- Author: Marian I Chmieleski
When I saw the hyacinth bulb this morning in my sister's kitchen, I thought of a poem I heard some years ago. How did that go? Off to the Internet, which, as it tends to do, led me to a whole garden of information.
When we think of hyacinths, what first comes to mind is the Dutch hyacinth, a collection of hybrids that come from Hyacinthus orientalis, which according to the Sunset Western Garden Book is a Mediterranean native. These beauties grow to about a foot tall; have tightly packed blooms in various colors from white, through pinks, salmons and blues to purple; and emit a wonderful perfume. They can be grown in all zones of the USA except Hawaii, but are treated as annuals except where winters are cold enough to really chill the bulbs.
Among other hyacinths are those native to the south of France (Hyacinthus orientalis albulus), which are smaller than the Dutch hybrids and do well year after year in zones 4-24 without needing a winter chill. There is also the wood hyacinth Hyacinthoides, (also known as bluebells)a taller plant with looser flower clusters. The Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica /Scilla campanulata) is the only wood hyacinth that does well in our California lowlands. And finally, we have the grape hyacinth (Hyacinthella azurea/Muscari azureum), which is actually from a different genus entirely (Asparagaceae). The grape hyacinth can successfully be naturalized and will pop up year after year in your garden as a happy little harbinger of spring.
The name hyacinth has a very interesting legend behind it. According to Greek mythology, Hyacinthus was a beautiful young god and lover of Apollo. As the two were out throwing the discus one day, Hyacinthus decided to impress Apollo by running and catching Apollo's throw. (Please note, the discus is not a Frisbee, but rather a 4.4-pound stone disc thrown in field competitions.) As Hyacinthus attempted to catch the stone, it hit him in the head and killed him. A variation on this theme is that Zephyrus, god of the west wind, was also enamored of Hyacinthus and jealous of his relationship with Apollo. It was Zephyrus' blowing of the discus off its intended course then that caused it to kill Hyacinthus. Either way, Apollo, in his grief, made a flower of Hyacinthus' blood so that he would never be completely lost.
A curious aside: Mozart's first opera was Apollo et Hyacinthus. The young composer was 11 years old when he wrote it.
And, oh, yes! The poem....
"If, of thy mortal goods, thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and from the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul."
13th Century Persian Poet
You will find hyacinths now in your garden nursery or catalog.
- Author: Mike Gunther
Life's yearly fresh start
Nature's rebirth soon occurs
- Author: Kathy Low
About once a year, usually during spring, the county will send out workers with their heavy roadside equipment to mow the weeds along rural roads in the area. But with the benefit of having the weeds mowed comes a downside. The mechanical mower has a bad habit of unintentionally spreading weed seeds from one location to another. Unfortunately a wide patch of whitestem filaree (Erodium moschatum) is now growing on my property near the road.
Filaree (Erodium spp.) is a low growing weed found throughout most of the state. Whitestem filaree, redstem filaree (Erodium cicutarium) and broadleaf filaree (Erodium botrys) are some of the species growing in Solano. They are often found in vineyards, orchards, pastures, fields, and along roadsides.
Young filaree plants grow in a flat rosette pattern. Mature plants bear small flowers in the center of the rosette generally from February through May. The flowers are then followed by long thin pods that eventually burst open to eject thin long seeds.
Filaree propagates by seed. So it's important not to let them go to seed. Which means I'll be spending a lot of time outdoors pulling those darn weeds!
You can find out more information about filaree at UC Weed Research and Information Center website at www.wric.ucdavis.edu.
- Author: Ken Williams
This past week I was required to get out and do some pruning on the backside of my house, new gutters were coming! It has been a long time since I pruned my “Jade Plant” and it was in the way and would have been severely damaged if not pruned prior to the work crew showing up for the gutter work. I pruned and cleaned up my “Jade Plant” and then thought how about a blog on the “Jade Plant” with some pictures.
A good place to start would be with a little botanical knowledge about the “Jade Plant”. The binomial botanical name (genus and species) for my “Jade Plant” is Crassula ovata (older species name was argentea and also sometimes sold under the species name of portulacea. It belongs to the Crassulaceae Family; common name for this family is Stonecrop or Orpine. Crassula is a succulent perennial in the Order of Saxifragales. The family is considered to be 100 to 60 million years old and came from the region of Eastern Africa. “Jade Plant” has a multitude of common names such as: jade tree, baby jade, dollar plant, cauliflower ears, Chinese rubber plant, dwarf rubber plant, and Japanese rubber plant. With all these common names it's quite clear why we prefer to use the botanical name, insuring we get the right plant.
Plants in the Family Crassulaceae perform a different type of photosynthesis as compared to our other flowering plants, it is called “CAM”, Crassulacean Acid Metabolism. The stomata (little pores on the leaves) in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration (water loss), but open at night to collect carbon dioxide. This is basically opposite of what other plants do during the day.
Plant details: shrub to 10 feet tall with Glabrous leaves (meaning, hairless and smooth), leaves are obovate in shape (meaning, reverse egg shape: widest point of leaf is near the tip), 1 to 2 inches in length, green often with red margins (leaf edges), nearly petioled (meaning, very short petiole). Flowers are white or pink, and flowers freely outdoors in the right climate zone.
Sunset Western Garden Book shows 10 different species of Crassula. The species ovata grows best in Zones 8, 9, 12-24 and H1, H2. Best in full sun or bright light depending on zone and needs little to no water. “Top notch houseplant, large container plant, and landscaping shrub in mildest climates”.
My “Jade Plant” is growing in the planting bed on the West side of my home and protected from the hot afternoon sun by my giant Acer saccharinum, (Silver Maple). The plant originally came to me in a large wooden pot (three feet wide and 1 foot tall) as a gift, being too lazy to take it out of the pot and noting the pot was starting to rot anyway I just planted the whole thing. It loves the area and has grown into a very large plant and has been pruned many times over the years.
Want a cutting? Crassula's cuttings survive very well with little to no attention. A cutting needs to set for a few days to callus over and then they are ready to plant into a well drained soil, its just that simple. Cuttings available upon request.
- Author: Diana Bryggman
No, not the latest suggestions for your dry Mediterranean garden, but a different type of review this month. My twenty-something children gave me a gift subscription to Netflix for Christmas, probably because they were horrified to learn their father and I have become devotees of “Dancing With the Stars”. I don't know if this was their intention or not, but I am now able to watch reruns of “Rosemary and Thyme”, the wonderful BBC show that ran on PBS only from 2003-2007. Once you meet Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme, plantswomen extraordinaire and detectives as well, you won't be able to stop watching this series. I always enjoyed it on PBS, but was frankly never quite sure when it would air. It seemed to be more of a “pledge-week tease” than a regularly scheduled program.
Here's the brief: Rosemary Boxer is a plant pathologist and Laura Thyme is a retired policewoman who work together in a “gardening consultancy”. They travel all over England, and occasionally beyond, to recreate old gardens, often using the original landscape plans they have unearthed somehow. They are regularly commissioned to restore overgrown or abandoned gardens and they (well, their set-dressing gardeners) produce wonderful results. While you watch the planting process, and hear them discuss the virtues of many species we are able to grow easily in Northern California, you will of course be entertained by their detective work, which invariably requires them to solve at least one murder. While searching for the thief who is lifting their newly-planted curry plant, Helichrysum italicum, from a lovely area they are redoing in Kensington Gardens, they of course discover a dead body, and so the search for the plant thief takes a back seat to the search for the murderer.
The show gives its viewers a wonderful overview of some old English landscapes as well as the occasional Mediterranean resort. One episode finds the gardener-sleuths planning and planting a “presentation garden” at a Spanish tennis resort that could just as easily have been located anywhere in California. While you tour the countryside from the ladies' ancient Land Rover, you will gather wonderful ideas for plant combinations and garden layouts.
“Rosemary and Thyme” is the perfect antidote for a rainy day when gardening is not appealing. And while I wait for that day to come to Solano County, I think I will go out looking for Helichrysum italicum, a perennial that needs moderate water and grows in Sunset Zones 13-24. Its pale grey leaves and delicate branching seem like a perfect foil to the spiky, reddish Cordyline australis I relocated today, in an effort to clear out a crowded bed.
Or perhaps I will just rest and seek further inspiration with another episode of “Rosemary and Thyme”.