- Author: Betty Homer
I enjoy the ever-changing special exhibits at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco, because I find the displays to be both well-designed and thoughtfully researched.
My most recent visit to the Conservatory was no different. The current exhibit on display is captioned “Butterflies & Blooms.” Although I had read the exhibit’s promotional materials about how visitors can experience the butterflies up-close, I was not sure what to expect. Upon entering the exhibit hall, I was delighted to see all manners of butterflies (approximately 13 different varieties, including, but not limited to, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Monarch, Julia, Zebra Longwing, Small Postman, Common Buckeye, Viceroy, Spicebush Swallowtail, Giant Cloudless Sulphur, Cabbage White, and Red Admiral) fluttering about in the exhibit hall, which was decked out with spectacular blooms and filled with riotous color. Amazingly, these butterflies ignored the throngs of people and went about their business, pollinating flowers. Indeed, it was not unusual for several butterflies to congregate on a single sunflower as on-lookers stared on (see pictures below). I was able to get so up close to a number of butterflies, that I could even observe them using their proboscis (tongue) to reach the nectar located deep within the flowers.
There was also a display of the various pupae belonging to the types of butterflies present in the exhibit hall. Most had the appearance of shriveled leaves so that wild predators would bypass them in nature and not eat them. The exception was the pupa of the monarch butterfly, which had the appearance of a translucent jade pendant, inlaid with gold flecks (apologies that the picture below did not come out clearly).
Don’t miss out on this wonderful opportunity to observe and learn more about these amazing pollinators. This current exhibit will be on display until October 20, 2013. For more information, please see http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/special-exhibits.
- Author: Kathy Thomas-Rico
I tend to forget what colors to expect in my backyard when summer blooms come along. By the time summer arrives, I have forgotten what we planted the previous autumn. This year’s blooms have arrived, and they are overwhelmingly … orange.
Orange is one of those colors: either you love it or hate it. I know one Master Gardener who shuns orange-colored blossoms altogether. Some green thumbs may seek out nothing but orange (or rust or peach or tangerine) blooms or even foliage (New Zealand flax, coral bells, for instance) for their yards. I’ve managed to gather a crazy quilt of orange bloomers, and, you know what? I like ‘em!
I put in a lion’s tail mainly because I love the type of flowers it puts on, aptly named (they look like a lion’s tail!) whacky whorls of true orange. Bees and hummingbirds LOVE this plant, and the bright orange blooms light up the area around the tall perennial.
Two daylilies I’ve put in have turned out to be stunningly orange. One is a darker, almost rust colored single bloomer; the other is a ruffled double bloom, in true, bright orange.
Our agastache that draws hordes of hummingbirds is commonly known as sunset hyssop. It is a sherbet-toned bloomer that glows orangish-pink. And the California fuchsia, which will continue to bloom deep into the heat of summer, is a fire-engine reddish-orange, and, boy, do the hummingbirds love it, too.
Perhaps the most orange of all is the Calibrachoa ‘Dreamsicle’. This one I planted just a month ago, solely because of its color. It shares a pot with a stately purple bloomer (Angelonia angustifolia ‘Serena’), and the color combination draws my eye every time I step outside.
Maybe I should map out my plantings by color. But I have to say the surprises summer brings are much more fun.
- Author: Launa Herrmann
When our family moved from the Bay Area to Vacaville five years ago, I looked forward to warm fog-less summers sitting beside the swimming pool in our small backyard. But I found out that sitting is a rare occurrence since seven 20-year old Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) and three Crape myrtles (Lagerstoemia indica) border the pool. When my husband and I aren't scooping out cones and needles, we're glaring at the myrtle trees bursting with aerodynamic blooms fit for the slightest breeze.
We determined that this year would be different. By late-July we hatched a plan to conquer the blossom drop. Before the petals started falling, we started pruning. One by one, flower clusters plopped onto the walkway. By day’s end our green-waste can sat at the curb like a stuffed Thanksgiving turkey. My husband and I sank into our faux wicker chairs with pretzels and cokes in hand. We grinned from ear to ear, thrilled that these skinny-dipping blossoms were history. Finally, time to relax.
“Hey, Honey, we'll have a clean pool for a couple months before the autumn winds shake down the dead redwood needles,” I told my husband.
Wrong. By Labor day, I was staring at Crape myrtle buds—again. In fact, they sprouted from every single cut our pruners had made and by mid-September the trees were thick with flowers. Oops, I had unknowingly coaxed a second bloom out of the trees. Next year we'll return to our usual once-a-year early spring pruning regime of removing the prior year’s seed capsules, enjoying the flower show—and putting up with the maddening scattering mess.
- 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: Marime Burton
It’s a pleasure to look out my upstairs bedroom window on dark summer nights. I look down on two beautiful white rose bushes growing in my neighbor’s garden across the street. Any time there’s a moon they become luminous. They truly glow in the dark!
Anyone who has access to the UCD Arboretum on a moonlit summer night can share my neighborhood experience on a much larger scale. A walk through the “ Carolee Shields White Garden” near the west end of the arboretum is a magical experience, made more so when there’s a full moon. Designed in the style of a Japanese Moon Garden it’s also the location of a lovely gazebo, popular for weddings.
White flowers of many varieties bloom in all seasons. They’re beautiful in the daylight too, of course, but moonlight sets the White Garden apart from all the other themed Arboretum landscapes. Its ethereal loveliness is worth the trip to the UCD campus.
It’s a bit of a walk out there, depending on where you leave your car, and somewhat remote from main campus areas. A flashlight and a companion are necessities, and selecting a night when the moon is expected to be especially bright is a plus!