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Friday, February 27, 2004

A flurry of activity...

For whatever reason, possibly because the rain has stopped for the time being, I got a flurry of little things done about the garden and house today.

I have been meaning to refurbish the 2 small indoor fountains I built a couple of years ago. They needed a little cleaning and refreshing. Out came the bleach and the scrub brush. Bowls, stones and pumps were quickly cleaned up and reassembled. These fountains are so nice to have about the house, especially during the summer. They add a small amount of humidity to the ultra-dry air as well as make a pleasing sound.

Our large False Aralia, Dizgotheca kerchoveana, is leaning a bit to the Northeast after all the rain we had. It is a bit top heavy and the ground must be fairly saturated. I staked it up and tied it off with knee-high hose until the garden dries about a bit. I probably need to do a little pruning to reduce its height, as well.

I added some plant stake fertilizer to the 2 large potted plants. The geranium was a housewarming gift 8 years ago, so I always try to give it a little extra care. The rain has probably leeched out a lot of the nutrients from these pots, so I figure now is the time to add a little back to prepare for a summer growth spurt.

Our compost bin is made out of the wooden packing crate that enclosed the clawfoot tub we had installed 8 years ago. Today, I went out to try and raise the crate off of the ground to make it a little easier to get at the compost on the bottom. The bottom of the crate, which I probably should have removed when first installed, has rotted away quite well so now all I have is a frame. It is amazing how the garden can do your work for you, if you just wait long enough. (SMILE)

Finally, the 2 Lady Banks roses I picked up last Fall in Idyllwild, seem to be getting started. I have gently tied them to their trellis to urge them upwards. We shall see how well they do this summer.

There is still lots more to do, but I have some small sense of accomplishment in getting these little tasks out of the way.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Beeing: Life, Motherhood and 180,000 Honeybees

I love reading books about someone passionately engaged in something new, and this book is exactly that. Author Rosanne Daryl Thomas tells a tale of becoming a beekeeper almost on a whim, but it goes deeper than that. Clearly, there was something that drew her to the bees. It simply took circumstance to bring it forward. More importantly, she triumphs over the setbacks that occur with an honesty that seems missing in many books today. Reading this story was like listening to her tell it over coffee in her honey-covered kitchen.

Thomas' tales of learning the beekeeping trade from the bottom up are humorous, enlightening and presented in a conversational tone that kept me turning the pages. So much so that I finished the book in 1 day! She also throws in a few lessons about life and love, without being heavy handed or bogging down the story.

Even as someone who knew a little bit about beekeeping, I learned new stuff about the processes involved. For the gardener in me, it is great to learn a little more about how my garden helps bees to survive and thrive. My neighbor has a single hive on top of his garden shed and I can sit in my garden swing, watching their comings and goings. He makes sure we get some honey each year, too. Tasty! Even more so since part of it arose from my garden.

Several of my favorite books are based around the cycle of the year's passage. I think growing up on a farm certainly plays a part in this, but we all instinctively relate to the passing of the seasons in some way.

Beeing: Life, Motherhood, and 180,000 Honey Bees

Spring has arrived in LA!

I think the picture says it all.

Click thumbnail for larger image.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Scenic Nursery linked over to us and our comments about Spring yesterday.

Check them out!

Friday, February 20, 2004

Elms and Daffs

As you can see from this picture, the new daffodils are about ready to open in the front, street-side bed. The yellow against the purple lantana will make for a nice effect in those areas where I under-planted the bulbs inside the sprawling lantana.

I don't know if it is the rain this week, or just the lengthening days, but the large Elm tree in the front yard has started to leaf. I have never noted before exactly when this happens, but it seems early this year. We had a big storm a few days ago and now it is just a slow steady, soaking rain. Just what we need.

I am expecting the locust tree in the back to start soon. I noted the date last year and put it in my computer calendar to remind me for 2004. I am doing this with any major occurrence in the garden in order to get a better idea of what happens when. You would think after nearly 8 years I would know already, but some things still catch me by surprise.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Azalea from the Garden

Click for larger image

Wisteria gets started

As I was walking through the garden today, picking up tools and such in preparation for a large, Winter storm that was approaching, I noticed that the Wisteria had started to show its Spring coat of leaves. Just yesterday I hadn't noticed anything, but today it is obviously moving along.

I really like this Wisteria, despite its persistence in trying to get off its trellis and onto the garage. It doesn't bloom prolifically, probably due to its somewhat shady location. Each year, though, I get 20-30 long, purple spikes of flowers.

For more information on Wisteria you can visit:

The Rippingale Nursery Wisteria FAQ

North Carolina State University Wisteria Info

Pruning Wisteria

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

It is snow!

...not here in the Valley, of course, but we visited the mountains this weekend.

It was my 40th birthday on Saturday and my wife was out of town delivering a paper at a history conference., so my son and I trekked out to Palm Desert to visit my sister. Whenever we visit her we try to spend a few hours "up-the-hill" in Idyllwild. This is one of my favorite spots and I would love to have a home there, but for now, I just have to enjoy it when I can.

The town sits at around 5,400 feet, so they get snow during big Winter storms, but it usually doesn't stay too long. On Saturday, a front passed through very quickly as we walked through town, visiting shops and galleries. It started to snow hard pellets and then turned into fat flakes that looked wonderful against the backdrop of the dark green pine trees. It only lasted about 10 minutes, but it was a perfect way to celebrate my birthday. I miss the snow sometimes, so this is a great way to get the feeling without all the mess and trouble.

I do love the smell of the mountains in Winter. The odor of pine mixed with wood smoke from fireplaces and an overwhelming clarity to the air. You just feel you can breathe more deeply. I think this has as much to do with the stress-relieving qualities of a small, mountain town, as much as the clean air itself.

I know some of you will be amazed at my rhapsodizing about snow, since you are probably cooped up inside just itching to get into the garden. That to, will come to pass. Spring has almost sprung and the time for digging is quickly approaching.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Is that snow?

It seems an odd question to ask in Southern California, even if it is February. I was visiting my local Borders bookstore the other day and, glancing out the windows, it looked like it was snowing.

The street outside is lined with flowering trees which I do not recognize. They bloom once a year with small white blossoms covering the entire tree. As teh wind rushes down between to buildings, these blossoms are stripped and float through the air just like big, fluffy snowflakes. They even collect in drifts on the ground.

Since I grew up in Ohio, it made me quite nostalgic for Winter-time back East, although I am sure that a few days of real Winter would soon send me scampering back to LA.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Garden Blog is linking over to AGN. Thanks!

They found us via the mention in The Guardian.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Up come the flowers...

After returning from a walk today, I was pleasantly surprised to see lots of little daffodil shoots poking up from the mulch.

I planted these bulbs back in November and I wasn't sure if they would have enough time to settle in before our early Southern California Spring arrived. It looks like things worjed out for the best, though.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

In the Garden of Good and....

I won't go so far as to say that my garden is evil, but there are times when I wonder.

I finally got myself out in the garden this morning, after a long absence. I am having trouble justifying time spent in the garden, as it isn't "productive" i.e. money making. I am in the process of gearing up my computer consultancy and I am having issues doing things that don't directly relate to the bottom line. Of course, gardening does relate for me, as it helps to clear my mind and ignore the pressures of the big city for at least a little while. At least, on a good day, it does.

I decided to tackle the trellis that holds the Violet Trumpet Vine (Clytostoma callistegiodes) along the back wall of my office. For some reason, the legs on one end of this structure have started to lean. After some inspection, it doesn't appear that the legs are rotten, thank goodness. I am guessing the weight of the vine, the strong winds and simple age have loosened the soil around these legs.

I trimmed some of the vines back, especially those climbing up the cable television feed into the house. I braced the legs of the trellis, added some extra nailing across the top stretcher board and then re-tamped the soil around both legs. After a couple of days I will remove the brace and see if it continues to lean.

Here is where the story turns ugly. A lot of the weight on the trellis was not from the vine itself, but rather the leaf-drop that it so easily collects on top. I started bouncing the vines up and down with a small rake as was rewarded with a shower of leaves, dust and spiders like you would never believe. After about an hour my arms gave up, so I will have to complete the process later. Of course, all this required a second shower to get the gunk out of my ears and beneath my clothes. I don't look forward to finishing that task, but I think the longevity of the trellis will be effected if I don't.

I also noticed that the vines were grabbing the overhanging branch of a nearby ficus. I am not a fan of these trees as they are dense and block all light to this particular part of the garden. Perhaps they sensed my displeasure. When I attempted to prune the over-hanging branch, the blade of my nice, new Fiskars loppers (Fiskars 96276935 PowerGear Bypass Lopper) snapped off like it was made of glass. I put too much lateral force on the blade as it tried to cut and it couldn't take it. I really like this too, too. Now I have to find a replacement blade and repair them. Another setback I didn't really need.

So, next time in the garden, I will finish up this project, hopefully, and get back on good terms with my garden, instead of fighting with it.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

The New York Times 1000 Gardening Questions and Answers: Based on the Column "Gardeners Q& A"

Whether you are looking for the answer to a particular gardening problem, or simply flipping through for the fun of it, this book is both enjoyable and useful.

Nicely thumb-indexed and containing a complete index in the back, 1000 Gardening Questions and Answers makes it easy to find the info you need. Even better, the writing is light and friendly while still being accurate.

Sections include Perennials in General and Particular, Roses, Herbs, Small Fruits, Troubleshooting and more.

On with the work/fun...

The rain passed by in one day, but at least we got something. Now onto the continuing projects in the garden.

Once the leaves dry out again it will be time for another "blow" of the entire property. Due to the pea gravel which coats all the paths it is almost impossible to rake up the leaves. I purchased an electric leave blower soon after we bought the house and it seems to leave most of the gravel in place. Since the beginning, though, we have been looking for some replacement. Bagged mulches are much too expensive to do the entire garden and we can;t seem to find a local tree company with a good quality mulch. Most of the time the chipped and shredded material is mainly leaves and not woody material.

I am thinking of trying a different way of composting, since our makeshift bin doesn't seem to work very well. Recent reading has led me to trench composting. Whiel this is normally used in gardens with row crops, I think I have some areas where I could put it to use. Basically, this method involves simply digging a hole or trench, filling it with compost-able items, covering it up and forgetting about it. Sounds liek my type of composting (SMILE). I will let you know how it goes.

The ramshackle garden shed in the back needs to come down this year. It is quickly deteriorating into a soggy, wooden, vine-covered pile. My dream is to create something of a combination garden room, writer's room, storage unit and I have torn a few ideas out of my magazines for examples. It would be nice to have a quiet little retreat out in the garden, instead of just looking at it through my office windows. Demolition couldn't take very long, as it is nearly falling down already. Design and rebuilding will be the bigger project.

We have set our big summer party for June, this year, quite near our anniversary, so this means a big of work must be accomplished between now and then. I find that it is always good to have a few deadlines in the garden. Otherwise, projects just seem to linger on and on.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Raining on you...

We finally got some rain yesterday, although it was much too brief for me. I would have liked to see it continue nicely all night. At least the transplanted roses got enough to settle them in.

This time of year, there is always a possibility that this will be the last rain we see for months. It always seems to catch me by surprise. Somewhere in April or May I suddenly remember that we haven't had any rain since March. As it is, it is time to check out all the irrigation systems to make sure everything is functioning well. I have several hundred feet of soaker hose and 2 major installations of drip tubing so that I don't have to spend all day watering during the high heat of the SoCal Summer.

Let us up that there are still a few more inches of rain in the clouds before the Summer rolls in.

Monday, February 02, 2004

AGN gains mentioned in Guardian Online

AGN got a nice mention in Guardian Unlimited today.

Jane Perrone was looking for gardening blogs and she had this to say about AGN:

"I had hoped to drum up some enthusiasm by visiting lots of gardening blogs: I've found surprisingly few. One of the best I've discovered is US-based: Douglas Welch's Gardening Notebook. Feel free to contradict me by sending me links to your favourite horticulturally obsessed blogs based in the UK."

It is always nice to see new visitors to the blog. Welcome to all who arrive here from the Guardian.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

New on cable at LA 36


Live Call-in Television Course Explains Not Just the How , But the Why & "Why Not" of California Gardening & Landscaping

For 13 sessions "Gardens of California" will introduce you to the history, community, technology, and possibilities of California gardening & landscaping, as well as giving you valuable instruction you can use in your garden.

Each 3 hour session will look at a different aspect of California landscaping and horticulture; and during this time you can call in with not only your questions about gardening and landscaping now, but also your opinions and ideas about where California gardening and landscaping will be, or should be, in the future. Sessions planned include:

  • Stopping to smell the California Roses: The Past, Present, and Future of Rose Culture in California.

  • The Orchard state: Fruit & Nut Culture from the first Californians to the Present.

  • California Dreaming: An overview California’s Natural Landscape Treasures -Visual Building Blocks You Can Use for Your Garden or Landscape.

  • Gigabyte Gardening I: Digital Tools for California Landscape and Garden Design.

More info available at the The Arboretum of Los Angeles County Web Site.