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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Event - Spring Botanical Drawing Workshop

This sounds like an interesting event that combines the outdoors with some creative pursuits. I haven't been to this event before, but I might just try and check it out, if I can find the time. I need an excuse to get out of the house and away from the computer for a while.

TUES 4/6 11am

Sooky Goldman Nature Ctr

Spring Botanical Drawing Workshop

Interested in accurately drawing and/or painting plants, while learning more about our native flora in a relaxed indoor environment? Join an ongoing gathering of artists of all levels. Group size is limited. Reservations
required 323-656-3899. 4hrs WODOC

Sunday, March 28, 2004

LA Blogs Get-Together at the Farmer's Market

I spent a great couple of hours hanging out with other LA Bloggers at the Farmer's Market yesterday. Read more about it over in My Word.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

More plants for free?

Gardening.About.com has a small, but nice article on propagating more garden plants from those you already own.

I have tried my hand at propagation with some good results. My azaleas, of which I have probably 50 or more individual plants, actually propagate without much help from me at all. Azaleas are well known for their natural ability to "layer". When the limb of the azalea contacts the ground, it will often start to develop roots at that point. All you have to do is snip off the newly rooted portion and pot it up. Nothing could be easier. You can also assist this process by wrapping damp soil around an existing stem and covering it with plastic wrap. Eventually, the stem will develop roots. This Google search turns up a wide variety of layering information.

A few years ago, I took some cuttings from my rosemary plant and rooted them in potting soil. About half of the cuttings took, even though I was lazy and didn't even take the time to go out and buy rooting hormone. I am about ready to do another batch of cuttings in order to start some rosemary topiaries.

Here are some links to previous discussions about propagation in the garden:

AGN Blog Entry - May 12, 2002

Divide and Conquer - September 12, 1999

Anachronism - August 8, 1999

Also, here is an interesting book on plant propagation:

Making More Plants: The Science, Art and Joy of Propagation by Ken Druse

Friday, March 26, 2004

Rhaphiolepis and Bankside Roses

This week the 2 tiny Bankside Roses I planted last Fall are growing like crazy and putting off a few, small, yellow flowers. It is good to see them getting going. I was wondering if they were going to take where they were.

The geometric plantings of Rhaphiolepis indica area are starting to bloom. They get this nice covering of bright pink flowers all over. Most everything that flowers in the front has pink blooms - the azaleas and roses, as well. Makes quite a show from early Spring through early Summer.

After the heat arrives, the garden goes somewhat dormant. There is a lot of leaf growth, but not much blooming.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Falling into Spring

On our daily walk, we came across a neighbor slowly dismantling a large tree limb with a chain saw. Sometime overnight, a large limb split from the top of his large Elm tree and landed in the front yard. Luckily, it did not hit his house and narrowly avoided a car parked on the street.

Many of the older trees in this neighborhood, ours included have suffered some form of neglect over the years. I would guess that a trained arborist has never looked at most of them. The quality of tree maintenance companies vary widely and I seen more examples of bad pruning than I care to think about. We have spent the last 8 years trying to bring all our trees back into some healthy form, after having been neglected for many years. Even so, there is only so much you can do with an older tree.

In talking with the neighbor, it seems another branch, lower down and even larger, was taken off this tree a year or so ago. It had offered some warning that it was about to fail, though, drooping slowly and showing cracks along its length, and he was able to remove it before it failed completely.

A quick inspection of the limb, and the scar on the trunk, didn't seem to show any major rot or disease. The Elms started adding their leaves only about a week ago, so I wonder if the added weight was a contributing factor. We haven't had any high winds for about 2 weeks, but it is possible that it was damaged back then and only no completely failed.

This is a timely reminder to have your larger trees inspected on a regular basis and keep them pruned in a manner that keeps them healthy and stable. You don't want a limb this large, or worse yet, an entire tree, landing on your house or car.

I also found one oddity on the fallen limb. There was one section where a lower limb had been pruned and another sprout formed. THis sprout somehow merged with another branch slightly higher on the tree. This created a large rectangle of out of the 2 limbs and the main limb. I am not sure how they could have joined up so well. Any ideas from the readers?

You can see a few pictures of the tree and limb by clicking on the photo above.

Monday, March 22, 2004

I saw today that Jane Perrone at Horticultural has linked to AGN. Thanks Jane!

I am always amazed at the great garden sites that are out there. I have also added the Horticultural RSS feed to my list of subscriptions so I can keep up with what is going on in Jane's garden.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Oranges A-bloom

From the neighbor's yard

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


I often find that I don't get out into the garden enough. While I might look at it through the windows of my office, I rarely go out and sit in the garden. Today, though, during some down time between computer consulting calls, I took my books and notebooks and spent some time just enjoying the garden.

I pruned back a few over-reaching limbs on the Wisteria to reveal more of the dangling purple blooms that have appeared. The locust tree is showing some green now, almost to the very day it started growing last year. The honey bees (our neighbor keeps one small hive on the roof of his garden shed) and wasps are probing each of the newly opened leaflets/blooms that occur on the locust.The tree will be completely covered with them once more of the blooms appear. They seem to really love them. I noticed the wasp was investigating a nice shady spot under the eaves as a possible next site. I don't have many problems with wasps, but I don't let them build in the porch or other, high-traffic, areas. They have their place in the garden, but they can be a bit nastier than your average honey bee. As I sit here typing, a large bumblebee, or perhaps a carpenter bee, has approached to check out the Wisteria blooms. While these big bees look very intimidating, I find them much more docile than the waps.

Our small, pitiful lemon tree and the neighbors orange trees are making the garden air a heady mixture. The smell seems almsot palpable. You feel like you should see it hanging in the air or dripping off you arms like a fog. There is nothing quite like that smell. It won't last for a long time, but what it lacks in loingevity it makes up in pure power of suggestion. One whiff and you start thinking of Spring and Summer and all the usual rituals to come in the next few months.

As I was a reading earlier, a lady bug lighted on my bookmark with a loud "click." I haven't seen many aphids on the roses this year, but this ladybug seemed quite robust. Maybe the aphids have decided to hold their party elsewhere. I certainly wouldn't mind them leaving my roses alone this year.

Regardless of any majoer effort on my part, the garden seems to attract a wide variety of butterflies and moths. While I know a good deal about plants and animals, my recollection of insect species is miserable. I would need a good book in order for me to indentify these butterflies, but they are often gone long before I can even consider getting my reference books. I guess it is simply better to enjoy them while they are here instead of trying to obsessively name them.

Weeds are rapidly taking over the front garden after all the rain we had a few weeks ago. It is time to store the hoe and weeder tools right by the front door, so I can do a little bit of work each time I step out. The western exposure of the front garden make is a little too hot to garden in the middle of the day, but morning and early evening should give enough time to get things done.

It is only the middle of March, but our bulbs are already fading. The daffodil blooms are wilting and the leaves of the paperwhites, blooms gone weeks ago, are starting to flop over. I will let them gather as much sun as they can before discarding the leaves so that they gain enough energy to come back good and strong next year.

So now I return to my reading while listening to the mockingbird sing a few houses away. I will need to get into my "professional" clothes in a little while, off to earn a living, but today will be better for the time I spent in the garden.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Wisteria Pruning

I know my Wisteria is seriously out of control, so I went looking for some advice on pruning it back and keeping it under control.

The folks over at Plant Amnesty have some great tips for just this project. From this article, it looks like I can start working on the palnt as soon as the it stop[s flowering, and then do a hard Winter pruning (which I had planned to do this Winter) when it drops its leaves.

San Juan Capistrano Photos

There are some gardening-related pictures in this collection from our day trip to San Juan Capistrano last Friday. Full information is available over at my other blog, My Word.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Surprise, surprise

You would think, after 8 years in this garden, I would cease to be surprised. The Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) surprised me this morning, though, with a host of spiky, purple flower clusters. I hadn't noticed any the other day, but this morning, while pulling the vines off the telephone, electric and locust tree, I spotted one, then another. The more I looked, the more flower spikes I found. There are about 20-30 more buds which will flower in the next week or so, too.

Click for larger image

Discuss Gardening

Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Two very different books with a similar theme, a recollection of a garden throughout the changes of the year.

Verlyn Klinkenborg's The Rural Life is a collection of previous work from the New York Times and other publications. It is a philosophical and touching series of memories from the farm life he grew up with and later re-created again after time in the city.

A Year at North Hill : Four Seasons in a Vermont Garden by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd is a month-by-month analysis of one garden, including the plants included, care information and more.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Starting to Pop!

The heat has really caused things to start moving in the garden this week. I was sitting on the back patio this morning reading the newspaper when a flash of red caught my eye. The sun was backlighting the Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum), and you could see new leaves sprouting from its thin limbs. I have no idea what variety this tree is, as we inherited it with the garden, but it us one of my favorites. It has blood read leaves at both the beginning and ending of the season and a "weeping" habit that makes it move wonderfully in the breeze. It has an interesting trait, too. Instead of dropping all of its leaves each Winter, many hang on until their are literally pushed off the limb by the growing buds and emerging leaves.

Click for larger image

The Freesia bulbs that are scattered around the garden are now in bloom, too. They look a little forlorn as there is not nearly enough sun for them. Their foliage flops over unceremoniously, although their flower stalks usually stand up for a while. Some are purple, some yellow and this thriving example is a bright pink among the spent leaves of the Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) .

Click for larger image

Finally, the Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) has started showing its small, waxy leaves. This tree also suffers from too little sun, but the flowers it manages to put out cheer that corner of the garden, so it stays. I suppose if I was more of an arborist, I would ball and burlap this small tree and move to the front garden where it might better thrive. I hadn't really thought about that before, but that might be just the thing to try. Hmmmmm.

Monday, March 08, 2004

What happened to Spring?

Southern California has issues with Spring. This is the only way I can rationalize the whiplash-inducing change in seasons over the last 3 days. We have gone from daytime temps in the 60's and 70's to upper-80's and 90's almost overnight. I was hoping we could hold on to Winter/Spring for a few more weeks, but early heat waves, such as this, usually mark the end of the rainy season. We might be looking at a very long, hot summer. I guess that item on my To-Do list (Check all irrigation systems) just got moved up a level in priority.

It will be a bit disappointing if I have to start watering so soon in the season. The best year my garden ever had was the El Nino season a few year ago. It really showed what the garden could be if I didn't worry about pouring my life savings (in water) into the ground each summer. I will keep my fingers crossed for more rain, but I won't be holding my breath.

Discuss Gardening

Friday, March 05, 2004


I cannot tell for sure, but it looks like Summer might be starting already here in Southern California. After 2 weeks of good rain and moderate temperatures, the weather forecasts are calling for a weekend in the 80's and 90's here in the San Fernando Valley. While warm days are nice as a change of pace, I do not look forward to the constant drone of 90/100 degree days that settles on us in Summer. June gloom, a yearly pattern of overcast mornings caused by the marine layer, give us some respite, but a short-lived one.

Despite the nicer weather, I am suffering through yet another Kindergarten cold, brought home by my 6-year-old. I should be out basking in the glory of the warm days and awakening garden, but I find myself hunkering down on the sofa trying to stay awake. I did some work for a client in Malibu this morning, but even those beautiful sites couldn't pull my out of my sniffly doldrums. I need to get over this cold so I can start all those projects I have in my listed in my garden journal. After all, our big June garden party is only a few months away. (SMILE)

On a brighter note, the daffodils are popping like popcorn, with a new yellow blossom every day scattered about the front garden. The pink azaleas are finishing up their blooms and the trees are adding leaves at an amazing rate. On one side of the street, you might see the bare limbs of Winter and on the other the bright green of new Spring growth.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Tabletop Gardens: Create 40 Intimate Gardens for the Home, No Matter What the Season

This striking book is an excellent choice for those of you who simply can't stop gardening, no matter what the season or location. While apartment dwellers will especially benefit from the tabletop gardens, everyone could find a place in their home for these beautiful examples. Everything from dry gardens to bogs is covered. Each example includes information on lighting, water, temperature requirements and average life span.

I have never had much success with indoor plants, but I am tempted to try out a few of these, including the ones growing simple grasses in pretty containers.