- Author: Mike Gunther
Buds are popping.
Can you hear spring?
Nature is calling
- Author: Jenni Dodini
Steve and I took our winter getaway trip south to Palm Desert. As per our usual, we looked for hiking trails nearby (that have no entry fees), and this is a good one. Easy and well-marked trails, plant regrowth the areas, and composting restrooms are among the amenities. The docents are knowledgeable and available for questions. However, no dogs allowed. The docents did say that the best time to come is in March as the desert is pretty much in full bloom then. (You still have time to plan a quick trip if you want to get some sun.)
The bioregion here is the Sonora Desert which gets around 3.23 inches of rainfall a year, and only about 0.41 inches of summertime rain. There are 270 native plants to this area according to Calscape.
The pictures below are of the creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata) that are all over the place. They bloom small yellow flowers with 5 petals, and as you can see, produce fluffy seeds that disperse with the help of the wind. They grow to about 3 meters tall and have dark green leaves. If wet, they give off a strong odor of creosote.
The other two plants that were bloom in and caught my attention are the Hairy Desert Sunflower bad the Hairy Sand verbena.
The Desert sunflower - Gerea canescens - is classed as an annual herb and grows around 2.6 feet tall. It blooms in the winter and spring, needs full sun, sandy soil, and very little water. It propagates by seeds that need 2 weeks to 5 months of 122 degrees F temperature!!!! ( Guess it will NOT grow in our area, and I'm happy to live without it. )
The Hairy Sand Verbena - Abronia villosa - also known by the common name of desert sand Verbena - is a very sticky flower with a sweet fragrance that attracts bees. It flowers all year, but most profusely from February through May.
Overall, this trip has had very good weather with afternoon temps in the low 70s. The storms that are hitting at home, although desperately needed, are not reaching this far south. Just a bit of rain is falling here.
- Author: Betsy BUXTON
Just came back in from the backyard on a dreary, cold, and trying-to-rain day, and I'm confused! Isn't this the week before Christmas Day – in December--, or am I wrong? Out in back there are roses in full bloom (and more buds coming), a couple of gladioluses are merrily blooming away in their pot and the hydrangeas are still in bloom! The hanging fuchsias under the pergola near the squirrel ferns are also in full bloom! By the way, these are the same fuchsias which were sheltered last year under the porch roof and looked as though they were ready for the compost heap!
It's cold, people ( I mean plants), why are you going great guns as though summer was NOT a mere memory BUT actually here? Last year the ground-planted paperwhites bloomed in mid-October, now they are almost at full bloom; they look so stark up against the spent foliage at the back fence – but beautiful! Some other plants have started their displays much earlier as the sasanqua camellia near the front door decided it was time back in September-October to grow some bright red-pink flowers, while the new sasanqua under the willow tree in the backyard burst forth with a coat full of clear dark pink flowers in late November and still is covered in blossoms. I still have to dig a 5-gallon raised planter/hole for it, but with the soft wet soil, it will be a much easier (and faster) job.
The japonica camellias which were planted last year are growing their buds and soon ‘Nuccio's Pearl' (and the one whose name I've forgotten will be joining ‘Debutante' in the side yard near the ‘Blood Good' Japanese maple. I was happily surprised as that area gets shade only until 12 noon and then the sun hits it with a vengeance. Only 2 hostas left us this year because of the sun but I'll be replanting with other varieties to fill in that area; this time of the year, that area is covered by bright green moss which slowly fades as the sun gets brighter and hotter.
The ‘Christmas' cacti are also blooming away; last year I was so careful in where I placed them – they died! This year, it's out in the open without much upper story planting and they're doing well!! Go figure? Bulbs are coming up and blooming BUT so are the weeds! Last year's bumper crop of malva weeds are growing – like weeds, but the soft ground frees them like carrots.
Did any of you buy bulbs from the Bulb Guy? I did and I now have 8 inches of new green growth from my Crinum X Amaryllis belladonna bulb so I didn't spend my $29 in vain! By the way, Plants Delights Nursery.com also has them in various white and pink-white colors. I've already ordered mine.
Season's Greetings to you all – use that salutation since not all folk celebrates Christmas! Hope to see you again in the New Year at the Vallejo Farmers' Market!
- Author: Jenni Dodini
I know that a picture is worth a 1000 words, but I also know that a picture may not do justice to the view that one is trying to capture. That is the case of this particular picture and area. What this picture shows is the view of the mountain city of Da Lat in Vietnam. Da Lat is also known as the flower growing centered of the country. It is high up in the central mountains of Vietnam (and was a refreshing relief from the heat and humidity we had been experiencing.). What this picture shows is the city from the mountain leading down into it. At first, I couldn't comprehend that the miles of those covers were actually covering coffee trees and other plants for commercial shipment. The Dutch have set up exporting business in Da Lat for their tulip bulbs as well as several others flowers!
Da Lat is also the home to wonderful gardens. I can't say it is a botanic garden because nothing had a name label on or near it, but it was a wonderful diversion on our tour. I think that a good portion of the population of Da Lat is in the employ of the garden maintenance all over the city, as well as inside the gardens.
I think it would have been interesting to poke around the greenhouses and see what all was growing in there, but there just wasn't time. I guess that means another trip...
- Author: Betsy Buxton
Do you like mysteries? You know, those who-done-it books and stories; or do you prefer those mysteries which start with clues where you guess an item or thing from what you're given? I like mysteries a lot and read them all the time – BUT, the mysteries I like the best are the ones that start out: “I have a plant and the leaves look kind of like this, I think, and it's growing in my yard. What is it?” My first thought is that I've never seen this person before nor have I been to their yard! So, what I call “the Question Game” begins . . . .
Ok, now, are the leaves green or variegated (usually green/white or green/yellow); are those leaves short and fat, palmate (shaped like your hand with your fingers spread out), are they long and strappy (long and thinnish); are they heart-shaped? Are those leaves opposite each other on the stem OR are alternating (one leaf on 1 side of the stem, next leaf on the other side of the stem; are they in a whorl (on all sides of the stem where they encircle the stem). With those answers, we then start on the leaves being deciduous (they fall off the plant in the fall) or are they evergreen (they're on the plant year-round); do those leaves stay green in the winter or do they change color – to what color; is this plant growing in the sun or shade; is it growing well?
Just by eliminating plants by the shape of the leaves, we have narrowed down sheer number of plants to consider. Then we can ask about flowers! Do this mystery plant have noticeable flowers; does it not flower at all; what color/colors are the flowers and do they have an odor or fragrance; are the flowers on the plant single or are they multi; do they face up to the sky or hang toward the ground; when does this
plant bloom: most of the year, spring, summer, fall, or winter (yes, some plants bloom in the winter!).
If nothing comes to mind, then a cell phone camera can be a “tie-breaker here”; pictures can say so much more than words, believe me! If no picture is available, the next best thing (actually better) is a piece of the plant with stem, leaves, AND flower attached. With that, you can usually pin that “critter” down AND give that person information for the best growth of said plant. If not, then you have a real mystery to solve –lucky you!
Here is my latest mystery story and then I'll tell you have long it took me to find the answer.
My mail lady asked me about a plant in an older woman's front yard along with her route. The older woman didn't know what it was either but she sure liked it! It was small scrubby “bushy thing” with bright green leaves and the most beautiful bright yellow flowers at the top. Okay, using the “key”, I asked about the leaves, size, and shape. They were kinda big and bright green. The flowers were the shape of trumpets and were good sized. Nothing was coming to mind so I asked where this woman lived; couldn't give me the exact address do to postal regulations but told me which court and how to get there so I could go on a “field trip”! Went over there and found the little bush; rang the doorbell so the owner wouldn't think I was “casing the joint” – no one home! Drat!! Removed a leaf off the plant, picked up a spent flower and took a picture, and left, BUT not before noticing the Hibiscus nearby! Hmm, same basic thin leaf with jagged edges and twigginess, but the wrong flower style and shape. While zipping back home, I realized I knew that leaf and stem color from someplace, but from
where and when? At home, went through the Sunset Book, but didn't find any clues, so I did what I often did which is to enter my immediate info in the computer and see what pops up! Entering “green bush with bright yellow trumpet-style flowers”, I found 4 pages which met my criteria and, low and behold, there was a picture of a scrubby bush with yellow flowers named ‘Yellow Bells', ‘Yellow Trumpet Flower', or ‘Yellow Elder' and known botanically as Tecoma strans (Stenolobium stans! It was an all-time record for me of 8 minutes. Looking the plant up in the Sunset, I found out why the leaves looked so familiar; I had removed a trumpet vine (Tecoma capensis or Cape Honeysuckle) at work in Benicia! That job took a week to dig out and remove the growth from a pergola!
PS: found one of these plants at the recent Master Gardener sale at the UCD sale and bought it! The older lady is right, it is a beautiful plant!