I walked through my garden, not to pull weeds or pursue other tasks, just to see what was happening. A routine status check can be useful in establishing priorities for the next stretch of sunny days.
These plants are coming into bloom rather late, compared to roses in warmer areas. The Monterey Bay Rose Society held their annual Rose Show May 4th when my roses were definitely not ready for display. They seem to be coming along just fine, however.
I always anticipate the display of one rose in my garden, a very vigorous rambler (R. mulligani) that blooms in the summer, after other roses. As described by Christine Allen of Great Plant Picks, “Although its individual flowers are small and single, they appear in such huge, pendent trusses that they cover the entire plant and cast their fruity fragrance far across the garden.”
The irises also seem to be a bit later than usual. The American Rose Society’s annual convention (San Ramon, late April) included a tour of Jim & Irene Cummins’ exceptional iris garden in Scotts Valley. The garden was dazzling as always and the tour was successful, but not all the plants had reached their bloom peak. In my garden, I’ve developed a swath of a prize-winning bright yellow iris, That’s All Folks, with a complementary swath of blue irises. The idea worked only half-way because the blue irises didn’t bloom at the same time. Maybe next year.
The Monterey Bay Iris Society had its annual show on May 4th (same day as the rose show), so my yellow irises at least were blooming on schedule. Iris expert Joe Ghio reported an exceptional year for irises, with peak blooms around May 10th. He provided these culture tips for this time:
“Snap out or cut out spent stalks and dig pesky weeds. If you want to give your irises a bit of a boost, sprinkle a LIGHT, emphasis light, application of a balanced fertilizer. You can give a regular watering up to late June.”
I will do that!
My Mediterranean Basin garden has numerous lavenders, which are iconic plants for that part of the world. Happily, they were cut back at the right time and are now setting a proliferation of buds that will provide color and fragrance during the coming weeks. Lavenders perform reliably and well when they are treated well. The recommended treatment includes full sun, minimal irrigation, and timely pruning, twice each year. The first pruning is promptly after the first flowering, and the second is in late August after the last flush has faded. Cut back about two-thirds of the plant’s height and do not cut into the woody part of the stems.
I wrote recently about a seasonal hard pruning of the many salvias in my garden. I did not prune some selected plants for various reasons, but the pruned plants now are already generating new growth. When they bloom, I will resume my project to identify and map the plants that I don’t already recognize.
Meanwhile, I have been learning about the pruning requirements for four kinds of salvias:
- Deciduous or semi-evergreen types with soft stems, e.g., Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha);
- Deciduous, woody-stem varieties, e.g., Autumn Sage (S. greggii);
- Evergreen, woody species (the largest category in my garden), e.g., Karwinski’s Sage (S. karwinskii); and
- Rosette-growing, herbaceous perennials, e.g., Hummingbird Sage (S. spathacea).
For more on this topic, visit the Flowers of the Sea website. Very helpful!
Some time ago, for my South African garden, I planted a Beach Salvia (S. Africana-lutea), one of the evergreen and woody kind. It grew enormously wide among other plants, so I decided to cut it back severely and control its re-growth. After some serious pruning, we discovered that some of the plant’s lower branches had rooted and established new plants, so that its several offspring created the overall width. I now need to reduce my Beach Salvia grove to create room for other plants.
I have another South African salvia, Blue African Sage (S. Africana caerulea), which doesn’t grow quite as large as the Beach Salvia. One can control the size and form of both of these South African species at any time of the year by cutting back the oldest wood.
On a future occasion, I will survey the status of several other plants that grow in quantity in my garden. All gardeners should consider an occasional unhurried survey of their gardens to gain familiarity with what is going on and planning for future maintenance and improvement. A well-known principal of workplace supervision is “management by walking around.” The same idea applies to the garden. The good news is that the gardener can conduct this supervisory function while carrying a beverage of your choice.