Nearly everyone I talk to, no matter where I am, doesn’t have as much time to garden as they would like; myself included. I’ve been so busy visiting garden shows touring public and private gardens around southern California and visiting gardening groups that, as usual, my own garden doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Of course, spring at Roger’s Gardens has kept me busy too; opening the new demonstration garden, launching the California Friendly Garden Contest, running seminars, etc. “Roger’s” Garden is doing fine, how about “Ron’s” Garden.

This morning I spent some time just enjoying my garden, with no agenda in mind. I loved it. I hope you make the time to do the same. Here’s what I noticed.

My blueberries are ripening. Sunshine Blue, Misty and O’Neal are all loaded with hundreds of fruit that never seem to make it to the kitchen. Even with thousands of berries over a season I can’t resist the urge to eat them right off the plant. The old apricot tree in the corner of the yard set more fruit than anytime in the past ten years, thanks to a cold winter. Last month I thinned a little more than half of the nickel-sized fruit, so the crop this summer should be especially nice. The artichokes have been delicious, with about ten more ready. Three will be on tonight’s table. The tomatoes are growing well, my daughter’s passion fruit held on through the winter and a rare South American blackberry from Isabel Barkman of The California Rare Fruit Growers is waking up.

I love experimenting with plants – my wife and children would say my whole garden is an experiment. Nonetheless, one of my trials is to grow my own Capers. The Caper plant is doing terrific and I should have some capers ready to pick any time. I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with fresh capers, but it sounded like a good idea last year. I have a feeling my Caper experiment will finish the same as my olive curing venture of ’05.

It’s been a great season for my flower bulbs. Today, I noticed my first ever turquoise-green flower on Ixia viridiflora. Unusual plants like Aztec Lilies (Sprekelia) are blooming as are Firecracker Flowers (Dichelostemma) and seven varieties of Hippeastrum. A wild Gladiolus from Africa that I hand pollinated last month is developing seeds – good.  The showiest flower in the garden today is a Spuria Iris called ‘Imperial Bronze’. Spuria Iris are hard to find and uncommon in gardens, but once established are easy to grow.

My collection of succulent plants continues to expand by leaps and bounds, threatening the neighboring flower bulbs for my attention. Like many of you, I seem to be a victim of the “succulent tsunami” that has engulfed the plant world. Recent additions bide their time in a hundred terra cotta pots, waiting their turn to join the circus of plants in the ground. Today, as I slow down and take in the garden I am mesmerized by the architecture of my Aloes, Agaves and Aeoniums, their leaves enough to satisfy. Who needs flowers?

As I wrestle to fit more plants into a limited space I am drawn to the small succulents; Avonia, Dudleya, Echeveria, Gasteria, Greenovia, Haworthia, Heuffelii, Jovibarba, Lithops, Orostachys, Sedum, Sempervivum and Stapelia. What other living things offer so much and ask for so little in return.

The days are growing longer and warmer. Checking to soil, the foundation of any garden, I notice that it’s time to add more mulch. Time to feed my soil again, to provide for the unseen organisms that make my soil, and therefore my plants, alive and healthy. The Atstroemeria is ready for plucking and dropping into a vase of clean water, as are my favorite rose, ‘Yves Piaget’. A tray of South African Pelargoniums are ready to be potted up. I’ll get to that next week, this morning I’m just enjoying the garden.

Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar