- Author: Kathy Low
I don't know if it's a generational preference or not, but I enjoy sending and receiving paper greeting cards. You can tell the time and effort the sender put in to selecting the greeting card for you. And it's a fun challenge finding the perfect card with just the right sentiments and cover to send for a specific occasion, be it a birthday, or a thank you. The greeting card is a representation of the sender. So is the stamp used to mail the card.
Let's face it, we all do pay attention to the stamp if it's not the run of the mill flag stamp. Since you have a choice in the postage stamps you purchase, why not purchase one of interest to you? Right now there are a number of postage stamps with images of flowers or fruit and berries that may be of interest to gardeners.
One of the new first class forever stamps currently available for purchase features the Peace Rose. Two other first class floral stamps also available include the Flowers from the Garden stamp which features hydrangea flowers, and the Celebration Boutonniere stamp. There's also a $1.15 international Succulent stamp, and a 71 cent Celebration Corsage stamp.
If you're into growing fruits and vegetables, you may be interested in the ten cents Pears stamp, five cents Grapes stamp, three cents Strawberries stamp, two cents Meyer Lemons stamp, and once cent Apples stamp. You can order all of these stamps from the USPS website at www.usps.com. And if you ever wondered how you can suggest a subject for a new stamp and how the US Post Office decides on new stamps, you can also find that information on the USPS website at https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/csac/process.htm.
- Author: Lanie Keystone
It's not every day that horticulture is represented in an Official Presidential Portrait. In fact, the recently unveiled portrait of President Barack Obama may be the first ever. The artist, Kehinde Wiley, raised in South Central LA, created a stunning likeness of the former President which now hangs boldly in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Wiley chose to set the President's likeness against, what Holland Cotter, the New York Times Art Critic describes as, “embedding him in a bower of what looks like ground cover. From the greenery sprout flowers that have symbolic meaning for President Obama.”
Amongst the vine-like greenery are three distinct floral examples. The first are African blue lilies which represent Kenya, his father's birthplace. We know them as Agapanthus africanus, or Lily of the Nile. The genus Agapanthus contains 10 species. They were originally native to the Cape of Good Hope region of South Africa. We here in Solano County are most fortunate to have many gardens filled with their glorious blooms and exquisite, leathery leaves. The name is from the Greek: Aga meaning love and Antho meaning flower—or—Flower of Love.
The second flower that Wiley included is Jasmine which the artist has included to represent Hawaii, where the President was born. Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines in the olive family—Oleaceae. There are about 200 species native to tropical and warm temperate regions originally of Eurasia, Australasia and Oceana. We here in Solano County can also enjoy their brilliant fragrance for a good part of the year. The name “Jasmine” comes from the Persian word, “Yasmin” meaning Flower of God.
The final flower is Chrysanthemum and is the official flower of Chicago. This is a delightful reference to the city where Mr. Obama's political career began and where he met his wife, Michelle. We often call it a mum and it is from the Asteraceae family and the genus is easy to remember—because it's Chrysanthemum! They are native to Asia and Northeastern Europe and there are literally countless varieties and cultivars. They derive their name from the Greek: Chysos meaning gold and Anthemon meaning flower—or Golden Flower.
Surrounding President Obama in a symbolic floral bower was a brilliant artistic choice—one that is sure to intrigue viewers for years and years to come. And, now that we have an idea of why these three flowers were selected by the artist, it's fun to have a little “Where's Waldo” treasure hunt moment and see if we can search out all of the blooms. Happy hunting!
- Author: Brenda Altman
It's going to be another successful year of gardening. My favorite flower Oxalis corniculata has already bloomed. I am probably a good oxalis gardener because everywhere I go I can propagate this plant successfully. It has these cute yellow flowers which look great in a seas of green leaves. It has three heart shaped leaves reminding me of clovers. So far I have not found the elusive four leaf Oxalis. It has a single long lap root which at the surface produces several creeping stems. One of the more exciting properties of this plant is when the seeds mature, the pods open explosively spreading its seeds 10 feet or more. Wow! This is one aggressive plant!
The nice thing about growing oxalis is that you can basically plant them and leave them. They will take over everything, invade your lawn, invade your greenhouse, and invade your flower beds. You gotta love a plant that has that kind of vigor. You never have to add fertilizer or any other organic matter. Caution a heavy 3” layer of mulch will inhibit its growth and ruin your flower enjoyment. Likewise heavy pulling up the plant and its taproot will slow its spread. But don't worry you probably won't get every oxalis and they'll return again and again. Nursery and plant stores don't usually sell oxalis but I am sure you can find willing gardeners who will gratefully give you some seeds or plants.
Oxalis prefers the shade and will fold their leaves in the sun. I've been fairly successful letting them grow in full sun. For best results start them in a shaded area but never ever cover them with mulch. Other tips include remove other plants around the oxalis as they will compete for available water.
Unfortunately if you prefer California native plants in your garden Oxalis is a native plant of Europe which has overstayed its visa. Enjoy this non-native, just sit back do nothing and enjoy the pretty yellow flowers!
- Author: Karen Metz
My husband and I tackled the Blue Ridge Loop Trail above Lake Berryessa in mid-March. He had been on it once before and had shown me beautiful pictures looking down on the lake. He did mention that it was a steep climb up and that there were a few boulders to climb over at the top, but then the hike was fine. It had taken him 3.5 hours to hike the 5 to 6 mile trail and he thought it might take us 4 hours.
The day was sunny and much warmer than we had anticipated, with the temperature up into the seventies. The first mile and a half seemed like it was straight up. I found out later it was 1,250 feet up. But okay, the view was fantastic and hadn't he said there were just a few boulders to clamber over before we headed down? The landscape along the ridge reminded me so much of the American Southwest, I kept expecting to see cowboys. Turns out the ridge portion of the Blue Ridge loop trail is 2.5 miles of climbing over boulders and is officially rated as difficult, a detail my husband had forgotten to include in his descriptions. Luckily I had my hiking poles with me and my knee braces on. Trying to take my mind off the pain and my fear of falling, I began concentrating on the wildflowers.
I saw beautiful, orange Indian Paintbrush, Castilleja latifolia, scattered through the dry brush as well as the dramatic red Indian Warrior, Pedicularis densiflora. Earlier, driving up to the site we had seen Bluebonnets, Lupinus succulentus and California Poppies, Eschscholzia californica.
Finally we reached the fork in the trail that allowed us start the descent which led us through wooded areas. I kept seeing plants covered in small purple flowers with bright yellow centers. I told my husband they reminded me of tomato or potato flowers. Looked them up later and found they were Purple Nightshade, Solanum xanti. I was truly enjoying the shade by this point in the walk. We saw several types of ferns in the understory and could first hear, and later see, a lovely creek. Finally after five hours we were back to the car.
Being no spring chicken, I was stiff and sore for days, particularly my knees and calves. I am not sure I would do this hike again, at least not without a lot of training ahead of time. I truly cannot even imagine doing it in the summer heat. But I am glad that I did it at least once, got to see the beautiful views and admire the extra gift of the spring wild flowers. If you decide you want to take this trail please bring lots of fluids and give yourself time.
- Author: Betty Homer