Digging Bliss

Angela Pratt's pursuit of horticultural nirvana in northern California

April 23, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

51st Street Cactus Garden

I’ve always admired this yard on 51st Street while driving past on my way to the store, but this time I had to stop. We had a pretty good freeze this winter, but these succulents, cacti, and other interesting plants look spectacular. All I can say is, “Wow!” Yards like this are not common in Sacramento.






The house next door had these spectacular roses.



April 20, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

Buried Weed Fabric- what were they thinking?

The previous owners thought it would be nifty to bury a layer of landscape fabric several inches below soil level. As Kim works on this neglected flower bed on the north side of our front yard, we keep discovering more. He gets to pull it all out while I water and deadhead and soak other beds for an upcoming weeding session.

I’ve run into the evil fabric… literally… with my shovel… all over the yard. I’m not a fan of weeds, but I’m also not a fan of weed fabric. No wonder I haven’t seen very many earthworms.

When I do resort to using the stuff on rare occasion, I put it on TOP of the soil, followed by a thick layer of bark. Burying the fabric did nothing to stop bermudagrass and other weeds from establishing quite nicely.




April 6, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

A tree dahlia grows in Sacramento

The upside of completely forgetting that I planted a tree dahlia, Dahlia imperialis, is that it just shot out of the ground as if by magic! We’ll have to move it when we landscape, but that will just be a nice excuse to divide it!


April 6, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

New epis!

This post is as much to remember as it is to share, because I will inevitably come searching this site when the ink fades on my cuttings.

These “orchid cacti”, epiphyllums or “epis” are from Epiphyllum World, which had a booth at the 2014 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

20140405-201325.jpgMonastery Garden apparently has blooms like this, according to a screen shot from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials:

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 8.31.44 PM

‘Windsong’ looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 8.37.39 PMAnd ‘Whirlibird’ looks like this:

Screen Shot 2014-04-05 at 8.38.58 PM


I’ve had really good luck with a single cutting my friend Cheryl gave me years ago. It’s an unknown red variety. I almost lost it when it got left behind after I moved about five years ago, but I was later able to rescue it and it thanked me by finally blooming again this year. Sometimes, it takes us plants and people awhile to get our mojo back, but we’re back, baby.



March 31, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

2014 Jacques & Jill tulips from Colorblends

It’s hard to believe I’ve been in my house for five years, and that I finally transitioned from renter to owner. When I was renting, I was reluctant to invest time and money in a garden I knew I’d be leaving. Now we own the dang thing and suddenly I can see the potential again. That spot behind the garage? I’m thinking it might be sunny enough for a small greenhouse or cozy retreat. The patio area by the back porch? I want it to have a cafe vibe, complete with shade sails, a table or two and cafe lighting.

As a renter, I saw more of my yard’s shortcomings than strengths. For instance, it’s a smallish lot overall compared to my 1/3ish acre lot home in Carmichael. There’s funky, cracked concrete surrounding the garage that’s begging to be reborn as flowerbeds, and the dominating sycamore in the backyard was oppressively huge and messy and blocked space and precious light. As soon as we bought the house, we sent it to a better place with the aid of Clark @ New Helvetia Hardwoods. The sycamore out front is staying. It faces west and does a great job filtering late afternoon sun.

The existing landscape was clearly a slapdash effort to lure buyers, but it wasn’t built to last. A new blanket of sod concealed decades of Bermuda grass, nutsedge and oxalis. They’d installed a small patio cover with non-mortared cement pavers that is now showing its true colors as boards warp and separate. They’d also dropped in a smattering of cheap Home Depot plants, including wisteria, Spanish lavender and the ubiquitous fortnight lily which were all allegedly being watered by a demonically cursed irrigation system.

When looking at the positives of this property, I have to acknowledge the fact that it is nestled in an immensely charming, walkable, transit-friendly, bike-friendly neighborhood with mature trees, a park, every amenity a person could want, and high resale values. Our spot in East Sacramento is right on the border of the Fabulous Forties and the Thrifty Fifties. It’s bungalow heaven around here.

I also like the fact that I’m a stone’s throw from Trader Joe’s, the post office, two drugstores, restaurants, and pet supply stores. Hell, there’s even a parrot store should I suddenly develop the urge to raise parrots.

Unlike other parts of East Sacramento, my house is also safe from floods, far enough away from the freeway that I don’t hear it and far enough away from businesses that we don’t have customers’ cars parked outside our house much. It’s also far enough away from the controversial McKinley Village development. And the size of our yard, by “East Sac. standards”, is on the larger side. But I digress.

Tulips! Several Fab 40s homes have lovely and lavish tulip borders that are replanted every year. I decided to do a mini version of that along my front flowerbed. The secret to tulip success in Sacramento is to chill your bulbs in the fridge for six weeks prior to planting.

After doing online research, I decided to order my bulbs from Colorblends. I ordered 100 bulbs at a great price and  was very drawn to Jacques & Jill, a lively purple and orange blend.

IMG_6211 copy

Jacques and Jill Tulip blend from Colorblends

Jacques and Jill Tulip blend from Colorblends

The first thing I noticed when my bulbs started showing color was that they were very much a clear hot pink instead of purple. Because pink clashed with my mustard-colored house, I freaked out a little and e-mailed Colorblends, wondering if I’d been sent the wrong variety. I got a prompt, friendly explanation from Hanneke on their support staff.

Hello Angela,

Thank you for your message and pictures. We appreciate to hear about your spring display.

As for the pink color, we call it a mauve pink, a deep rose color and maybe we should be more explicit next year. The picture in our 2013 catalog (pages 44/45) matches with the color tulip that grows in your garden. What happened with the picture on the web we are not sure, that should be changed and we are grateful you brought that to our attention. That picture need to be changed.

Depending on the weather the timing of the tulip blends can be a little bit off and we expect you will have some orange tulips blooming soon: on the picture we can see some buds peeking through.

We apologize if you are disappointed with the color match, however your tulips look healthy and beautiful.

Thank you again for taking the time to write us and for sending us the pictures.

The purples were much more pink than I’d expected, and the oranges lagged behind the pinks a bit, but the overall spring display was ever-changing and spectacular. I can’t wait to plan next year’s blend. I might even go with a tri-blend that puts on an early-, mid- and late-season display!











As the pink tulips faded, the orange blooms became larger and took on a lovely pink tinge and the pink blooms did take on a bit more purple as they faded. Mauve is still a stretch, I think. Somebody at Colorblends needs a lecture on the temptations of Photoshop! Jacques and Jill tulips are quite lovely without color enhancement and customers should know what they’re actually buying.


I would actually love to try the Jacques and Jill blend again, and since we’re remodeling our house, I think I’m just going to have to get rid of the mustard-colored exterior and go with something more pink-friendly. Pink is one of my favorite colors.



March 31st Update: I finally deadheaded these guys, just as a big storm is rolling in. The pansies I underplanted with are starting to fill out. The curtain is nearly closed on Jacques and Jill.



March 29, 2014
by angela@diggingbliss

2014 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

I’m still getting used to the newish location at the San Mateo Event Center, and while we felt the absence of a few designers and vendors this year, there was still plenty to see and buy at the 2014 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. As usual, I snapped iPhone pics of everything that caught my eye as we wandered the grounds. Our visit was on Friday. Fridays are a good day to visit because the show is up and running, but you avoid the weekend crowds. The weekends get some of the best speakers and seminars, though, so it’s a trade-off.

It was around lunch time when we arrived, so we decided to fuel up first. We scoped out the food vendors, which included everything from kebabs to teriyaki, and decided to go with Indian food. Cheryl had the samosas and I ordered vegetable pakoras, which I was told contained no wheat.

With my newly discovered food allergies, I’d hoped the vendors would post allergy info on their menus. For the most part, they didn’t. Nor was I able to find this info on the website ahead of time. The pakoras were delish and not overly filling. I’m hoping they were dairy-free as well, but when you’re standing in line with people waiting behind you, you can’t spend forever grilling the counter person. I greatly appreciate restaurants that take the time to let patrons know which menu items are gluten-free, dairy-free (vegan), vegetarian, etc.



 Check out m’slideshow!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I exhibited my usual self-restraint at the vendor booths, but did come home with a wee haul.



By the time we left the show, it was just about the worst time a person would want to cross the Bay Bridge. I decided, in what was either a stroke of genius or complete madness, to take the scenic route home via the Golden Gate bridge and Napa. Well, it didn’t turn out to be a time-saver, but it was lovely and allowed us to meander through some cool neighborhoods over by SFSU. Traffic was so slow, we were also able to observe the native vegetation and identify an unfamiliar tree. The alternate route also afforded me the opportunity to take Cheryl, a native Sacramentan, on her first trip across the Golden Gate bridge!

We stopped for dinner at the Oxbow Market Pica Pica on the way back to Sacramento. Everything at Pica Pica is gluten-free and they will make it dairy-free as well.

Everything we make is 100% GLUTEN FREE, because our core ingredients –corn, yuca, plantains and taro root – are naturally so. We also offer vegetarian, vegan and non-dairy options with the same slowly-simmered, home-cooked flavor of our traditional offerings.
Respectful of nature, Pica Pica favors local and sustainable ingredients wherever possible and serves its take-out menu in 100% biodegradable containers. – Pica Pica



If you have a chance to check out Oxbow Public Market, do. It’s an amazing enclosed food bazaar, with everything from oysters to ice cream. There’s often live music and it’s very family-friendly and offers ample convenient parking.

All in all, it was a fun excursion and we look forward to next year’s F&G Show. I do hope the missing vendors return. We missed seeing B&D Lilies, Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, the “silk scarf lady”, Patsy’s Pottery, Sunset Publishing, and several more artists and plant vendors. We also missed the scope and caliber of the designs from the Cow Palace era. It’ll be interesting to see how the show, under new ownership, evolves. Have to wait another year!