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Tuesday, January 28, 2003


Gardening Book Project

I have decided to make a calculated march through the gardening books available to me from the Los Angeles Public Library system, in order to see what useful, fun or interesting books I might have missed along the way.

This is the first entry in what should become a regular feature.


Paths and Walkways: Simple Projects, Contemporary Designs
by Hazel White

I have lots of paths in my garden. Unfortunately, nearly all of them are at the end of their current life span. The pea gravel installed by the previous owners has mostly sunk into the soil or been raked up with the leaves. I have been looking for replacement path coverings, but nothing has struck my fancy as yet. Paths and Walkways has loads of great ideas, though, so I am hoping I will find a few possibilities within its pages.


Tips for the Lazy Gardener
by Linda Tilgner

As much as we all love gardening, sometimes it can be a real pain in the neck (and back and legs and everywhere else). There is no need to suffer, though. Here is a book of great hints on making your gardening "work" even more enjoyable than it already is.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

Garden Light Show

On our way back from a weekend in Palm Desert, California we stopped by our friends, the Cadegans in Moreno Valley. The display of color in the Cadegan's garden was unbelievable.

Click for photo gallery

The plant above is Delosperma cooperi. It is commonly used for ground cover throughout Southern California. Despite its sprawling habit it truly puts on a light show in the garden at this time of year. The flowers seem to almost glow from within. In some cases, when planted on high hillsides, the flowers can be seen from a mile away!

Hearst Castle seeks photos from visitors

In today's Desert Sun I came across an interesting story. Hearst San Simeon Historical Monument in California is looking for photos and film which show the original gardens, designed by architect Julia Morgan, from the 1940's and 50's.

The monument is trying to recreate the gardens in order to give visitors a more complete understanding of how the grounds were just as beautiful and important as the grand house itself. It sounds like a difficult project, but I think it is an interesting way to try and recapture a garden that has been lost over the years.

Friday, January 24, 2003

Wisteria a-bloom

Even if you practically live in your garden, it can still surprise you in wonderful ways.

As I looked out my back door this morning, I saw that the wisteria on the back trellis had begun to bloom. I hadn't even noticed the flower pods on the vines when I was working out there the last few days.

The low morning sun was perfectly highlighting the purple flowers and the air was filled with their scent. A wonderful way to start the day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

Web Links

Country Living Gardener had some interesting links in this months issue. All of these are specifically non-Californian in their scope so hopefully this will balance the SoCal bias you find here at AGN.


Buckeye Yard and Garden Online

News for Northwest Gardeners

North Carolina Pest News

State Partners, USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

Prunings finished...Yea!

As you can see, I finally finished up the rose pruning today. Working through the 20 bushes in the front garden took me just over an hour.

I still need to go back and clean up underneath each plant. This helps to prevent rot around the base of the plant and also helps to clean up any leaves that might have been infected with black spot or other fungal diseases.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Let there be light!

I took a few minutes the other night, after dark, to string up some leftover Christmas lights around the large wisteria trellis at the back of the house. It is a bit early to be planning for my annual garden party in June, but since they were lying around I figured I might as well put them up.

The back garden doesn't get a lot of use after dark except by the nightly visiting opossum and feral cats of the neighborhood. I want to remedy this as the nights start to get warmer. Often, in the heat of the summer, the only time you can enjoy the garden is after the sun has set. Any day that rises above 100 degrees F usually leaves 70-80 degree F nights in its wake. The trellis lights are merely step on in the process of lighting up the back garden.

I have been looking at various landscape light sets, much the light the one I have in the front yard. That set came with a transformer, wire, 6 pedestal lights and 3 spot lights. I realize now, as most people do, that pedestal lights are fairly worthless in lighting up a garden. The simple up-lighting of my Elm tree, my tree fern and the azalea bushes in front of our porch are much more interesting than the wash of light on the driveway from the pedestals.

I think I am going to go and buy the parts separately and build my own system for the back garden. First, it will be almost entirely spot and flood lights. I have lots of good opportunities for up and down lighting throughout the back. It will probably cost more than a packaged lighting system, but I think it will be much more attractive and useful. It will also take longer to install, but if I start soon I should be done in plenty of time for summer outdoor fun. I will post more and the project comes together.

Sunday, January 19, 2003

Rose Pruning

We had some visitors today so I took advantage of them by asking them to come out to the garden to talk while I started the mundane task of pruning my 50+ rose bushes. It was really nice to have the conversation to make the time pass quickly.

I felt I really needed to get started on this task. The weather has been in upper-70's to low-80's the last week and so the roses were already putting on a flush of growth. Usually I have until the end of January or even mid-February before I have to complete the task.

I got through about 20+ bushes in the rear garden today and will spend about another hour finishing those in the front garden before I am done. Due to its better exposure, the front garden roses grow much bigger and so take a bit longer to prune.

The nicest thing about this job, though, is that once I get finished I don't have to think about it for another year.

Saturday, January 18, 2003


A Friend in the Garden

I always like birds and other wildlife in my garden. Here is a visitor who seemed very content to just sit and enjoy the surroundings.


Garden Home City: Creating an Urban Haven
by Bonnie Trust Dahan


This is the latest book by Dahan. I enjoy here photos and writing as they provide many idea for bringing the garden inside your home, whether it is an old New England farm house or an apartment on the Upper West Side.

Her previous book, seen below, is also very good and has earned a place on my bookshelf for on-going reference.

Garden House: Bringing the Outdoors in


Thursday, January 16, 2003


Orange Blossoms in Malibu

While visiting a client in Malibu today, I was over-powered by the scent of orange and lemon trees in full bloom nearly everywhere I went. It is hard to imagine them throwing off such smells when parts of the country are still suffering with cold temperatures and snow.

Just one of the many reasons people move to California, I guess.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

In the garden with books...


Two Gardeners : Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence


Soul of Nowhere: Traversing Grace in a Rugged Land

I highly enjoyed Child's previous book, The Secret Knowledge of Water and look forward to digging into this book.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

More than I thought...

It seems I got more done in the garden yesterday than I originally thought. After posting the last entry I remembered that I took a few minutes to prune our small Crape Myrtle in the back garden.

This tree has long suffered under the heavy canopy of a much larger Ash tree. The previous owners over-planted in the 10 years building the garden, but each year we "edit" out a few of the more egregious errors. This has let in much more light to the Crape Myrtle and it seems to appreciate the extra attention.

Basic pruning, especially in a tree this (relatively) young, is to take off any branches that are less than "pencil-sized." This helps to increase the branching for fullness while also directing the tree's energy into the stronger limbs and producing flowers.

Spiders, spiders, everywhere

Another, rather unpleasant, task is the ritual removal of the large black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus) that can usually be found living within the driveway hose reel. It seems to provide the ideal environment for black widows as there is almost always one there and, judging by their size, quite healthy.

I don't mind spiders in my garden, but these are one of the few arachnids I will kill on sight. Even though my 5-year-old sun knows to not go near them, they are quite dangerous to have around the hose reel and other exposed areas. IF you know of anyone who researches black widows, tell them I would be happy to share my bounty.

I started the regular removal of the spiders a few years ago. Without thinking, I reached my hand into the center the hose reel to tighten the fitting. Only afterwards did I notice that it might be a good home for black widows. Sure enough, a quick look showed one to be happily ensconced there. I was lucky I didn't get bitten. Now, I don't work on the reel without carefully washing it out and removing any life forms I find there.

Saturday, January 11, 2003

A little bit...

Well, I got a little bit done in the garden today, but not nearly as much as I should have. Isn't that the case with all gardens, though?

First thing this morning, after a quick cup of coffee, of course, I go those 2 languishing lantana plants into the ground. With this addition I should start seeing a movement to my purple and gold theme along the street. I am alternating the colors (the purple variety is already well established and spreading) as well as the habit. The yellow lantana has a more vertical habit, where the purple variety is a low spreader. This should be nice contrast of structure and color, once the yellow ones become established.

The existing planting is doing exactly what I hoped on the nut grass suppression front. Nothing seems to kill this grass and it appears anywhere that there is water. The lantana is heavy enough that it chokes out the grass, eventually. This new planting should also allow me to remove the 2 varieties of dusty miller that I transplanted from the back yard years ago. It was put in as a stopgap originally, but it has taken me this long to get replacements in the ground.

I also hacked up our Christmas tree to use as mulch around the garden. It had been sitting outside for the last 2 weeks, but a few minutes with the pruners left me with a pile of boughs suitable for a decorative ground cover and a long straight trunk with my wife likes to use for edging the beds.

Of course, this time of year always drives me nuts, as most people in LA have no idea what to do with their Christmas tree once the holidays are over. Starting the day after Christmas you find trees littering front yards, alleyways and every conceivable public area in the city. If I had a chipper/shredder I would probably go around collecting the trees so I could mulch them, but no such luck.

The final job of the day involved fixing the latch on one of our garden gates. The high winds last week stressed the latch so much that the bar broke off. A quick trip the hardware store and a few minutes with the drill finished that project and got one more item off my to-do list.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Gardening After Dark

Although I can usually make my own schedule, the last several days I have been arriving home after dark. Computer clients have kept me hopping all week and the lantana I bought over a week ago still languishes on my front porch.

Despite Rosanne regular (and only half joking) threat of installing lights in the garden so we can work at night, I am not sure when I will get to some very important tasks. Planting needs to be done, for sure, but rose pruning needs to happen soon. I wouldn't even try to do that in the dark, though. I get torn up enough when I can see clearly.

Lights would certainly help, though, even in the summer. During the height of the heat here in SoCal it doesn't cool down at all until the sun slips below the horizon. No one wants to be out working when it is over 100, no matter how pretty the garden or how necessary the work.

Do you garden at night? How do you fit in all the work when the real world enroaches on your time? Drop me a line at: douglas@welchwrite.com and let me know your secret.

This weekend should bring a few spare moments, I hope. I am determined to spend some time digging.

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

Improper use of tools

Many gardening tools have a variety of uses, but extending pole tree trimmers have a rather limited range of operation. Someone who lives near me, though, seems to have found a new use for these tools.

For the last three days, our telephone and/or cable lines have somehow disconnected themselves from the utility pole in our rear garden. We have several days of blustery Santa Ana winds, so we first thought that was the culprit. Two more days of disconnects had us searching for other answers, though. Unable to catch the cables in their act of spontaneously disconnecting we had a few ideas what might be happening.

After several visits from SBC, our local phone company, and Adelphia, our cable provider, and the LAPD, we were back in business here at the AGN home office.

That is....until this morning.

My wife arises early with my 5-year-old son most mornings. She checked the telephone...still working. She checked the cable TV...still working, much to my son's joy! He can finally watch Cyberchase again.

She then goes into the back garden to hang up some laundry on our handy-dandy, and "oh so declassé" clothes line. There, hanging from the telephone wires, is a pole tree trimmer, with saw attachment. "Hmmm....interesting," she thought, and quickly went to call the utility companies, again, along with the police.

I make no claims as to understanding the motivation of this person, but I think you will agree that using a pole trimmer to cut phone and cable lines, is probably not the designed use for this tool, especially when the electrical lines are on the same pole.

I felt it was my duty to pass along this important safety tip to all AGN readers.

Click the picture for a larger version

Monday, January 06, 2003

Garden Photos

A few shots from a bright and blustery day here in California. It is unseasonably warm today with a big Santa Ana wind pushing temperatures into the high 70's. I can't imagine what the plants think of this.

Template Trouble

I am having a bit of trouble with my templates over at Blogger.com, so the look of the page may change and you may see some errors on occassion. Please bear with me. -- Douglas

The AGN mailing list is back!

In order to give you a chance to comment on blog items and discuss gardening topics among yourself, I have restarted the AGN mailing list through YahooGroups.

You can subscribe directly by entering your email address in the "Subscribe" box at the top of the right-hand column or by visiting Yahoo Groups directly.

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Descanso Gardens

Sunday Jan 12 - 8:00 AM

Learn the Birds of the Gardens

Descanso Gardens is a wonderful place to view the different varieties of birds that visit Southern California. Experts from the San Fernando Valley Audubon Society lead free, instructional bird walks every second and fourth Sunday of the month. Meet at 8 a.m. at the Center Circle.

Free Admission for early birders. The tours are led by Karen Johnson or Nancy Knode.

For more information call Karen at 818-790-1687 or email lv2bird@aol.com

Free With Garden Admission

Saturday, January 04, 2003

Pat Welsh's Southern California Gardening
: A Month-by-Month Guide


When we bought the house back in 1997 -- with its 10-year-old gardens, front and back -- I knew I needed a good gardening reference book specific to Southern California. My gardening knowledge from Ohio wouldn't suit me well out here.

I came across this book at a small bookstore in Santa Monica and had to have it. Not only is it chock-full of marvelous information, it has monthly checklists so you can be reminded of the important gardening tasks each month. I have found it unvaluable in maintaining and refurbishing my garden.

My edition of the book is older, but a new version came out just last year. If you are a Southern California gardener, or have a similar Mediterranean climate, I highly recommend this book.

Waiting on the porch

I have 2, 1-gallon containers of yellow lantana sitting on my porch, awaiting addition to the front bed along the street. I am only waiting for a little relief from a rotten head cold before I get out the spade and golves.

The purple variety of lantana,(Lantana montevidensis, I believe) I planted a few years ago has taken off very well and is really helping to keep the nut grass out of the bed. Long ago I decided on developing some sort of purple and gold theme for this front bed, but the yellow coreopsis that were once there have died out. I hope that the addition of these 2 yellow lantana do as well as the others. If so, I will be able to remove some of the other plants which are cluttering up the bed.

The plant links above come from The Plants Database, a great resource for plant information and pictures I found only today.

Friday, January 03, 2003

Rose Pruning

Since the weather is so mild in most of California, except at higher elevations, gardeners don't "bed down" their roses for the Winter as might happen elsewhere. That said, our roses still require a yearly pruning to remain productive and healthy. This job is already on my to-do list, but I often end up doing it on a whim when I have the energy and time.

I have about 50 roses, but the process only take a few hours, at most. It usually fills all my garden bins, as the rose canes tend to knit together and not pack as tightly as other materials.

Whatever the weather, be sure to wear long sleeves and long pants made of tough fabric. I have created long gashes in my arms and my clothing while pruning.

There is a lot of rose pruning information on the web and also through local botanical gardens. Descanso Gardens and The Huntington Library and Gardens offer pruning class each year.

Google Search on Rose Pruning

Weeping Willows

Many people find AGN when searching for information on Weeping Willows. One of my first AGN columns, years ago, was dedicated to the removal of one of these trees when I moved into my current home. In an effort to serve this need for more willow information, I am looking up some other great resources available on the net and posting them here.

Here is the first of those links.

Web House.net Willow Info (w/pictures)

Willow Myths and Stories

Wellesley College Willow Information

A Gardener's Notebook
, a monthly - then weekly, - then monthly column, has always been one of the most visited areas of my web site, even long after I stopped writing the column. In an effort to find an outlet for all my garden-related information, I am revitalizing AGN as a web log.

Web log technology makes it easier for me to maintain the site and more quickly place new content. I hope you enjoy my ramblings here as I sit in my garden and ponder that joy that is the outdoors.

Past AGN columns are still available on the web site.