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Its early afternoon and 84 degrees in my zone 9 garden in Bakersfield, a reminder of the crazy weather we’re currently having all over the country. This week, I’ve been gardening in shorts, slathering on sunscreen, and wiping sweat on my gloves, while my friends on the east coast have been hunkered down with a blizzard and more than a foot of new snow.

 

 

My garden — along with California’s lengthy drought, rising ocean levels, and shrinking populations of wildlife around the world — remind me daily that climate change keeps moving forward. For many years, my paper-white Narcissus reliably bloomed in January. This winter, they were in their full glory on Thanksgiving, while my family had our holiday dinner on the deck, enjoying the warm weather.
Daffodils have always been early bloomers in my garden, arriving in mid to late February and blooming until late March. This year, the daffodils jumped up in January, and last week’s hot spell wiped out all but a hearty few.

 

I love this time of year for so many reasons: the cold days of winter are definitely behind us here in the desert, Daylight Savings Time has begun, we’re enjoying the last of the winter veggies and picking salad greens daily, the spring/summer vegetable garden is mostly planted, the herb garden is lush, the roses are coming into bloom, and I get to spend hours outside every day enjoying all of it and working on this year’s projects.

Here’s more of what’s blooming today. Please say hello at the end of the post, so I’ll know you stopped by, and don’t forget to leave your blog or Instagram address if you’d like me to visit your garden.

In The Back Yard Gardens

Iceland Poppies, pansies, Nemesia, and more

The seagull and the miscellaneous pots came from my neighbor’s home, where they were destined for the landfill. Wear, tear, and chippy-ness perfectly suit my casual cottage garden style.

Traditional Japanese design and gardening embraces the concept of “shakkei” or borrowed scenery, which takes into consideration elements outside the property that are incorporated into the view. My neighbor’s flowering pear tree soars above my back wall, is lovely in bloom, and showers my asparagus bed with tiny white petals.

I grow more than a dozen different varieties of salvia, providing habitat for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. With multiple micro-climates in different parts of my yard, many of the salvias bloom year-round. This salvia microphylla is called Wild Watermelon.

Many salvias have flowers shaped like miniature snapdragons, which catch and hold water.

Sweet alyssum reminds me of my grandmother’s garden, and I love its spicy scent. Its a reliable self-seeder that grows year-round, and just needs an occasional trim when it starts getting leggy.

Gerbera daisies that over-wintered in the nursery bed in our veggie garden.

Last year, hubs Ray added small flower plants at the end of several raised veggie beds near the deck. By the time the pansies and violets die back from the heat, the perennial gallardia (blanket flower) and salvia will be in full bloom.

In The Front Yard Gardens

 

I love my Dutch irises this year! I planted these from inexpensive grocery store bulbs 3 years ago. The first 2 years, they were between 12″ and 18″ tall … this year, most are around 30″ and some are more than 3 feet tall! These are in the herb garden.

In the sidewalk flowerbed, outside the picket fence.

I waited until early February to cut back my roses, because they never stopped blooming. I stripped the leaves from most of the hybrid teas to deter blackspot, removed dead branches and crossed canes, and left most of the plants around 3 feet tall. The reason most people prune their roses so short is because they need to mulch them to protect them from ice and snow, which are not a problem where I live.

Lavender, marguerites, and petunias in the perennial garden. Petunias are annuals in most zones, but they last several years in my yard and do best in the cooler months.

Two varieties of euphorbia in the perennial garden I started last year. The one is front is called Tiny Tim, and it is near it’s mature size of approx. 12″ x 12″. I don’t recall the name of the one in the back, but I’ve seen this variety grow more than 10 feet tall locally. Euphorbia are part of the spurge family, and are very drought tolerant.

My white iceberg roses really pop against their dark green leaves, and the neighbor’s photinia hedge is a dramatic backdrop at this time of year, when its new leaves are red. Another good example of “borrowed landscaping.”

What’s happening in your garden this month? Are you already planting, or are you patiently planning and waiting for spring?

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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 my gardens have evolved over the past year? 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 30+ years, have been through many changes, and we’re always working on something new.

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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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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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?

agv-signature

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.

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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.

bflpostcard01

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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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.

 

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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.

bflpostcard01

 

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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