Tag Archives: spring flowers


Purple Rain, Purple Reign

Now maybe it’s because I was in high-school and college in the 80’s that certain Prince songs are permanently embedded in my brain, but the other day an old favorite popped into my head while perusing the garden.

Purple rain, purple rain….purple rain, purple rain...

Black Lace Elderberry


Yes, we had just received another shower (we are having so many for a semi-arid climate, it’s amazing)  and I went out to shoot some photos thinking it would be nice to capture the after effect of the rain. As I began looking around I heard the song in my head and just kept shooting all the shades of purple in my garden.

Double Columbine from mom

Salvia 'Caradonna'

Aster 'Prince'


Redbud tree 'Forest Pansy'

Clematis ‘Bonanza’

When I finished I realized my late spring/early summer garden is dominated by shades of purple.  So maybe…

purple reign, purple reign…purple reign, purple reign…

is more appropriate!

Do you incorporate a lot of purple hues in your garden?  Or, is there a particular color that dominates your spring/summer garden?


Seeding Ideas: From The Soil in San Francisco

Tribute Gardens Connect Us With ‘Loved Ones’

Gardening, for me, is a way to relax, to connect with nature, and to allow my mind to just “let go”.  When I’m gardening thoughts drift through my head without the normal level of emotion attached to them.  It’s tough to be angry or sad while digging in the dirt; emotions seem dampened a bit, soothed.  It’s the same effect I get when staring out at the ocean and watching waves crash on to a beach.

Gardening seems to have that wonderful quality of allowing me to process something emotional while accomplishing something physical.  At the end of a day my garden looks wonderful and I’m relaxed and content.

This aspect of gardening is just one of the many reasons why tribute, or memorial, gardens are helpful.  A tribute garden is a garden or space dedicated to preserving the memory of a loved one.  It can be composed of plants or flowers gleaned from that person’s own garden if one has access.

Another line of thinking utilizes plants that have the loved one’s name as part of them (Sweet William, Rose, Lily, etc.) or to create a space that “gives back”, perhaps using fruit trees or creating a cutting garden.  I know of one lady who pays tribute to her late husband by tending an area of her garden that is completely dedicated to his favorite color – blue.

I was fortunate enough to begin a tribute garden out of rhizomes and tubers from my mother-in-law’s own garden. Grace passed away years ago and, as we didn’t live close, I didn’t get to know her nearly as well as I’d have liked.  She was an incredible lady…raised five children, worked as a nurse, and tended acres of garden.  She grew vegetables and canned and froze many of them.  She had a large lawn area that she dotted with “islands” of perennials, annuals, and bulbs.  She also had a small garden in front of her kitchen that contained mainly flowers and ornamentals.

Right next to that garden was her children’s basketball “court”, and she worked diligently, year after year, to find plants that could survive many a stray basketball.  Not many did, and yet she kept trying, and she kept letting her children play basketball.  This, to me, is so revealing – Grace always put her children and their happiness first.  But she wasn’t a quitter; she knew there would be a solution at some point (even if it was that her children had grown and moved away!).  And she loved being out in nature, gardening…appreciating the beauty but also very practical, reaping the fruits of her labor.

 When Grace passed I was just beginning to garden.  I appreciated her handiwork but didn’t have any real understanding of the labor that had gone into creating her gardens.  Her bearded irises were all in bloom that spring and we each laid one on her casket.  Months later one of my sisters-in-law asked if I’d like some of the rhizomes for my own garden.  I picked the periwinkle blue bearded irises and some orange day lilies and those were the beginning of “Grace’s Garden”.

Grace’s Garden is actually just a corner of our yard.  The bearded irises and day lilies are intermingled and the colors play off each other, making each individual appear a bit more dramatic.

I’ve added Mexican sage (Salvia leucantha) behind them, and some white and chartreuse gladiolas too.  But the main attraction is always the bearded irises and those bright day lilies.

A tribute garden is a way to pay homage to a loved one and have a connection with that person even though they’re no longer physically in your life.  And, for us, it’s an unintimidating way to introduce our children to a grandmother they didn’t get to know.

I feel as if I can nurture that area of my garden like I would have nurtured the relationship with my mother-in-law.  And, as hokey as it sounds, when those flowers are in bloom I feel her presence more strongly in our lives.

A garden created in memory of a loved one can take on many shapes or forms and the meaning interpreted in various ways.  But tending to a space dedicated to someone we’ve lost can provide us with comfort as well as a beautiful spot to relax and savor memories.   What a wonderful way to honor someone special!

Have you considered a tribute garden?  If you already have one, what is  your experience with this special dedication?

A Bit About San Francisco Garden Gal:

I’m Karen, a native of the San Francisco Bay Area.  Summers here can be cool or hot, winters may be rainy or dry…it all depends on the year, or sometimes the week!  The coastal influence contributes to the lack of predictability  but on the other hand keeps things interesting making me appreciate nature’s tenacity and beauty.  I’ve been gardening since buying a house that had a backyard consisting of two sheds and some white rocks. My goal until relatively recently was to have the “perfect” yard and then sit back and enjoy it.  It’s taken many years and even more plants to realize that gardening is an endless endeavor and that many of its most exquisite shows are fleeting.  And this I’ve decided is both its frustration and its allure. I look forward to writing occasionally about whats going on gardening-wise in the Bay Area and sharing my experiences.  I’m one of Andrea’s biggest fans and excited to be contributing to my favorite garden blog!

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Friday Flora: Iris FANTASTICO!

Seeing a friend’s garden for the first time is always so much fun!  I had this opportunity a few days ago and was not disappointed.  I love to see the creative hand and eye of others at play in the garden.  I always find something inspiring and this time if was the stunning bearded irises, a.k.a. iris germanica.

My friend’s garden is well established, well executed and “with the times”.  It combines beautiful conifers with classic perennials and edibles.  But the ‘show stoppers’ for me were the irises.

I started out with this one as my favorite as I really like citrus-y, hot colors in the garden.

But then I noticed the intriguing combination of textures and color where this lovely iris was located.

And right around the other side was another marvelous combination of texture and color.

I continued to walk along and noted the beautiful oranges splashes on this lovely variety, planted in front of a stunning brilliant green backdrop.

And look at these zesty oranges splashes, dressing up this white selection.

Right about now, the loveliness of this garden was starting to breed some garden envy and as I vowed to introduce more bearded iris into my garden I noticed this serious plum and happy violet combination.

At this point I decided that I had to pick a favorite and this sublime, velvety, royal purple iris came into full view.

But as I continue to soak up the i-candy, (get it eye-candy ≈ iris-candy!) I strolled over to the end of the garden and saw this amazing combination of two of my favorite colors.  Aha! I think I’ve got my favorite.

But there was more…a delicious bunch of blue…and if you don’t already know…I”m partial to blue flowers…Absolutely Fantastico!

How about you? If you are a fan of bearded irises which selection above is your favorite?  Are you partial to a certain color of flowers like I am?

If you would like to know the varietal name of any of the above let me know…Also, many thanks to Sandi for sharing her beautiful garden!

Additional Iris Fodder:

If you have not tried iris germanica before give it some serious consideration.  They are well-suited for zones 3-10 and come in so many fun colors.  They are easy to grow, easy to care for and reliably fast growing. Tough, resilient, and drought-tolerant are a few more traits.  About the most difficult thing you’ll ever have to do is divide them every few years and hey, this gives you an opportunity to share some garden goodness with friends.

Great Gardening Weekend Satisfies the Soul

Wonderful weather can make a great gardening weekend!  Of course, there are lots of fun things to do during nice weather but this weekend was very productive in the garden.  I think because it was the first real “feeling” of summer here in the Intermountain West.  Some of you know what summer is like here but for those that don’t…

Well, the temps are real warm, even hot, (meaning 100) to the point that you would never pass up a cold drink that’s offered, but not humid to the point that you have to have a cold drink.  It  feels like a soft rustling of fresh air around you but not a gust of wind continually beating at your every move.  And my favorite part is the feeling the day will never end… it might be 9:30-10:00 p.m. and the sun has not completely set.  It’s wonderful!

This weekend many plants opened their delightful blooms!

  If you checked in on Friday you’ll see a big difference in the iris and peony in just two days.

Also the only rose I grow at this garden, a true classic, Rosa Glauca, opened its blooms. I have been in love with this species rose since I discovered it during my garden days in Portland, Oregon.   And I recently found out that even Margaret Roach from awaytogarden.com feels the same way! Now that’s a confidence booster!  Anyway, back to Rosa Glauca, it is sometimes called red leaf rose cause the leaves are tinged with red just like the stems.  It is extremely hardy but I suggest planting it in spring (instead of fall) if you are in a Zone 2, 3, 4 or 5 area just to make sure it gets established.  It has arching canes that will get 6-8 feet long so give it room.  To me the foliage color all season and the amazing large, bright orange hips are the best parts of this easy to grow rose.

Oh, and I can’t help but post a photo of Cerastium, ‘Snow in Summer.’  I know it is super common but it is such a happy-looking plant that I smile when I notice it and I love it up against a big rock.  I have to give it just a bit of due credit…

Another good garden thing this weekend included the ‘builder’ fancying up the trellis/cage system for the raspberries.  Last year, we planted raspberries and a trellis system was not critical as they were young.  However, the ‘builder’ started a copper masterpiece but then was distracted with backpacking, fishing and the like and ended up rigging together a wimpy wire thingamajig.  Good thing the ‘builder’ is somewhat of a perfectionist cause now that the raspberries are off to a great start  (one year more mature) he simply couldn’t stand the trellis thingamajig and went back to crafting a copper masterpiece.

 I like how it turned out and think it will do a swell job of holding the raspberry canes.

Finally, some of my edible/ornamental pots are taking off and I can now distinguish the sugar snap peas within the mass of pansies, heuchera and astilbe.  Now, that you have found the trellis, climb, peas, climb!

And on the topic of climbing green goods, I planted pole beans this weekend.  I’m trying ‘Italian Choice’, Santa Anna beans (first time) in a couple of areas.  Some up a trellis of my square foot gardening raise planter bed and some directly in the ground with my 5 minute, homemade trellis system.

No, the little Italian flags are not something that came with the seeds. They are something I’ve had tucked in the pantry for years and I thought it would be fun to use them as plant markers until the beans sprouted.  You know, add a little extra fun to my blog photo and the garden while I anticipate the magical sprouts!

I hope you had a great garden weekend or if not that you do very soon.  I find it so satisfying to the soul…

What do you consider a great garden weekend?  Do you grow edibles with ornamentals?  How do you support your raspberries? Do you grow pole beans and what is your favorite variety?  If you have a minute, share your growing experiences…

Friday Fun: Planting in the Garden…


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Finally a beautiful, calm, temperate day here in the Intermountain West.  Lots of big blue sky, fresh air, moist soil and plants!

 Plants that are starting to pop in the garden!

And plants that want to find a new home in the garden or in a pot.  The gardener of igardendaily is working hard today…

Let the planting begin…

Golden Raspberry, Boysenberry and Peonies – All starts from a great friend that is moving out of the area and wants to share some of the highlights of her garden.

Rescued Purple fountain grass and sedums grown indoors during the winter but are ready to step outside for summer.

New annuals (Batface Cuphea Cara de Palo) to mix in with perennials and herbs in the mixed border.

And some Pumpkin seeds… (Musquée de Provence and Casper)

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Wistful For Wisteria

It’s that time of year…the wonderful blooms of Wisteria whisk you away to dream about possibilities…Possibilities of many things I suppose, but if you’re a gardener and don’t have Wisteria, it’s likely you are dreaming of possibilities of adding an arbor, utilizing a fence or deciding if the patio or porch needs an attractive adornment and whether it would be destructive to the exterior of your home.  Yes, that’s where I am…

I want to grow Wisteria but have never been brave enough.  I love its audacious blooms and the strength of presence it provides any setting but at the same time, I’m a little afraid of all that Braun!  I mean take a look at those canes and tell me they are easy to support!  And I won’t even think about what it would be like if there was ever a need to move or remove this seriously strong plant.

Wouldn’t it just be the battle of a century, for a gardener anyway…

After doing some research it seems there are two species popular with home gardeners – Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) and Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda).

The Chinese wisteria is popular because of its flowering habit  – clusters of fragrant 6 inch to 12 inch pendulous blooms on the wood of the plant, before the foliage has opened significantly.  Individual flowers in the clusters open all at once creating a gorgeous display and smell.  There are several cultivars available offering blooms in white, lilac and deep purple.

The downside to Chinese wisteria is it seems more than vigorous.  In fact, I would be remiss if I didn’t share that much of the literature called it down right invasive.  A very sturdy structure must be used to support it along with a commitment to keep it in-bounds.  The other negative I came across is that it can be an unreliable bloomer and that plants grown from seed may not bloom for 10-15 years!  Grafted plants or plants taken from cuttings will bloom sooner but it still may be 3-4 years after planting.

This said, I have a friend that grows this form up the front porch of their home and it is gorgeous!

I don’t recall her having any problems with it being invasive over the years so is it quite dependent on your individual climate?

Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda) offers fragrant flowers that open gradually from the base of the cluster to the tip and can be 12-to 18 inches in length.  It blooms when the foliage is expanding in the spring.  Come Fall the foliage turns yellow before falling to the ground.  There are more cultivars available than Chinese wisteria and colors range from white, flesh pink, light purple, dark purple, blue-purple and reddish violet.  Japanese wisteria is also very vigorous (not called invasive as often but still sometimes) and needs strong support but is said to do better in colder regions.

Japanese Wisteria 'Texas Purple' growing at Idaho Botanical Garden

Japanese wisteria growing over pergola at Idaho Botanical Garden

Speaking of hardiness, both are suited for zones 5-9. Both prefer at least 6 hours of sun and moist soil that does not dry extensively.  As far as soil needs go, they like slightly acidic to neutral but will easily adapt to slightly alkaline soil.

Wisteria requires “hands on” maintenance meaning careful pruning 3 times yearly. Once after blooming, in late summer and again in winter or early spring.  Both species develop large pods following the bloom period (they are part of the pea family) and the seeds are toxic if ingested.

And then I came across American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens)   

The growth requirements are said to be the same as Chinese and Japanese wisteria in terms of hardiness, sun, soil, moisture and pods.  However, American wisteria is better behaved (much less invasive tendencies) and blooms at a younger age.  The blooms are smaller but fragrant AND they reappear sporadically throughout the summer and fall.  It is even said to be suitable to grow in a pot!

Interestingly, this spring while browsing at local nurseries I saw both Chinese and Japanese cultivars of Wisteria for sale but I never came across the American form…

Whew! A lot to think about when considering Wisteria for the garden.  Maybe I’m not so wistful for Wisteria that I want to wrestle with it?

What are your experiences with this exotic vine?  Have you grown the Chinese or Japanese forms before?  And what about the American form?  Can you share some Wisteria wisdom…

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Pot Up Edible Fare with Spring Flare

On this beautiful Spring day I decided to spend some time creating a container garden.  I absolutely love creating gardens in the confined space of a pot.  It is easier to see how the plants will highlight each other and provides instant gratification to set something beautiful on a porch, patio or balcony where there was nothing before.

If you haven’t tried container gardening you must give it a try cause I guarantee you’ll have fun!

Today my focus was on creating a pot that contained some edible fare alongside some Spring flare.  I purchased a few fun annuals and a variety of vegetable starts and then mixed them together designing a container that has contrasting colors and textures.  There are not a lot of flowers in this container but there is a lot of foliage contrast and color interest.  The flowers are a wonderful bonus!

I want my new container garden to be attractive the entire season and to host a few edibles that I can harvest for a dinner or two on a lovely  early summer evening.  In this garden when I harvest an edible such as a lettuce or cabbage, I will dig it and then there will be space to add more interesting summer annuals.  I have also included an herb (dill) that I will cut periodically to add to meals and when it gets beyond its prime I will dig it out as well.

Here’s my result and this is what I included:

I placed a fun annual grass called ‘Fountain Fireworks’ in the middle.  This should grow to about 30″tall and become a focal point of the pot.  I won’t be digging it out until the season is over.  Next I added  ‘Dark Angel’ Dahlia and ‘Ruby Perfection’ cabbage to each side of the grass that will grow to about 12-15 inches tall.  These will be considered filler plants and will fill in the middle-level of the pot nicely.  I will dig the cabbage at some point but will have a spot for another fun filler later in the season.  These plants offer color variety although in the same palette but  contrast in shape of foliage.

Next I added two romaine lettuces and a few beets called ‘Detroit Supreme.’  I’ve never grown beets before so this will be a new experience but folks at the nursery said the leaves would get quite large and you can cut them periodically to add to salads etc…  I liked the color and wanted to try something new so there it is.  The romaine lettuce and the beets will also fill the mid-level of the container but should be slightly shorter, to about 8-10 inches.  I will dig the lettuces when I harvest but just cut the beets periodically for extra greens and then dig them later.

For high-level contrast, ornamental value and a ‘spill’ effect I added Sedum ‘Ogon.’  It is a beautiful yellow sedum that loves half-full day sun and it will spill over the front edges of the pot as the season advances.  I will leave it in the container for the entire season.  Lastly, I couldn’t resist planting Dill (Fernleaf) in the back of the pot behind the grass.  I’m not sure how this will look over time but I love the soft feathery foliage of it now.  If it doesn’t look good later, I’ll remove it but in the meantime will get many cuts for meals requiring fresh Dill.

I’ve set this pot up for half to full day sun and here’s a detailed photo if you would like a closer look. 

There you have it, edible fare combined with Spring flare!   I can’t wait to watch as my garden grows and will update this post with new photos as it changes.  Now, go have some fun potting up your creative ideas!

A few things to think about when planting a container garden:

Size of pot  – My pot today is 15″ diameter and a good medium/large size that can hold  several plants.

How many plants needed to fill pot – Depends on types of plants you choose but plan on putting them close together with a little room to fill in.

Growing requirements of plants  – Pick plants that have the same light and water needs as they will be “living together” in the same “house.”  Read plant labels when picking out co-habitants.

Potting soil  – Purchase a high-quality, brand name potting soil.  My general rule of thumb for any gardening project is don’t skimp on the soil.  A good soil is what makes a great result.  I’ve learned this the hard way!  Never use garden soil in container gardens. It is too heavy and will not allow the plants roots to breathe and expand in the confined environment of a pot.  A good potting soil is much lighter and fluffier than garden soil and is formulated to get your plants growing in the right direction…bigger.

Make it easier  – If you have a medium to large size pot consider filling the bottom 1/4 – 1/3 of the pot with a light-weight item  such as a plastic milk or juice jug, unused plastic garden pot, aluminum cans or even pumice.  This cuts back on the amount of potting soil required for the pot and cuts your expense as the purchased potting soil will go farther.  It also reduces the weight of the pot in case it needs to be moved.

General purpose fertilizer  – I like to add a little Kelp meal around each plant when planting a container garden.  It is a 100% natural, all organic fertilizer comprised of mulched sea weed. It is a renewable resource containing concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals, including potassium that plants need to really grow.  Later on in the season, I use an organic fertilizer that provides a total nitrogen, phosphate, potassium supply for the plants.

Planting  – I like to have a small variety of plants to choose from and I lay them out next to each other or in the pot in their containers before planting.  I think about several things at this time.  First and foremost – contrast.  The more contrast you create, especially with plant foliage, the more interesting and eye-catching the pot.

I also like to think about the shape and size of the pot.  If you have a pot holding several plants you want to have something with some good height that will provide a focal point.  Next, think about plants that can fill the middle space of the container, creating an understory to the focal point.  Sometimes these plants are called fillers because that is what they do, fill the middle level of  the pot.  Lastly, select plants that will “spill” over the rim of the pot.  They are the lower level of your container garden and will be very attractive spilling over or draping down the side of your pot.

Once you’ve got your desired arrangement, plant the plants in the container so they are situated slightly beneath the rim of the pot.  This way when watering, the potting soil will not run over the sides of the pot creating a mess.  Enjoy and remember to water if not hooked up to an automatic drip system.