Sunday, March 31, 2013

Reading by Sacramento Garden Writers Fred Hoffman and Debbie Arrington, 4/3/13, 8pm

If you live in the Sacramento area, or find yourself in Sacramento this coming Wednesday, here is an event that promises to be a ton of fun. Fred Hoffman, aka Farmer Fred, hosts a weekly gardening show on two local AM stations, and Debbie Arrington is the garden writer for the Sacramento Bee. Both are veritable founts of gardening knowledge.


Words Aloud: Garden Writers Fred Hoffman and Debbie Arrington

Wednesday, April 3, 2013 from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM (PDT) Sacramento, CA

Event Details

Dish the dirt with KFBK's Fred Hoffman
and The Sacramento Bee's Debbie Arrington
Wednesday, April 3
at Bows & Arrows

On Wednesday, April 3 please join us at Bows & Arrows for a very fertile reading featuring two well-known Sacramento gardeners and writers: Lifetime Master Gardener and host of the KFBK Garden show Fred Hoffman and Sacramento Bee garden reporter Debbie Arrington.

After the featured readers, attendees are invited to read their own short garden-related pieces (2-4 minutes) during the open mic portion. Then stick around for the after-party with socializing and complementary snacks.

What: A reading series
Where: Bows & Arrows, 1815 19th Street (across from Safeway)
When: 8:00-10:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 3
Cost: Free
Questions: Email Lisa Howard Sacramento Connect Community Manager

For more info and to register, go to

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Forgotten plants in my garden: Clivia miniata

If your garden is like mine, some plants always hog the stage while others recede into the background to the point where you forget you even have them. Until a momentous change occurs: maybe dramatic foliage color in the fall, or a vibrant burst of color in the spring.


One such plant is Clivia miniata. We refer to it simply as “clivia,” but it also has several other common names, including Kaffir lily, Natal lily and bush lily. It’s an amaryllis relative from South Africa that in most parts of the world is grown as a house plant. In our climate it does just fine outside. I planted it in the ground behind one of our bay trees ca. 2006 and it’s one of the very few plants that has been able to hold its own against the thirsty, aggressive roots from the bay trees. While in South Africa it grows in damp woodland habitats, in our garden it has to make do with pathetically dry soil.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Color Purple x 2

As we wrap up the month of March, one color leaps out at me as I look around the garden: purple. In the backyard it’s from our lilac, which is in full bloom:


Blue Skies lilac (Syringa vulgaris ‘Blue Skies’)

Our climate isn’t lilac-friendly, but thanks to the work of intrepid breeders like Ralph Moore of Visalia there are lilac cultivars that do well here in spite of our mild winters. Ours is called ‘Blue Skies’. If you live in a mild-winter climate and want to grow lilacs, here is a list of eight suitable cultivars.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Surprising choices for raised bed redo

Four years ago we built an L-shaped raised bed in a mostly ignored corner of the front yard.


January 19, 2009

The goal was to fill it with plants that sport lush tropical-looking foliage, including variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’), giant elephant ears (Alocasia macrorrhizos ‘Borneo Giant’), ferns and hostas, assorted Colocasia, and an assortment of ornamental gingers (Hedychium and Curcuma).


January 19, 2009

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sizzling iceplant

After lunch I happened to peek over the 4-ft. fence that surrounds our front yard and my bleary eyes feel upon this sizzling sight:

130326_Drosanthemum micans_01

Drosanthemum micans

Monday, March 25, 2013

Backyard aeonium bed revisited

In October I turned a neglected planting strip in the backyard into another succulent bed. Although there are a few echeverias, two agaves and a Kalanchoe beharensis, the strip is dominated by aeoniums. This is what it looked like in mid October:


October 14, 2012

And now, six months later:


March 24, 2013

Friday, March 22, 2013

Agave list updated

Originally inspired by Loree Bohl’s plant list on her blog Danger Garden, I created my own plant list a few years ago (it can be accessed from the Plant Lists link at the top of each page of this blog). The goal was to include a majority of the plants in my garden, broken down by genus.


Agave ‘Kissho Kan’

While my intentions were good, I never made it past one genus: Agave. Alphabetically speaking, Agave is the first major genus in my plant collection. More than that, it’s also the largest and my personal favorite. So for now, “plant list” is synonymous with “agave list.”

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Drifting white petals

This post was going to be about our first rain in more than six weeks and how I moved quite a few potted succulents out into the open so they can have a good drink after three months of dry hibernation. But as I was looking at the photos I took I realized that in virtually every one there were white petals. Sometimes just a few…


…sometimes a lot.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It’s official: spring is here

Today is the spring equinox, i.e. there are roughly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night. It is also officially the first day of spring.

In our climate, spring actually arrives much sooner, sometimes as early as February. In the third week of March, it is not unusual for the thermometer to climb into high 70s so it actually feels more like the very beginning of summer.

Warm daytime temperatures cause flowering trees and shrubs to wrap up their vernal display and focus on leaf growth. That’s certainly happening with the western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) in our neighborhood. What a glorious sight it still is!


Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Front patio after cleanup

We spent a good part of Saturday cleaning up the front patio. Over the winter, a lot of debris had collected in the nooks and crannies, including tons of leaves from neighborhood trees. It seems that our house always ends up with everybody else’s leaves!

I’m really happy with how nice everything looks—although I have no illusions that it will stay that way forever, LOL.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post about Green Acres Nursery in Folsom, CA, I was super excited to find an Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’. I had wanted one for many years but had never seen one in a nursery. Even online they are difficult to find.

Why, you may be wondering, am I going on and on about this variety? Take a look at these photos, and you will understand.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Revisiting Green Acres Nursery in Folsom

A year ago, Green Acres Nursery opened its 3-acre location in Folsom on the outskirts of Sacramento. At the time, it was billed as the largest retail nursery in California’s Central Valley. Here is the blurb I posted about my March 2012 visit. Since Folsom is a 40-minute drive from here and Green Acres’ Sacramento location is much closer, I had only visited the Folsom nursery that one time.

However, on Friday I had the opportunity to go back for another look-see. The nursery is located on the edge of town on a hill overlooking the Highway 50 to the south and upscale housing to the north.


View from Green Acres Nursery in Folsom, CA

While Green Acres has just about everything a gardener could want, their selection of shrubs is particularly impressive. There were at least a dozen different camellia varieties, many of them still in bloom.


Camellias in bloom

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fishtail palms at SFO

Last night I was at San Francisco International Airport to pick up a family member. My favorite feature in the international arrivals hall is a long row of majestic fishtail palms. They are perfect plants for a major international airport because they suggest faraway exotic destinations.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Of pulmonarias, hellebores, hydrangeas, and an exotic cycad

Last weekend I was finally able to spend some time in the garden. Most of it was dedicated to winter cleanup and an emergency drip irrigation fix—too boring for a blog post—but I also did a bit of planting in the backyard. But before I did any work, I noticed a beautiful sight: one of the Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’ I planted last fall is in bloom!


Pulmonaria ‘Raspberry Splash’

Monday, March 11, 2013

Interesting plant sightings at Lowes

I was at our local Lowes yesterday to pick up some parts for our drip irrigation system, and I made a quick pass through their garden center. Usually their offerings aren’t too exciting, but every now and then I see something good—like when the clearance table is well stocked. But even though the clearance plants were a sorry bunch this time, a few others did catch my eye.


So many strappy-leafed beauties on this table!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flowering trees bring spring cheer

Due to my ongoing work commitments I feel a bit like a shut-in. Fortunately, the weather has been glorious this past week and two of our trees are in full bloom: a purple cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Krauter Vesuvius) and a Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’).

Standing under them and looking up into their canopy makes me feel cheerful in spite of the nasty cold I’ve been nursing. And as the days go on, their petals begin to cover the driveway, the sidewalk, and the planting beds.

I love these fleeting moments of beauty, precisely because they are so short lived.