Rain is forecast for the next seven days, an unseasonable late spring rain. I usually expect the dry season to begin on May 1. Not that I am complaining.
I had an early run to Jackson Tire to check on a rogue tire pressure indicator. From there I went on to Lowe’s for mulch and a review of their stock in edibles. I found two varieties of cherry tomatoes, mint and tomatillos. MJ’s tomatillo salsa is a fond memory. For extra measure I picked up a dianthus is an unusual deep crimson purple. The dianthus will fill the spot where the Marguerite daisy blew away last winter. The pale cream-colored marigold will be in the container on the mezzanine level, cozying up to the water spigot. I use that spigot once a week to draw irrigation water for the indoor plants, and while I am at it I can keep the marigold moist.
I planted in the rain later this morning, what the Irish call a soft rain. I understand that a soft rain is one that does not penetrate a woolen coat. I tucked in the aptenia and daisies, adding soil amendment and Plant Starter to avoid transplant shock. The pots with succulents will come later, when the dry season may eventually come. I also applied mulch around the Japanese euonymus, bulbine and daisies.
The carpet roses in border boxes are showing buds but also prior dead growth. I need to investigate how to clear that growth on a low-lying rose.
The weather cleared in the afternoon, as I was watching from the office. I removed the terminal camellia from the pot and discovered that its roots were deeply bound. I will try to the save the ivy that Judy planted in the pot around the late camellia. I added new potting soil and a generous dose of a new commercial plant starter with vitamin B-1. I hoping to benefit from the rain forecast for the next week to establish the April Remembered camellia.
I planted the tomatoes, tomatillos and mint in the water trough turned herb garden. For right now I have long stakes to support the tomatoes as they hopefully grow, secured by gardening twine. I also trimmed the Saint Francis rock rose but kept it shoulder high, to give the birds the option of not roosting on his head.
Late in the afternoon I weeded the back slope below the summer house. The weeds are back but could be pulled out by hand. I need to watch the overperforming sprinkler head by the rock rose that seems to be sending water over the retaining wall and down the slope. I was pleased to see that Mattie, the Matilija poppy, is now well established and growing.
I am back to my routine, Tuesday being the return day to the ranch. A late season rain system is coming in that promises to soak the Bay Area for a week. It is only a matter of hours for that system to work its way up the Delta and down the San Joaquin Valley to the ranch.
I stopped by the Berkeley Hort on my way out of Oakland. The Dry Ideas Section was taken over by all manner of roses for Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, the only stock of matilija poppies are in five gallon containers. I did find a replacement camellia japonica called April Remembered, a traditional double flower in pale pink. I also looked for aptenia and Mexican daisies (erigeron) to fill the slope leading down to the new terra cotta planter. Erigeron was in stock but not the white that I am used to seeing. There were daisies in two pastel colors – pink and lavender – with yellow tips. The obvious solution was to buy one of each. No time like the present to plant and take advantage of the rain to establish the new plantings before the dry season.
I have now changed to my summertime schedule, working a few hours before breakfast while the day is still cool. The sun now rises before 6.00, just outside my east-facing window.
I dumped the last partial bag of gravel into the bottom of the new terra cotta planter. I had a three cubic feet bag of raised bed and potting soil, and the planter took most of it. The geranium, dichondra and lobelia are tucked in with a generous dose of Quick Start. A planting website suggested watering the plants while still in their plastic container, partly to ease them out of the container and partly to make sure the roots are well moistened. This procedure is me to reduce the incidence of transplant shock.
This morning’s task was to run the gas-powered weed eater along the barn and the side door access, the trees and the Corporation Yard fence. I pulled thistle and grass as I went, particularly to maintain ready access to the septic field, and the roots still surrender peaceably. My goal is to create a defensive warning track next to the fence with hopefully no new growth this summer. I finished all of the near one hundred feet of fence by midday, and had my first experience of overheating this year. The pitcher of iced tea is ready in the refrigerator.
Tonight I have tickets to the San Francisco Symphony and a program of French Impressionist music. I stopped to talk with Mike on my way out. He graciously agreed to replace the sprinkler head that I ran over with the mower, without saying a word.
A jack rabbit greeted me on the front sidewalk this morning. Cows certainly, wild turkeys, quail and any number of other birds, but this is the first time I have seen a jack rabbit in the upper garden. I will need to watch my tomato plants.
Before breakfast I undertook the Roundup patrol for weeds and grass growing between the flagstones that lead off the back porch. If possible, I do not want to disturb the paver sand between the stones. I also found Bermuda grass in the large planter box, notwithstanding all the turning over, digging out and relentless poisoning. Keep after it.
The Worship Committee met this morning. On the way home I stopped at Lowe’s to look for the latest stock and found a Martha Washington geranium – the serrated leaf and a white flower with purple outlines. I will move the aeonium from the back planter box and replace it with this new geranium. It will be planted near the lawn edge of the box and benefit from the overperforming sprinkler heads.
I also found a lovely scarlet geranium that will be the center piece of the new 32 inch terra cotta planter.
On that subject, I made a run to Rising Sun Nursery for dichondra and lobelia to fill out the planter box. The dichondra variety has thin tentacles with small grey green leaves. With luck it will drape itself over the side of the new terra cotta planter.
And there it was, the end of my quest of several months. I have a Mexican primrose (oenothera) in the Oakland garden and been unable to find another, possibly because I had no botanical name and was looking for a Mexican poppy. The primrose has a large pink flower and left to its own devices will travel out by roots through the summer. I planted and mulched it into the circle garden as I came in.
Mike was up for the tractor and helped me with the irrigation lines. He installed a continuous drip on the lemon tree and the lime tree and drew a lead off the main water line to provide a continuous drip to the new terra cotta planter. The limes are coming, but the lemon tree still looks pekid. I buried a citrus fertilizer spike next to the irrigation drip. Mike kindly agreed to install a new irrigation drip line to the oenothera of my great longing.
This morning I mulched the next section of the front slope garden, from the cotoneaster and lantana at the top of the slope down to the bottle brush. The mulch is advertised to be color fast for a year. We’ll see. Mulching has the unlooked-for benefit of making the plantings pop out from the dark brown background. The English lavender continues to thrive and add to new growth. I added to the stone retaining border down slope from the lavender and will see if the mulch helps with water conservation when the dry season comes.
The ground is now almost unworkably hard as concrete. Just an inch below the surface is dry clods of earth. I continued my practice of turning over and breaking up the soil in the hopes of allowing drip irrigation and supplemental water to penetrate.
I spent the morning trimming the trees alongside the driveway. I thought Mike and I spent a considerable amount of time and effort clearing out the dead wood last winter. In any event, the willow branches will no longer scrape the car and truck when I head out the driveway. I cleared back further from the driveway in the vain hope of keeping it clear for the summer. This may turn into a twice yearly chore.
I mowed the back lawn after two weeks away – quite an effort. Yes, sir, yes, sir two bags full. I will need to undertake a study of self feeding spools on Black and Decker lawn trimmers. The instructions are opaque, but at least I saved the used spool as a guide. I also supplemented the water on the lamium and yarrows. The two outside yarrows, coral I think, have begun to bloom. The bloom puffs are still green so I cannot identify the color for sure. The white yarrow in the middle is a little behind.
Penumbra 11.20, Sunset 8.04
I have been away for two weeks, between the retreat at Arrowhead Lake, the Jazz City Singers concert at Stanford Hospital, and Scott’s Birthday. Route 395 was as spectacular as everyone had told me. I spent two hours at Manzanar until the sun, the wind and the sand stung my eyes. The interned Japanese-Americans diverted the snow melt off the Sierras, collected a reservoir and planted orchards and gardens. The gardens are gone but the stone spillways for the waterfalls remain. A triumph of the human spirit.
I only had flying visits to the ranch, twelve hours at the most. I had just enough time to check on the garden and apply supplemental water before celebrating Mike’s birthday.
On my way out of Oakland today I stopped at American Soil and Stone in El Cerrito. The 22 inches long terra cotta planter that I purchased two weeks ago was lost on the platform I built below the summer house. I went for the next size up planter at 32 inches and will hope for the best.
These long days gave me a few hours of daylight when I reached the ranch. I cleared overgrown grass and brush just beyond the stone border that marks that edge of the back lawn. The planter box for the large crape myrtle has reappeared from the jungle, and I almost made it to the citrus planter box, the halfway point. I also dug out a section of overgrown grass and distressingly healthy thistle along the rock wall at the bottom of the front slope garden. Hopefully we are at the end of the wet season and the weeds will not grow back.
Both penstemons are flourishing, including the lost soul that suffered under the shadow of the overgrown oleander last year. Another unlooked-for benefit from the pruning in January. I will need to prune the penstemon sprawl shortly. The roses give new definition to the word robust. The geraniums are all back, including the two large deep pink geraniums that will be the glory of the garden through the summer. The fortnight lilies are just now sending out their blooming stalks.