Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times | Terms of Service | Privacy Policy

GARDEN FANATIC: Attending to all the corners of the garden

“Because it’s there." "” George Mallory

“I’d love to turn you on." "” The Beatles


From my deck, Laguna beckoned just slightly beyond... a woodsy village, silhouetted by a brilliant, blue autumn sky. Finches, eager to find sanctuary and nourishment, follow a cool breeze past me. The smell of a freshly mown lawn triggered past memories, which only heightened my anticipation. I fitted on my gloves and hat as I entered our garden.


My eyes, trained by years of staring incredulously at story poles, scanned the landscape. My attention turned first to the “Early Girl" tomato that Catharine planted months ago. I noted sadly that its time was over, but thought that I would plant snap peas as replacements this weekend.

The David Austin Roses have enjoyed the weather “Graham Thomas" held court with fabulous golden blooms, while Heritage enticed with full, pink petals. There is a lot to appreciate about these easy to care English Roses. I sprayed our roses with an application of B.T., satisfied that the worms were being managed responsibly.

White fly, the smaller ones, have been visiting our garden for nearly two months. I switched out a couple sticky traps, their yellow surfaces turned white, plastered from their intended victims. I washed the remaining pests off the “Indigo Spires" salvia and basil with a stream of water. No manufactured pesticides are allowed. Catharine, Buster, the cats and the birds are too precious, and I could tolerate a few pests.

The Mexican Sage has disappointed me a bit this summer all foliage and very little bloom. The winter was likely too mild and the early summer sky too obscured to promote flowers. I might have watered my mature shrubs excessively as well, directing it to produce only leaves. Next year, I’ll increase the phosphorous to encourage more flowers. I took the time to thin the adjacent Agonis slightly, to provide sunlight below and allow the house finches better access to their feeder.


I felt calmer, as I surveyed the shadier reaches of the garden. The coral bells and hydrangea were still blooming; indicators of a changed weather pattern. However, my mood clouded briefly, as I spotted a pair of brown snails. Underfoot, their slimey ways were ended with a crunch.

My tour nearly completed, the butterfly bushes appeared to be sagging under the weight of bloom, but also because they were becoming water stressed. I upped the time on the sprinkler clock, to anticipate increased water needs during flowering and a warmer than usual October. I added a shovel’s worth of mulch, to help keep their roots cool.

Traffic and weather were put aside, while I puttered and pottered in the garden. The green confines are protected and immune from what may be occurring in the outside world. If I have grown wiser, it is only because I have begun to understand more clearly, why my father loved his garden with such passion (second only to my mother).

See you next time.

STEVE KAWARATANI is married to Catharine Cooper and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to