The Inner Dirt to Get the Most Out of Your Garden Soil – Orange County Register
Could we be entering an era where the quality of the soil in your yard, as opposed to your zip code, determines the value of your property? When you spend more time at home, you likely spend more time in the garden, and there is nothing more crucial than your soil type when it comes to the success of a garden.
Joan Citron’s garden in Reseda is an excellent example of this. In their garden, you’ll see unusual horticultural landmarks due to their soil, which is a thick layer of fast-draining sandy loam over an underlying clay deposit. The fast-draining topsoil means virtually any plant will thrive when planted in, while the clay underneath means water is stored there when it’s needed.
Clay acts as a water reservoir because clay particles are microscopic in size. The smallest sand particle has the same volume as hundreds of average-sized clay particles. Sand runs off quickly because the pore spaces between the individual particles are comparatively large. However, clay holds water much more firmly in a given volume of soil due to smaller pore spaces between particles. And an ounce of clay contains fifty times more water than an ounce of sand because of the much larger total surface area of the particles.
Citron has an impressive display of annual lupins, one mass several feet tall with purple-blue flowers. This lupine has nothing to do with her considerable gardening skills, but it cannot be dismissed as a complete accident. The California native lupine (Lupinus sp.) In Citron’s garden began to grow there on its own, no doubt as a result of the shedding of a seed by a wildlife visitor. But just because a volunteer seedling is growing in your garden doesn’t mean it will turn into a magnificent flowering plant. You need to know what it is so as not to mistake it for weeds and pull it out. It’s a good reason not to discard undetectable garden growth. You never know what the wind or the birds or the squirrels might have deposited there.
Citron has clumps of kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos sp.) That are more than 20 years old. Usually this plant does not last more than a couple of years in our gardens as it is overwatered in imperfectly drained soil.
In “Selected Plants for Gardens in Southern California” (Southern California Horticultural Society, 2000), published by Citron, which remains the most outstanding gardening book ever written for our part of the world, Citron noted that kangaroo -Paws “once drought tolerant are established, but must be watered regularly when they bloom. “
When I speak of Citrons’ scientific paper, which has been in the works for a decade and includes thousands of plant profiles, I cannot recommend it enough. It is the only gardening book I have ever seen that has hundreds of gardeners’ personal testimonials about plant performance, including negative experiences. With regard to the kangaroo paw, for example, one correspondent said: “A disaster on heavy ground; it gets either chlorosis or ‘black rot’ and dies quickly. “Amazingly, you can still find it on amazon.com where some copies are available.
Citron’s soil has been shown to extend the life of two generally short-lived bulbous plants: ranunculus and cyclamen. According to many, ranunculus shows the most glorious of all spring flowers. Their thick array of layered, crepe-textured petals deserves a comparison with turbans and peonies. The colors appear in all shades of yellow, orange, red and pink, as well as cream and white. The foliage is as pointed as that on any fern. Unfortunately, ranunculus usually dies after a single season, but citron has stains that have been strong again for several years.
Cyclamen is another bulbous wonder in Citron’s garden. This is a plant with a flowering period that extends from late fall to early spring, but is easily killed by summer water. Citron has many healthy clumps of cyclamen, the size of which is evidence of their perennial presence.
When it comes to longevity, tulips are another disappointment in Southern California gardens. This is thanks to the genius of the Dutch, who transformed a plant native to Turkey into a hybrid suitable for the Dutch climate. These Dutch tulips unfortunately produce flowers for a year and then die in climates like ours. But species tulips that come from a drier and milder habitat can produce spring blooms for years, as did the citrus clumps of Tulipa clusiana, planted in 2001.
Dutch irises, although they were also bred for European gardens and generally don’t last more than a year or two in our day, are outstanding artists for Citron too. Your oldest lumps have been there for more than ten years. In response to my constant amazement at their success with bulbs and onions, Citron kept telling me, “Remember, nothing rots in this garden.” Tritonia crocata, a granular perennial covered in scarlet flowers at this time of year and a challenge in most gardens, is called a “beautiful weed” by Citron for the ease with which it grows for them.
Time and again when I looked at Citron’s successes, I was told of their extreme reluctance to water all types of crops in the summer. Citron has grown large numbers of citrus fruits over the years, and her observation of their irrigation needs, quoted from her book, is as follows: “They should be seldom and deeply watered; Once a month in summer is usually sufficient. “
You are invited to send questions, comments, and photos to Joshua@perfectplants.com.
Tip of the week: Contrary to the free flowing and undisciplined style found in most gardens these days, Citron demands symmetry in their half-acre company. The French refer to their garden as a par terre garden, which means that it consists of many different garden plots, separated from each other by surrounding paths. When it comes to garden design, paths are a wonderfully simple organizational principle. You can use them to delineate areas for different plant types or ecosystems where choices are compatible in terms of water needs or habitat. Or even if the plants don’t vary that much from property to property, it is easier to access and care for each area individually rather than having to maintain an unruly jungle.
In the middle of most of their garden lots is a Tecoma cans cv. Goldstar is growing. This undoubtedly woody perennial is adorned with heavy clusters of small golden trumpets from May to December. It is cut to the ground every winter, but reliably grows back up and returns to its former glory in the spring.