May 31, 2020 – Pentecost Sunday

I was out weeding early and monitoring the irrigation feeders.  The water runoff down the driveway is improved with the new manifold.  The overperforming bubblers at the new sweet pea and the purple and gold lantanas were dialed down. Barrel container petunias, calibrachoa and verbena are managing well even with reduced water.  I use water from the rain barrels to supplement the containers, especially the camellia and the new variety of ceanothus.

The lewisia in the Experimental Box is showing its blooms above a fleshy rosette, as promised.


I walked the gasoline powered weed whacker down the driveway and along the lower rock border at the bottom of the front slope garden.  I mowed the lawn and encouraged the grass in the bare patches along the rock border.  The fight is on against the Bermuda grass in those patches.

The fortnight lilies have exploded almost overnight.  I believe that they will bloom steadily through the summer.

May 29, 2020

I arrived late last night after two nights in Oakland. Temperatures are dropping and at 7.00 this morning the garden was at a comfortable 70 degrees.

This morning I dug out the irrigation feeder under the pink salvia that appears to be a source of excess water flowing off the front border garden.  I dialed down the feeder to limit water.  The salvia has an established root system that and should continue to flourish on a drip.

I weeded the pink and white geraniums at the far end of the mezzanine level, hopefully for the last time until the fall.  I soaked the ground, applied the Preen mulch and soaked the mulch.

On to the back yard.  I freed up the ice plant that is closest to the Citrus Box and that the over-achieving lawn sprinklers do not reach. Several seedlings did not survive, but the remaining plants will make it I think.  I soaked the ground, applied Mike’s mulch and soaked in the mulch.  The ice plant that I mulched and soaked last week is thriving

I pruned back the carpet roses in the boxes at the summer house.  They appear to be at the end of their first bloom.  I hope for a second or third.

A lily was planted in the Triangle Garden next to the alyssum. I do not recall seeing it bloom before.  Hopefully, a nice sign of late spring in years to come.





May 30, 2020

I had rehearsal at church this morning and dropped by Lowe’s for irrigation supplies.  I  found a new manifold to replace the leaking one.

In the succulents section was a kalanchoe, a gray octopus-like plant.  I removed the sickly percallis from its pot and will try it in ground.   The new kalanchoe settled in the pot with ample new potting soil, and will make a welcome addition to the succulents section of the front border garden along the house wall.  I applied plant starter to new container, to the special ceanothus at the other end of the front border garden and to the new photinia.

To my surprise the manifold replaced easily with caps on the unused lines.  Another piece of the effort to solve the runoff down the driveway from the front garden.

Later in the day Mike came up to address crimp that reduces water pressure in the front hose.  I now know how to replace blades in the box cutter and had a hose mender on hand.  We will rotate the spigot from vertical to horizontal later.

The irrigation water level is low, judging from the amount of algae that is sucked into the filter.  Clearing the filter is now a weekly project.  Low water level at the beginning of the dry season is a serious concern.  Mike will take his boat out on ,the pond to determine the depth at the pump.  I need to think about conserving irrigation water consistently this season.

May 26, 2020

I had only a few hours in the garden before breakfast.  By 9.00 temperature had already reached 79 degrees.

I watered down the photinia to help it get established.  Then weeding and mulching the next section of ice plant, soaking in the ground and the mulch in anticipation of the heat wave coming the next few days.

I lifted up one more flagstone at the edge of the lawn.  Roundup did a creditable job of killing Bermuda grass that crawled under the stone.  I dug out the dead roots, added paver sand and watered it in.


May 25, 2020

I called to wish Terry a happy seventieth birthday today.  The Red Lobster is open with limited seating but the golf course has not yet opened.  He and Kay are taking the cautious approach for us old folks.

I was out at 6.00 this morning to dig out and send thistle down the hill.  Thistle blossoms blow everywhere, along the bank and up into the cultivated beds.  I restored an eight foot warning track below the retaining wall as the summer house looks west to the pond the surrounding ridges and applied Roundup generously with especially attention to blossoms wherever I found them.

I spent another hour weeding out the ice plant and watering it in.  The far eastern end looked very dry as it receives no benefit from over-achieving lawn sprinklers.  I laid down a generous load of Mike’s Mulch, almost the end of it.  I watered in the mulch as a weed control and moisture conservation measure.  The thistle at the far corner by the fence met its doom.  Nevertheless, I found blossoms scattered everywhere.

The the lemon tree is showing a new bud, and I gave the Citrus Box supplemental water.

I trimmed back the variegated geranium in the front border garden and its neighbor, the yellow eyed grass.  The container camellia has moved under the shelter of the porch for the season.  I allowed Supplemental water to Grandmother Camellia beside the front porch.

First night opening doors at both ends of the house and using fans to draw cool night air in. The family room was 78 degrees at 8.30 tonight, the limit of my comfort level.

May 24, 2020

On my summer routine now, up early to work before breakfast.  The high temperature will be 91 by midday.  Almost at a sixteen hour day now, with light at 5.00 in the morning. Being out at 6.00 is still comfortable.

I combed the dead grass away from the far side of the rock wall with a steel rake.  I also pulled and cleared more grass away from the photinia and laid down commercial mulch. The irrigation feeder seems to supply sufficient water. I increased the irrigation by ten minutes to the front garden in anticipation of a hot spell this week.

I pruned back the Marguerite daisy in the narrow tip of the front garden.  Pruning is the current gardening chore of the month, hopefully rationing more water to new growth of the plants.  I am still investigating the source of runoff down the driveway and dialed back the water to the barrel planter with the petunias.

I pruned back the Saint John’s wort.  It seems to be happily established and producing lots of berries. I cut back the Mexican oregano before it went to seed and pulled out half of the mint.  The soil in the herb garden container is rich and moist, and the basil planted this season is growing.

The ladies put out all the cushions on the patio furniture and the two chairs are back at the summer house.  I sat for a minute and looked out on the ugliest patch of overgrown thistle I have ever seen just below the retaining wall.  I will need to address it tomorrow.

May 23, 2020

An early start this morning because I am due at the church at 11.30.  I cleared weeds below the west end of the back yard retaining wall and behind the Citrus Box.  I also freed up the ice plant that has survived despite all odds.

Preen mulch in a civilized brown color is once again available at Lowe’s.  I also found a Crown of Thorns euphorbia in an inventory rack, meaning that it was new inventory that was not bound.  Or as Mark Twain described weddings and funerals, a triumph of hope over experience.  I will try it in the new back border garden and replace the phacelia that never thrived.  It should be hardy to 28 degrees.   I planted the euphorbia at the end of the day, and gave another dose of the excess Plant Starter to the helichrisum, monkey flower and white lantana on the east end of the back yard.

I mowed the lawn at the end of the day yesterday. Genuine grass may be taking hold in the bare patches.  More weddings and funerals.

Yesterday was also the day for generous pruning of the licorice plant.  Also my last chance to pull weeds without effort or losing roots before the ground turns to concrete.  The monkey flower in the front slope garden has an unusual slender vertical stalk with delicate white flowers.  Tending the plant and cutting back the spent blooms will hopefully allow it to spread.

I sent MJ a picture of the columbine in full bloom and the first bloom on Lady Aster.   Having an early start this year apparently. I pruned back the three verbenas in the Triangle Garden, all three well-established with prolific blooms.

May 21, 2020

I worked in the garden today while the ladies cleaned the house.  The area where the photinia will be planted  needed a pickax. I tucked in the photinia with ample fortified water and added a new irrigation feeder.   Drainage was reasonable, to my surprise.  The pickax must have loosened the rock shelf.  While on the subject I cleared grass away from the far side of the rock wall and around the tree.

Oenothera in the front slope garden is growing rapidly and continues to produce beautiful white blooms. The English or French lavender is in full bloom with long sweeping branches and blooms at the tips.  The gazania has started to bloom, in its habit of opening by midday and closing again. The dahlia is as splendid as I hoped it could be.  Bees have found both the oenothera and the dahlia, a great garden crew for pollination.   Fortunately, they don’t bother me and I don’t bother them.

The hummingbirds are drawn to the salvias, irrespective of color, blue, pink, red or magenta.

To address the list of Things That Annoy Me, I cleared the area around the dianthus in the upper front border garden. Clover, oxalis and general vetch.  I applied and watered in the Preen and laid down a new layer of Mike’s Mulch.

May 20, 2020

Two and a half days of steady rain and high winds, two inches overall.  High winds are a common occurrence in the San Joaquin Valley; I often hear them when the house and land are otherwise quiet. The first clear day, and all the plants are responding spectacularly to the rain.

I ran the weed whacker down the driveway and along the rock wall at the bottom of the front slope garden.  I pulled the grass away from the rock wall, hopefully for the last time this season.

The entry to the front slope garden is always a mess at this time of year, overgrown with grass and thistle.  I cleared out the weed, applied Roundup generously and will add mulch tomorrow.

Lowe’s had a red tip Fraser’s photinia for sale.  The young leaves start with a deep lipstick red color that changes to a dark green as they mature. I will plant it as the guardian of the entry just outside the rock wall at the bottom of the front slope garden.  In the manner of the  lions in front of the New York Public Library.  The photinia will be an exception to my maxim of fuller, not bigger plants.  This one I would like to be huge, and it could grow to ten feet wide and fifteen feet high. Hopefully it will discourage the wild grass in that area and soak up the ground water once it is rooted.

May 17, 2020

Early work this morning under gray skies. I pruned back the pink salvia in the front border garden, off the sidewalk, off the retaining wall.  I am investigating the source of the water runoff down the driveway, but the irrigation feeder is now buried deep in the salvia. The fortnight lilies are fulfilling their annual promise and need little attention other than cutting back in the winter and spot weeding.

While there, I dug out the clover and low lying vetch between the salvia and the second fortnight lily.  Prime ground for weeds. I applied Preen to hold down the weeds and a new layer of mulch.  Mike’s mulch is periodically refreshed with coffee grounds.

I worked through a spattering of rain and went inside for breakfast when it started in earnest.  Looking out on a steady rain cheered my heart as I had my morning coffee. More rain is forecast for this afternoon and overnight through tomorrow.