Thursday, December 31, 2009

Street Trees and Water - Red Maples in Emeryville

A happy New Year to all.  I'll have another post from Arizona and some from Kauai in the next weeks.  But for now something I didn't get a chance to post before.

What a difference water makes. Our wonderful city of Emeryville took out our diseased street trees about a year or so ago and planted new ones. They widened the hell strip so the trees would be healthier and even asked us what kind of tree (off a list of 10 pre-selected varieties) we wanted  in front of our house. They also hired an arborist to oversee the whole project. They brought in compost and planted the trees very well right before a series of storms. Great job Emeryville. We and our neighbors both asked for a red maple and the neighbor on the other side got one too. But each tree so far has had a very different experience.

Neighbor to the north: This tree got no supplemental water at the very beginning, but a while later was put on drip irrigation (a double circle of emitter line) when the rest of the hell strip got planted. This was the last maple in the neighborhood to both change colors and lose its leaves.

Our house: I watered the tree by hand with a 5-gallon bucket of fresh tap water from the very beginning. Watering more at the beginning and less as time went on. Later on the tree also received grey water (the water from the rinse cycle of our washer) . But towards the end of summer received almost nothing until fall. The leaves of our tree started to turn brown at the edges until receiving some water in the fall at which point the centers turned a nice shade of red. It was the first of the 3 to start losing leaves, but held onto some longer than the neighbor's to the south.

The neighbor to the south: The hell strip this tree is in was quickly planted with sod and was watered regularly with sprinklers. This tree turned a beautiful red, but was the first to lose all its leaves.

All pictures taken the weekend before Thanksgiving.

As a note of comparison, the other red maples in our neighborhood received supplemental water only once from a city truck in August. Their leaves turned brown, never turning red, and dropped well before ours did.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Desert Botanical Garden - Luminarias

So I went to visit my parents in Phoenix for an early Christmas.  Anyone who has been to the Southwest around this time is probably familiar with luminarias.  Basically, they are candles in paper bags, but they are really beautiful in my humble opinion.

These are all pics from the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  It is open nights until December 30th for Las Noches de las Luminarias.  There is food, drinks, and live music throughout the gardens.  My favorite was jazz singer ChelĂ©, who sang with this hill lit up behind her.

These pics are the result of my first time using a tripod and my first attempt at nighttime photos.  Not too bad if I don't say so myself.  More pics after the jump.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis 'Paradise' or more simply a colorful manzanita

I bought this manzanita variety at the annual plant sale at the Botanic Garden in Tilden Park this spring.  Ryan over at Dry Stone Garden was volunteering at the sale and is pretty sure this was A. pajaroensis 'Paradise'.  I'm not as good at remembering the specific varieties of plants as I should be.  If he's right, and who am I to argue, this baby is supposed to get up to 10' wide.  Not ideal for it's location, but it's unirrigated, so it should take a while to get there.  It seems to be a fast grower though.  The first pic was taken when I planted it in front in late April/early May.  And the second one yesterday.  It's at least doubled in size.

It has a beautiful blueish/greyish-green color on mature leaves, but a bright red on the new growth. Spectacular on more mature specimens.  Here are pictures with rain and without.

Two more pics after the jump.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - December

So I don't have much blooming in the garden right now, but there are a few things.  Many of which are kind of surprising.  These first pics are of Salvia chamaedryoides.  It started blooming a second time in late October after a full bloom all summer and is in full bloom right now.

The tibouchina and St. John's wort are blooming as well.

Dwarf lemon blossoms. Not so surprising for this time of year.

This Salvia buchananii (I believe) is also on its second bloom for the year.  And this trailing rosemary has been blooming for quite a while.

This is a surprise. The camelia didn't bloom till January the last two years, but our 4 inch rainstorm followed by 60 degree weather convinced it to bloom early.  The first round is already done (not so pretty now), though there are some buds ready to pop.

Thanks as always to Carol over at May Dreams Garden for hosting Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plectranthus Amboinicus aka Ant Killer

Plectranthus amboinicus is called Cuban oregano or Mexican mint among many other things (see gotham gardens for a post about all the names.) I think the one we have was a gift to my housemate that he planted outside. It died, but luckily a cutting was saved, potted and brought inside.

Its leaves are very soft and fuzzy, it has a delicious aroma, is used in Caribbean cooking, and evidently kills ants, or drives them insane until they starve to death. I'm still not sure which. If you look closely at the above picture you will see little ants on the leaves of the plant. They are all dead, many frozen in strange contorted positions. There are some more close-ups and a description of my "scientific" observation after the jump.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The First Frost

Probably not so interesting for those in other colder regions, but we had a good frost last night. There was a layer of frost on everything this morning in the garden. Including our unhappy looking, found somewhere or another, garden bear. He looks how I felt all day. It's been cold. Our high was somewhere in the upper 40s. I never expect the Bay Area to be as sunny and warm as most tourists do, but I feel a little cheated all the same.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Native Californians' use of plants

My blog has been UC Davis arboretum heavy lately, so I was going to save this post for later, but it seems somewhat appropriate for Thanksgiving. Since most of our traditional foods on Thanksgiving were first eaten by the indigenous peoples of what is now the United States, it might be interesting to think about what the indigenous Californians ate and in some cases still do eat. Disclaimer - there were hundreds of groups/villages/tribes here in California and obviously this information will only apply to some of them. And more important disclaimer, don't eat things you can't identify with certainty as both the plant you are looking for and as something edible.

I went on a guided walk of the arboretum talking about Native California uses of plants. Pretty interesting. And in answer to the question what did they eat, well for many the staple was acorns. I've been curious to try them now for a while, but they seem fairly labor intensive to prepare.

Toyon berries - They're supposedly edible raw, but evidently branches were cut off the plant, the leaves stripped, and the berries roasted over an open fire. One of the guides said it was probably an aquired taste.

Manzanita berries were mashed, then water added to make a refreshing drink. Several on the walk said it was good. And the hips from the native rose were used to make tea. (pic of rosehip, a little dry)

Some of the most interesting uses of plants were not about food, but more on that after the jump.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The variety of Oaks - As seen thru their Leaves

More leaves with species names after the jump.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Architecture of Oaks

Blue Oak (Quercus Douglasii)

Oaks are some of my favorite trees. They have the most incredible shapes, tall and stately, their gnarled, twisting branches spreading out in all directions to make a nice shaded refuge underneath.

All oaks pictured are in the Shields Oak Grove at the UC Davis Arboretum.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Sonoma Coast

Two weekends ago, I went camping on the Sonoma Coast, about 15 miles north of Jenner. It's a really beautiful section of Highway 1 and we had a great time.

Some strange wildlife in the camp.

The rainstorm of early October and the warm weather after led to a mini spring. There were mushrooms everywhere. I believe these are shaggy ink wells in two different stages of maturity.

Could these be the world's tiniest mushrooms? Probably not, but definitely the smallest I've ever seen.

A pic of the coast and our hand model, Carlos.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Chinese Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides)

The Chinese Dawn Redwood is one of only 3 types of redwoods in the world. The other two being the Coast Redwood and the Giant Sequoia. I had read about them, but never seen one myself. But they've planted one at the UC Davis Arboretum in their redwood grove. All Coast Redwoods, except for this one Dawn Redwood, as far as I could tell. Unfortunately, no Giant Sequoia.
The foliage is very similar to the Coast Redwood, but more flexible and softer to the touch. It's also deciduous, so they recommend it for gardens in the Central Valley if you want a redwood, but also some light in the winter.
The cones are also very similar to the Coast Redwood.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The UC Davis Arboretum

The UC Davis Arboretum consists of 100 acres on the old north channel of Putah Creek. Yes, that is in fact the name of the creek. The banks of the creek could use a little restoration work, but the birds don't seem to mind.

UC Davis sits in the California Central Valley, which has a Mediterranean climate, but one where temperatures rise and fall much more so than here on the coast. So part of their mission is to experiment with plants and to teach people what they should grow. They even highlighted 100 plants throughout the trails, which do especially well in the Central Valley. With signs they mentioned their ease of maintenance, drought tolerance, etc.

They also seem intent to teach people how to grow plants and, especially, how to conserve water.

Here's a pic of Evie's silktassle bush (Garrya elliptica 'Evie') from the Native California plant section. And a May night salvia (Salvia x sylvestris 'Mainacht') and a type of scabiosa (?) from the drought tolerant garden.

All pictures courtesy of Mike.