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.

Photo: Magnolia Blossom (Open)

Magnolia Blossom (Open), originally uploaded by dewelch.

Another photo from our little neighborhood walk yesterday.

This huge Magnolia Grandiflora bloom was in the shade, but looked wonderful. Used a little fill flash to add some more light. Note the little fly in the upper-left. Didn’t notice him/her when I took the shot.

On a camera note, I can zoom in quite far on the fly in the original photo. I think someone more insect knowledgeable than me could even identify it.

The San Fernando Valley is full of these Magnolia trees planted along the streets. Only a few blocks away is Magnolia Boulevard which runs across the entire valley. They put on quite a show every year.

Photo: Passiflora Flower

Passiflora Flower, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Picked up a new camera today, the Olympus PEN E-PL1, a Micro FourThirds unit that is a big step up from the Kodak Point and Shoot and the iPhone 4 I have been using.

To try it out, my wife and I went our on a short neighborhood photo and garden walk. I have always loved the passilflora vines that grow throughout the neighborhood even though I haven’t been able to grow them myself.

The Olympus has a pretty good macro mode built-in and this picture seems to bear that out. I am quite pleased with the color focus, and sharpness of this photo. I might just have to blow this one up to put on my wall.

I Like This – June 27, 2011

Photo: The Garden in Summer

A nice shot of the woodland corner of the garden during our annual summer party. This spot remains cool in the summer and brings a little bit of the forest into our urban Van Nuys back yard.

I have my bird feeders and birdbath in this area, too. My wife’s favorite willow swing, the second we have owned, sits in the corner with comfortable cushions. The kids often find this secluded spot during the party to get away from all the adults.

On a more prosaic note, my composters sit at the right side if the photo.

Click the photo for a much larger image


Credit: Jaime Cadegan


Products: Troy-Bilt Hand Gardening Tools

Three boxes just arrived on my door step and, having heard from my fellow Saturday6 bloggers, I knew exactly what they would be. As part of the Saturday6 program, Troy-Bilt has sent us all a collection of their new line of hand tools.

Troy-Bilt Hand Tools

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.

Wolf-Garten is a European division of MTD, the parent company of Troy-Bilt, Inc. and they make garden equipment, including lawnmowers, for that market.

Here in my small garden, hand tools are often more important and more useful than other, larger equipment. I have used a series of tools running from low-end, no-name tools to high-end, name brand pruners, so it will be interesting to see how these tools compare.

Out of the box, the initial impression is one of quality and durability. They are weighty in the hand and the moving parts operate well. I can’t wait to get out in the garden and put them to work. In fact, that is probably what I will do as soon as I publish this blog post. Look for a more thorough review in the next week or so.

Troy-Bilt Hand Tools

The complete package included (listed top-down in the photo above)…

  • 3 weeders of different types, including a cultivator-style one
  • 2 trowels
  • 3 pruners (bypass, pro bypass, anvil)
  • 1 large lopper

I tend to go through loppers like candy around here. Like many people, I often choose limbs that are bit too big, so that should give these quite a test.

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

Project: Bottle Garden Bed Edging

While I was out on a computer consulting call, my wife and son started in on this project. We had seen edging like this in the past and I also did some Google Image searches to see how others had used empty glass bottles in their garden.There are a variety of ways to do it, but I think this is one of the most traditional. For the last 5-7 years these beds had been edged with limbs from the numerous small trees that needed to be removed due to over-planting. It has taken quite a long time for those limbs to decompose, but it was now evident that something else had to be done.

(You can click each photo for a larger version from my Flickr Photostream)

As avid wine drinkers, we knew we would have a certain number of bottles to start with and we also put out the call to our friends and family to start saving their bottles as well. I am sure we will have plenty to finish the small bed in no time.

Bottle Garden Edging

After seeing how they had placed a few bottles I realized they needed to be buried much deeper to keep them stable. We could have gone a bit deeper still, but the ground around these beds is very hard and I think this makes the best match between stability and design. You need to have some part of the bottle shoulder embedded in the dirt or the bottle will be too easy to tip as people walk by.

Bottle Garden Edging

Some might have elected to remove all the labels from the bottles first, but I think nature will take care of that over time. The sun will bleach them and the rain and watering will loosen them. Depending on how this first batch fares, we might decide to “plant” them a bit lower or hill up around the bottles more. It will also be interesting to see how they effect our raking of leaves within these beds. It will probably make it a bit more difficult as they are quite high compared to the edging we had there.

Bottle Garden Edging

We noticed immediately how the glass catches the sunlight as it plays across the garden. I think it will add a very nice look and add another point of interest to the garden.

Photo: Updated Succulent Container

Updated Succlent Container, originally uploaded by dewelch.

Last week we visited the Photos: Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society 11th Annual Exhibit and Plant Sale. While there we picked up 5 mall plants and today my son, joe, and I used them to refurbish this succulent container.

I would love to tell you what the plants were, but the identifying plant stakes were also the price tags so they didn’t make it home with us. Oh well, sometimes gardening is just about growing without being obsessed with latin names and all. At least that is what I will tell myself for a little while. (LAUGH)