- Author: Mollie Jarrett
I've been plagued by a stray cat that is determined to use my herb bed for their personal toilet.
I've tried some of the usual tactics to discourage it like cayenne pepper, orange peels, and netting buried under the soil. Nothing worked until I saw “How to Keep Cats Out of the Garden” at veggiegardener.com. The answer was a simple inexpensive item, (though a not so aesthetically pleasing one), that has worked for me so far.
Look at the picture below. Have you figured it out? Yep, plastic forks! Just place them tine side up about two inches apart. It seems that cats don't like the feel of the tines against them so they stay out.
P.S. You could use the clear plastic forks which would be a little less noticeable.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
I purchased a Brunfelsia pauciflora after seeing one on a local garden tour. The color purple pops in any garden and this smallish shrub in the backyard behind a swimming pool was striking. Researching information about it I learned it would grow in zone 9, belongs to the Solanaceae family, requires partial shade and needs regular water. It is an evergreen, perennial shrub, quite lovely by itself when it is not in bloom.
Since all parts of this plant are poisonous if ingested, I planted my shrub behind other plants in a small, shady, side garden. In doing so, it would be “hidden” and away from curious pets. It has been in the ground for about seven years and has just recently begun blooming heavily. The tubular flowers fade from purple to lavender to white, hence the folksy common name. It has beautiful oval leaves, which disappear underneath the beautiful, multiple clusters of blooms.
A tropical American native, it blooms in spring and early summer. It does well in containers. Although most literature mentions pruning this plant to shape it, I have never had to prune ours. It is about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. In alkaline soil, iron may need to be added to the soil to prevent chlorosis. So far, using fish emulsion has worked well. Literature says this shrub will grow to 10 feet tall, but pruning can keep it much smaller.
‘Macrantha' has large purple flowers and is less cold hardy while ‘Floribunda Compacta' has smaller blooms but more of them. It also has larger oval leaves, eight inches long and two and a half inches wide.
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is an easy shrub to grow requiring little attention in the garden. Besides enjoying the beautiful blooms, I adore the name. It sounds so Victorian.
- Author: Launa Herrmann
This summer I repotted my succulents. What a delight to survey my collection, finally all neat and tidy. However, less than a month later, I noticed an intruder. “Out of the blue” popped a yellow mushroom. To tell the truth, I wasn't sure what I was actually looking at. And frankly, the little fungi was so cute I really didn't want to disturb it. But I did. With hand in surgical glove, I pulled it up and out of its blue ceramic pot. Its aroma — well, it smelled so earthy, almost cooking-quality good.
After snapping several photos and spending time researching I discovered the interloper is Leucocoprinus birnbaumii, also known as plantpot dapperling, flowerpot parasol, and the yellow houseplant mushroom. Initially upon its discovery in 1785 near Halifax, this species was named Agaricus luteus, however a different fungus had already been given that name. In 1839 a garden inspector with the surname Birnbaum found the same species in a Prague greenhouse resulting in its current name of birnbaumii.
Whatever you call it, you definitely do not want this mushroom on pizza or atop your salad. After discovering conflicting reports about its toxicity, from being poisonous if consumed to causing only gastrointestinal upset, I'm not about to give this cute colorful mushroom a try. After all, who needs drama after a nice dinner!
So I disposed of the pot's content — succulents, mushroom, and all the tiny little sprouts of mushrooms — securing them in a plastic garbage bag before dumping the bag into the trash can. Since this mushroom spreads through contaminated soil or mulch, I avoided using the green waste can. I left the empty ceramic pot in the sizzling summer sun to sterilize itself for a couple weeks, then scrubbed its surfaces with a mixture of water and bleach.
If you find these mushrooms in your pots, remember they are almost impossible to eradicate. The longer you allow them to sit around, the more risk you take in their spores spreading to other pots.
- Author: Maria X. Isip-Bautista
Next time you're driving through downtown Vallejo, slow down as you go through the intersection of Marin and Ohio Streets, for there you'll come upon a magical little place with flowers and greenery peaking out over the fence. This place is St. Vinnie's Community Garden, and it was one of the gardens featured in the 2015 Vallejo Garden Tour. The Garden was built in 2014, but, as Lisa Marie Gerhard, one of the Garden's founding board members will tell you, the garden's been long in the making. It started several years back with her neighbor Kathy Beistel and a small group of St. Vinnie's residents who wanted to create a place that would serve as a gathering place for people to come and garden together, provide education about healthy food and gardening to young people, and to bring a new spark of life to what's historically been a rougher part of town.
Bringing this vision into reality took a lot of hard work and ingenuity as St. Vinnie's is the first and only Vallejo community garden on city-owned property. Not being satisfied by just getting their own project up and running, the originators of the garden wanted to blaze a bureaucratic trail for others who might want to similarly put underutilized city land into use. They found the city to be a willing and helpful partner, and they now have a lease from the city for the lot for $1/month for 5 years with an option for 5 more. St. Vinnie's was also one of 10 community gardens in the city that received money from Vallejo's 2013 Participatory Budgeting process, and this is where much of the funding for the garden came from.
That funding provided a solid foundation from which they were able to get construction underway. The space was partially a parking lot, and they had to remove 88 yards of asphalt to start. Much of the materials and labor to create the impressive place that exists today, however, came via “angels” in the community who miraculously showed up just when they were needed. For example, when there was need to construct a walkway through the garden, Jim of James Kale Concrete (now the garden's construction manager) showed up and donated his labor, while Keith Orantes of Vallejo's Bayshore Materials donated the concrete to get the project done. Fittingly, a beautiful community created angel statue, donated by local artist Sherry Tobin, is poised centrally in the garden and embodies the feeling of magic that exists there.
The garden now includes fifty-one garden beds: three of these are ADA compliant, allowing community members with varying physical ability levels to participate; ten are tended by school children from the local elementary school; and the others are rented out to individuals or groups on a yearly basis. The $50 yearly fee collected per garden includes electricity and water for irrigation. Food from the boxes tended by school children goes to feed those in need, and there is currently a sizable wait list for garden boxes.
It appears St. Vinnie's has been tremendously successful in its goal of creating a beautiful space in the heart of downtown Vallejo where gardens and community can grow and flourish. Todd Blakely and his husband, Tony, moved to the St. Vinnie's neighborhood, after having lived in the Glen Cove area for several years. It wasn't until they made this move and found St. Vinnie's Community Garden, that they truly found a sense of community. He's now joined the garden staff as their plot coordinator.
So, the next time you're driving through downtown Vallejo, take an extra moment to park, walk the garden, and meet the people who make the magic. Better yet, come out on a second Saturday of any month, St. Vinnie's standing workdays, and you'll find this planty place bustling with lots of great people full of love for their community.
- Author: Susan P Croissant
Giant Honey Flower. Giant Honey Bush. (Melianthus major). The genus Melianthus literally means "honey flower." This tropical, soft-wooded, hermaphrodite perennial is another sample from Gabriel's garden (Vallejo Garden Tour 2015). Its flowers (present in April) had subsided by the May tour, so check this close-up of the lovely brandy wine blooms: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Melianthus+major
This specimen is big, bold and architecturally striking. Rapid growth, 6-12 ft H x 8-15 ft W. By year two, long bare stems topped with "primeval" looking foliage blends quite nicely in a tropical-look garden. Foot-long, strongly-toothed bluish-grey/green leaves cluster toward branch tips. Flowers produce on second-year wood, followed by ornamental papery seed pods. Blooms appear late winter, early Spring as long stems holding foot-tall spikes of flowers with 1" petals. Eye-catching color: brandy wine (red/purple), maroon, reddish-brown, bronze, burgundy, deep brick-red. They produce an abundance of honey-like black nectar, attracting bees, butterflies, birds, hummingbirds. Sunbirds and Cape White Eyes frequent this plant in South Africa, where it is indigenous and well known in the Southwest Cape, occurring naturally along streams and roadside ditches. While fertile soil provides good foliage effects, it appears to flower well in poor soil.
The standard directive is that flowering will occur ONLY if the plant is NOT cut to the ground each year. In the Pacific Northwest, winter cold and frost damage to stems requires cutting it to the ground once the danger of frost has passed. Some opt to do so before winter arrives. (I would note here that this can more readily allow the damage to reach roots.) Some report letting it grow during a mild winter but, disappointed with the resultant blooms, opt to cut it back each year. (I wonder if blooms would have improved after 2 mild winters.) In any case, root stock must be well mulched in cold areas and during frosts. Regarding pests, I happened upon one reference: watch the undersides of older leaves for a "particularly repulsive form of pulsating aphid." (Maybe I'll unearth that species in a future blog.)
M. comosus, a smaller species, is widespread throughout South Africa. Kruidjie-roer-my-nie [Afrikaans] and Ibonya [Zulu], meaning "herb-touch-me-not." All parts of the plant, when brushed against or bruised, produce a strong smell described as unpleasant/malodorous or similar to hazelnut/peanut butter. Although toxic when taken internally (root poisonous, flower highly toxic), it is used medicinally by the local people. Ointment (leaves simmered in oil/lard). Infusions (leaf or root brewed for a wash or bath) for backaches and rheumatic joints. Leaf poultice applied to septic wounds, sores, bruises. Traditional remedy for snake bite. Treating ringworm. Branches are used to wipe the ground and remove the smell of humans when placing traps for jackals/wild animals.
Annie's and Digging Dog, among others, stock this plant. Peruse their sites for more photos and basic info. https://www.anniesannuals.com/plants/view/?id=1382 http://www.diggingdog.com/pages2/plantpages.php/P-0894
Located in South Africa, this site has photos of pods, a sunbird feeding and the species M. comosus: