© 1992 Dunn Farm ~ Life in the Sierra Nevada

Garden Notes

Welcome to my garden! Sometime during each season, I wander through the gardens with a notebook. I ponder and examine each garden, taking notes on what is happening in the gardens and the plants' progress. I notice the artistry of its colors, its mood, and its structure.  I note what is especially pleasing, what successes and failures have occurred.  I work to create inspired locations, vignettes of life, charming little scenes. Not merely a collection of plants, but plants I love, each slice a picture in itself. So much of gardening is a happy accident. It is what we do with that happenstance that results in a creation, a living tribute. 

Oftentimes, these things that just 'happen', are not contrived, but meant to be. This is the 'magic' in each garden and from that we can build, carrying the theme throughout the whole, weaving our loves, our hopes, and our aspirations among the flowers of each season. Carnations have a long blooming season and always remind me of mom, they were her favorites besides the fragrant Gardenia.

I remember my grandmother's gardens. She had the gift of touch for her garden was inspiring. I was only ten at the time, but I will always carry the memories of her roses, and the dazzling dragonflies, emerald green and brilliant blue, darting in and out of the gardens. Their delicate wings would shimmer brilliantly in the sunshine as they rested upon rose leaves. I remember her grape arbor, heavy with beautiful, lime-green leaves, bunches of grapes dripping over the sides, progressing into summer until the boughs were heavy with the rich, sweet, fruit of the vine. Ladyfingers, seedless grapes, long, oval, and so very sweet. The scents of my flowers take me back in time to that garden and brings my grandmother once more to my side.

Arrangements are striking in simple containers. The following pages are entries from my garden journal, a small floral, bound book, pages I have filled through the last few years. I have included some notes at the end of some as ideas came to me while walking about, notes to remind myself about these ideas. Oftentimes I strive to capture this living beauty on canvas as I love to paint. This artist's eye, as I gaze at the gardens, helps me to contrive schemes, and balance colors and movements, reaching in my mind's eye, the garden-to-be.

 

My late discovery of gardens and gardening only about six years ago inspired me to paint my gardens with colors, the colors of my memories, to fill the land with them and to listen to their music... a perfect symphony. 

1995

My garden started out of a love for strawberries. The fruit, so rich with flavor, the sweetness of its juice almost overwhelming, it is perfect. I wanted to have strawberries whenever I desired them. So we bought some little ever-bearing strawberry plants, and Tim planted them in an old wooden box with open slats. We kept this on the little front porch next to the peat pots of cucumbers and peppers, and watered and cared for all of them through that first summer.  

We were amply rewarded, for once everything went into the ground, they grew lush and our harvest was good. Then I thought it would be great to have those expensive snow peas growing in our yard, so popped some into the ground. Tim put up a little string for them to climb up and they were happy. They were prolific and I was delirious, mad with power! I felt like I had the Midas touch, anything I planted would grow, and grow abundantly. He grew white Calla lilies against the house in the shade and these also I wanted to plant everywhere. 

 

The rest is gardening history. That summer I grew vegetables, flowers, and my very own Plum tree which gave me fruit after three years! I remember mom had told me how she planted an apricot tree from one she had eaten, and no one believed it would grow... but it did and she harvested apricots for years! At that point I was so enamored with gardening, plants, trees, and flowers that they became real to me in the sense that I named them, bestowing gender upon them, each with a carefully chosen name at planting time. 

1996

Garden Journal 4/30/96  

I am so thrilled each time something new is beginning to bloom or coming up again from the last season, that always thrills me!  Shasta daisies have spread everywhere, by division and from seed. The pink anemones are up, the honeysuckle forming sweet, white flower buds. Perfect little white flowers dance just above the strawberry plants.  I spot one bright red berry and quickly taste it.  Not quite ready, it is sour in my mouth yet still delicious!  A single yellow Dutch Iris has bloomed near the poppies.  Note: plant more of these.  They are lovely together.

 

Garden Journal 5/5/96

Bearded Iris blooms are everywhere! So lovely, some are a pale lavender with ruffled falls, they smell like grape Kool-Aid!  A pale yellow/purple mix is more abundant. They mingle with the Lady Wolford Iris, a lovely combination of yellow and lavender falls. My favorites are a deep, royal purple iris, given to me by Aunt Gloria, they look terrific in any location. I planted some next to some light, peach colored iris, what a sight! Freesias have developed, but the flowers have not bloomed yet. The daffodils are ending their show, pale ruffled apricot and white, sunny yellow, and twinkling white narcissus. Note:  plant at least two hundred in one wide swath under the apple trees next season! Creeping phlox is blooming, carpeting the earth with her pink dainty flowers, and the pink cheddar's are spiky, each one balancing a sweet ruffled flower. A sweet clove scent fills the air.

 

Garden Journal 5/6/96

We planted grapes! Seedless green, and seedless flame, two of each. They are starting to leaf out. Harvest will not be for a few years. But I am excited! My Lemon tree sports tiny little green lemons. Last year we had two lemons! If I can keep her warmer this year, we may have at least six or seven. Their flowers are so pleasingly fragrant and the evergreen leaves are useful in potpourri and dried flower arrangements. The purple Iris looks outstanding next to the white picket fence.  

 

Oh, I see the Raspberry Parfait Dianthus coming through and the beautiful corn blue of the Borage flower, fuzzy leaves kind of a gray-green color. These look great with the daisies and white lilies. The wild sweet peas once again are making a stand in the knoll garden, lavender and pink, dainty swirls of delicate colors. I have planted white sweet peas, and they are curling around everything in its way. A few have bloomed and the scent is divine. Their scent is stronger than the wild sweet peas.

 

I applied a systemic rose food to all the roses, and am waiting to see how effective it will be. The Vinca that we planted two years ago is finally taking hold, she sports purple flowers. This ground cover is evergreen and spreads quickly once established.  Now I know what that means...it takes two to three years to get established, then the race is on!

1997

Garden Journal 2/16/97

We were visiting Auntie Grace, who has the greenest thumb I know! She first taught me to put little artifacts or statues into the garden, peeking from behind large green leaves, or under dainty foliage, placed just so.  This is what I always noticed about her gardens, the just-perfectly-placed items.  As I wander her gardens, I spy a little yellow ceramic bird snuggled in the ivy, a tarnished gold saucer holding a wee bit of water for the butterflies, a single rose bloom dipping into the water, and a piece of broken, azure blue glass, placed beside the dark, little pebbles that live under the columbine.  The effect is charming.

We were showing auntie a video of our gardens, when the tape went into the next frame which featured our old garden when we first bought our property five years ago. What a shock! I can't believe the difference!!  It looked so barren with few flowers, no shrubs but the Juniper, and hard, red clay everywhere.  I remember the rains would create rivers of red mud which washed down the slopes of our property each winter and  end up at the horse corral. I had been shocked initially when all this mud and water would rage across our lawns each winter.  So we created a new paradise and as it had developed slowly, neither of us realized how much we had done over the years.

Today we transplanted the Lilac tree and its many off-springs, to the south end along the fence, adjacent to the Knoll Garden. One huge, overgrown cluster became eight small shrubs which would hopefully bloom again. Their location was too shady to produce good blooms and the new area needed more shrubs. So Tim prepared the planting holes, popped them in and we hoped for the best. And wow! They have great, fat buds already, buds soon to burst in lovely, violet blooms. We also purchased two Old Gold Junipers which I put in front of the daffodil bed on the other side of the fence. His gold-tipped new growth is just lovely and picks up that clear daffodil yellow. They should help with soil erosion on that slope. 

 

Garden Journal 3/22/97

Spring is here! Everything is leafing out, others are blooming, surprises are everywhere! Things I had forgotten that I planted are just lovely. The tulips have large, swollen buds, and the Sir Winston Churchill Daffodils are especially lovely.  I can see the Rose of Sharon leafing out, Jacob's Ladder with its fern-like fringed foliage starting to come up.  Hydrangeas with their stark, leafless limbs are showing life with little green leaf buds all along its branches. Thank goodness I didn't throw them out when they looked dead and lifeless last winter!  The Forsythia in the Knoll Garden is such an intense golden yellow, just gorgeous.

The miniature, purple Iris have come up strong and are such a delight when happened upon. Tim has reseeded the lawn, covering it with netting to keep the birds and cats out. The Magnolias are looking good, they made it through the snow! Large evergreen leaves, a nice rounded tree shape, they will flower soon. Surprises await us at the asparagus beds.  Two little ones are peeping out. Next year will be our first harvest. 

The wild Violets are everywhere! They give us two weeks of the most incredible fragrance! And the pansies, deep violet colors like velvet, have been undaunted by the snow, and are very perky now. Yellow, blue and white pansies all laugh aloud, turning their little faces to the sun. They always cheer my heart.

Tim is whistling while painting our wood, garden chairs sparkling white. The notes float up to the green canopy of the black walnut tree and then dance among the branches.  What a lovely sound. Birds sing in response, flying closer with each trill.   The chairs looks good -- nice, crisp white against the fresh, new green of spring's grass and the dark, evergreen pines.   

Garden Journal 6/12/97

Everywhere I look, flowers are blooming, roses so fragrant, colors like jewels.  The setting sun illuminates each petal, seemingly pulsing with life, it simply glows. My first Nasturtiums are blooming, garnet and a gold-orange color, spilling out of their pots.   Seeds I threw to the winds in spring are growing tall with little, yellow flower bells twisting daintily down each stem. These were harvested from last year's flowers, volunteers, a pleasant surprise!  Mexican sage with its wonderful velvety purple and white blooms survived the winter and is already almost nine inches high. The Butterfly Bush is blooming, frilly purple caplets lifting their colors to the skies. 

 

My beautiful Coreopsis--golden, double rays, bloom continuously and grow anywhere.  The Shasta daisies are exuberant this year, freely self-sowed everywhere, also, magically, along the path to the pond.  I love how their glistening white spheres seem to glow in the dark of sunset's end.

Forget-me-Not's, little bunches of gray-green foliage hiding the little flowers, are a lovely, clear, true blue. Geraniums are growing tall and stately like ladies of the court, blooming unceasingly in deep burgundy colors. I pick off the spent flowers and soon they will bloom again. Poppies are still blooming, golden nectar among the grass.

 

The Four O'Clocks are coming up, oh, I can hardly wait for the fragrant, funnels opening in the dusk of summer's heat. I see the Agapanthus, tall and beautiful, her flower heads plump and full to bursting, ready to sprout into wild poufs of lavender-blue.  The day lilies are blooming now, showy, each bud opening for just one day.  Dawn breaks, bringing more buds into flower and the richness of purple, magenta, and dazzling, yellow buds flower again to take center stage. 

 

Garden Journal 7/16/97

Every season is so lovely bringing such gifts I think cannot be surpassed, then another season arrives, bringing new delights and unimaginable splendors. My oriental lilies bloomed around June and July, fragrant and so lovely.  Note: plant many many more of these. I had planted gladiolus in a two-week succession for two months which gave us blooms almost constantly until August last year. 

 

I see yellow, white, and pink Gladiolus by the fence, and a lovely peach-color glad.  I extended it a bit this year, so I expect to have them blooming into November!  The gladioli thrust through the sun-drenched soil, spears forming with incredible vigor, flashes of brilliance peeking through its sheaves of green.  I never tire of this wonderful display.  They will swoon, so plant them in the rear of the bed.

The perennial bed is doing great! The asters are just blooming, tall and purple, loaded with flowers. Many have still not bloomed, waiting for fall. The whispers of the pink cosmos in the breeze calls to me and I visit her and the verbena, her violet colors great next to the Veronica spires of deep purple. The sweet moonbeam Coreopsis spreads her jaunty, yellow blooms daintily across the two. 

 

The Snowberry is heavy with the white globes at her branches ends. Earlier in the year there were small pink flowers on her branches. This Snowberry is really a wonderful plant and very hardy. Easy to take cuttings and just thrust them into the soil... they root readily. The big surprise this year was the pink Mexican Primrose, that has spread everywhere and blooms constantly. Reminiscent of Morning Glories, it makes a great ground cover.  Note: Plant more of this in the Knoll garden, on the hot, dry slope near the driveway.

1998

Garden Journal 6/05/98

This year we have concentrated on planting shrubs like Spirea, Hypericum, Rock Rose, Hibiscus, Torch lily, Penstemon and ground covers.  Most of these are easy plants, taking care of themselves.  And all are perennials, the most wonderful plants ever.  This morning the sun rose on Casablanca, a fragrant, white oriental lily. Each stalk studded with fat buds, the color just hinted at, its full loveliness of open blooms most breathtaking in the moonlight. This one pleasures the soul and delights the senses.

Don Juan, an intense red, with a deep fragrance, climbs our archway with the zest of a lover, flaring his magnificent colors while entwined in the nearby pine tree.  This year, blooms come freely and quickly, a dazzling spectacle in the garden.   

The Angel Trumpet is leafing out, a prelude to the rich abundance of her heavy, fragrant, pendulous blooms, gleaming white in the starry nights of summer. At times there are 22 blooms on this shrub, an awe-inspiring sight! She shares the same garden space with an exuberant, shocking pink Zinnia; the effect is most astounding. Of course, she is not cold-hardy and must either be protected through the winter or brought inside.

 

Garden Journal 7/12/98

Jayne Austin is in bloom, a gorgeous apricot color, with tight ruffled petals, so elegant! This English rose is always just covered with flowers! And she is taller this year by almost three feet! Our Henry Fonda rose has the most beautiful, golden yellow color, and always puts on a wonderful display. He blooms throughout the year. I have him in a pot right near the front door so we can enjoy his scent and his color. 

I need to plant Iceland poppies in the Knoll Garden, in the 'round'.  I am thinking maybe white, salmon, rose, orange and yellows would look great. Butterflies are everywhere, yellow, white, monarchs and swallowtails. They land on the tips of the Nasturtiums and the Snow in Summer, tasting as they go. Don Juan bloomed today. There are two beautiful true-red roses, and his fragrance is spectacular!

 

Tim started a new Herb garden for me where the old walnut tree stump is. I fancied a circle garden surrounded with garlic and lavender.  White Shasta daisies and red Glads would line the north end, with Santolina and chamomile at the south end.  I would sprinkle in Egyptian onion, white Coneflowers, Heliocrysum, and Fortnight lilies. I started to mentally list the herbs I would grow; oregano, thyme, rosemary, lemon balm, sage, basil, lemon verbena and garlic chives. I would place a Bay tree on the east side, with artichokes on the west side.  

 

We couldn't dig out the stump of this old pine tree, but we could cover it! We brought in good dirt from our neighbors deep creek bed and piled it over the stump to completely cover the stump, then put in a thick layer of chipped brush mulch.  The small herb plants were added, then the flowers and shrubs.  A bird bath completed the focal point, and paths of chipped mulch separated the areas into wedges. Tim put up a two foot high cinder block wall, a reddish brick color.  It curves in a half moon shape, and we planted Glads directly in front of it.  It should look great by next year with all the herbs blooming. Hopefully we can put up the second little wall which would create a pathway in-between the two walls. This would look lovely planted with herbs.

 

Garden Journal 9/16/98

Well, my son was married in a night wedding in August at our home, and it was just magnificent! The stars put on their best show, the night was cool and fragrant with blooms from the garden, the music just perfect for dancing.  The white-clothed tables had floating candles, fresh flowers and twinkling, silver confetti, their surface picked up the twinkling, white lights woven through the tree branches overhead.  It was just magical and so lovely!  Lighted, floating candles drifted on the open pond, their small flames pinpoints of light in the darkness of night.  Tall, iron candle holders held small votives in a curved line parallel to the pathway. It was a most spectacular night!

Tim planted a raspberry and boysenberry plant in the front part of the yard, seedless varieties.  We purchased a Tulip tree, a Chinese lilac and six new rose bushes. I need to figure out where I want to plant them. It will take awhile because we need to make wire cages for all but the lilac. The wild violets that I dug up for Jennifer, mom and my neighbor sit in a wooden box, just blooming and smiling. They smell so wonderful!!

 

Garden Journal 10/11/98

At a nursery sale at the Ridge Road Garden Center, I discovered a Red Twig dogwood for only $10!! What a find! Tim selected a white birch tree, and two hardy Magnolia trees. I chose Spirea, a red Rose of Sharon tree and boxwood. I want to incorporate more evergreen shrubs in our gardens to make it seem more permanent and to have good structure which will display the flowers best. In the winter, this will be the only thing green!  

 

I have moved Shasta daisies everywhere, it is a great, evergreen, flowering plant. There are a lot of hard areas where most plants won't thrive, but the daisy will grow just about anywhere.  I have also transplanted wild violets to many shady areas and some to light sun areas. It thrives in both locations.  I noticed this one salmon-colored Gladiolus, which was striking in the half shade of the afternoon. This color is great in shade! The little cutting of the honeysuckle we planted has reached the top of the fence and is scrambling for the archway! Wonderful! and she smells so good!!  Oops, the bees are chasing me!  A good plant to have but not too close to the house.

 

I tried Sedum Autumn Joy this year and am most pleased. She looked wonderful all season but now that her blooms are changing from pink to burgundy, she is fantastic! I have taken cuttings as I hear they are very easy to start. I surely want more of this plant! The pink verbena I planted three years ago has turned into a monster overnight! She now covers at least four feet of area! And the blooms are numerous! Very lovely... wish it did not take so long to reach this maturity. What a delight she is.   I deadhead her every time I visit. This keeps the flowers coming all summer and well into the fall. 

1999

Garden Journal 5/31/99

The gardens have enchantingly become their own world, little beauties emerging in surprise places, vines embracing strong stems, stretching languidly towards the sun--ground covers twining their flowers among the strawberries and wild violets.  The wonders and beauty I see as I step into the gardens, around each corner, is awesome.  The fat buds have turned into the most gorgeous blooms, their scent on the breezes captivating in the cool of evening. The hues and shades of the gardens brilliantly captivate my heart, senses and soul!  

 

There is so much blooming at this time, it is incredible!  And the ones I had given up for lost due to our last, hard, winter storm, well! Many have new leaves and some have become tall plants once more! I am sorry for the ones I pulled out of the ground and threw onto the compost heap.  I needed to wait just a while longer.  What looked like dead twigs has now surged with new life. 

My white and rose-pink Raunaculus have just finished blooming, and in their place the early summer daisies have come alive. They are in wide swaths in the knoll garden, a gentle white wave of luminescence in the dark of evening.  I also have them all around the gardens, lining one pathway with strawberries at their feet, and a set of them flanking deep purple iris.  They peek through the Sweet Olive tree and tease the foxgloves in the herb garden. Towards the pond garden, the daisies line a path in the shade of the Black Walnut, which lights up with their presence.  As I gaze towards the house and gardens the whole sight causes me to almost stop breathing!  It is so lovely, and serene! 

 

Our rhododendron has just started blooming, her large rose-pink blooms unfolding slowly, teasing us with her slow, revealing dance.  What a sight she will be when fully open!!  Two other rhododendrons have only sported new leaves, no blooms, which was disappointing.  Perhaps because they were just planted last fall.  But there is always next year!  I plan on creating a rhododendron and an azalea garden right under the shade of the Sequoia tree.  I need to study this location to ensure they will get enough sun to bloom. What a lovely spot for these magnificent shrubs!  

Garden Journal 6/25/99

June is ending her riotous, spectacular month of bloom! Roses literally have covered themselves with rich, fragrant blossoms, from the unique long-stemmed wonder, All-American Beauty, to the wonderfully fragrant climber, Zephrine. Her perfect, rosy pink blossoms are heavy with the most delightful scent.  Jane Austin carries a full array of light apricot blossoms, from buds to fully opened, on a robust, six foot tall shrub, just dazzling! She will be in bloom almost all summer.

The Bearded Iris have bloomed and gone, stately spires of ruffled purple, lavender, yellow, white, and wine hues.  These were then replaced by striking, five-foot tall, orange Tiger Lilies, one bud opening each day, a shower of golden Coreopsis, magnificent Strawberry Foxgloves, and a pink and white Gaura. Pansies frolic among the Impatiens, Petunias tumble over embankments, and Lavender is in bloom. The fluted petals of the Sea Shell Cosmos are white, pink and rose, shimmering in the sun's rays. The regular Cosmos have reached their tall stature, feathery leaves with globes of lovely pink.  

It is almost maddening to wander through the gardens as first one then another beauty calls out, wearing her ensemble with pride and exuberance, twirling and dipping for me to see. I hasten my steps, hoping to visit all before the sun goes down, anticipating the setting sun's golden light bathing Jane Austin's perfection in an apricot wash of perfect light and color. I rush about, but as I do, I catch a glimpse of a sparkle twinkling in the twilight, and kneel to find a single drop of water magnified on the gray, velvety leaves of Lamb's Ears, nestled in among the Raspberry Parfait Dianthus. There is almost no time! I am losing the light! But I breathe deeply and inhale the sweet vanilla scent of honeysuckle and the tempting, robust fragrance of Don Juan roses. And I need no light to visualize their existence.

So June goes--so many shrubs in flower, Veronicas, Hebes, Pyracantha's, and flowering vines lift their faces to the sun. Day lilies now sport their flower buds almost overnight, and their colors--wine, pale gold, frosted rose, and burgundy cause me to count the days, one bloom per day. The Princess flower is greening up for her summer show, lovely, velvety deep-purple blossoms gracing a shrub of delicate stature with soft, soft leaves. St. Jacob's ladder has bloomed and set seed, and in his wake comes the purple Asters, tall and billowy. Chrysanthemums have arisen from their hiding places, sporting buds which will open into wine red blooms, pale gold blooms and sporty pink blooms, full and lush. The pink Carnations look great against this backdrop of green frills, providing color until her buds open. 

The Jezebel of the garden throws open her cloak of perfect white roses, clusters which bloom non-stop throughout the summer, creating an area of pure loveliness, a ground-cover rose worth her keep. The roses go from white with pink traces to all white, fully opened roses, small and dainty, totally covering the branches.  She peeks through the fence, stopping traffic. Gently coaxing Sun Sprite rose to join her in a spirited dance, the sight of this lovely, yellow rose intertwined with Jezebel's seductive white blooms is breathtaking.

The summer sun has become intense and some flowers just seem to pulse with vigor under the heat. Purple Coneflowers, Coreopsis, petunias, mallows, Rose of Sharon, Honeysuckle, Day lilies, and Red Hot Pokers; they all thrive. Hibiscus are beginning to bloom, magnificent colors of pale orange, red, and pink. They are happier with a little afternoon shade.  And oh! the water lilies! They have bloomed, floating on the water's surface like perfect jewels.  Pristine white, and shell pink, they greet the morning sun and enfold themselves in the cool of evening.

Summer at Dunn Farm