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Gail's Gardens - December 2015


Gail's Gardens - November 2015

by Gail Fanning

Short on money for holiday gifts? A gift of time and help in the garden is always welcome. Make your own gift certificate: I love it when my children offer their time to help me with work in the garden: and there is always so much pruning to be done in wintertime! Garden labor is a fantastic gift for an older relative or neighbor whose garden is beginning to get away from them.

For a gift of gardening books, check out the latest from Timber Press, that prolific publisher of beautiful books on every gardening topic (available at Copperfields or on-line). Today I’m lusting after the new book Planting in the Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes by T. Rainer and C. West: luscious pictures and excellent ideas for every gardener. Or give the gift that keeps coming: a subscription to a gardening magazine: my favorites are The English Garden for amazing stories and pictures of the world’s best gardens, Sunset Magazine for local ideas and inspirations, and Organic Gardening for everything veggie.

A little used, but exquisite plant you might consider adding to your collection is Dierama pulcerrimum: it’s unusual appearance has resulted in a multitude of romantic names like Angel’s Fishing Rod, Fairy Wand Flower, Fairybells, and Wedding Bells. This spectacular corm is a native of South Africa, and enhances any garden, especially when viewed from below (planted on a hillside) or against a dark colored backdrop. It’s pink bellflowers dangle like flags from its long arching stems, and wind transforms it into a kinetic sculpture. The grass-like foliage is evergreen, with long lived blossoms coming in summer. Fairy Wands needs well drained soil in full sun and it is surprisingly tough once established. It grows to 5’ high (there are smaller cultivars available as well), and is hardy to zone 7. Order it by mail from Digging Dog Nursery ( for planting this spring. Or it can be grown from seed if you are willing to wait several years for bloom:

Every garden can benefit from the addition of evergreens, so consider a living Christmas tree this year: it’s easy on the environment and will keep growing for years. Living Christmas trees are available locally at Garlock Tree Farm on Bloomfield Road south of Sebastopol. http://www.garlocktreefarm.com2275 Bloomfield Rd, Sebastopol (707) 823-4307

For those of you with small homes and yards, check out the Christmas rosemary “trees” available at Home Depot: pruned to a cone-shape, the rosemary “tree” is small and easily portable, and adds delightful fragrance to the holiday home. Planted outside after the holidays, it will live for years (although not in the Christmas tree shape unless you prune often!)

Looking for garden inspiration? Stop by the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts Sculpture Garden on Mark West Springs Road at Highway 101. The recently completed garden uses a very nice variety of Mediterranean, drought tolerant plantings to create a lovely walk along a creek bed. This time of year the grasses are wonderful: my old favorite Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is planted en masse, and complemented by the feathery and colorful flowers (technically known as inflorescences) of Pink Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Coast rosemary (Westringia) is used in both the full size and dwarf varieties: this tough Australian that should be used more often, I think. A number of Ceanothus cultivars mingle with native oaks and ground cover cotoneaster to frame the awesome massive redwood sculpture pieces by local artist Bruce Johnson. Definitely worth a visit!

Have a happy holiday season!