- Author: Launa Herrmann
If you're looking for a low-maintenance perennial that is one smart plant, consider the Japanese anemone. This member of the Ranunculaceae family knows its place on a gardener's calendar. Like New Yorkers, who realize that the appearance of Japanese anemone blossoms in Central Park's Conservatory Garden means shorter days and cooler weather lie ahead, I can predict fall's arrive by observing my anemones.
When the cluster of plants growing along the eastern exposure of my house begin to sprout graceful branching elongated stems, sometimes to heights of five feet, I know that a welcomed relief to the Vacaville's scorching summer heat is just around the corner. Slowly, atop the long, thin, wiry stems the buds open and hint at winter with pure white to pale pink blooms shaped like a tea saucer with a gentle upward curve of sepals instead of flower petals. In the center of the blossom is a greenish-yellow button-shaped cluster of stigmas encircled by a fluffy yellow ring of stamens. But most amazing to me is the Japanese anemones often blooms continuously until frost.
To grow this faithful perennial in your garden, here are a couple tips:
• Provide part shade and a buffer or shelter from strong winds and intense afternoon sun that may burn the foliage. Plants thrive best if protected by an overhang, larger plants or a tree.
• Place new plants into flowerbeds either in mid-spring or early autumn. Anemones grow in both acid or alkaline soil, spreading by underground runners from their fibrous rootstocks.
• Be patient and don't expect blooms the first year. In time, Japanese anemones will spread beside the side of your house and along your walkway, delighting you with fall blossoms year after year.
- Author: Lanie Keystone
As we come to the end of another record hot summer, there's little doubt left that we need to think and rethink our plantings for every season. We have had a most timely volume on our book shelf for several years and I recently took a closer look at it. The book is “Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the Bay Region”, and it is exquisite and spot on.
Published by the East Bay Municipal Utility District, the book is written by the water conservation staff and edited by Nora Harlow in 2004. The first impression upon opening the book is made by the most sumptuous, full-color photographs and illustrations splashed across every page. And, the content resonates with everything we need to create a beautiful and sustainable garden and landscape in the Bay Area.
The book begins with a section called, “Gardening Where You Are” which includes chapters on Bay Region Plant Communities, and Plant Adaptations in the Summer. Other chapters cover, “Notes on Design”, and an all- encompassing chapter titled “Plant Catalog”. This section takes plants one-by-one with outstanding photographs and detailed descriptions of hundreds of plants, shrubs, vines and trees appropriate for our area.
One of the most useful sections is a large survey of “plants for special places”. Who doesn't need to know the best perennials, shrubs, annuals, trees, vines, grasses or palms for those tricky, hard-to-cultivate sites? The final chapter, “The Landscape Over Time”, is a compendium of knowledge regarding soils, roots, and “gardens as ecosystems”. The book ends with an extensive survey telling how to successfully plant, water, fertilize and mulch plants for our specific area. Even the Resources section leads one to other books, periodicals, display gardens, and technical know-how for the novice and the most experienced gardener amongst us.
This is a wonderful companion to so many of our basic gardening books, including Sunset Western Garden Book because it goes so far beyond most volumes concerned with seasonal patterns of winter rain and dry summers. As Katherine Grace Endicott of the San Francisco Chronicle and author of Northern California Gardening reviewed--“A truly fine book. It's hard to imagine how anyone would want an English garden after seeing the beautiful gardens featured here. This book is off the charts. Highest recommendations.”
- Author: Michelle Davis
A few days ago I was looking online for a place to go hiking with our dogs not far away and found a park in Livermore. Sycamore Grove Park wraps most of the way around the Livermore VA Hospital. The park represents what the alluvial planes of the East Bay looked like in the 1800s and early 1900s when they were covered with sycamore woodlands intertwined with gravel and silt stream beds that flooded in winter and dried up in the summer. Today the stream that flows through the trees in the park is dam-controlled, so the stream bed and trees now have water year-round.
Eleven species of sycamore exist, but one is native to California and Baja California: Platanus racemosa also known as the Western Sycamore. Looking at the official name gives a clue to the common name of the species – plane tree. Western Sycamores have beautiful peeling bark and large leaves up to 10 inches wide. The trees are fast-growers, reaching 30 feet in five years with regular water and well-over 100 feet (over a longer period) in their native habitat.
They do need water. Their roots grow down towards the groundwater table in areas without summer irrigation. They can live hundreds of years this way. With regular irrigation, the roots will likely not reach the water table. So, when a drought causes there to be less water for the trees, they can die. Trees without that regular irrigation can live up to 500 years with “offspring” shooting up around the original trunk. The root system can live much longer (thousands of years) to keep the shoots alive while the original tree dies.
Sycamore trees are important to the ecosystem. The caterpillar of the Western tiger swallowtail butterfly(Papilio rutulus) relies on the sycamore for a home and for nutrition as it matures. The bark is food for some squirrels and beavers. Finches use the seeds for food. Bats, owls, gray foxes and birds inhabit the trees. We enjoy their shade on a hot day.
Sycamores, however, can be a problem for those with allergies. Their seed pods have tiny hair-like structures that go airborne with the seeds. Sycamores are pollinated both by bees and by the wind. The leaves themselves also have tiny sharp hairs that can cause a rash and itching.
The leaves of the trees in our area often have anthracnose, a fungal disease, that usually hits the tree when the leaves first start to unfurl in the spring. The leaves end up deformed and spotted and drop early. The tree can also develop cankers. Anthracnose won't generally kill the tree, but the leaves need to be dumped in the trash, not in the compost.
So, the next time you are strolling down sycamore-lined Main Street in Vacaville, enjoying the shade and the architecture of the trees, imagine when the entire area was covered with winding seasonal streams lined with beautiful Western Sycamores.
For more information about anthracnose: http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7420.html
- Author: Erin Mahaney
Sometimes a person connects with others in unexpected ways, creating enduring memories or sparking interests that the person will never know about. In my case, a near stranger introduced me to one of my favorite cut flowers.
One summer decades ago, I had an internship in an Oakland office with several other students. It was a busy time in part because I was getting married at the end of the summer, as was another intern. A gentleman who worked in the office, “Bob,” would stop by to briefly chat with us each day. Bob was close to retirement and didn't work directly with the interns, but he was always friendly and engaged, yet also professional. On the last day of our internship, he gave the female interns beautiful bouquets that included a striking purple flower that I had never seen before. When I inquired what it was, he responded “Lisianthus.” I loved it so much that I included it in my wedding bouquets that summer (see older photo).
Lisianthus (Eustoma Grandiflorum) is a long-stemmed, rose-like flower in the Gentianaceae family. Common names include Prairie Gentian, Texas bluebell, Tulip gentian, Bluebells and Lira de San Pedro. It is a wonderful cut flower with a long vase life, lasting up to 2 weeks or so. The flowers range from white to pink to purple with various shades in between, and also come in bi-color varieties. Even the buds are beautiful! The plant grows 1 to 3 feet tall and up to 14 inches wide, although there are also dwarf varieties.
I have found Lisianthus to be tricky to grow, and frankly, haven't had much success with it. It is generally grown as an annual plant and it is easier to grow from established seedlings or larger plants than from seeds. It requires rich, well-drained, moist soil in full sun and does not tolerate very acidic soil. The taller varieties may need staking. I have tried six-packs of seedlings on several occasions and they either get eaten by pests while young, don't bloom, or otherwise don't thrive. The one year I had my best success, the young plants ended up being partly shaded by other plants, so perhaps full sun is too much sun in our area. Nonetheless, I keep trying!
I later found out that Bob was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after his retirement. I didn't stay in touch with him after my internship, but I often think of him when I see bouquets of Lisianthus. I think that is a nice way to be remembered – associating someone with a flower – and I hope that he would have thought so too.
- Author: Betty Homer