Garden Alphabet: California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

Garden Alphabet: California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)

Sycamore are ubiquitous here in Southern California. If you are looking for water, ti is common to look for the sycamore, which require more water and therefore grow close to water sources, even if they aren’t obvious like a creek, river or pond. I love the eccentric arching of the sycamore limbs which twist and gnarl as they grow older. They can be very evocative of the human form in this state. Their large leaves offer abundant shade, although their spiky seed pods can be a bit of a nuisance if grown in the typical suburban garden.

Garden Alphabet: Sycamore | A Gardener's Notebook

California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa) 

Platanus racemosa is a species of sycamore tree known by several common names, including California sycamoreWestern sycamoreCalifornia plane tree, and in SpanishAlisoPlatanus racemosa is native to California and Baja California, where it grows in riparian areas, canyonsfloodplains, at springs and seeps, and along streams and rivers in several types of habitats.

This large tree grows to 35 meters in height with a trunk diameter of up to one meter. A specimen on the campus of Stanford University has a trunk girth (circumference) of 10.5 feet.[1]The trunk generally divides into two or more large trunks splitting into many branches. The bark is an attractive patchwork of white, tawny beige, pinkish gray, and pale brown, with older bark becoming darker and peeling away. Platanus racemosa is the dominant species in the globally and state endangered sycamore-alluvial woodland habitat.


The large palmately lobed leaves may be up to 25 centimeters wide and have three or five pointed lobes. New leaves are a bright translucent green and somewhat woolly. Thedeciduous tree drops copious amounts of dry golden to orangish red leaves in the fall. The inflorescence is made up of a few spherical flower heads each around a centimeter wide. The female flower heads develop into spherical fruit clusters each made up of many hairy, maroon-red-woolly achenes. The dangling seed balls are attractive on the tree.


The tough and coarse-grained wood is difficult to split and work. It has various uses, including acting as a meat preparation block for butchers. Many small birds feed on its fruit, and several mammals eat its twigs and bark. The pollen and the hairs on leaves and flowers can be allergens for some people.[2] New leaves are susceptible to anthracnose canker, which, when it causes a side bud to become the new leader, can create picturesque angling trunks and branches on older specimens.[2] – Wikipedia

More information on California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)


Previously in Garden Alphabet:

Photo: Bearded Iris from Southern California Spring Garden Show 2012

Bearded iris in competition

I was looking for a photo to illustrate today’s End of the Day blog (Spring has broken!) and happened upon this shot. I am still impressed with myself on how well this photo came out. What a striking photo of a striking iris.

You can view all the photos in this Flickr Album – Southern California Spring Garden Show 2012

Interesting Plant: Dahlia ‘Honka’

Interesting Plant: Dahlia ‘Honka’

This has to be the most un-Dahlia-like dahlia I have ever seen. This is a dahlia stripped to its most basic components. Certainly this is a plant for a specific place and purpose, but it did catch my eye when I saw it on Pinterest.

Dahlia honka

Discovered via Pinterest user Jill Anderson

Honka is a Star, Single Orchid, type Dahlia.  One of the most popular of its type, it has pale yellow petals and a deeper yellow disc that stand out against green foliage.  Attractive to bees and gardeners alike its merits have been recognised by the RHS Award of Garden Merit. – Pheasant Acre Plants
More information on Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisioides:

Previously in the Interesting Plant series: 

Interesting Plant is a series from A Gardener’s Notebook blog and podcast that highlights the most interesting plants I find in my Internet and real-world travels — Douglas

Video: In the garden…April 11, 2014: Finally back in the garden for some planting and cleanup

Agn artwork

Finally back in the garden after some busy weeks. I check out the geranium pot and potatoes, weed the onions and plant some more Parisian carrots along with some green onions in a now empty container.

Itg 20140411 thumb

Check out what was happening in the garden a year ago: “In the garden…April 10, 2013 – Grass going to seed, acanthus and lots of projects to be done “

Check out my collection of gardening essays, “From A Gardener’s Notebook” now available as a Kindle eBook. (You don’t need a Kindle to read it, though. Read it on your PC, Link:


Watch all past episodes of “In the garden…” in this YouTube Playlist

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“In the garden…” is a series for A Gardener’s Notebook highlighting what is happening in my garden, my friend’s gardens and California gardens throughout the seasons. 

Garden Alphabet: Gerbera Daisy

Garden Alphabet: Gerbera Daisy

Gerbera Daisy are ubiquitous plants here in Southern California, although usually seen as potted plants given at parties and, in the case of these daisies, as flower for our friend’s memorial service. His wife brought them by afterwards and placed them in the garden as a reminder of him. I wasn’t sure they would even grow directly in the ground, but 3 of the 4 plants I put in have returned each season since. The splash of red is a welcome addition as the blooms and foliage of our paperwhites and snowflakes start to fade at this time of year.

Gebera daisy


Gerbera (/ˈɜrbərə/ or /ˈɡɜrbərə/L. is a genus of ornamental plants from the sunflower family (Asteraceae). It was named in honour of the German botanist and naturalist Traugott Gerber († 1743) who travelled extensively in Russia and was a friend of Carolus Linnaeus.[1]


It has approximately 30 species in the wild, extending to South AmericaAfrica and tropical Asia. The first scientific description of a Gerbera was made by J.D. Hooker in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1889 when he described Gerbera jamesonii, a South African species also known as Transvaal daisy or Barberton Daisy. Gerbera is also commonly known as the African Daisy.


Gerbera species bear a large capitulum with striking, two-lipped ray florets in yellow, orange, white, pink or red colours. The capitulum, which has the appearance of a single flower, is actually composed of hundreds of individual flowers. The morphology of the flowers varies depending on their position in the capitulum. The flower heads can be as small as 7 cm (Gerbera mini ‘Harley’) in diameter or up to 12 cm (Gerbera ‘Golden Serena’).


Gerbera is very popular and widely used as a decorative garden plant or as cut flowers. The domesticated cultivars are mostly a result of a cross between Gerbera jamesonii and another South African species Gerbera viridifolia.[2] The cross is known as Gerbera hybrida. Thousands of cultivars exist. They vary greatly in shape and size. Colours include white, yellow, orange, red, and pink. The centre of the flower is sometimes black. Often the same flower can have petals of several different colours.


Gerbera is also important commercially. It is the fifth most used cut flower in the world (after rosecarnationchrysanthemum, and tulip). It is also used as a model organism in studyingflower formation. Gerbera contains naturally occurring coumarin derivatives. Gerbera is a tender perennial plant. It is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds, but resistant to deer.[3]Their soil should be kept moist but not soaked. – Wikipedia

More information on Gerbera:


Previously in Garden Alphabet:

Video: Beechgrove Garden starts 2014 season

Once of my favorite gardening shows, align with the BBC’s Gardeners World. Check it out for yourself in this YouTube video below. Beechgrove

From the Beechgrove web site… For most of the country, it’s waders rather than wellies that are essential kit to get gardening this spring. Beechgrove is back and Jim McColl, Carole Baxter, George Anderson and Chris Beardshaw are raring to go no matter what the weather. In the first programme, the team take a look at some soggy, boggy gardens across the country and assess what can be done. They also deal with their own new unintended paddling pond, in the Beechgrove Fruit House. On a snowy day in February, Carole visits Dunblane to find early inspiration from the Scottish Rock Garden Club’s Early Bulb Display. This is not a competitive display; this is to encourage SRGC members to share their plants and information with others. Members bring as many pots and pans of alpines as possible to clothe the benches and it turns out that more than 90% of the species and varieties are unique. Carole chats to members and visitors, and catches the flavour of this early springtime display. Also searching for early season colour, George finds all that and more when he visits Shepherd House garden in Inveresk. Recognised as one of the best small gardens in Scotland, Shepherd House is a very personal garden of about one acre, designed by its owners Charles and Ann Fraser. The garden in February is full of aconites and iris, and swathes of hellebores. Ann has placed mirrors under the traditionally shy hellebore blooms so that we can appreciate their beautiful faces. She has also turned into a snowdrop collector, or galanthophile, after being invited to paint some snowdrop varieties. She’s got the bug and she now has a stunning collection of snowdrops of over 70 varieties, all with very different characters.

Interesting Plant: Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisioides)

Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisioides)

Another possibility for mine and my neighbors Southern California gardens. I have seen this out in the Palm Springs area where my sister has lived for 20+ years and it does look very attractive as part of a xeriscape environment. I am not sure if I have enough sun here in my garden, but there might be a couple of areas where it would fit. According to the Wikipedia page it can grow up to 3 meter, which might the a little large for some gardens. I don’t think I have ever seen it grow this large in the gardens where i have seen it, though.


Discovered via

“Blunt-leaved Senna” (and spelling variants) redirects here. This name is also used for Senna obtusifolia, a large shrub common in warm humid regions.

Senna artemisioides is a flowering plant in the family Fabaceae. It is commonly known as Silver Cassia or Feathery Cassia - although “cassia” generally refers to the largest-growingCassiinae. Some of its distinct subspecies also have common names of their own. This plant is endemic to Australia, where it is found in all mainland states and territories, except forVictoria.

This is a shrub that grows up to 3 metres in height. It has pinnate leaves with between 1 and 8 pairs of leaflets. It produces an abundance of yellow flowers in winter and spring which are about 1.5 cm in diameter, followed by 2 to 7 cm long flat green pods which age to dark brown.

The species adapts to a wide range of climatic conditions, although it is susceptible to frost, particularly when young. It prefers dry, well drained sites with full sun. As an ornamental plant, it is propagated readily from seed, which should first be soaked in boiling water.[1]

This plant has gained the Royal Horticultural Society‘s Award of Garden Merit.[2]


More information on Feathery Cassia (Senna artemisioides:

Previously in the Interesting Plant series: 

Interesting Plant is a series from A Gardener’s Notebook blog and podcast that highlights the most interesting plants I find in my Internet and real-world travels — Douglas

Photo: Lady Bank’s Rose via #instagram

Lady banks rose

Previously in my Instagram Photos…

See all my photos on Flickr

Photo: Clytostoma callistegioides via #instagram


Previously in my Instagram Photos…

See all my photos on Flickr

42 of My Favorite Garden Things for March 2014 — Shared Links from Douglas E. Welch

My Favorite Things

As always, let me know what types of interesting items you would like to see and I will keep an eye out for them especially. — Douglas

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