Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Dreaming of tree ferns

While most of the plants in our garden are appropriate for where we live—succulents and bamboos included—I have a weakness for plants that aren’t fond of our Mediterranean climate. Tree ferns are one case in point. Their native habitats are generally cool and misty—much like San Francisco and Berkeley where they thrive. Here in Davis, the summers are typically too hot and dry and the winters a bit too cold for them (heck, for me too!).

I know I shouldn’t spend my energy trying to grow tree ferns here, but I still do. And when I removed the frost cloths from my tree ferns last week, I was pleased to find them in reasonably good shape. This Tasmanian tree fern (Dicksonia antartica) had a little bit of freeze damage but nothing severe:


Dicksonia antartica, our backyard

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The aeoniums are OK

In October, I started a new succulent bed in the backyard that is dominated by aeoniums. These succulents are native to the Canary Island and don’t tolerate much frost. I had covered them with an old sheet during the prolonged cold spell that lasted for the better part of January and was keeping my fingers crossed that they wouldn’t be damaged too badly.

When I finally removed the sheets a few days ago, I was relieved to see that they were just fine. Being up against the house clearly helps.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Revisiting the cordylines in our backyard

It’s been exactly two years since I last showed you the two green cordylines (Cordyline australis) in our backyard.


Cordyline australis in our backyard, January 2013, as seen from my home office window upstairs

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Another one (or two) bites the dust

Recently I noticed that one of the agaves in the backyard, Agave funkiana ‘Blue Haze’, wasn’t looking too hot. Within a few days, my worst fear was confirmed: crown rot. When a succulent rots from the center, the outcome is almost always fatal.


Agave funkiana ‘Blue Haze’

Looking at the extent of the rot, and how quickly it progressed, I knew that this beautiful specimen was a goner.


Agave funkiana ‘Blue Haze’

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Huge cycad sale—up to 75-80% off

Jurassic Garden, aka A&A Cycads, is one of the largest and most respected cycad nurseries in the U.S. Owner Maurice Levin is a leading cycad expert and their website,, is a treasure trove of information. I’ve bought from them before and have been very happy with my purchases.

Last night I received an email blast reporting that the nursery has lost its lease and needs to move next month. As a consequence, they have discounted their entire available stock by up to 75-80%. Yes, you read right: All plants are up to 75-80% off with a minimum purchase of $400, which translates to $80-100 after the discount. For purchases between $100 and $399 you receive a 50% off discount.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Yarn-bombed eucalyptus grove

On Saturday, on our walk through the Australian Collection at the UC Davis Arboretum, we came upon a strange sight:


I had no idea what this could be, but fortunately there was a sign:


Yarn bombing? I had never heard of that before. Clearly, I must have been living under a rock because a Google search produced 400,000 results. There’s even a Wikipedia entry:

Yarn bombing, yarnbombing, yarnstorming, guerrilla knitting, urban knitting or graffiti knitting is a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fibre rather than paint or chalk.

Have you heard of yarn bombing before? 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

UC Davis Arboretum Australian Collection

It’s ironic, I’ve lived in Davis since 1997 and have been to the UC Davis Arboretum countless times but I’ve never explored its many botanical collections in-depth. In fact, I know the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum better than the UC Davis Arboretum, a mere 10 minutes from my house. 

But that is about to change. 2013 is the year when I will spend much more time exploring the UCD Arboretum’s many treasures. After all, the Arboretum was recently named one of the 10 most beautiful botanical garden in the U.S.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Looking for spring, finding winter

As our cold spell continues—every day in January has seen night-time lows below freezing—I’m getting ever more eager for spring to arrive. This morning, after dropping my daughter off at school, I decided to swing by the UC Davis Arboretum in hopes of finding at least a few harbingers of spring, like jonquils or paperwhites. Instead I found a sea of plants covered with frost.


Frosty morning at the UC Davis Arboretum

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter trees

I think you all know how I feel about winter. Our cold spell is continuing. Yesterday Sacramento matched a record low of 27°F downtown. Here in Davis it was a few degrees warmer but everybody is getting tired of what for us are icy temperatures, especially now that a vicious north wind has started to blow.

As much as I hate the cold at this time of year, there’s one thing I love about winter: bare trees. Silhouetted against the sky, they become two-dimensional art.

120222_trees clouds


Friday, January 11, 2013

Baby, it’s cold outside!

Our friends in Alaska have given us a belated Christmas present: an enormous artic cold front. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving because it isn’t in a hurry to move on. This morning’s top weather story on Yahoo! called it an “epic cold snap” and talked about the citrus growers in San Diego County, 500 miles south of here, bringing out giant fans to keep the air circulating through their orchards. And the San Diego zoo has cranked up the heat—literally—for its tropical birds and chimpanzees.

While I wouldn’t call this cold spell “epic,” it’s still amazingly tenacious. Usually we get 5 or 6 nights below freezing in a typical winter, but this week, we’re having 5 or 6 nights below freezing in a row.

This morning, the view from upstairs was decidedly chilly.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Winter interest in our garden

Winter is my least favorite time of year. Mostly because I hate the cold, and it’s been cold this week. Thanks to an arctic front pushing down from Alaska, our nighttime lows have been right around freezing. This photo, taken yesterday morning, captures it all:


Winter morning in Davis, CA

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New plants for 2013

In the past, I used to receive stacks of plant catalogs in the mail. But with printing and mailing costs continuing to rise, fewer and fewer mail-order nurseries send out catalogs. While I completely understand the need to reduce costs, I do miss sitting on the couch looking at page after page of colorful photographs.

Fortunately, the same information and images that used to be disseminated through catalogs are new online. A simple Google search led me to hundreds of new plant introductions for 2013. Here are some standouts, good and bad:


Ceanothus ‘Marie Rose’

This pink ceanothus is hardy to zone 6a. Personally, I prefer the indigo-flowered cultivars such as ‘Victoria’ but if your color scheme calls for pink, this would be a good choice.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

UC Botanical Garden—Asian Collection

On my recent visit to the UC Botanical Garden (UCBG) in Berkeley, I first strolled through the Southern African Collection where many aloes were blooming and then through the New World Desert Collection with its myriad agaves, yuccas, cacti, and terrestrial bromeliads. After so much spikiness, I was ready for something more gentle. Fortunately, I didn’t have far to go because the Asian Collection borders both the Southern African and New World Desert Collection.

The contrast couldn’t have been greater. One of the first sights I saw when entering this verdant forested environment, was this:


Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) along Strawberry Creek in the Asian Collection

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

UC Botanical Garden—New World Desert Collection

This is the continuation of a three-part post about the University of California Botanical Garden (UCBG) in Berkeley. Part 1 was about the Southern Africa Collection. This post is about the New World Desert Collection.


New World Desert Collection as seen from the hill that makes up the Southern Africa Collection

This is how the UCBG web site describes the New World Desert Collection:

Garden expeditions from the 1920s to the 1960s yielded many of the specimens in this collection, including desert plants from the southwestern United States, Mexico, and as far south as Chile and Argentina. Several beds feature plants from Mexico's Baja California peninsula. This collection is one of the oldest in the Garden.

Deserts receive 25 cm (10 in) or less of rain each year. Many desert plants cannot tolerate our winter rains. Positioning the collection on a southwest-facing slope provides warmth and drainage critical to the survival of these plants.

Plants from desert environments in different parts of the world may have similar structural forms, resulting from a process called convergent evolution. Compare the leaf rosettes of agaves with those of the southern African aloes.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Yours truly featured in Sacramento Bee 2013 Gardening Guide

The print edition of today’s Sacramento Bee comes with their 2013 Gardening Guide. In addition to a planting planner for the entire year, practical advice from Sacramento area pros, and other useful information for gardeners, it also includes a profile of two area garden bloggers who contribute content to their Sacramento Connect community. One is my friend Candy Suter of Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents and the other is—me. Needless to say I’m very excited to be part of this beautifully produced publication. What a great way to start the new year!