Weekend garden plans

It's fall, and the California garden springs into life after the first rain. I've been chomping at the bit to work in the garden and I have a long list of tasks.

My garden tasks for this weekend include cutting back the Matilija poppy, digging out some failing Penstemon next to the driveway and replanting with recent Payne Foundation acquisitions that ought to flourish better in my garden conditions: Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' (Silver Carpet aster) and Lotus grandiflorus (Large-Flowered Lotus).

I ought to tidy, divide, and plant more yarrow in the bare patches in front, and adjust the sprinkler for better coverage so that come spring time it looks more lawn-like. The same goes for the actual lawn, which doesn't get much supplemental water, but has now come back to vigorous life with the first rain and at least needs the string cutter. Then there's the bare patch on the parking strip that I've been meaning to turn to natives.

There's Phacelia tenacetifolia seed that I ought to distribute in my vegetable garden for soil improvement, and some other wildflower seeds that I ought to put in my One Pot At A Time pots.

My vegetable garden needs tending, and I have a bunch of onion sets to put out. I didn't know this, but whether you get green onions or regular slicing onions depends on the depth that the sets are planted. A deeper planting yields green onions. Those are the more perishable, so perhaps I'll go that way so that I can have them fresh at hand when I need them. It's time to plant lettuce and spread compost as well.

My carefullycasually tended pots of cuttings, seed starts, and garden rescues that have made it through the summer are beginning to show new growth so I ought to do something productive with them. Two of six bitter orange trees grown from seed made it. A trumpet vine cutting (1 of 6 taking for a friend) made it. The dead looking Matilija poppy in a pot is regrowing too and I noted at the Payne Foundation that they now charge $14! for a 1 gallon Matilija poppy. I could have been rich propagating Matilija poppies!

Then I'll scratch my planting itch even more using some nice designer-esque pots that I acquired last weekend when I made my previously-promised trip to the "Pot Depot" (aka Pottery Manufacturing and Distribution, Inc).

Theodore Payne Foundation has a number of attractive potted native plants and I've managed to keep a couple of my own alive over the past year after a couple miscues in the more distant past. So my goal for Sunday is to use some attractive pots I've seen recently as inspiration for my own potted native plants while maintaining a hopeful state of mind about their continued viability.

There isn't a huge amount of information out there on best planting practices for California natives in pots. What I've found is that one key to a successful potted native plant seems to be use of a mulch (TPF always uses an attractive polished rock mulch, which I try to do as well) in order to prevent excessive soil temperatures and water loss during hot months. I use a plain Jane commercial potting soil mix (this week it's Kellogg without obvious added plant foods / fertilizers). Sometimes I mix in extra vermiculite or other lightening amendments. My pots are usually oversized compared to the cheapest home improvement store pots. Most important, I think, is that they are usually deeper, which allows the deep-growing roots of natives a better chance to sustain the plant over the hot summer months. You can't grow a large plant in a small container for very long before it's too cramped.

Watering your potted natives is the key to success, and what I've found is that less is more, but only to a certain point. Cultural practices written for the garden do not apply exactly to pots. For example, one is often advised by California gardening books to withhold summer water from Fremontodendron lest it perish. What they often neglect to say explicitly is that this advice is for established plants in the garden. Fremontodendron will perish in a pot without summer water. I know this because I've killed one this way, back when I followed a more literal interpretation of the garden book guidelines. The same is true of Matilija poppies. And wildflowers will give their best in pots only if you augment rainfall with additional water.

I have a lot of new California native plants to work with. These are my latest acquisitions:

From my earlier trip to TPF I still have Arctostaphylos 'Elizabeth McClintock' (Manzanita Elizabeth McClintock ) and Ceanothus 'Powder Blue' (Powder Blue California lilac) in 1 gallon containers as well as Sidalcea malvaeflora 'Palustre' (Checkerbloom) in 4" pots.

Additionally, last weekend I made a second trip to TPF in order to browse and purchase during the last weekend of their fall sale (15% off plant materials to the general public and 10% off seeds and bulbs). I didn't really have any purchasing goals except for bulbs (I ended up with Calochortus luteus 'Golden Orb' (Mariposa Lily) and Tritelia laxa 'Corrina' (Ithuriel's Spear). Juli caught bulb fever and ended up with Calchortus splendens 'Violet Queen' and Brodiea californica). But I ended up taking home Umbellularia californica (California Bay laurel) and Quercus chysolepis (Canyon Live or Maul Oak - a tought, shorter stature, oak) in 1 gallon pots, and a couple Fragaria chiloensis (Beach Strawberry) in 4" pots, and Heuchera 'Dainty Bells' (Coral Bells).

Can I really get all this and a workout in on Sunday?

No comments:

Post a Comment