Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Front yard in late May 2017

It's been a while since I've done a more comprehensive post on the front yard. I'm very happy with how things are looking overall. In spite of a recent mini heat wave, temperatures have been on the mild side, prolonging the late-spring floral splendor. High time to give you a tour before summer catches up with us!

The succulent mounds that have replaced the front lawn look quite different depending on the time of day:

Afternoon:


Evening:


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Gardening splendor on two acres in the country


I often wish I had more room for gardening. I routinely dream of having acreage to play with—5 acres has a nice ring to it. But I’m not picky. I’ll take anything that’s larger than our lot, which is just 8,100 square feet, i.e. 1/5 of an acre. At the same time I know that we’ll never be able to afford a larger property here in Davis. I’d have to move far out into the boonies to make my dream come true—or to another part of the state.

My dream of owning acreage had new life breathed into it last Sunday when I saw first hand what an avid gardener can do on two acres in the country just outside of the Davis city limits. I joined the California Horticultural Society (Cal Hort) for a tour of three Davis gardens, led by Ernesto Sandoval, collections manager of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. The first garden was the kind of country property I had always imagined owning: a main house, a guest house, and lots of space for all kinds of things—above all gardens.

Even though my country property would look quite different, I found a lot to like here as you will see below. The annuals (mainly California poppies) were at the end of their peak, but they were going out in a blaze of glory. The perennials were getting ready to take over as the center of attention, and fruit trees were heavy with ripening fruit.

As wonderful as it all was, what I liked even more was the fact this garden was not 100% pristine. There were weeds, plentiful in some areas, and unfinished projects. Like mine, this is a garden in progress—a working garden, not a perfectly manicured showpiece. That’s why I felt so comfortable there.

Arbor on the west side of the garden

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Rotting Agave pumila pulls through

In January, I noticed that a few leaves on my prized Agave pumila in the front yard had started to rot. The seemingly non-stop rain in January was simply too much. (In total we had over 30 inches of rain this winter--10 inches more than our historic average.)

I first applied a fungicide in hopes of stopping the infection but that didn't seem to do very much. I was thiiiiiis close to removing the entire plant but pity got the better of me and I decided to give it one last chance. I pulled off the rotten leaves--they practically came off in my hands--when to my surprise I noticed a handful of babies hiding underneath. There was no way I could get rid of the mama now!

Fast forward 3+ months to May 24. This is what my Agave pumila looks like now:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Aloe splendor at Los Angeles Country Arboretum (January 2017)

The good folks of Los Angeles County are so lucky. Not only do they have the Huntington, they also have the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. The two are (literally!) just 5 miles apart.

I've been to the Huntington twice now and know how stunning the gardens are. The L.A. County Arboretum had always been on my list but since I had heard it referred to as Huntington Lite, it wasn't at the top of my list. However, on my way home from Palm Springs this March, I decided to check it out. I didn't have much time--not enough for the Huntington--but I figured an hour would be enough to get a general impression.



Well, I was wrong. An hour was woefully insufficient because the L.A. County Arboretum is anything but Huntington Lite, it's a full-fledged peer.

Encompassing 127 acres on what once was Rancho Santa Anita, a 13,000 acre Spanish land grant, the L.A. County Arboretum consists of several dozen gardens and collections (like the palm and bamboo collection), a lake, and a variety of historic structures (read more about the site's history here). It would take many hours to see everything. My one hour was barefully enough to scratch the surface of the South American and African section. For this reason, consider this post an extended teaser, not in-depth coverage. I'll be back soon to explore the L.A. Country Arboretum at a more leisurely pace.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Another palo verde (heart)break

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that the palo verde (Parkinsonia), especially the 'Desert Museum' hybrid, is one of my favorite trees. While 'Desert Museum' is common in Arizona and Southern California, it's still fairly rare here in Northern California. In this post from September 2013 I detail my quest to find one.

We eventually planted two 'Desert Museum' and one 'Sonoran Emerald' (a different palo verde hybrid). Everything went well until January of this year when a major branch--half of the tree it seemed--broke off in a windstorm. See this post for details and photos. We removed the fallen branch and cleaned up the debris. Over time, the scar healed and by late April the tree was covered with flower buds.

Then came May 7. I was in Germany at the time, but this is what my wife encountered that Sunday morning:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

What you find in a garden center in Germany

My trip to Germany last week went by in a heartbeat, and there wasn't much time for exploring. However, my mother and I made it to an OBI garden center one morning. OBI is a major chain of home improvement stores, much like The Home Depot or Lowe's in the U.S. (In fact, Wikipedia says OBI is #3 in the world behind these two.)

I wasn't expecting any huge surprises, considering that the average OBI customer is more interested in low prices than unusual plants, but I was still hoping to find something a bit out of the ordinary. Let's see if I did!

Outside the store there was racks upon racks of the usual bedding plants (geraniums, petunias, marigolds, etc.) as well as vegetables. In the garden center proper, more bedding plants but also some very nice lupines and hostas. (I shouldn't be surprised; hostas grow well in Germany, as opposed to California.)


Thursday, May 11, 2017

More snapshots from Germany

My previous post showed you the sights in the historic center of Hersbruck, my hometown in northern Bavaria. This post ventures outside the town center and covers areas a little farther afield. 

The best panoramic view of Hersbruck is from the Michelsberg, the 388 m (1278 ft) hill north of downtown. I will never get tired of this sight:


Town center, with Hersbruck Castle in the back and City Hall and the Stadtkirche on the right

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Snapshots from Germany

I'm in Germany for my mother's 80th birthday and have been collecting photos to show you. This post contains about 60 photos, tomorrow's another 40, of my hometown, Hersbruck. It is located in Franconia (northern Bavaria), about 18 miles from Nuremberg, and has about 12,000 residents. The first mention of Hersbruck in official documents was in 976 but the town may even be older than that.

My mother still lives in the house where she grew up, and where I grew up. I've been gone for many years now, and while a lot of things have changed, some dramatically, others have remained the same. The houses in the town center are mostly unchanged due to laws protecting historical buildings. This corner on the edge of the town center, for example, looks the way it did when I was little--and probably long before:


Monday, May 1, 2017

Ann Nichols's exotic East Bay paradise (bromeliads! succulents! more!)


The first garden I visited on the Garden Conservancy's recent East Bay Open Day was the garden of Ann Nichols in Piedmont, a small residential enclave surrounded by the city of Oakland. In the Open Day directory, it was described like this:
This is a garden of many levels consisting of a number of outdoor rooms, each with its own plant and color scheme. The front garden, designed around an existing Canary Island date palm, is home to a variety of tropical and subtropical plants and bulbs. Passing by a small orchid garden and through the front gate, one meanders past gurgling water that flows downhill from a waterfall and through a mini-canal into two ponds. A free-form fence constructed of tied tree limbs parallels the length of the walkway, and a mosaic mural at the top invites the visitor into the backyard. Inside the gate is the “entry parlor” filled with foliage of black and silver. A walkway continues through the shady white garden into the sun-filled mid-level lawn, bordered by beds of red and orange. Higher on the hill is the rose garden underplanted in blue and accessed through an arched walkway of weeping sequoias.
As if this blurb wasn't exciting enough, my tour companion Kathy Stoner of GardenBook was raving about Ann Nichols' garden. She had visited it in 2013 and couldn't wait to go back. (To read Kathy's post about our visit, click here. It's great seeing the same garden through somebody else's eyes.) 


This is the front garden. I wonder how many fender benders have happened on this street because people slowed down or stopped altogether to get a better look at this exotic paradise.