The winters in Ferndale can be long and wet, so wet that it makes getting any gardening done nearly impossible at times. Even mowing the lawn becomes a challenge, and unlike what I was used to in San Jose, the grass doesn’t go dormant in the winter around here.
So when the rain finally stopped last week after suffering from a continuous stream of storms beginning last October, Lori and I immediately got to work in the garden. Lots of work to do, both maintaining what we’ve done, and starting new areas, but the good news is that with all the construction work we did last summer, the flood waters were kept at bay this winter, and we’re not having to redo things once again after the flooding. So there’s hope that maybe someday we’ll have a beautiful, well maintained garden.
My favorite time of the year is spring, starting with the first appearance of daffodils signaling that the official start of spring isn’t too far away. That’s followed shortly by the fruit trees blooming, perennials poking their heads out after a long winter hibernation underground, and then in late spring our rose garden hits peak with the tremendous display our Cécile Brünner arbor puts on.
Here, in late April, is what our garden is displaying.
One garden project Lori and I were able to start was the installation of a 250 gallon garden pond. We bought the pond from Miller Farms, and found an integrated pump, filter, fountain and light that we really like. During the winter we were able to get the hole dug, went down to Centerville beach for some sand to line the hole, and then placed the preformed tub in the whole. While we were at Centerville, we also dragged some more driftwood off the beach to place around the pond to help disguise the plastic rim.
Planting had to wait for spring, as the local nurseries don’t stock their water garden sections in the winter. So as soon as Miller Farms got their plants this month, I bought some plants to start the landscaping. For the deep section of the pond I selected two submerged plants that float their leaves on the surface, Water Poppy (Hydroleye nymphoides) and Floating Heart (Nymphoidian peltata).
Our pond features a ledge for plants that want to be wet but not submerged, and for that section I chose Green Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), Golden Japanese Sweet Flag (Acorus gramineus ‘Ogon’), Miniature Cattail Rush (Typha minima), and Beale Street Louisiana Iris (In honor of B.B. King). Some of these might end up migrating to the pond edge as they can grow in or out of the water, as long as they’re kept wet.
For around the pond, I selected two more plants, Water Forget Me Not (Myosotis scorpioides) and Golden Fountains Carex (Carex dolichostachya var. glaberrima). I also transplanted some Babies Tears from the fern garden.
As soon as the plants were installed in the pond, our first guest checked into our newly open Bed & Breakfast, a female frog who has been busy the last two days increasing her family. We spotted several egg sacs attached to the plants with tiny tadpoles inside.
Last fall I planted several Bleeding Hearts in the fern garden, and they are blooming for the first time. For the south side of the path I bought two Dicentra spectabilis which is the pink bleeding heart that is more common. Unfortunately, one of the plants was devoured by slugs overnight before I even got a chance to plant it. The remaining one reappeared and is being carefully watched. On the opposite side of the path, I planted another variety of Dicentra that has white flowers.
Hostas are one of my favorite plants, and the one that gives me the most trouble, due to the voracious appetites of our slug and snail population. But both of my hostas reappeared and I’m keeping the Sluggo handy.
We have three rhododendrons that all bloom at different times. The first one to bloom is this pink Rhododendron ‘Loderi Venus’. Rhododendrons are slow growers, but I recently came across the photo of us planting this bush in 2007 and it has made significant progress. Still a long way away from the huge rhodies we saw in England that were easily 50-60 ft. tall.
Technically, we don’t have an herb garden right now, as it was wiped out in one of the floods and we haven’t put it back yet. Right now, the main feature is a big pile of silt we scooped up that is gradually being moved to the back yard to fill in our new planter wall. But there is one plant that excites me, and that is the wisteria vine we planted back in August 2015. It is blooming for the first time, and this weekend I got a small whiff of what I consider to be the best fragrance in the garden.
Still a little early for the roses in our climate, but most of them have buds forming. There was one bloom on the Drop Dead Red. When I went in for a closer look, I found that the pond isn’t the only hideout for frogs in our yard.
One thing that is blooming in the rose garden is the Red Hot Poker. We have two varieties growing in our yard. In the backyard is an all orange variety we got from a garden on Port Kenyon Rd. The bicolor variety in the rose garden I found on Coffee Creek Lane while out on the Ferndale VFD donation drive. Since this year’s donation drive is currently in progress, it makes sense that this one is in full bloom right now.
This winter we planted a plum, peach and cherry tree to join the 3 apple trees and the pear tree in our orchard. While it will take them a few years to produce fruit, it was nice seeing them in bloom. Our 6 in 1 espaliered apple tree has been producing well the last couple of years, and from the blossoms this year we can expect another crop of delicious apples.
This was the area that saw extensive renovation last year, with the addition of a slight raised bed so we don’t lose our mulch every time it floods, and a nice fence to keep the cows and floodwaters out of our yard. Before we tore everything out, I took cuttings from the rock rose shrub so we could replant it when we finished. I got three successful rootings from the cuttings and they are now just beginning to bloom.
Cerinthe is an annual we first saw on our trip to England in 1998. Seemed unknown in the states then and we had a hard time finding it until we stumbled on someone selling seeds at a farmer’s market in Fort Bragg. Right after we planted it we started seeing it featured in magazines and seed catalogs, so I guess everyone else liked this new plant too. It reseeds a bit crazily, and we have it popping up in several places around the yard as we and mother nature have moved the seeds around. Once the Ceanothus gets more established I’ll keep the Cerinthe out of this bed but for now it looks good.
With our wet climate, we’re just getting started on the vegetable garden. The main impediment to progress right now is that my rototiller has been very cantankerous, and doesn’t want to work when it’s cold out. I’ve been having to use a heat gun to warm it up a bit and then it seems to work for awhile but will then decide to quit for the day. My chipper/shredder is also revolting with a similar habit. They got fresh gas and new spark plugs so I’m not sure what else they need.
I did manage to get a couple of rows tilled, and planted some potatoes and garlic. In our sunroom there are trays of beans, lettuce, cucumbers and a few others waiting for it to get warm enough to plant outdoors.
So that’s our spring garden tour. We’ll try this again in summer, and hopefully then we can tour the greenhouse we’re working on.