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England in L.A.; cottage garden on a dry slope.

England in L.A. Cottage garden on a dry slope

"Flowers bursting to please and willing to bloom themselves to death," are the ones Mary Ellen Guffey chooses for her garden. Informal, bright, and cheerful, it's reminiscent of an English cottage garden. But the effect is achieved on a rocky Malibu hillside, using a "lavish, unceremonious jumble of enthusiastic annuals." Mrs. Guffey's advice: "Go with winners. I won't bother with finicky plants that must be pampered to grow in my climate. I stick with plants that need little coaxing to perform in Southern California." As anchor plants, she uses Pittosporum tobira `Wheeler's Dwarf' and various junipers--blue carpet, Japanese garden, `Mint Julep', and shore. These evergreens tie the garden together and form a back-drop for contrasting flowering plants. Annuals, with their long-lasting show, rate high. The reliable spring bloomers include masses of larkspur, Phlox drummondii, and sweet alyssum, all of which can be planted now. In summer, rudbeckias and zinnias steal the show. Though the annuals dominate, some sure-flowering perennials--coreopsis, delphinium (grown as an annual), gaillardia, marguerites, Salvia farinacea, and Shasta daisies--are interspersed. Like traditional cottage gardeners, Mrs. Guffey developed her garden with inexpensive, easy-to-find materials. Retaining walls are unmortared, made from rocks found on the property. All the plants in this garden are easy to find in nurseries. Because Southern California lacks the heavy rainfall that sustains English gardens, Mrs. Guffey installed soaker hoses, which deliver water directly to plant roots through tiny pores--thousands per inch. This system has several advantages over overhead sprinklers: it conserves water, reduces weed growth, keeps foliage dry and less prone to disease, and doesn't beat flower spires with water. Mrs. Guffey's garden "ripened over time." After 30 years of experience, she has learned to orchestrate a chorus of cool colors in spring, then have them give way to the warm, resonant summer colors of coreopsis, rudbeckias, and zinnias. For continuous bloom through summer, she does a major planting in late winter or spring then plants again in late summer or early fall. She plants densely in beds heavily amended with organic matter, and feeds seedlings every two weeks with a high-nitrogen liquid fertilizer. To encourage root development, she removes initial flowers from seedlings as she plants them; this yields stronger plants and more total blooms over the long term. When flowers set seed, she removes pods to promote more flowering.

PHOTO : Hugging a Malibu hillside, terraced garden shows off spires of blue delphinium and pink

PHOTO : larkspur above drifts of coreopsis, alyssum. Rock walls define planting beds.

PHOTO : Flexible soaker hose snakes through beds, oozing water at base of plants. New seedlings

PHOTO : are closely spaced; later, they'll spill over garden walls.

PHOTO : Rudbeckias reseed themselves and volunteer each summer. They complement warm colors of

PHOTO : other summer flowers.
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Apr 1, 1990
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