Friday, September 30, 2016

September 2016 Favorites

Admiration and respect for the survival of this Miltassia/Bratonia hybrid Orchid (above photo) despite my wretched care.  I am in awe.  It is defiant, yet not a weed.  Bravo, baby!
Anemone x hybrida 'Pretty Lady Emily':
The Anemone hybrid giveaway from Portland Fling endures as well.  I placed it in probably the dampest part of the garden (there are not many damp spots) where it wanders a bit from year to year. It is now a September event in the garden.  In moister climates it can become a garden thug--here in a confined bed in a dry climate, it's been a lady.
 Aloe 'Cynthia Gitty':
 Aloe 'Cynthia Gitty' has been a neighborhood battleground for the hummingbirds all month.  Clever hummer girl above hid herself from the roving fiercely territorial males by staying low.  

Nasty heat has put gardening on hold all week.  Blogging perfunctory;  it has been a week indoors.  A cool-ish weekend is predicted, followed by yet more heat next week.  Summer, please let go. 
Heat is not a favorite
See an array of September favorites and links to more at Danger Garden.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Vignette September 28, 2016

Sceloporus occidentalis:  I love these little guys!

More Wednesday Vignettes at Flutter and Hum.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

UC ANR Urban Landscape & Garden Education Expo 2016

Above:  high chill(!) apples growing and fruiting(!) in Irvine, California.

We attended an open house event, free to the public, at the University of California Research Station in Irvine, California.  This research facility focuses on fruiting trees and shrubs, testing new varieties for potential commercial production, and investigating pests and diseases of commercially grown fruits.  California continues to have a robust agricultural industry, and the University of California contributes to this industry via testing and other science. 
 Vendors were there to discuss their garden-related products, including pest control, climate-appropriate plants,  planters,  seeds, and irrigation devices and supplies.  Samples of fruit grown at the station were available to taste, and California Master Gardeners were everywhere supplying information on all sorts of gardening topics. 

Held in one of the buildings that simulate a suburban street with suburban climate-appropriate gardens, there were talks and demonstrations about subjects including effective and efficient irrigation, garden tool maintenance,  and chicken-keeping.  
Another of the buildings hosted California Master Gardeners and County Vector Control personnel providing information on control of rodents and other garden pests. 

A too-brief tram tour of the two hundred acre facility showed some of the research being performed with fruiting trees (citrus, avocado, apple, pluots, and subtropicals like cherimoya) and plants (Kiwi, turf grass, blueberries--even Stenocereus and Hylocereus cacti fruits--commonly known as "dragon fruit").
Thanks for the lift, Deere!
 All the trees are pruned short (8'-10');  testing haven proved that keeping fruit trees short reduces water needs significantly while still producing generous crops of fruit, and making that fruit easier to harvest.
One test involved Avocado trees, which left unpruned can reach 40' feet in height.  A large number of well-established trees were "stumped":  cut to a height of 12" (30 cm);  within five to six years of stumping,  they were multi-branched,  12'-15' tall, healthy, vigorous, and producing fruit with less water needs. 

The facility is currently conducting a major study of "dragon" fruit.  The cactus are grown rather like grape vines, on long trellised rows.  The plants are netted in, because bird like the fruit just as much as some people do.  The background of this photo makes clear that this research station, once isolated in the middle of vast farm fields and orchards, is now surrounded by development.  
 I wish the tram had lingered longer near the two long rows of high chill apples, all producing fruit.  The guide explained how when the trees were planted, they were cut back to a height of 12".  The trees immediately produced a candelabra of multiple branches.  Over the next few years, each of those branches was cut to a different height to maximize sun exposure and air circulation.  The entire pruning process creates a short tree with very stout, strong branches easily able to support heavy crops of fruit.  
I would have liked to ask many questions about these "high chill requirement" apples growing and fruiting happily in a no-chill climate but there was no time.  It was also getting very hot.  We arrived early, but so did late September heat.  
Beloved enjoyed the groves--it brought back memories of what this area looked like when he was a small boy.
Large scale development is closing in on all sides of this once rural place.  A large part of that far foothill was recently cut away to build a massive development of ocean-view homes.  How long will this 200 acre collection of trees and scientific endeavor survive human greed and overpopulation? 

 At least there was a plant sale with screaming excellent prices.  There were healthy, thriving 18" Pachypodiums and silver Sanseverias for sale for bargain prices ($5-$10) as well as common Agaves, Euphorbias, and other succulents. 
We came home with a beautiful well-grown Dasylirion wheeleri for the bargain price of $5.  For years, I've been passing over small, weak, sometimes rotting specimens of D. wheeleri priced at $20-$30, waiting for a healthy well grown plant, and my patience finally paid off. 
  The open house is a yearly event, free, and well worth attending.  The facility hosts other events throughout the year, as listed on their website.  I'm still wondering about those high-chill apple trees, and will be for a while.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

I Hate It When This Happens

Aloe greatheadii.  Difficulty?  Effortless.  Thirsty?  No.  Maintenance?  Almost none.  Climate appropriate?  Very.  Pests?  None.  Diseases?  None.  
 Do I love this plant?  Of course not!  I'm pulling it out.

To be replaced with the Echeverias that are engulfed by a Grevillea, and with the Agave 'Ivory Curls' engulfed by Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird':
I'm pulling A. greatheadii out from here, too:
 The patch on the left to be replaced with the repeat blooming Aloe 'Cynthia Gitty'; the patch on the right with the repeat blooming Aloe 'Roikoppe'.  For no better reason than because I think they are prettier and will make the garden look better.  Although they do bloom a lot more (A. greatheadii blooms only once a year), and thereby feed hummingbirds and bees a lot more, and need no more water or maintenance than does A. greatheadii.  I still feel bad about pulling all those happy healthy plants.  I hate it when this happens, but I'm doing it anyway.  Without finding it at all a comfortable role, I'm playing God. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This Worked, And Other Surprises, Some Good

Above Surprise:  Echeveria 'Pollux' flowers are not infested with black aphids.  

Surprise:  the chelated iron spray is starting to work on the chlorotic Grevilleas.  It's been nine days, and the difference is noticible.  Wow!
Before the spray: 
 Can you notice an improvement, or am I deluding myself? 
Nine days after spray:
 Surprise:  last week we got a rain shower.  It was just enough to wash the dust off everything, but that is a wonderful thing.  Wow!
Raindrops were falling on their heads:
 Surprise: an Orchid I've been unable to kill despite at least a dozen years of trying has bloomed for the first time in eleven.  Wow!
How an orchid laughs at me:
Surprise:  it was overcast today and I was able to garden.  Wow!

Agave 'Blue Flame' which was hidden behind a clump of Aloe and beneath a Calothamnus got the prominent spot its beauty deserves.
A big clump of Aeonium urbicum was removed...
 ...and 'Blue Flame' planted next to Yucca 'Color Guard', which I dug out a few years ago.  'Color Guard' which is so beautiful in other gardens is not good here.  Uninvited with a shovel, it returned from a root.  'Mr Ripple' behind the Yucca gets very large and will take all that empty space, plus the Limonium's space on the left.  It can have the Yucca's space as well.  'Blue Flame' will grow towards the concrete curb.  Aloe 'Moonglow', now rooted, is a candidate for placement where "x" marks the spot:
Surprise:  while planting 'Blue Flame', I spotted a flower stem emerging from Aloe fosteri.  Wow!
I also noticed a rose I pulled out because it was so sad, has grown back from the roots and bloomed (the peachy flower lower left).  Surprise!  It is currently engulfed by an airy Ratibida 'Red'.  
'Samaritan', can't you save yourself? 
 Huh.  I guess all the surprises are good.  Which is a--surprise. 

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Above Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'
Gondwana is an ancient supercontinent that eventually split up into Antarctica, Australia, South America, Africa, and other bits and pieces of the planet.  The splitting explains why Proteaceae are distributed the way they are--over South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.  Originally they were all in one area.  Perhaps an alternate name for Gondwana could be Proteana. 

This section of the garden has become my private Gondwana--with members of the Protea family from Australia and South Africa, Aloes from South Africa,  plus a non-Protea Australian plant or two.  This is a very dry area and has the poorest soil in the garden.  Not only is it sloped, but it is also essentially a large raised bed, due to the driveway retaining wall.  It originally was a lawn, then it filled with roses and Hemerocallis, but our five year drought put those plants into severe decline, so I removed them all but one.  It was intended to move the last rose this past winter, but an eye problem had to delay that to this coming fall. 
A. Aloe castanaea (small tree Aloe)
B. Protea 'Pink Ice'
C. Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon'
D. Aussie Maireana sedifolia
E. Aloe speciosa (tree Aloe)
F. Leucadendron 'Ebony' (hard to see)
G. Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'
H. Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'
I.  Leucospernum 'Flame Giant'
J.  Tecoma 'Sparky' (non Gondwana)
K. Aloe thraskii (tree Aloe)
L. a muddle of a Salvia greggii hybrid and behind that Bougainvillea 'Thai Imperial Delight' (non Gondwana)

The Tecoma 'Sparky' is for the hummingbirds.  I'm not wild about the flower color.
 When I planted Leucospermum 'Flame Giant, I dug a large hole the depth of the rootball, but made it much wider, to loosen the soil and add some soil sulfur.  While digging, I found some of the blocks that had once formed a path in a previous form of this area.  The guys who installed the concrete culvert were supposed to remove and pile up all the blocks.  They missed a few. 
 This is a spot where multiple roses have died.  The Bougie is thriving, but I'm not sure it will stay. 
 At this moment the Aloe thraskii and the Maireana are the most eye-catching plants in the area.  The rest of the plants are young and still developing. 
 The 'Moon Lagoon' Eucalyptus is starting to battle for space with Protea 'Pink Ice', which had seven flowers this year.  To the right of the Protea is the rose that will be moved.  There are a few seedling Salvia discolors here and there--it's an excellent year-round food source for Hummingbirds and gets by on very little water.  For now they can stay. 
There's the new Leucospermum 'Flame Giant' in the wire cage.
Near the silver Maireana I added the silver foliaged Craspedia globosa (Australia) purchased some weeks back, and near the Bougainvillea, Pycnostachys urticifolia (South Africa).

Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon' has grown, though it is not quite established enough to bloom regularly.  Above right of 'Robyn' is Leucospernum 'Flame Giant', above left and left are a Salvia discolor (for the hummingbirds) and a golden Duranta.  There are a few scattered Mexican Tulip Poppy plants here and there (bright yellow flowers).  Behind all is a privacy hedge of Ligustrum and a concrete culvert to direct rainwater from uphill down to a drain at the bottom of the property.
It's just a start.  Doesn't look like much yet.  We'll see what happens.  Some plants will be removed, or fail.  The Adentanthos failed here--too dry.  Same with Leucadendron 'Little Bit' and 'Pisa'.  

An additional tree Aloe or two might be nice, to add structural contrast to the billowy shrubs.  A bench whereupon to sit and watch the hummingbirds fight.  It is all an experiment, my own private Gondwana--or Proteana. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

In A Garbage Barrel For Saturday

The Phylica didn't survive summer.  Pretty dead, still pretty, though dead.  
 I suspect insufficient water, or else it was just too hot.  Both, probably.  Oh well, onward!   I moved one of the Kalanchoe orgyalis to the Phylica's spot, and planted Leucadendron 'Reverse Polarity' in the Kalanchoe's spot.  The Kalanchoe looks thirsty, also.  Better add some irrigation minutes to that zone. 
 'Reverse Polarity' has a red cone surrounded by yellow bracts.  The more typical has a yellow cone surrounded by red bracts.  Hence the name.  Leucadendrons have been less touchy than the Phylica, though I've also lost 'Little Bit' and 'Pisa'.  These variations on 'Safari Sunset' have been the easiest. 
The reverse of this:
I console myself with Agave 'Joe Hoak'.  No touchiness there, (not to mention, do not touch).
'Joe' glows, and grows.  No fuss. 
 Thanks, Joe!