20 Spring Things That Are Happening In Our Garden

Can you believe spring’s only 23 days away? The season in which “everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves,” like e.e. cummings said?

It’s true that we didn’t get Polar Vortexed — aside from that time near Asheville. But even we are counting the days until March 20, 9:57 AM PDT, vernal equinox, the moment the Earth rocks into a perfectly upright position and is tilted neither toward nor away from the sun. Hello, tulips. Hello, asparagus! Hello, not having to drive home from work under the shameful cloak of night.

Even though things stay green and foliated at our place year-round, this week we’ve noticed that our beds and trees have been buzzing at a higher volume. Our favorite tree is already blooming. Friends are visiting, cocktails are flowing, and Ryan has already busted out his plaid shorts.

Below are 20 recent happenings inside our L-shaped garden that have us excited about Spring Equinox 2014.

1. The return of the kaffir lily. Our kaffir lily lays low in the shade for most of the year before exploding with bright orange blooms mid-February through early March.

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Just the beginning!

2. The epiphyllum experiment is panning out. We have a great feeling about this epiphyllum specimen that we brought home last summer. Maybe this cactus family member will send out some spectacular blooms this spring? We can only guess at the color.

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3. Romancing the ranunculus. Inspired by last year’s trip to the Flower Fields of Carlsbad, we’re already cutting back the first round of blooms to encourage a vigorous show.

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4. Bring home baby (bromeliads). These monocarpic plants die after flowering, but not before producing “pups.” This tank bromeliad growing in the shadow of our guava tree has produced two, and they’re already pushing their mum aside. Soon we’ll dig them up, separate the pups with a knife and replant, discarding the parent.

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Two tank bromeliad pups are elbowing past their mother.

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On the right, another pushy pup of our favorite cultivar, Aechmea ‘Primera’

5. The tillandsias are thriving. Our air plants are on cloud nine! Ryan’s new acrylic air plant habitats (more on those in a future story!) provide bright filtered light to our tillies. We’ve never seen them so happy.

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Taken four days after the previous photo, this Tillansia ionantha blushes when blooming. Four weeks earlier, she was all green.

6. Citrus season continues. It looks like we got in our last foliar feed before our tangerine tree started to bud. (Foliage-boosting fertilizers, i.e., those high in nitrogen, can make plants drop their flowers, and are not recommended for a fruit free in bloom. We learned this from Tyler Trimble during his house call.)

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7. Horticult and the angry inch (plant). Early in our experience with Tradescantia zebrina, it would drop a stem if you looked at it funny. With more regular waterings, the inch plant is now holding itself together. We’re encouraged by its small purple blooms.

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8. It’s time to fertilize. Right now we’re paying penance to the papyrus. When our drip system failed for a week, our water-loving papyrus faded quickly and needed a boost of organic fertilizer.

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Here Ryan gives the Cyperus papyrus some organic fertilizer (7-2-2) in hopes of it making a recovery. Ample water is key to raising healthy papyrus; it grows in areas with shallow water. It’s a great plant for areas of your garden with poor drainage.

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Fertilizing made easy. Dr. Earth’s Nitro Big is a great organic fertilizer which makes an all-purpose foliar spray and soil fertilizer. As a bonus, it will smell like fresh manure for a couple days in your garden. This takes Ryan back to his days growing up in Ellington, a cow town in central Connecticut.

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Our fuchsia is coming back to life with the help of some feed.

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Nothing like employing some friends to help fertilize. Here, Laju lends a hand.

9. Herbs are flourishing! (Mostly.) Our herbs, like us, are excited for longer days and more sun. These herbs fared quite well over the winter on this-east facing wall (except for the sage).

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10. Keep calm and grow English lavender.  We are loving the foliage color on this variety of English lavender. Spanish and French lavender can get a bit more bushy than our space permits. Spring provides the richest lavender blooms in our coastal beach community.

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The drought-tolerant lavender ‘Goodwin Creek’ is one the easiest plants we grow in our garden.

11. Nepenthes in bloom. We’re hoping that a nepenthes flower is a precursor to nepenthes pitchers. (Something we haven’t seen in ages.) This and two other carnivorous plants seem genuinely happy in their new habitat.

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12. What’s the story, Ipomoea purpurea? Morning glory is lovely in theory, but we’re pretty sure that this single invasive vine is 20 miles long and terrorizing the whole neighborhood. The increased daylight has only emboldened it.

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We think it’s nearly impossible to keep out the morning glory that’s rooted on the opposite side our fence. In this location it found its way up through the deck and is now wrestling with our cinder block sculptures.

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Yes, you are beautiful and we admire your persistence!

13. Orchids gone wild. A sure sign of spring: our epidendrum orchids have gone to seed, by way of its distinctive pods.

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14. Succulents galore. We’re convinced that succulents love winter in our garden. It’s probably because most succulents need less sun than most people might expect. Ours burn a little bit in the summer months, recover in the winter and thrive in the spring.

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Our string of bananas is doing gangbusters. This Senecio radicans occupies one of the shadiest locations in our garden beneath a north-facing eave.

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Go, go Aeonium arboreum ‘Zwartkop’! Only four months ago these “black roses” were looking sickly; after we installed an irrigation dripper in this well-drained raised bed, things turned a corner. We’re a tad disappointed that we haven’t seen the gorgeous yellow, cone-shaped blooms that we often see around the neighborhood, but…baby steps.

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We love the almost digitized variegations on the snowflake aloe, or Aloe rauhii. This plant gets a little sunburned in this location every year but makes a full recovery in the winter months.

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You may remember this terrarium that we made last fall at a party. Euphorbia pugniformis (Medusa’s head) is in full bloom alongside a blooming string of pearls.

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These tiger jaw blooms are roaring!

15. Fall blooms are hanging on! We’re very, very impressed with our fall additions to our garden, which continue to put out color into spring.

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The baby blue blooms of the Felicia ‘Pinwheel’ periwinkle will not quit. We’ve been cutting back faded blooms throughout winter. Behind this daisy variety is our ‘Pigeon Red’ kale.

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Purple alyssum is accompanied by yellow Achillea ‘Moonshine’.

16. Oh feijoa! Let feijoa flower season begin! We just found the fourth and fifth blooms in the 30-foot-wide canopy of our ancient pineapple guava tree. Did we mention these petals are tasty? (Things always start so modestly, but soon we’ll be overwhelmed by thousand of sticky petals falling to the ground.) Along with the birds, bees and brunches that pass though our home, we will be following these flowers as they peak in March and April.

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17. New beginnings.  We’re also excited that our Impatiens flanaganae is sprouting! Thank you again to Warren Keller, our dear Instagram friend, for the tuber that recently sent out a lovely surprise. In our garden pond, the American Star lily is shooting as well.

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Not just a birdbath, our garden pond is home to a small and hardy American Star water lily, now sprouting (right).

18. The precocious loquat. From the looks of this tree, you would think it’s late April. Our loquat tree — which we got last July after our previous one got blitzed by aphids — fruited three months early this year. Maybe it got shocked on the drive home? Or by its less sunny location? Still, the fruits are delicious and the tree is looking healthy.

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The last of our early loquats (above) were stolen by a bird the night after this photo was taken.

19. A passion for Passiflora caerulea. We love everything about this passion plant, except the thin harvest of fruit. This year we’ve noticed an exceptional number blooms leading into spring. We’re excited to bring in its cousin, Passiflora edulis, which produces the splendid fruit that happens to be Chantal’s “spirit fruit.”

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Passiflora caerulea is making itself at home on the hammock.

20. Garden gossip. Of course, the warmer weather means we get to hang out with our friends over ceviche, champagne and shenanigans.

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Chantal chats with Laju before (or was it after?) digging into some ceviche.

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In the garden with (from left to right): Jill, Chantal, Laju and Jill.

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Want to keep wandering? Take the full garden design tour here.

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  • Tom Ogren

    Great stuff!
    And, I still say your citrus tree needs some more N…..and it won’t make it drop the blossoms either, IMHO.