Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Garden visit: succulents—and rare fruit trees

I’m happy to report that I have a new gardening friend. Her name is Marta, and she lives not even ten minutes away. Marta contacted me after reading my post about ×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’. Last week, I went over to her house to bring her one of the ‘Macho Mocha’ pups. I expected to see succulents, and I wasn’t disappointed. But there was so much more to discover.

Marta began to transform the front and back yard right after she and her husband bought their house in 2001. They got rid of the lawn long before it was fashionable and instead planted palm trees and succulents. Over the years, Marta added more and more aloes (she loves the flowers in the winter) as well as fruit trees. If you’re like me, you think, hmmm, fruit trees take up quite a bit of space. How many can you possibly plant in a small suburban lot? Way more than you think. Read on to find out.

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Marta’s property is on a corner, just like ours, so she has a long planting strip along the side of the house. This is where she has planted a number of agaves, including Agave vilmoriniana and Agave americana ‘Marginata’. The Agave vilmoriniana currently in the ground are actually the offspring of the original plant, which flowered (and died) years ago. I wasn’t able to take good photos of the planting strip along the side of the house, but I will try again the next time I visit Marta.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 3)

Time to wrap up last Sunday’s stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum before it’s Sunday again. The Australian Collection at the downtown end of the Arboretum is the section most people see when they visit, and it happens to be my favorite. Something is in bloom there whenever you go, even in the dead of winter.

Someday I’ll do a post on the gum (eucalyptus) trees growing on either side of Putah Creek, but today let’s focus on flowering shrubs.

The regular crimson bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) is a common sight all over in Davis and Sacramento. It grows easily in our hot-summer climate and is tough as nails. Much rarer—and much nicer, in my opinion—is weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis). Check out this old specimen at the Arboretum:

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Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis), with my friend Ursula for scale

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 2)

Let’s continue our stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum, which began here.

Unlike other botanical gardens affiliated with a university, the UC Davis Arboretum is not in a separate location but fully integrated into the main campus. In fact, it starts right at the edge of downtown so it gets used both by students and the public at large. As I mentioned before, the Arboretum is open 24/7; there are no gates or fences to keep people out. In our small university town, it’s a treasured institution.

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Ginkgo biloba ‘Autumn Gold’

One of the most popular spots on campus right now has got to be this lawn area on the edge of Lake Spafford. The two ‘Autumn Gold’ ginkgo trees are in their full fall glory.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 1)

One of my resolutions for 2016 was to visit the UC Davis Arboretum more often. I did spend more time there but still not enough, considering all there is to explore (17 gardens/collections on 100 acres) and how close it is to my house.

To make up for lost time, I went for a walk in the Arboretum on two of the four Sundays in November. I ended up taking so many photos that I will split this post into three parts. This part is a little bit of everything; part 2 has photos from the East Asian Collection, the Desert Collection, and the Southwest USA and Mexican Collection; part 3 is all about the Australian Collection.

Here is a handy interactive map to the Arboretum. Some collections have better labeling than others, but in general, most plants aren’t labeled. That’s why the Living Plant Collection Database is invaluable for identifying plants. 

The Arboretum is open 24/7. I usually go on the weekends because parking is free then; during the week it’s $9.00 whether you park for one minute or all day. This downloadable map shows all the parking lots. Depending on which part of the Arboretum you’re most interested in, I suggest you park at the new Putah Creek Lodge lot off Garrod Drive off La Rue Road (look for the A on the downloadable map) or at the Davis Commons in downtown off 1st Street. (Davis Commons is the shopping center where Whole Foods is located; parking is free there.) Or, if you’re local, ride your bike there!

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Pearl acacia (Acacia podalyriifolia)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Superior California mountain magic

Superior California is the northernmost part of California. Its fiercely proud residents claim they’re superior in many ways to their fellow Californians further south. I won’t get involved in that particular dogfight. But as far as scenic beauty is concerned, a good argument could be made about this region’s superiority.

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Spending Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s in Mount Shasta, I was reminded again how magical this region is. We didn’t have the white Thanksgiving the weather people had forecast but I found snow at the higher elevations. And the day we left, it did start to snow but we had to hurry to get out of the mountains before the roads got too treacherous for our minivan, which is ill-equipped for winter driving conditions.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Listen to the trees

“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.
Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things.
Their language has been lost.
But not the gestures.”

Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rainy Saturday trip to Annie’s Annuals

Last Saturday started out gray and drizzly but I felt so stir-crazy I simply had to get away for a few hours. A trip to Annie’s Annuals was just what I needed. The forecast for Richmond, a little under an hour away, called for “only” a 20% chance of rain of rain so I decided to take the gamble. As it turned out, it was drizzling in Richmond, too.

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When I first arrived at Annie’s, I only saw two other customers. A few more showed up later as the rain let up. What a difference from the hordes of shoppers you see on a spring weekend!

Note: I did bring my “real” camera but since it was raining I opted to use my cell phone camera instead. It’s much easier to tuck a cell phone away between shots than a bulky DSLR.

Monday, November 21, 2016

What is this agave up to?

Take a look at this dwarf cowhorn agave (Agave cupreata) near the front door. I’ve had it for just a little over a year, which isn’t much in the life of an agave. But something curious is happening. It’s getting flatter. You can’t really see it looking down at it…

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…but it’s quite visible from the side:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A little grevillea action to brighten your pre-Thanksgiving weekend

I love fall in Davis. The days are still warm, and many plants come into their own again after slowing down in the summer. Case in point: grevilleas. These Australian shrubs, members of the Proteaceae family, are right at home in California’s Mediterranean climate. As is the case with so many plants (and people!), they’re at their happiest on the coast, but we can grow quite a few of them here in the Sacramento Valley, about 60 miles inland from San Francisco Bay. In fact, the UC Davis Arboretum has a nice collection of Australian natives that thrive here.

Today I want to show you two grevilleas in our own garden that are flowering right now.

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Grevillea ‘Superb’

Grevillea ‘Superb’ has been with us for 4 1/2 years. I bought it in February 2012 at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and first planted it in the backyard. Unfortunately it didn’t receive enough sun there so I moved it into the front yard circa 2014. I’m sure it lost a good chunk of its roots in the process—grevilleas don’t like to be transplanted anyway—and it’s taken a long time to get going again. But this year it’s finally turned the corner. And now it’s blooming.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

More R&R in the front yard

Not rest & relaxation. The other R&R: removal & replacement.

Before, there were two sprawling salvias: Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ and Salvia canariensis. I love both of them, and I wouldn’t have taken them out if they’d been half as big and half as vigorous. But they were clearly in the wrong place here so I finally made the hard decision to say goodbye.

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Sorry, hummingbirds, I know the ‘Limelight’ was a popular hangout.