Ahh… California! While I was there last week for a family function, I again enjoyed my favorite aspect of that state (aside from the family)—the plants! Many varieties that are annuals or treasured specimens here are perennials there. In their home environments, they become huge and are used in ways we could not even imagine.
On an incline on the side of the road just down the hill from my sister’s house is a clump of variegated agaves that I must think about at least once a week. The leaves are beautifully contorted making the clump a sculptural phenomenon clinging to the incline. I am stunned each time I see it.
The first time I saw hedge, albeit a short one, made from ivy, I was shocked. The plant grows and is then sheared and grows and is sheared repeatedly until it becomes a hedge. Lantana, verbena, ice plant and a Boston-type fern are used the same way. Recumbent rosemary becomes a carpet covering stonewalls. Jasmine vine is used as a vine on trellises and fences and as a ground cover.
There is a phormeum beside my sister’s driveway that is 5’ tall and 3’ in diameter and it’s a teenager! Some of its older relatives live with huge clumps of agapanthus in the middle sections of the highways! Myersii ferns, loved by me because of our shared name and its form, live outside and thrive in pots and in her garden. Aoniums and echevarias grow in the garden. There are varieties of gardenias in her garden that I have never heard of. I spent a day helping her thin out a bed of over grown calla lilies and pruned a rosemary SHRUB!
On a trip to Watsonville, we saw fields of strawberries, broccoli, lettuce, garlic and artichokes all destined for supermarkets, not organic but interesting to see. The eucalyptus trees were in bloom and I had my first ollallie berry experience! I had heard about them for years but this was their season. It was worth the wait. They taste like a very rich and slightly perfumed blackberry. They are the result of many crossings of black and red raspberries, youngberries, dewberries and loganberries, which are all related. Wow, are they good. I found no information that says they can be grown here. Too bad.
There are many more amazing plants growing there including orange and lemon trees making so much fruit that the falls lay under the trees like apples. My sister has an almond tree! I have been to a succulent/cactus botanical garden and a botanical garden with South African plants. Not to mention the San Francisco botanical garden where I saw huge nepenthes! I have carefully nurtured several of these plants and more in greenhouses during the winter and thought of my plants as large
And at home we have had a good growing spell so that weeds have thrived and plants are ready to be groomed and cut back. Nepeta in encroaching on its neighbors and must be restrained, in my opinion. The perennial salvias are ready to be deadheaded, but roses are beginning to bloom. I have removed the tired digitalis spikes and am beginning to thin self-seeded plantlings that are preparing to bloom next year. I appreciate them but too many is too many! Daffodil foliage is finally ready to be removed as well. I cut the foliage of the oriental poppies.
In the vegetable gardens, the first sowing of radishes is finished as will be the first lettuce soon. Potatoes are flowered and fresh garlic scapes are ready. They have a short season, so get them now. The long-awaited peas are ready. The recent rains have delayed the necessity for irrigation until
I have had an abundant two weeks!
Jeanelle Myers is a professional gardener, landscaper and consultant. For gardening discussion you can call her at 631-434-5067.