29 March 2007

License to kill gophers

Cat people,* avert your gaze.

One of the feral cats was spotted in flagrante this morning, weighing its breakfast options in the bulb bed. This is the same cat that nearly took out the wisteria trying to scale an eight-foot fence, and presumably dropped a large branch off one of the camellias doing something equally stupid.

Oh yeah, it's on.

Prepare yourselves for an epic Tom and Jerry arms race. Or more likely, Spackler and the gophers.

*Hey, you never know what kind of riffraff you'll run into on the internets.

Ninja lolcat via icanhascheesburger.

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23 March 2007


Things are really moving now. I was out contemplating the idea of blackness yesterday:


when I turned around and noticed a huge spike on the Beschorneria rigida, out of nowhere.


You are just going to take my word for how stupendously exciting this is. Until it blooms. Then you will see. And then I turned around again and the first Fritillaria meleagris appeared.


Complete with aphid, of course. Anyway, I'm starting to get excited.

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21 March 2007


Things are really hectic, as you'd expect this time of year. The Wisteria and Cantua are busting out, and lots of other stuff too, but I've been too busy to get much done, or write about it. After a whirlwind trip to Annie's (Brunsvigia josephinae, holla) I managed to get 18 plants in the ground in an hour before returning grudgingly to other chores. Dahlia, Ratibia, Scabiosa, Nasturtium, Passiflora, Aloe... some other stuff.

Penstemon eatoni, two of the four Fritillaria recurva populations, and maybe something else? have germinated in the fridge, and are awaiting my ministrations. Oh yeah, I need to go to the dry cleaners. Of the plants I've taken out of the fridge, no sign of life from Allium amplectens and only a single Triteleia hyacinthina so far.

So yeah, I'm busy. And plant sale season is right around the corner.

This unknown Freesia hybrid is very striking -- if anything it's more contrast-y than the picture. There is only a single one of these in the nice, mostly white drift we inherited. If anyone knows the name of the cultivar, let me know.

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15 March 2007

Street trees

So the city wants to put a Ginko in front of the neighbors' house. It's not my favorite, but considering the options and limitations (power lines), I can live with it (we've been assured it's will be male). But I know very little about this category of plant, so I wanted to see what Chuck and Trey have to say. And you!

Cercis canadensis Eastern Redbud
Lagerstroemia indica x L. fauriei Crape Myrtle
Photinia fraseriPhotinia
Prunus cerasifera ‘Thundercloud’Purple Leaf Plum
Pyrus kawakamiiEvergreen Pear
Rhus lanceaAfrican Sumac
Tristania laurina ‘Elegant’Water Gum
Acer buergeranum Trident Maple
Aesculus carnea ‘Briotii’Red Horsechestnut
Alnus cordata Italian Alder
Eriobotrya deflexaBronze Loquat
Geijera parviflora Australian Willow
Ginkgo biloba ‘Saratoga’ or ‘Autumn Gold’ Maidenhair Tree
Koelreuteria bipinnataChinese Flame Tree
Koelreuteria paniculataGolden Rain Tree
Laurus nobilis ‘Saratoga’Saratoga Laurel
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Saint Mary’Saint Mary Magnolia
Maytenus boaria ‘Green Showers’ Mayten Tree
Metrosideros excelsusNew Zealand Christmas Tree
Pyrus calleryana ‘Aristocrat’ Aristocrat Pear
Sapium sebiferumChinese Tallow Tree
Eucalyptus microthecaCoolibah Tree
Fraxinus oxycarpa ‘Raywood’Raywood Ash
Gliditsia [sic] triacanthos inermis ‘Shademaster’ Thornless Honey Locust
Nyssa sylvaticaSour Gum or Tupelo
Pistacia chinensis‘Keith Davey’ or ‘Pearl Street’ Chinese Pistache
Platanus acerifolia‘Yarwood’London Plane
Podocarpus graciliorAfrican Fern Pine
Quercus rubraRed Oak
Quercus shumardiiShumard Red Oak

Note: not a single native, and no habitat trees (as far as I can tell). Habitat = "messy" of course. Some of these are pretty disease prone. Some good resources for street trees, especially in California, are Cal Poly's selectree and the Palo Alto "urban" Canopy. This is zone 9/17.

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13 March 2007

Fun with flickr

Beware flickr maps. It's easy to go a little crazy on the exotic flora. If you stare at the original size of this photograph taken near Nieuwoudtville ZA , you will eventually see hundreds of young Aloe dichotoma trees dotting the hillside. [The yellow-flowered succulents in the foreground might be a Hoodia or Euphorbia, and I have no idea about the purple (Ericas?)]. Poke around fjordaan's photostream for more shots of this wonderful tree.

Unless it's A. pillansii, but I think it's too far south.

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12 March 2007

PSA: compost

Kalanchoe luciae
Beautiful weather, the miracle of March and daylight savings have combined to allow me to enjoy the garden after work earlier in the year. But today I am dreading it, because I should really turn the compost, and I'm feeling lazy.

Doesn't matter: I did a little research because I was worried about composting some big box store paperwhites, and this is what I found out from a recent review of the literature [Noble and Roberts, "Eradication of plant pathogens and nematodes during composting: a review," Plant Pathology 53 (2004), 548–568.]

  1. For 27 out of 32 pathogenic fungi, all six oomycetes, seven bacterial pathogens and nine nematodes, and three out of nine plant viruses, a peak temperature of 64–70°C and duration of 21 days were sufficient to reduce numbers to below, or very close to, the detection limits of the tests used.
  2. Several plant viruses were temperature-tolerant. These were CGMMV, /Pepper mild mottle virus/, /Tobacco rattle virus/, ToMV and TMV. TMV requires a peak compost temperature in excess of 68°C and a composting period longer than 20 days for eradication. However, TMV is degraded in compost over time, and can be eradicated after a composting period of 26 weeks, even at low temperature (31°C). ToMV in infected seeds can withstand over 70°C in an incubator for over 20 days. [TMV= tobacco mosaic, TomMV= Tomato mosaic; 31 C= 87.8 F; 70 C = 158 F]
  3. It is clear that the detection limits in most studies were quite poor, with infection levels of up to 5% likely to be undetected regularly.

My compost will never get hot enough no matter how much I turn it.

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07 March 2007

Annals of service journalism

Or, pedantry invades the garden

Two weeks ago, the Chron claimed (in an article about Linnaeus!) that Amaryllis belladonna isn't in the Amaryllis family. Today, they suggest that South African plants are flowering in California now because it's summer in South Africa.

06 March 2007

More color

Punica granatum

The new growth on the pomegranate is also an eye opener when you really force yourself to look at it, however familiar the red-edged bronze register. But it's not quite on the level of that rose. Or of Zamia splendens:

Zamia splendens

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02 March 2007

Red, I'm seeing red

Sometimes the color of plants you think you know well can be shocking.

redrose.jpg P_cynaroides.jpg

New growth on this old hybrid tea rose is particularly striking, especially in contrast with the bleached old canes, but the stems and scleropyllous leaf margins on the Protea cynaroides aren't bad either.

By the way I finally caved and paid flickr to become a "pro," which won't make me a good photographer, but will allow you to see more detail in the mediocre photographs I've taken with the new camera. This Bilbergia's worth looking at larger than life.

Bilbergia nutans

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01 March 2007

Pacific Rim


Goodbye Paeonia cambessedesii.

Should have listened to Tony Avent when Heronswood shut down.

What's the lesson here? If you have a favorite nursery, patronize it. Are you one of those sitting there wishing you had sent in your Heronswood order earlier? Lesson learned...if you see a special plant at a mail-order nursery, don't wait because tomorrow may be too late.

Update: Heronswood postscript.

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