A Garden in Rest

We’re quite spoiled living in California this time of year. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing, and we’re frequently treated to several days of unseasonably warm conditions. 

Curb garden perennials going to seed

While much of the country is dealing with weather known as the polar vortex with insanely cold and hazardous conditions, I’m wearing a t-shirt as I go about my day. I wish I could send all my mid-west and eastern seaboard friends a bit of warmth and sunshine. Come June, I’ll be looking on enviously at your summer rains.

Nigella and sweet peas populate the curb garden

I’ve been popping into the garden at the end of the day, pulling young weeds before they get a foothold. It’s a joy to observe the daily treasures nature has to offer.

Nigella bud just before opening
Nigella in all its beauty

When fall arrives in late October, my garden cleanup includes pruning, grooming and dead-heading perennial plants and shrubs. Last fall, I consciously let things go. This wasn’t born of laziness. In fact, it took some resolve to let things be. My propensity for organization and a tidy garden are nothing new, however my awareness of the benefits of a garden to all the visitors comes with a sense of responsibility.

Rose hips in the curb garden

Emerging growth on a miniature rose

Letting perennials go to seed means there are seeds available for birds passing through. Allowing a bit of leaf drop to cover the garden floor provides cover for some beneficial insects, while at the same time providing a natural mulch. Mulch keeps the soil warm and moist, while reducing weed growth and protecting roots from uneven temperatures. Leaves breakdown quickly, feeding the worms and improving the overall health of the soil.

Excess leaves, swept from the sidewalk and deck, made it into our compost bin. After working my way through three different compost systems over the past decade, I finally found one that I like.

Tessa likes to sit on the composter at dusk

New habits take time. I’m itching to get out there so I can prune some of the dead growth. I’ve had a little chat with my inner gardener, and together we’ve decided this is best. After all, the first day of Spring in the northern hemisphere is only 49 days away.

I can hardly wait.

Winter Solstice in San Jose

Sunday we honored the shortest day of our year. It’s winter solstice in San Jose.

Do you know what that means?

It means that spring is only three months away!

Seriously though, you have to look a bit harder for signs of winter in California. We’ve had a few weeks of back to back rain storms, a welcome break from the drought but temperatures remain mild. Most of the deciduous trees are bare of their leaves but others remain evergreen.

Here’s a peek into the winter garden. It asks for little and gives a lot. Nature is like that.

orange cosmos buds

Cosmo buds, no sign of slowing down

orange cosmos

Cosmo in bloom

hummingbird in chinese pistache

Hummingbird in the Chinese Pistache tree

chinese pistache winter

Stripped bare of its leaves, but covered in buds waiting for spring

California poppy

I’m on the ‘every other season’ plan. All the seeds that forgot to come up last year are sending out little beacons of green delight. That’s a California Poppy on the right and to be determined seedlings on the left.


Statice in bloom

pink zinnia

Zinnia. The plant looks shabby, but the flowers continue to bloom

unidentified planted objects

Unidentified planted objects

mexican sage

The Mexican Sage reminds me of a purple caterpillar


Lemon scented holidays

Here is a shot of the little tomato that could, a self-sown seedling growing from a crack in the steps. Yep…tomato plants in December.

tomato volunteer

Self-sown tomato making a go of it out of the side of the concrete steps

During this hectic time of year, I hope you can find a few moments to enjoy what nature has to offer.

Garden Peas Last Stand

It’s time.

I waited to see if the garden peas would return after five punishing days of frost last November. Luscious green pods covered the plant for a time, with a promise of many more. When the frost hit (early and rare for us) I wasn’t prepared. By the end of that week it was too late.  The remaining peas froze on the vine, eventually shriveling to a dusty brown.

Always an optimist, I left the plant in place hoping it might recover. It did! In the last few weeks, the plant sent out a second round of flowers and legumes, plump and sweet.

After this last push, the plant looks spent.  Soon I’ll be planting Sweet Peas in the same place.  Keeping it all in the family.

I will definitely grow this winter crop again next year, but I’ll be better prepared.

Meanwhile, if you have a favorite recipe for pea soup, please share in the comments below.

garden peas

Garden peas

garden peas

I love the pretty white flowers

garden peas

Last hurrah

Garden Pop-ups

Sure *I* was late planting this year’s bulbs, but nature is always on time. Bulbs from last season (and the season before!) are popping up all over the garden.

life on deck

Life on deck

Sometimes I’ll forget that a bulb is resting at the bottom of a pot, and I’ll dump the dirt into a planter. This explains the random placement of one of the bulbs I see peeking out from the center of the vegetable beds. I love nature’s optimism.

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

Mystery bulbs in the Veggie garden

There are signs of tulips along the rock wall, but there are also signs of the squirrels eating the greens.  I hope they lose interest soon, or that will be the end of them.


Tulips, ever optimistic

The hyacinths are up and looking pretty. It looks like the onion-scented Allium are coming back from last year, along with (I think) a single freesia.

Emerging hyacinth

Emerging hyacinth

unknown bulb


Emerging hyacinth

Can you smell it?

New Life for your Old Calendar

Several of you commented that you save your wall calendars from year to year. Here are a few more ideas for turning your beautiful calendar pages into something new.  For more info, visit Garden Calendar Lives Another Day.

 repurposed calendar

Re-purposed Calendar: postcard, covered box, gift tags and stickers, envelopes, gift card holder, fairy garden bunting, drawer liner, box dividers, napkin rings

Roasted Vegetables: Savory and Sweet


It’s what’s for dinner.

carrot crop

The last of the carrots

More specifically, carrots, the last of them from the winter garden.

Next year I’ll plant quite a bit more, remembering to divide them, of course. It’s been so much fun.

Mike whipped up a vegetable roast, using the carrots along with new potatoes, parsnips, onions, green peppers and tofu from the market. It’s a nice, vegan/vegetarian dish for cold days. It’s warm and filling and easy to make.

vegetable roast

Vegetable Roast

I’m spoiled rotten living with a man who likes to cook. Mom was a great cook, too, but this apple fell far from the tree, rolled down the sidewalk and into the woods. I can produce a meal under duress (and I cook for my boys when he travels) but most of the time I would rather be doing something else.

That said, I love to eat!  Do you like to cook?


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Icelandic Poppies in Search of a Little Rain

We put away all of our Christmas decorations this weekend and tossed the pretty tree decorating our lawn. Between the un-decorating and the frost damage from November, the garden is looking mighty bare.

Then this happened.

I potted a few plants in early fall, but kept forgetting to water them because, frankly it should be raining this time of year. (It’s not). I keep sweeping up the dirt the squirrels toss out of the planter, casting dirt on the steps. In spite of all that, nature persevered and produced two gorgeous Icelandic poppies. They’re a bright spot in my other wise dreary garden.

While parts of the country are suffering record low temps, we’ve had the opposite. Record-breaking warm days, preceded by a week of frost in late fall and now we’ve broken the record for driest year since the 1800’s.

How dry?

According to our local paper, the San Jose Mercury News:

Records are being broken all over the state, according to the National Weather Service. San Jose has only received 3.8 inches since January 2013, well short of its 14-inch average. Oakland is even drier — 3.39 inches this year, compared with its 22.8-inch average. The last time it was this dry in San Francisco was in 1917, with 9 inches. This year, the city has had less than 6 inches.

The state’s official rain year will end on June 30 and a good storm or two in January or February could bring back a touch of winter green.

I sure hope so. Perhaps I should wash the car, paint the house, and plan a picnic to see if Murphy’s Law kicks in and brings us an honest to goodness downpour.

Thanks so much for all the great Little Free Library love. The comments, shares and book offers made my heart sing. I have much more to share, and will do so later this week.

Fairy Garden Snow

Little hands made it snow in the fairy garden today.  It certainly felt cold enough for the real deal, but alas the skies were blue and clear.

My neighbor Jazzy’s day care kids love to run up and down the ramp and along the deck at day’s end. They were full of energy, happy to be outdoors and impervious to the cold. One of the little Munchkins asked if she could play with her doll in the fairy garden.  How lucky that I had my camera!  She was full of questions: was the grass real?  Were the plants real?  What about the berries?

Playing in the fairy garden

Playing in the fairy garden

A pinch of snow

A pinch of snow

I love the inquisitiveness. One by one, the others joined in.  I was pointing out the “snow” when I realized the wind had carried much of it away. I ran inside for more and within short order, they created a fairy winter wonderland.

Fairy Winter Wonderland

Fairy Winter Wonderland

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Jack Frost Nipping at the Plants

DSC_0008Jack Frost has a mean bite.  In just one night, the late season pumpkins are through.  I rounded the corner this morning, stunned to see how quickly the damage took hold. The pumpkin plant looks a bit sad next to the otherwise vigorous winter vegetables, but I knew it was just a matter of time.

I covered the two coleus with frost cloth in mid November, but a partially exposed section of one of the plants froze as well. I’m going to add another layer tonight (wished I had done so earlier).  We’re expecting a low of 38 F for one more night.  Showers are in the forecast  the rest of this week with lows warming up to 45 F.

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Frost damaged pumpkin plant

Frost damaged pumpkin plant

Damage-free coleus

Damage-free coleus

Frost Bitten Coleus

Frost Bitten Coleus



Winter Garden: Above and Below

winter seed packetsI’m branching out this year.  Now that we have raised planting beds and a gravel and stone walkway, winter gardening holds more appeal.  Year one I planted fava beans as a cover crop, digging the plants back into the soil to add nitrogen.  Year two I planted broccoli.  I bought seeds, but waited too long to plant them, so I planted six starter plants instead.  Two survived and produced a few yummy florets, but it bolted early and that was that.

I’m hoping the old saw “three’s a charm” is true, and that year three will be a roaring success.  Here’s what I’m planting.

Above-ground vegetables include:

Lettuce Leaf Red Velvet

Botanical Interests ® Lactuca sativa.  The seed packet promises “wine-red leaves that are sweet and tender and will make any salad memorable.”  Red-leaf lettuce is delicious and brightens up a salad.  It will be such fun to grow my own.

Early Green Broccoli

The Seeds of Change® tag line is “goodness from the ground up.”  I love that! We all enjoy broccoli, which is to say, three of us really like it and one of us reluctantly agrees it’s not half bad. Let’s hope we have a better year.

Below-ground vegetables include:

Radish Crimson Giant

My eyesight has officially failed me. I thought I was buying beets. These “crimson beauties” were my sister’s favorite growing up. Now my oldest son is a big fan.  Here’s hoping garden beets taste just as sweet as the ones that come in a can!  Here’s hoping, too that I can still find a pack in the garden center.  Apparently we’re also growing radishes!  Now that is embarrassing.

Chives Common

I prefer the Latin name Allium schoenoprasum.  I’m not sure I can pronounce it but it sounds far less demeaning than the moniker “common.”  The Botanical Interests seed packet says “heirloom, with beautiful edible flowers and delicate onion flavored foliage.”  It also says “very easy to grow.”  Count me in!

I’m off to get my nails dirty.  If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, are you planting a winter garden?  Garden tips appreciated.


A Case of Mistaken Identity

Well I’m embarrassed! Yesterday I posted a photo thinking it was a carrot about to bloom. Imagine my surprise today to find this beautiful California poppy flowering away in the sun.

Yep! That's a Poppy

For starters, I’ve never planted poppies. It’s our state flower and we’re not supposed to pick them. I worried that if I planted poppies I would be tempted to snip a few blooms to bring indoors. I’m no law-breaker!

Closing Up Shop for the Night

We planted carrot seeds last summer. That they never grew is irrelevant. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that nature has her own schedule. When the foliage first appeared at the soil line, I dug down with a finger and discovered an orange-colored root. I was sure it was a carrot. I looked up “carrot foliage” today and it does resemble our fair flower.

Buds and Greens

It’s not that I’m disappointed to have our beautiful state flower in bloom, but that I was so convinced it was otherwise.   I snapped a few photos late in the day, but the skies were clouding over so the lovely bloom was already closing up shop.

Never a dull moment in the garden.