Marina Bay Garden Diary

Tomato 'Spike' (6/12/2010)


(June, 2010) It’s a gorgeous, warm, breezy morning in Richmond and I’m wasting time until the US vs. England soccer match comes on at Noon. So permit me to ramble a bit.

Do check out the Summertime SlideShow 2010! from Annie’s Annuals – absolutely gorgeous flowers and a great example of the divine mayhem you can create with her plants.

And a great example of the mayhem is the ‘Spike‘ Tomato I purchased at Annie’s Annuals last April. I thought I might be lucky to get a few, sickly, peeked tomatoes by the end of the summer based on the cool temperatures where I live. Nope. I’ve lost count of the number of flowers on the bush and a few (see to the right) have even germinated! To my surprise it looks like the real challenge will be keeping the tomato properly watered and fertilized so that it can sustain a bountiful output.

Hydrangea macrophylla normalis – Lacecap ‘Fasan’ (6/12/2010)

Then there is the Hydrangea. I suspect that many of my flowers (behind my back) accuse me of being too selfish. In the case of the Hydrangea, I probably should have pinched off the floret early on so that it could put more energy into developing leaves and branches. It would have been the best thing for the Hydrangea, but I opted to satisfy my base desires and let the flower bloom. Most likely I’ll have to snip it off in a week or so, but for the time being I’ll just gaze on it with pride.

I’ve been fiddling with putting a slide show up on the site and have found a simple and easy way to do it on Flickr. You can check out the slide show of some of the flowers in my garden by clicking here.

(June, 2010) I’ve now lived in my town home for a year, first as a renter and then as owner. During that time I’ve made several major changes to the garden and it seems like the appropriate time reflect on how it has changed during this period. To the right is a picture of the garden in April, 2009 when I first saw it as a potential tenant. The owners of the town home had done an excellent job with color and composition and created a beautiful little cottage garden. While I loved the town home, it was the garden that made me eagerly sign the six month lease.

The Garden When I First Saw It in the Spring of 2009.


As a tenant I did not want to make any major changes to the garden, so I essentially maintained the existing plants and let them run their course. I did add a few more pansies and tried to nurse along a few of the plants that were having problems. But I essentially stood back and enjoyed it all. My favorite view of the garden was sitting at my table in the breakfast nook looking out the window at the planter and the garden beyond.

View from the Dining Area

Initially the planter was just a simple composition of an Iceberg Rose in the center framed by some pansies and nasturtiums. By the middle of summer I noticed that a vine had appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, that was sending out a profusion of beautiful purple flowers. I decided to let the vine continue to spread. And spread it did. By October it had essentially consumed the planter and about half of the garden. I probably should have done  more research on Morning Glories before I initially decided to let the vine run wild. I would pay dearly for that decision later in the year when I decided to rip it out. By then the vine was firmly entrenched in the garden and it would take weeks to hunt down and remove every last vestige.

The Morning Glory Begins to Spread

By November I was in the process of buying the town home and began the initial stages of overhauling the garden. While the previous owners had created a beautiful garden, I wanted to put my own stamp on the area. I also wanted to experiment with some interesting flowers I had always longed to try, add some of my old favorites and upgrade the irrigation system.

I ripped out about 90% of the existing plantings, including the Morning Glory. While I loved the planter, it was old and rotten, so I replaced it with a new redwood planter. Anticipating the overhaul, I had bought several new flowers from Annie’s Annuals and put them in containers, which bought me some time until I could decide where they belonged in the garden.

The Garden in January 2010

On an impulse at Home Depot, I also bought a packet of Sweet Pea seeds and put them in the new planter. By April, while the rest of the garden was just coming to life, the Sweet Peas had exploded and created a striking focal point. It’s now June and the Sweet peas are still going strong, although I had to cut them back to make space for a Dipogon lignosus ‘Cape Sweet Pea’.

The Garden (April 2010)

Today the garden is in full bloom, although I must admit that in my garden the word “full” also implies “confused”. I’ve experimented with a lot of different flowers, some of which were successful and others not. The other challenge is that I am not an expert with color and composition, so while many flowers have thrived, all are not in optimum locations. The result is a garden that is a mishmash of colors, shapes and sizes. But it is definitely my garden, and I think it is glorious.

The Garden (June 2010)

(June, 2010) For some unexplained reason I’ve developed a consuming passion for irrigation systems. I love to fiddle with broken nozzles, install drip systems and watch quietly as the sprinklers work their way back and forth across the lawn. When I overhauled my current garden, one of my first steps was to upgrade the drip system with the goal of minimizing the need for hand watering, while making sure each plant received adequate irrigation. Ultimately, I succeeded and failed at the same time.

Most of the plants in the garden are doing quiet well with the regular watering. My problem has been with the plants at the extremes. I have several flowers, particularly those in pots, that are heavy water consumers and need daily, generous  watering. My solution has been to double up on the drippers for each plant or to swap out the drippers for large volume bubblers. Then there are the drought tolerant California natives that prefer  limited overhead watering. For example, the two poppies pictured to the right (the Eschscholzia ‘Apricot Chiffon’ and ‘Rose Chiffon’) have done extremely poorly with the in-ground drip system.  The Apricot Chiffon basically collapsed (I ultimately had to throw it out) and the the Rose Chiffon is barely surviving. Since most of the nearby plants require regular watering, it is nearly impossible to keep the area around the poppies dry enough to meet their needs.

One solution would be to create a “California Only” area of the garden for the drought tolerant plants with a separate watering system, but I don’t have enough available space nor the energy to create a second drip system. The only other solution I can think of is to revert to containers, but that will likely require hand watering.

So I have no perfect solution – other than resigning myself to growing plants that prefer average to heavy watering. I will just have to slink into the shadows in embarrassment whenever I see a water conservationist walk by.


(May, 2010) Last December as I was overhauling the garden and throwing out most of the existing plants I came across a small 6″ pot that was hidden among the shrubs. It held the neglected remains of some unknown plant that had not been watered for months. How it had survived was a mystery and a miracle. As I was about to throw it out, I noticed a small bud at the base. Curious as to what the flower was, I decided to keep it. A week later I was at a local farmers market and came across some beautiful Cymbidiums for sale.  It was then that I realized that the mystery plant was also a Cymbidium.

The next day I re-potted the plant in orchid mix and started to give it regular watering and fertilizer. The first bloom appeared in March and, two months later, it is still going strong.

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