- Author: Sterling Smith
The Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) is a popular ornamental and street tree. A member of the Magnoliaceae family, it is native to the Eastern US where it thrives in rich, moist and deep bottomland soils.
Considered one of the tallest hardwoods in the US normally reaches 60-90 feet in height with an Ohio specimen reaching a height of 165 feet! Beautiful green leaves with the appearance of a cats face or a tulip, then green, orange and yellow tulip shaped flowers appear in late spring. A characteristic I've observed, the tree will frequently form three trunks in a triangular array. Fall brings golden brown leaf color. An identifying characteristic during winter are the black remnants of the flowers that are born upright on bare branches.
When installing the tree, it likes full sun and regular water. Take care to protect the bark from sun-scald. Young trees with smooth thin bark can sustain damage from our intense California sun. Use whitewash, a spiral wrap or a sleeve to protect the tender bark of the trunk. Using under-story plantings to shade the trunk is an alternative method.
The wood is soft and easily worked, making it a popular and economical choice for wood working projects.
- Author: Jenni Dodini
Being a little bit retired has allowed Steve and me the luxury of travel. In that vein, we decided to celebrate our anniversary on the "Big Island" this year. Driving to the hotel, I noticed what looked like clumps of some kind of grass growing up from the lava rocks all over the place. For those of you unfamiliar with Hawaii Island, it has 11 of the 13 known climates in the world, all contained on one fairly good sized island which was formed by volcanic activity. One side of the island, the Kona side, is dry; 10 inches average rainfall per year. Then the other side, the Hilo side, gets LOTS of rain, like 200 plus inches per year.
I imagine you are now wondering where I am going with this blog.
Here it is. We went on a tour. (No surprise there.) So, it was asked, "what is this plant growing up from the lava rock?" As one can expect from a professional tour guide, he had a story about it. It is known in Hawaii as African Fountain Grass. It was brought to the island by a well meaning home gardener looking to beautify the garden with a plant that could withstand the environment of that particular home. What happened is that this plant quickly became invasive all over the island and is now threatening the native plants in the island that are crucial in reforesting in the lava flow areas. It is also beginning to threaten the coffee trees! Really unacceptable.
So, true to my nature, I had to stew about this information. Then I had to look it up. The African Fountain Grass is from the family Poaceae, and this variety is Pennisetum setaceum. There is a variety which is becoming invasive in California as well. According to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council website, it is classified as Hawaii's most invasive ornamental plant. It is posing a serious risk to the island because it out-competes other plants for available resources, like water and space. It also adapts very easily to whatever environment into which it is introduced. It is native to Africa and the Middle East, grows in clumps up to about 3 ft in height, has long wiry leaves and the flowers and seeds form long purple or yellow spikes. The seeds are easily dispersed by the wind and water, as well as animals and vehicles. The most concerning thing about this plant is that it has adapted to fire. It can survive a brush fire even though it is an excellent fuel for a brush fire. According to the information on the Hawaii site and the Invasive Grasses site at which I looked, it seems that fire actually stimulates its growth!!! This is a very nutritionally poor grass, so much so that the cattle and wild sheep and goats will not eat it unless there is absolutely nothing else to eat. What is happening on Hawaii Island, and probably also in California, is that this grass is changing the structure of the "dry forest" to a grass savannah. This grass is incredibly difficult to control as you can easily see from the picture below. The only way is to pull it out when it is small or whack it down with a weed whacker before it can flower and seed, or dig it out. Then there is a very strong herbicide but the fear is that it will adapt and become resistant.
My thoughts have been veering along the path of "I hope that I have not been that kind of home gardener" to "I need to do what I can to avoid becoming that kind of gardener" then further down the path to "what can I, as a Master Gardener, do to prevent others from introducing an invasive species into our environment?"
I hope that this blog becomes Food For Thought about what we can do when we meet the public out there.
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Well, spring appears to arrived and that means that the garden list comes out and the new jobs are duly
entered. The holdovers from last season's list slowly – ever so slowly – come floating to the top! First is
the weeding of the new front bed; the next step is putting the brown mulch (purchased last year and
languishing at the corner of the garage) into place, and following that with the new drip system. The
reason for the mulch and THEN the drip is this way I won't be doing one of my famous face-plants
tripping over the piping! And you folks thought “old dogs” couldn't learn new tricks!
But before turning on that watering zone, I need to find the irrigation connections for the new system.
With the latest system, I don't need to remove the entire sprinkler bodies – just remove the tops and
guts and then put the new drip heads on! At least that was the way Toro envisioned the concept. New
Flash!! The Toro guts are bigger in diameter than the bodies of the RainBird sprinklers. OK, no problem
– here we replace the bodies after all, go team!! After a glorious afternoon of doing that, I'm right back
to square 1.
Right now I've used 3 of my mulch bags from last year – Oh glory!! – I have to go get more. I can get
some next week: What do you mean the sale ends tomorrow?? Back I go today while I have my pack
mule, er my husband, available to load those bags into the truck. Egad, I am pooped – back to that job
The next on the list from last year was making small 2 X 2 boxes for the 4 clematis that are to be planted
along the side of the garden shed. First things first: go get the lumber for the construction. After
laughing hysterically at the cost of decent redwood boards, the plan undergoes a drastic change in
design and plan ( plan A was an 8 X 2 long raised bed but with a 6-foot bed on the truck that changed
fast). That's why each vine is having its own little box – 8-footers weren't available in the width or
height I wanted so change plan again. After consulting with my wood man (Bruce, natch), it was
determined that my funds only covered pressure-treated wood—and the was a stretch of the purse
strings – so that what the little darlings will get!
I was all ready to begin the little raised beds but : before that occurs, the weeds in the area need to go;
before that occurs, I will wait until they stop blooming (gorgeous blooms up to 5” wide; before that
occurs, we need to paint the shed; before that occurs, we need to get the other bids to paint the house
and the shed; before that occurs – I DON'T know!! Maybe that's for next Spring's list!
Dealing with the List today, I need a long rest!
- Author: Trisha Rose
Last year we decided our Improved Meyer Lemon needed to be moved. Note: the original Meyer Lemon trees were found to be carriers of the deadly Tristeza Virus which spread to other citrus worldwide. Four Winds Nursery developed a disease-free Meyer Lemon which was certified and released by the University of California in 1975 as the "Improved Meyer Lemon", this Improved Meyer is now the only Meyer allowed to be sold in California and Arizona.
Our Improved Meyer Lemon Tree needed to move. It was planted about 5 or 6 years ago in the wrong spot. When the Meyer was chosen it was supposed to grow to a mature size of 12 feet tall or so we understood. The plan was to have this soon to be full and lush tree function as a screen as well as provide tangy and juicy fruit. The result after 5 or so years was a short 48" by about 58" wide tree balancing on a very narrow trunk. During the time the Meyer was growing, it had been increasingly competing for sunlight with an overhanging branch of a large Podocarpus tree. That tree just continues to grow and shed its thin leaves throughout the year. The result, the leaves showered the Meyer all year round. Our dilemma, cut off the offending branch which is functioning as a screen or move the Meyer, so we dug up the Meyer. Well the move almost killed the tree. I moved a patio umbrella to shield it from the intense heat of the day and gave it almost a daily drink of water. The Meyer made a very slow recovery by October so I had my fingers crossed the frost wouldn't speed its demise. Fortunately we experienced only minimal frost in December and enjoyed a normal rainfall this past winter. The result, the Meyer has leafed out and now has many, many blossoms which, hopefully, will develop into beautiful Meyer Lemons.
For those of you who haven't tasted a Meyer, there is a major difference in fragrance and flavor compared to our very hardy Eureka Lemon. The Eureka is very tart with thick skinned large fruit, the Meyer has smaller rounded fruit with a fragrant fruity aroma with less acidic juice.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
It's almost April. We are leaving winter behind and heading into spring. I think of wildflowers in April as the rolling hills around Solano County display splashes of colors this time of year.
Growing up in San Rafael at my grandparents, annual spring road trips around the area to see the wildflowers was a time of exploration. My grandparents liked to drive, picnic and hike to the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais, and Samuel P. Taylor Park. We would head towards the ocean to Pt. Reyes and Tomales Bay. The hills were covered in tall grasses and amazing colors. The yellow gold patches of the California poppies that blew in the wind were beautiful. I liked the poppies best; having been told it was the California State flower. The poppy is used as a symbol in so many publications, we don't even pay attention to it. Many garden clubs use the California poppy on their literature and membership publications. The UC Master Gardener Statewide logo embraces a poppy, poppy bud, and leaf.
Then there are the purple-blue lupines scattered throughout the hillsides. Living in the country sometime ago my children loved to pick lupines for bouquets for me. A memory I treasure.
I love the unusual names of wildflowers such as Prairie Bells, Shooting Stars, Milk Vetch, Butter and Eggs and Meadow Foam. In drought years, the wildflowers do not perform like years when we have rainfall. This spring should have quite a display.
Where to see wildflowers in Solano County? Look at the rolling hills for masses of color as you drive throughout the county. Take a train tour in April at the Western Railway Museum on Highway 12(www.wrm.org). Solano Land Trust (www.Solanolandtrust.org) has guided walks throughout Solano County. One of the most unusual tours is exploring the Jepson Prairie on Sundays, off highway 113. This vanishing habitat has existed for millions of years. The miniature ecosystem has a complex food web that sustains birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians (such as fairy shrimp). The natural earth depressions covered by shallow water from winter to spring, remain dry the rest of the year. Bring your family to see the natural miniature world of wildflowers and vernal pools; it's quite an education. Make sure you bring your loop or a magnifying glass for this incredible journey.