Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
September, 2003
Regional Report

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Alyssum the size of ottomans, neon lobelia, and never-ending tubalghia flowers thrive in a South San Francisco garden.

A Garden Renovation

My dear friend Jean has a background in accounting and has lived in her home in South San Francisco for the past 30 years. When she and her husband decided to remodel, they also decided to upgrade the landscaping. So, last November I helped her design and install a front garden.

The Transformation
Jean was not a gardener, but she knew exactly what she wanted. The first thing we did was to improve the existing soil, lay down a faux creek bed and select some plants she liked. I had strict orders: "NO DAISIES."

We selected mostly perennials and grasses with a few culinary herbs thrown in. The planting part was easy, and since it was November, there wasn't much to do in the way of gardening. I figured, incorrectly, that once spring and summer rolled around, we would have to replace some of the plants, especially since we divided many of the plants at planting time to save some money.

Who knew that an accountant would turn out to be such an excellent gardener? Jean has not only brought all of her new wards through the winter months, but she also has mastered the art of watering and tip pruning. She has the most magnificent alyssum I have ever seen! Each individual plant is the size of an ottoman! Her lobelia are perfect too. We chose Crystal Palace for the deep blue color, but I have never seen any lobelia attain such a sapphire quality. The plants are blooming so profusely that they appear to be made of neon.

Successful Plants
The dymondia ground cover has completely blanketed the bed near the garage. We wanted something hardy so that Jean's doggies could lounge in comfort and not worry about them tearing it up. We also wanted something that didn't require mowing.

The tubalghia, erysimum, and armeria have been blooming for months, with no end in sight. All of them are covered in buds, promising at least a few more months of color. The lavender that we planted from cell packs in December have been slow, but every single one made it through the winter. The plants look perfectly healthy and their shape is uniform. I'm thinking that once the salvias have ceased their show, the lavenders will take over.

Wind Tolerance is a Must
The thing about Jean's garden is that it's in the windiest part of the windiest city on the Peninsula. South San Francisco is famous for its gale force winds that blow through every afternoon from March through October. All of the plants we selected are low growing, so the wind can't knock them over. The movement of the Deschampsia, Pennisetum, and Stipa grass is part of what makes her garden so spectacular!

Did I mention the grasses? Magnificent! Jean loves ornamental grasses so we added many different varieties. We planted all the rushes in one area, and I asked her to keep them moister than the rest of the garden. There isn't a brown tip to be found on any of them. Jean is vigilant about watering and waters only when the plants need it. The fact that she went mad for mulch helped her save a few hundred dollars on the water bill.

Jean has taken to gardening like nobody I ever knew. I am proud of her stunning success. What is the lesson here? Do as I say, not as I do.

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