25 April 2006

On hybridity


Despite the alleged threat of rain, the weekend remained dry enough to actually put some plants in the ground. None of which are particularly picturesque at the moment, except for these beautiful Freesia alba, so much more delicate, and spectacular-smelling, than the hybrids we inherited. (Which are still very nice, and also more floriferous, I'm not complaining). These almost make up for the snowdrops I had to turn down from my mom, because it doesn't get cold enough.

Hybridizers are still up to their old tricks, as anyone who looks at the big seed catalogs knows: Dahlias that look like "mums", "mums" that look like pastry, and plenty of things that look like nothing at all. Little has changed since Katharine White complained about this more than 40 years ago. Every year there's a bigger and less fragrant version of any flower you used to love. I've got an inherited bed of disgusting purple bearded iris hybrids to prove it. A joke compared to our native species. Taste is obviously in short supply among plant breeders, to return to an earlier discussion.

But it would be silly to write off hybrids a priori. Gardeners in colder climes are frequently grateful for a few extra degrees of hardiness introduced by the (metaphoric) turkey baster. Those of us with small yards depend on dwarf cultivars. And everyone benefits from disease resistance and longer flowering periods. It is only the excesses of hybridizers that offend.

Unless they happen to like the wrong colors.

20 April 2006


3 days of sun, and everyone's in a better mood. Plants too. Since my garden is very much a work in progress, there's not a lot of things coming into flower right now (Salvia greggii and -- especially -- the Viburnum in the front), but the signs of spring are everywhere. Tons of new growth: pale green on the bay Laurel, almost black on the lemon (and both on the rose, because I failed to remove its exuberant suckers last year). The orchid (Epipactis gigantea) has put on several inches in the last week, though I'm still worried that it's not getting enough sun. But my other sources of anxiety are melting away: the pomegranate is finally budding out, and various seedlings are appearing as they should.

Last weekend I got two kind of Calochortus and Monardella villosa at a native plants sale, but they will have to wait for a summer-dry bed to accomodate them. Of course, I can't build the bed until I build a new path, and I can't do that until I run a new conduit, and I can't do that until it dries out enough to dig out the old path. So now the plants are waiting for me.


By the way, I went back to check out the Mimetes I thought I saw, and not only was it not there, I couldn't even figure out what I thought was a Mimetes. Nothing remotely close. We see what we want to.

14 April 2006



It was almost punitively beautiful yesterday, which allowed me to capture the leucospermum in its native habitat, accompanied by a leucadendron and several euphorbias. Nice planting, though I'm not a huge fan of the phormium. Nice, happy plant too, but this one's too big for me. Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit the mystery Mimetes, and it's going to start raining again.

10 April 2006



It's undoubtedly spring now, even if the schizophrenic weather makes this difficult to verify. If we have a nice day anytime soon, I might take some pictures of the things that are starting to flower.

I just want to reassure everyone that we are still enjoying the wisteria, which was probably at its peak when we got back, but still has a few weeks left in it, despite the pelting rain.

This weekend's big news was the acquisition of a Protea cynaroides for $6 at a plant sale. Most nurseries charge $60 for a 5-gallon plant. Of course I will have to wait longer for flowers. The big question is whether to grow it in a big pot, or in a still-imaginary raised bed. I'm not sure that I can maintain proper soil conditions in the latter.

In other proteaceae news, I noticed a large and apparently quite happy Leucospermum (probably a hybrid) flowering a few blocks from my house. Even more exciting: what appeared to be a Mimetes (out of the corner of my eye while driving in a downpour) planted, and flowering, in a "hellstrip" by the side of the road. Must investigate further.

04 April 2006

Spring forward


It's always exciting to come back to the garden after a vacation. What happened? Well, not much besides a shitload of rain. The wisteria exploded as predicted, but it's getting hammered pretty hard, like everything else. The consolation is imagining glorious root systems unfurling everywhere underground. Unless it's too soggy...

No signs of life on either of the bareroot tress, which are threatening to replace the seedlings as a source of anxiety. All of the lilies have finally appeared -- even the one I thought the raccoon ate, which caused me to plant two more, which are now superfluous.

If it ever stops raining, daylight savings will allow me to enjoy it all after work. Until then, we wait.

© 2006