- Author: Jan Rhoades
Well, it is that time again. The holidays are over so I can spend dreamy nights curled up on the couch with the seed catalogues and sunny winter days digging in the garden beds. Ah, a gardener's heart filled with hope and joy for the coming season!
Thinking back on my veggie gardens, I have always planted borage. Somewhere along the way, someone made sure I knew how important it is as a garden addition. It attracts pollinators, is a beneficial companion plant, has nutritious edible leaves and flowers, is virtually pest free, and, as a bonus, it is a prolific self-seeder.
A historic medicinal herb, Borage (Borago officinalis), is a Mediterranean annual also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss. It's not only a favorite plant of honey bees, but also attracts bumble bees and small, native bees. It has served many purposes from the time of ancient Rome to the present. Pliny the Elder believed it to be an anti-depressant, and that it gave courage and comfort to the heart. Francis Bacon thought that borage had "an excellent spirit to repress the fuliginous vapour of dusky melancholie.” One old wives' tale states that if a woman slipped a bit of borage into a promising man's drink, it would give him the courage to propose.
John Gerard's Herball (Published in 1597) mentions an old verse concerning the plant: "Ego Borago, Gaudia semper ago (I, Borage, bring always joys)". He states that "Those of our time do use the flowers in salads to exhilerate and make the mind glad. There be also many things made of these used everywhere for the comfort of the heart, for the driving away of sorrow and increasing the joy of the mind. The leaves and flowers of Borage put into wine make men and women glad and merry and drive away all sadness, dullness and melancholy, as Syrup made of the flowers of Borage comfort the heart, purge melancholy and quiet the frantic and lunatic person. The leaves eaten raw engender good blood, especially in those that have been lately sick.”
At one time borage was grown by beekeepers to boost honey production. It can be grown as an ornamental plant, but is also edible. You could say that borage is a sort of super plant.
In the garden, the claimed uses of borage include repelling pests such as hornworms, attracting pollinators, and aiding any plants it is interplanted with by increasing resistance to pests and disease. It is also helpful to, and compatible with, most plants — notably tomatoes, strawberries, legumes, spinach, brassicas, and squash. Some strawberry farmers set a few plants in their beds to enhance flavor and yield. Tomatoes planted near borage seem to improve in growth and disease resistance. Borage adds trace minerals to the soil it is planted in, and is good for composting and mulching.
It is an annual, but readily self-seeds and thrives in full sun. It is so proficient in self-seeding, in fact, that once a borage plant has established itself in your garden, you will likely never have to reseed again! The bloom period is different for various climates and growing zones. In my garden, borage will bloom from mid-spring to early fall. Borage will bloom for many weeks if the older flowers are trimmed off, and you can often push tattered plants to make a comeback by pruning them back halfway in midsummer. Healthy borage plants shed numerous black seeds, so expect to see volunteers for two years after growing borage. Self-sown borage seedlings are easy to dig and move, or you can pull and compost the ones you don't want.
Now, you may be thinking, “This is amazing! How in the world do I grow this miracle plant for myself?” It's quite simple actually. Seeds germinate easily and are best sown in full or partial sun under ½ inch (1 cm) of soil. Borage is not fussy and grows happily in poor soil. It's easy to sprinkle a patch with seeds and then cover it with a few handfuls of soil or compost. The plants can easily grow to be 3 feet (91 cm) tall and 2 feet (61 cm) wide, so give them room to grow, and let them shade your partial sun plants. Water well until the seeds germinate and the plants are established, then water only when dry. Feed monthly with a balanced organic fertilizer at half the recommended rate. Treat this easy-to-keep herb well and it will reward you with scores of beautiful flowers, lush foliage, and fertile soils.
If the Borage begins to take over your garden just thin out by hand pulling the plants out. The shallow roots will dislodge easily. Remember that the stalks are prickly, so you may need to wear garden gloves.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
On our recent trip to The Huntington, we divided our time between the Ranch House garden, the Chinese and Japanese gardens, the bonsai collection, and the desert garden.
The Chinese garden (the Garden of Flowing Fragrance) features a lake, tea house, stone bridges and waterfalls, against a background of mature oaks and pines.
The Japanese Garden includes a traditional moon bridge and tea house, and a zen garden.
Outside of the Garden, local bonsai associations have dramatic bonsai on display.
The desert garden contains over 2,000 species in 60 landscaped beds, and its website states it is one of the largest outdoor collections of cacti and succulents in the world. We were surprised to see many cacti flowering at this early time of the year. Stunning cholla, barrels, aloes and agaves are just some of the cacti and succulents that are thrilling to see. Yuccas dominate the landscape and tower above the walkways.
It would be easy to spend a full day or more enjoying all of the gardens The Huntington has to offer – but try to visit on a Saturday so you can enjoy the special treat of a visit to the Ranch House garden.
For more information, see https://www.huntington.org/gardens
- Author: Jan Hambleton
Jardin Majorelle is located in Marrakech, Morocco. It was originally created by Jacque Majorelle (1886-1962), a French Orientalist painter and son of the famous Art Nouveau furniture designer Louis Majorelle. He was invited to Morocco in 1917 by a friend. In 1923 Majorelle moved there, purchasing a large palm grove from which he created the Jardin Majorelle.
- Address: Rue Yves Saint Laurent, Gueliz, 400090, Marrakech, Morocco
- Website: https://jardinmajorelle.com/ang/
- Open Daily, hours posted on website
- Author: Dustin Blakey
Recently brown marmorated stink bugs (Haylomorpha halys) were found in Inyo and Mono counties. This invasive pest from Asia is relatively new to our area. Its first sighting was in Bishop last year.
We have plenty of species of stink bugs on the east side, but this one is especially annoying because it tends to aggregate in large numbers and will attempt to get inside homes and structure to avoid cold weather. As our temperatures return to more normal ranges, I would expect more issues with home ingress.
We have had reports from Swall Meadows down to Big Pine, and possibly an isolated case in Olancha. My hunch is they arrived from northern California, not down south, but there is no way to tell for sure.
As of now, most stink bugs you will encounter are not BMSB. You can identify this pest by a couple notable features: like many stink bugs it is brown, but it has white bands on its antennae and has alternating white and dark coloration on its abdomen. It also has rounded shoulders; similar species in our area have pointed shoulders.
Spraying adult stink bugs doesn't do much good. The best course of action is to ensure your homes are sealed up well so they can't get in.
If these bugs do come inside, they can be trapped easily. (Squishing them is just messy and smelly. Trapping is a better choice.) Here is a video from Virginia Tech showing a good way to trap them.
They can also be vacuumed up. Here is what UC IPM suggests you do:
An efficient way to collect stink bugs indoors is by sucking them up with a dry or wet vacuum. The bugs will cause the collection canister or bag and other parts of the vacuum to give off an unpleasant stink bug odor, so some people dedicate a vacuum cleaner to stink bug capture only. Alternatively, a nylon stocking can be stuffed inside the tube and securing the end over the outside of the vacuum tube with a rubber band; this way, bugs are collected in the stocking and not the vacuum cleaner bag. Individual stink bugs can be brushed off into a cut-off plastic bottle containing an inch of soapy water, where they will drown in a short period of time. If needed, the container can be fastened to a pole or broom handle to reach high locations. Stink bugs caught live also can be placed inside a plastic sealable bag and then into a freezer for 2 days to kill them. To conserve water, avoid flushing them down the toilet and avoid placing live stink bugs in the garbage so they do not become established around landfills.
Hopefully this will just be a minor nuisance for us, and nothing more.
- Author: Trina Tobey
They plague every gardener's nightmares. Like something from a sci-fi movie, they are green with long legs and antennae and long piercing mouths with which they suck out fluids. They eat 100 times their body weight, and—worst of all—they multiply asexually by the dozens in a day!
My first experience with aphids as a beginning gardener was watching the leaves on my plum tree wilt. The flowers fell off and died instead of producing fruit. This prompted me to research what I could do to protect my fruit trees. Here is what I learned.
In fall it is time to start your preventative measures for aphids on fruit trees for next year. After harvest, a zinc sulfate application on plums and prunes will provide zinc to the trees as well as hasten leaf fall disrupting the aphid life cycle.
If aphids are a chronic problem in your fruit trees, you can apply supreme- or superior-type oils to kill overwintering pests during dormancy this winter. This helps to start the following season with a clean slate.
In the spring, start monitoring your trees for aphids as soon as leaves begin to bud. Check for aphids on the underside of the leaves on several areas of your trees at least twice weekly. Ants tend aphids and collect their honeydew and large numbers of ants climbing up your tree trunk is an indicator that you may have aphids. Over watering and over fertilizing can increase aphid populations so only apply the minimum necessary for healthy plant growth.
One excellent way to reduce aphid populations is to knock them off with a strong spray of water.
Several natural predators feed on aphids including lady beetles, green lacewings, brown lacewings, syrphid flies, and soldier beetles. Predators can be released onto the trees but often appear naturally in significant numbers when there is a significant aphid population. Where aphid populations are localized on a few curled leaves or new shoots, consider pruning these areas out. Drop the infested plant parts in a bucket of soapy water. If insecticide sprays are needed, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils are generally the best choice. Avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides which will kill natural predators and consequentially could increase your aphid population.
In our area, it can help to keep weeds under control near your trees.
With these tips, you can save your home orchard from an aphid invasion like the Men in Black saved earth from an alien invasion and go back to sleeping soundly throughout the night. Good luck!
Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California (2019). Leaf Curl Plum Aphid. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r606301811.html
Flint, Mary Louise (2018). Pests of the Garden and Small Farm: A Grower's Guide to Using Less Pesticide, Third Edition. Oakland, CA: The Regents of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.