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.