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• African daisies
• Calendula
• Ivy geranium
• Mexican Sage
• Lantana
• Society garlic


• Parsley
• Onion and garlic greens
• Thyme
• Garlic bulbs

A Balancing Act in the Garden

A regular watering program keeps plant happy.

A regular watering program keeps plants happy.

My mind has been working overtime since I broke my hip four months ago and have been confined to a wheelchair. As I wait for my total hip replacement in August at Stanford Hospital, balance is much on my mind. Balance, both in our gardens and in our lives, is a quest. Something to strive for and realistically, something that may never be totally achieved.

Balance for many of us does not come easily;  the happy medium between too much and too little. Plants survive if we are a little off kilter. We can forget to water for a week, and our plants will tolerate it. Or, we can be too early or too late in our planting schedule. We can forget to fertilize on schedule, place plants too close together, or let pruning go for a season. But plants will certainly let us know when we have let our gardens become significantly off-balance. It is always better to prevent it than to remedy the imbalance.


1. Balance your garden with a light, regularly scheduled feeding program.

A gardener that is in tune with his/her garden can recognize early signs of imbalance. Nitrogen deficiency can be spotted in its early stage by evidence of yellowing leaves, and generally, the failure of plants to thrive. Chemical fertilizers high in nitrogen can correct this but tend to leach out of the soil quickly and do nothing to improve soil conditions. Organic solutions, like compost and animal fertilizer, must first be broken down and transformed by microbes to become available to plants. Moisture is necessary to provide optimum conditions for utilization by the plant. While I like using organic techniques, this is not to say that a sprinkle of 14-14-14 in the early spring is not helpful. Demand for nitrogen is high as new leaves emerge.


2. Don’t over-feed or over-water your plants.

The downside of overfeeding nitrogen is that all this tender new growth may attract sucking bugs like aphids. A gentle, balanced approached to feeding plants over time pays off.A balanced garden results in less time spent on weed control.


3. Mulch to reduce weeding and watering.

Weeds take nutrients from the soil creating competition, robbing water and food that your plants need. When barren soil is exposed to the elements, it is creating an imbalance that results in an environment where weeds flourish. Placing plants close together so that the canopy shades the soil between plants, discourages weeds from thriving. A 4-inch layer of mulch also blocks sunshine from weed seeds waiting to germinate and mulching encourages critters that help decomposition, like sowbugs. Because weeds compete with plants for water, food, and sun, weeding will help “tip the balance” in favor of your treasured plantings.


The picture above appeared in Organic Gardening Magazine “Water Well“. The article has some excellent information on watering your gardening.



A Peacock Comes to Visit

Randy flares his beautiful tail to impress us.

Randy flares his beautiful tail to impress us.


We have a peacock, named Randy, that wanders through the little village of Cambria. He has been seen walking along Main Street and through various neighborhoods. Originally, Randy lived at Linn’s farmhouse, five miles out on Santa Rosa Creek Road; the place where they sell those wonderful ollaliberry pies. Now he is a wanderer, a vagabond that is probably looking for a mate (called peahen) as he calls out and flares his beautiful tail.

Peacocks, like “Randy”, with the blue heads and necks, were originally from India and Sri Lanka. They adapt well in captivity but are happier if they have a large area to wander.

They’re beautiful creatures. Somewhat noisy, however, so when I tire of him, I hope he will move on. I wonder what attracted him to my garden? Could it be that he thinks he would make a fine rooster for my two old hens and is stopping by for an interview?


Randy strolls up the front path.

Randy strolls up the front path.


A beautiful display.

A beautiful display.


"O.K., that's far enough!"

“O.K., that’s far enough!”



A New Book for Quick and Easy Gardening

Cover of the New Western Garden 20-Minute Gardener

I can’t resist new gardening books. The title of this one is Sunset Western Garden Book “The 20-Minute Gardener”. I received this paperback when I was in the hospital. Sunset offered to send it to me and I was honored to receive it and to review it.

At the time I received the book, I was reading, Catherine The Great by the great author Robert K. Massie and having a difficult time. It is full of Russian names that I couldn’t keep straight. My mind was scrambled with the constant distractions that occur in hospitals.

Grow a cutting garden, it’s easy-Photo from The 20-Minute Gardener

The 20-Minute Gardener was delightful reading. It was full of colorful pictures and easy to read directions for gardens spaces, easy-to-do projects, and easy-care plants. It covered the west’s climate zones and regional gardening calendars. It was a simplified version of the New Sunset Garden Book, my gardening bible. This little book is one that one can pick up and be realistically inspired.

I loaned it to my hospital roommate to look at and her response was, “I don’t know anything about gardening, but I love this book”. I think it may be the answer for beginning gardeners that are overwhelmed by the “big book” and don’t know where to start. The easy-care plants that have a dedicated page for each one, include large colorful pictures, and are put into sections according to the type of plants: annuals, perennials, grasses, ferns, etc., making it easy to understand.

The book encourages the reader to develop the garden one section at a time and to spend a small amount each day in it’s maintenance. For people like me, this is the only way for busy people to manage the garden themselves so I’m always looking for ideas with this philosophy in mind.

The 20-Minute Gardener would be a great book for a beginner gardener or someone like me who likes simplified, easy-to-read book gardening books that have lots of inspiring pictures and text. It’s worth checking out.







All photos are from the Sunset Western Garden Book The 20-Minute Gardener.

We’ve had Guests

Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.


Last week we had a house full of guests. Our youngest son Milo, was married on our deck overlooking the ocean on a sunny afternoon. Guests wandered through the garden and were entertained by Daisy and Sweetpea. The hens love people and several children who were in the wedding party, kept letting them of their outdoor pen. While our garden is fenced, there are a pair of hawks that  keep watch on the hens and when they are not protected, will fly down and sit on the fence, waiting for an opportunity to snag a chicken dinner. After telling the children not to let the hens out again, we put an old padlock on the gate so that we didn’t have to keep watch on the mischievous children. Daisy and Sweetpea had to view the ceremony from “behind bars”.


Wedding on garden deck














A Wedding in the Garden

Milo and Lea saying their vows in the Cambria sunshine.

My youngest son, Milo, was married in our garden last week to the lovely Lea. She stole his heart a couple of years ago and now they are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The sun came out in time to shine on Lea, as she walked with her parents from the new garden room to the deck. The pair stood before the pastor, to receive blessings and say their vows. Birds were singing and flowers were blooming and it was a joyous day for the couple and their families.

As some of you know, I broke my hip in February, it was a bad break and I will be having more surgery in June. I’m still in a wheelchair. Never the less, I participated in the wedding as much as I was able. Husband Don spent a week before the wedding getting the garden in shape and we hired a couple of laborers to do weeding and trimming. I am a little worried how the garden will survive without my nurturing touch but we can’t always control our lives in the way we’d like. A lesson I’ve had to learn in the last months.

Garden Room May 2013

We incorporated the garden into every aspect of the wedding. A couple of dear friends did all the flower arrangements, as well the bridal bouquet and corsages and Lea’s mother did all the food preparation. The cake was flower studded and quite beautiful.

This most special day was one I’ll remember forever. All three of my sons were together (see picture above). Utilizing the garden as the backdrop saved money and gave the wedding an intimate, personal ambiance, as if all of us were embarking on an adventure together. It gave Don and I great pleasure to share this day with the bride and groom and most welcome guests. Because the ceremony took place overlooking a garden that plays such a large part in our lives made the day even more special to us.

A wedding cake for a garden wedding.


Flowers from the garden with roses from the farmers market

A Fall in the Garden

“I didn’t mean to do it!”

I’ve had to put aside my computer for the last month. I took a fall in the garden and have been in the hospital for the last four weeks. Early one beautiful morning in late February, I broke my hip. I’d taken the labradoodle puppy, Marilyn, the one that had been returned for further training, into the garden bed that I’d selected for her to do her “business”. When she’d finished, I turned one way and she turned the other. As I stumbled backward, I stepped into our river rock drainage ditch and just couldn’t stay upright. The tall pine trees and blue sky rose up as I mentally reviewed the list of chores I needed to get done in the following day, week, month etc.. I had plants waiting to go in the ground, was in the middle of pruning the deciduous shrubs and trees, and was preparing for my “youngest offspring’s” garden wedding in late April. On the way down, I knew it would be a bad fall and I was preparing for the worst.

I’ve had my first round of surgery now and am recuperating at a rehab center. I miss my husband, my home, my garden, my dogs, my old hens, crisp winter mornings, green hills, and, of course, people of Cambria. As long as I can keep learning about gardening and sharing it with you, I’ll continue to keep up on my blogs and my garden columns.


Labradoodles Meet Hens

“Scooter”, one of our six-week-old Australian labradoodles, meets the hens.

We’ve had the best luck with our two Australian Labradoodles and the two elderly hens Daisy and Sweetpea. Labradoodles are rather high energy dogs and I really thought that we would never be able to let both hens and dogs out in the yard together to free-range. But, they have both learned to tolerate each other quite nicely. The dogs still like to sniff and will follow the hens around until the old girls can’t take it any longer and turn, puff up, and say, “That’s enough!”. The dogs go back to doing what they were doing and the hens go back to digging in the dirt beside me.

I love being outside with my two old hens and my two young dogs. I was unable to be out in my garden as much as I wanted this fall because our “Tillie”, a breeder that we co-own with a professional, was bred in October and produced the sweetest, smartest, puppies for us to raise. Husband Don and I were kept busy inside with the six little furry bundles so it was fun when they were ready to get out and explore. One of our favorite puppies “Scooter” was the only one really interested in chickens. Maybe a little too interested and we had to put the girls in their run when the puppies were out. The puppies have all been sold and are in wonderful homes. None have chickens to play with.

See puppies here.

February Coastal Gardening

Lee saying goodbye to Labradoodle puppy “Starboy”.

It’s February in my coastal garden. Time to get out in the sun, or overcast, or fog, and get those weeds pulled while the soil is moist. I’ve put off some fall chores this year and the fruit trees need pruning (husband Don does the big ones and I do the small). The roses need pruning, some shrubs need pruning, the salvias needs to be sheared and the climbing roses and jasmine need cutting back.

I like to alternate garden chores. I do about an hour of bending chores (pulling weeds) then go to work on vines and tall shrubs to give my back a rest. I can’t garden on my knees anymore as I’ve had knee replacements and my knees are tender. I just have to get along with bending and stretching. Today I’ll do my garden in the morning so that the husband and I can watch the Superbowl in the late afternoon. We’re from the North Bay so we root for the 49ers. Go Niners! Hey, I’ve got a life beyond gardening, you know.

Rose hips on the Berries n’ Cream climbing rose added color in the winter.

I had to adopt a relaxed schedule of gardening in the fall because of our first litter of Australian labradoodles. What fun we had with these six little bundles of energy. The garden suffered but except for a few sleepless nights, we enjoyed raising them and seeing them go to wonderful homes. Our black doodle “Maddie” was bred to a boy from Pennsylvania last month. We’ll see if this long-distant relationship turns out. One of the gardening chores I let go, was deadheading the climbing rose called Berries n’ Cream. I loved watching the  rose hips turn from green to red and resemble little red Christmas bulbs; one of the perks of “casual gardening”. Now I need to get out and do the pruning so I’ll have a flush of vibrant pink in a few months.

Most of the leaves have dropped from the deciduous trees. Because our climate is so mild, I sometimes have to hand-pick of the few remaining leaves on some. Our poor naked trees don’t get much of a rest in the winter. Before you know it, we’ll have spring green surrounding us.

Asian pear glowing in the after sun in late December.

I took this picture of the garden from the deck in the light of the setting sun. The orange glow in the background is an ancient Asian pear tree that we don’t have the heart to take out. It still produces giant pears but the squirrels usually get them before they ripen so we don’t enjoy as many as we’d like. This picture of the Asian pear was taken just after Christmas. Now the tree is bare. It has been pruned. It’s time for it to rest and get its required number of chill hours. Chill hours are the number of hours the weather provides under 45 degrees. With the necessary number of chill hours when the tree is fully dormant, the tree will be ready for renewal. I’m going out early today and see how much I can get done. Happy gardening.



Cambria Art & Wine Festival

Wine Painting by artist Milo DiVincenzo

Another Cambria event worth checking out. This weekend, January 25, 26 and 27, 2013, the little village of Cambria is gearing up for the popular Cambria Art & Wine Festival. People come from all over California to enjoy Central Coast wines at a three-day event. We like the wine tasting each day and enjoy trying wines that we may not have even heard of. There are hundreds of wineries in our central coast area. When we moved here to Cambria, there were only a handful. Now you can spend days in the beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles visiting picturesque tasting rooms and sipping the finest Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and lessor known varieties.

Cambria is somewhat of an artist community so pairing the Art & Wine is special. There is an Art Show, Silent Auction, Wine and Cheese pairing, an elegant dinner at Linn’s with Hearst Wine and then there’s a label making party at Moonstone Cellars. Something for everyone. For all the details on this event, visit CambriaArtWine.org or call the Chamber of Commerce at 927-3624. See you there!


Persimmon Salad with Spinach and Pecans

Fuju Persimmon and Spinach Salad

We can’t grow persimmons along the coast. We don’t have enough chill hours in the winter to set the blossoms, and heat in the summer to ripen them. But I have a few friends that bring them to me because I love them. There are two varieties that are both delicious. Each variety has a purpose.

  • Fuyu Persimmons (or Jiro or Sharon fruit) are short and firm. They’re crisp and the skin can be eaten or peeled like an apple. They are great in fruit salads. These tomato-like ones are the better variety for eating fresh.


  • Hachiya are more “peach-shaped”. They are eaten when soft. You can spoon out the meat. I like these for baking but you must let them ripen until they are very soft.

Here’s a great use of Fuyu Persimmons. It’s an easy-to-make salad and great on a buffet table as it is a salad that will keep for a few hours without wilting.


Persimmon Salad with Spinach & Pecans


1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons orange marmalade or orange zest

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Salt and pepper

3 quarts baby spinach leaves (1  lb.), rinsed and crisped in refrig.

5 firm Fuyu persimmons (5 oz. each), peeled and sliced into wedges

3/4 cup glazed pecans


In a large bowl, mix vinegar, marmalade, and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a bed of spinach. Put persimmons and pecans on top. Pour dressing over top. Mix gently to coat with dressing.

Note: The dressing and persimmons for this salad can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead; wrap fruit bowl with fruit and chill. Assemble the salad shortly before serving.


How to make glazed pecans:


1 Tbls. butter

3 Tbls. dark brown sugar

3 Tbls. maple-flavored syrup or real maple syrup

2 cups pecan halves or pieces (8 oz)

Heat oven to 350°F.

1. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and syrup; mix well. Cook until bubbly, stirring constantly.

2. Add pecans; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until coated. Spread mixture on to parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in tightly covered container.


Next time you have an abundance of Fujus, make this salad and let me know what you think.