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Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Happy Halloween!

Click for larger image

While these fine pumpkin specimens didn't come from my garden, (I wish they did), I think Joe, Rosanne and I did a fine job carving up them up. Old Jack himself would be proud, I think, although they are quite a bit larger than turnips.

Happy Halloween to all!

Smokey Tuesday

We have been pretty lucky over the last several days, as the winds were pushing the smoke from the wildfires to the west and south of us. With last night's change of wind direction, though, we have been socked in all day.

Taken around 3 pm today in Van Nuys -- Click for larger image

I was already suffering from some sinus problems, but today has been nasty. Even without any particular smoke smell, there is enough junk in the air to feel it in my breathing today.

We have kept the house closed up today, due to the heat, but I am not sure what to do tonight, when we usually open the windows to let the cool air in.

This is a cross post from my general blog, My Word.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Wildfire Information and Maps

You can get detailed maps and up-to-date information on the extent of the California Wildfires by visiting GeoMac Wildland Fire Support's California Wildfire Viewer.

It is an interactive application that allows you to quickly jump to views of each individual fire, showing areas both currently burning and already burnt.

The system is a bit slow, as you might imagine, but it is, by far, the best information available regarding fire location and extent.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Smoke in Air

Even though I am 40-50 miles away from the closest fire, the atmosphere is filled with smoke and coloring the sunlight a deep orange, even though it is almost noon.

Click photo for 3 images in gallery

Multiple wildfires around Los Angeles are still out of control with homes being endangered, although only a few have been lost so far.

If I were still living back in Ohio, I would be heading for the storm cellar if I saw this yellow light and sky. It is the nearly sure sign of an approaching tornado. Perhaps it is this sense-memory, along with all the news coverage that leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Fun Halloween Stuff at HGTV.com

I visited HGTV.com today and found a wealth of Halloween projects and information there.

For your computer, they have a collection of templates for carving the perfect pumpkin and four wonderful desktop pictures. You can find the pictures at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Small beauty in big places

When walking about the Getty Center, one expects to be surrounded by beauty. The architecture is overwhelming and inspiring at the same time, the art within is some of the best in the world and the gardens are admired around the world.

Still, I was surprised while walking along a rather nondescript, even passageway-like, area on my way to the central garden when this planting caught my eye.

Click the photo for a larger version

I must admit, I am a fan of purple. Still, the way these simple containers glowed in the afternoon sun was amazing. There are no fancy plants here, no fancy containers, just a considered juxtaposition of material. The contrast between the cool greens and the hot purples balance the composition. Simplicity is usually best and this unknown gardener seems to have taken that philosophy to heart.

For my thoughts on a past visit to the Getty, here is a previous AGN entry.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Gardening Festival

The November 2003 issue of Sunset magazine contains a listing for the Beverly Hills Flower and Garden Festival at Historic Greystone Estate

The festival is being held November 8 and 9 and the cost is $25/person, $12 for children over 10, children 10 and under are free.

The 2 day event will host guest lecturers and top gardeners from Beverly Hills. A complete list of topics and speakers is available on the web site. You will also get a chance to see the inside of Greystone Mansion, a frequent location for television and film productions.

Fall has come and gone

Over the last week it appeared that we were headed into Fall. Temperatures had dropped, the leaves on the liquidambar were starting to change and all seemed right with the world. Today, though, my thermometer currently reads 91 degrees and Summer is back with a vengence.

It is true that we often don't have much of a Fall season here in the San Fernando Valley. Usually it simply progresses directly from Summer to Winter. Still, these throwbacks to the heat we thought we had left behind can be a bit disheartening. I guess the plants are probably well adapted to such things, but for us gardeners it is a burden.

I have 2 bags of daffodil bulbs I want to get into the streetside bed, ready for the coming Winter rains, but I can't see sweating into a wet dishrag while trying to do it. It looks like we have at least another week of the heat to go, but I will try to get them in before the end of the month.

Grass Amuck...

This is a picture from the neighbor a few doors down. This Pampas Grass (Cortaderia jubata ) started off as 4 small plants but have quickly taken over this street-side area. I have noticed that this grass can be extremely invasive and I often see it cropping up in the wide variety of wild areas surrounding the San Fernando Valley. Worse still, we have a man-made wildlife reserve less than a mile away and I have seen large clumps of this grass popping up there as well.

The National Park Service has a page regarding the invasive nature of Pampas.

It seems the grass can create seed without pollination and it produces a large amount of seed that is easily distributed on the wind. I am a bit surprised that it isn't more widespread here, but assume that the dry climate helps to keep it in check somewhat.

While it can be very pretty in your garden, you might want to think twice about planting Pampas. It might take over your garden and those of your neighbors, as well.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Yet another book...

Trowel & Error: Over 700 Shortcuts, Tips & Remedies for the Gardener

Here is another book that I have found fun and informative. This collection of tips and hints is great for the beginning or intermediate gardener, especially if you are looking for non-toxic (at least to you and yours) ways of handling pests and infections in your garden.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Wonderful Pumpkin Faces

Saxton Freymann has a way with pumpkins. These are not traditional "jack-o-lanterns", but amazing expressive sculptures in Cucurbitaceae. (The scientific Family name for pumpkins!)

If you are looking to do something a little different with your pumpkins this year, both of these books offer some amazing ideas. While Play With Your Pumpkins, is a "how-to" book, Dr. Pompo's Nose is a children's story book, illustrated with Freymann's work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Garden Structures (Smith & Hawken)

I am always looking for books to spur my thinking, gardening and otherwise, and this one caught my eye at the library the other day. I am researching ways to dress up my cement block walls and a tumble-down fence on the south side of the garden. This book has some wonderful examples of garden structures and how they can be used to add excitement and beauty.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Sunday Oct 26 10:00 AM

Descanso Gardens Pumpkin Parade

Venue: Center Circle

Railroad Bill returns by popular demand to entertain and lead costumed youngsters in the parade through the Gardens. Parents will want to walk along–or beat the group to the end of the parade–to take photos of their own children at a special photo-op spot. Don’t be surprised to meet families who come every year to add to the photo diary of their children’s lives.

Free With Garden Admission

Saturday, October 11, 2003

More trellis info/Shade Garden

I finally got around to taking some pictures of the wisteria trellis today. I am still feeling a bit under the weather with a persistent cold, but I still try to do something with my day, even if is something as small as getting pictures and posting here.

Click the picture for photo gallery

I had thought about removing the lattice panels on the side of the trellis, as well, but my wife likes the look of them. The wisteria does tend to try and rip them apart, though, so they may have to go eventually.

At the end of the photo gallery you will also find some pictures of my shade garden, otherwise known as the barren area where nothing will grow. The heavy shade cover, bad soil and tremendous amount of tree roots really give me problems back there. A few years ago, I planted some shade azaleas and gardenias, but they are all stunted and barely holding on at this point.

I have though about creating a raised bed in this area to combat the problems listed above. It would be a lot of work, but might yield better results than the current effort.

As always, any comments and ideas are greatly appreciated.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Trellis rebuild

Now that the wisteria is starting to drop its leaves, it is time to consider rebuilding the trellis on which it lives. The posts and frame are sturdy and shouldn't need to be replaced. The top of the trellis is simply lattice laid across a 2x4 frame. This lattice is falling apart and I was thinking about simply replacing it with new lattice. Yesterday, though, I got a better idea. I think I want to replace the lattice on top with more decorative arrangement in the style of a pergola. This could be done with more 2x4s, cutting decorative designs on each end. I have started looking for various examples of pergolas to see if there are any designed I might be able to "borrow" for my design. If you have any ideas, please send me a URL so I can check them out.

I will try and get some pictures during the day tomorrow ( I ran out of light today) so you can get a better idea of what I am talking about.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Digging in

Laying the groundwork for glory by Emily Green, Los Angeles Times, Thursday, October 2, Page F9, (Free LA Times Registration required) is a great look at what you need to do to improve the soil in any garden, with a specific look at the soils of Los Angeles.

I have needed to do this exact thing in my garden for a long time, but simply couldn't bring myself to face the work invovled. When we moved in 7 years ago, I did amend the back shade garden, but it looks like it needs more.

The article also lists 4 areas in Los Angeles where you can pick up free compost, courtesy of LA County.

13 Labs Garden

I saw a reference to this blog in one of my RSS feeds and it looks like a neat site.

It is always interesting to me to see how others interact with their gardens. This is also another gardener in a cold climate, so there might be some good information for those of you who have to deal with killing frosts, etc.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Roses and Raised beds

The Lady Banks Roses I planted for the front yard trellis seem to be settling in. Something is munching on the leaves a bit, but otherwise they look healthy. The other large rose I moved is doing well, also. I took a HUGE rootball when I moved it, so I really didn't expect too many problems.

I am starting to investigate changing the large, triangular bed in the back garden into a raised bed. Nothing I have planted there has taken off, even if they are designed for the deep shade I have there. I think the soil is just too poor (not friable enough) and simply chokes the roots. I wanted to calculate the area of this bed, but could not remember any formulae for calculating the area of a triangle. Of course, a quick search turns up this page and this page, with explanations and calculators.

It looks like I would need about 110 cubic feet of topsoil to build it up. I need to find a bulk source somewhere in the city and then figure out how to get that much soil into the back garden. One major limitation is that there is no access by truck or even Bobcat loader to the back garden. Everything would have to be delivered via wheelbarrow. We once moved about a 1/2 ton of compost this way, but it took more than a few days. I will also have to select a method to enclose 2 sides of the area. I already have a low wall of recycled cement on the longest side, but the others will need retaining wall blocks or some other method to contain the soil.

Halloween preparations are being combined with garden cleanup for the next few weeks. I purposely leave some leaves and other garden refuse around to soften the cement driveway for the trick-or-treaters approach. Even in California, I try to give a little of the feeling of Fall with crunching leaves and hanging branches. After Halloween passes, it will be time for some serious Fall/Winter cleanup.

Until then, keep digging!