A 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!