4/04/2007

Why am I in such a good mood tonight?

Because this came in the mail today, and was waiting for me when I got home from work.

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You must believe me when I tell you that precious few things in life bring me as much joy as a new issue of Pacific Horticulture. Heck, I get a rush out of old issues that are new to me.

I'm happy to report this issue is particularly enthralling...

It starts with an article about the UC Cooperative Extension Master Gardener's Demonstration Garden in Palo Alto. I didn't even know about it, but now I'll be making a stop there on Saturday after I hit the native plant sale at Hidden Villa in Los Altos.

I'll be most interested in seeing the "showy vegetables" in the Mediterranean ornamental vegetable garden: "Many chicories, brassicas and lettuces offer good form and color. Artichokes 'Violetto' and 'Romanesco' stand near a red trellis covered with purple hyacinth beans. In all the vegetable gardens, flowers are planted to attract pollinators and beneficial insects."

There's an article about Philadelphus--"the botanical name was chosen by Linnaeus himself..."

I always enjoy reading the Laboratory Report section wherein UC Berkeley plant pathologist Robert Raabe provides a round-up of recent articles of interest from leading scientific journals. Japanese researchers showed that peach trees can be effectively dwarfed (without killing the tree) by ringing 96% of the trunk every 2-4 weeks.

Pam Peirce positively reviews the book Gardening When It Counts by Territorial Seed founder Steve Solomon. "[Solomon] includes disturbing tales of working as a seedsman and being offered lower quality seed by a wholesaler because home gardeners are not 'a critical trade'. Unlike a farmer, he was told, a home gardener will rarely blame the seed for a crop disappointment." (I will. I absolutely will. And I'll blog about it.) Peirce says Solomon "has good advice for those who hope to find [good seeds]".

A long article on beneficial garden flies in the Syrphidae... "The ability to hang suspended in mid-air explains its common moniker, hover fly. Unlike other winged insects, flies in the order Diptera have only one pair of flying wings. The second pair of wings is reduced to two little knobs, the halteres; these function like miniscule gyroscopes, allowing the flies to quickly change direction." I actually remember that from the many different times I took biology classes over the years. I did insect labs in junior high, high school, and twice in college. The last time, I remember having to collect two different species from ten different orders, pin them, ID them and everything. I got really into it and turned in a collection of over 40 insects.

Some folks from the UC Davis Arboretum recommend Salvia spathacea for gardeners in California's Central Valley. They have a whole list of plant recommendations they call Arboretum All-Stars suitable for growing California's cold-in-winter, hot-&-dry-in summer Central Valley climate. I want to say I'm a huuuge Salvia spathacea fan and have blogged about it a few times. "The Central Valley is the fastest growing region of California; it's population is expected to double within the next 15 years... The University of California, Davis Arboretum has a strong institutional commitment to educating Central Valley audiences about regionally appropriate gardening."

Davis is near Sacramento, and this article is near another one about Sacramento's Hamilton Square Garden, the Pere Lachaise-style 28-acre resting place--"elevated plots, row after row"--of many notable Californians going back to 1849. "In 1986, a group of concerned citizens organized the Old City Cemetery Committee (OCCC). Upset by the years of obvious neglect and mistreatment, the committee became an active voice for the future of this important community resource... the Adopt-A-Pioneer program began in 1988; its initial intent was to recreate the cemetery's setting as it might have looked in the 1880s, with lots of roses, wildflowers, bulbs and other plants of the day. Volunteers assumed the duties of long-departed relatives and began restoring the cemetery to something beyond the vision of its early planners...." The OCCC teamed up with the Perennial Plant Club of Sacramento, and now...well, go check out the pictures. I see a trip to Davis and Sacramento in my future.

I'm going to skip (for now) the articles about ten-foot-tall impatients, great trees for 2007, and rockroses in the Halimium and xHalimiocistus, and wind up with the piece on Jan Smithen's mediterranean garden in Upland, outside of Los Angeles. Apparently, her gardening style is not all the rage in lovely Upland:
[Smithen's] woes began as she wielded a pickax in the front yard. She remembers a passerby, who turned out to be a board member of the home-owner's association, shouting, "I want grass." Even after Smithen explained to the woman that the architectural board had given her pemission to plant a drought-resistant garden, she snapped back, "Don't you know the drought is over? I don't care if you have architectural permission. I have the power to make you rip all this out." Today, the association's rules have relaxed, albeit with little effect. The more than one hundred homes in the development are still fronted by well-groomed--and watered--lawns. Smithen's remains the only property in the neighborhood sporting a non-conformist front garden.

I try to be nice to everyone I meet, and I generally respond to negativity with benign, conciliatory gestures. But in my heart of hearts, I need to say I harbor extensive ill will for people like this board member of the home-owner's association. I will never reveal how extensive, but if you feel inclined, go ahead and let your imagination wander. As for me, I'm returning to the new issue of Pacific Horticulture.

I'll just quote this from the Smithen piece before going:
As much as Smithen would like to have large architectural plants such as agaves, she is always aware of the scale of her garden and never buys plants so large that they would dwarf the rest of the garden. Instead, she follows the lead of European gardeners and clips evergreens into ornamental shapes that provide the focus and drama of big bold plants. Unlike many California gardeners, who prefer curving paths and informal plantings, Smithen appreciates formality and enjoys the frequent shearing that locals might think of as "too much work." She explains,
"I like simple clipped evergreens to set off loose forms. I clipped Myrtis communis to a cone and Buxus japonica to a ball in front of the vining queen's wreath (Petrea volubilis) I also use severe structural forms, such as aloes next to grasses."

I once said something similar about using laxly pruned boxwood to frame a writhing manzanita.

10 comments:

Delphine said...

What kind of job do you do ?

Pam/Digging said...

I'm imagining, Chuck, and it isn't pretty. I'm with you there. ;-)

JvA said...

Is Pacific Horticulture California-focused, or are there articles about the Northwest as well?

chuck b. said...

It's meant for the whole west coast, but there's a definite skew toward mediterranean climate gardening. It varies a lot but I'd say it's 60% droughty California gardening. But I've read about all kinds of NW things in there too... several things come immediately to mind, including articles about The Bloedel Reserve, the Berry Botanical Garden, the small trees article in the current issue...

Delphine, I'm an organic chemist.

Pam-- ;>

anile said...

Can I make a copy of the Syrphid fly article for my pests class? ;)
I also recently read an article about that Davis Cemetary. They have
program to actively attract and protect native bees.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/03/03/HOGIROCUE91.DTL
I would love to go. Maybe we could coordinate?

Anonymous said...

OK... just REMEMBER that the purple Hyacinth beans are poisonous. I love 'em. I grow 'em. They are wonderful. But they aren't food.

(If you want, I'll send you some seeds hank AT heatly DOT com... the seeds are BEAUTIFUL. Can I mail seeds to California? Probably not. Anyway, they are available enough. )

But they have to be boiled a good bit to be safe.

Annie in Austin said...

Luckily we don't live in a subdivision that's ritzy enough to have such a powerful Homeowner Associations. There are some just a few miles from us that have ridiculous rules.

We've dug up a lot of the back, and have ideas for taking over the front yard, too.

Annie

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

That was a meaty post Chuck. I am being lazy and taking pictures.

Did you live in an association at one time where you developed your antipathy towards members of the board?

chuck b. said...

Hi Christopher, meaty-good, I hope. No, I've never dealt with any HOAs. My antipathy had a virgin birth.

Go, Annie, go!

Thanks, Hank, but the garden is packed. No room at the inn for purple hyacinth beans.

Hi Anile, I'll bring you a copy of the fly article on Wednesday. I think we'll make the Sacto trip in May or June if you want to wait that long to join us. (We're banking weedend roadtrips right now in anticipation of a kitchen remodel starting in mid-May.)

Christine said...

Hi, truly enjoy your blog.
Already left you a comment but not sure you will see it since it was left where you speak about the subject I'm interested in: Fuchsia Boliviana.
I too am a plantaholic and after just buying a Fuchsia Boliviana, realized I would love an 'Alba'.
Would it be possible to get seeds from you??
I live in the Mission.
Thank you,
Christine
tinepo@cyberonic.com

perhaps, as a trade, you'd like a cutting of something in my garden...although it is far less interesting and diversified as yours...