rebar is adequate.
I spray painted the rebar a flat black so it would be less obvious.
The arch I found online after searching stores in our area with no success. I had a specific look in mind, and I wanted one with a gate. After looking and looking I decided to buy this arch and make the gate out of two pieces of fencing.
This way the gate matches the other gates in our garden. Here is my post with instructions on how I made the gates. It's simple and uses garden stakes, eye bolts, washers and nuts.
I spray painted the stakes and hardware flat black.
To latch the gate, I used a garden "U" stake that is designed to hold down soaker hoses. It just happened to be the perfect width so I cut one end shorter and bent the longer end so that it can't come out. It works just fine for our situation but a determined dog would require a different set up.
The arch is the perfect width to work with our gates. The tricky part was getting it all level. Our yard is slightly sloped, so using a level was key to making it look right.
After the fence and arbor were in, the fun could begin...planting! Clearly the first thing that had to happen was covering that ugly pink wall.
This is the river rock area so options are few, and duranta is the perfect choice. There is already one growing beautifully in the corner, covered in orange berries. It has purple flowers from spring through summer.
Why not grow another one next to it? You can see the small green plant among the river rock in the photo below. I only wish it could grow overnight to cover that wall, but by this time next year it will be as tall as the wall or taller. What a vigorous plant it is! In the center are my potted papaya plants that I have grown from seed. They are next to be planted. I'll thin them to one plant once they show their sex. The plum and nectarine are near the back fence.
On one side of the arch I planted a guava tree. I can't wait for these fruit trees to produce!
Along the fence some annuals and perennials give instant color, and bulbs will bring spring cheer. I sowed sweet peas on either side of the arch and once they finish their show I'll plant a climbing rose on one side.
My vision for this space is for it to be overgrown and secluded. That will take time. It will be a secret garden, Andie's way.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Favorite Varieties - 2015 Summer Garden

Romanesco zucchini
Variety is the spice of life, right? With that in mind, I thought I would share with you my favorite varieties from our summer garden. I tried several new varieties this year and many of them were hits! Maybe you will find something new to try next year.

I think the most shocking winner for me was the Romaneso zucchini. I am not a lover of zucchini, but this type has won me over with its delicately crisp texture and sweet flavor. Everyone who tried it said the same thing, "This is the best zucchini I've ever tasted." With raised longitudinal ridges, it creates beautiful gear-shaped slices. I love it lightly sauteed in butter and sprinkled with tarragon.
The tomatoes always steal the show in the summer garden. I grew 12 varieties and my favorite was Black Krim. This is a hearty, robust, flavorful tomato.
Black Krim tomato
One look at the deep color and you can just imagine the rich complex flavor. It tastes how it looks.
Black Krim tomato
Pineapple Hawaiian tomato is light and fruity. This was my most prolific grower. The fruit is incredibly sweet, and when the sun hits it the bright orange color glows. It has a pink blush at the bottom too, making it even prettier.
Pineapple Hawaiian tomato
Pineapple Hawaiian tomato
What a treat it was to share my Black Krim and Pineapple Hawaiian with my dear friend, Jane, on our little get away to Ventura Beach. This is why we put up with the traffic to live in L.A. One hour in the car and we are at the beach, at the ski resort in the mountains, in the desert, or in farm country.
The tomatoes were fabulous with pita chips and red pepper hummus, topped with fresh tarragon and basil.
When I bit into my first Red Pear Abruzzese tomato, it finally made sense why tomatoes are considered a fruit. By far the sweetest tomato I have ever eaten, this one is like candy.
Red Pear Abruzzese tomato
Red Pear Abruzzese tomato
Out of the 12 pepper varieties I planted, my favorite are these Italian heirlooms. Quadrato Rosso D' Asti is a red sweet pepper which is deliciously flavorful with a slightly spicy finish.
Quadrato Rosso D' Asti bell pepper
Its yellow cousin is Quadrato Giallo D' Asti. Isn't it beautiful? It's also crisp, sweet and tasty.
Quadrato Giallo D' Asti bell pepper
This little melon is not much to look at, but it is fantastic. Sakata's Asian Melon is a small crisp melon that is intensely sweet with a hint of cucumber flavor. I will grow this one every year.

Prosperosa eggplant is stunning with its embre effect. The plant was a prolific producer and its upright growth habit takes less room than my spreading Kamo eggplant. 

I purchased all of my seeds from Annie's Heirloom Seeds. (I am not compensated by them in any way, I am just a customer.) One thing I like about them is they have collections of seeds which makes trying new varieties easy. This bush bean collection was just fabulous. They call it "Annie's Rainbow Beans" and it contains Contender, Golden Wax, Royal Burgundy, and Dragon's Tongue. 
And finally there are the Cosse Violetta pole beans. With flowers this pretty, and pods that are striped then mature to a deep violet, these are a stunning (and delicious) addition to the summer garden.

I hope you are inspired to try a new variety next year. Now I am off to start looking through seed catalogues for unusual additions to try in my winter garden. 

Oh, the possibilities!