I am spending a few weeks with my Sister who lives in Huntington Beach, California recovering from a recent fractured disc in my spine. She is a very keen gardener like me but this year has experienced many cut backs with the watering etc. and what plants will tolerate the drought. Some plants have surprised her especially her roses which are watered infrequently but have produced some wonderful flowers. There is also a blue Plumbago and American Honeysuckle which is bright orange with dark green leaves which has grown on the wall and appears to have flowered more freely. She also split her day lilies putting some in different parts of the garden in case she lost any of them, and at the moment the day lily in the tub is flowering.
The drought in Southern California has hit people in many different ways. Gardeners can only use their sprinklers for five minutes twice a week (also only a five minute shower twice a week!!). There has been a drought for the last four years, mainly because the snow which usually falls on the Sierra Mountains has been so little therefore no water when the snow melts and California gets a lot of its water from the Sierras in good years. The last four years have been the driest with 29 inches only of rain.
As a result of the drought there have been many brush fires with terrible consequences losing many trees and shrubs as well as small animals. Unfortunately when any rain does come there is nothing to stop it from rushing straight down the hillside or mountain onto the roads and towns causing a lot of destruction. The trees are beginning to dry out and crack and split enabling bugs etc to get into the bark. Branches are falling off as well. The drought is blamed for the infestation of native bark beetles because healthy trees can usually defend against the insects. The U.S. Forest Service estimate that 22 million trees have died in California since the drought started four years ago. In Orange County where I am staying one species of Southeast Asian beetle – shot hole borer – has been particularly troublesome.
Gardeners are saving water from any gutter downpipe – (although many houses do not have gutters) and washing up water from the sink in order to be able to hand water their plants. Lantana is a very good drought tolerant plant and grows well in dry conditions once established. As does Cassia, a pretty yellow plant. Also another good idea is when the ice cube tray/box needs emptying to put the ice cubes round the plants instead of putting them into the sink to melt.
Milkweed is also a drought tolerant plant which is good news as the Monarch butterfly lays its eggs on the leaves of the plants which develop into small green/yellow caterpillars. These caterpillars eat the plants and when it gets around two inches long crawls to a convenient spot and hangs upside down turning into a chrysalis, where it stays for around two weeks before emerging as a beautiful Monarch butterfly. My Sister has several milkweed in her garden and we have watched the caterpillars getting bigger and sometimes even seen them emerging from the chrysalis. They usually sit on a leaf flapping their wings waiting for them to dry before flying off.
Quite a few people are moving towards growing succulents and in some cases have an entire front garden of succulents which are readily available now in garden centres and nurseries. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in deciding which plants to keep and what to replace as it is difficult to get small plants established in these conditions. This really makes me appreciate our climate even if we do get a lot of rain at times.
This spring has proved the most challenging gardening season in all my gardening years. In November 2014 whilst on holiday at my Sister`s in Huntington Beach, California, I had a bad fall and fractured my spine. I`ve always wanted an extended holiday but not quite like this – flat on my back. Getting the garden ready had to be done in short bursts so I could rest but with the help of my Husband Alan, who did all of the lifting, moving and digging I managed to get the garden sorted.
I am growing the TomTato® again this year as it was very successful last year with almost 5 kg of tomatoes as well as the potatoes harvested. I started it off indoors but as soon as the weather was right transferred it into the larger container of Incredicompost® in a sunny but sheltered position.
Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’
I ordered `garden ready` plants this year as I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to do in the early months. They arrived this last week and look wonderful, very fresh and ready for planting. I love Begonia ‘Apricot Shades’ and have planted these into a triple basket, 12”/14”/16” and now in position in the front garden. They are very easy to handle and you don`t have to worry about growing them on first which might have been a problem as I couldn’t stand for very long.
I am planning to use three troughs at the side of the front garden but looking at them they really looked worse for wear, then I wondered if they could be painted with the blue paint we have on our decking, no sooner said than done as Alan painted them last night now they just need planting up and they look like new troughs.
I have also planted a triple stand with black and red petunias and red diascia as a tribute to our local football team – AFC Bournemouth who have just been promoted to the Premier League from being almost bankrupt six years ago. I am patiently waiting for these plants to start flowering so I can see the full effect.
April here in Bournemouth on the South Coast was very dry and warm everything in the garden really sat up and took notice flowering quite early in some cases. May, unfortunately has been cold and wet. In March my 90 year old neighbour died, I have been looking after her front garden for several years. I was very kindly given two stone planters which stood either side of her front door. They now take pride of place in my back garden.
My Strawberry ‘Irresistible’ which I had on trial about three years ago are doing exceptionally well and now have the fruit formed – and to think they almost got thrown out as they had been covered in leaves in the winter and couldn’t see the plants!!
Here`s hoping that the rest of the summer is going to be kind to us all especially the gardeners. Enjoy!
After all the horrendous rain, gales and floods I think I can at last say I believe spring is on its way. The heavy rains have stopped here in Bournemouth although we are still getting heavy showers, but in between we have had sunshine with reasonable temperatures. We have to repair a couple of panels that were damaged in one of the gales, but taking everything into account I consider myself very lucky that no other damage was done.
The daffodils are out in my garden, making it look very cheery, also many crocuses on the side of roads which makes a great difference to floods everywhere. I noticed today that several trees have their pink blossoms already – another sign that spring is here. My small acer trees, which are in containers, all have new shoots on them. I noticed also that some of my tree lilies are showing themselves – a little early.
New shoots on the acer
At last I have been able to get into the garden and cut back and feed my fuchsias and generally tidy up by sorting out the containers ready for the new season. Whilst doing that and getting some ready to be emptied I came across a window box, which at first looked as though it was full of weeds, only to discover that my strawberry plants from last year were just starting to shoot, so I tidied them up ready for the new season.
Early tree lily
On Sunday 23rd February part of the film that was made in my garden on 3rd September last year was on TV, I was watching whilst having my breakfast and there I was onscreen – I must say that it felt kind of funny watching myself!!!
The front garden in 2013
On 14th January I was presented with a cup for winning Gold First Best Container Garden 2013 in the Bournemouth in Bloom competition, and certificate for Gold Third Best Private Hanging Basket, I was thrilled as we are not told until called up to the stage.
Me being presented with the cup for Gold First Best Container Garden 2013
Looking forward to another busy season…
A day’s filming with Richard Jackson
I live in Bournemouth which is quite a mild gardening climate, although of course we have had some really bad winters over the last three years with well below temperatures and snow – not usually associated with the south of England. I am just celebrating my 75th birthday and have been gardening for 65 years, first as a child on my Dad’s allotment in Norfolk and then I gradually took over from my Mum in the garden where we lived. For the past year have been recovering from a broken hip, with a lot of help from my husband Alan. Since I retired have spent a lot more time gardening.
I usually use multi-purpose compost and have fed all my plants with Richard Jackson’s Flower Power over the last few years, of course unless ericaeous compost is needed. I live in the middle of three terrace houses with a front and back garden. The front now has decking because the space was originally needed for a caravan and I always use different sized containers, some low, others on a stand. Last year I am thrilled to say I won the Gold Award for the Bournemouth in Bloom Container Garden. Several years ago Thompson & Morgan had a garden photo competition, so I sent a photo in of my container garden and was rewarded with some vouchers and also asked if I would like to trial some Thompson & Morgan plants, which I have been doing ever since.
Richard Jackson has been showing some of my garden photos on QVC gardening for a few years and has been in contact. In January 2013 I was visiting my sister in San Diego, California when I received an email from Richard saying they had been discussing my garden and were talking about coming down to film it if I was agreeable. On the spur of the moment I agreed and then wondered if my garden would be what they were looking for.
Rob the producer contacted me with possible dates, but as the spring was so cold decided that it might be better to delay it until 3rd September. Then of course, we had some hot weather and everything just about caught up. The only preparation I really did was to make sure the plants were deadheaded and the decking kept clear of dropped flower heads and prayed that we didn’t get torrential rain or a gale!!!
Rob and his crew arrived on the afternoon of Monday 2nd September to have a look at the gardens and see where they could set up the camera. At 8 am on 3rd September, a gloriously sunny morning (thank goodness), the crew turned up and set up their camera in the front garden. Richard came in and introduced himself, Alan made them all a cup of tea while everything was sorted. Alan also took lots of photos through the day so I could look back on them later. I have now made the photos into a photobook.
The day involved filming Richard interviewing me about the garden and the flowers I had planted, how they were planted, which were my favourites etc. I can`t say I was nervous, which is unlike me, but I think they all put me at ease and nothing was too much trouble. Not even when a neighbour decided to get the hose out and wash his van, which of course was picked up by the sound engineer but taken in good humour. It was being filmed for a new QVC gardening programme with Richard Jackson called Gardening Inspirations, which is due to go out in May 2014.
Rob went to buy sandwiches, cream cakes, ice creams and drinks for lunch and as it had turned out a very hot day we all ate lunch in the lounge where it was cooler.
During the afternoon we were filmed on a bench in the back garden talking about hints and tips and they filmed me deadheading a hanging basket and feeding another, also Richard and me walking down the path.
Richard and the crew left around 2:30 pm after what I can honestly say was a great experience… and lots of laughs which certainly made for a different sort of a day.