Do as I say, not as I do

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It has been cool and foggy so I set up the sprinkler to water the garden strip between the fence and the sidewalk. As I mentioned in the post on summer watering, it is much better to water when it is not extremely hot and dry. First of all, less water is lost to evaporation. Second, it is better for the plants to take in water when it is cool. Those that are not dormant should be hydrated before the hot, summer winds blow.

Unfortunately this garden next to the fence (I am not referring to the parkway garden between the road and the sidewalk) is planted with non-native Chinese fringe trees that need water all year. Among them are California natives, the plants I prefer to have. The result: Incompatibility! So I water deeply, holding off as long as I can. Both native and non-native are doing okay, though this is definitely not a plan to emulate.

Inexpensive sprinkler shoots water out in long, thin strip. Although the sprinkler is next to the tree trunk, most of the water sprays about 4-5 feet away. I move the sprinkler around for better coverage. The alkali dropseed (Sporobolis airoides) appreciates a good summer shower, unlike the nearby- but not visible in this picture – goldenbush (Ericameria linearifolia). This is why a garden plan should not have plants with differing needs next to each other.

The natives in this strip include a variety of sages, grasses and three Ray Hartman ceanothus. The Ray Hartmans are replacements for three of the original seven Chinese fringe trees that died. (Note to self: This post – just like this garden area – is moving in a direction of its own. Remember to write something on the effects of poor or no planning!)

Returning to summer maintenance… I spent a couple of hours today cleaning up the parkway garden, while irrigating the fence-sidewalk strip. I lightly pruned ratty-looking sages and California lilacs. Truth be told, it is a bit early to prune the sages and late for the California lilacs.

The sages should be pruned in fall to winter, before they begin to grow. Pruning them now means that they will look pruned until next winter. I am really only cleaning them up and the sages that I worked on were not in bloom. Furthermore, since this is not a heavy pruning job, I am sure it is okay.

As usual I didn’t plan to be gardening, so I didn’t take before/after pictures. This is an after shot and you are going to have to take my word that this black sage (Salvia mellifera) looks much better now than it did before. I pruned to expose the stringy, woody stem. Rather than hiding it, I have decided to embrace its beauty. (What do you think? Not obvious!) I also tipped back some longer stems. The plant hasn’t flowered much – too much shade!

The ceanothus definitely should have been pruned about a month ago. The problem with pruning this late is that I may be removing the buds that form next spring’s flowers. Hopefully I am not that late. I just did not get to these sooner and they were growing out into the sidewalk area. I carefully removed the stems that were reaching into the pedestrian right-of-way, but somehow got a bit carried away cutting back other stems as well. Ceanothus does not need a lot of pruning and I think that these, like the sage, will be okay.

Sidewalk cleared of branches, blades, and stems.

Finally, I have been cleaning off plants that are covered with spider webs and dust. Early July is spider season here in Wild Suburbia. Tiny grass spiders make cobwebs all over the plants. Though I appreciate the work these spiders do in controlling other insects, I clean off some of the plants so that they look better, and so that the leaves can photosynthesize and transpire as needed. Most are not within reach so I am sure that the little bit I do does not significantly impact the spiders. The grass spiders decline soon, and larger spiders that weave the most lovely orb webs increase in number. These are the ones my kids hate the most. Ah, but I am wandering off topic again.

I have told you about the summer maintenance that I am doing, but shouldn’t be. Here is a list of summertime garden chores that I should be doing.

  1. Weed: Spotted spurge is one of the only summer weeds that I need to deal with.
  2. Prune: Little pruning is required in the summer. Deadhead flowering plants to encourage continued blooming. For some plants, like showy penstemon and white sage, it is good to cut the long, wand-like flower clusters that have gone to seed to keep stems from breaking. Allow some seedheads to remain to feed the birds. Another reason that it is best not to heavily prune during the summer is that the outer branches and leaves protect and insulate the larger, inner branches and the roots.
  3. Water:
    – Irrigate deeply to hydrate established native plants that might otherwise go dormant; or don’t water them so they can go dormant as nature intended.

    Fuchsia-flowering gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) is going dormant. Continued irrigation might keep it leafed out, but it is better for this plant to experience summer dormancy. Do not water if you plan to let it go into dormancy.

    – Water riparian plants that require year-around moisture.
    – Keep a careful eye on recent garden additions and water as needed.
    – Occasional irrigation will help other established native plants that may derive from cooler, moister California regions.
    – Desert plants can accept occasional summer water that mimics monsoonal rains. They often respond with a profusion of flowers.

  4. Plan: Sit down in your favorite garden spot with a glass of iced tea, garden books, graph paper, and a notebook to plan garden work that will be carried out in late fall to winter.
  5. Enjoy: A successful garden is one that brings you solace without wasting resources or polluting the world. Relax and enjoy.



And finally, it is the fifteenth of the month, Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day. So here’s a picture of a few of the things in bloom in my garden. As always, thanks to Carol for sponsoring this.

4 thoughts on “Do as I say, not as I do

  1. Very informative post, Barbara. Splendid photos, too. <br /><br />As it seems too rare I manage to get the timing right, allowing myself a little pat on the back for watering young natives twice in the cool of this week. <br /><br />Thank you, and enjoy the lovely weather!

  2. Great information! I think the ceanothus will be fine, I usually prune mine in September and they bloom in May, so even if yours are earlier it should still work out. <br /><br />Tricky with plants that have different requirements, but it seems impossible to avoid, if you add new plants you always get that inconsistency…<br /><br />Happy bloom day!

  3. It&#39;s a problem in my garden too as I convert from non-native to native. Mixed water needs are tough. I figure as the non-natives die, I&#39;ll replace them with natives, like you&#39;ve done. It&#39;s worked on my back hill pretty well, and all plants there now are native or tolerant of the conditions.

  4. Great advice &amp; observations on summer maintenance of natives! And to think I was just on the verge of pruning all my salvias, with the exception of Winnifred Gilman, which is still going to town in the bloom department. Will now wait until later in the year to do so.

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