Friday, June 20, 2008


The lilies I planted in the new beds and at the corner of the house are starting to bloom. I planted tiger, trumpet, oriental, and asiatic lilies. This is just the beginning. I plan to put in more next year. If the gardening budget were unlimited, I would plant thousands of bulbs in the garden. Of course, I will try propagating them myself. Some lilies, like the tiger, will grow bulblets on the stems. I will plant those out. I've already scaled one bulb that arrived smashed. I may try scaling some healthy bulbs next year. So far, I planted the less showy types, more in keeping with an old fashioned Edwardian garden. Last year, the corner of the house was purfumed by the orientals in mid-summer. I'm unsure how they will fair this year, as the guys working on the porch trampled them!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The Farewell-to-Spring has been in full bloom these past few weeks. The flower is very aptly named, as it blooms right at the end or spring, just before the summer solstice, in my garden. Since these seeds are so cheap and readily available at a local nursery, I plan on cutting them down low to see if I get a second flowering later this summer, no need to save the seeds. If I don't see a second flowering, I will pull them out to tidy up the bed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


In early April, Jeff and I, along with the help of Jesus Perez and one of his employees, dug 75 holes and planted 75 roses named "Lavender Simplicity" from Jackson & Perkins. Most of them (64 to be exact) were planted between the sidewalk and Benton street. The other eleven were planted along the gravel driveway. This past week, they began to bloom.

Over the next few years, they should grow into a continuous hedge, save for the breaks at the maple trees, driveway, and sidewalk-way. It certainly is an improvement over the bare dirt and weeds that were there before we planted the roses.

Along with roses, I had sown poppy and fare-well-to-spring seeds. I like the flowers, but I'm not too pleased with the ragged appearance of the foliage. Next year, I plan to sow white alyssum to complement the roses. They mix well, lying at the foot of the roses, filling in and covering the dirt, but never competing with the roses themselves.

Friday, June 6, 2008


In the very front of the garden, was a half circle cut out of the lawn. In it were several arbor vitae and a pine tree. We took all of these out, leaving only the cypresses at the outer edge along the wall. I put in a number of roses around the outer half circle including: Bewitched, Christian Dior, Sterling Silver, Golden Sceptor, Iceberg, Ambassador, First Prize, Paradise, Brandy, Fragrant Cloud, Snowfire, and Electron. Inside of the circle, I sowed foxglove, dames rocket, rudbeckia, cosmos, hollyhock, and larkspur. As in front of the house, the foxglove did exceptionally well. Just outside of the roses, I sowed calendula, evening primrose, and snapdragons. Unfortunately, several weedy grasses and broadleaf plants I don't recognize seemed to do as well as the seeds I sowed! The only seeds that didn't seem to prosper at all was the nicotiana.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


I've always admired old roses, especially the many petaled 'cup' varieties. They also tend to have better fragrance than many over-bred modern tea roses. But they often only bloom in one flush in the spring. This is where rose breeder David Austin came to the rescue. He has bred a number of wonderful roses that have the old rose form and fragrance combined with the modern rose habit of blooming all summer. The rose pictured here is a David Austin rose, "Heritage" planted in front of the house.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


In addition to putting out flower seeds and planting roses in existing beds, I felt that the front of the house, just in front of the steps, was too plain. I wanted a focal point for the front of the house. So, I cut corners... out of the lawn. I killed the grass with glyphosphate in two triangles at the corners of the lawns where the front walkways intersect. I put in several David Austin Roses, along with the classic, Double Delight. With these two new beds, one can stand at the intersection and be surrounded by roses, poppies, lilies, farewell-to-spring (clarkia amoena), daffodils, freesia, african daisies, calendula, larkspur, and alyssum.

I've also sown some sweet william and carnation seeds. I planted magic lilies (lycoris) bulbs that I had rescued from the old county cemetery on Chanate Rd. It looks like some of them germinated, but it will probably been next season before I see any blooms.

Monday, June 2, 2008


The Edwardian Garden esthetic was caputured in the art of the likes of Kate Greenaway and Eugene Grasset, such as this plate by Grasset from "The Illuminated Book of Days". Note the use of poppies and lilies, as well as the use of negative space formed by the tree trunks and bushes. Another famous and influential garden designer was Gertrude Jekyll, whose work also informed my own taste. Her designs for long borders and garden rooms is the basis for many of my own plans. I like the traditional cottage garden look as well as the more artistically arranged plantings of herbaceous plants.

There is also something to be said for the feeling of Arts and Crafts motifs, which the garden at Comstock house affords. There is a very large, mature ginko tree at the very front of the garden, whose leaves strongly remind me why they are such a favorite Arts and Crafts motif. The two large Oak trees create wonderful line and negative space when viewed from below, as one must do when walking the garden. The front of the main walkway is bordered by two trees that the neigbors call a privet, but I don't recognize them as such. These trees are a nuisance in being prolifically seed bearing, with many unwanted volunteers appearing everywhere, the lawn included. I'm forever pulling them up from the beds. But, they do have lovely base-branched trunks which also provide line and negative space that I much admire. As I prune trees and shrubs, I attempt to create such line and space, paying as much attention to the trunk and branches as I do to the foliage placement. It will be many years in the making, as such hardwood takes years to grow in the desired patterns.


In the backyard, we built two ponds using railroad ties and rubber liners, one for the koi and the other for plants and goldfish.

Actually the second pond is part of the water conditioning system. There is a siphon that takes water from the larger octagonal pond (in the foreground of the photo) to a stand-pipe in the smaller rectangular pond (in the background). The height of this stand-pipe and the resistance to water flow through the pipe determine the level of the water in the larger pond. Water from the second pond is pumped back to the larger pond. The faster it is pumped back, the higher the level of the larger pond, the greater the siphon pressure, the greater the flow to the smaller pond. The system is in dynamic equilibrium.

There is also a larger pump taking water from the large koi pond through a filter, back to the large pond. This filter is occasionally backwashed into the garden or lawn. Both pumps and the filter are located in the garage. The pipes are buried in the lawn.

Our long range plan is to enclose the railroad ties in a sheath of cedar shingles and place redwood boards on top, matching the look of part of the porch railing being repaired.


One of the discoveries in the garden was a number of old roses hidden in odd corners of the property. Several were along the property line between the old Davis farmstead and ours. Given how overshadowed they were by laurel and ivy, they must have been there for at least several decades, possibly as far back as the original owners. The rose in the photograph is in the southeast corner of the property, hanging on in the shade of overgrown laurel hedge. Several others were found along this fence line in yet deeper shade. One of my goals is to bring the laurel hedge under control by pruning it into layered, pollared, small trees that will provide dappled shade rather than deep shade.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


While Jeff is primarily interested in the history and restoration of the house itself, I am very interested in the garden as well as the furnishings and wall treatments. This blog will cover developments in that arena.

When taking over an old garden, one must be mindful that one doesn't know what plants are in the garden until one has observed the garden carefully for a full year. With that in mind, I didn't do too much planting or tilling for the first year we lived in the house. The garden has very good 'bones' as they say. It has several garden rooms, with many well established plants.

However, as previously posted elsewhere, there were large, overgrown, arbor vitae in front of the house that needed to be cut down early. Here I planted a number of David Austin roses and threw in some seeds to see what sort of plants would be happy there. The seeds included foxglove (digitalis), dames' rocket (hesperis matronalis), money plant (lunaria), shirley poppy, flanders poppy, and calendula. Interestingly, a healthy crop of volunteer forget-me-nots appeared unbidden, but welcome none-the-less. The poppies didn't do very well, but the foxglove exceed all expectations!