The Draw Back of The Perennial Gardner

Written by Matt Macedo on 05-Jan-2015

Above is the height of the Summer season, below is height of the Winter season.

I don't mind the sacrifice, my neighbors might. . . Flower gardens need to rest, winter interest in the yard, isn't really that interesting. Hiding under a pile of oak leaves are 2015 show stoppers.

The boarder above is right in the front yard street side. Filled with two types heat and drought tolerant catnip, that keeps the neighborhood cats happy and the pesky mosquitoes away.  A few sages including this gem Salvia Sclarea. Some yellow roses, three awesome heat and frost tolerant Viva Geraniums, a few Sunflowers thrown in for good measure along with a few other TBA annuals of my choice for the upcoming season. All topped with a beautiful Chinese Fringe Flower that's been patiently trained into a small 8' tree over the last 15 years.

Whew, no wonder it all needs a winters rest. of course I can't forget the Daffodils that still come up year after year in late January (gophers hate daffodils,  and I hate gophers) and the stunning Blue Agave pictured there is in the top mound, to be featured in an upcoming article.

Obviously, the sleeping brownish yard is a small price to pay in my eyes. Juniper bushes are an eyesore year round! 

Welcome 2015!

Written by Matt Macedo on 01-Jan-2015

Happy New Year, 2014 is now the past. On to the renewal of 2015.Hope my new year is as hot as this tropical beauty from  Hidden Valley Hibiscus. If you send gifts to your friends and family think of sending one of their AWESOME Hybridized Hibiscuses. I Have grown a few in the yard, not super successfully but one year, maybe this one I will get one to thrive.  They are huge bloomers with colors from another land.  Anyway, it's a new year time to think about why I garden and what it means to me.

The garden, in my case a flower garden is about the parallel of us and a great living example of the symbolism  of our lives.  Not every year is good year in my garden, just like life,  plenty of forgotten seasons,  family, work, life, health it can all get in the way. The same is true for your plants.  The ability to survive and hang in there is incredible in plant world. 

My garden is full of war time just as much as peace time.  Right now some plants are fighting against the bitter frost of winter for the tender perennials, shrubs and even some annuals that make it, the victory will be another summer season of beautiful proliferation and success.   I have been growing a Jacaranda Tree in my garden for 12 years and this poor tree (current picture on the left) gets hit hard every winter. Every winter season I think it's dead. Nope out of the ground around June comes new bushy not so attractive little limbs.

I just can't bring myself to take out this fighter. I know it doesn't really belong in this Nor-Cal zone. However, I like to think magically it just might thrive and be the huge canopy sub-tropic tree it is meant to be. 

In a way this tree is about me or maybe you, I have taken a few beatings been cut back and made it through to the next year, have you? 

Gardens are war zones, every plant trying to dominate or be seen all the while dodging life sucking snails or leaf cutting beetles, drought, gophers, human mis management and dog crap.   All to show of some flowers in hopes some pollinator will come along and carry its genes to the next generation.  Sound familiar?

Some fight off diseases like, rust, mildew, blight and physical damage like a broken limb or nipped root.  All to renew and thrive again in the new year. and yes, like life not everyone is a winner. Death occurs too, plenty of my seedlings have been taken down by clan snail or my favorite roses and trees ravaged and destroyed by F#@!ing gophers.

I consider it a privilege to see the bustling metropolis of my garden every summer. The dominate wolves of wall street aka Heavenly Blue Morning Glories to the tall models of gorgeous Sunflowers vying for my attention. The visiting travelers of insects, critters and birds that pass through.  Life is everywhere sometimes just waiting for renewal, resting under a blanket of snow.  Happy New Year.

The Monsters in The Yard, Before & After

Written by Matt Macedo on 30-Dec-2014

Seemed like a good idea at the time, everybody was doing it! Buying Carpet Roses of course.  Released first in Home Depot about 12 yrs ago.  They were everywhere and still are. . . So I was new to roses then and to me a low growing carpet rose sounded great, I ran home home and put eight of them in the yard.  Ya mistake, they become huge, thorny, not so attractive roses, that don't play by the rules. 

Did I mention thorny, every year I cut them back last, as pictured above.  Can't wait to have bloody hands pricked hands (no I am not a glove kinda guy). Trust me I have few thorny rose but none as bad as the carpet roses.  The rose pictured is  a red carpet rose and I have come to terms with it now 12 years later.  Two of them grow in that bed in my front yard and between the two of them they cover about a 200 square foot area.

On the plus side, I water these guys maybe 3 times a year. Even in the drought. They still do there thing. Bloom late may with a nice heavy wave of single red roses. Followed by a few more bloom waves here and there with some cut back.  Doesn't matter how you cut them back in winter, they will be back nice and  stout come early may. As you can see from above they don't follow the proper rule of 5 nice canes, its just a cluster f!@#k of tangled sticks.

Aphids love them and so does mildew. If you have them in your yard treat for aphids early on in March and watch for powdery mildew from late June on.

The question you may be asking yourself, why doesn't he just remove them. . .

They never DIE. I have cut them to the ground removed the main canes and like starfish they grow back! a new one from each root left  in the ground! 

I have grown to understand them, the ones I wish to control, I cut all the way to the ground and they will grow to about a 25sqf carpet rose.  They will need a  heavy July cut back too.

These are still sold today by the droves and every time I see some neophyte home owner put one in the ground I just smile to myself.  Better options exist for nice orderly carpet roses in today's market more so online.  I have white fairy rose I planted many seasons ago and it is beauty year after year.

If you are looking for a "solution" rose see me first for some suggestions. 

Warm up Your Soul In Winter, Start Thinking About Seeds.

Written by Matt Macedo on 26-Dec-2014

Every January the sun sticks around a little longer out here in California and I start to get that itch for what start from seed and this year Arizona Apricot Gaillardia and Starship Scarlet Lobelia (pictured above) from Park Seed are on my list. We normally are blessed out here and February can be an early jump to Spring, so I try to have my first little batch of seedlings ready to go in the ground by mid Feb. I have been seeding for many years, as a gardener there is nothing better than getting 20 or 50 plants out of a 5 buck pack of seeds.

Over the years I have learned my lessons. So simple mind sets I stick to, pick flowers that germinate pretty easy if you are a beginner. Gaillardias are a sure winner and heavy producer.  I did lean by seeding Amber Wheels from Burpee last year, they will not be in bloom until this year. However for the most part Gaillardias are fast growing tender perennials with an abundance of flowers.  I have seeded, Arizona, Goblin, Punch Bowl my favorite from last year and a  few others I can't remember at the moment. Point being they are easy start them in a cheap starter kit with the peat pellets and the plastic dome and you will have babies in just a couple of weeks.  

Another easy no-brainer Nasturtiums, I have hundreds of these little guys try to burst of the soil right now in December, volunteers left from previous seedings. They get a bit rangy in summer so I tend to reseed them in May for another round. They grow in part sun, shade and in the right location some bright sun. Sometimes I start them indoors for example this year I am going to try Summer Gown I will start those indoors to get a good amount of germination from a pack of seeds. Many times I will go to a big box Home Depot or Lowes and buy the big bad of Nasturtiums (normally the orange and red common ones) Soak the seeds over night, as you should always do with Nasturtiums, then disperse them through out the yard. 

Lets not forget the easiest of them all the Sunflowers. Bach grow them all season long. I love Sunflowers, so do the ants, the snails, other bugs, and the birds(little finches love eating the leaves too). 

There are some trickery seeds too like Petunias, tiny little buggers often sold 10 seeds in a pack. They can be slow to germinate so start them early. It may be best to buy them already up and running in a six pack unless you want to have the varieties your neighbors can't have because they are only available by seed. Most seeds, I have pretty good luck with.  In a future post I will show my cheap not so exotic seed starting nursery.  This year I am adding in a new light source from a Marine Aquarium I stopped this years. So I am excited to see if that works out even better for me. 

Just be ready to except your new baby seedlings will have some sacrificed soldiers. Many will go to Clan Snail, the always war bound tribe in early spring. Some will get a harsh stream of water in the roots and die an up rooted death, others will just not make it due to genetic weakness.  So never plant all your little ones at once.  Hold some back a week or so to replace the dead and the wounded. Many of the flowers in my post have come from seeds. Gardening can be a cheap experience when you seed some of your flowers and vegetables.   

December 'Tis The Season To Buy Roses

Written by Matt Macedo on 17-Dec-2014

While most people are thinking Holidays, I am thinking what new roses will I buy this year! 'Tis the season. Granted my yard in the San Francisco East Bay isn't full of snow but winter still comes with those balmy 33 degree nights :-). My goal every year is to have all of my roses, about a 150 of them cut back by the December break.  This year I have pretty well made the goal.  I have all sorts and types of roses from ones I love to ones I regret but are never leaving, like Carpet Roses (monsters). Anyway this year as most years I am always excited to see what Jackson and Perkins has to offer. This year I am buying Monkey Business (seen below)I have a thing about yellow roses, most of them are crap, browning in the sun easy, short lived flowers, crap producers. But over the last few seasons some good ones have come about and I hoping this one is no exception.  Now, where will I put it I have no idea! Maybe a big ole pot for the first season or with the other yellow roses I have and like, Julia Child a great little butter yellow floribunda I picked up last year or Walking on Sunshine a great heat tolerant small yellow rose I have had for a few seasons now. And this year I finally have a spot for some new climbers! I have had my eye on Social Climber  (pictured above) for a really long time but with no place to put it. Thanks to some friends I have a new arbor which will be planted with two Social Climber roses. Yay! With any luck I will have some pictures to share this coming summer. 
I do not always buy from Jackson & Perkins but 90% of the time I do. I know garden people they have had some pretty crap years especially with the past bankruptcy but I still think they offer the best and right priced roses on the net. Also, any time I have had a problem they have either credited my account or shipped a new rose out depending on the time of year. No questions asked. 
Plus I am one of those that will wait for the last minute bareroot bargain prices in February or March and purchase some overstock roses for nearly nothing. Yes, some come with disappointing thin or split stock but I think of that as a challenge. Most years I win. I hope you all have roses on the mind too now. Try not to wait til January when they hit you big box retailers get in early, cheaper and have them sent to your door. Oh, and remember to soak them in a tube of water over night to hydrate them up before planting.