A blog for gardeners, designers and plant lovers. This blog is run by Silver Tree Designs, a landscape design and install firm in Santa Cruz, CA. To find out more please visit our website by clicking on the link below.
The following plants are frequently planted in gardens around the Monterey Bay and the rest of the Central Coast. They usually survive our winters without any damage. But we do experience more extreme temperature fluctuations every few years. This week looks like it might be one of those times. If you have any of the plants on the list below, make sure to be proactive and utilize some of the frost protections that we discussed in the last post.
Arctic air is currently flowing south across the North American continent. It is projected to spread across the United States and breach the normally protective barrier of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada by Saturday. By Sunday the freezing air mass should reach the coast. These are the things that you should do to minimize any cold damage to your frost-sensitive plants.
First if you are unsure about how much cold your plants can endure you can check in The Sunset Western Garden Book for the recommended climate zones for specific plants. The Santa Cruz area is in Sunset’s zone 17. Average winter temperatures go from the high 20s and low 30s. Record freezes plummet down to the low 20s. The pre-Christmas freeze of December 1990 went down to a numbing 18 degrees for several days. There were many dead poinsettias that week. If you’re more comfortable in front of a computer, you could also find that information on line.
Make sure the soil is moist. Drought-stressed plants are more likely to be damaged (or killed) by the cold. Cover any marginally hardy plants like Princess Flower and Angel’s Trumpet with a woven fabric. There are light-weight, spun polyester sheets on the market specifically made to insulate plants. They can keep the temperature beneath them about 5 to 9 degrees warmer than the outside air. They let in light and water so they can be left on during the entire duration of a freeze. These frost blankets need to be removed when warmer temperatures return.
If a fabric cover isn’t adequate to cover your prize Bougainvillea there are liquid acrylic sprays that help insulate tender foliage from the cold. It works by coating the leaves with thin layer of what is essentially plastic. This would involve using some sort of sprayer. It’s also available in a spray bottle for small jobs.
For small plants like that rare blue Impatiens from Annie’s Annuals there is what used to be called the Wall-Of-Water. It is a plastic cylinder made up of connected bags. You fill each compartment with water. At some point after it becomes evident that you are dealing with something that’s starting to resemble a very deep doughnut, but before the receptacles are completely filled and unwieldy, it’s a good idea to place the whole apparatus around the plant in need of protection. Continue filling until each container is full. Even if the water freezes the plant within will be a few degrees warmer.
It will be Christmas in a couple of weeks. Have you put up your holiday lights yet? Providing that you are not yet using the new cool LED lights consider wrapping your strings of old incandescent lights around your lemon or orange trees. If you’re going to waste energy over the holidays at least put it to good use. It’s not called a warm glow for nothing. Sadly menorahs don’t seem to work as well.
As for your marginally hardy potted plants; whatever you can’t bring indoors huddle up against the walls beneath the eaves or under some other solid overhead shelter like a carport. Clustering them together also helps them from dissipating any residual heat. Covering them with the aforementioned frost blanket would also help.
Good Luck! keeping in mind that often you can make your own luck.
One of my favorite things about this time of year is the abundance of Satsuma Mandarins. They are like candy to me. The are sweet, delicious, seedless, easy to peel, as well as being nutritious. They make a delectable and fulfilling snack. They are also part of my family's holiday traditions as stocking stuffers. The Satsuma Mandarin (also know as the Mikan Mandarin) originates in China, although it was introduced to the West via Japan. It's cultivation has been noted to date back 2400 years to Wenzhou in the Zhejiang province of China. I highly suggest planting yourself a Satsuma, (it makes a a great citrus for a pot) or can grown wonderfully intermingled in the garden.
Cottage Gardens is joining in Petaluma's first annual Shop and Crawl Event. This event has been created to support local businesses and its community. Cottage Gardens will be offering some wonderful percs, such as, 25% off all outdoor plants! Vintage holiday ornaments, wreaths, garlands, unusual poinsettias, amarylllis, garden art, succulents and gift cards for all your holiday decorating and gifting needs. This Holiday Open House will be this Saturday and Sunday, December 6th and 7th. 10% of the proceeds will be donated to the Petaluma Peoples Services Center. So come out and join us in supporting our local communities during this holiday season.
When the fern-like leaves of the Dawn Redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, turn a rusty brown in the fall and start dropping most people believe that the tree has suddenly died. Dawn Redwoods are relatively uncommon in California. They closely resemble their evergreen relatives, the Coast Redwood. But they seem to have more in common with the unrelated Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum, from the Southeastern U.S. The Bald Cypress is also deciduous and is rarely is encountered in California.
The Dawn Redwood was only discovered in 1944 growing in a remote valley in central China. It had only been previously known from Mesozoic fossils. After an adventurous expedition into the political and social chaos of post-war WWII China the seeds of Metasequoia were finally introduced into Western horticulture in 1948. The plant immediately aroused a great deal of interest in the botanical and horticultural communities. It was a living fossil like the Maidenhair Tree, Gingko biloba.
Several of the original seedlings have grown into an impressive grove along upper Strawberry Creek in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. There is another in front of the downtown Palo Alto post office. The two pictured are at the Mendocino County Courthouse in Ukiah.
I was up in Santa Rosa and Calistoga this weekend visiting friends. I rendezvous'd with a friend of mine, Mike and his wife at the Santa Rosa Farmer's Market. After checking out most of the stalls and catching up with numerous old acquaintances, Mike and I decided to go nursery hopping. We got onto 24 west then onto Occidental Road. We checked on the palms that Mike had planted in Occidental over three decades ago and then continued on to Western Hills Nursery. I first met Mike at Western Hills about forty years ago when he was working for Marshall Olbrich and Lester Hawkins. He was a long-haired hippie at the time. He was into palms back then and has remained true to his San Fernando Valley roots, although he transplanted to the redwoods quite well. He was the one who planted most, if not all, the palms at Western Hills. Dennis Shaw may have contributed a palm or two during his tenure there. He was checking up on their progress after something like 35 years. It was drizzling as we visited some of our other old plant friends in the garden. Walking around the garden Mike commented on how Lester would want to take out the trees and shrubs that had now outgrown their allotted space and how Marshall would protest the removal of anything that he had grown and nurtured. Both Lester and Marshall have since passed away and remain on the grounds. Lester passed on first and it was Marshall who dug out a Malus that was there. He placed Lester's ashes in the hole and planted a weeping Cercidiphyllum japonicum over them. When Marshall died his ashes were scattered beneath the tree. I would hope that all those conflicts in the kitchen between those two would have finally been resolved. After Western Hills we had lunch in Occidental where Mike ran into more people from his West County past. We then went to The Miniature Plant Kingdom which as you might imagine specializes in plants that don't get very big. I bought a few plants and then we made our journey back to Santa Rosa.
The holidays are quickly approaching, so why not be prepared and start some decorative shopping this weekend.
At the UCSC Arboretum on Saturday November 15th from 10am-4pm and on Sunday November 16th, from 10am -2pm, there will be a Dried Flower and Succulent Wreath Sale.
A beautiful wreath on your front door or perhaps on your hearth would really ring in the celebratory times of the winter season. Some exquisite and unique dried flower arrangements could brighten up your dining room table or bring interest to your living room coffee table. The sale will offer a beautiful selection of hand-made, one of a kind decorations. Hope to see you there!
I don't know about you all, but I am loving this rain. It is simply satisfying. My newly planted veggies, Meyer lemon and Hydrangea quercifolia 'Snow Queen' (as well as all the others) are so happy. Their eager thirst is being quenched and I can see that they are relishing in the steady, drops of drink. Being that we are in a drought, I know that this rain is in dire need. Our aquifers, crops, gardens, groundwater can begin to replenish. Our air can get refreshed and we can start to retreat indoors for the wet, cold, replenishing weather.
P.S. If you haven't planted your winter veggies, get out there during a rainless moment and plant away. I just planted some red chard, torpedo onions, herbs, and lettuces.
Also if you are feeling extra ambitious, go for rainwater harvesting. You can put out some buckets or barrells and collect the water for watering your garden on a sunny day. Make sure to keep the water sealed, otherwise it can become breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Enjoy this weather - think of it as the official celebration into the season. And stay tuned for more winter vegetable recipes, ideas and tips.