- Author: Erin Mahaney
As I've noted before in this blog, I haven't been entirely convinced about the appeal of succulents. Maybe, however, it was a matter of finding the right one!
I absolutely adore the charming ‘Blue Waves' echeveria. This summer I picked one up from the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek as a birthday “bouquet” for myself. (I often justify my impulse purchases that way to myself, “it's cheaper than a bouquet and it might last longer . . . .”)
‘Blue Waves' is a small succulent with frilly-edged leaves that are blue-green at the center of the rosette and pink on the edges. The frilly blue leaves first caught my attention and prompted my impulse buy. I had no idea at the time, however, that the flowers would be so beautiful and last so long. Plant descriptions on the internet dryly describe the flowers as “pink.” The flowers are so much more than that! They look like vibrant pink tulips with a bright orange interior. When the plant first bloomed, the flower stalks curved in a manner that formed an enchanting, loose heart shape (see photo). Ultimately, the flower stalks have reached approximately 21” and have bloomed for several months.
Echeveria species and hybrids display a variety of leaf shapes and colors in a rosette form. These tender succulents, which are in the Crassulaceae family, are drought tolerant but not frost hardy. All echeveria are evergreen with flowers appearing in the spring, summer, and fall. Plant them in a location that receives at least 3-4 hours of direct sunlight. They do well in part shade to full sun in coastal areas but should be protected from the full midday sun in the hotter inland areas. Plant them in at least 6” (or up to 12” if you can) of light, fast-draining soil.
‘Blue Waves' has a mature spread of about 12-18″ tall by 9-12″ wide. It requires low to medium water. It is suitable for containers and, so far, mine is doing well in its outdoor pot. It sits on my front steps and so far, I've not been able to walk past it without taking a moment to admire it. I've been delighted with my long-lasting birthday bouquet!
- Author: Trisha E Rose
- Author: Lanie Keystone
This is a book about Community. This is a book about relationships. This is a book about the poetry of trees. This is a book about the hidden connections of all of us on our planet. And, this is a “love song” to the natural world and how and we all belong to it.
The Songs of Trees is written by the gifted scientist and author, David George Haskell. Chosen as “One of the Best Science Books of 2017” by Science Friday and Brain Pickings and winner of the John Burroughs Medal for Outstanding Natural History Writing, Haskell has been compared to Rachel Carson in his ability to write in a poetic-prose aesthetic about science.
Haskell begins his book by beckoning the reader to join him on a wondrous journey by telling us, “Living memories of tree, manifest in their songs, tell of life's community, a net of relations. We, humans, belong within this conversation, as blood kin and incarnate members. To listen is therefore to hear our voices and those of our family….To listen is, therefore, to touch a stethoscope to the skin of a landscape, to hear what stirs below.”
And, with that invitation, Haskell takes us on a fantastic journey above, below, around and within 12 uniquely different trees in 12 uniquely diverse countries and environments. We first meet him literally atop the canopy of a Ciebo tree in Ecuador. We are introduced to all of the life swarming, crawling, jumping and surviving on top of, then below this magnificent tree. It is at once a grand adventure and a lovely meditation on just this one specimen.
And so it goes from the Balsam Fir in Western Ontario, to a month-by-month exploration of the Green Ash in Tennessee, the Olive in Jerusalem, the Japanese White Pine in Japan—and eight more around the world. Haskell takes us to trees in cities, forests and “areas on the front lines of environmental change.” We see him listening, probing and peering into all aspects of connections of these 12 species and their infinite connections and communication not only with others of their own kind but with all life around them. We see that the interconnections are the powerful support system for maintaining health, growth, and survival of all life around them.
In each locale, we see how human history, ecology and well-being are intertwined with the lives of trees. Haskell shows how these interconnections are the foundation of all life. We learn that in our fragile world being more and more confined by barriers—that life's essence and beauty depend on relationships and interdependence.
- Author: Karen Metz
Over the years we have had a changing relationship with the neighborhood squirrels. Early on there were not many interactions. The housing development was new and there were not any mature trees nearby.
We enjoyed putting out our bird feeders and watching the finches, blue jays, and doves that came to visit. Gradually our landscaping grew as did our neighbors'. But about this time, we got a West Highland Terrier, so the squirrels didn't drop in much.
But then we lost our Westie to cancer. Suddenly the squirrels descended and seemed to be occupying the bird feeders more than the birds. We purchased a squirrel proof feeder. This feeder worked through the perches. If any creature that was too heavy landed on the perches it would trigger a metal mesh to slide down and block the openings to the seeds. This worked beautifully…..for a while.
Then one squirrel was large enough and smart enough to realize he could hang from the top of the feeder, brace his feet on the bottom of the feeder, and reach in and grab the seeds, totally bypassing the perch mechanism. None of the other squirrels could do it although they certainly tried. They learned to sit on the ground underneath the clever squirrel and catch all the seeds he dropped. He dropped a lot! Sometimes we had five squirrels in our small backyard. Other than running out to shoo them away, we didn't know what to do.
Suddenly that one special squirrel was gone. We don't know if he was hit by a car, attacked by a predator or succumbed to old age, but we didn't see him again. So, the rest of the squirrels were left with only the dropped seeds from the birds feeding at the feeders. The numbers decreased to one or two. This seemed manageable.
The next change was on my part. I became very interested in succulents. I had succulents on the front porch and succulents on the back patio. Soon I needed more room to display them. I got a vintage metal ladder with wooden rungs. I put several shallow succulent pots on the steps. I also found some special hooks to put on the fence which allowed you to slip pots into them. Everything looked so pretty.
Pretty soon I saw that the succulents on the fence were constantly disturbed. I was never sure if the squirrels were digging underneath the new plantings to bury seeds or to look for insects or if they were trying to eat the plants and pulled them loose in the process. I kept trying to replant the pots without success.
Also, about this time I noticed that occasionally one of the shallow pots on the ladder would be turned over and on the ground. Arrgh! I would put everything back in the pot add more soil and try again. Now the squirrels did not need to use that ladder. There were two eight-foot oleander shrubs on either side which they had always used to get to the feeders from the fence, with a stop off at the dwarf crabapple if they desired.
Now, I have to admit that I have always liked the squirrels and enjoyed watching them feed and chase each other. They have brought my family a lot of joy over the years. But everything came to a head when I saw a squirrel happily sitting in the succulent pot on the top step of the ladder. He was nibbling away. It did explain why that particular plant had been looking so poorly, it was getting squashed and eaten. I just wasn't going to let the squirrels destroy my succulents.
There had to be a way we could all coexist. Then suddenly I remembered I had several pots of Aloe. Aloe is tough. Aloe is drought tolerant. And many varieties of Aloe have thorns. I got several well-established plants and slipped them into the fence hooks. I got another Aloe to put on the top step of the ladder. If they wanted to go down the ladder now, they would have to go through thorns.
It's been over three weeks and so far, nothing has been uprooted or overturned. The squirrels seem to be back in the shrubbery. Peace reigns in the kingdom, at least for now.
- Author: Michelle Davis
At last Saturday's plant sale at the UC Davis Arboretum, I bought a Tagetes lucida. You might know it by one of its numerous other names: Mexican mint marigold, sweet-scented marigold, Santa Maria, Yerba Anise, African Marigold, Sweet Mace, Pericon, winter tarragon, Spanish tarragon, and Mexican tarragon. Technically, this plant is not a true tarragon. French tarragon (or German tarragon if you live in Germany) is Artemisia dracunculus. Its flowers are tiny and green, and the leaves are used a lot in French cooking. Their flavor is described as herbal or fresh. You may remember adding it while making béarnaise - it is a key ingredient in the sauce.
Mexican tarragon is thought to taste like French tarragon, but with a bit of anise or licorice flavor as well. Mexican tarragon's leaves are similar to the French variety, but the flowers look like those of single marigolds – 5-petaled and bright yellow, hence the name “lucida” meaning light or bright.
Mexican tarragon's use has been traced back to the Aztec culture in Guatemala. It was used to add peppery warmth to a cocoa beverage called chocolatl, as a good luck charm for safe passage across waterways, and to ward off demons while harvesting maize. The whole plant was also used to treat gastrointestinal problems and colds.
Today's cook can add the fresh or dried flower petals and/or the fresh young leaves to corn, tomatoes, squash, avocados, summer fruits, eggs, fish and chicken. In some cultures, it is an added flavoring for alcoholic beverages, cakes, and custards. A little bit, finely chopped, goes a long way.
One of its best features of Tagetes lucida is that it attracts bees, butterflies, and birds and also repels some of the not-so-wanted insects in the garden. It is a perennial in USDA zones 9 through 11 attaining a height of about 2 ½ to 3 feet. It likes full sun but will take partial shade. A freeze will cause it to die back, but it should return in the spring. It requires good drainage and is drought-tolerant, but it does better with some water, just not on the leaves. Wherever the stems touch the ground, it can sprout a new plant. It can also reseed.
I will be planting it near my pineapple sage in a bed with mostly herbs. Wish it and me luck!