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Monday, May 31, 2004

Taking advantage of the holiday

After book signings on Saturday and visiting friends on Sunday, today is a chance to get a little garden work done.

Rosanne and Joe deadheaded all the roses, planted some California Poppy seeds and generally cleaned up the back garden. When I got up, I attacked the rosebed that was torn apart during our sewer line repair. Of the 5 roses that were pulled up, 3 have survived. I removed the 2 dead plants and then use my hoe to remove all the new, and vigourous grass that has sprouted since we turned over the soil.

That done, I turned to the front bed, trimming the sprawling lantana and pulled more grass. The nut grass in this bed is horribly tenacious. If you leave one small bit of root, it will come back again within days. I use a light solution of Roundup on some areas of the gardens, mainly the paths and the driveway to keep it in check, but even then it only seems to slow it down, not kill it outright.

I am sitting in the garden at the moment, coffee at my elbow, enjoying the fruits of my labors. Sometimes I am so overwhelmed with tasks that need to be done, I don't take the time to just enoy it. I am sure most of you have experienced the same thing from time to time. This is one reason I always try to have at least one garden party every year. This is one day were I get to see the garden through someone else's eyes. It really helps to give me some perspective.

My garden time also teaches me just how much time I spend in front of the computer. It is embarrassing to say that I can only work about an hour in the garden before I need to take a rest. Since the garden doesn't need much tending, the work is always a bit sporadic. Perhaps if I had to do something every day I might develop a bit more stamina. Instead, I end up wiping myself out doing one particular job. I can always comfort myself in the fact that I don't have to spend $50-$100 dollars a week on a gardener, like some of our friends. I save the money and get a little exercise in the bargain.

So, now I sit and watch the squirrels and birds and do a little thinking about what needs to be done next.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A little lavender...

A quick trip out today for other items had us returning with 3 small French Lavender plants (Lavandula dentata candicans) for the garden.

Ever since we visited The Lavender Fields in Valley Center, California, Rosanne has been wanting lavender in our garden. (Photos of our visit) I must admit, I am a big fan of lavender, but the shady nature of our garden makes it problematical.

These three plants are a trial. If they survive, we will add as much as she wants and as much as the sun allows. I placed them in the front bed, which probably gets the most sun of any place in the garden. It tends to stay dryer there, as well, which the lavender should like. We shall see what happens.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

There are blue flowers...

...and there are BLUE flowers!

Th Garden Djinn has some amazing pictures of their blue delphiniums.

There is no need to adjust the color on your monitor. (SMILE)

Click the photo for more pictures


Botanical Drawing Workshop 

Every Tuesday in June


Sooky Goldman Nature Center

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. 4 hours WODOC

Monday, May 24, 2004

Gardenia scenting the air...

The Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides) throughout the neighborhood, and in my own backyard are blooming like crazy this week.

Click for larger image

I have always liked their creamy whiteness and incredible smell. As much as I would like to, though, I don't dare bring them inside. I once put a bloom in a vase on my desk and within 2 hours I had developed a tremendous sinus headache. I don't have many allergies, but the gardenias send my nose into fits. I guess I will just continue to enjoy them outside, though.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

A little pruning...

Finally got out in the garden for a few minutes today. We purchased some pretty garden ornaments at the NoHo Arts and Theatre Festival last weekend. A few of these got placed around the back garden. Joe particularly liked his ladybug made out of shiny copper with jewel stones for eyes.

For some reason, the pink climber rose near the front door bloomed a few weeks ago and then when into decline, dropping leaves and looking poorly. I trimmed off some dead stems, removed a few black-spotted leaves and did a general cleanup. I am looking to remove this rose anyway, as the 2 yellow Bankside roses are starting to get established on the same trellis, but I had hoped to keep this one around until they were better established. It has never been a great grower in this location, so time may have eventually caught up with it.

Books on Rose Pruning and Maintenance

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Magnolia, I care not for ye...

It is magnolia blossom time here in Southern California. Amidst all the purple of the jacarandas, there are huge white blossoms hanging from the others.

I have never been a big fan of Magnolia trees (Magnolia grandiflora), but they are difficult to avoid here. Just 2 major blocks away runs Magnolia Boulevard. It has entire blocks that are lined in its namesake tree.

The flowers seem overly large and cumbersome without a hint of delicateness often found in flowers. They also leave quite a mess when they drop their seed cones and waxy leaves. I agree with the note in the link above that "the old leaves that accumulate under the tree seem to take forever to decompose." The tree seems too large a choice for its typical tree lawn usage here in Los Angeles, but enough people seem to enjoy them, so they stay. I can't say, though, that I have seen any new ones being planted recently.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Book Recommendation

A Book of Bees : And How to Keep Them by Sue Hubbell

Back in early April, I mentioned one of Sue Hubbell's other books, A Country Year: Living the Questions, where she writes about her time living in the Ozarks and raising bees as a profession.

While A Country Year was meant as entertaining reading, this book is Hubbell giving you clean and excellent information on the keeping of bees, along with some of the poetic language from A Country Year. Just like that book, I will finish this book in a day or two, as it pulls me through the various seasons of the beekeeper. Winter is prep time. Spring brings hard work and maintenance. Fall is harvest and preparing the hives for Winter.

I get fixated on ideas somehow, and Hubbell's books are feeding my current fixation on bees. My neighbors hive, clearly visible from my back yard, has grown more interesting. It gives me a life model to explore my newly gained knowledge without completely suiting up in bee gear. It is heartening to know that the flowers and trees in my garden benefit from these bees, as much as the bees benefit from them.

Other books by Sue Hubbell

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Jacaranda and Mimosa

The Jacaranda mimosifolia is quite popular in Southern California. In some areas, entire streets are planted with these trees, yielding an overwhelming puple scene at this time of year.

Here are some pictures from the neighborhood.

The term mimosifolia comes from the similarity of the Jacaranda's leaves to the Mimosa, or sensitive plant. Here is a photo of one example from just up the street.

Indiana.edu has some wonderful QuickTime movies showing the reaction of the mimosa to heat or touch stimulus.

Wildflowers Make Us ‘Mad With Joy’

Senior Life Magazine has a great article on where to see California Wildflowers. It details exact locations and also provides info on Carol Leigh's "Wildflower Hotsheet, a prime resource for explorers seeking wildflowers, depends on photographers who mail her reports."

I found out about this article via CalPhoto, a YahooGroups mailing list for photographers throughout California. It often contains info on where the flowers are blooming and when.

Monday, May 10, 2004

A few new things...

Trying out a few new things that Blogger.com has provided on their site.

You will now notice a "comments" link below each message. I am also posting
this message via the email posting service in order to test it out.

Be Well!

One small job a day

In my on-going effort to try and catch-up on my garden work, I am trying to do one small task each day. Bigger garden projects are made out of any number of small steps, so I am trying to take it one step at a time.

This evening, as things started to cool down before dinner, Joe, Rosanne and I set to cleaning out the long bed near the back door. This bed has the largest concentrations of bulbs and most of the foliage is now spent. I am always careful to let the leaves remain after the blooms are done, so that the bulbs can recharge for next year.

The cleanup only took about 30 minutes, but this is one less thing I will have to worry about as I prepare for our big summer garden party, which takes place in about a month. This bed is in a very high traffic area, so everyone sees it. Hopefully our little task today will ensure that it looks nice when the guests arrive.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Move towards the light(s)

I spent an hour or more messing about with the landscape lights in the front yard today. This included a quick trip to Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) up the street to replace the expensive little halogen bulbs ($9.99/2 bulbs) used in the 3 flood lights. All three of them had been flaky or gone out entirely over the last month. There is also a chronic problem in getting the clamps on each unit to grip the low-voltage wire and let the power flow. I think I have solved that problem, though. The little teeth inside the connector that actually pierces the insulation on the wire get bent out of alignment. A quick push with the screw driver and things were working much better.

My son came out into the yard to help me during the procedure and actually picked up a weeding tool and started in on some nut grass and spurge growing the driveway. Woohoo! Someone to help me with the weeding. With all the hot weather we have been having lately, we are in great need of some weeding.

This weekend starts a series of book signings for my wife, though, and gardening time will continue to be in short supply for the foreseeable future. I am the official photographer, kid wrangler, wine pourer and, also, head flunky. (SMILE)

A quick feeding of the birds, squirrels and hummingbird feeders ended our afternoon in the garden.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Botanical Fonts

What do you get when you turn a bunch of designers loose in the woods and tell them re-create fonts using only the material found around them?

You get some wonderful botanical fonts, available in both TrueType and JPEG format, to spice up your garden journals, blogs and more.

Here are 2 examples of the fonts, using both the font files (B&W) and the full-color JPEG artwork.

Click for larger image

All this work took place at AIGA Minnesota's Design Camp. According to the description on their web site:

"Drawing from his fine art background, Chank encouraged designers to create "found art" letterforms, using only materials found laying around the campgrounds in Nisswa, Minnesota. AIGA campers sparked their creativity by exploring the area looking for leaves, twigs, flower petals, cigarette butts, rocks, fish bones, wild berries -- anything that might help them fashion attractive new organic letterforms."

You can download Mr. Twiggy, Twigdancer, Sauertwiggo via the web site.

More bees...

I had another "bee-in" today. I have know idea why I keep running into them. Maybe someday in the future it will all "bee-come" clear. (SMILE)

As I arrived at the home of a consulting client today, I noticed that the car was surrounded by bees. Not too keen on getting stung, I parked a short distance away, where the bee cloud thinned out. I couldn't see the swarm itself, but I could certainly hear it. The sounds of 20,000-30,000 bees is quite unique. The swarm must have just recently settled in the olive tree by the client's driveway, as there was still a large cloud in the air around the tree.

About 20 minutes later, I was finished with my work. The cloud had thinned dramatically outside and I was able to easily see the large clump of bees on a limb of the olive tree, abouty 15 feet in the air. Quite an amazing site! I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something with all these apian encounters?

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss

Check out my remarks on Eats, Shoots & Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation over on My Word.

It isn't related to gardening, but I think you all might be interested in it.