Monday, January 25, 2010

Garden on Acid

When I moved out here years ago I would often pass by this house. It looked totally different at the time-a beige-y green bungalow, nice but no outstanding features - although it did have some pretty avante-garde planting-funny little hebes, grasses and phormiums (ooo...radical, I know. But hey, this was many, many years ago.) Over the years the garden began to look more typical. The plantings didn't change, the rest of the gardening world caught up with the gardener. Those unusual plant combinations began to look hum-drum and common.

About a year ago the owners (whom I've never met, nor even seen) decided to shake it up a bit. The house went under quite a transformation with new detailing and new color palette. The garden was also completely redone with new hardscape and new plantings that reflect the color intensity of the house. It is quite a show stopper, being right on a prominent corner of a fairly busy street.

I do enjoy the garden for the novelty factor although I wonder how some plantings will grow in as time passes. The front bed of Cordyline 'Electric Pink' is already looking less architectural and more blurry mass. I suppose a thinning of the Cordylines may be in order one day as well as an underplanting of something once those guys develop trunks and drop their lower leaves.

The undulating orange wall is really brave. The plantings in front of it keep pace and don't lack for intensity either.

I love the purple mulch. It really makes everything pop. Who would have thought that bark chips could be dyed such a vivid color? This garden brings to mind a masculine version of a Keela Meadows garden. Lots of vibrant color but less swishy.

The back yard is easily seen from the sidewalk, through the metal gate. The back reveals more interesting details. I love the stone mulch. I must use that someday.

My favorite part of the whole garden is the back porch. The magenta and dark brown are fabulous together. And the deck construction is simple and modern, just my cup of tea.

I really must try and meet the owner of this garden someday. It makes me wonder- will this garden predict a new trend in planting design? Will more and more gardeners start to find this look? Will this garden look typical and hum-drum someday? Wouldn't our neighborhoods be interesting if this was the norm!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Seedlings on the march

We had a lovely warm(ish) rainy day in the nursery recently. I headed out during a break in the rain and got distracted with checking out all the new baby plants coming along in the seedling greenhouse, which is stuffed to the gills this time of year.

Awaiting deployment:

It is fun to walk around and see who is starting to poke their heads out already.

Each tray of seedlings has their own personality.

There is a feeling of such vibrancy and energy in all of those brand new green tips. So many little plants condensed in one tray, ready to be dispersed to gardens across the U.S.

Enjoyed watching Anni J. readying more to come.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One more citrus, where am I going to put it?

Another citrus I just couldn't resist lately is the Australian Finger Lime, Citrus austalisica. I'd never heard of it until this fall when we brought some 5-gal Four Winds Citrus into the nursery to sell. They had the oddest little sausage-shaped fruits and instantly I was intrigued.

Cutting one open allows the little caviar-like beads to ooze out. They have a firm texture and don't easily pop. Bite down on them for a burst of tart citrus. Not sweet, but not mouth puckering either. They seem like they'd be great as a garnish, even though according to the internets most people make marmalade out of them. I thought they would be pretty and sparkly on top of a cupcake. I just happened to have some pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese frosting I'd just made so I tried a few on top. Unfortunately the flavor was lost. I think if you don't directly bite down on the beads you don't get any of the flavor. Does that mean I was scarfing down my cupcakes? Probably. Later I tried some of the beads in a salad. I mixed them into the dressing and drizzled them on top and that worked pretty well to get the full citrus effect. More chewing with salads I guess. I suppose you could crush them and use the juice for something but I think one of the best features of this citrus is the texture of the beads. Entertainment for the tongue. Although I'm sure the juice has many potential cocktail uses.

Getting this "citrus caviar" out out of the peel can be a bit tedious though. The best method I've found so far is to squeeze the cut-open fruit like a tube of toothpaste. Don't worry about popping them. As I said, they are pretty tough. Scrape the sticky beads out with a knife.

The plant has tiny little leaves and profuse thorns, probably would make a good barrier plant. Native to Australia, it grows to about 10-12' tall. So far no frost damage in my zone 9b garden. The fruit is variable in color. The skin ranges from green to black and the pulp tends to be clear, green or pink. I ended up with a brown-rinded, clear pulped one. Not the most exciting, I'd love to get one that has pink pulp. Maybe not the most useful citrus for cooking but fun to have for the novelty factor. One of those "look what I have and you don't" plants. Nanny-nanny-boo-boo.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Quick Trip up the Coast

We got away for New Year's Eve/Birthdays and headed up for a quick trip to Bodega Bay. It was pretty rainy but we managed a couple of hikes without getting too wet. The first was along some coastal bluffs, hoping to see some whales. No luck, but we enjoyed the views anyway.

While hiking along the bluffs, I realized that there is one invasive plant in California that I do hold a soft spot for. With most invasives, I have a hard time seeing past their destructive personalities and am unable to appreciate any beauty they may have. Out of town guests will ohh and ahh over Scotch Broom in bloom but they just look wretched to me. And that ratty Pampas Grass. So ugly. Oh, but get me anywhere near a patch of Iceplant that is blushing red and I melt. Iceplant, Carpobrotus edulis, is a horribly invasive plant along most of the California coast. Up close it looks completely out of place with any native vegetation. The thick succulent leaves look totally wrong next to our scrubby California plants. But when Iceplant turns that glorious red I just don't care. The color is so perfect with the rugged browns and grays of the coastline. And in winter, the fresh green (non-native) grass is set off to perfection by the splashes of scarlet. The leaves turn red in droughty situations when anthocyanin is produced due to stress. It is the same chemical reaction that occurs in trees that produce a red fall color. Maybe I'm fond of the Iceplant because I'm so starved for fall color in California!

This quick trip was the first time I've ever spent in the Bodega Bay area other than just passing through. The area was really quite charming, especially on these cold, foggy days. I hope to have another chance to explore for longer sometime, especially some of the apple orchards we passed!