Sunday, February 7, 2016

Retail therapy at Annie’s Annuals

Yesterday was a perfect late-winter day—blue sky and warm enough to work outside in a T-shirt. But instead of puttering around in the garden, I decided to give in to the plant-shopping itching that had been plaguing me all week.

It’s no secret that I love Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond, CA. I’ve certainly written about them plenty of times before (1 2 3 4 5 6). While they’re not exactly around the corner, their selection is so huge that I don’t mind the 60-minute drive (yesterday it was even less because traffic was as perfect as the weather).

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I’m always fascinated by the cabbage trees (Cussonia sp.) outside the nursery. I have three different species in pots and bought a fourth yesterday.

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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Aloes and acacias: another few weeks of patience

This winter has been strange. Maybe because after four years of drought it’s marked a return to the “old days,” or a semblance thereof? We only had one night below freezing and certainly more rain than we’ve been used to lately (7.77 inches since November 1, 2015) At the same time it hasn’t been unseasonably warm like in recent years. As a result, the two groups of flowering “a” plants I keep an eye on at this time of year—aloes and acacias—are lagging behind a few weeks. Or maybe they’re right where they should be in a “normal” year? I must admit I keep forgetting what “normal” is.

Anyway, I did a quick check on the aloes and acacias on the University of California Davis campus this past weekend, and this is what I found.

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A few aloes are in bloom in the alley between Haring Hall and the Sciences Lab Building but most of them are still in the bud stage

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A few new plants (early February 2016)

Admittedly, this is not the best time of year to get new plants. It is, after all, still winter—even here in California. But for reasons that are no doubt part physiological and part psychological I tend to go stir-crazy in late January/early February, wanting nothing more than to work in the garden.

What usually helps tide me over is getting a few new plants. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks—all without leaving the house. What did we ever do before the Internet?

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The thrills of opening a package with plants inside

Sunday, January 31, 2016

What a wonderful Whorn

St. Louis-based blogger Alan Lorence of It’s Not Work, It’s Gardening! is not only an insightful writer and photographer, he’s also an accomplished woodworker. He recently started a new company, Nimble Mill, to market his handcrafted furniture and garden art. Nimble Mill has released three designs so far: the Whorn, a stool/table for indoor and outdoor use; the Bayce, a plant container or stand; and the Trang, a triangular variant of the Whorn.

The Whorn “spoke” to me ever since I saw a preview a few months ago. Last week I finally received my own pair. Eventually my Whorns will go in the backyard to serve both as additional seating and, for my own selfish purposes, as side tables when I laze in the hammock.

Even though the Whorn is designed for outdoor use, protected with a polyurethane finish that should withstand the elements, I’m keeping my units inside until the rainy season is over. And since they’re still shiny and new, now seemed like a good time to take a few photos.

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The Whorn comes in a variety of colors. Mine are Just Red and Moss Green. (The shade of green looks a bit different in reality than it does in these photos. The colors on the Nimble Mill site are more true-to-life.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

12/30/15: DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Tucson, AZ (part 2)

Part 1 of this post ended at the Mission of the Sun, the simple yet magnificent adobe chapel Ted DeGrazia hand-built with the help of Native American friends. Just beyond is the house where Ted, his wife Marion and their three children lived. Like the Mission in the Sun, it was built in 1952. It’s small and unassuming and blends in seamlessly with the tan-colored foothills of Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains. Even though the cactus, agaves and desert shrubs were planted, they look completely natural.

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The home where Ted DeGrazia and his wife Marion lived

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The barrel cactus (Ferocactus sp.) and horseshoe hanging complement the architecture perfectly

Thursday, January 28, 2016

12/30/15: DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Tucson, AZ (part 1)

After my morning outing to Tohono Chul Park I finally visited a place I’d always wanted to see but had never had time for on earlier trips: Ted DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun.

Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia (1909-1982) was an artist at home in many disciplines but he’s best known as an impressionist painter. While his work covered a wide range of subject matter, his paintings of Native American children—reproduced ad nauseam on everything from greeting cards to bric-a-brac—earned him fame and scorn in equal measure. Here is an example:

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© DeGrazia Foundation

I don’t want to debate the merits of DeGrazia’s work, but I love many of his drawings and paintings (not the children, I will admit that). However, what brought me to this spot in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains was the property itself. As you will see, what DeGrazia built here is simply breathtaking.

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Looking at the main gallery, the Gallery in the Sun, from the parking lot

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: metal agaves

I’ve seen a lot of metal agaves. In nurseries and garden stores, that is. Not so much in actual gardens. Maybe because it’s not so easy to make them look good in the company of life plants? (I know because I have a small metal saguaro cactus.)

But I must admit I thought these three metal agaves, potted up in large terracotta planters to boot, looked quite fetching. What you can’t see is that they’re on the second story (street-level photo here). Getting them up there must have been quite a chore.

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Metal agaves on 5th Avenue in Scottsdale, AZ

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The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna Kullgren over at Flutter and Hum. You can read her current Wednesday Vignette post here. Be sure to check out the links to other blogs that are also participating.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

12/30/15: Tohono Chul Park, Tucson, AZ

When it comes to scenic beauty, I know few cities that can compete with Tucson. I’m talking not just about the untamed wild (like the five mountain ranges that surround the city) but also “preserved” nature, including Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson Botanical Gardens—and Tohono Chul Park.

I’m sure most Tucsonites are familiar with Tohono Chul, but many visitors have probably never heard of it. That’s a real pity because in a town with fewer natural attractions it would take center stage.

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“Horse,” a sculpture by Kioko Mwitiki made of reclaimed metal

As I said in my 2013 post,  Tohono Chul Park is a 49-acre “living museum” that was once the home of a Tucson couple who fought hard to preserve a slice of native desert. Today Tohono Chul—“desert corner” in the language of the Tohono O'odham—combines nature with art and culture. Miles of trails wind through natural areas and demonstration gardens while three art galleries, classroom facilities and a fine-dining tea room offer attractions for people who are less plant-crazy.

Not that I think my opinion matters much in the grand scheme of things, but I highly recommend a side trip to Tohono Chul Park. And if you’re a member of another botanical garden, chances are you’ll get in for free under the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Preliminary winter damage report (January 2016)

In previous years I went overboard when it came to covering plants on nights with temperatures below freezing (see here: 2011 | 2012 | 2013). This winter I decided to relax and cover only one plant: my Agave attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’, which starts to shiver when temperatures fall into the 30s.

While we hit 32°F six times in December, we only dropped below it once: on December 27. That was the day I headed out on my trip to Southern California and Arizona. I left our house at 6 a.m. and the thermometer in our backyard read 29°F, which meant it was a degree or so colder in the front yard. Indeed, the official low for Davis was 28°F—a balmy night in many parts of the country, but a c-c-c-c-cold one here.

For some reason, 28°F seems to be a magical number for many succulents. They’re fine at 30°F but start to show damage at 28°F and go into a serious tailspin at 25°F or below. The photos I’ll show you below bear out this observation.

To put things in a perspective, while my not-bothering-to-cover-things experiment was partially successful—plants I thought would get damaged at 28°F didn’t—other plants did. However, the damage appears to be cosmetic only, and all affected plants should survive.

Let’s take a closer look.

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Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’, one of many offsets from the plant that used to be next to our front door but flowered and died last year.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Agave Place

Yes, there are agaves on Agave Place.

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Agave Place, Tucson, AZ

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The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna Kullgren over at Flutter and Hum. You can read her current Wednesday Vignette post here. Be sure to check out the links to other blogs that are also participating.