New Zealand Flax and Oriental Poppies

phormium and poppies

Saw this great combination today at a grocery store plaza of all places. New Zealand Flax (phormium) with Oriental Poppies (papaver). I love how the salmon poppies pick up the pink edges of the New Zealand Flax leaves. Both colors really pop against the flax and the orange poppies practically glow. New Zealand Flax is pretty indestructible and I love this idea of it in a container, surrounded by changing waves of annuals weaving up through its spiky form.

Annie’s Annuals has about every color of poppy you could want. They are annuals, but they will very happily reseed for you.

Morning glory fence for a vegetable garden


Here’s an idea I would love to try: a morning glory covered fence around a vegetable garden. I have a hard enough time keeping up with a vegetable garden, let alone keeping it looking good. This would hide the mess, and keep out my eternally hungry labrador retriever who steals tomatoes and eats ALL THE FIGS from the fig trees.

These fences surround the (very large) edible and cutting gardens at Filoli for a beautiful walk down a path surrounded by masses of clear blue flowers.

morning glory fence

Here is more info on how to grow morning glory vines and here is my dream kitchen garden in Cinque Terre.

7 New Year’s resolutions for gardening

Dudleya edulis

If you look at my yard you might not know a gardener lives here because it’s a mess. Impulse buys that died or overgrew their spaces. Awkward placements, blank spots (I blame some of those on the dog) – you name the mistake, I’ve made it in my garden. I gave up on new year’s resolutions long ago, but this year I’m going to make some just for my garden:

1. I resolve not to buy any plant I don’t have a place for. Except for interesting succulents like Dudleya edulis above and Dudleya brittonii below. I resolve to always buy interesting succulents.

2. I won’t buy any plant not on my list. Unless said plant performs the same or a similar function as the listed plant. Like the Galvezia speciosa I planted instead of more Helichrysum.

3. I will be realistic: climate, soil, dog, gophers, deer, and how much time I have to garden.

4. I will not plant a woody salvia in the dog’s ‘path’ no matter how beautiful the flowers are.

5. This year, I will thin the apples so we get edible fruit that won’t end up rotting all over the ground.

6. I won’t fall in love with every new look I see in my garden magazines and end up with a garden that’s all over the place and nothing really works. I will keep using Pinterest to give me a true picture of what I like over time and plant accordingly.

7. When I need containers, equipment, or furniture, I will buy used whenever I can. There’s enough stuff in the world as it is.

Dudleya brittoni

Boxwood, garden problem-solver

boxwood in a box at filoli

I don’t know if the gardeners at Filoli were going for a visual pun here, but I do love the look of these planters. Something like this would give you structure and some greenery and height wherever you need it.

There are endless varieties of boxwood so it can fill just about any need in your garden. It’s endlessly versatile IF you take care of it. Boxwood needs some maintenance to keep it looking its lush, leafy best. Otherwise, plant something else. Trust me, I have seen some pretty sorry looking boxwood around here.

I sometimes see boxwood referred to as drought tolerant. It’s not California drought tolerant. Here, it needs regular water and food.

Boxwood needs to be clipped regularly. Infrequent, hard pruning gives you sharp edges and lots of brown stem ends showing through. Here is a great pruning guide.

Boxwood is at its best when it’s neat, structured, and symmetrical. Don’t let it turn into some weirdly pruned, misshapen orb.

Below boxwood is used on the left as to edge low border and on its own as a taller hedge on the right:

boxwood edged flower border

Here giving structure to a tiny, formal garden:

small difficult spaces

And here in a small supporting role:

courtyard garden at Filoli

Asian garden inspiration: DIY succulents in a stone bowl

succulents in stone bowl

Here is the inspiration for the project: the entry garden of our a house our friends rented in Sri Lanka during their trip around the world. The bowl of flowers in water near the front entry attracts positive energy and luck.

sri lanka entry garden

sri lanka flower bowl

A bowl of flowers in water near my front entry will only attract raccoons and my thirsty labrador retriever, so I tried for a similar effect with succulents. I selected a couple of varieties of Dudleya with rosettes similar to the white flowers with their pointed petals and planted them in concrete bowls from Vietnam which I bought at Filoli’s annual plant sale. Here are similar planters at Terrain.

Dudleyas are the easiest succulents, you just plant them. To start a new plant, just snap a rosette off at the stem and stick it in the dirt. They’ll even root and form a new rosette from a single leaf. They are much more fragile than Echevaria so handle them carefully.

succulents in concrete bowl tended.wordpress.comsucculents in concrete bowl

Here is the finished result on my porch.

succulents in a concrete bowl