Showing posts from April, 2011

Yet another plant trade

Only a week after my last plant trade , another goodie box arrived yesterday. It was just a small box, 8½" x 5½" x 1½", but it was crammed with a bunch of plants. After I tore open one side, I got a first glimpse of what was inside. The spotted leaf shown in the photo below was a tantalizing teaser! First peek of what’s in the box Trying to be as careful as I could because the plants were packed tightly, I extracted the contents from the box. After I laid everything out, I couldn't believe that all these plants had come from that small box. Contents of box The variety really is astounding: We have an angel wing begonia, two bamboo seedlings, three Epiphyllum and two Hylocereus cuttings, three sempervivums, and a ghost pepper seedling! Angel wing begonia potted up I’ve wanted a spotted angel wing begonia for a long time, and I’m glad I now have one. Here is an in-depth description of this hybrid that was created back in the mid-1920s. There are

What caught my attention in our backyard today

Even though our property is on the small side, I go exploring every day—sometimes twice a day—to see how things are coming along. Changes are coming fast and furious at this time of year, and I’m finally making a systematic effort to document as much of it as I can. While our climate isn’t really conducive to hostas, they are among my favorite shade plants so I keep trying. This is a cultivar called ‘June,’ surrounded by a sea of Lamium maculatum .’Purple Dragon’. This hosta ‘Sagae’ just came up a few weeks ago—really late because of the cooler than usual weather. To the right is a variegated farfugium ( Farfugium japonicum ‘Argentea’) just planted this spring. My favorite shade-loving grass, bar none: Japanese forest grass ( Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’). After four years in the ground, it’s finally put on some size (about 15 inches high). Meadow rue ( Thalictrum aquilegifolium ) starting to bloom First flowers on this columbine ‘McKana’s Giant’ ( Aquilegi

Ice plants lighting up the garden

Three years ago I planted some trailing ice plants ( Delosperma cooperi ) in a hot and dry spot in our front yard where previously nothing much would grow. This area is at the bottom of a slight slope which used to be dominated by a mistletoe-infested Bradford pear. This tree hogged all the water and nutrients it could, making it difficult for other plants to thrive near it. Delosperma cooperi bordering a sea of yellow: Jerusalem sage ( Phlomis fruticosa ) at the top left, Cape balsam ( Bulbine frutescens ) below it Fortunately, this tree was removed by the City of Davis in January of 2010 and we replaced it with a giant clumping timber bamboo ( Bambusa oldhamii ). This area is now completely transformed. Not only is the bamboo thriving, all the other plants are as well. This includes our trailing ice plants. They have more than quadrupled in size and at the moment are lighting up this part of the planting strip with a color so intense, it almost looks unreal. Delosperma

Orchid Wednesday

Usually I don’t pay much attention to houseplants, but when we were visiting my in-laws over Easter weekend, I couldn’t help but notice my mother-in-law’s orchids. Their beauty was so seductive that I didn’t even try to resist. Out came the camera, and these portraits are the result of our little tête-à-tête.             These are Phalaenopsis hybrids, commonly called “moth orchids” because the flowers are said to resemble moths in flight.They are native to Southeast Asia, and most of them are epiphytic, i.e. they grow on other plants, usually trees. That explains why in cultivation they’re not potted in soil but rather in a coarse medium typically consisting of bark, expanded clay pellets, or sphagnum moss. There are so many fascinating things to learn about orchids, and if I don’t stop myself now, there’s no telling where it might end! I will, however, recommend an orchid book that is as spellbinding as a good thriller. It’s called Orchid Feve

Easter planting at the in-laws

We spent this past weekend at my in-laws who live in Mount Shasta, 215 miles north of here, not only to celebrate Easter with them, but also to deliver a bunch of plants I’d been collecting for them since the fall. Some of them were divisions from plants in our own garden, others I got on close-out, and a few were regular purchases. This is what we hauled in our van: 7 lavenders 22 ornamental grasses 1 dogwood 2 junipers 2 bamboos Our van loaded with plants… …including two bamboos ( Phyllostachys bambusoides and Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’) Mount Shasta is in zone 7a and spring is just now starting to arrive there—weeks later than usual because of the longer-than-usual winter. In fact, they’d had fresh snow just last week! While Saturday, our planting day, was cool and drizzly, it was actually fairly pleasant for gardening. The following photo shows the hill in front of their house where we planted everything except for the two bamboos and the holly. The section on the r

Planting tomatoes (and some other veggies)

Over the years we have grown many different vegetables but there are a few kinds that seem to do better in our garden than anything else: summer squash (yellow crookneck, zucchini, etc.), cucumbers, and tomatoes. While I’m not fond of summer squash myself, my wife likes it so we always get one plant (which, I might add, produces all the squash we need). Cucumbers, on the other hand, I do like, especially in refreshing dishes like Greek tzatziki or sliced with a simple vinaigrette. However, summer vegetable gardening for me is all about tomatoes. The Sacramento area is a major producer of tomatoes, especially for canning. In fact, one of Sacramento’s nicknames is “Sacratomato.” Our weather is just about perfect: lots of sun and heat, and low humidity. While not drought-tolerant by any means, tomatoes don’t need to be watered every day either, like lettuce and other more sensitive veggies might. I find a deep watering every 3 days or so is sufficient. Our vegetable beds are on a drip w