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Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – February 2016

It’s been very busy in the garden so far this year, as it was all of last year, and the thirty-something years before that. I take dozens — sometimes hundreds — of garden photos each month, and have faithfully taken photos for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for close to two years. But, somehow, I am almost always too busy — gardening, cooking, traveling, living — to get the photos edited and posted on the 15th of the month. A day passes, then two days, maybe four, and I decide it’s too late.

My new motto is better late than never.  C’mon, say it with me … better late than never Didn’t that feel good?  If you’re reading this (and I’m glad you are), I bet you want to see what’s going on in my garden almost as much as I want to share it. Especially since it’s February, and many aspiring and dedicated gardeners have weeks or months of non-gardening weather ahead.

Here in Bakersfield — USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 9b, Sunset Climate Zone 8 — we have very little rain, and winter temps rarely drop below freezing. My summer garden holds on until mid-December most years, and last year was no exception. After four years of serious drought, we’ve been thrilled to get a few inches of rain this winter.

While we’ve enjoyed the rain, we’ve also enjoyed the fact that the fall and winter months have grown increasingly warmer and sunnier in recent years. As a result, my bulbs are coming up a full month earlier than usual this year.  My crocus have already come and gone, my paper-whites are fading, my daffodils popped open this week, and the grassy weeds have already set seed and are taking over the front yard.

I’ve spent most of this week on my knees, pulling clumps of crabgrass and invasive bermuda, chickweed, pig weed, mallow, and extra-early spurge, while also trying to get the spring and summer veggie and herb gardens going. 15 years after my early retirement, I am truly busier than I’ve ever been. I have several major garden projects in the works, which I be sharing soon. I double dog promise and pinky swear. It’s time to get back to blogging.

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It’s now Friday evening, and I am settled in front of the computer with a well-deserved glass of Prosecco. Here’s what was blooming in my gardens, on Monday February 15th.

This year’s first daffodil opened on Valentine’s day, in the sidewalk flowerbed outside the picket fence. I am still planting daffodil bulbs, to prolong their season. Because of our warm winters, I chill the bulbs indoors and bury a couple dozen each week, from early January till early March. They rot in the ground if they’re planted too soon, though most multiply and come back for many years.

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Paper white narcissis — taken Monday 2/15. By Friday 2/19, these were wilting and turning brown.

Johnny Jump Up Violets — I have these scattered throughout the herb garden and in all of the flower beds. Do you see the tiny seeds in the star-shaped pod on the lower left? Like many of the annuals in my gardens, these are prolific self-seeders.

A happy honey bee enjoying rosemary blossoms in the front yard.

Chrysanthemum paludosum is literally everywhere in my gardens … in the front yard herb garden and cottage garden, in the back yard raised bed veggie garden and the “back garden” tucked away behind the master bedroom, in flowerbeds and planters, and popping up on gravel paths, in between stepping stones, and even in the cracks on the sidewalk and curb. Seedlings appear in mid November, and the plants begin blooming in early January, brightening up the winter and springtime gardens. This hardy annual eventually succumbs to the high temperatures of June and July, though I usually pull most of them out sooner to make space for other plants.

Volunteer Chrysanthemum paludosum seedlings on the ground between raised beds in the veggie garden. I bought one — ONE — six pack of this daisy style plant two years ago, and now I am rewarded with hundreds of baby plants that can be moved wherever I want a cheerful ground cover. Each plant spreads 8″ to 12″ wide, and is 8″ to 10″ tall. They’re great at hiding fading foliage from spring blooming bulbs, making them perfect for my happy-go-lucky garden style.

Yellow pansies and alyssum outside my bedroom window.

Volunteer Chrysanthemum paludosum, next to pale lavendar flowered lemon thyme, in the front yard herb garden.

Frilly white ornamental kale, peeking out from beneath a rosemary bush in the cottage garden.

Volunteer pansies/violas. Their leaves have been nibbled, either by earwigs or baby snails.

Shasta Daisy, between roses in a mixed bed. This variety grows 12″ to 20″ tall, and the clumps double in size each year.

Iceland poppies are so cheerful and dramatic on their long, willowy stems.

Yes, more of those crazy volunteer Paludosum daisies, making themselves at home in the midst of a clump of perennial Gaillardia Pulchella. The long narrow leaves at the top of the picture are Mexican Salvia.

This ground-hugging lantana is just putting out its first shoots of the year, between two iceberg roses in the front yard cottage garden.

Part of the “back garden” behind the master bedroom. There are two new lemon trees here (one is still in the pot) … both will be espaliered to save space. There are also several varieties of Salvia lying low for winter … they bloom in purple, pink, and red during the rest of the year.

Pansy in the back garden.

Sweet alyssum, with a pale pink dianthus hiding in the upper left corner. Dianthus and alyssum are in all of the gardens year-round, and self-seed without taking over.

Nemesia fruticans ‘bluebird’ — in the back garden.

My favorite pink camellia sneaked into bloom last week, without me noticing. It’s tucked away in the shade at the north end of our front porch. The “sunny” side, which straddles the neighbor’s hedge, blooms a week or two before the shaded part on our side. We’re still waiting for the blossoms on our side to open.

Another look at the paludosum daisies and lemon thyme. I couldn’t choose between the two photos, because the short and delicate thyme is so pretty in bloom.

The inexpensive landscape timbers in the back garden are coming apart after 10+ years, just like they did in the veggie garden. They decompose nicely and enrich the soil, so we will leave them in place, and wrap them with 2″ thick redwood planks, just like we did to the raised veggie beds (click here to see veggie garden photos).

I took this pic right before I pulled out the volunteer sunflower —  and a couple dozen just like it — that is standing so proudly in the winter sun, another zealous self-seeder that comes back each year. I don’t want 9 foot tall sunflowers here this year, competing with the perennials I planted last fall. Plants in this bed include pansies, violas, the ubiquitous Chrysanthemum paludosum daisies, Galliarda (blanket flower), sedum, and several varieties of Salvia (sage).

That’s it for Monday, though the garden changes for the better daily. To see what other gardeners have blooming this month, visit the list of this month’s participants at Carol’s May Dreams Gardens.

Thanks again for visiting my garden! Please say hello so I’ll know you stopped by, I love reading your comments.

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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Desiree' February 20, 2016, 1:55 pm

    It is an unusually balmy 61 degrees in Michigan today. But alas, it is still the dredges of winter so the sun shines on dormant grass and leafless trees….this brightened my day!

  • Amy February 21, 2016, 11:41 am

    It’s turned into a beautiful February, and your garden looks to be enjoying it! I do love your little chrysanthemum paludosum, and I’m glad to read that Dianthus self-seeds for you. I’m using it for the first time this year, and it’s been such a super addition, so I’ve wondered how best to keep it going… Love your camellia too, but I’ve been told it will grow only in “black shade” here in the Phoenix area, so I’ll have to wait for now! And your motto is wonderful :)

    • Victoria February 21, 2016, 2:12 pm

      Amy, thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words about my garden. With the dianthus, I find it helpful to trim it back if it starts looking straggly, and to deadhead it regularly. I drop the spent blossoms onto the soil next to the plants, and the hot weather dries the seeds. The little paludosum and truly wonderful, and I’m enjoying them immensely this year … just transplanted a couple dozen into one of the rose beds. I’ll be back to visit you again soon :-)

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