Fall brings the warmest temperatures of the year. In San Francisco September and October averages seventy degrees most days, and with a little luck into November as well. The fog burns off quickly and the sun comes out to warm the anxiously awaited plants. All the plants begin to flourish and fill in hastily. Once the weather begins to cool its time to start pruning.

September 15,2007
I’ve purchased two varieties of antique roses, which are both climbers. I should receive them this month, and once spring is here, I’ll be placing them in planter boxes over the railing. At the moment, I have lantana in the planter box on the patio facing east. I’m not sure if they are receiving enough morning sunlight. Also, I’ve become more attentive to the plants on the southern exposed patio, which receives plenty of midday sunshine. With that intense afternoon heat, the plants require a thorough watering in the mornings. This is where the roses will surely thrive.

October 31, 2007
I continue along with my gardening, adding more varieties of plants. Next will be the bamboo for the shade garden. I can’t wait to see the stalks leaning over the patio railing, their canes so lithe and wispy. I hope to see the heirloom roses ready to bloom in spring. As well, the lantana grows and the Mandevilla’s tendrils crawl and wrap around the railing. I’m trying to help the Mandevilla acclimate to the shadier patio since I’m running out of room on the southern exposed patio. Summer will also bring morning sunshine, but for now it sits in hibernation in the shade. At night, I play my classical CDs while I run back and forth from patio to patio. The night air is fresh and invigorating.

November 11, 2007
I brought the maidenhair ferns inside now that winter has arrived. The cool winds burned the edges of every leaf cutout; they all have the same familiar blueprint. I’m still soaking and misting them so they won’t miss the fog or dew from the night and morning air. They look healthy in their delicate appearance.

I have placed the pink daisies on the sill in the living room. I was hoping to keep them warm inside for the winter so they will continue to bloom. For some reason, since they’ve been inside, they have lost their deep pink hue and turned pale pink and white. I’m very curious as to why. The buds continue to bloom into November, but they are growing smaller by the day. I do hope I’ll be able to enjoy one more month of blossoms before they become dormant. I’ve also brought the lavender lantana to the sill and I’ve placed a grow lamp on the table nearby to keep it warm. Buds remain, but they are barely blossoming. This winter will be an experiment to determine what I can convince to blossom. Hopefully, some flowers and plants that are ordinarily dormant during the cold season will continue to bloom. Frequent watering and misting has been needed with the dry indoor heat.

November 12, 2007
The heirloom roses seem to be making a fine adjustment. One rose plant did have a slight problem with red spider mites, but the neem oil Gussy brought me seems to be doing the trick.

Neem is a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of neem (azadirachta indica), an evergreen tree. Neem oil is used in the garden as an insecticide. This is by far the first choice for treating insects since it is natural. If it does not work, then a more aggressive approach would be needed, such as an insecticide from the local nursery.

The southern patio looks much like an English garden, and the mild temperatures cooperate well with the flowers, especially perennials. San Francisco has provided wonderful weather – no worries of multiple insect problems or nasty diseases, except once in a great while.

I was set on bamboo for the shade patio, but perhaps a budding Camellia would be better. I’ll see in the spring what might enhance the garden. I picture a Camellia with a long-stemmed trunk topped with a finely manicured shrub in a sphere.

November 13, 2007
The bougainvillea is doing tremendous. I thought for sure I had lost it when I transplanted it over the summer. Once it acclimated, it began to thrive in the warm sunshine. The cool temperatures and thick fog of winter are keeping it content.

Transplanting a bougainvillea is a delicate process. It is important to loosen the dirt around the entire root system, to the very bottom. After the soil is removed from around the bulb, it needs to be pulled out of the container carefully, so as not to tear any of the roots. Once out of the container, it is placed in a larger container about twice its size. Then, new potting soil is placed all around the bulb with enough water so that the roots can soak up food during the adjustment period. This is an important practice when transplanting a bougainvillea. If not followed step-by-step, the plant can parish.

The hummingbirds have found their way to the small white blossoms in the center of the fuchsia leaves of the bougainvillea. The paper-like leaves are graceful and the fuchsia color attracts the hummingbirds. The yellow daisies are thriving as well. A little adjustment period was needed, but now one bloom starts after the next. The other yellow daisies are healthy, but barely any blooms have appeared. There are buds that pop up but never come to fruition. The salvia is done for the season. I was hoping the hydrangeas would make a comeback for the cool temperatures, but they are readjusting since I have replanted them twice, summer and fall. The hummingbirds continue to visit well into fall and winter. Hopefully, they will stay during the mild winter months.

10 p.m.
I noticed new blossoms from the lantana near the brightest windowsill. For weeks they had buds outside in the planter box, but they would not bloom. I finally cut them back and brought them into the warm apartment. The temperatures have been dipping and the sun’s strength has weakened. Fall and winter have approached, slowly bringing most of the plants into their dormant stage. I hope I will be able to sway the lantana into feeling like it is still summer. They are blooming lavender and white. This is the second plant to change a few of its blooms to white.

November 14, 2007
I bought a bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace at the farmer’s market outside the Ferry Building. They are doing wonderfully on the patio in the cool night air. They are a bit messy, but a little cleanup every other day is worth the beauty of the white detailed blooms.

November 16, 2007
It’s obvious now that the lantana needed much heat. Now that the plant has been moved inside, the buds are finally blooming. They are exploding near the windowsill. I may continue to keep them by the window all year, but I’m not particularly thrilled with the container. Hopefully, I will find a more attractive planter box.

The amaryllis I bought sits by the lantana. I’ve also purchased a hyacinth bulb, which came with a clear glass planter. I placed the roots in the water, letting the bulb rest upon the water’s surface. The roots are starting to form and will eventually fill the entire glass planter. It will be hard to miss the beauty of the eventual entanglement of roots.

November 17,2007
The nesting fern is settling in fine. After a year, it is finally thriving and has adjusted well to its environment near one of the sills. There are seven fronds ready to unravel. The fronds that have matured look healthy and strong. The clear glass container from Smith and Hawken may have been a waste for this particular plant. I hoped to see the roots crawling along the walls of the glass, but there are no roots to be seen. Perhaps the roots are shallow.

I’m enamored with the sago palm in the bay window. The grow light bulb seems to be beneficial as the sunlight diminishes and winter grows closer. The clocks have all been set back and the days are too short for any plant to thrive right now.

Insect problems have arisen again. The culprits are red spider mites on my newly purchased heirloom roses. Their branches are covered with mite webs. They have chewed all the lavish leaves down to nothing. I found them too late although I still sprayed them with neem oil. Spider mites are found underneath the leaves where they chew away the flesh and leave the skeleton. It’s important to spray the neem oil on the tops of the leaves and underneath as well. Spider mites are invasive to other plant varieties, but roses are especially susceptible. Hopefully, I can clear up the invasion on the other rose bush. I have isolated both plants from the rest of the garden.

November 18,2007
My hummingbirds are still here even though the temperature has dipped to forty at night. Highs remain in the sixties. Some of my plants may stay in bloom throughout the winter on the patio. It would be nice to have bits of color in front of the barren trees that surround the apartment. The trees have lost almost all their leaves except for the maples. Their leaves are an intense crimson, a nice background for the living area and plants near the window.

November 19, 2007
I woke today up at 4 a.m. I was expecting daylight to enter through the windows, but instead it turned out to be a grey, cold day. I watered the plants early this morning; they all needed a soaking. Dawn or dusk is the best time to water. The roots have time to sip every last bit of water before the sun’s heat dries up the soil. I’ve started watering between six and nine p.m., but really, mornings are the best time. The salvia seems to have run its full course. I placed it inside, hoping for some sparse blooms, but nothing has happened. The roses seem to be doing well since I separated them from the other plants and continue spraying neem oil on them. There are no spider mites to be seen.

November 21, 2007
Gussy brought up a few poppy buds, which I placed in a bud vase. Then we went across the street to South Beach Café for a morning coffee. She is in the middle of pulling out dead boxwoods, which line the walkways of the courtyard.

There’s much heat coming in so everything is flourishing. The hyacinth roots are coming in profusely and hastily. A bit of green shows at the tip of the bulb as well. The amaryllis is growing happily too.

November 23, 2007
I cut back the salvia. It has a nice scent when the stems are pruned. The aroma is insatiable. I have found a new pot for the lantana, quite tall and round. It will look beautiful with the wispy vines cascading down the side. The rose bush that I brought inside is enjoying the intensified heat from the windows. Soon, I will have a small greenhouse.

November 24, 2007
I had a quiet day, spent time drawing the various flowers in my garden. I’ve deadheaded the majority of the pink and white daisies. There are many buds, but theflowers may be finished for the season. It looks as if the hummingbirds are here to stay. I have two who consistently fight over the nectar I’ve provided.

With the low temperatures in the forties and fifties I haven’t been able to spend much time on the patios, out in the crisp night air. I had such a wonderful night a few weeks ago when the temperature was seventy degrees, quite rare.

With the salvia cut back, new growth begins to appear and will create a fuller plant for when summer arrives. When spring comes, they will start to travel toward the sun once again. I’ve been enjoying the quiet nights at home, playing classical music. I think the soft sounds of violins, cellos, and oboes agree with the plants.

I think about the warm nights in Smyrna and how I miss running here and there under the southern sky. I’d run around the yard, watering newly planted perennials and evergreen shrubs and some other deciduous plantss. I always tried to plant the evergreens for Smyrna winters, otherwise our yard would look barren during the cold months. In contrast to the winter, the warm summer nights were intoxicating. Fragrances from lilies and Russian sage wafted through the air. As well, my hands were touched by the perfume from picking and pruning. The Russian sage was always wild and had incandescent lavender buds and silvery stems and leaves.

November 30, 2007
The bougainvillea is shedding a few of its paper-like flowers. The winter temperatures and cool winds will take all the fuchsia flowers away, leaving the plant bare. The daisies seem to be thriving on the southern exposed patio; perhaps I will have yellow blossoms throughout winter. The rose bush that survived the red spider mites is beginning to climb. The other rose bush has no leaves due to the very bad case of spider mites that it endured. I do hope it will come back for spring.

November 31,2007
I mistook the spots on the maidenhair fern for a disease. Not being familiar with the plant, I proceeded to spray with soap water. Unexpectedly, the delicate, paper-like leaves died. It’s now a few weeks later and new growth has started once again. The tiny leaves have begun to unravel. The bright green fronds fall over gracefully, much like an umbrella. I did some research and realize now that soap water can be very damaging to some plants. Some natural soaps will not only get rid of aphids, mealybugs, mites, scales, thrips and whiteflies, but the beneficial bugs as well. So it is important to be cautious if soap water is used as a pesticide. Regular household dish soap is not recommended, it’s best to purchase an insecticidal soap from a nursery.