Category Archives: Flora

2018 Monterey County Fair Winners

It’s always fun to enter things in the county fair and see what everyone else is doing… here are this year’s winners.


The succulent side table won First Place AND Best of Show!!  It was our first year entering the Compost Challenge… took 1st place and won $50 prize money. The scarecrow competition was pretty tough in the ‘Shake your tail feathers’ theme catagory… but we took home 2nd place.

The mighty Amaryllis bulb

I always enjoy forcing these bulbs during the holidays. Forcing means to fool them into thinking that it’s time to bloom early. This usually involves potting them up with soil and water. I really had my doubts that these Amaryllis bulbs would bloom to their full potential being encased in wax. I received one as a gift for Christmas, and the first stalk went up and bloomed on January 8th. After cutting off the stem, a leaf turned yellow, and I thought it was done.  But, then another stalk went up for Valentine’s Day… and it had four more flowers open up on the 1st of March. It’s amazing how bulbs can store enough energy to flourish like this without any water!

Staghorn’s shield

This poor Superbum Stag horn fern is finally getting a new shield, which will eventually cover the damage it endured during its stay at the Monterey County Fair this year. Stag horn ferns grow new shields only about once per year. I entered the amazing specimen when it was huge and healthy and looked like this: It was awarded a blue ribbon, but it was hung low enough that people touched it and rubbed its fuzz of. I know it’s hard to resist, but it doesn’t grow back. We also had record high temperatures during the five days that it was on display and it was badly scorched.

Around the grounds: March

The raised vegetable bed is doing fabulous with all the winter rain. Harvesting this month: Swiss chard, cilantro, lettuce, kale and green onions. Colorful aeoniums are spilling out of the milk can lamp post. A pair of ducks have moved in across the way, enjoying ‘Lake Perkarsky”. This cozy little lake only happens during years with above average rainfall. Such a pretty little red centipede!  Found it snuggled up under a piece of driftwood. The chicken shed is being engulfed in succulents.

Forcing bulbs

Every fall I order bulbs to force for the holidays and spring. This season’s selection was Ziva Paperwhites (a classic for Thanksgiving and Xmas), and Narcissus. Silver Chimes are my absolute favorite, and then I usually pick another variety to try out. Paperwhites can be potted up in October, but the narcissus bulbs go into the garage refrigerator (where there aren’t any fruits or vegies to give off gas that can affect bloom) for about 6 weeks. Then they are potted up and placed outside in a cold, shady spot until the leaves are about 4 inches tall.

Then I sprinkle a big pinch of grass seed on the top and cover with bird cages (to keep the birds from eating the seed). Be sure to keep moist until the grass germinates.

The results are fresh looking, fragrant flowers that look so natural inside or out. When the flowers fade, the bulbs can be planted outside, where they will re-bloom year after year.

Around the grounds: August

Harvest time in the garden.

A fresh layer of gorilla hair (shredded redwood bark) really spruces up the place. I like that it stays in place better than chips on a slope.

Naked ladies (Belladonna Amaryllis) everywhere.

Big beautiful Meyer Lemons year round. Billbergia Bromelaid in bloom.

Blue ribbon winners

Checking out the exhibits at the fair every year is always so interesting. This was my first year with entries in the Santa Cruz County Fair… and brought home eight first place ribbons!  County fairs are always a fun competition and a chance to meet other plant lovers.

Snow Tower Echium

Echium pininana alba, also known as Echium ‘Snow Tower’ is a rare white form of the Tree Echium. This perennial/biennial is a huge source of nectar for bees and butterflies. It has grown over 10 feet tall and has been blooming for months. It will drop seeds in the fall, and the new plants will emerge and grow to bloom the following year.

Succulent dish racks

I’ve always loved pretty dishes and hate to hide them away in the cupboard. This is a nice way to enjoy them every day. The salvaged dish racks are lined with moss and filled with potting soil and dishes. The succulents that I’ve chosen for these will stay compact and are meant to look like bubbles overflowing the sides. The silverware adds the finishing touch (and support for flowers).

Around the grounds: June

This huge aeonium flower stalk is amazing! Already trimmed off a couple dozen stems of blooms for table vases, and it’s still going strong. Love the way the lower leaves are turning color.Nasturtiums climb over everything with their perky (and also edible) flowers. This cactus used to be a 4″ tall in a pot on my windowsill over 20 years ago. Epiphyllum mixed with burro tail succulents love the shade of this oak tree.

June berries

Our berry bushes (mix of blackberries, raspberries and olallieberries) have produced like never before this year. The new vines that will bear fruit next year have had to be cut back so I can get in there to pick them… a bowl like this every 2 or 3 days!  I can’t make pies fast enough, and there’s already bags in the freezer for those fruitless winter months.

Stink lily

This stink lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) came up this year bigger than ever. Beautiful and unusual, but once it warms up… it reeks of rotting meat (yuck), and is covered in buzzing flies.

Bloomazing!

What has caused everything this spring to bloom so above and beyond? The long suffering drought… followed by above normal rain this season? We don’t know, but it’s amazing!
This Epiphyllum (Orchid cactus) has over 50 buds!! We can hardly wait until it’s a huge, hanging mass of flowers. My sweet peas have grown so tall that I have to use a ladder to cut my daily bouquet. I learned to plant sweet pea seeds in mid September when I lived in the hot San Joaquin valley. They sprouted nicely in the warm fall weather to about 6″ tall. Peas handle cold winter temperatures easily, and they start to shoot up by February. You get blooms early, that fizzle later in the hot weather. Now with the cool summers here on the coast, they keep blooming for months!This Echium pininana alba, also known as Echium ‘Snow Tower’ is a rare white form of the Tree Echium. It’s grown over 12 feet tall (so far), and is covered with bees. Totally drought tolerant, this plant doesn’t need any summer watering, and really dresses up the cactus garden. The lupine across the street is putting on a show like never before. Until last year, Popeye the neighborhood horse lived there, and kept everything trimmed to the ground. This property was sold and he had to move next door. Hopefully the new owners like lupine too.

Wedding sunflowers

Put these together for a small beach wedding a couple of weeks ago. Sunflowers aren’t in season in California yet, so they had to be shipped from Baja, Mexico. They turned out very summer-like with succulents and all! The mini-sunflower-like mums worked perfectly for corsages and boutonnieres. The attendants (2 daughters and 4 sons) were wearing navy blue, so blue ribbons were added to match. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Succulent stuff for sale

It’s been busy around here, getting things ready for the Smart Gardening Fair.
Kitchen containers such as colanders are so pretty planted with succulents. This succulent dish rack looks like soapy water bubbling over with dishes and colorful silverware mixed in. Frames, succulent bonsai trees and assorted baskets are ready to go. The succulents growing out of the watering can looks like water pouring out. A planted side table holds a purse teacup and cute baby shoes filled with succulents. This iron bar stool is double-decked with succulents.

Tiny succulent pots

I put together these cute little succulent pots for holiday gifts during the first week of December. Just a small piece of floral foam stuffed into the pot, topped with moss… and a succulent cutting stuck in, to hold it together. Almost two months later, they are still thriving. The four on the left have been inside and are totally dry. The three on the right were outside on the patio, and are soaked from rain. So hardy and long lasting! And of course, they can be planted outside at any time.