- Author: Kathleen Klobas
Looking out my kitchen window I admire the 10-foot tall hedge of Photinia fraseri along my backyard fence. I appreciate the privacy the solid green wall gives me from my neighbors, nice though they are! Photinias are easy-care, fast-growing bushes or trees. We planted 5 of them about 30 years ago and they are now a 25-foot long screen, 4 to 5 feet wide and dense. What I most look forward to in the spring is the bright red leaves of the new growth, a cheerful harbinger of the coming color and warmth the new season brings!
Photinia is a member of the large Rosaceae family. They are grown throughout the world in many forms. The plants I grow are one of the few that is known commonly by its Latin name, which means “shiny”, referring to the leaves. It is also called Red Tips in the US, or Christmas Berry in the UK, because of the variety grown there that develops scarlet fruit during the winter. My Photinia fraseri does not have berries but produces clusters of small white flowers that fade and drop after a few weeks. The new red leaves hold their color for 1 to 2 months.
The plants are fast-growing, resistant to mildew, tolerate heat, and are happy with little water once established. They are adaptable to planting zones from 3b (with protection) to zone 24. My shrubs could grow a little taller, to 15 feet, and are about 5 feet wide, their natural size in-depth, so that they need little shearing. P. fraseri doesn't like humidity and deep shade so our California climate makes it happy. The leaves and flowers are non-poisonous and it has few problems other than sometimes developing leaf spot or chlorosis.
Since they are a common landscape shrub or tree, look for the red bursts of the spring leaves to cheer you in our private and public gardens!
- Author: Jenni Dodini
Thankfully, this past year is over. There are so many words that can be used to describe feelings about all that has happened during this year. As we come to the end of 2020, I have some thoughts that I would like to share.
First and foremost, I have a lot to be thankful for. I retired before all this Covid mess started. My heart goes out to all my ICU buddies who are navigating patient care in an ever-changing environment. A virtual hug will never be enough at the end of a shift. It has always been that way in any ICU, but this year has shown our work in a whole new light. A blessing and a curse for sure.
Next, most importantly, my garden has always been a place of solace for me. I was out there a whole lot more than in years past, and many days, I just sat there empty-headed, doing whatever and then thinking that I hadn't done much at all. I had a bumper crop of tomatoes that I shared and were enjoyed by several of my mom's friends. She liked the little yellow ones called 'Snow White' the best, followed by 'Little Napoleon'. I grew onions from the root end as an experiment and they were good. Garlic has been staggered and is still growing out there. The last of the jalapeños and serranos will be picked as soon as I get myself out there and do it. Salsa was enjoyed as well as fresh, homemade tomato and marinara sauce. The lettuce was a total bust, but I learned, as a result, that it might just be cheaper to buy it at the store. Fruit and nuts have been eaten, shared with mom and neighbors, and (?wasted) to the squirrels and birds.
I have enjoyed the daily submissions of my fellow Master Gardeners. The blogs have been a source of information, inspiration, and connection to everyone who I have enjoyed seeing in the past and now miss.
My hope for 2021 is that we can get back out there and actually see the public face to mask-covered face. There is hope on the horizon, so, until the day when we can get back together, I wish you all a safe and happy 2021. Keep on keeping the virtual hugs coming wherever they are needed and I look forward to an actual hug this summer!
- Author: Maureen Clark
The Very Berry, Mulberry Morus species
One way to id the different species is by looking at the leaves. They have alternate leaves. If the leaf is short and the base is heart-shaped then it's probably a Black Mulberry. If the leaf has rounded teeth along the edge, then it probably a Red or White Mulberry. The leaves of the White Mulberry are glossier than the Red Mulberry. I feed the leaves to my Tortoises. The leaves are rich in carotene, calcium, and fiber.
Mulberry trees are deciduous, fast-growing trees. They grow approx. 10 feet the first year, with little to no fruit, they then slow their growth. Mulberries eventually grow to 30-60 feet tall.
The wood is very flexible and durable. It has been used to make tennis rackets, hockey sticks, boats, fence posts, barrels, and furniture.
Some mulberry trees are monoecious (they have male and female reproductive systems). Others are will set fruit without pollination. Which means you do not need two trees in order to produce fruit.
White Mulberry. Morus alba
The leaves are glossy, large with deep lobes. Frequently they have three lobes and look like a Fleur-De-Lys. But they can also can oval with toothed edges. They are straight where the leaves meet the stem. The fruit is very sweet if picked at the correct time. If you pick them too soon. Whoa, look out! It's tart! The fruit starts at the green, then white, then turns pink, and in some varieties finally turns reddish-purple.
The leaves of the white mulberry tree are grown to feed silkworms. It's cheap food for them. The ‘Silk Road” from Turkey to China brought many products of silk into the trade industry. China and India are the two main producers of silk today. In 1733, General Oglethorpe imported 500 white mulberry trees and tried to start the silkworm industry. But everyone ended up using the trees for fruit and to feed their livestock.
Black Mulberry. Morus nigra
Heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. The fruit looks like a large blackberry or a loganberry. The fruit starts at the green, then turns pink, then finally to a beautiful dark purple.
The mature fruit contains significant amounts of resveratrol. Resveratrol is thought to act like antioxidants, protecting the body against damage that can put you at higher risk for things like cancer and heart disease. It's in the skin of red grapes, but you can also find it in peanuts and berries. Unripe fruit and green parts of the plant have a white sap that is intoxicating and mildly hallucinogenic.
Mulberry fruit does stain. Anthocyanins from the mulberry fruit. Anthocyanins are edible, water-soluble vacuolar pigments that belong to a class of molecules called flavonoids and that may appear red, purple, orange, blue or black, according to pH. Anthocyanins hold potential use for health benefits (Gross 2007) and as natural food colorants. As the safety of synthetic pigments is doubted and in the wake of increasing demand for natural food colorants, their significance in the food industry is increasing. In addition to yielding attractive colors, they are water-soluble and thus are easily incorporated into aqueous food systems.
Anthocyanins also possess an antioxidant property and are being investigated for antineoplastic, radiation-protective, vasotonic, vasoprotective, anti-inflammatory, chemopreventive, and hepato-protective properties.
There are some chemicals in the white mulberry that works similar to medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes. They slow the breakdown of sugars in the gut so they are absorbed slower into the blood. This is not medical advice. Talk to your doctor first!!!
The fruit is actually a Drupe. A tiny cluster of tiny fruits, each with a seed. It used to make tarts, pies, wine, jams, jellies, sherbets, and cordials. And maybe a margarita or two.
- Author: Lanie Keystone
I am always on the lookout for engaging children's books about gardening. A well-written children's book can present information in a clear, reductive manner, teach an important life lesson, and inspire-- all at the same time. We Are the Gardeners is just such a book!
Written by Joanna Gaines and her kids and illustrated with joyfully languid watercolors by Julianna Swaney, this book hits the mark in so many ways. Before going any further, if the name Jo Gaines rings a bell—then you're a fan of HGTV's wildly popular show, “Fixer Upper” with Jo and husband Chip. My thinking is, if they can have half the success with a garden as they do with their weekly “fixer-uppers”, then I'm all in. And they do!
The book begins with a lovely fern that the dad brings home from the hardware store. The Gaines clan is so excited. They perch it in the window with lots of light and each, by turn, gives the little guy a lot to drink. Bottom line—they love it to death! And so begins the journey of learning how to tend such a delicate plant which leads to how to create a thriving, growing garden.
The family learns about the basics of soil, micro-organisms, worms, and more. With all this information, a bountiful garden blooms and flourishes. So much so, that there are some unsavory characters attracted to all the lushness: some “bad” insects along with the “good” and “sneaky” animals that love the buffet that the garden provides. Just enough bumps and disasters along the way to make a good story and, eventually, some very good gardeners That's where the important life lessons come in; like being patient, diligent, and persistent. The arrival of a new baby adds another feel-good element to this book about hard work and “everyday miracles.” Geared to the 4-8-year-old crowd, it grabbed and charmed this grandma of five! I recommend this delightful book for you and yours to begin a fulfilling and wonderful new year.
- Author: Tina Saravia
Earlier this month, we received a gigantic mound of wood chips, bigger than we've ever received in the past. This mound (or hill) covered our entire extra driveway and part of the garage, so it blocks my husband's car.
After 3 loads of pickup trucks, bags, and buckets taken by friends and friends of friends, we're still left with about 1/3 of what's in the picture. Between my husband and myself, we've been getting good work-out bagging, moving, and mulching our garden.
Wood chips are great mulch or covering for the soil. They break down slowly and improve the soil texture slowly by adding organic matter. It also gives the landscape a much more cohesive look.
I've also started digging-up the front yard to create a bioswale that will be filled with wood chips to help capture some of the rainwater and keep it on the property. It will also help give us back our driveway.