Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer Beauties

I have to stop apologizing for how my garden looks at the end of summer. Sure, it's not at its most colorful, but, you know, it doesn't look too shabby either.

Purple-black globes dangle from my native grape--the hybrid 'Roger's Red' to be precise. My coffeeberry bushes (Rhamnus californica) sport petite red and black orbs. Goldfinches are feasting on the seedheads of cosmos, but delicate pink blooms continue to emerge.

I planted two of the grapes to cover a large arbor over our backyard patio. They're lovely. And they're helping us reduce our energy use. The broad green leaves provide shade in summer, cooling both the patio and my office. In winter, the leaves blush, then drop, allowing sunlight to warm the patio and house.

We're now contemplating what to do with the grapes, which are small, seedy and sweet. My two-year-old loves to eat them, but we have more than even he can pillage. Our friend Eric Callow, a board member of Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, says he plans to make jelly. We hope to follow his lead. My copy of Edible and Useful Plants of California offers a recipe. I'm told others have made wine. Hmmm.

Back to the cosmos for a minute: I've grown them for years because they adapt well to our climate. These Mexican plants are fairly drought-tolerant and self-sow readily (i.e. sprout up year after year without replanting). You can also snip some for indoor arrangements.


  1. I also added a splash of color to my front yard this morning by adding a few rose bushes. Two cherry red "Knock Out" roses now flank the flagstone front walkway. I also put a yellow "Julia Child" off to the side. These roses are All-American Rose Selection winners. The "Knock Out" is said to keep its blooms until the first hard frost. We'll see...

    I've also been developing home and landscape design software at http://www.eGardenHome.com. It runs inside any browser and requires no installation. I just released it last week and invite you to stop by and leave your feedback. The site aims to be a place where people can share home and garden plans online in a visual sort of way.

  2. Scott,
    Thanks for your comment. I, too, have a few roses--mixed in with my native and Mediterranean-climate plants, but I let them undergo a bit of a summer dormancy. Many can adapt to a low-water garden, if you have reasonable expectations about bloom times. I'll check your site to see if it makes sense for our region.

    AND THIS NOTE to all readers:
    Horticulturalist Lili Singer from the Theodore Payne Foundation e-mailed this comment about the Roger's Red grape:
    "The best native grape is only 1/2 native: Vitis 'Roger's Red' - now confirmed by DNA tests as a hybrid between V. californica and an Eastern wine grape." Thanks Lili!


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