I don't italicize botanical names.

It's a big pet peeve of mine.

Norman Deno explains it:

"At the time of Linnaeus, academic institutions still clung to Latin as an emblem of intellectualism. This is now archaic. A name like Eranthis hyemalis is an internationally recognized name for a plant and belongs to no specific language. It is not a foreign word, and it is specifically not a Latin word, so to italicize it is grammatically incorrect."*

Thank you! Botanical names are Latin-ized!

(All emphases are mine.)

*Deno, Norman C. Seed Germination Theory and Practice, 2nd ed. State College, PA (1993).
Workhorse landscape plants. You see them everywhere. Some you hate; others not so much. Some you actually like. How do you decide?

Here are some plants you see everywhere in San Francisco.

Euryops pectinatus. Hate. I think it comes from the family HomeDepotaceae.

Euryops pectinatus

But if I gardened for a living, I would probably use this plant because it always looks good. South African plants do well in San Francisco. People who hire gardeners don't know this plant is boring.

And that aloe around it can be nice too, but it must be maintained. You wouldn't know it, but aloes develop fantastic trunk structure; limb it up and show it off. Plant an understory plant. What would you use?

Raphiolepis indica. Hate, hate, hate. This is the gas station plant par excellence. But what would I rather see at the gas station? Any suggestions? In coastal California, why not use the native Rhamnus californica, aka Coffeeberry, or the hardy cultivar Eve Case? Hell, just plant a manzanita.

Raphiolepis indica

Or even some agave?

Agave sp.

Even the dead flower is interesting.

agave dead flower

Leptospermum scoparium. New Zealand Tea Tree. I go back and forth on this one. I always like the flowers. But flowerless, it's dark and bristly. In high summer, this plant feels depressing.

Leptospermum scoparium tree

Leptospermum scoparium

We use it as a street tree which limits its impact. It's a small tree. Wouldn't it look better at the back of the border, juxtaposed with contrasting elements? A nice bright clematis weaving through it could do the trick.

Cotoneaster lacteus. Hate. But don't those berries look nice? We say those folded leaves are "keeled". Keeled leaves are common in the Rosaceae.

Cotoneaster lacteus

Melaleuca nesophylla. Total indifference.

Melaleuca nesophylla

You don't often see it limbed up like this, and that's nice. Melaleucas have exfoliating paperbark--always interesting to see. And those flowers come out when most other flowers have gone and they stay on for a long time. Without the flowers, this plant is hard to notice.

Cistus skanbergii. You can't tell from the pictures, but the flowers are a nice pale pink. I like all the rockroses when in bloom, hate them when not. I have this plant in a container on my deck. I'm thinking about changing it out for something better.

Cistus skanbergii
Passiflora mollis. Love.

Passiflora mollis

It's an absolute monster, and must be pruned hard every year in the garden. The fruit is not so tasty and may attract rats when it falls. But those cheerful pink flowers... sigh.

What landscape workhorses do you have ambivalent relationships with?


"Sniffing" the air, [dodder] seedlings can even identify preferred tomato-plant hosts over less desirable ones such as wheat, researchers from Pennsylvania State University in University Park report in today's issue of the journal Science. (Related:"Weird Plants Taking Root in Everyday Gardens" [August 2003].)

"This is a pretty cool example of plants behaving in a way that people think only animals behave," ecologist Richard Karban told the journal. Karban, of the University of California, Davis, was not involved in the study.


Link to a gallery of "weird looking" plants.

'Weird' according to Nat'l Geographic.
Snake eggs in the garden!

Broccoli's getting all chewed up.


Leggy Amaranthus caudatus grown from a lone etiolated seedling.

amaranthusamaranthus 2

Last hort post here.
Pam Peirce posted some thoughts on snails this morning.

I must be lucky, because I don't have snails. I've never seen a single one in my garden. What I do have are these little slugs. Not the kind of slug I typically envision when I think of slugs, but these little two centimeter jobs with a rather square-shaped aspect. They almost look like giant flukes. And I usually don't see them on the plants, just the soil. Which is actually kind of disturbing. I'm satisfied enough with the beer traps not to go looking for them. Pabst Blue Ribbon, baby!

I am however cursed with the inch-long inchworm-type larvae of some butterfly or moth that eats the leaves of Sambucus mexicana, Gaultheria shallon, Ribes sanguineum (the old leaves, never the young leaves), Carpinteria, Ceanothus, broccoli and lettuce, and, his most favorite, Illicium mexicanum--an absurdly delicate shade ornamental I bought from an absurd catalog for an absurd amount of money. I assume its the same critter eating all those plants, because I find him and nothing else.

Plants that go untouched include Passiflora, Abuliton, Echium, drought tolerant CA natives or plants with pubescent foliage like Bartlettina and Tibouchina.

I'm at my wit's end with this guy. It (apparently) takes more than just a few hunting expiditions to do the job, and I can't live without any of those plants I have on its menu (except for the Illicium, which I'm eager to detach from emotionally). My solution has been limited to hunting (and squishing), but I wish I could attract a predator to my yard to do the hunting for me.


slac 1

The accelerator itself is 30 feet underground, but the machines that operate it are above ground. The accelerator is two miles long. That makes this the longest room in the world, according to them.



This is a klystron:



The detector room:




SLAC hosted the first website in the United States.


Some background for my comment on a post about garden theft at GardenRant.

Here's a shot from my roof. That's my yard on the left and his on the right. Note that I am taking this picture from three stories up.


This is wisteria that threatens my house. It is quite literally destroying his house. Again, we're three stories up.

Those are his house vents it's growing on.


Here it is coming for me. I just pruned it two weeks ago, and already this. Imagine what would happen if I slacked off.

wisteria 2

This is the view from my second story living room window, and a slight rightward pan. You can't really see how his plants are bowing the fence, but trust me, they are. You see those rocks at the bottom of the fence? They're there to block tunnels dug by the mouse/rat that keeps coming over.



(That bamboo (three stories tall) is actually growing in the big water-filled planters I put mosquito dunks in.)

These are my neighbor's back stairs.

his back steps

Underneath is where I think the mice and raccoons live. The mice might actually be rats, I can't tell.

mice, maybe rats,  and racoons

And I forgot to mention this: a windy storm last year helped the wisteria rip the vine-choked trellis from his house. It's about to fall into my yard and crush a 2 year old Dicksonia. (Sorry the shot is blurry; but trust me, the trellis leans menacingly.)


This is my southern exposure, after two hours of me pruning his "shrubs" back to the property line.

southern exposure

ADDED: At least I don't have to worry about...pigs!

Also: by next spring, I won't even be able to trespass into my neighbor's yard. It will be too overgrown to admit human-sized creatures.
"SF Law Could Boost Al Fresco Dining At Sidewalk Cafes And Bars"



I had an hour's work at the compost bin today. It's a great spot for spying on the birdbath. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera when I was visited in quick succession by a blue jay, a finch, and a mating pair of two very spotted birds I don't know. After they left, I ran upstairs to get my camera, but noone came back to use the bath.


I had one other visitor. Can you see him?


Last hort post here.





The last time I came up here: Link.
"Jeff and Katie Hagan are never stuck wondering what's for dinner -- not with 80 pounds of beef in the freezer.

The San Francisco couple buy a quarter of a pastured steer at a time, frozen and neatly wrapped as roasts, steaks and burgers, plus oddball cuts never seen in an American supermarket -- ones they've learned the hard way whether to give a long braise or a fast sizzle."


My aunt just did this with some of her friends. They bought a steer (named him Sir Loin), grazed him for a year, and then shot him in the head* and divvied up the parts. I thought they did this as an investment and planned to sell the meat, but, no, (they think) they're going to eat it all. I don't see how. I haven't been invited over for dinner yet.

*She used a euphemism; they dropped him.
Seven-year-old Thai Connect Four street hustler. You can skip about 30 seconds in.


Home organic gardeners are just as likely, maybe even more likely, to accidentally contaminate their home gardens with degenerate E. coli bacteria if they are not careful.

Let me 'splain.

'Splained at the link.

downstairs 8

Today, I went through the house quickly snapping pictures of everything for our insurance records. These two stand out for obvious reasons. We have ghosts!


For dinner tonight...

Sloppy Josephines (vegetarian Sloppy Joes)...


With cheese


And peppers from the garden.

California's ancient redwood forests have survived fires, logging and disease.

Now they face a growing threat from poachers who steal downed old-growth redwood trees in ever-larger numbers, scarring the land and robbing the forest of a vital part of its ecology for the sake of a few thousand dollars.

In the past eight months, five men have been convicted of stealing old-growth logs -- those 750 years old or more -- from Redwood National and State Parks, established in 1968 to protect nearly half of the world's remaining old-growth redwoods. The convictions follow a concerted effort by park officials to crack down on thefts and preserve one of California's greatest natural treasures.

Poaching is a problem in every national park. There is seemingly nothing poachers won't take, be it snakes from Mojave National Preserve, fossils from Badlands National Park in South Dakota, American ginseng from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or frontier-era pistols from Fort Davis National Historic Site in Texas.


These people should be shot. In the head. Right along with these people. Okay, that might be a little extreme. Very extreme. How about just locking them up? Forever. Without food. In a tiny room where the walls are lined with iron spikes. Tipped with painful, slow-acting poison.
I had funny dreams about Tom Cruise and Sandra Bernhard last night.

In the Tom Cruise one, Tom and I went to the neighborhood Chinese video store to rent a movie (no such thing in my neighborhood) and Tom noticed that all of the movies in the Tom Cruise section were pirate copies. (And they were all videos too; no DVDs.) He was upset and scanned images of the pirated tapes into his Treo and messaged them to his agent/atty to deal with.

In the other dream, Sandra Bernhard came to live with me because she couldn't find work in L.A. anymore. She was moving to San Francisco to work at a psychic hotline. She returned to me an "antique folding mirror" that I had loaned her several years previously, and we sang Gladys Knight's "Midnight Train to Georgia" together like they did on Will and Grace. I played Grace's part.


Today in my friend's Menlo Park garden:

Last hort post here.



Some people have fences, some people have “keep off the grass” signs, and others keep dogs to make sure the property in front of their house is not violated by pedestrians.

Gail McCarthy and Marvin Lunenfeld had a bench.



Q: The pest-control person my husband hired says the pesticides he uses are safe for my dogs to be around. How can I be sure?

A: It is illegal for anyone to claim that pesticides are safe. The Environmental Protection Agency prohibits anyone from making that statement.



In the cactus house at the entrance to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden:

Pachypodium lamerei.
Pachypodium lamerei
(They must know people will want to photograph this amazing specimen. Is a moment's consideration to move the other plants out of the way asking for too much?)

They keep some behind bars.
behind bars

Welwitschia mirabilis. What does this remind you of? Anything come to mind? Hmmm? Apparently, they get much bigger.
Welwitschia mirabilis

On the other hand, here's a picture of Echinopsis terscheckii. I call it "E. terscheckii and I"
Echinopsis terscheckii and I

Aeonium balsamiferum. This plant, just sitting there without a flower, smells wonderful. And so I was confronted with one of the few moments in my adult life when I've felt a strong urge to steal something. If I broke off just a little piece of this plant--just one little stem--I could have a whole shrub of it by next summer. Noone would ever know and it would be so nice on my deck in a big pot, fragrant in the summer sun. Alas, I would never do that. Seriously. I wouldn't. Too bad they weren't selling it in the little garden store. Sigh.
Aeonium balsamiferum

Instead, I bought this Lachenalia 'Rupert' for $7. And, look, someone sells A. balsamiferum here for a mere $3 plus S&H, and they take PayPal. And all I had to do was do a Google search on Aeonium balsamiferum. Gotta love the modern world.
get name

In the California garden...

Vitis californica 'Roger's Red'. California wild grape makes beautiful red in the fall. The colors are just starting to change.

Vitis 1

Vitis 2

Vitis 4

Here's the trunk of the Vitis growing up into the tree.
Vitis trunk


Okay, more oaks...
more oaks

And here's an oak support. I've never seen this before. Very nice.
Oak support 1

Oak support 2

Sorry it's slightly blurry.
Oak support 3

Coreopsis gigantea in its famously ugly summer dormancy. Still looks interesting. This plant is native to the islands of the coast of southern California. What's the gardener's epigram about a plant not needing to be pretty in bloom if it dies interestingly?

C gigantea dormant

C gigantea dormant 1

C gigantea dormant 2

C gigantea dormant 3

Last hort post here.