Thursday, February 9, 2017

Breakage, prunage, bloomage at UC Davis Arboretum

Two months of seemingly endless rain, often coupled with high winds, have taken their toll. If tree debris is the worst you have in your garden, count yourself lucky (and I would include ourselves in that category since the worst damage we've had was that broken palo verde branch I blogged about here).

All over town, trees have been uprooted. Some fell simply because the soil was so soft that it could no longer contain their weight. Others were "helped" by gusts that locally exceeded 60 miles an hour. And there's no end in sight. Rain is in the forecast every day this week.

When we were begging for rain last summer, little did we know what we would get. It was naive to think we would simply have a "normal" winter with "normal" rainfall. Much like politics, Mother Nature seems to have veered off into extremism.

On the weekend, my wife and I checked out the damage at the UC Davis Arboretum. Quite a bit of cleanup has already been done--often you can only tell that a tree went down by the large gap it left behind. Still, there was plenty of recent damage as you will see below. But there were also signs of spring, like several acacia trees starting to flower. I can't wait to see what floral splendor all this rain might produce in a month or two.

The first downed tree we saw was near the Acacia Grove. It was a big one--a conifer I wasn't able to identify.


It's canopy must have been incredibly heavy--and hence its downfall, literally.



I love approaching the Acacia Grove from the west, especially when you see this beacon of yellow through the oak trees:


This is a pearl acacia, or Queensland silver wattle (Acacia podalyriifolia), one of my favorite species.


The sweet smell of the flowers was intoxicating.



Right near it, this hairy wattle (Acacia vestita) is starting to bloom:



Most other acacias are still weeks away from flowering--another sign that spring is delayed this year.

A mature Wyalong wattle (Acacia cardiophylla) went down not far from the pearl acacia you saw above.


I hope they will plant a replacement soon.



The new $17 million Ann E. Pitzer Center, a state-of-the-art recital hall for the music department, has a row of newly planted clumping bamboos. They look like Bambusa multiplex, all green. and possibly 'Golden Goddess'. This should be a beautiful green screen against the concrete wall in a few years' time.


Miscanthus sinensis along Lake Spafford is the very embodiment of the "winter interest" always ascribed to ornamental grasses:


Small grove of cork oaks (Quercus suber):


Another tree I like a lot, Santa Cruz Island ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus subsp. aspleniifolius). This beautiful evergreen tree grows natively on Santa Cruz Island and two other Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara. Even though it comes from a climate much more moderate than inland Davis, this little grove looks very healthy and happy.




I don't usually take photos of animals, mostly because I don't have the right equipment and patience, but here are two quick grab shots from Sunday. Do you see the pair of snowy egrets facing each other in the trees?


Here's a close up of one of them. Usually we see them in the rice fields but I guess they do sit in trees, too.


Here is a photo of one of three river otters (Lontra canadensis) we saw:


And of course there are ducks near the creek:


The Australian Collection has seen some damage too:



And some heavy pruning:


Check out the same grevillea back in November:


I'm not sure you can prune grevilleas this hard:


More downage and sawage:


Now we're at the "official" entrance to the Arboretum, the Arboretum GATEway Garden. All the plants in this area are native not only to California, but to our county (Yolo).


In the fall of 2013, more than 25,000 perennials and grasses were planted on what used to be an unloved barren strip behind the Davis Commons shopping center. They've finally come into their own and look attractive even in the winter.


The official "portal" to the Arboretum is an archway sculpture made of more than 400 old shovels donated by local gardeners:


It's become a much photographed landmark. Kids, in particular, are magically drawn to the sculpture, maybe because there's so much to touch.


I'm very happy that the Arboretum is now seamlessly tied into the downtown core, making it easy to walk from Davis Commons (aka the Whole Foods shopping center) all the way to the western end of the Arboretum and back, a 3.1 mile paved loop trail.

Here is a handy map of the entire UC Davis Arboretum:


19 comments:

  1. It's been quite the winter hasn't it? I adore those Lyonothamnus floribundus trees. There are several successfully growing around town in somewhat protected areas, I would think they'd have no problems in your climate.

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    1. Why don't we see Santa Cruz Island ironwood planted more? It's a beautiful tree, from the peeling trunk to the finely serrated leaves.

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  2. Instructive! The most restful shot of the bunch is the Yolo Co. natives surrounding the ancient tree. So pleased this winter's helped establish that planting (despite the setbacks to the Ozzie and other sections).

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    1. I agree, the Yolo County natives are loving the rain. This area will be spectacular come spring.

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  3. I can almost hear Mother Nature saying "well, you asked for it!" It's sad to see all the downed trees. We've already had some come down along our major thoroughfare here too and, with our saturated soil and Santa Ana winds expected this weekend, even driving down the hill into town becomes a little nerve-wracking. Seeing that poor Grevillea chopped to a fraction of its former size is heartbreaking but it'll be interesting to see if it can come back from that.

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    1. My wife just told me a big walnut went down in the park at the end of the street. Gotta check it out. As much as I love all the rain, we really do need a break for the soil to dry out a bit.

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  4. What's the local rainfall total for the winter? I'm sure you've had more precip than we have the last couple of months!

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    1. I just checked, and here the official totals:

      Jan 2017 13.30 in
      Feb 2017 4.80 in

      That's 18.10 inches since the beginning of the year. In comparison, for all of 2014, we received 13.81 inches, for all of 2015 4.98 inches and for all of 2016 16.83 inches.

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  5. I guess I need to head over there soon so I don't miss the Acacias ! Weekly totals for rainfall here in the hills, Mt Veeder etc are in the 15 to 18 in range-no wonder the daily flash flood warnings .The water is just pouring off the hills. Napa city corporate yard which is less than a mile from my house records 7 inches this week. Looking forward to sun this weekend.

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    1. Let me know when you make it over here. I welcome any excuse to go to the Arboretum. I'd give the acacias at least another week. Now that the rain is over and the sun is out, things might finally get going. By then the aloes might finally be in bloom as well.

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  6. Putah Creek Arboretum is such a lovely space, and brings back so many memories of my 2 years at UCD there so many years ago. I always wonder a bit about why some trees fail, and whether the failure potential should have been foreseen. So far this winter, only one client's garden has had storm damage, one 8 year old, 15 foot Tibouchina split just like your Palo Verde, no chance of recovery.

    Nice to see those 2 Acacias in bloom, both ones I used to have here. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The Arboretum seems to receive more funding now than in the past because there has been tremendous progress in recent years. It's finally becoming what I always knew it could be.

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  7. I was wondering about gardens to visit when we go to see our daughter in Sacramento. This looks like it!

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    1. Ricki, yes, it's a great place to visit! You can park in the Davis Commons parking lot off 1st Street (right past the railroad underpass) and start at the east end of the Arboretum where the shovels are. Or you can park on campus (free during the weekend) and enter the Arboretum that way.

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  8. The Arch Of Shovels is very cool. Wonderful the community has this Arboretum. Probably too much rain, but still, we need it.

    There's a Schinus four houses down with fissures in the soil around the base--this Sunday's Santa Anas may knock it over. It's leaning away from the power lines, thankfully.

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    1. We have a huge Schinus molle at the end of our cul-de-sac. I have to see how it's doing. I wouldn't want to be caught under one of them when it falls!

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  9. Ouch with all the damage! It certainly did pour out there. Funny enough we thought of you the other whilst walking in London and saw several acacias in bloom.

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    1. Ooh, how cool. I didn't know they had acacias in London. Do you know which species?

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  10. an alt-Mother Nature this year? Yeah, it fits...

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