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Thursday, June 30, 2005

The Green Dive-bombers of summer, more likely

The LA Times Home section has an interesting article on Cotinis mutabilis or what we call the June BUg or June Beetle here in Southern California.

This time of year, as fruit ripens in commercial orchards and many backyards, these huge, bumbling beetles take flight. While they don't bite or sting, their sheer size is enough to freak you out as they bang into fences, tress and anything else that gets in their way.

We get a few each year, mainly from our compost pile, but when we had an old apricot tree, it was thick with these beetles. The Squirrels had a nasty habit of nibbling on the fruit and then abandoning it. The smell of sweet juice attracted the beetles in droves.

The article contains lots of information and 3 references for even more.

Their summer flights of fancy By Emily Green, Times Staff Writer

June beetles spring to life, their bright green armor shining as they steer a shaky course. They're not the prettiest of beetles, but you can't help but admire such short-lived determination.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Iris Cross-pollination?

Robyn, from Vero Beach Florida writes...
"If you'd be so kind, my mother is wondering if she should separate her blue and white iris' so they don't cross pollinate and all turn white. It seemed like it would be a common enough question, but I don't find the answer anywhere online."

I am far from an expert on stuff like this, so I figured I would open up the question to you, the readers of A Gardener's Notebook.

Does anyone have more information on this topic? My Google searches turned up lots of information on purposefully crossing irises, so this leads me to believe that they don't cross-pollinate too readily on their own.

Add your comments below!

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dried flowers from the garden

My wife and son love to press and dry flowers from the garden, although we rarely bring blooms inside the house, otherwise. I have dried some herbs from the garden before, but hadn't really thought of creating dried flower arrangements from my own garden. Maybe this article will spur me to dry to preserve some of the years blooms.

From the Garden - Drying Your Flowers

For some people, it's very hard to cut flowers from the garden to enjoy elsewhere. But if you have prolific blooms and your vases are running over, remember it's not too soon to start drying flowers to enjoy when your...

(Via Gardening.)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Water Gardens in Los Angeles

I came across this event on SocialDomain.com and thought it might interest those of you in the Southern California area.

California Waterscapes - 2005 Parade Of Ponds

Saturday July 9th thru - Sunday July 10th 2005

Pond tour starts at California Waterscapes Store - 2729 Foothill Blvd. - La Crescenta, CA

9:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Rita Quinn - 818-244-4000

Cost $15 per person (children 12 and under are free)

California Waterscapes, in association with the North America Water Gardening Society (NAWGS), presents the 2005 Parade of Ponds on July 9th and 10th. Water Garden enthusiasts across the US will open their homes this weekend to allow visitors to view their beautiful private water gardens. As the largest builder of water gardens on the west coast, California Waterscapes will have over 20 customer ponds on display throughout the Los Angeles area. Tickets are $15 per person (children 12 and under are free). All proceeds benefit local charities including the Desi Geestman Foundation, The Way to Happiness Foundation, and others. For tickets call 818-244-4000 or send an email to info@californiawaterscapes.com. Visit our website for more information www.californiawaterscapes.com.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Madeleine Bistro Web Site

Our friends organic, vegetarian, vegan restaurant, Madeleine Bistro, now has its own web site, courtesy of yours truly.

It just has the basic information at the moment (hours, location, telephone, menus), but we will be growing it as quickly as we can. Check back regularly for new information. You can also watch the RSS feed for the site at: http://madeleinebistro.com/index.xml.

By the way, I had the Asian Tacos for lunch the other day and they were fabulous. I am slowly working my way through the entire menu. (SMILE)

Web Site: madeleinebistro.com

Monday, June 20, 2005

A little porch music?

This could be just the thing to spice up your evening porch sitting this summer, although you will have to find another place to sit while you play. The seat slats of this porch swing are tuned and playable like a marimba. Certainly a conversation starter on a warm summer evening.

Play tunes on your musical porch swing

We're not just talking about mere kickin' back on the deck with your favorite DAP -- we mean a porch swing that is itself an instrument. The Musical Porch Swing is made out of Western Red Cedar and the slats are tuned to chromatic pitches in order to be played as percussion. The $1000 kit includes the mallets and a songbook, so at least you can strive for sonic decency as the neighbors quizzically watch you pound on your furniture.

(Via engadget.com.)

Friday, June 17, 2005

How do you say that again!?!

I have been hesitating to start a gardening podcast due to the laughter that would surely result from my mangled Latin pronunciations. Maybe this will make it possible after all!

A great find of a great site! Thanks to both Prairie Point and Perennial Passion for sharing it with everyone.


This is something I have been needing for a long time - a guide to botanical Latin pronunciation. It even pronounces them out loud for you. I alway feel like a dunce when I accent the wrong syllable or use a long a when it should be a short a.

Credit for finding it goes to Perennial Passion, another gardening blog that I have recently come across.

(Via prairie point.)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Garden Junk?

While recycling "junk" into garden ornaments isn't for everyone, some of you might find these examples of re-use interesting. The photos show repurposed wine bottles and other materials used as edging, wind chimes and more.

Photos of Junk Garden Art

(Via del.icio.us/tag/gardening.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Book: Robbing the Bees by Holley Bishop

My bee obsession continues with this excellent book by Holley Bishop, Robbing the Bees: A biography of honey, the sweet liquid gold that seduced the world.

The author writes of her own beekeeping experiences, follows a modern day commercial beekeeper through his year and relates the historical significance of bees and honey throughout the ages.

These micro-histories always catch my attention and I feel like I learn so much through one book.

Highly Recommended

Monday, June 13, 2005

Useful even in death

It is good to know that everything has a use, even in death, and the garden is no exception. I have long known about the importance of snags, that is to say, dead standing trees, in the forest. They provide important habitat for a wide variety of animals and fungi. Their slow decay returns nutrients to the surrounding soil, providing a bountiful harvest for other, nearby, plants.

I was thinking about this because today, as I sat in the garden thinking up ideas for another column I write, I noticed a female carpenter bee putting the willow to good use. I frequently see these bees around the garden, but I have rarely seen one of their solitary nesting holes. Sure enough, when I walked over to where I had seen the bee disappear, there was a perfect hole about 1/4" in diameter punched into the trunk of the willow. Thank goodness she found this wood more accommodating than my wisteria trellis or the pergola with the Clytostoma callistegioides vine. I plan on using the good zoom on the video camera tomorrow to get a closer look. THe nest is about 10-12 feet up the main trunk of the tree and just barely visible from the ground.

I have also spotted various fungi hard at work breaking down the roots of the willow. Whenever we have a little moisture, they spring up around its feet. These mushrooms were my first confirmation that the tree was sick and dying. Mushrooms at their feet indicates either an extreme level of organic matter, or rotting roots.

The tree will have to go soon, but we need to gather the $200+ to have the tree company come and remove it. Hopefully the carpenter bee couple will have moved on by then. I don't know exactly what their life-cycle is like. Maybe we can postpone the demolition until whatever brood is there is ready to move one.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Little by little

I took a few moments and finished up the tree pruning project in the front garden this afternoon. There were only 4 small trees left. They are of a slightly different variety and get less sun, so there was less to trim, so the work went fast.

I also got a look at what Rosanne has been working on in the front garden. She has attacked the grass and weed problem with a vigor and you can actually see most of the paths again. There is one short section left to weed, but it is a big difference. NOw we should re-lay some of the plastic edging and get some pea gravel or mulch on the paths before the weeds spring up again.

We had our usual tree person come in to give us an estimate. We have 3 trees -- 2 living and one dead -- that need to be removed. I still don't know how can have so many trees on this small property. The most pressing priority is an ugly Arizona cypress that is leaking sap all over our neighbors car. In the interest of maintaining good relations (they have been the BEST neighbors) we will probably have that tree removed first. The dead one will be next, though. We should get rid of it before the Santa Ana winds roll through later in the summer.

That is it from our neck of the woods. As the temperatures go up, the garden tends to slip into a bit of a slumber, so cleanup work is the word of the day.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Who needs a cave?

Whenever I am feeling a bit stressed by the city, I often talk about finding a nice cave in the desert and living there. This would be much nicer, though. Perched high above the forest floor in my own little pod. I can feel myself relaxing already.

Spherical wooden tree houses These look really amazing.

Free Spirit Spheres has commenced limited production of the 3.2 metre fibreglass sphere tree houses and now has sphere shells and kits available for the DIY market. Orders are now also being taken for the wooden shells and component kits and fully-finished made-to-order wooden Free Spirit Spheres. Shells can also be rented for the night (if you’re in Canada). Link.

(Via MAKE: Blog.)

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Listen to the Mockingbird

We have had a bachelor mockingbird singing his almost continuous song outside our window for about a week now. Our sleeping has not been the best during this time, but I am unsure whether it is truly the mockingbird that is keeping us up or some other issues.

It is amazing to hear such a complicated and on-going song as the typical mockingbird. In an attempt to attract a mate they often mimic the sounds of their environment. Here in urban Los Angeles this might include the "caw" of a crow, the twittering of other birds or even the repetitive call of the, all too common, car alarm. Lying in bed last night listening, I heard these sounds and many more. At times I found myself chuckling quietly as I noticed this noise or that that had crept into the birds song.

We have mockingbirds quite frequently in the neighborhood, but this has been the first one to pick a territory so close to the house. I suppose he will eventually attract a mate and give up his singing for other pursuits.

As I was looking for further information on mockingbirds, I came across this page, Listen to the Mockingbird, written by Diane Porter in 1998. It offers an interesting method of dealing with the night time song of mockingbird, since there is little you can do to avoid it. Sometimes the best way to make some thing less annoying is to go deeper into it. Listen to the mockingbird song, more and more closely and you might find yourself lulled to sleep like the author. While whippoorwills taught her this lesson, it should apply equally well to the mockingbird.

You can find more Mockingbird information via this Google Search.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Gardening for yourself

I am glad I learned a few of these rules on my own, or the state of my garden would constantly bother me. One of the best quotes. "Remember that a garden should be for your enjoyment! If that's not the case, begin to phase OUT some of the garden." I sometimes have to force myself to remember this.

Does Your Garden Overwhelm You? Try this!

I would be the first to admit that I'm behind on my garden blog reading. So it was only today, when I was supposed to be doing something much more necessary on the computer, that I discovered Does Your Garden Overwhelm You? Try this! It figures a maturing gardener would have such words of wisdom. [...]

(Via Cold Climate Gardening.)

Thursday, June 02, 2005


I came across this in my morning perambulations through my RSS feeds. I feel truly sorry for those people who must resort to these "gardening" methods, but also feel somewhat heartened that companies are finding some way of bringing nature back to the home, even if it is 20 stories up in a Manhattan high-rise.

If you need a quick gardening fix that requires nothing more than opening a package and adding some water, this might for you. Consider it "fast food" gardening, but without all the health issues.


Now it doesn't get much easier than growing fresh herbs, but I still totally dig these 'Garden-in-a-Bag' kits from Wishing Fish, which provide the dirt, nutrients, and seeds you need to grow herbs and plants right out of the packaging. Pop them open and add water and it won't be long before you have a believable excuse about why your entire office smells like chives.

Catalog Page ($8 - $10) [WishingFish via CoolHunting]

(Via Gizmodo.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hot-rod-style fire pit

This would look cool on almost any informal backyard or garden. Summer is here! Gather around the flames, boys, gather around the flames.

(Photo at the link below)

Hot-rod style fire pit

Xeni Jardin:

Artisan John T. Unger's recycled steel fire pits cost $450 and are highly badass! I realize this isn't a barbecue pit, per se, but -- hotdogs grilled over a hotrod-style bowl would be, well, totally hot. Link (Thanks Clive)

(Via Boing Boing.)