Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2009
Regional Report

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Name that bloom! Verbascum is just one of the mystery plants in my new (actually Henry's) garden.

My Very Own Garden -- Almost

Hallelujah! I have a real garden at long last! Well, to tell the truth, it's not actually mine, but Henry has hired me to tend his garden in San Mateo. His wife Melanie has given me carte blanche to plant any thing my little heart desires. I have been receiving e-mails with photo attachments from her asking me the name of this or that particular weird plant. Of course if I don't know, I just make up a name and everybody is happy. For years I fooled my husband by telling him that every plant he asked about was an "echeveria." He finally caught on when we were taking a walk around Angel Island. He asked the name of a tiny wild cyclamen and I told him it was an echeveria. A few feet further down the path, he asked about one of those big Echiums with the purple spikes and I told him THAT was an echeveria too. He looked at me and I could just see the wheels spinning behind his eyeballs. I don't think he trusted me for years after that episode.

Anyway, we went to buy some plants for the garden. We strolled the aisles and gathered 4 flats of very healthy annuals and perennials. We bought all kinds of things from helleborus to echinops, although I think Henry pulled out the echinops because it looked like a thistle.

Planting the collection was kind of crazy. I thought Henry would be at work on the cool, overcast day I had scheduled to plant, but he was working from home. Henry is a wonderful person and a very dear friend, but he can be peculiar to work with because he is like a kid who wants to know everything. "Why are we planting this here? Why are you digging such a big hole? How big will this plant get? When does this bloom? Shouldn't this one go over there?" Finally I just had him dig the holes and I did the planting.

Henry and I have an ongoing argument about mulch. He wants the uniform look of composted redwood. I don't want to pay for all those bags of compost and actually prefer the look of the free chipped tree trimmings given away by the City of Brisbane. I have two big plastic garden totes that I fill with free mulch every time I go down to the garden in San Mateo. It doesn't spread very far, but eventually I will have all the beds covered with 2 to 4 inches of mulch, which will save me hours of weeding and Henry mucho dinero on his water bill.

I have also activated his composters. He has a tumbler that I like very much and also some kind of bin thing that has a door at the bottom. I keep adding clippings at the top, but nothing ever seems to happen at the bottom of that box. The tumbler, however, is providing beautiful finished compost at a pretty good rate. Unfortunately, I set it on a slight incline and it's hard to turn. Once it's empty, I'll move it to a new, level location in full sun.

Pat Myself on the Back!
I take great pride in my new garden. Every week, after a few hours of weeding and mulching, I look back on what I have accomplished and feel really good. I get sweaty, dirty, and thirsty, and enjoy every single minute spent outdoors.

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