- Author: Karen Metz
One of the many special joys of gardening is coming face to face with hummingbirds. I love to watch them sip from flowers or just perch and survey their territory. That's why Keith and I were thrilled to see a tiny hummingbird sampling the flowers at a flower box at a restaurant in Rudesheim, Germany. He was the tiniest thing we had ever seen. He was brown and rust and white and hummed and hovered enchantingly.
I vaguely remembered that there was a hummingbird referred to as a bee hummingbird, so that evening I lhit the Internet. No, the bee hummingbird is from Cuba and is a striking blue color which this creature was not. As I researched I found that there are no hummingbirds in Europe, only the New World. Interestingly about two years ago they did find hummingbird fossils near Frankfurt Germany. I did find out there was a zoo near Rudesheim that had a hummingbird enclosure; perhaps one had escaped.
Then I found a question to a bird site where someone else had seen a small hummingbird in Germany. The expert gently suggested that they had perhaps seen a European hummingbird hawk moth, Macroglossum stellatarum. No Way! I was a biology major. I'm a Master Gardener for crying out loud. I'm not going to mistake a moth for a bird. Nevertheless I did Google the European hummingbird hawk moth and sure enough that was exactly what my husband and I saw. The moth flies during the day time, hovers and even has the hummm of the hummingbird. It's incredible. They say it's an example of convergent evolution that they have ended up so similar. Take a look at the pictures that my husband took and see if you would have been fooled too.
- Author: Sharon L. Rico
It’s such a pleasure spending time in the garden, especially this time of year. Even with our erratic weather, we have color and life everywhere. The garden is abundant with vegetables and flowers. We have been busy the past 2 months harvesting cherries, followed by peaches. A couple of days ago, I pulled the yellow onions, cleaned and trimmed them for storage. The ‘Big Boy’ and ‘Juliet’ tomatoes are providing us with tomato sandwiches and salads. The zucchini is trying it’s best to hide from our searching eyes. The last one was about a foot long (oops). Eating outdoors just about daily is the best summertime treat and a relaxing way to catch up on our daily activities. Listening to the splashing of our water features, watching the bees and hummingbirds-zipping back and forth. What a treat. The dahlias are blooming in several corners of the yard and these blooms have been cut and placed in a vase gracing our kitchen island. The begonias, in pots and hanging baskets are glorious. As busy as we are each day, enjoying the fruits of our labor, is the best feeling. There is no better time than “the good ole summertime” and right now we’re enjoying every minute of it before it’s over.
- Author: Cheryl A Potts
Soil texture is an important factor in determining the success of your gardening venture. Texture is determined by the proportions of sand, silt, and clay minerals of your soil. Clay, predominate in this geographic area, is very fine-textured, and referred to as a 'heavy soil'. Clay has one thousand times more surface area per gram than silt, and almost a million times more surface than course sand.
Sandy or silt loam is said to be the best soil for home gardening, as this provides a mixture that retains water and is able to percolate and infiltrate. Clay can become hard as rock and does not drain well.
Several things can be done to deal with our clay. One is to add raised beds to your garden, bringing in good loamy soil from a reputable source, and placing it on top of existing soil, where you want to plant.
Secondly, you can amend your existing clay soil with organic materials. Two common methods for doing this are: one, to add compost to soil and work it in. This is best done with hoes and or shovels, as tilling can destroy living organisms, such as worms, which are most beneficial to the garden. Severely compacted soil may require tilling. Of so, till down 10-12" deep. Allow soil to dry out--two to three days prior to adding amendments. Remove rocks, roots and debris. Break up any large clods with a hoe. Place two to three inches of compost on the area and work in. Do not do this when the soil is too wet or to dry. Peat moss would work as an amendment, but is expensive. Compost and well rotted manure both are organic and ideal for garden plots. A second method is to cover the area with 4-6" of rotten hay or straw and let it sit for up to a year, as this will slowly break down the soil. Easier on the back but takes much more time.
A third approach is to accept the clay and plant items that do well in that texture of soil. Here is a partial list of some flowers that actually will do fine: Black-eyed Susan, bluestar, aster, baptisia, coreopsis, purple cone flower, sea holly, perennial geranium, false sunflower, daylily, coral bells, blazing star (great for a butterfly garden), bee balm, Russian sage, yarrow, and switch grass, said to actually thrive in moist or dry clay.
So clay does not have to be a gardener's four letter word like mole, weed, or mold. Work with it, amend it, accept it.
- Author: Janet Snyder
If you knew my family, you'd know that we are big fans of all things Disney. Recently, we took a trip down to Disneyland for a short family vacation. We love the rides, the atmosphere, the music, and the characters. But…my absolute favorite reason to go is to soak up the gardens!
We spent more than a fair amount of time in lines this trip, which is fine with me as it gives me more time to study the gardens. For example, while waiting for the Buzz Lightyear ride, I was able to enjoy the herb garden planted in a small raised bed. Rows of thyme, sage, basil, rosemary, and oregano. The Haunted Mansion gardens are planted with a variety of dark-colored grasses, annuals, and perennials. Pansy, Sweet William, iris, tulips, and cosmos are just some of the flowers in black, dark purple, chocolate, or burgundy that they use. Take a ride on Storybook Land and you'll find an entire garden in miniature. They even have a "quilt" done entirely in succulents. Disney parks gardens are planted in masses, rows, groups. Nothing is random.
Who hasn't gone there and noticed the huge hanging baskets of flowers? The animal topiaries around It's A Small World? Even the riot of flora and fauna along the Jungle Cruise ride is carefully planned, planted, maintained, and changed. After you start paying attention, you realize just how much detail has been tended to. Visit any other amusement park, but you will not find any with gardens that can hold a candle to those at Disney parks. Probably one of the most well-known family photo spots is the iconic Mickey Mouse head of flowers as you enter the park. That one particular icon alone requires 24,000 annuals a year!* Disney has 650 horticulturists tending the gardens of Disneyland and Disney World.* You would be surprised at how many impressive garden and landscape statistics are available that people visiting don't even consider. I own a number of books (mostly gifts!) on the gardens of Disney. They provide me with inspiration when I need it.
Someday, one of the things on my own personal "bucket list" is to visit the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival held in Florida every spring. Until then, our family and I will continue to make the drive to Disneyland and enjoy the gardens.
*Markey, Kevin. Secrets of Disney's Glorious Gardens. New York: Disney Editions, 2006. Print.
- Author: Jennifer Baumbach
It’s like a rainbow of colors out there! As I look out my kitchen window, it seems overnight there was a color riot in the backyard! I have a lot of plants that flower from spring until fall, so I really enjoy the garden for those months of the year. In bloom right now are sweet peas, borage, ceanothus (Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’), a variety of sages, marguerites, daffodils, Lady Banks Rose, weeping butterfly bush-that’s just to name a few!
The benefit to having such hues in the garden is the wildlife it attracts. I see bees, birds, spiders, and cats playing in the jewel tones.
Just the other day, I was having a look at the backyard with a critical eye. I decided that I need to add more colorful foliage and movement to the yard. I plan on adding ornamental grasses and bronzed, variegated or other-than-green plants to my yard. Granted, the flowers are colorful, but the majority of the yard is just green foliage when the flowers are gone.
In the next few weeks I am going to Annie’s Annuals in Richmond and also a UC Davis Arboretum Invitational for Master Gardeners. I hope to find the plants I am looking for that will spice up the yard for the 'plain green' times of the year.