25 September 2006


Inspired by Ayse's excavations and compulsive documentation thereof, I created a little photoset documenting the saga of the conduit. Totally plant-free...

Ok, fine here's your plant. Someone may have acquired one of these at a plant sale yesterday.

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21 September 2006


Houseplants aren't that exciting, but this may be the happiest Phalaenopsis I've ever seen. Not, of course, because of anything I've done for it.

Anyway, despite my inattention, the garden is hanging in there, waiting for the rain with variable impatience, or none at all in the case of the "California fuschia" below. The plant form is a little sloppy, but you can't complain about the abundant flowering this time of year.

E_canum.jpg (Surrounded by dead Nigella, red Pelargonium, Alyssum, and Yarrow).

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20 September 2006

The madness

Even-half crippled from my various excavations, I can't stop thinking about Paeonia cambessedesii. But what about Paeonia mascula subsp. arietina? [Descriptions here].

(The former, native to Mallorca, would constantly remind me of mayonnaise; the latter of chickpeas. I guess that doesn't really affect the decision).

Probably I will do nothing about my peony problem this year.

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11 September 2006

September in the garden

If I have been remiss in describing what's going on in my garden, it's because I've been distracted by backbreaking labor. I'm now about halfway done with Operation Conduit '06, and then I have to excavate and build a raised bed before the rains come. Needless to say, I'm ready to be done with this bullshit.

But the garden is pretty interesting this time of year. Despite having looked dead for over a month, this heroic little sweetpea is still flowering. In the background is calamint, the binomial of which is much disputed, but we'll call it Nepetella something or other. It's been churning out a profusion of insignificant blueish flowers for months. I can't say I've cooked with it much yet.

The most exciting development in recent weeks was undoubtedly the arrival of my order from Telos rare bulbs. I've already planted a little drift of Erythronium californicum (Erythronium bulbs do not like to dry out), and a single Crinum bulbispermum. Other bulbs whose identity I'll withold for now await the raised bed.

I've recently solved the mystery of why the inherited Arum italicum doesn't set fruit: it does, but it's obscured by the rampant pelargonium. I don't think I love the Arum (someone once decribed it as "sinister", and whether because of the dark, pointed leaves or the creepy fruit spikes, which normally appear after the leaves have gone dormant, I tend to agree). But I'm happy to leave it undisturbed, at least until I pull the pelargonium.

Of course, the most beautiful flower right now is the Lapageria, and the first one finally disintegrated 3 weeks after opening. But this caused me to finally notice (you can see I'm a master of precise observation) that the style as well as the tepals are marked by the charactertistic pink mottling of this type, which is called "picotee".

The word picotee was borrowed from French in the eighteenth century specifically to describe a type of carnation, by the way. According to the OED it was not transferred to similarly marked flowers of other types until 1899. I suspect an enterprising Englishman could revise this chronology.

The style on the second flower is more strongly marked:


07 September 2006

Immigration debate

It's a native plant linkstravagana: a California biologist is facing hard time for hacking down Eucalyptus on public lands. Meanwhile, particularly delicate wild habitat in Point Reyes is threatened by massive pot plantations. In Placer County, fifty percent of new landscaping must be "native" by law. And Garden rant links to the inimitable Tony Avent's take on the subject.

I will just say that diversity means different things in different contexts. Agriculture is the greatest threat to biodiversity, but were going to have to accept the existence of the human race as a precondition to pondering these important issues. In terms of biodiversity, we should maintain as much "wild" land as possible and protect it from invasive species:* a project that does not have to conflict with the cultivation of horticultural diversity in the garden. Most of the angst is easily avoided by observing the seemingly obvious distinction between "wild" and cultivated land.

By the way, those of you who grow plants native to North America should check out the Native Plant Network propagation protocol database (via BPoD).

*Invaders can work in non-obvious ways. Some of the australian species colonizing South African fynbos grow so much faster than the natives that their fuel load accelerates the "normal" cycle of the fire regime, meaning that many of the natives do not have time to sufficiently restore their seed bank before they are burnt to a crisp. Conversely, some of the natives have adapted to the fire regime in such a way that they may be increasing "unnaturally" from this development. I'm sure there are similar dynamics in California chaparral.

01 September 2006

Problem solved

Thanks to Pam Pierce, the fuchsia has been miraculously ID'd as "Cardinal", from 1937/8. If you're trying to identify a fuchsia, this is a good place to start.

© 2006