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Decorating Your Edible Garden with Alyssum!

August 19th, 2010
See our gardener Pat Stoeffel trimming the white alyssum border around our tomato plant bed.

We get great feedback on how beautiful our edible garden looks. (THANK YOU!  We love to hear your feedback!)  We have our campus senior landscape designer Christina DeMartini Reyes to thank for her excellent planting plans!  She likes to use borders of different types of flowers to achieve a variety of goals.  Planting flowers around your edibles not only attracts pollinators, the colors of the flowers provide contrast to the greenery of the fruit and vegetable leaves, they are excellent around the bed borders because they define the space, AND they can act as a type of ground cover.  All of this is great for the garden, but how do you keep it looking good throughout the season?  It isn’t easy!

Today when I visited the garden I noticed that our new Good Life Garden gardener, Pat Stoeffel, was trimming back a border of alyssum that was looking particularly rangy.  She had given it a trim a couple weeks ago, but here it was leggy again!  She wants to keep the area looking nice so she is shearing it back by about half to reveal the new bloomers beneath the old!  (See the photos below.)

Do you plant alyssum to attract pollinators to your garden?  Do you use it as a border?  How do you keep it looking fresh and healthy?  Let us know!

Pat trimmed this alyssum back just a couple weeks ago, but now it needs more pruning.  This photo shows a patch of half trimmed, half untrimmed alyssum.  Note how she is trimming about half of it back to reveal the newer growth underneath.
This photo shows a detail of what the new growth underneath looks like.  It looks compact and fresh doesn’t it?  We want to get rid of the brown, leggy, rangy stuff to reveal the fresh flowers.  It’s kind of like exfoliating your skin to reveal a new fresh layer underneath!  (Okay…maybe not!)
Pat laughs here because she’s feeling more like a barber than a gardener!
This is a different patch of alyssum in the garden which nicely frames our bay laurel trees.  This patch has not needed any pruning, yet.  We think maybe it’s because the fertility of the soil may not be as high as our tomato bed. 

WEBSITE WEDNESDAY! for inspiration!

July 7th, 2010

Stumped about where to start with your garden? Want to spruce up your space with a new design or some new plants? Want to try something different? is the place to visit!

I stumbled upon this website which came through to my email from google alerts – and what a gem! Not only is it nicely organized and laid out, it has a plethora of ideas to get the creative juices flowing! The “plants” section alone has tons of resources for plants by type, as well as a “top 100 most popular plants” list that links to what seems to be endless resources for each plant on the list. In addition to this they have garden design ideas including links to landscape design resources, how to get started with dry gardens, wet gardens, wildlife gardens, and even how to design a garden by color, light or season. I have to say I’m particularly interested in the moonlight garden plans – who knew there were so many different varieties of flowers that bloom at night! They also have an extensive listing of resources and ideas for edible gardens – even how to make an edible flower salad!

So next time you’re stumped or need some inspiration, or even just want some interesting reading accompanied by some lovely photography, check out!


Pretty plants!

May 24th, 2010

While walking through the garden with Arlene the other day there were two particular plants that stood out to me for some reason, and I wanted to do a little mini-feature on them. No, they aren’t edible, but they sure are lovely to look at, and would add nice color to any garden – edible or otherwise!

The first one was santolina, specifically Santolina chamaecyparissus, also known as cotton lavender or gray santolina. It’s a beautiful little evergreen shrub that requires little water and explodes with little yellow or white flowers. Arlene likened them to a “star-filled sky.” Can’t go wrong there!The second plant that caught my eye was the Rudbeckia. These flowers are thriving and have had a bit of a success story at well. One of the beds got waterlogged from runoff lawn irrigation, and all the Rudbeckia died. Arlene improved the drainage in the bed, and the Rudbeckia came back and are now flourishing! Arlene said that she has found the key with Rudbeckia is good drainage and full sun, and recommends using them in raised beds as raised beds tend to have better drainage.
Another cheerful flower that would brighten anyone’s garden!


Including Flowers in Your Vegetable Garden

April 22nd, 2010

If you have a small plot, sometimes you just plain don’t want to give up the space to plant flowers for the sake of a few blossoms, but you should try it out this season! They don’t really need much space and the benefits of having them there for the purposes of attracting pollinators and beneficial insects may just amplify the production of the common edibles that you do grow. Plus, it’s just nice to diversify your garden texture, design and color.

Below are some of the flowers we grow to mix things up a little; some of them are even edible!

It is quite drought tolerant and known for attracting butterflies. In the middle ages, before the use of hops in beer, yarrow was used to flavor beer.



RUDBEKIA (Black-Eyed Susan) These can grow between 18 and 36 inches high in full sun and will tolerate dray conditions. Let the bloom dry out on the plant and after the petals fall off, pick the seen head. Running your thumbnail along the seedpod will give you tiny rudbekia seeds.

These are profuse bloomers if constantly deadheaded. It is edible and known as “poor man’s saffron” because its color and mild peppery taste make it an inexpensive alternative for the Spanish condiment.


New ‘Starts’ for the Garden–PART ONE

March 10th, 2010

It’s still officially winter, but at the UC Davis Good Life Garden we are officially getting the garden ready for our spring season! Since the garden debuted about a year and a half ago it’s been so nice to see how our some of our perennial herbs and vegetables are maturing and growing accustomed to their new homes.

As most gardeners know, growing edibles, or really any plants, is always a learning experience. Some edibles we grow from ‘starts’–young plants grown from seed in a green house and then transplanted to the garden, and others we grow from seed planted right in the garden.

The seeds are first planted in the flats and grown inside the nursery greenhouse. (See above.) Once the young plants are established they are moved outside to ‘firm’ up before transportation to your nursery or yard. (See photo left.)

Here is a list of the starts that were grown from Seeds of Change seeds by Kelly’s Color Nursery, Inc., a local nursery wholesaler found right here in Davis.

  • Tango Celery
  • Silverado Chard
  • Bright Lights Chard
  • Rhubarb Chard
  • Dinosaur Kale
  • Tadorna Leeks

We also picked up a variety of flowers not only to encourage visitation from a variety of beneficial animals and insects to the garden, but to add visual appeal. Those flowers are:

  • Bon Bon Orange Calendula
  • Soprano White Osteospermum
  • Sunny Sheila Improved Osteospermum
  • Autumn Colors Rudbeckia
  • Cherry Brandi Rudbeckia
  • Sonnet Crimson Snap Dragons

Here Kelly, Owner, Kelly’s Color Nursery; Christina DeMartini Reyes, Landscape Architect / Designer for UC Davis Good Life Garden; and, Ed Nordstrom, Supervisor for UC Davis Good Life Garden review the new order.