Photo: Cucumber flower

Cucumber flower, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Cucumbers are on the way in our friend’s garden. They already have corn and some tomatoes on the vine, too.

I don’t really have enough sun exposure here to grow veggies, so I have to live vicariously through others. (LAUGH)

Photo: Figgy pudding, perhaps?

These wild figs pop up everywhere her in the Los Angeles area, seeds spread by birds and other wildlife. Once started they can quickly take over an area. I have cut back several over the years, but then my wife developed a taste for figs, so this one has remained. It is still a battle with the squirrels over which will get to eat then first, but it looks like we might get a decent crop based on these examples.




Photos: Hummingbird in the garden

I shot a series of pictures of this very cooperative hummingbird in my sister’s garden over the July 4th holiday. It gave me a chance to play around with the more manual settings on my new camera.

These birds are just one example of the amazing wildlife you can attract to your garden by both feeding AND MORE IMPORTANTLY planting the plants that they need most. These shots were taken at a feeder, but these same birds feed at a variety of plants in this garden, too. I consider wildlife and integral part of the garden and one of the main reasons I garden in the first place. A perfect garden, devoid of wildlife, would not seem like much of a garden to me.

Share notes and pictures of your garden wildlife here in the comments or on the AGN Facebook Page. I would love to see what is happening in your garden!

Hummingbird at Feeder

View the entire Hummingbird Series on Flickr


I Like This – July 11, 2011

Photo: Sweet Corn Tassels

From our friend’s garden…

Sweet Corn Tassles

Mini-review: Troy-Bilt Hand Tools – Pruners

I received a complete collection of hand tools from Troy-Bilt as part of my membership in the Saturday6. I posted an overview photo of the complete set earlier, but I wanted to show some details and talk a bit more about the tools today.

I have now had a chance to use these a bit and wanted to relate my initial thoughts.

Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners

Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners Troy-Bilt Hand Tools - Pruners

Click any picture for a larger image

My first impression with these pruners was “heft.” These are not the typical $5 bargain bin specials many of us have lying around (or is it just me (LAUGH)). All the pruners half significant metal parts that appeared powder coated in grey. The red plastic accent pieces create the nicely moulded handled. The smallest bypass pruners have more plastic on them, but there still feels like a solid metal structure inside.

All fit well in your hand even though they are not ergonomically specialized like some other pruners I have. Unfortunately, with those pruners from another company, the ergonomics mean they don’t work well with the heavy leather gloves I normally use in the garden. These Troy-Bilt pruners works well with the gloves and the double-sided locking mechanisms work easily, without being the way. I hate when I accidentally lock pruners when I am working and these locks seem to prevent that pretty well, while also being adaptable to both right and left-handed users.

A nice addition is the wrist straps that can help prevent drops into dense foliage and the time required to find them — or long drops off the ladder onto the hard cement below. (Again this only happens to me, right?)

These all look to be solid additions to my toolbox that will last for years. The various types and sizes means that everyone in the family will find their favorite, I am sure.

According to Troy-Bilt, “The tools are made from hardened, coated and ground steel making them non-corrosive, non-stick and durable. They’re manufactured in Germany at the same plant as Wolf-Garten, a high quality brand in Europe and then are shipped to the US.  The tools are only available on or by calling 1-800-828-5500.

Disclosure: This post is in conjunction with my paid partnership as one of the Saturday6 from Troy-Bilt. All thoughts are my own.

Photo: Passiflora, passiflora fruit and Gulf Fritillary caterpillar

I felt so lucky to find this picture along our walk. Here you have 3 major components of the passiflora life cycle — the alien-looking flowers, the resulting fruit and even a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar (there on the right above the green fruit), which feeds almost exclusively on passiflora.

I hadn’t noticed the caterpillar initially as I was taking other pictures, but as I was framing a shot, there it was.

Passiflora flower, fruit and Gulf Fritillary catepillar

Click for larger version

From Wikipedia…

The Gulf Fritillary or Passion ButterflyAgraulis vanillae, is a striking, bright orange butterfly of the family Nymphalidae, subfamilyHeliconiinae. These were formerly classified in a separate family, the Heliconiidae or longwing butterflies, and like other longwings this species does have long, rather narrow wings in comparison with other butterflies. It is not closely related to the true fritillaries. It is a medium to large butterfly, with a wingspan of 6–9.5 cm (2.4–3.7 in). Its underwings are buff, with large silvery spots.[1] It takes its name from migrating flights of the butterflies sometimes seen over the Gulf of Mexico.

Read more about the Gulf Fritillary on Wikipedia

I have harvested some of the seed pods from these plants and, while they have grown, the caterpillars eat the leaves almost as quickly as they grow. I need to find a better spot where the vines can out pace the insects, I guess.

Photo: Acanthus Flowers

I always think of Acanthus as an important ingredient to any cottage garden. I don’t have a cottage garden,  by any means, but I do have a few acanthus in front of the house. I look forward to their re-appearance each year. They are perfect for my gardening style, as they require NO maintenance.

These acanthus were spotted in front of another house on our recent neighborhood walk and this garden was more cottage garden than I could ever hope to have.

Acanthus Flowers

I love the classical leaves, often seen depicted on architectural columns, and also the slightly alien looking flowers. In a good location they can grow quite tall, giving you a bit of height in those beds that need it. Mine typically get 3-4 foot tall measured to the highest stems.

I Like This – July 4, 2011

Photo: Mimosa Flowers and Choosing trees

Mimosa Flowers, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Another photo from our neighborhood walk a few days ago.

These are the flowers of the Mimosa tree. We have several in out neighborhood. The leaves are supposedly sensitive — if you stroke them with your hand they will begin to close up their leaves.

Unfortunately, these trees due leave quite a bit of “litter” when they drop these flowers. I have seen cars quite covered with them. You can see a few older flowers at the bottom of the picture.

Choosing Trees

Choosing trees is a bit of an art form. If they cover large portions of your lawn or house, you don’t want something that drops a large amount of debris. Our lovely, purple, jacaranda mimosafolia looks amazing, but people often complain about the cleanup. the flowers fall in to a sticky mass that covers everything beneath.

Another popular street tree here in the San Fernando Valley is Liquidambar styraciflua or American Sweet Gum tree. They provide what little Fall color we get here, but also drop these nasty seed pods everywhere. Not only are they hard to rake up, I have slipped on their hard round shapes during other neighborhood walks more times than I like to remember.

Finally, our local sycamore can be beautiful, but if you are a lawn geek, the large leaves can quickly brown patches of your grass if not raked up.

Think carefully about your environment when choosing a tree. Not only do you have to choose one that grows well in your area, but also one that brings as few problems as possible. Unfortunately, this sometimes means that we can’t have our favorite trees, but that is probably better than coming to hate a tree you used to love because it doesn’t fit in your current situation.

What are your favorite trees? Your least? Tell us you tree stories in the comments or on the AGN Facebook Page.