- Author: Jenni Dodini
We had a road trip planned that got postponed until next year by the terrible fires. The only part that we did not cancel was a trip to Phoenix to surprise my long time friend on her 60th birthday. We flew in and weren't at all disappointed by the weather or the scenery. While I've been to Phoenix before, I have never been a tourist there.
My friend's husband said that one of her favorite things to do is to go to the Botanical Gardens on her birthday. He had gotten tickets for all of us. I could barely contain myself!!!
The Gardens there has different displays and entertainment going on all year round. Since we we were there for Halloween, there was a Halloween theme and also art depicting "El Dia de los Muertes" with an ecological twist. The Gardens is a beautiful display of native plants laid out in an easy to navigate pattern so that one can enjoy plants that thrive in the desert climate. Unfortunately, we missed the blooms on several cactus varieties.
The paths led us to the butterfly house. It was amazing! There were several types of butterflies in residence for us to ogle. There were plates of fruit slices for their dining pleasure and the garden was set up for more feeding and places for them to lay their eggs. The color scheme was planned to titillate their butterfly senses (and mine). I left there with thoughts of how I could modify my garden to be more attractive to butterflies. While I doubt that the black butterflies will ever migrate through our area, we do have the beautiful monarchs to admire and help.
And yes, my friend was surprised to find us in her kitchen when she got home from work.
- Author: Martha White
A year and a half ago, I decided to take out my scruffy grass in the front yard and replace it with low maintenance plants, drip irrigation, and landscaping materials. I designed the planted areas, and, after, much research, selected the plants and purchased them. Problems with my back have limited my mobility, so I hired someone to do the actual labor on my project. So far, so good!
Fast forward to now, and I have learned several lessons, which I would like to share with you:
- Being a good landscape designer is difficult!
- Plants that thrive in one garden may not do as well in another garden, even if the second garden has the same sun exposure, wind, soil, etc.
- When a plant description says “Morning Sun”, that does not include ten days in a row of temperatures over 100'!
- During the second year of a landscape project, not all plants grow at the same rate.
- When extreme heat causes the top layer of leaves on a plant or tree to dry out, do not clip them off yet. Let them protect the lower leaves until the danger of extreme heat is over.
- It is OK to change your mind, and replace some of your initial plantings with different plants. But wait until October!
- Water! Water! Water! And check your drip irrigation frequently.
I always learn new things when I garden, working with my soil and the weather. Replacing my front lawn has been challenging and rewarding at the same time. I will let you know how my project progresses. Hopefully, it is on its way to the image of beauty I hold in my mind!
- 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