- Author: Lanie Keystone
If you were fortunate enough to attend the free Zoom lecture of Clair Saywers, presented by the American Horticulture Society, you would have been inspired by her depth of knowledge, experience and passion for her lifelong study and practice of horticulture. After living around the world and studying horticulture at Purdue University with graduate studies in Public Gardens at Delaware University, Clair became the Director of Scott Gardens at Swarthmore College in 1990. Since then she has created masterful examples of “authentic gardens” there up to this day.
As part of her talk we got first hand insights into her public garden philosophy which she also wrote about in her excellent book, “The Authentic Garden”. Her view is, that because we are such a young country, our public and private gardens often try to imitate those of much older societies, such as the Japanese, Italian or English gardens. Her sense is, that because of this imitation, many of our gardens in the US tend to be a patchwork of other nations' gardens—which truly are authentic to their countries.
Saywers book guides us through the heart of her public and private garden philosophy. She distills these ideas into five principles of creating what she refers to as “The Authentic Garden”:
- Work with what you've been given.
- Derive beauty from function. As one wonderful example: create a plaza on a driveway when the car is not there!
- Use “humble” indigenous/natural materials.
- Marry the inside of your home or a building with the outside.
- Engage yourself or your visitor by appealing to all of the senses.
Saywers overarching method of creating a living and engaging space is enchanting: design ones garden so that the viewer has the experience of “sequential discovery”. One of her hallmarks is to draw or “pull in” the viewer by hiding a key garden element and then revealing it. This “hide and reveal” technique is tantalizing. It's like inviting someone in and then jumping out and shouting, “surprise”! And don't we all love a wonderful surprise?
- Author: Patricia Matteson
Yes, the California poppy is a flower, not a lizard, but the point is its startling diversity of color, reminiscent of chameleons and other creatures with coats of many colors. But, you say, an individual chameleon can change its color, which flowering plants are not known for. Well guess what? A poster on the wall of the Visitor Center at Antelope Valley California Poppy State Natural Reserve shows a poppy flower with an orange center and a yellow border, and reads:
“Note the color variation in the petals. The color in the petal is due to 2 genes. Basic color is yellow. Secondary color is a more intense orange which masks the yellow. As the soil dries and available chemicals in soil change, the orange chromophores shrink and the yellow shows through.”
The deep orange of the poppies in that reserve (almost brick red in some lights), the yellow/orange variability one commonly sees in natural areas, and garden cultivars sold as California poppies that run to red, pink, and white got me wondering: are all of those really a single species? My curiosity was further whetted by realizing that I was not even sure whether California poppies are annual or perennial plants. Internet research revealed that Eschscholtzia californica Cham. is a single multifaceted species. In his 1909 Flora of California, pioneering botanist Willis Linn Jepson (Solano County's Jepson Prairie is named for him) delivered this verdict on the extreme variability of the California poppy's vegetative organs and habits:
“…now understood in the light of present investigations inevitably to be considered as a single species, since there are no two factors constantly associated. Examination and comparison of long series of specimens from the same locality and from different localities in all parts of California in connection with data derived from cultures and from experiments with hundreds of marked plants growing naturally prove satisfactorily that these variations may occur in endlessly varied and indefinite combinations.”
It turns out that California poppy plants can present as either annual or perennial, depending on the environment. In an extremely hot or cold climate, the plants are annual. Where mild temperatures prevail, they are perennial. The onset of hot weather may cause the plants to go dormant, with regrowth and even rebloom possible when cool weather returns.
Notably, California poppies thrive under sunny, dry conditions. Last year, in the depths of our long drought, I admired pint-sized plants crowded along rural roads and blooming their little hearts out, lining the routes with their glow. This species will cope well with climate change. No better choice could have been made back in 1903, when the “Golden Poppy” was adopted as California's state flower.
Jepson, W.L. 1909. A Flora of California. Cunningham, Curtis & Welch, San Francisco. Pp. 564-572. https://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/display_page?page=580&elib_id=3061&format=jpeg viewed 5/2/23.
Lepp, G. D. 2004. Golden Poppies of California. Lepp and Associates, Los Osos, CA.
McIntosh, J. Updated 2023. The Spruce, How to Grow California Poppies, https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-grow-and-care-for-california-poppies-4686987 viewed 5/2/2023.
- Author: Nanelle Jones-Sullivan
It's Fall in Sunset Zone 9. Nights are in the low fifties, our highest day this week is 81, and day length is about is about 11 hours 28 minutes. What can we grow?
Let us grow lettuce! Sure, other things end up in salad, but right now I am talking about Lactuca sativa. Some of us can probably grow lettuce year-round, but with its cool day preference, 7-14 days germination time, as few as 45 days to harvest, and range of textures and colors, it's the perfect thing for me to grow and harvest through the holidays!
There are many cultivars, and four major varieties of lettuce:
- Cos or Romaines. These grow upright and crisp, and handle a bit of heat. The mini Romain Little Gem, is said to have the best qualities of romaine and butterhead .
- Butterhead or bibb lettuces mature early into small heads with ruffled outer leaves surrounding a soft heart. They are appreciated for sweet, tender leaves.
- Summer crisp, French crisp, or Batavian lettuce does well with cool days but they can also stand up to a little heat.
- Leaf lettuces include “Oakleaf”, “Salad Bowl”, and “Black Seeded Simpson”. They are harvested as leaves, are often included in a “Mesclun”, which means “mix”, and are often “cut and come again”.
Lettuce can be grown indoors when it's too hot or cold outside. Since we are still getting days above 80 here in Vacaville, I will be starting seed inside, then moving seedlings out in to containers when it cools off. This time I am planting Little Gem, a fast maturing miniature that is said to combine the best of romaine and the best of the bibbs. I will also grow fast and loose-leaf lettuces Lolla Rosa, Oakleaf, in a mix that works as a “cut and come again “.
With root depths of around ten inches, both do really well in containers. They can be sown closely together at first, then thinned, or harvested slowly, by picking the outer leaves of the plant while the center leaves are left to grow.
Lettuce will grow slowly during dark, cool months, but floating row covers can protect from damaging pests like snails, slugs, and earwigs.
Here's to salad days!
- Author: Melinda Nestlerode
Planting space is at a premium in my yard. We had our pool removed in 2020, and the backyard is still widely a construction zone. Areas not currently being worked on act as a staging zone for flagstone, bricks, wood, concrete and other construction materials. Why, after three long years, aren't we further along with this project? Well, at one point my husband and I were worn out from doing all the work ourselves, and received a quote for the installation of concrete and flagstone pathways. Just the pathways, which constitute approximately ten percent of the total job. The concrete company would have been happy to take that part of the job off our hands for a cool $77,000. So, we trudge on…
I have a small pollinator garden in the front yard, with very little space for more plantings. When the springtime planting bug hit me this year, I went through some old seeds, and started sunflowers (Helianthus annus L.), Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia diversifolia), and Coreopsis. Most of the sunflowers sprouted, and I planted a nice row of them in front of the rose climbing up the trellis at the fence line, and behind most of the garden. The sunflowers grew bold and tall, and their cheery orange flowers provided a pop of color behind the cigar plant (Cuphea ignea), Echinacea, Agastache, and Salvia ‘Pozo Blue'. After planting the sunflowers and setting up their drip irrigation, I pretty much ignored them all summer.
In the meantime, we suffered the worst ant infestation since we moved here 22 years ago. Ants everywhere, in every room in the house – it was miserable. Curating an organic and safe yard for pollinators and beneficial insects is very important to me, but I finally gave up and contracted with a pest control company to take care of the ants. They are gone from inside the house, but there are still an outrageous number of ants in our yard.
The sunflowers started looking spent a couple of weeks ago, so I pulled them out. I was shocked to see that they were absolutely infested with black bean aphids. Suddenly, the large numbers of ants made sense.
Aphids are normally not a serious problem, as long as the plants are regularly maintained and aphid populations are removed with a strong spray of water. My rose buds are highly attractive to aphids in the springtime, but daily inspection and spraying with water keeps them to a minimum. But I was not paying attention to the sunflowers. My neglect had allowed massive numbers of aphids to live underneath the leaves, suck out vital juices from the sunflowers, and potentially introduce viruses. The sticky honeydew excreted by aphids is subject to sooty mold fungus, and attracts ants, who feed on it. In order to protect their food source, the ants shield aphids from their natural predators, such as parasitic wasps and lacewings.
The sunflowers are an annual plant, so I was able to eradicate my aphid infestation by removing the plants. Large aphid infestations of perennial plants and vegetables can be mitigated by:
- Vigilantly checking the plant for aphids. Look for ants which often “farm” aphids.
- Shooting a strong stream of water to remove the aphids.
- Pruning out sections with heavy infestations where plant damage is visible.
- Obstructing ants from climbing into the plant with Tanglefoot® or other sticky material.
- Using organic, slow-release fertilizers, as high nitrogen fertilizers encourage aphid production.
- Using row covers to protect young, tender plants.
- Using silver-colored reflective mulches in the vegetable garden.
- Gardening organically and avoiding broad spectrum pesticides, which kill natural aphid predators.
- Using insecticidal soaps and horticultural oils if you feel that insecticide is necessary.
An organic, pesticide-free garden provides innumerable benefits to our wildlife, our communities, and our planet. The flip-side to all those benefits is that our gardens need more monitoring and care. If we aren't willing to simply wipe out all living things with chemical pesticides, it's important to catch pests, fungus, and diseases as early as possible, before they are difficult to control with less harmful methods.
- Author: Heather Hamilton
I have been working with Craspedia globosa ‘Golf Beauty' for years now. It's common name is billy balls or drum stick, they look like a tiny yellow tennis ball, on a long stick. They are in the Asteraceae family, and are native to Australia and New Zealand. The plant has a rosette of leaves, with the the lollipop flower at the end of it. It will bloom year round in warmer climates and generally grows 4'x 2' tall. It is best to plant by seed in in a spot that will get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Light well drained soil is the best, but it does prefer cool roots, gravel is the most recommended mulching material. It makes a beautiful cut flower for a vase, and does really well dried.