Tag Archives: Seasons

Garden Tour cont……

      In this, the second phase of my first annual garden tour I am taking you outside our North Garden gate wandering clockwise and into the abyss of my back yard.  

Fig Tree 2013
Fig Tree 2013

     Starting with my Brown Turkey fig tree which you can see is just outside the North Garden gate adjacent to the north perimeter of the yard.  I’ve created a transition of gravel to grass with some sq. ft. stepping pads. This treatment has worked really well here as they serpentine on around the fig tree lending a bit of artsy to the landscape.

      I’ve been plucking the ripe figs each morning.   Every 3 days there is usually enough to quarter and store in the freezer with honey and orange syrup.  Very soon I will have enough for a few batches of our yummy “Fig Fantastic” jam!  One of my favorites!

Ripening figs
Ripening figs

 

Figs for Jam
Figs for Jam

   

     

   

   

   

In the raised bed behind the fig tree, up against the wall,  I have relocated my trailing blackberry vines this year.  I had been allowing the mother root to self-propagate in my little “volunteer” plant bed that is along side my patio.   I have dug up, pruned down and transplanted the best of the baby suckers into this bed quite close together.  I am unsure of the exact variety  of trailing blackberry it is as I was given the original cutting by a friend who also didn’t know.  It does have thorns ( which deters the chickens ) and grows better here in zone 9b than the newer thornless varieties.

new Blackberry bed
new Blackberry bed

 The grid is for keeping the chickens from digging up the newly planted roots .  In the spring I will add the trellis system for support.   I have high hopes for harvesting a first crop of berries next season from the 2nd year canes that are in this bed now.  It  will likely be a few more seasons before I harvest a pies worth or enough for some jam from the whole bed.  Fingers crossed!

Volunteer bed
Volunteer bed

My strawberry tower that is also sandwiched between the fig tree and the Valencia gets new rhizomes as needed from the “volunteer” bed  in the dormant season.  I do have plans to move the strawberries to a bigger bed that will be in my new “Grand Garden” that is designated to begin this fall.

Strawberry Tower
Strawberry Tower

Below is the matriarch of my gardens as she is today, standing sentry in view of all three of my garden plots; “North Garden”….the future “Grand  Garden”……and my “Micro Orchard”.  This  Valencia tree is responsible for getting me outside and busy making adventurous gardening plans.   She also keeps an eye on the chickens as they love to dust bathe underneath! This One Tree Matriarch

 

2014 orange crop
2014 orange crop

 And right now the 2014 crop is growing as expected.  I pay very little attention to this tree but for 2 times a year.  Starting in February/March, this tree yields an impressive crop of sweet, juicy oranges.  Her beautiful  globes of orange provide us with a freezer full of juice and since 2010 we have been putting up jars and jars of the best no-frills marmalade ever!   We call it “Simply Orange Marmalade” and it is available for sale to our local community.  Soon after harvest I prune suckers, dead wood and fertilize with citrus feed and leave it be at that.  The tree is watered with a controlled automatic system that is hooked to a timer.  

Our "Simply Orange Marmalade"!
Our “Simply Orange Marmalade”!
Freshly Squeezed for two!
Freshly Squeezed for two!
sliced and ready to eat
sliced and ready to eat

     

   Turning to the right from the orange tree you have this view of the “three sisters”  at the east wall of the yard.   I really enjoy the big fluffy lilac flowers of these crepe myrtles as they begin to bloom in the summer. They are also just the right height creating a privacy screen of the neighbors house behind us.

"Three Sisters" in bloom
“Three Sisters” in bloom
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

 My favorite is the impressive display of their fiery blaze in autumn!

Drawings are in the making for the “Grand Garden”.   Hopefully a grouping of 8 raised beds, 7 half wine barrels and a seating vignette all starting back at the crepe myrtles creeping out toward the center of the yard.

Currently in the perimeter bed along the grass flanking the myrtles, I will be planting artichokes.  One Globe artichoke is already on its way to maturity. I am nursing  another 4 that will be planted next spring.  Since artichokes are perennials they can be planted as one would plant most other shrubs that like sunny spots with even some light shade.  We plan to enjoy the chokes as well as the strange but unusually beautiful purple flowers.  A large enough harvest is certainly a few seasons away but in the meantime these plants are amazing as a focal interest in any garden!

Globe Artichoke 2013
Globe Artichoke 2013

     As for the sea of grass…well my chickens love to wander and graze on it.  It is these girls that are keeping the “Grand Garden” plans at bay until I have figured out how to keep them happy in a coop and pen arrangement.  They do do-do on my patio which I just spray off.  Not all that bad (no smell….good fertilizer) but I do dislike it.   As for me…. I hold a bit of ambivalence in committing to this grass exiting project as it’s square footage was intended to be used as a kickball/croquet and badminton court when our kids were in town….although that is a rare occurrence.  I realize that I will be responsible for more gardening chores; but the payoff is far more rewarding than watering and mowing a lawn.


chickens in the grass

      If you walk out beyond the chickens and stand between the pottery just off the grass and turn around, you get a great view of the back patios and the house where I have placed the non-veggie shrubs and flowers.  The pretty things that we like to see as we sit at the patio table or lounge on a chase.

Summer 2013
Summer 2013      

      Some plants are already well established like the wisteria, azaleas and day lilies.  The dwarf Satsuma was a great choice and is off to a good start in the center bed surrounded by the day lilies.  Day Lilies are popular here in So Cal.  A  perennial that is drought tolerant and easy care.  Snails love day lilly but I have chickens and chickens love snails!!  HA!   In the spring I usually plant annuals like petunia when I can find the lavender or periwinkle ones!   Other plants are years old and reside in pots that I brought from our last home……Ponytail and Pigmy palms…..a Fiddle Leaf and Benjamina ficus.  

 Other perennials keeping company with the day lillies are:  Alyssum, Mexican Star, Dahlia, African daisy and  Azaleas.  All planted so that I have something blooming each season. 

Dahlia
Dahlia
Petunia and Alyssum
Petunia and Alyssum
Mexican Star
Mexican Star
Samsung Day Lilly
                                                       Samsung Day Lilly
African daisy
African daisy

 Autumn Ivory™

Azalea Snow Frost

         All of this you see here is a mere 6 yrs new.   However the pictures below show what we started with in 2006!  These pic’s are a little tease and if you are interested in the whole house and yard makeover, look for “The Makeover” post soon to come.

best view back yard before

A sad house
A sad house

 Whew!  Quick….close your eyes…. scroll down and then reopen!  

 Below is our north patio today 2013

Summer 2013
Summer 2013

Trailing up and along the right patio pergola is a Chinese wisteria.  I  like having coffee out on the chase lounge on a cool spring morning as its blooms dribble along just overhead.  Wisteria is an aggressive invasive plant and is best grown on a strong support trellis then kept pruned to size.  I have found that brutally pruning my wisteria during the summer months to keep it from taking over my house facade and roof serves to provoke some terrific blooms in the spring!   In spring there is an explosion of long dribbling purple flowers that give the house facade a splash of color!  …..silly me…I never took a picture of all the blooms on the trellis!  I’ll post one next spring.


Garage wall in progess      
This final view of the tour is the long expanse of our garage wall that faces north into the yard. The garage and connecting fence divides the garden you just toured from the chicken coop and “mini orchard”.   We are in mid transition of having taken down 2 of the 3  lattice supports spaced on the wall in which white bower vine is growing.  The azaleas in the bed will stay.  Plans are to include this wall and the shady bed in our “Grand Garden” plans.  This wall is somewhat of a stumbling block and requires some creative thinking as to what to do with it.  Although the lattice and vine was doable, the wall is just too shady most of the year therefor the bower vine never flowered but it was beautifully green!.  We may plant more camellias as they would thrive in this shady zone or how about including a giant antiqued farm-style wooden plaque with the namesake THIS ONE TREE ” cottage foods” etched into the wood?  

 When I get my drawings done and when cooler weather is upon us I will post pictures of the plans, measurements and elevations we came up with.  Nothing will be in stone as I would love to have some input, ideas and/or suggestions from you out there before we start this huge undertaking.

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A Natives view of living in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains

San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!
San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!

      Here in Southern California it is said that the sun always shines.  Well….. the four seasons effect may not be as obvious here as it is in the eastern states but I will say this as a native Californian, we do have four seasons.  Our seasons may be milder out here in the west coast but each in their ways are still the antithesis of the other.

      Although here in the Inland Empire we enjoy a special set of circumstances or as I like to say…..special benefits!  You may have heard of a place in Southern California where one could ski down a fresh path of snow then hang ten on the surf all in the same day!  Well its true!   I could easily enjoy my 20 minute drive to Mt. Baldy in time to enjoy the morning sun while skiing down the slopes then drive right back down the mountain and south on the local freeway to end up at our popular Newport Beach just one hour (or less) away to reap the rewards of a suntan and end the day with a glass of wine at sunset!  And of course not to forget that there is always some sun a hour the other direction (east) ending up in  Palm Springs another famous and popular destination in our local desert!

      In winter it rains plenty most years and it can get very cold.   Our San Bernardino Mountains are gifted with a few great ski resorts just minutes away!    As an avid snow skier, I can tell you that it is awesome living close to several ski resorts.  One, Mt. Baldy, being my favorite (when there is lots of snow) is 20 minutes from our house!   And then there is Mountain High, Big Bear, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley all within  1 and 1/2 hrs  drive! 

       Down along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains acres and acres of citrus (mostly orange and lemon) were planted.   I grew up waking to the smell of smudge pots that were fired up to keep the groves from freezing on nights when the temps would drop down into the 30’s.   School boys in need of extra cash would scramble from grove to grove lighting these smudge pots so no one would lose their crop.  Alas, most of these citrus groves have been replaced with shopping developments and housing.  I miss the strong sweet smell of the orange blossoms that were so dominant in early spring!

     Spring comes on more subtly and sometimes its a bit confusing to wake up and look out my window at a fresh clad of snow on our local mountain peaks and at the same time admire the rebirth of  brightly colored new leaves bursting out of hibernation on the beautiful Moravian Ash trees that line the parkways of our street.  I guess someone who lives where it is heeded to wait until after the last frost to plant their garden would be jealous of us here as we can usually plant crops directly into the garden beds;  no need for a hoop house or cold frame.  Often we can plant much of our spring gardens as soon as mid February.   I didn’t even start any veggies by seed for the longest time.  It was much easier to buy seedlings ready to put in the ground from our local nurseries or big box stores.  I have since learned the value and joy of seed saving, planting those seeds and watching them grow……. as organically as possible too!Spring Garden

     Here along the highland corridor there were also dense vineyards.  It was common to visit a local winery and enjoy a wine tasting.  By the time I was in high school most of the vineyards had also been sold to housing or business developers.   The few that were left remained popular party destinations for high school and college students!   This was because the vineyards (somewhat like a corn field) provided a discrete hideaway for underage drinking and excellent coverage from local law enforcement.  There was usually an easy escape route!   In my garden, I have planted a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless which are popular table grapes for us here.  I don’t plan on these vines harboring any party goers but the lizards enjoy refuge in the shade of the leaves that trail along the wall.

The summers here in the Inland Empire can be miserable.  I’ve been back east plenty of times in the summer and can’t bear the humidity,  however those who think a dry heat is best wouldn’t hang out outside on the our patio much when temps hit upward of 95/106 degrees!   We can count on getting a few of these hot spells each summer and they can last  for several days to a week or so.    The heat can really stress out a garden but tomatoes and other hot weather garden veggies love it as long as their feet are cool and moist.  And at the end of the day nothing beats a summer BBQ with freshly picked veggies from the garden, a rib eye and some of our favorite cold micro beers!

I love autumn!   Many days are crisp and invigorating.  This is my favorite time to be outdoors and particularly in the garden!

Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

As I clean up and prep the garden beds from the summers harvest, I usually get to enjoy my Crepe Myrtles as their leaves turn, reminding me that I have much more to enjoy around my yard than whats growing in my garden boxes.  In early autumn I get to plant my favorite veggies!  No greens in the garden do it for me as much as spinach and arugula.   I grow lots of it and in addition I always plant a variety of lettuces,  Swiss chard and kale!  Most of these greens can be grown equally as well in early spring.  There are plans on the table for ridding more of my backyard of grass so I can put in additional raised beds for root veggies like carrots, potatoes ( I’m asking for a real challenge here) and more beets!  Did I say I love beets!   Another rather large raised bed addition in my yard will be for asparagus.   It is a premium veggie in the stores,  it grows great here in zone 9b and hubby and I never get tired of eating it.   Growing your own veggies and greens is not rocket science.  It takes minimum effort and the reward of eating right when you pick means  that your eating the greens when they are the most potent.  The vitamin factor is huge when you eat that days pick!