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lemonblossoms-BA gardener knows all about anticipation … the year’s first daffodil, the threat of frost and the promise of rain, the cautious back-and-forth flight of birds building a nest and foraging for worms in the garden, the rebirth of perennials, and the delightfully sweet smell of lemon blossoms foreshadowing this summer’s tall cool glasses of lemonade.

Each day in the garden is different from all others, the ebb and flow of life itself taking place before our eyes. Fresh summer buds swell as the flowers of early spring and winter begin to fade. Roses, including new bare-roots planted in January and February, are adding height and color throughout the garden.


Joseph’s Coat climbing rose behind the back yard deck, planted last spring.


One year old iceberg roses in the front yard cottage garden.


I planted four of these delightfully scented Pink Promise hybrid tea roses when I started the cottage garden a year ago … they were sleepers last year, but this year they’re really taking off. A portion of the sales price of each plant sold supports the National Breast Cancer Foundation.


This vibrant Disneyland rose is new this year, and looks great with the other pink roses just inside the fence.


A close up of a Disneyland flower cluster … the colors are scrumptious, like ice cream sherbet.


I planted two of these lemony yellow roses last month, one in the roses-and-perennials bed on the north side of the gate, and one in the center of a new daylily bed in the herb garden.


Looking down the fence line on the north side of the gate: mixed roses, paludosum daisies, a few late-blooming spring bulbs (daffodils and Dutch iris), and perennials including daylilies and and Butterfly Blue Scabiosa (pincushion flower). The tall pink rose in the center of the photo is Pink Princess, a very fragrant double hybrid tea.


The herb garden is on the south side of the front gate (to the left in this photo). Due to the shape of the lot, the rose bed on the south side has fewer roses and perennials than the bed on the north.

The middle of April is a transitional time in my garden, a seasonal changing of the guard. The big bang of spring is behind us, the leaves of daffodils, crocus, tulips, and Dutch iris all turning brown, graciously hidden by paludosum daisies now grown tall.


The front yard herb garden is filled to bursting with paludosum daisies, drawing attention away from the aging foliage of spring bulbs.

Snapdragons, pansies, Iceland poppies, daisies, and calendulas have reached their peak: most will be gone by the end of the month. As always, I will enjoy them as long as possible: I simply don’t have the heart to pull out still-blossoming plants to make way for transplants of hot-weather annuals that will fill empty spaces in the perennial beds and the herb garden. That chore can wait until it becomes absolutely necessary … the spring flowers are much too lovely to lose so soon.


Raised beds in the back garden hold a mix of annuals, perennials, herbs, and citrus trees.


Do you see the caged tomato plant tucked into the cottage garden?


A meadow-like mixture of cool weather annuals currently fills two of the tall 4′ x 8′ raised veggie beds in the back yard. When the flowers finish, I’ll plant bush beans, squash, and cucumbers.


Calendula (pot marigold), snapdragons, stocks, pansies, and paludosum daisies in bed B-1, one of the “meadow” beds.


My grandmother grew Johnny Jump Up violas in her garden, and they are one of my favorite flowers. How could I possibly uproot their beautiful faces?


Snapdragons and zonal geraniums are also childhood friends that I’ve grown for more than half a century. I call these old-fashioned favorites Granny Flowers, though I called my beloved grandmother Gaga. Granny Flowers are an absolute must in my gardens.

Volunteer sunflowers have popped up here and there, weeks earlier than I have ever seen them. Some are already in full bloom, standing more than six feet tall.


Sunflowers that self-seeded in the back garden. I’ll leave the dried stalks and seed heads in place after the plants die, to provide shelter and food for birds, butterflies, and dozens of praying mantises.


Beneath the sunflowers, perennial blanket flowers (gaillardia) are spreading rapidly, encroaching on a bed of assorted perennial salvia varieties. I’ll need to divide the blanket flowers and pass them on to friends and neighbors.


This variegated edible sage (salvia) will double in size this year, taking over  the space when the pansies are gone. Sweet alyssum — another must-have Granny Flower — grows abundantly in my gardens, spilling over the sides of raised beds, garden paths, and sidewalks.

Of course, it’s not all about flowers in my gardens. I also grow vegetables and herbs year-round, and in most parts of my yard, everything is joyfully mixed together.

Although the calendar insists it is only the third week of spring, our zone 9b central California weather has turned hot — this week, it’s in the low 90’s. It’s nature’s not-so-subtle way of telling the summer garden to get a move on.

At this time of year, tender lettuces, radishes, arugula, and winter kale bolt from the heat as the days grow longer: cool weather greens that are not eaten by slugs and snails need to be pulled by the gardener (yep, that’s me), along with an emerging crop of grassy weeds and baby spurge.


The last of my spring lettuces — green leaf lettuce and red leaf romaine —  in the front yard cottage garden, in front of iceberg roses.

There’s a sense of urgency in the herb garden and the raised veggie beds, a rushing forward to produce the first crop of tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers, basil, and onions, before the hot days and nights of actual summer arrive and prevent the edible plants from setting flowers and fruit.


Many of my tomato plants had flowers when I transplanted them, and we discovered the first baby tomatoes in the third week of March.


This Better Boy bush tomato is already larger than a golf ball.


Our cottage garden artichokes are doing great, and they’re delicious roasted with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice!


There are baby crookneck squash in the front yard, replacing a winter bed of arugula and onions. We love to stuff the blossoms with homemade ricotta cheese and fresh herbs from the garden.


These purple and yellow flowers are so pretty! They’re on a potato vine that’s growing in one of our compost bins. It will be a few weeks until I find out what kind of potatoes I’m growing … I’m hoping it will be red potatoes for early summer salads.

It’s a fabulous time of year in the garden, with baby veggies, fresh herbs, a few salad greens, and lots of flowers and foliage for bouquets and gifts. And beneath the fading spring flowers, tender green seedlings are sprouting where self-sewing annuals dropped their seeds last summer and fall, promising a bumper crop of cosmos and zinnias, mums and marigolds, impatiens, coneflowers, and black-eyed Susans, all in the weeks and months to come.

What’s happening in your garden in the middle of April? And what are you adding this year that’s new?


Don’t forget to say hello … bloggers love comments, it lets us know we’re not talking to just ourselves and our nearest and dearest friends. I’m always happy to answer any questions you may have about low-water gardening, and how to grow bountiful food and flower gardens that conserve water while positively impacting your diet, your lifestyle, and the planet.


Wondering how much my gardens have grown over the past month? Click here to see my Bloom Day post from March 2016.

Are you new to my blog?  Click on the Bakersfield postcard to learn more about the evolution of our low water gardens and projects. We’ve been gardening in Bakersfield’s hot, dry, desert climate for 29 years, have been through many changes, and we’re always working on something new.


If you’d like to see what’s blooming in other bloggers’ gardens, please click here for a list of links of this month’s participants. And many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting!


Things are hopping in the garden this month … most of what was blooming in mid-February is still going strong, and many other plants have come into bloom. At the end of February, Ray and I took a 10 day trip to Vancouver, B.C., and our weather at home was crazy while we were away … heavy drought-healing rain on a couple of days, light snow in the high desert foothills, high winds that knocked over flats of seedlings and an arbor, and daytime temperatures that ranged from the high 50’s to the low 80’s. Thankfully, everything in the gardens survived, with some TLC from our oldest son.


Here’s what’s blooming in the middle of March, in my Zone 9b gardens in Bakersfield, California.

Front Yard: blooms and blossoms in the herb garden, the raised veggie beds, the sidewalk flowerbeds outside the picket fence, and the under construction beds and borders in the Cottage Garden.

Daffodils are still going strong in the herb garden, due to the fact that I plant additional bulbs every week or two beginning in late December, straight through to the end of February. I’ve had daffodils in bloom since Valentine’s Day, and should have them until at least the end of this month. There is a white ranunculous in the midst of this clump of daffs, a paperwhite Narcissus on the edge of the photo, and spicy sweet alyssum in the background.


The lavender in the herb garden is covered with bees from morning till night.


Looking through the herb garden toward the covered porch and new raised rosebed, the background for the mixed borders currently under construction in the Cottage Garden.


In the flowerbeds outside the fence, Dutch Iris, late daffodils, snapdragons, and Shasta daisies are stealing the show. Dutch Iris rarely produces flowers for me after the first year, so I plant several dozen new bulbs every January, wherever there’s a bare spot in the garden.


In mid-February, I discovered three packages of tulip bulbs that had been chilling in the garage, so I tucked them into one of the raised mixed beds in the veggie section of the Cottage Garden. I was very excited to find them up and blooming when I got back from Canada.


Bright Gazanias border the outside edge of four of the Cottage Garden’s raised veggie beds. They’re drought-tolerant, prolific year-round bloomers, and they grow quickly, needing dividing every couple years. In this photo, they’re spilling over the edge of a bed that also contains arugula, green onions, a clump of chives, and Swiss Chard seedling.


Another bed edged with Gazanias, where I’m growing onions, trellised peas, and a mix of cut-and-come-again lettuces for daily salads.


Lovely light purple creeping Lantana, spreading beneath Iceberg roses.


This mature pink camellia plant, which began blooming in early February, is 8 to 9 feet tall and weighted down with hundreds of flowers. The rain we had at the beginning of March knocked off a lot of flowers, and caused many others to turn brown around the outer edges.


A mixture of miniature daffodils, alyssum, Crystal Palace lobelia, and violas in a small corner bed in the Cottage Garden. I number each of my beds and individual areas of the garden, as shown by the small wooden stake: this helps with planning and record keeping. Front yard beds are labeled “F” for front yard and “H” for herb garden. Back yard beds are labeled “B”.


Back Yard: current bloomers in the raised beds veggie garden, the flowerbeds, mixed planters, and the back garden behind our bedroom.

In the back garden: pink geranium, snapdragons, C. paludosum daisies, alyssum, pansies and violets, Bluebird Nemesia fruticans, Mexican sage.


A view of the back garden from my bedroom window: Pink geranium, snapdragons, C. paludosum daisies, sweet alyssum, pansies and violets, Bluebird Nemesia fruticans, Mexican sage, yellow/orange/red blanket flower (Gallardia), and some blooming Chrysanthemums hidden by the taller plants.


Closeup of Bluebird Nemesia (N. fruticans) and sweet alyssum. Nemesia is winter hardy in my garden and flowers all year. I love the tiny snapdragon-shaped flowers.


More Nemesia and alyssum, interplanted with Dianthus (pinks) and geraniums, which also do not die back in the cooler months in our desert climate.


Extra-tall yellow snapdragons in a mixed bed.


Many of our tomatoes began flowering at the beginning of March.


We’ve been eating snow peas for about a week, and the plants are loading with lovely white flowers.


A view of the center section of two of the 30″ tall raised veggie beds. In the foreground is B-2, with Iceland poppies, pots of snapdragons and yellow Calendula ready to be planted, and a volunteer sunflower.

The flowerpots with the wooden sticks in them are in B-3, planted about 3″ deep. There are approximately 40 of these pots, each one holding a perennial summer bulb I started last month (Veitch’s Blue Echinops, Stargazer and Triumph lilies, and Grape Magic Daylilies).  These plants are destined for the new mixed border in the front yard Cottage Garden, which I’m still designing and prepping.

There are a number of other plants for the Cottage Garden making a temporary home in B-3 (including Gallardia, Columbine, Yarrow, Coreopsis, and Curry Plant). I grew peppers in B-3 last year, so the bed is being used as a holding/nursery bed for several months, and will later be planted with summer bush beans to revitalize the soil.


One of my favorite plants, tall billowing Salvia with small pastel pink flowers that dance in the slightest breeze. All the pollinators — bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies — love salvia, no matter what color the flowers are.


Pale lilac colored Columbine reminds me of Japanese origami (paper folding).


Yellow Calendula (aka pot marigolds), purple stocks, snapdragons, paludosum daisies, blue violas.


Rich blue violas with yellow eyes, mingling with sweet alyssum, in the back garden.

Wondering how much my gardens have grown over the past month? Click here to see my Bloom Day post from February 2016.


If this is your first — or second — visit to my blog, you can click on the Bakersfield postcard to learn more about the evolution of our low water gardens and projects. We’ve been gardening in Bakersfield’s hot, dry, desert climate for 29 years, have been through many changes, and we’re always working on something new.



Don’t forget to say hello … bloggers love comments, it lets us know we’re not talking to just ourselves and our nearest and dearest friends. And I’d love to answer any questions you may have about low-water gardening, and how to grow bountiful food and flower gardens that conserve water while positively impacting your diet, your lifestyle, and the planet.

If you’d like to see what’s blooming in other bloggers’ gardens, please click here for a list of links of this month’s participants. And many thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting!

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Vancouver 101

We’re halfway through our trip to Vancouver B.C., and I have to say I’m more relaxed than I’ve been since we were in Italy last fall. Travel and I are the best of friends, and I find myself going back to familiar and favorite places over and over again.

Vancouver feels like home, but in a much-cooler-and-damper-than-Bakersfield way. We come here in winter for the weather, the dampness, the chill in the air, the occasional snow flurries at sea level. We come to walk outdoors, side by side with people who take this temperate four season climate for granted.

Where we live, in the southern San Joaquin Valley, outdoors is pretty much defined as “the space between an air-conditioned building and your air-conditioned car.”  And there is nowhere to walk to. There are no village-type neighborhoods, with local merchants, small diners and bistros, mom and pop businesses, or communal gathering spaces. No sidewalk cafes, hundred year old trees, or dog parks. No homes with history, no shipyards, no coastline, no buildings from the 1900s. Vancouver has all these things, and more.

And so we come to Vancouver to walk, to breathe in the fresh air, and to live like locals — albeit privileged, non-working locals — for a week or two, whenever we can.


Here’s a list of 101 things we love in and around Vancouver, that keep us coming back at any time of year:

  1. Fresh air
  2. Expansive views of the mountains and the sea
  3. Stanley Park
  4. English Bay
  5. Coal Harbor
  6. Walking in the rain
  7. Hiking, regardless of the weather
  8. Community gardens
  9. Carrying an umbrella
  10. Wearing a jacket, a hat, a scarf, and gloves
  11. Commercial Drive
  12. The Tiki Bar at The Waldorf
  13. Salumi and imported Italian pasta from Santa Barbara Market
  14. North Vancouver
  15. The West End Senior Center thrift store, in the mall beneath our hotel
  16. The Sunshine Coast
  17. Sleeping under a quilt, with the windows and patio doors open
  18. Buying fish right off the boat
  19. Fog rising off the Lost Lagoon
  20. Greengrocers that display fruits and veg on the sidewalk
  21. Coffee shops — real coffee shops
  22. Diners
  23. Ethnic markets
  24. Walking along the Sea Wall
  25. The Rhodendren Garden in Stanley Park
  26. The West End
  27. Denman Street, where we stay
  28. Davie Street
  29. Kitsalano
  30. The Parthenon Market for feta cheese, pesto hummus, and olives on our way to the hotel from the airport
  31. Street musicians
  32. Comedy Sports
  33. The Stanley Theatre
  34. The Daily Catch, a fish market with 100% sustainable seafood
  35. Victoria Day
  36. Indian restaurants with buffet lunches
  37. Watching sea planes land
  38. Queen Elizabeth Park
  39. Value Village on Hastings
  40. Lions Gate Bridge
  41. The Vancouver Aquarium
  42. Thai food
  43. Sushi bars
  44. Ethiopian restaurants
  45. Korean BBQ
  46. Houses with basements
  47. Noodle houses
  48. School kids in uniforms
  49. Toddlers ice skating at the Community Center
  50. Fort Langly
  51. Live crabs
  52. Abbottsford Tulip Festival
  53. Smoked salmon and feta cheese on crackers for breakfast
  54. The Fringe Festival
  55. People watching at the Granville Island Public Market
  56. Staying in my pj’s until noon
  57. The Richmond Public Market
  58. Window shopping on Robson Street
  59. Stevenson
  60. Working out at the Denman gym
  61. Craigslist for estate sales
  62. Vanier Park Space Center Museum & Planetarium
  63. Taking pictures with my cell phone
  64. Main Street
  65. Farmers Markets
  66. Quiet time for writing, journaling, reading, and reflecting
  67. Reading magazines at the Joe Fortes library
  68. Taking the ferry to Vancouver Island
  69. Buskers on Granville Island
  70. UBC – fabulous hiking, museums, and scenery
  71. Church rummage sales
  72. Indie music and dive bars
  73. Zulu Records in Kits
  74. Mediterranean Specialty Foods Market on the Drive
  75. Chinatown
  76. Dr. Sun Yat Sen Garden
  77. Food trucks
  78. Independent book stores
  79. Night Markets (Chinatown, Richmond, Shipyard in North Van, summer only)
  80. The rain forest
  81. Museum of Vancouver in Vanier Park — neon signs, the 60’s & 70’s, much more
  82. Lunch at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, prepared by cooking school students
  83. PICA bakery
  84. Fraser Valley Wine Trail
  85. Grouse Mountain
  86. Chinese New Year
  87. The talking parrot in the Maple Ridge antique mall
  88. Whistler
  89. Bollywood movies
  90. Capilano Suspension Bridge
  91. Artisanal cheese
  92. Canadian Royal Museum in Victoria
  93. International Film Festival
  94. Culinary walking tours
  95. Kite flying
  96. Cocktails overlooking False Creek
  97. Bard On The Beach
  98. First Nations artists and carvers
  99. Pocket parks
  100. Vintage clothing
  101. Front yard cottage gardens


How about you … where do you like to go, that feels like home?


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