A New Tree and a Transplant

IMG_1390 (768x1024)In early Spring, we pulled up a bunch of bushes that were blocking the view from the kitchen window. We finally decided on a serviceberry tree (formal name, amelanchier) to help cover the utility boxes and make them less of a focal point.

Other options were some type of lattice covering (which I’ve never liked, at least not as a focal point) or an evergreen. An evergreen probably made a little more sense in terms of coverage, but we (meaning me, and my husband let me have the final say) really wanted a flowering tree.

IMG_1388 (919x1024)Here are the guys unloading the tree. ..

IMG_1392 (768x1024)…and putting it into place.

IMG_1396 (768x1024)Initially the tree was slightly crooked, so someone came back a week later to straighten it. Two weeks later (today), the tree looks a tad unhappy, with yellowed leaves, many of which have fallen off. One of the landscape owners came by to look at it and assured me it still looks healthy, and that it’s trying to adjust to its new environment. We do have a one-year warranty on the $400 tree, but we would like for it to survive, of course.

IMG_1387 (938x1024)While the guys were here installing the tree, they also transplanted one of our Pieirs japonica trees free of charge. I felt the plant was competing with the rhododendron for sun and space, and I also wanted a plant with more foliage that would cover the drain pipe when looking out from the dining room.

hydrangea (941x978)I bought a $50 hydrangea with light purple flowers (the flower in the photo is faded after weeks of being in bloom) and planted it in the pieirs japonica’s spot. Hydrangeas love water and do well in the shade, so I’m told. This plant should grow to about three feet high and five feet wide.

IMG_1389 (1006x1024)

before

IMG_1398 (1024x1022)

after

It’s hard to see in photos, but the Pieirs japonica was moved next to another shorter Pieirs (on the left), that seems to be doing well even in a shadier spot. I’ve been told by several plant people that it’s an old plant, so it is especially vulnerable to being transplanted, but it seems to be doing fine in its new space. I lopped a few hanging branches of the evergreen overhead to give it more sun.

The serviceberry is supposed to produce actual berries in the spring. One of the landscapers told me (after I asked) that the berries aren’t edible (he seemed uncertain), but Mil the gardener says that they are and I’ve found several online sources agreeing with her. I also read that birds often devour the berries as soon as they are ripe, and there are a lot of them around here. Hopefully our tree will survive winter and I will be writing about its beautiful red berries next spring.

Getting to Know Our Plants

IMG_0749

Crabapple

As I mentioned in my May List, when we moved in, we didn’t really know what kinds of plants we had because all but one of the flowering trees and plants were done blooming. We had an exciting Spring, watching all our plants awaken  (among my favorites were our magnolia and lilac trees). But now we have to take care of them all and oh my gosh.

IMG_0618 (768x1024)

Our flowering pear tree made it through winter (last summer, a huge chunk of it came down in a storm).

The post I wrote about our first big gardening day was written just before our wedding anniversary. Coincidentally, both of our moms got us plant-related gifts: my mom bought us a serviceberry tree to cover our utility lines and my husband’s mom got us a one-hour consultation with her friend and expert local gardener (and North Carolina native) Mil Hurley.

IMG_0736 (1024x947)

Leafy hastas, day lilies and a bunch of dead holly bushes along the back fence.

IMG_0737 (768x1024)

Our dogwood above the hot tub shouldn’t get much taller than this. It has delicate white flowers in early Spring.

IMG_0735 (1024x928)Mil came over one afternoon (and I’m so bummed I forgot to take a photo of her!) to assess our backyard and give us tips on pruning, upkeep and some ideas for new plants. She also gave names to the plants I was unfamiliar with.

We have a several varieties of hastas, which are hearty perennials. Bunnies love them, however, so many of ours have holes in them.

IMG_0748 IMG_0724 (768x1024) IMG_0732 (768x1024)This blossoming tree that gave us beautiful light pink flowers is a crabapple. The blooms later turned white.

IMG_0763 (768x1024)

Dogwood, azalea, juniper bushes (flanking the dogwood) and Japanese maple (purple leaves)

IMG_1198 (766x1024)We have several small dogwood trees, one of which has been pruned, giving it a manicured look. I usually prefer the natural, wild look of plants, but I rather like the bushy quality of this particular tree.

IMG_0638 (839x1024) IMG_0514 (769x1024) IMG_0730 (768x1024) IMG_1104 (908x1024)We also have a handful of flowering bushes. A few of them looked pretty scraggly, but they all bloomed and the azalea bushes (or are they rhododendrons, I forget) in the backyard were spectacular (I pretty much lopped them to bits a week or so ago, per the pruning info I read online. I am holding my breath. At the very least, I did not kill them, but we may have to wait two years for more blooms. Curses!).

IMG_0738 (768x1024)We have loads of ferns, which seem to attract mosquitos (our whole backyard is mosquito heaven, really) and other bugs, but we like the rugged look of them. Ferns are apparently a very hearty plant that will come back (and spread) every year.

IMG_1199 (665x1024)This little vine with a bright purple flower is called a …..oops. Forgot to write it down. I’m surprised I can even read the notes I did take from that day.

FullSizeRender (1024x768)Mil suggested that we have an arborist come once every three to five years to make sure our trees are healthy and to trim them (the trees here are sooooo tall!). The cost would be a few thousand dollars or so, but definitely worth it.

She was suprised to see our birch tree, which she said is usually seen much further north. Most of the birch trees in this area came down with a disease, and you can’t always tell by looking at the tree that is is unwell. I love that tree and I would hate to see it come down.

maple maple2Our maple that sits in the middle of our yard is a behemoth. And there are a million shoots coming off of it. I’ve already cut off hundreds. I can’t keep up.

We have lots of ground cover plants, including pachysandra (shown around the maple), wintercreeper and some ivy. Had I known how many weeds we’d get without the ivy, I wouldn’t have pulled so much of it last Fall when we moved in. Ah well.

RoseSharonWe also have a rose of sharon, which was a surprise to me. It is a late summer bloom that can be one of several different shades. It will be fun to see what color our flowers will be. It normally needs more light than it’s getting, so hopefully we can keep it alive and happy where it is.

Having all of these great plants and a huge backyard is both overwhelming and exciting. I’m so glad we got expert advice. Mil suggested cutting plants a lot further back than I would have done on my own. I’m worry about chopping off too much and killing the plant (although I didn’t seem to have that worry when I went to town on my azaleas!), but as she says, they will always grow back.

We have our work cut out for us, but I’m grateful to have this responsibility. What kinds of plants do you have in your garden?

UPDATE: My friend Cindy texted me and told me that I got my azaleas and rhododendron’s mixed up. Oops. So…I think I butchered my rhododendron’s, then (although online sites do say you can cut them way back). She and my friend Mariana also told me the name of the purple flower on the vine: Clematis! Thanks, guys!

A Quick Planter Makeover

IMG_1216 (821x1024)IMG_1217 (768x1024)When we bought the house, we inherited a few things, including the hot tub. Flanking the tub are two planters that had a bunch of plastic vines and leaves in them. Why we didn’t get rid of them until now is baffling to me. They don’t look all that bad in the photos, but in person you could tell they were definitely fake.

IMG_1219 (769x1024)IMG_1221 (768x1024)We bought two potted Lobelias (the tag also says “techno heat violet. attracts hummingbirds”) from one of the local nurseries for about $19.00 each. They are supposed to be in full sun, but there is no place in our backyard that gets full sun (which my gardening neighbor tells me is about 6 hours of sun). So far they have done well and we’ve relied strictly on the elements (no watering or fertilizing, etc.) and they should last through winter (going dormant, then coming back the following summer).

 

Home

My mom's house

Mom’s House

We’re back from our short Hawaii trip and I have lots to share! Even though my whole family (except me) was sick with colds, we had a great time. We didn’t leave the house much, but the purpose of the trip was to spend time with family, which we did.

Road to Kalihi Valley

My mom lives in a neighborhood called Kalihi Valley (you might know the area from HGTV. They recently featured a home there, which is currently for sale). The valley is nestled between a lush mountain range, so it gets lots of rain and is very green. She lives in the lower level of a cinder block house and my Auntie and Grandma live up top.

My sister and her family live a few blocks down from my moms, at the bottom of a really steep hill (that used to be steeper before the city paved it a few years ago), in the same house where my grandparents lived when they settled on Oahu. My mom, sister and I lived in the smaller back house until my grandpa had the duplex built (early 80s?).

momsginger

Loads of ginger flowers.

Looking up at mountain range

My grandpa was a natural gardener; it was in his blood. The plants liked him, too. They listened to him and gave back to him. Sadly, he’s no longer around to pass his secrets on to me, now that I’m willing and eager to pay attention. My 90-year-old grandma still tends to her plants when she can. She loves orchids especially.

grandma

Grandma

Every inch of the small front yard has a flowering or edible plant on it and the perimeters around the house are filled as well. There’s ginger, ginger root (which my mom dug up for me to take home), papaya, malunggay (also called moringa. found in lots of Filipino dishes), tomatoes, bananas, eggplant, chives, green onions, edible ferns, bitter melon, bird of paradise, orchids, poinsettias, gardenias, succulents and aloe (I’m  sure I’m forgetting some!).

The green thumb gene may have skipped a generation (my mom is an excellent gardener. me, not so much), but I’m still going to try my hand at it in Michigan (we’ll have a backyard all to ourselves!).

momspapaya

Papaya and bitter melon vines.

momsgingerroot

Ginger Root

momsaloe

Aloe

I never realized how different Hawaii was from the rest of the country until I left home and came back to visit. I know it seems pretty obvious. It’s an island with island culture, but it was simply just “home” to me. Each time I go back, I am more grateful that I grew up there and have roots there. It will always be home, just as San Francisco will always be home, long after I move.

San Francisco Weather Report: Cherry Blossoms Confused

cherry blossoms

If you haven’t already heard, California is in a drought. We’ve had unseasonably dry, warm weather this winter, and it’s confusing the plants. Cherry blossoms, which usually bloom in early spring, have arrived in full force. They are everywhere and they are beautiful. But I’m afraid they won’t last. The sun was nowhere to be seen today and it’s supposed to be more of the same this week.

cherry blossoms against a blue house

Michigan is known for their cherries. Traverse City in Northern Michigan boasts over 2.6 million cherry trees. And someday I want to drive up there just to see the miles and miles of orchard trees in bloom. I have no doubt it’s a sight to ooh and ahh over.

But there’s something special about seeing them in the City. There’s a wonderful element of surprise…their bright pink flowers against vivid Victorian colors or dull concrete buildings… it’s pretty magical.

And it’s little things like this that I don’t realize I’m going to miss until I come face to face with them. It seems like every other day I find something new. It’s bittersweet. I love that there are so many great things about this city and I love that I’m grateful for all of them. Of course it will make leaving that much harder, but better to have loved, as they say.

cherry blossoms against a blue roof