My Patio Garden Diary 2012
How many flowers and veggies fit in a small patio?
[May 15, 2012] Picking up where I left off last year, I'm continuing my patio garden diary with a new page, as the old one was getting long.
(Click that link to see my 2011 patio garden page if you missed it; the "cat in the sun" video will lower your blood pressure.)
I'm not an expert gardener, but I enjoy learning what I can do with a very small back yard with limited light (4-6 hours). I grow flowers, vegetables, herbs, and even some fruit. I moved here in 2008, and I'm still figuring out what works.
I love photographing my plants -- and my cat -- so enjoy the pictures below!
Starting Over - March 2012 - Now with new dirt (and hired help)
Star jasmine blooming, March 9, 2012
Perfumes the house with windows open!
Notice bare dirt. Again. (Cat likes it. I don't.)
Last year, cool weather plus bad arthritis contributed to the patio garden getting ratty in August. Powdery mildew was a problem. Clearly, I needed to dig up the beds, amend the soil with new organic material, and break up my clay dirt which keeps turning into unfired ceramic.
Arthritis and a pinched nerve in my neck made it too difficult. Finally, this spring, I hired a gardener who dug up almost everything and replaced the top six inches with organic Gro-Power. He probably thought I was nuts for sniffing the black dirt in his truck bed, but it smelled like Pennsylvania farmland soil... lovely stuff!
Then I got out my iPad and Designed a New Patio Garden from scratch, taking into account the shade/sun spots.
Samhain the cat tests to see whether a dust bath or jungle lurking place is better.
Amend Soil & Install New Plants, March 22, 2012 - Click for full-sized photos
Here's what it looked like immediately after installment (I bought the plants, paid Miguel to plant them... cheat, cheat, cheat!)
The fuschia added to this barrel, incongruously, is named Winston Churchill. Pansies around it will get covered over when it gets going. White bleeding hearts plants bracketing the barrel didn't bloom for long, but their foliage is lovely.
Below, left: shade garden with calla lilies (from last year), a new shooting star hydrangea, blue lobelias, white English daisies, regular daisies, and lavender petunias.
Below, right: flowerbed with irises in back, delphiniums in the middle (note left-hand one with blue blossoms about to open, it has a stealth bomb in it I was not expecting), white nemesia in front. Cat at usual on dirt in front of happy peach tree. Herb patch beat back to size.
I acquired a patio umbrella late last summer for a party, and I really like it!
Here's that Shooting Star hydrangea I was talking about: Hydrangea macrophylla. It's hard to get a photo in the shade, but trust me, it's a lovely plant.
Here's the stealth bomb. Armstrong's Garden center really needs more labels than just "assorted" when it comes to delphiniums; this thing shot up to 5 feet tall in April.
I wasn't really intending to go for white, blue, lavender and pale yellow -- I prefer vibrant festive colors like I had last year -- but there was a big storm a few days before my gardener came, and the only plants not beat to a pulp at the garden center were a very limited color palette.
April 2012 Patio Garden - The flowers get going
Mmm, grits. And OJ. And twittery birds. (it's cloudy here first thing in the morning before the marine layer burns away).
Notice the unhappy weird pot plant with the purple blossoms. I bought it three years ago and can't remember what it is. Terribly pot-bound, it will soon be liberated! The red geranium clashing with everything else is also from a few years ago, nipped from the huge planters that are everywhere in my city. If they grow there, they'll grow in my yard, I reasoned!
(Hidden objects puzzle: find the cat.)
The new dirt is working. Once all the flowers were in, I started adding veggies, and had enough energy to put a lot more in this year than last year. We'll see how they go; white powdery mildew is always a problem with 5 hours of light.
Here's how things stack up in April.
The Dwarf Babcock Peach has 70 peaches on it this year! It's not just the soil; I think it alternates years. They come out tangerine-sized with tiny stones and very juicy, sweet.
My strawberries made it through the winter and started bearing in March. I think they're sequoia variety. I get one or two a day as a lovely morning nibble.
Don't get too close to that delphinium, Samhain; it'll attack!
I think the red tree behind the wall is a plum. Later, it will sprout fruit and urchins.
Easter lilies at the grocery store were on sale for $2 a pot the day after Easter. I bought two and had fun moving them from room to room perfuming the house. The flowers are bigger than my hand!
The Cactus Has Commenced (Apr 28)
Limited showing: 1-2 days!
Since I moved here, a cactus I've had for 10 years has started blooming for 1-2 days a year. It's so brief that I never saw it do it when it was on the bare patio of my old student apartment. This year, April 28 was the magic day. The flower is the same size as my face.
May 2012 Garden (Updating flowers)
Herbs and spinach are ready!
The first batch of delphiniums, irises and nemesia is dying down, and it's time to upgrade. May 8-15:
Blue-and-white pansies, yellow snapdragons, and pink cosmos refresh the flowerbed.
New hanging basket matches the colors better. Corn, radish bed added at lower right.
I only recognize the pale yellow petunias; no idea what the bluish stuff is. (Also little brick-red flowers that look like oversized scarlet pimpernels, but not visible against the plum.)
(Left) Geranium basket looks great hanging under cape honeysuckle in shady corner.
Square foot gardening in action! (Sort of. It's a small space, but I didn't build a raised bed.)
- Dwarf peach
- Baby spinach
- Thyme (two varieties)
- Basil (two varieties)
- Fingerling carrots
- Strawberry pot
- Cherry and heirloom tomatoes
- Yellow squash
- Sugar snap peas (under tomatoes)
- Bay leaf bush
Veggies are just getting started, but the herbs are ready to eat:
Your iron chef ingredient of the day: OREGANO! (also chives, rosemary, and sage plus baby spinach for a salad). Chopped, put in skillet with olive oil, and used on lamb or chicken liver.
Baked tilapia (minus the rosemary and sage, plus basil and plum tomatoes) is so far the winning entry for the "how to use oregano" contest. Yes, there's a fish under there.
(Stoneware pottery by Mark Blumenfeld, one of the Laguna Beach artists).
What to do with radish sprouts when you have to thin them to make room? Add basamic vinaigrette and plum tomatoes from the farmer's market and make a salad! (My cherry tomatoes are still green... stay tuned.)
Here's Mr. Winston Churchill. What an odd name for a species of fuschia. It's starting to eat the pansies around it, oops. This year I let the jasmine go without trimming, and it's having a second bloom...mmm!
The cape honeysuckle over the table is hard to photograph because it's old and very tall, but it adds flame-colored flowers all over the shady corner: a mess on the ground, but worth it! It attracts hummingbirds year round.
© 2012 Ellen Brundige