Garden Alphabet: Orchid from the Southern California Spring Garden Show 2013

Garden Alphabet: Orchid from the Southern California Spring Garden Show 2013

Garden alphabet orchid

Today’s photo comes from our visit to the Southern California Spring Garden Show 2013 in Costa Mesa, CA. The show runs through Sunday, so you still have a chance to make it to the show. As usual, there were tons of plants on display including large collections of orchids of all shapes and sizes. The shocking contrast of this purply-pink, white and black grabbed my eye as I walked past. Orchids, in general, are amazing plants, looking more like an alien species than something to be found here on Earth.

I’ll have a lot more photos from the Garden Show up soon and I will be highlighting them here on A Gardener’s Notebook in the coming days and weeks.


The Orchidaceae are a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants with colorful and fragrant blooms, commonly known as the orchid family. Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants, with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species, found in 880 genera.[1][2]

Selecting which of the two families is larger is still under debate, as concrete numbers on such enormous families are constantly in flux. Regardless, the number of orchid species equals more than twice the number of bird species, and about four times the number of mammal species. The family also encompasses about 6–11% of all seed plants.[3] The largest genera are Bulbophyllum (2,000 species), Epidendrum (1,500 species), Dendrobium (1,400 species) and Pleurothallis (1,000 species).

The family also includes Vanilla (the genus of the vanilla plant), Orchis (type genus), and many commonly cultivated plants such as Phalaenopsis and Cattleya. Moreover, since the introduction of tropical species in the 19th century, horticulturists have produced more than 100,000 hybrids and cultivars.–

More information on the Orchidaceae:

Previously in Garden Alphabet:


Garden History: “The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene Coe house, Southampton, New York

Many old gardens — even impressive ones like this — understood the need for a porch…and a great view from that porch. Here the homey back porch looks out on a somewhat formal garden design. The boxwood hedges are neatly clipped, but the flowers inside seem exuberant and ready to break out of their confines given half a chance.

This garden also sported something many of us dream of today…a view to the surrounding countryside. This upstate New York location reminds me of the childhood in Ohio. The land is flat, but the view is broken by fence rows, wood lots and streams, which help to provide visual interest.

Here in Los Angeles, nearly every houses hemmed in by fences and walls so gaining any sort of “view” from your garden is difficult, if not impossible. Even large gardens such as this look inward, not outward. Hillside homes can gain some sort of view, but the real estate in these areas is out of reach financially for most.

["The Appletrees," Henry Eugene Coe house, Southampton, New York. (LOC) 

“The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene Coe house, Southampton, New York. (LOC)

Johnston, Frances Benjamin,, 1864-1952,, photographer.

[“The Appletrees,” Henry Eugene Coe house, Southampton, New York. View from porch]


1 photograph : glass lantern slide, hand-colored ; 3.25 x 4 in.

Site History. House architecture: 19th century farmhouse with additions. Associated Name: Eva Johnston (Mrs. Henry E.) Coe.
On slide (handwritten): “C,” “Coe, Mrs. H.E., Southampton,” and no. “353”(?) Also, gold star sticker and blue star sticker.
Photographed when Frances Benjamin Johnston and Mattie Edwards Hewitt worked together.
Title, date, and subject information provided by Sam Watters, 2011.
Forms part of: Garden and historic house lecture series in the Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection (Library of Congress).
Published in Gardens for a Beautiful America / Sam Watters. New York: Acanthus Press, 2012. Frontispiece plate for Gardens of the East.

Gardens–New York (State)–Southampton–1910-1920.
Flowers–New York (State)–Southampton–1910-1920.
Porches–New York (State)–Southampton–1910-1920.

Format: Lantern slides–Hand-colored–1910-1920.

Rights Info: No known restrictions on publication.

Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,

Higher resolution image is available (Persistent URL):

Call Number: LC-J717-X100- 65

Previously in Garden History:

Video: In the garden…April 24, 2013 – Potato blight(?), black spot and some beautiful brunsfelsia

“In the garden…” is a series for A Gardener’s Notebook highlighting what is happening in my garden, my friend’s gardens and California gardens throughout the seasons.

Is that blight on those potatoes? Geez, I hope not. I do know that is black spot on the roses, though. Still, the brunfelsia (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) is looking lovely, as is the clytostoma vine. A mixed bag in today’s update, but isn’t that always the case with any garden.


Watch all the past “In the garden…” videos in this YouTube playlist.

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Garden Decor: DIY: My Lowe’s Creative Ideas Pallet Project from Our Little Acre

DIY: My Lowe’s Creative Ideas Pallet Project from Our Little Acre

This great looking and extremely functional bit of garden decor comes from fellow Saturday6 member, Kylee Baumle over at Our Little Acre. She takes a standard shipping pallet (all the rage for DIY project recently), paints it up, adds some hardware and create some great storage space for tools, a plant hanger and more.

Ola pallet project

Check out Kylee and more projects over at Our Little Acre.
More on pallet projects:

Previously in Garden Decor:

Garden Vocabulary: Soil pH

Garden Vocabulary LogoSoil pH

The soil pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity in soils.  A pH below 7 is acidic and above 7 is basic. Soil pH is considered a master variable in soils as it controls many chemical processes that take place. It specifically affects plant nutrient availability by controlling the chemical forms of the nutrient. The optimum pH range for most plants is between 5.5 and 7.0,[1] however many plants have adapted to thrive at pH values outside this range. —

Engage in any garden conversation and you are sure to touch upon soil pH and its importance for certainly plants. That said, many gardeners, myself included, really knows why it is important. In my reading for this post I discovered that one essential part of Soil pH in plant health is that the alkaline or acidic nature of your soil directly effects the amount and availability of various chemical nutrients that your plants can use. If your soil pH is too far at either of the extremes then nutrients will not dissolve easily and therefore will not be available for your plants.

According to a post on the Organic Gardening web site,

“Most nutrients that plants need can dissolve easily when the pH of the soil solution ranges from 6.0 to 7.5. Below pH 6.0, some nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are less available. When pH exceeds 7.5, iron, manganese, and phosphorus are less available. — “Understanding pH: What is pH and how does it affect your plants?”, Organic Gardening

Additionally, and what is usually discussed more frequently, is that some plants — notably blueberries and hydrangeas require certain soil pH to thrive. Unless you are dealing with these specialized plants, or plants from a different native environment to where they are being grown, a balanced pH is probably best.

Because most garden soil is amended in some way, if you are planning on growing plants with specific  pH needs, you will need to test the soil directly from the beds where they are to be placed as garden bed soil may differ greatly from the native soils found in your area.

There are a wide variety of ways of testing soil pH, using both traditional knowledge and high technology. If you find yourself needing to check pH frequently, here are a number of products available from that might assist you – Soil pH Testing products and devices from

More information on Soil pH:

Previously on Garden Vocabulary:

This Garden Vocabulary series seeks to introduce and explain to you — and in many cases, myself — words and terms associated with gardening. Please let me know if  there are any terms you would like me to explore. You can leave your ideas in the comments section and we can learn together!


Interesting Plant: Gladiolus ‘Kings Lynn’

Gladiolus Kings Lynn

Glad kings lynn

Via Renee Rodman on Pinterest

Interesting Plant: Gladiolus ‘Kings Lynn’

Gladiolus (from Latin, the diminutive of gladius, a sword) is a genus of perennial bulbous flowering plants in the iris family (Iridaceae).[1] It is sometimes called the ‘Sword lily’, but usually by its generic name (plural gladioli, gladioluses, glads).[2]

The genus is distributed in Mediterranean Europe, Asia, Tropical Africa and South Africa. The center of diversity of the genus is located in the Cape Floristic Region, where most species were discovered.[3] The genera Oenostachys, Homoglossum, Anomalesia and Acidanthera, traditionally considered independent entities, currently are included in Gladiolus.[4] —

I love purple plants and have also loved the architectural nature of gladiolus. They make for quite the dramatic effect in the garden and also in the home as cut flowers. 

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More information on Gladiolus ‘Kings Lynn’:

Previously in the Interesting Plant series: 

Video: Container Garden Update 24: Nasturtiums arise, basil pinching and checking the rosemary cuttings

Putting a new camera to use today, so this is the first episode at 1080p resolution. We check in on the nasturtiums, which are just coming up, the frugal lettuce, which is struggling and the basil, which is doing well. Further check-ins with the rosemary cuttings and ficus on the potting bench.

What’s happening in your garden? I’d love to know! Leave your questions and comments here or on any of the web and social media sites linked below!


Can’t see the video above? Watch “Container Garden Update 24” on YouTube

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Music: “Whiskey on the Mississippi” Kevin MacLeod (  – Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

A Gardener’s Notebook April 2013 Update

It’s Spring! Time to Propagate!
April 10, 2013

From A Gardener’s Notebook Newsletter – Join the Mailing List today!

It is Springtime here in the Northern Hemisphere and the thoughts of a young gardener turn to propagation. No, not THAT type of propagation, but rather the making of more plants for our gardens. Whether planting seeds you saved from a previous season, planting seedlings you grew on yourself or making new plants from those you already have, propagation is one of the easiest and cheapest way to expand your garden. 

I have decided to launch my long-thought about and long delayed propagation project this week. You can see the beginning of this in my most recent Container Garden Update where I take some rosemary cuttings in hopes of growing some rosemary topiaries and even a rosemary hedge.

I have been meaning to do this for years, but work and family life often get in the way of gardening around here. I have so much good material here in the garden, though, so it seems foolish not to make the most of it. The blog and these videos help to give me added impetus to move forward, too, so hopefully you will also be the beneficiaries of my new found energy.

In some cases, I am moving forward with the propagation project to save some plants we are in danger of losing. Due mainly to drought and shade problems, we have lost a number of roses. I am going to attempt to propagate new plants from the one’s that are remaining in hopes of rebuilding the beds, now that we have opened up the sunlight in some areas. It is important I get going quickly, though, or I may lose the remaining plants from which I will take the cuttings. That seems a silly waste just because of my own procrastination.

My Favorite Book on Propagation

Making More Plants by Ken Druse

What to do?

I have collected several propagation ideas over the last few years and I plan on putting as many of them in place as possible. You can see updates on most of these in my video series, In the garden and Container Garden Update. I’ll also be sharing more information there as I move forward. Container Garden Update appears each Sunday and In the garden each Wednesday on my my YouTube Channel and on the Gardener’s Notebook blog. Subscribe to the channel, the blog or the podcast to receive each new episode automatically.

So far, I have put the following in action…

  • Started container gardens with purchased seed and transplants, including strawberries, kale, basil, peppermint, chives, spinach and more
  • Growing both white potatoes and sweet potatoes using sprouting tubers from our pantry
  • Planted lettuce from the cores of supermarket lettuce in hopes of regrowing
  • Rosemary cuttings from my large garden plant
  • I will probably start more at regular intervals to replace any failed cuttings and build up sizeable inventory for decorative replanting in the garden
  • Ficus benjamina seeds, since we had such a big crop this year
  • Perhaps create some houseplant sized version for gifts to friends and family
  • Ficus repans cuttings
  • I am trying to recover our back wall and, despite the reported difficulty in propagating this creeping fig, I figured I would give it a try.
  • Grow pumpkins from last year’s Halloween jack-o-lantern and gather more seeds from any I can gather this year

I have some more general plans for the upcoming year, too, Such as…

  • Gather seed from any plant that I would l enjoy
    • Already planning to gather acanthus seeds, as current plans are starting to flower now
  • Elm seedlings to grow on as gift trees for friends and family
    • They pop up everywhere, so perhaps that is telling me I should be putting them to use
    • Seeds also drop in great numbers in the fall, so I may gather and plant some of them, too
  • Camphor and ash seed and seedlings
  • Seeds from Carrotwood and locust tree
  • Re-plant any produce that might yield a second or third crop such as lettuce, celery, etc.
  • Take cuttings from a wide variety of plants in the garden including gardenia, camellia, clytostoma, wisteria, etc
  • Collect seeds, seedlings and cuttings from friend’s gardens, vacant lots and pretty much wherever I can
  • …and much, much more!

Watch the blog, podcasts and YouTube Channel for more of my adventures in propagation!


What are you planning on propagating this year — or are already growing? I’d love to hear what is happening in your garden. Leave comments on the blog, YouTube Channel, Facebook, Twitter or wherever you find more convenient. Share your experiences with all the Gardener’s Notebook readers and viewers.

Until next time…Keep Digging!

Dewsig new

Garden Inventory: Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

 Garden Inventory: Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)

Honey locusts, Gleditsia triacanthos, can reach a height of 20–30 m (66–100 ft), with fast growth, and are relatively short-lived; their life spans are typically about 120 years, though some live up to 150 years. They are prone to losing large branches in windstorms. The leaves are pinnately compound on older trees but bipinnately compound on vigorous young trees. The leaflets are 1.5–2.5 cm (smaller on bipinnate leaves) and bright green. They turn yellow in the fall (autumn). Leafs out relatively late in spring, but generally slightly earlier than the black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia). The strongly scented cream-colored flowers appear in late spring, in clusters emerging from the base of the leaf axils.-

Another tree that was originally in the garden when we purchased the property. It is deciduous and is covered with bright yellow leaves each fall which then coat the ground when wind or rain arrives. It is one of the few colorful Fall trees here in Southern California.

This tree is probability a cultivated variety as it has no thorns, which are typical in the wild, native varieties of locust. It shows long, seed pods each Spring/early Summer and I have found that wasp love to feed on the stumpy flower stalks that form soon after the tree comes into leaf each Spring. I regularly see seedlings from this tree sprout up in the garden beds although I have not propagated any. Perhaps as part of my on-going propagation program I started a few weeks ago I might try and place one in a pot for further growth.


Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 01

Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 11Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 10Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 09Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 08Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 06

Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 05Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 04Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 03Garden Inventory: Honey Locust - 02

Photos of Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) with closeups of  leaves,  growing habit, and stems.

More information on Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos):

Previously on Garden Inventory:

Garden Inventory is a series where I begin an inventory of all the plants and trees in my garden. Along with some of my own pictures, I will link to various sources of information about each plant and tree so we can learn a little more together.

I would also like to highlight your special plants and tress. Pass along your favorite plants in the comments and I will use them for future Garden Inventory posts. — Douglas

Garden Alphabet: Acanthus


Garden Alphabet: Acanthus

This Acanthus has been reappearing and blooming in the front garden since we moved in 16 years ago. The leaves and flower stems dry and die back each Fall but return regularly with our Winter rains. This photo is the basis for the logo of A Gardener’s Notebook podcast and videos.


Acanthus is a genus of about 30 species of flowering plants in the family Acanthaceae, native to tropical and warm temperate regions, with the highest species diversity in the Mediterranean Basin and Asia. Common names include Acanthus and Bear’s breeches. The generic name is derived from the Greek word ακανθος (acanthos), meaning “thorny.”[2]

The genus comprises herbaceous perennial plants, rarely subshrubs, with spiny leaves and flower spikes bearing white or purplish flowers. Size varies from 0.4 to 2 m (1.3 to 6.6 ft) in height. —

More information on the Acanthus:

Previously in Garden Alphabet: