Smart & Sustainable, Green Garden Design, Coaching & Seasonal Maintenance

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"M" is for Mediterranean Gardens, "N" is for Never Mind

The expression, "a day late and a dollar short" comes to mind. I was in Los Angeles visiting the girls last week...missed "M", but didn't know until a second ago that we've moved on to "N". So, for ABC Wednesday, I give you "M"...and as Rosanne Rosanna Danna would say... "Never Mind".
Shown above...tomato, sunflower, Mexican and Pineapple Salvias, succulents (all from my garden), blue pots from High Hand Nursery, Fair Oaks Village where the chickens run free, eggplants from the Loomis Eggplant Festival, and a fountain, cuz you gotta have water!

From Wikipedia, Mediterranean Climates: "A Mediterranean climate is one that resembles the climate of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, which includes over half of the area with this climate type world-wide. In addition to the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, this climate type prevails in much of California, in parts of Western and South Australia, in southwestern South Africa, and in parts of central Chile."

Wikipedia map
So...we have Provence, Algeria, Greece and Italy, parts of Australia, Santiago, San Francisco and the Napa Valley, and, you guessed it, SACRAMENTO! We may have uber-long growing seasons and the summers can get really hot, but we're in good company. Learning how to garden in this climate can make the experience a great one...and one of the secrets is the right plant in the right place. The Napa County Master Gardeners have a nice write up on Mediterranean climate gardening on their website. Another resource is the international Mediterranean Garden Society.

For the ABC Wednesday project, my pick is "M" for Mediterranean., if I could just get a little Aegean Sea or some coastal Pacific Ocean breezes in the mix, it would be really "N" for nifty! Oh, never mind.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Top Three Lavenders

Welcome to another round of ABC Wednesday! For this week's letter, "L", I've choosen one of my favorite plants, Lavender. This native Mediterranean shrub has a wide variety of colorful and fragrant flowers, is easy to grow, and is useful for cooking, crafts and perfumes. It's been grown for centuries, and as such, has woven itself nicely into our humanity.

from my college plant identification book - I loved this class!

Three of the best known lavenders are:
  • Lavandula angustifolia, English Lavender - a rather skinny flower stalk, probably the most widely planted and hardiest of them all. I like this lavender because it makes me feel English. Might I have a cup of tea?

  • Lavandula dentata, French Lavender - toothed leaves (thus the dentata. I like this lavender because it makes me feel French. (Also, I like knowing that the latin root has to to with teeth.) Ooh la la ...

  • french lavender...I hope you appreciate that I weeded before taking this shot, be it as it may
  • Lavandula stoechas , Spanish Lavender - twin rabbit-like petals, many colorful hybrids. This lavender makes me feel Spanish! There are many new hybrids of lavender with outstanding colors coming into the nurseries these days! Ole!
  • UCD Spanish Lavender

Growing Lavender: Evergreen in the Sacramento Valley (which is one of the 5 Mediterranean climate areas in the world!), lavender is easy to grow. It prefers well-drained soil and little or no fertilizer. Mulching is best done with non-organics, like decomposed granite or pea gravel.

Pruning is necessary to keep lavender within bounds (unpruned lavenders can become sloppy with a lot of central wood...ask my sister, Julie, her lavender has a mind of its own) and should be started when the lavender is young. Prune with caution, however because if cut back too much (into the wood) they may not come back.

Good References: UC Davis' recently published Arboretum All-Stars lists lavender amongst the "100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum, are easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden".
For more information about lavender, get a copy of The Sunset Western Garden Book (see link at right). It's the must-have reference for gardeners in the west U.S.