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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Bees, bees, everywhere

What is it about bees and me lately? (See earlier entries 1, 2) Not only did I happen upon 2 books about bees, it seems that part of our neighbors small hive "swarmed" and is heading off to find a new home.

Click for larger image

My wife found this collection hanging from one of our rose bushes this afternoon. Quite an amazing sight to suddenly appear in your garden. Of course, other people would be more worried about Africanized Honeybees in their garden. These showed no inclination to attack and the size of the swarm made them less of a threat, as well. I figure they will be gone by morning, nicely ensconced in some tree or someone's attic. Hopefully, not mine!

I let my neighbor know about the swarm in case he wanted to use them to start a new hive. My reading has shown me that you can stage a new hive box near the swarm, bait it with food and the swarm will gather in the new box, giving you a whole new colony.

The nature of Los Angeles (even the urban areas) will never cease to amaze me.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Gardening for Stress Release

About.com has an interesting link to this article, Gardening for Stress Release in their Stress Management section.

While most of the time gardening is indeed a great way to relax and get some exercise, there are times when I feel guilty when projects go un-done for long periods of time. That said, there is a certain magic in sitting in my back garden, watching the birds and squirrels. I think if you can keep your perfectionist gene from bothering you too much, gardening is a wonderful retreat when the world is just a little too loud or a little too fast.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

An itch to garden

I am not sure what causes it to happen, but after we returned from a kid's birthday party with my son, I was struck with the urge to garden. Today, it seems it was the cold and blustery weather that drew me in. With a light sprinkling of rain and a stiff breeze in my hair, I set to work.

Earlier this week, the termite workers had uprooted 5-6 agapanthus tubers that were too close to the house, so I figured I should try and get them back into the ground. After that was accomplished, I noticed that I kept running into low hanging branches as I worked. This led to the judicious application of saw and pruners to several of the trees surrounding the shady "back triangle", as I call it.

I cut back a few significant branches on the ficus and carrotwood trees that surround this area. It always amazes me how much they grow when they are hopelessly overcrowded and light-starved. The lack of light cause them to got through many gyrations trying to reach what little sun is available.

After about an hour, I had a stack of trimmings that will take 2-3 weeks worth of garden bin stuffing to get it out of the garden. Thankfully, this is the job of my wife and son. They have a great time sawing and cutting in those early morning hours when I am still abed, after my late nights at the computer.

The Summer will be filled with tasks like this. Deadheading and feeding the roses, trimming back more errant branches, cleaning up the never-ending supply of leaves, pulling weeds out of the front yard paths and driveway area. Hopefully, I will be struck with the gardening urge more and more or things could get out of hand.

More pruning information from Amazon.com

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Busting out all over...

It isn't yet June, not even the end of April, but the garden is showing lots of life.

The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Brunfelsia calycina) in the alley has been putting on quite a show.

The Clytostoma callistegioides vine on the back trellis is blooming for a second time this year.

Roses are blooming all over the garden and even the Amaryllis have jumped up again.

You can check out a few pictures by clicking on the photo above.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Almost finished...

As I type, our house looks like "a desert tent near an oasis," according to a friend of ours who is keeping watch on the work while we work out of the Orange County office of WelchWrite, Inc. ( i.e. Grandma's house (SMILE)). I am anxious to get back to the house, and especially the garden to see what, if any damage has been done.

I feel I did a pretty good job of removing any possible obstructions to the tenting crew and pulling all the plants pulled back from the walls. There is a slight chance that the plants close to the house may have been burnt by the insecticide gas, but I have my fingers crossed that all will be well. There is no telling until I see it with my own eyes.

I will report on any and all issues with this process, in case you find the need on your property down the road.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Book - A Country Year by Sue Hubbell

I am not sure what in my life is drawing me towards books about women and beekeeping, but here is another wonderful book about both.

Sue Hubbell has an easy style of writing that drew me through this book in just over a day. While she talks about her time as a commercial beekeeper, she also writes about the simple qualities and hard realities of living close to the land and close to poverty in rural Missouri. Her observant style brings back memories of my own small town upbringing. This is just the right book for curling up on a cold Winter day or lounging in the hammock trying to escape the heat of Summer.

A Country Year : Living the Questions

Other books by Sue Hubbell

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Grow your own chair!

Arborsculpture by Richard  Reames

This botanical artist makes furniture, sculpture and even housing out of living plants and trees. There are a host of examples on his web site.

Via BoingBoing

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Spring Flower

Created using ProCreate Painter and Wacom Tablet

Inspiration from the garden

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Termite Prep and the Azaleas

As part of the preparation for the termite fumigation coming next week, we need to get all the plants trimmed at least 1 foot from the side of the house. Luckily, there isn't a lot of plantings right against the house so this shouldn't be too big of an issue.

That said, the front bed of azaleas has gone almost untouched for the 8 years we have lived here. I have lightly pruned these shrubs, but never taken any dramatic action. Now I had to approach the project with a stronger hand.

Along with pruning the foliage back from the house, I decided to do a heavy pruning to open up the plants and give them a bit of a fresh start after 10 years or more of free-wheeling growth. I think I did pretty well. While the shrubs look a little spindly now, I think they will quickly rebound and respond with more appropriate growth. In one case, the azalea had been trimmed into a hedge shape using a hedge trimmer for years. This took more of an effort, but I believe a more natural habit has been restored.

Here are before and after pictures of the front bed.

Next, I have to spend a few minutes pulling the Wisteria and Clytostoma vines off the house and garage, and pulling back some Agapanthus foliage. With the big project out of the way, though, I feel I am right on track to be ready for next Monday.

Discuss Gardening

Saturday, April 03, 2004


Wildflower Show & Walk

April 10 - 11, 2004 Saturday & Sunday, 10am - 4pm

Malibu Bluffs Park

Native wildflowers from home gardens on display. Plants, books, posters and more for sale. Members of the California Native Plant Society will provide a guided look at the spring wildflowers on Malibu Bluffs Park at 1pm each

Charmlee Wilderness Park, California State Parks & California Native Plant Society

Friday, April 02, 2004

Spring Maples

Red leaves, newborn

green in summer

hide their exuberance

until Fall returns

to let them shine

as days shorten

and Winter approaches.

-- Douglas E. Welch

Nasturiums and Termites

Click for larger image

These topics are not really related, but I figured I would catch up on some quick garden news in one posting, so there it is.

The Nasturtiums are doing well in the back garden, helping to cover over the retreating foliage of the daffodils and snowbells. They seem to get more prolific every year when they return.

On a less friendly note, we are having the entire house tented and fumigated in about a week in order to get rid of drywood termites that have been active recently. We have seen sporadic evidence of them over the 8 years we have lived her, but it seems time to finally get them cleaned up in preparation for remodeling plans that have been in our minds for a long time.

On a gardening-related note, there are some beds that will have to cut back from the house so that the tarps can be placed. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily, as some of the azaleas out front have needed trimming for a while and this gives me the impetus to get on with that project. There are two Nandina bushes, also called Heavenly Bamboo, to move, as well, and I will probably transplant them into another area of the garden. This plants are Bamboo at all and are much better behaved than traditional, garden-eating bamboo. They stay nice and compact and don't try to take over everything.

I will have to detach and "tilt away" the rose trellis near the front door where the new Bankside roses are growing. I have to come up with some way of propping it up while still giving the workmen enough room to do their thing.

I am not expecting any large damage to the garden and I will keep you informed of any problems I find with the process.