- Author: Betty Victor
I was going to blog about some flowers and how they got their names, but turning the book over and looking at the back of the book cover changed my mind. I have had this book for several years and really never looked at the back book cover. Here is some of the information it has on it provided by Diana Wells.
Rose-It was introduced to England by the Normans. The spelling was Roese and Rohese. Fun fact: Napoleon's wife Empress Josephine, carried one to hide her teeth when she laughed. It is said that she had very bad teeth.
Forsythia-Scotsman William Forsyth (for whom it's named) conned the British Navy out of $1500.00 with a mysterious concoction.
Water Lily- No one dared to tell Queen Victoria that the variety named after her was also named after the legendary Amazons.
Datura-Since this plant is poisonous, Thomas Jefferson was afraid to plant it in the garden at Monticello because he had grandchildren.
Nasturtium-Monet's famous garden at Giverny relied on it. http://fondation-monet.com/en/practical-informations/giverny-flowers/nasturtiums/
Chrysanthemum-Introduced to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks. Kiku (Chrysanthemum in Japanese) represents longevity and rejuvenation.
Acanthus-Its leaves inspired ornamentation in Ancient Greek Architecture. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acanthus_(ornament)
Some of you might know this information or can look it up on the Internet for more information. I did know some of it, but other information was new to me. It was interesting and fun to learn some new things about flowers.
- Author: Martha White
I am a hummingbird nerd. The more I learn about these tiny dynamos of flight, the more I want to learn. Another thing I am passionate about is helping children learn about this amazing world we live in. Before I retired, I taught for 25 years in Fairfield public schools, mostly second and third graders. I truly love involving children in the learning process, making it interesting and exciting. If you have children around you this summer, possibly on vacation from school, maybe you can introduce them to the hummingbirds that live in our area.
Hummingbirds are only found in the Western Hemisphere, with most varieties in the warm tropical regions of Central and South America. The well-known Ruby-Throated Hummingbird spends the winter in Mexico, and then migrates to the eastern portion of the United States and Canada for the summer. In California, we are fortunate to have other varieties who migrate through our area, from Mexico on their way to western Canada and Alaska for the summer, including the orange-colored Rufous and Allen's hummingbirds, and the green/beige Calliope hummingbird. Hummingbirds do not migrate in a flock, but travel alone, and are likely to return to the same area where they hatched.
The Anna's hummingbird lives in northern California year-round, thanks to our mild winters, and the increasing numbers of home gardens with hummingbird feeders available. The male Anna's is one of the easiest to identify, thanks to his rose red head, and his greenish-gray breast and belly. The female will build a nest of tiny twigs, held together with spider webs and lichen. The average hummingbird nest will be about the size of a half-dollar coin. The female usually lays two tiny eggs, which resemble mini-white jelly beans.
To help you to answer some of those kid questions, as well as your own, I'd like to recommend a book, Beginner's Guide to Hummingbirds, by Donald and Lillian Stokes. With colorful photos and easy to understand text, this book will guide you into adding onto the information you already have.
If you want to begin the fascinating process of watching hummingbirds in your garden, an inexpensive hummingbird feeder would be available for around $10 at our local garden supply stores. I have seen designs for a homemade feeder, using an empty plastic soda bottle, but I have never tried that. The feeder needs to have something red as part of its design, which helps the birds to find it. When making food for it, use 4 cups water to 1 cup sugar, boiling the mixture for 2 minutes, and then letting it cool. The boiling step will help prevent algae growth in the feeder over several days, especially if the temperature stays hot during the day. Do not use honey or artificial sweetener, as these may be harmful to the hummingbird. Research has not confirmed that adding red food coloring is harmful to the tiny birds, but it has been discussed is some of the books I've read. I usually add just a drop or two, tinting the water pink, which helps me to see from the window when the feeder is almost empty. Be sure to wash the feeder thoroughly each time before refilling it.
A fun activity to try is the hand-held hummingbird feeder, which can be purchased online, or made from a small red lid or bottle cap. Fill the tiny feeder with the same food solution described above, and place the tiny feeder on your outstretched palm. Wear something red to attract the hummingbird, and place your chair not too far from where you have seen hummingbirds visiting your flowers or larger feeder. Hummingbirds tend to be most active in the mornings or evenings, which might give you a better chance of having one visit you. Sit quietly as you wait!
If you or the kids enjoy making projects, you might like to make a tiny hummingbird swing. Use a piece of a wire coat hanger, or other heavy wire, and curve it into a “U” shape. Find a tiny twig, or cut a 6” piece of a wooden dowel, diameter no larger than one-fourth inch. Fasten the dowel to the “U” shape, turning the entire thing so the “swing” twig is at the bottom. Decorate your swing with a bit of red ribbon or a red bead. Hang it near your feeder. Hummingbirds have very tiny feet which they use to perch, but not to walk or hop, like most other birds do. Your swing will give your new friend a resting place.
One final idea, as the summer heat is upon us, is if you or your kids enjoy coloring. I googled “hummingbird coloring pages”. Many websites offered free pages, depending on the child's age. I hope you will continue to join me, as we learn more about sharing our Northern California neighborhoods with Anna's hummingbirds!
- Author: Betty Homer
Last year I blogged on the Annual Silicon Valley Tour de Coop. I am happy to report that it is returning again this year (the 6th year!) which is take place on Saturday, September 16, 2017. This fun ride has its riders traveling from homestead to homestead in the South Bay to view chicken coops, bee hives, and people's private gardens. Just check out the amazing coop below (picture courtesy of the Silicon Valley Tour de Coop website) —wouldn't you want to live here if you were a chicken?
Best of all, it is free!
Last year, the organizers reported that 1,937 people signed up for the Event, viewing 38 coops along 13 different bike loops.
Although it is a trek down to Silicon Valley from Solano County, it is nevertheless a great opportunity to view people's private homesteads and in a setting and climate different from our own. Although the tour is free and is self-guided, you will need to register for the tour via Eventbrite, and the link can be found on the tour's webpage. You can also see photos from prior years to give you an idea of what you can expect to see. Also, for those who do not cycle, you may also travel from site to site by car. For further information, please see https://tourdecoop.org/
- Author: Betsy Buxton
As I've said before, you can learn an awful lot from working at a Farmers' Market booth. There are shortcuts and long cuts that we all go through when growing plants in Solano County. I've heard about growing veggies, for instance, upside down, right side up, and planting tomatoes sideways! The “tried and true” places to purchase seeds and plants, plus the places where “not to go”. One thing for sure though, is there as many ways to garden as there are gardeners. But still, some questions still are “stump the chump” originals! Some of the better ones follow:
“What is mushroom compost?” The first thought is compost made for mushrooms – beep, wrong answer. Mushroom compost is “regular” compost in which mushrooms have been grown; nothing in the Sunset Books about that subject. This can be purchased at some full service garden centers or purchased by mail or over the Internet. That question bothered until I got home and goggled it.
“Where can I buy mushroom seeds?” Well, it appears that mushrooms don't have SEEDS but spores, you can't. The sources I found online suggested buying mushroom growing kits only. Perhaps the local mushroom society (and yes, there is a mushroom society) can help you with that if you didn't want to buy one of the commercial kits on the market.
The most popular question is dealing with tomatoes, and lately, summer squashes. The question goes something like this: “My tomatoes (squashes) were growing so well and now the tomatoes are turning brown or black and rotting. What insect is causing this?” Well, the problem is NOT an insect so hold up on the insecticides! It has to do this watering, temperature, and calcium. BLOSSOM END ROT is a disease resulting from deficiency of calcium due to uneven water moisture in the soil. This deficiency occurring because with our recent extremely hot days, the transpiration rates of the plants can vary due to soil temperature and moisture in the soil. This in turn affects the amount of calcium carried through the plant and out to both the leaves and fruit; because the uptake of calcium is limited in fluctuating wet and dry soils conditions, the plants should be kept consistently watered. Mulching the planting areas and using either drip irrigation or watering frequently from below will help kept this problem at bay. Cleaning the plant of the rotted fruit will keep additional diseases and problem such as fungi.
A suggestion from Patrick Greenwald (2013), Missouri Botanical Kemper Demonstration Gardens, is to test the soil the following year to check on soil calcium and amend if necessary to eliminate this problem.
And please remember that if you're hot, your dog or cat is probably pretty warm too.
- Author: Michelle Davis
While hand-watering a raised bed a couple of weeks ago, I discovered a large green spider in one of my basil plants. Actually what I found first were dozens of tiny green spiders running around the bed. They appeared to be ballooning on long strands from the top of the plant to the soil, not really webs at all. It took a little searching to find “Mom” who was deftly hidden among the green leaves. She was BIG. I have been gardening in Central and Northern California for 40 years, and I had never seen any spider like this one before. I grabbed my iPad, took a picture and then googled her.
She is likely a green lynx spider. They are common in the southern half of the US from coast to coast, in California and into Mexico. They can be found in xeric gardens on grasses, low shrubby plants, flowers and herbs like my basil. I looked at the IPM site and realized that I had probably seen “Dad” a little earlier in the day. He was a skinny dude and looked just like the picture on the IPM site. Peucetia viridans is the largest spider in Oxyopidae family. These spiders don't spin webs. They just wait for prey to come along, then stalk and pounce on it, hence the name “lynx”.
They can change color over a week or two to other shades of green, brown, pink and reddish-purple. Usually their abdomens are narrow, but the roundness of the one in my garden could be due to pregnancy or recent post-pregnancy. Peucetia viridans typically has a chevron pattern on its back. Another spider closely resembles P. viridans – Peucetia longipalpis. It also resides in the same locale.
Green lynx spiders are considered beneficial in that they eat a variety of insects: moths and larvae that feed on cabbage, corn and cotton. I don't have any of those in my yard and neither do the neighbors. Their favorite food however appears to be honey bees, and I do have those in my pollinator garden. The basil was blooming and attracting bees. She had found a good place to feast and add a new generation.