Thursday, March 27, 2008

Start Your Compost Piles!

Spring is a great time to get your compost pile started.  All those grass clippings are full of nitrogen and great for mixing into your regular ingredients.

Composting is a easy way to improve your soil structure and fertilize your plants.

Compost systems can be as simple as a box of clippings and shredded newspaper or as elaborate as a self turning drum.  Both systems will work equally well.

Other good ingredients for your compost pile are; leaves, grass clippings, banana peels, broccoli stems, coffee grounds, etc.  In general, anything of a plant based nature.

Yes, easter egg shells are OK as long as the dye is vegetable based and there's no egg included.  Egg shells will keep snails away too!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring! Here are some blue Ceanothus flowers for you

Happy Spring!  

Here are some beautiful blue California Lilac flowers for you and a busy bee.  Their latin name is Ceanothus. 

These drought tolerant shrubs grow from 2 feet high to 20 feet high depending on the species.  The one in my garden is about 6 feet tall with a 6 foot canopy.  Ceanothus is native to southern California coastal ranges to southwestern Oregon.  

See?  You CAN have an English garden without the rain.  Your drought tolerant garden can still be filled with flowers and color.  And no, it doesn't mean only succulents and cacti (although I have a soft spot for a cute succulent plant).  They make great substitutes for more water-demanding shrubs.  Mine started as a 4" pot. I watered it about every month for the first year.  The second year it got water whenever I remembered, or it was over 100 degress.  Now that it is established it lives on rainfall, and is very happy.

Many are endangered too.  You can find links to western native plant nurseries on theGardenPages Links page....

It is impossible to capture the deep blue color with my camera.  And they smell light and flowery, not like true lilacs though.  

The flowers on these shrubs are great for bees and beneficial insects because the flowers are so small.  Many beneficial insects are tiny so they don't like to get swallowed up in a giant flower.  Anyone growing vegetables that are pollinated by bees should think about growing a ceanothus to attract bees.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Care and Growth of Shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day

Care and Growing of Shamrocks

All shamrocks are considered lucky and are worn and given as gifts on St. Patrick's Day.  Several different plants are sold as Shamrocks.  There is some disagreement as to the exact plant, but most Irish growers will tell you Trifolium repens, or white clover are most commonly known as shamrocks.

Trifolium repens, or white clover are perennial plants, growing about 4 inches high.  Trifolium take full sun to part shade and like average water.  They spread by rooting stems and can be used as a ground cover.  White clover get white puff-ball shaped flowers in early spring and generally have three leaves.  Indoors they like sun or bright light and should be kept slightly moist.  In a 4 inch pot, they will probably need weekly watering.

Oxalis acetosella, or wood sorrel is another plant called shamrock.  Oxalis is a perennial plant that grows about 5 inches high.  They spreads easily by rhizomes and can become invasive. These shamrocks like part shade and moist, woodland conditions.  Oxalis is commonly called clover and has white, five petaled  flowers sometimes tinted with purple or pink.  Oxalis is usually three-leaved. Indoors they like bright, indirect sunlight and somewhat damp soil.

Three leaved clovers are worn as protective amulets.  They were used by St. Patrick to demonstrate the concept of the Holy Trinity while converting the Druids to Christianity.

Four leaved clovers are considered lucky and protective.  They are said to help the wearer find treasure.

Some Irish botanists say the Irish Shamrock only exists on St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cherry Blossoms in bloom at Lake Balboa in Los Angeles

The cherry blossoms are in bloom at Lake Balboa! 
Here's a photo from this afternoon for you.

Lake Balboa is in the San Fernando Valley, on Balboa Blvd. just off the Ventura Freeway.  Drop by if you're in the area.

They planted huge swaths of trees a few years ago and they've really gotten big enough to make an impact.  They have continued planting more trees to around the edges of the park, creating an even larger pink blanket over the park.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Batton Down the Hatches! The Santa Ana Winds are in Town!

Yikes! Anyone living in the Los Angeles basin is enjoying the Santa Ana winds right now.

Yes, it IS over 70 degrees outside, but it's the winds that get you. It's like being in a wind tunnel that has a glitch in the system. One minute it's 70 mph wind gusts, then it's quiet.

The air it calm and warm.

Then you'll feel a slight breeze...

Aahh, you think as the warm, desert-scented air caresses your face.....

Then BLAM. An 80 mile-per-hour gust blasts you. The wind chimes all slam together in a noisy cacophony that sounds like a body just dropped out of the ceiling onto the orchestra pit on Oscar night. All the instruments clanging together.

The limbs on my trees are waving in the wind. I can hear lawn furniture being batted around next door. The sound effects are straight out of The Wizard of Oz.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Don't forget to:

* Bring in or secure your lawn furniture.
* Close your umbrellas.
* Make sure smaller plant pots are secured from blowing away.
* You can weigh down your pots by watering them. They'll be dry from the winds, so they'll appreciate it.

To read my article about the Santa Ana Winds, drop by my AngelCityArt website...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The plum tree rocks

The plum tree is still alive!  Woo Hooo!!!!

I love the plum tree in my yard.  It is about 40 years old.  It was probably planted when the house was built.  Over the years it has provided dark purple, sweet plums for all the families living here.

A few years ago a man drove by the house while I was out front and asked about the plums tree.  He had grown up in the house as a boy and remembers how good they were.   I told him it was still hanging in there, and to drop by around June for some fruit.

The fruit is best when you wait until the plum is dark purple, and just slips off the tree.  They are soft and dripping with sweet juice.  

This is not the plum you would plant for commercial purposes; where they pick the fruit and let it ripen on the truck on the way to the store.  

These plums don't work that way. You have to wait for them to ripen on the tree, and then they're fragile.  The only place you'll want to ship them to is your kitchen!

This poor tree has been dying for a few years now.  Every year when it loses its foliage I wonder if I will be seeing it again in spring.  It is a multi trunk tree, but a few of the larger branches are dead.  I've been cutting off the dead wood and trying to make my friend as comfortable as possible in the autumn of its life.  Half of the trunk is dead, bark peeling, sun bleached wood.  Then out of a dead branch that looks more like driftwood than fruitwood, I'll find green poking out and a few flowers opening.

This tree is a testament to perseverance.  More photos to come!

Color Changing Succulent Plant Aeonium Part 2

Here's an update on my color changing aeonium plant.

In our last episode, my green succulent plant was changing colors for Winter.

Here's our plant developing a creamy white center, about two week ago (on the left).

Now the plant is getting red highlights around the edges of the leafs, and the cream is getting bigger and creamier in the center.  

Here's a photo of the same plant on the right.  One of the smaller rosettes is almost completely cream color with the red really starting to show up nicely.

The show usually lasts a few more weeks.  If this plant decides to bloom, it will be in a few months.   I'm not sure flowers can beat the display this plant is already putting on!

How would you find one of these?  I don't know.  I'd suggest checking out your nursery right now and look for strange colors.  That's part of the fun; trying new plants and finding out what they do!


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