Category Archives: deer resistant bulbs

A Visit to the Brook Lomond Iris Farm

Aztec Sun
Aztec Sun

What do you get when you combine a world renowned pottery artist with a reformed corn grower? On California Street in Ben Lomond, the result is the Brook Lomond Iris Farm of Rick and Chris Moran. This fun, educational, inspiring couple recently invited me to admire this year’s crop of tall bearded iris grown with certified organic gardening practices as well as to share their organic vegetable garden, cactus and succulent collection and Chris’ unique pottery. They are getting ready for this year’s annual iris sale coming up April 30th as well as May 1st and 7th from 9:00-4:00 each day when the iris blooms will be at their peak.

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Coiled pottery by Chris Moran

Upon arriving my eyes were torn between the colorful beds of iris on my left and the blooming cactus and succulent collection displayed on the flagstone entry garden on the right. I later learned Chris cut and laid the flagstone herself. Inside the house Chris’s fabulous coiled pottery vases, urns and jugs in their great room were so amazing I had a hard time tearing myself away to start the tour of the back garden and iris beds in the front. Cody, their new dog, was good company as I learned how the Moran’s came to start an iris farm.

When Rick Moran was 13 years old he worked at LoPresti tomato farm in Connecticut. “I hated it,” he laughs. Later when he was a student at UCSC he used to pass by the Chadwick garden and says he “got the gardening bug by osmosis”. After graduation the couple moved to Bar Harbor Maine where they started a community garden. Chris displayed the cactus and succulents she had moved there in a heated porch which was quite the talk of the town for neighbors passing by on a snowy day.

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Organic vegetable garden

When they moved back to this area and found the sunny lot in Ben Lomond, Rick added nine yards of chicken manure mixed with rice hulls and planted corn. He had visions of savoring succulent ears of corn for dinner but quickly realized that the amount of water needed to grow corn was prohibitive. That was after the Chris’ succulent failure. He and Chris wanted to come up with a crop they could make a little supplemental income. She used to sell her cactus and succulents when they lived in Capitola at the drive-in in Santa Cruz many years before but after planting fancy succulents in the front yard and seeing them turn to mush in a Ben Lomond freeze they realized succulents weren’t going to work either.

SteppingOut
Stepping Out

Enter “The Queen of the Garden” as iris are called. The Morans researched these stunning flowers and found them to be drought tolerant and deer and gopher resistant. Having a high water table Iris are the perfect crop. They require no extra water at all with summer being the plant’s dormant season. Chris worked for the City of Santa Cruz for 25 years and started their Home Composing program. They compost all garden waste and kitchen scraps using the compost as the only fertilizer for the iris beds and vegetable garden. They get 15 wheelbarrows of compost a year from their simple bins. Straw is spread as mulch to control weeds between the iris beds’

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Tall bearded iris beds

The iris are starting their blooming cycle now. Some bloom earlier than others. By planting early, mid and late blooming varieties you can extend their colorful show for several months. Iris also make a good cut flower and many are fragrant. Chris told me that you can tell when an iris was hybridized from it’s shape. The early types are not as frilly as modern varieties. She pointed out a bed of Wabash Heritage which was first introduced in the 1920’s- simple with three falls. The lovely sky blue flowers of Striped Zebra iris smelled of Grape Koolaid. Chris explained that the flower scent develops as they sit in the sun. The aroma is not as strong when they first open.

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Bearded iris closeip

The Brook Lomond Iris Farm is located at 10310 California Drive off Highway 9 in Ben Lomond. Just look for the tall flags waving in the breeze and bring your camera. Iris rhizomes for sale are chosen for hardiness in this area and the Morans are always on the lookout and adding the newest varieties available such as the deep purple Dusky Challenger. The Iris Farm is educational as well as beautiful- a place the whole family will enjoy.

Fragrant Plants for the Garden

Stargazer_lilyRecently I received a bouquet of Stargazer lilies. The spectacular flowers on each stem open in succession and the display will last for nearly two weeks if I take care of them changing the water regularly and re-cutting the stems.

Wish the lilies in my own garden would hurry up and open. Mine are always a little behind those in warmer spots.  When they do open later in the month they will scent the garden with an unforgettable fragrance. Some flowers are memorable for their beautiful color, some for the hummingbirds they attract and some have it all-vibrant hues, nectar and fragrance. I love them all. Perhaps you want to add a few new ones to your own garden. Try one of these.

Lilies are one of the easiest of bulbs to grow. Stargazers are the most stunning and perhaps the most celebrated of lily varieties. Curious about their origin I discovered a little intrigue among horticultural historians. Seems they don't like seeing history revised. The bottom line is this lily was not first bred in 1974 by Mr. Leslie Woodruff of California but rather by Robert Griesbach of Washington and named in his friends honor. When you have an established clump of Stargazer lilies it doesn't matter who first bred them.

The stems of the Stargazer can reach 3- 6 ft tall and have in excess of 40 flowers each when planted in full sun in loamy or sandy soil and the blooms will last for a month or so. You can still grow beautiful lilies in as little as 6 hours of sun per day so don't be discouraged if you don't have a spot that receives full sun all day long. The sunlight can even be accrued over the course of the day so if your garden get some morning sun then again later in the day it all adds up.

If you are looking for a fragrant vine other than pink jasmine I have two suggestions. The first is Evergreen clematis_armandii3Clematis ( clematis armandii ) Earlier this spring you couldn't miss their fragrance if you were anywhere near a blooming one. Covered with an abundance of highly-scented, star-like flowers in brilliant white clusters, this showy evergreen vine grows fast in partial sun. This vine is perfect as a patio, trellis or arbor cover and makes a great privacy screen. Give this vine support as it grows to 25 feet long and can become quite heavy. If you live among deer, it's a great choice for a fragrant vine.

Fragrant climbing roses trained on an arbor or fence are classic landscape design choices. One of my favorites for gardens I design is Climbing Iceberg because they are disease resistant and have few thorns. It's hard to find a better behaved rose that gives so much in return with no Iceberg_roseeffort on your part. They start blooming early with a lovely sweet rose fragrance and continue until frost. Two climbers planted on each side of a window make a stunning display. It's one of my favorite white roses of all time and grows in sun or partial shade.

If you think violas are only for the winter garden, think again. Viola Etain is a reliable perennial that blooms heavily spring through fall . Soft primrose yellow petals edged in lavender are sweetly scented and bloom easily in sun or bright shade and in containers. If you cut the plants back to 3" tall once in awhile to rejuvenate and top dress with compost they will reward you with 9 months of fragrance and become one of your favorite violas, too.

There are so many fragrant flowers that make great additions to the garden. Freesia, hyacinth and narcissus bulbs are good bets for early fragrance. Then come the nemesia in every color imaginable. Phlox, lilacs, tuberose, star jasmine, stock, citrus blossoms, gardenia, lily-of-the-valley, daphne, carnations– the possibilities are endless. If you have a particular spot you'd like a suggestion for a fragrant plant, email me and I'd be happy to help.

Fragrance in the garden is nature's way of smiling.
 

Summer Bulbs

begonia_tuberousA couple of warm days and I'm ready for spring. Good thing the vernal equinox got the memo. Spring officially started March 20th. The longer days that we get during Daylight Savings Time makes my spring fever complete. I look at my garden and the Easter egg colored daffodils, narcissus, tulips and hyacinths and never want the show to end.  By planting summer bulbs now I can get just that.

Think of cutting brilliant flowers for bouquets during the summer, combining them with a couple stems of mother fern and a sprig of late flowering wisteria on the dining room table. There are so many summer bulbs to choose from and they live over to increase in size each year. Here are just a few of my favorites.

Tuberous begonias make a spectacular show in bright shade or a morning sun location. Their flowers are so huge and brightly colored they put on quite a show. Upright varieties are easy to grow in the ground if you have good drainage. Otherwise, either dig up the bulbs to overwinter in the garage or plant in pots that can be placed under an overhang to spend the winter with dry feet. Those jewel-toned hanging begonias start blooming during the summer and continue until fall. The 61st annual Begonia Festival in Capitola takes place over Labor Day weekend if you want to see them up close and personal.

At Easter time we see tall, white calla lilies blooming everywhere. They make great cut flowers and are deer resistant but I especially like the smaller colored varieties that bloom a little later in the spring and summer. Many years ago we were impressed with the yellow and pink ones that were being grown. Then came the rusty orange ones and now you can buy calla lilies in black, lavender, plum and flame red. I especially like a two-tone deep rose and burgundy one called Dark Eyes.

Dahlias are another deer resistant summer bloomer. One visit to the dahlia competition at the county fair and you'll be wanting several giant dinner plate dahlias in your own garden. Dahlia flowers come in many forms. Cactus dahlias have a starburst shape. Ball dahlias are large, perfect formal types that make superior cut flowers. Then there are dark-leafed varieties and powder puff dahlias as big as dinner plates. Karma dahlias were developed by the cut flower market in Holland because of their extraordinarily strong stems and almost iridescent colors.

Daylilies come in so many colors these days you'll run out of room in the garden for all of daylily_Always-Afternoonthem. There's a dark rose and burgundy variety with a yellow throat that I have my eye on called Always Afternoon. Daylilies provide long lasting color in the garden and naturalize easily. All are good cut flowers but be careful if you have cats. Some flower varieties are toxic for cats although they are non-toxic to dogs.

If you don't have any freesias in your garden you should. This fragrant flower blooms in March right along with the daffodils. The old-fashioned favorite, a white variety called freesia alba, has a rich sweet scent. Freesia hybrids come in all the colors of the rainbow and are deer resistant.

We've all gotten Stargazers lilies in a bouquet that seemed to last forever. Grow your own to bring inside during the summer. Salmon Star is an Oriental lily hybrid of the original Stargazer and equally beautiful. Asiatic lilies, Trumpet lilies, Tiger lilies also make good cut flowers and are easy to grow. Keep flowers away from cats. Dogs are okay.

Don't forget about adding some new gladiolas for that summer bouquet or deer resistant crocosmia in one of the new deep apricot and red combinations.  Or how about Ixia or African corn lily or brodiaea for the cutting garden?

Bulbs are super easy to grow. I always design some into a garden for their color and fragrance and you can, too.