- Author: Erin Mahaney
We found this funny-“faced” visitor in the garden this summer. The Gray Hairstreak (or Common Hairstreak), Strymon melinus, is a common butterfly found in all 48 contiguous states. It is often found in weedy and disturbed areas. (I don't know what that says about my yard!)
The Gray Hairstreak is one of the most “polyphagous” butterflies known, which means that it visits a wide variety of host plants. The caterpillars have evolved to eat from more than 30 plant families. In central California, frequent hosts include ceanothus, mallows, legumes, clover, alfalfa, hollyhocks, and more. I don't know if the butterfly was attracted to something specific in my yard or if it was just passing through, but it's possible that it found a few potentially appealing plants, including peas and cover crops of common buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) and fava beans (Vicia faba).
The butterfly is light gray with black and white lines across both wings. The wings range from 1 to 1.25” tip to tip. It is called a “hairstreak” because it has slim, hair-like “tails” on each lower hindwing.
That funny “face” is actually not a face at all. Like many other butterflies, the Gray Hairstreak is designed to fool predators into mistaking its tail for its head. When it is perched with its wings folded, the eyespots and “tails” look like a head. This may fool birds, lizards, and spiders into attacking the wrong end. For the rest of us, it may simply be entertaining!
- Author: JoAnn Brown
From the comfort of your own home, you can tour famous gardens from around the world and enjoy a relaxing time admiring the beauty that they bring. There are hundreds of virtual garden tours available to view, each offering their own unique approach to cultivating and creating gardens.
Below are links to a variety of tours that are offered. Take some time to sneak a peek into the creative gardening endeavors.
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Gardens in England
Take a 360-degree virtual tour to see the inside of the world's largest Victorian glasshouse. Use your mouse to make your tour more interactive. This garden has 50,000 living plants to view. Many learning opportunities can be found on the website kew.org. You can learn more about the science behind their plants and glasshouses, view their Carnivorous plant collection, and gather kitchen garden tips on growing sustainable food.
Claude Monet's Garden, Giverny
Visit the famous garden of the painter Monet and discover that he wasn't just an amazing painter he was also an avid gardener.
UC Davis Arboretum & Public Gardens
We are fortunate to have an amazing garden in our own backyard! The UC Davis Arboretum & Public Gardens encompasses the campus's 5300 acres. This website has numerous learning opportunities as well as virtual tours of its Pollinator Paradise, Waterway Wildlife, and more! Check out the virtual tour and learn about the Native plants and animals in our area.
UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens
Another local garden is the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden established in 1890. This 34-acre botanical garden is considered one of the most diverse in the world. One of the major collections is of California native plants. They offer virtual tours of many of their unique collections, Asia, Australasia, California, Deserts of the Americas, Herb Garden, and many more!
United States Botanical Gardens
George Washington had a vision for a botanic garden in the capital city over 200 years ago. There are virtual tours of their outdoor gardens, the Conservatory, Bartholdi Fountain & gardens, and the 2020 Orchid Show.
This California Library has a stunning 120 acre garden with 16 themed gardens, including collections of orchids, cycads, camellias, and bonsai. The Huntington Botanical Gardens also has a Herbarium with a database of plants.
Connect with Nature and cultivate your own well-being at the Bloedel Reserve, a public garden designed with Pacific Northwest landscapes.
Strolls for Well-Being from the Bloedel Reserve combine wellness and virtual garden tours with weekly strolls through their public garden.
I hope you enjoy a look at these beautiful gardens.
- Author: David Bellamy
Photo left: www.Gardenerspath.com (link below)
Obviously, trees have provided wood through all mankind's history, for building our shelters and creating fire. Even prehistoric trees play a part as they are converted to coal. However, now we are understating more and more about their contribution to the health of our planet and the very air we breathe to live.
Now we all know green plants, as well as algae and certain bacteria, take CO2 from the air, and release oxygen into the atmosphere. But how much does on tree release? Although there are different factors that can increase or decrease oxygen production, here are some amounts for a leafy mature tree:
- One tree produces as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year.
- One tree can absorb CO2 at a rate of 48 pounds per year.
Most scholars believe “Knock on Wood” expression originated in pagan Germanic Cultures, but similar expression can be found all over the world in languages including Arabic Swedish, Trinidad and Tobago, and Brazil, demonstrating that people in many cultures share this awe and appreciation for trees. In the past, many people thought the protective properties came from tree spirits who inhabited the trees, and some of these spirits were reviled instead of revered.
- The Rowan tree was always believed to be a force for good which could protect people from enchantment. Pieces of Rowan wood were carried for personal protection.
- Maple: In parts of Europe it was the custom for maple branches to be hung around a doorway to prevent bats from entering the building.
- Holly: There is a widespread belief that cutting down a whole holly tree will bring bad luck! Hanging holly leaves around the house was also thought to keep evil spirits away and used as a charm against house goblins and witches.
- Ash: This tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burned to ward off evil spirits. In Norse Viking mythology, ash was referred to as the 'Tree of Life'. In Britain, it is known as a healing tree.
Lastly, in some contemporary fiction, we see the trees come to sentient life as Ents in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings Trilogy and as Whomping Willows in the Harry Potter books, and in Marvel comics and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies as Groot, an extraterrestrial, sentient tree-like creature.
Makes you want to go out and hug a tree. This last picture takes that expression to a new level.
Photo: From flying Deer Nature Center, Chatam, NY: (Link below)
Article and photo: The Secret Lives of Trees
Article: Oxygen Produced by Photosynthesis
Gardeners Path web info and photo of tree trunk cut:
- Author: Paula Pashby
I love seeing butterflies. I always feel like it is a sign that our ecosystem is still thriving amidst all of the turmoil in the year 2020. Today we are recovering from the smoke and ash from a very large wildfire that was close to home, and I saw a butterfly cutting an arc through our garden just a moment ago and made me smile.
I often wonder what type of butterfly is visiting my garden. Many times, I think I spot the mighty Monarch, only to be told that there are many lookalikes out there. So, I decided to embark on a research adventure to learn about the most common butterflies we may attract and encounter in our gardens throughout Solano and the surrounding counties.
I was a little overwhelmed to discover that there is a lot of literature on Northern California butterflies, so I narrowed my focus to identify the likelihood of the types of butterflies visiting my garden. Some great resources that helped in my research are the Native Plant Finder (NWF.org) and the California Native Plant Society (Calscape.org). With both of these sites, you can just input your location or zip code and their database provides a list of butterflies or plants you can expect to do well in your area.
Some butterflies visit our local trees, such as willow, oak, pine, alder, cherry and elm. They come to these trees to feed off the available organic material, but most adult butterflies visit flowers to drink the nectar. The butterflies are also in search for the ideal plants that their caterpillar offspring can feed and prosper as they transform into adult beauty.
In case you are inspired to begin your own search through the tidal wave of information on butterflies in your area, here is a list of a few host plants for butterflies that you can find in Solano County, confirmed by the California Native Plant Society (Calscape.org). If you visit the Calscape website, you will find a wide variety of other plants to consider for attracting butterflies to your garden, including:
- California Poppy (Eschschlozia californica)
- Aster (Asteracea)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleja)
- Milkweed (Asclepias)
- Lantana (camara)
- Salvia (most types)
- Pincusion (Scabiosa atropurpurea)
- Coreopsis (lanceolata)
- Beware…there are many more!
Next, is a list of common butterflies we might see in Solano County and gardens in our surrounding area. Please have fun finding out how to attract these wonderful creatures. I want to thank Kathy Keatley Garvey for the photos below.
- Author: Brenda Altman
Household water-saving tips!
Recently Governor Gavin Newsom declared: “I have no patience for climate-change deniers. It's inconsistent with the reality on the ground, the facts.” The evidence is in, there is too much Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere. The CO2 acts as a blanket and keeps solar radiation in the atmosphere which normally would reflect back to space from escaping. As gardeners and landscapers, we will have higher temperatures and fluctuations in weather patterns. Higher temperatures equal more water for your garden. A recent blog here focused on using water efficiently by using drip irrigation. If you haven't installed drip irrigation this is a good “to do” project for the fall.
In addition to drip irrigation, you can use less household water or recycle it. Reuse of household water commonly called “gray-water” can run from the simple to the complex. I myself recycle shower water to flush the toilets. You can use less water by showering efficiently by turn off the water when you soap up. There are more complex versions of a “gray-water” systems which divert rinse water from your washing machine for reuse. Materials and classes on the installation of this system are available from the Urban Farmer Stores in San Francisco, Mill Valley, and Richmond. Go to their website: https://urbanfarmerstore.com for more information. The same-store also has large storage tanks that can capture rainfall water. Of course, each innovation on water storage and recycling of water requires some maintenance. Water left outside in tanks are susceptible to mosquito infestation; check the storage during mosquito season to see if the screens are working and there are no mosquitos present. You can prevent mosquito larvae in standing water with “mosque dunks” Below a 205-gallon storage tank.
Another big water saver is replacing your lawn with a water-wise drought-tolerant landscape. This may include drought-tolerant plants like succulents. Check your local nurseries for suitable plants. The Master Gardeners have a succulent sale every year. There also may be incentives from your local County Water Agency to replace your lawn. Check your county Water agency for details. Below are two examples I found on the web:
“The Sacramento County Water Agency (SCWA) is providing this voluntary program to rebate qualifying residential and commercial customers for converting existing grass/turf with native and drought-tolerant landscaping. “
“The Solano County Water Agency is offering water customers an incentive to replace your lawn with water-efficient landscaping and receive $1.00 per square foot, up to $1000 maximum. Please read the 2020-2021 Terms and Conditions before you remove your lawn.”
There are many other incentive programs for turf removal offered. Do a quick “Google” search “lawn removal incentives”
Be water-wise, save money, save your garden, and be well. Wear a mask!