Video: Container Garden Update 016 – Strawberries ripening

Strawberries are starting to ripen while other pots idle along.


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Garden Inventory: Ficus benjamina

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 Inventory: Ficus benjamina

“Ficus benjamina, commonly known as the weeping fig, Benjamin’s fig, or ficus tree and often sold in stores as just ficus, is a species of flowering plant in the family Moraceae, native to south and southeast Asia and Australia. It is the official tree of Bangkok. It is a tree reaching 30 metres (98 ft) tall in natural conditions, with gracefully drooping branchlets and glossy leaves 6–13 cm (2–5 in), oval with an acuminate tip. In its native range, its small fruit are favored by some birds, such as the Superb Fruit Dove, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Pink-spotted Fruit Dove, Ornate Fruit Dove, orange-bellied Fruit Dove, Torresian Imperial Pigeon, Purple-tailed Imperial Pigeon (Frith et al. 1976).” —

Most people are familiar with Ficus as the ubiquitous houseplant and small tree that graces office buildings around the globe. Here in Los Angeles, though, they were also used a street trees for a number of years, but recently that decision has “come home to roost” in the form of destroyed sidewalks, curbs and streets. Ficus roots are quite strong and aggressive and will readily turn over any construction put in their path. You need to choose their location quite well to insure you aren’t regretting your decision to plant them down the road.

I have 3 large ficus in my garden and, to be honest, I have never really liked them that much. Their foliage is very dense and creates some spots of deep shade under their canopy. This canopy can be quite beneficial in the host summer months here in the San Fernando Valley. Ficus also drop quite a load of leaves, although being evergreen, they never drop all their leaves at once.

On the plus side, they don’t need much pruning and, except for a small amount of frost damage on occasion, they don’t seem to have any issues with disease or pests. They do provide a small green fruit, although I have never noticed any of my birds or wildlife eating them. You can see these fruits in the some of the pictures below.

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Photos of Ficus benjamina closeups of leaves, fruit, growing habit, trunk and bark

More information on Ficus Bejamina:


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Garden Alphabet: Daffodil (Narcissus)

Daffodil (Narcissus)

I have been planting daffodils over the last 3-4 years here in my garden, adding to the small group that was here when we first purchased this house. I love their shining yellow faces at this time of year. They provide such a show during this time when most of the trees are still without leaves. I find myself taking way to many pictures of these flowers, but they attract my attention every time I go into the garden or pull my car out of the driveway. They also provide the longest bloom time of any of the bulbs in the garden, Depending on the soil, water and sun, some daffodil beds appear long after others and extend the overall bloom.

Garden Alphabet: Daffodil

Narcissus (pron.: /nɑrˈsɪsəs/) is a genus of mainly hardy, mostly spring-flowering, bulbous perennials in the Amaryllis family, subfamily Amaryllidoideae.[1] Various common names including daffodil, narcissus, and jonquil are used to describe all or some of the genus. They are native to meadows and woods in Europe, North Africa and West Asia, with a center of distribution in the Western Mediterranean.[2] The number of distinct species varies widely depending on how they are classified, with the disparity due to similarity between species and hybridization between species. The number of defined species ranges from 26 to more than 60, depending on the authority.[3] Species and hybrids are widely used in gardens and landscapes. —

More information on the Saucer Magnolia:
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5 Years Ago in the Garden: Wisteria in the Spring

5 Years ago this week, the Wisteria was starting to unfurl new leaves.

Wisteria in the Spring

Garden History: Paris Exposition: gardens, Paris, France, 1900

When I came across this photo, it immediately reminded me of my one and only visit to the city in 2000. With a 2 1/2 year old boy in tow as we made our way from London, to Paris, to Rome and then to visit family in Sicily, parks were a big part of our travels. We walked through the grounds of the Louvre, over to the Museé D’Orsay and then, for a bit of a respite, off to the Tuileries Garden. They were so welcoming on what was a fairly warm day and it was wonderful to order some lunch from a park cafe, put up our feet and take in the gardens.

Like this section of park near the Eiffel Tower, there were dramatically formal sections, but there were sections that felt so comfortable you might never want to leave. To this day, any scenes of this area of Paris transport me immediately back to that day.

I think is something that any garden photo can do. It can transport us to a place in space and time, even if we have never been there before. I love to travel to other people’s gardens through their photos and video and I share my garden for the exact same reason — to invite you inside at least in some small way.

Paris Exposition: gardens, Paris, France, 1900

Paris Exposition: gardens, Paris, France, 1900

Paris Exposition: gardens, Paris, France, 1900. Gardens located near the Eiffel Tower. A section of the Eiffel Tower is visible. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection (S03_06_01_015 image 9906).

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Garden Vocabulary: Fungus

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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!


A fungus (pron.: /ˈfʌŋɡəs/; plural: fungi[3] or funguses[4]) is a member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds (British English: moulds), as well as the more familiar mushrooms. These organisms are classified as a kingdom, Fungi, which is separate from plants, animals, and bacteria.

Abundant worldwide, most fungi are inconspicuous because of the small size of their structures, and their cryptic lifestyles in soil, on dead matter, and as symbionts of plants, animals, or other fungi. They may become noticeable when fruiting, either as mushrooms or molds. Fungi perform an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and have fundamental roles in nutrient cycling and exchange.

Read the entire article on Wikipedia, Fungus

As it’s own Kingdom, the world of fungus is huge, diverse and largely unknown to most people. Sure, we see mushrooms and toadstools in our gardens when it gets wet, fairy rings around dead or dying trees or perhaps even go looking for the more tasty (and less deadly) varieties. Still, what we see above the soil is often the smallest part of the fungi, although the most visible.

I am not a fan of eating fungi, but I love the way that many of the fungus look. The shell-like structure growing on dead trees often catch my eye when walking through the woods, as do the small mushrooms, like the one below, that sometimes pop up in my garden.

As a gardener, I have heard much about mycorrhizal fungi which is now being used to aid transplants in establishing strong roots. In many gardening shows you can see gardeners scattering it on the roots of a shrub or tree they are planting. From my limited understanding, the mycorrhizal fungi breaks down important nutrients in the soil and makes it available for the roots, which can gather it up more quickly and easily. Gardeners can now purchase the fungi for use in their own gardens.

You could, and many people do, make a life and career out of studying fungus and with such a variety to choose from to study, it only makes sense.

Possible Agaricus campestris(?) in my garden

More information on fungus:


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Interesting Plant: Fritillaria imperialis Rubra Maxima

Interesting Plant: Fritillaria imperialis Rubra Maxima

By Poco a poco (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

I love this frittillaria. It is so striking in both shape and color. I could imagine one of my triangular beds in the front garden filled with a mass of these, waving in the breeze.

From White Flower Farm web site…

“Burnt orange-red flowers with delicate veining. A guaranteed conversation starter. Heirloom, 1665. 20-24cm bulbs. 1 per sq. ft.

These large bulbs are a delight in practically any setting, and their unusual profile draws the eye like a magnet. Give them full sun and a rich, well-drained soil that stays dry in summer. The bulbs have a faint skunky odor, which has the salutary effect of repelling pests, including voles.”

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Garden Inventory: Ash Tree (Fraxinus)

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 Inventory: Ash (Fraxinus)

“Fraxinus (pron.: /ˈfræksɨnəs/)[2] is a genus of flowering plants in the olive and lilac family, Oleaceae. It contains 45-65 species of usually medium to large trees, mostly deciduous though a few subtropical species are evergreen. The tree’s common English name, ash, goes back to the Old English æsc, while the generic name originated in Latin. Both words also meant “spear” in their respective languages.[3] The leaves are opposite (rarely in whorls of three), and mostly pinnately compound, simple in a few species. The seeds, popularly known as keys or helicopter seeds, are a type of fruit known as a samara. Rowans or Mountain Ashes are unrelated to true ashes and belong to the Genus Sorbus though the leaves and buds are superficially similar.” —

I never knew there were so many different types of Ash trees, so I have no idea what particular variety this one is. Now that I know it is a Fraxinus, I will have to go through some “keying” and try to figure out its particulars. Ash trees grow all over Europe and most of the United States and Canada, with different varieties being prominent in different areas.

In the photos below, I have highlighted the bark, the general growing habit, trunk shape and size and, due to lucky timing, both the leaves and the flowers of the tree, which is just now coming back into leaf after a short period of deciduous dormancy. Maybe someone more knowledge about trees than myself can help me identify it.

The tree has a few issues. It is multi-trunked, which I don’t think is normal for an Ash. It probably means it was damaged sometime in its youth. When taking photos I noticed that this large crotch is collecting a good amount of rain water and a huge colony of ants. I hope it isn’t causing rot, but I will need to contact my tree experts online and see what I might do to prevent any damage in the future.

I love how I always learn a it about my plants when doing these inventory posts. I had no idea that Ash was related to olives and lilacs. One of the few facts I knew about Ash was that it was the traditional wood for baseball bats here in the US Major Leagues.

 Emerald Ash Borer has been attacking Ash trees throughout the East Coast of the US and will probably spread across the continent eventually. There are a variety of treatments available.  Find out more about Emerald Ash Borer via Wikipedia.

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Photos of Ash (Fraxinus) of unknown variety with closeups of leaves flowers, growing habit, trunk and bark

More information on Ash (Fraxinux):

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