Friday, June 27, 2008

Quick Ideas For Red, White And Blue Flowers For A Patriotic Garden

I was driving around and saw this patriotic display of petunias.

I thought it would be fun to compile a quick list of red, white and blue flowers to put together for a patriotic display this 4th of July.

Here are a few you can group together including a few shade ideas.

RED: petunia; salvia; geranium; flax (wildflower); impatiens (shade).

WHITE: petunia; alyssum; geranium; flax (wildflower); erigeron (Santa Barbara daisy, drought), impatiens (shade); violets (shade).

BLUE: petunia; salvia; flax (wildflower); bluebells; campanula portenschlagiana (drought and shade); violets (shade); pansies (shade).

Help add to this flower list in the Comments Section!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Heat Wave Takes Toll On Southern California Gardens With Sunburned Plants

My plants are frying!

OK, so it's been over 100 degrees here in sunny so Cal for the past few days.   That's OK, it's called summer, we learned about this in school.  

And the state of California has declared a drought, and the city of Los Angeles is asking us to reduce our water consumption.   Check, my back yard is already 85% planted with natives, drought tolerant plants and succulents and cacti.  

What I didn't expect is seeing my dry garden plants fry in the heat!  This, believe it or not is a photo of my aeonium plant. They usually form a dome of little green rosettes.  The dome is all brown and fried on top.  

The ET Fingers Jade (crassula portulacea) has crispy fingertips. 

I have rigged up some shade for them, but I think the damage has been done.  Normally, sunburned (or frost burned) plant parts will not regenerate, especially on succulent plants.  The leaves on my butterfly bush are turning white, and the pads on my cactus are thin and curling. Some of the pads are curled into the shape of a bowl.  Interesting survival habit (and tip if you're lost in the desert).  Even the white sage has brown leaves.  

I gave the garden a little water the other day, but I suppose I should at least douse the cactus and a few others one more time.  The only succulent plant who seems to be getting on OK is the Crassula tetragona (bonsai pine), and the regular Jade (crassula ovata).  The other succulents that are doing OK have partial shade during the hottest part of the day.  

Other plants that seem to be surviving for now are the Hopseed Bush, the Acacia tree, cotoneaster, artemisia, the virburnum, and some perennial sage that gets pretty yellow flowers in the spring.  Most of the others are shaded by other plants like the roses and a few sunder story shrubs like the Mexican sage.  So my strategy of planting in groups to create a micro climate seems to have worked at least in the shade department.  

Temporary Shade Suggestions:  

Staple shade cloth to a square wooden frame.  Throw shade cloth over spare tomato cages, wire fencing, across stakes with string or just over the plants if you don't have a frame.  

Have an umbrella party in the garden with all your extra winter gear.  Don't forget to anchor them so they don't blow away!  

Instead of shade cloth use old sheets or curtains.  Sheers would be perfect!  

Post your own suggestions in the Comments. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Plant Profile: Crassula Capitella Another Color Change Plant

Here's another succulent plant in my collection that changes color. This is Crassula capitella, sometimes called Crassula erosula. This succulent has also been called Red Flames or Campfire Plant. It has bright, lime green leaves with flaming orange red tips. It gets tiny white flowers on upright stalks in early spring. When grown in shade, they are bright apple green most of the year.

These crassula succulent plants can take full sun to light shade, love heat and are easy to root and grow. They will change color depending on the amount of sunlight they get. The leaves on this succulent can either appear as bright apple green or flaming red. They are drought tolerant and only want light watering. Like most crassula species, they can take frost for a few hours, but not a hard freeze.

Crassula capitella spread by runners and will eventually form a mat about 6 – 8 inches tall, like ice plant. Plants form roots at their joints even before they touch the ground. They’re great for hanging baskets!

Are you growing this plant? Let me know how it's doing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Purple Wisteria, Green Seed Pods

These are the seed pods that form on wisteria vines after they bloom. As I've said before, I love my wisteria. Actually, I grew to love my wisteria that was on my patio arbor before I moved in.

They have the most beautiful blooms and that's what makes the rest of the year worth it for me. They look dramatic draped over the patio arbor and creating a stunning purple canopy in the spring. So dramatic, that I think there should be a wedding going on every time I go out there!

My wisteria is so enchanting I forgive it for all the drama it puts me through the rest of the year. My vine is fairly drought tolerant, so that's another thing going for it. I can't really take out something that puts up with my slipshod watering schedule just because it has a few 'issues' can I?

But, anyone thinking of planting one of these enchanting bloomers should know what they're getting into beforehand. Here's what we're into today. These are the gianormous pods that form from the 8 to 12 inch blooms. The pods start out about the same size, then dry into dramatic twisting, bumpy pods. They're hanging in bunches from my arbor right now. Aren't they striking?

Actually the 'striking' comes later, but I degrees… So, eh, as I said they dry out. That means the pods are actually dripping moisture. They dry fastest during the heat of the day, so if you're out there you won't need to turn on your misting system. Luckily the drips aren't sticky, otherwise it would be a disaster out there (and time for me to get out the axe.)

Anyway, if you have a wisteria this would be a good time to cut off as many of these pods as you can reach. I use a pair of long tree pruning shears because the stems are thick. Not having to spend energy on forming seeds, it will be good for the plant. And not having drips will be good too. The next phase is the most interactive -and exciting; the pods explode and send seeds and the pods flying!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Fruit News Roundup: A $6,000 Watermelon, $2.5 Million Cantaloupes, And A Fruit That Makes Everything Taste Sweet

I couldn't resist putting together this post about fruit.
Don't read it right before you go food shopping…

A 'Densuke', watermelon recently sold for $6,000 in Japan. It was a special ice-box sized variety with a unique black skin grown in the north of Japan. The skin is actually a very dark green with black stripes. I've grown melons before, and no matter how great I thought they were, I'd never pay more than $1,000 for one of mine! The man who bought it said he wanted to support farming in Japan. Good for him for supporting his Home Team. Are you buying local produce to support your local economy?
Here's a link with a photo

Melons are big in Japan. They are sometimes used as corporate gifts, and their price tag will make you look a little differently at those yummy pears we get as gifts at Christmas. Last month a pair of Yubari cantaloupes sold for 2.5 million. Here's another cool Yubari link for you:

My melon growing results were less than stellar. I tried Moon and Stars icebox watermelons one year just because they were so cute! Instead of stripes they have spots all over the fruit and leaves. They're a bush variety so they don't take up a lot of room. I also tried a cool Navajo heirloom melon because they are able to withstand more drought. It was delicious.

Finally, there is a small 'miracle' fruit that makes everything taste sweet. Fruit from Synsepalum dulcificum changes your taste buds for a few hours after you chew on the fruit. It is a tropical shrub native to West Africa and some guy is selling the tiny cumquat-sized fruits for $2.50 a pop. Last night on the news they made some poor reporter take a tablespoon of Tabasco sauce after she'd eaten the fruit. It tasted sweet, but it still burned her mouth! Read about the fruit here:

If you'd like to try your hand at miracle fruit, here's a link from the California Rare Fruit Growers with all the info you'll need:

And just for fun here are a few links to heirloom seed companies.
Heirloom Seeds - has Navajo, Moon and Stars and a Black Melon.

Here's my favorite heirloom guy at Redwood City Seeds

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Plant Profile: Crassula Portulacea or Spoon Jade or ET Fingers or Gollum Jade

Any more names for this jade species?

I've always appreciated it for the way it looks like coral, sea grass or some exotic undersea plant you'd find waving with the currents in Ariel's Secret Grotto.

Horseshoe or Spoon Jade is also called Gollum Fingers or ET fingers. These plants can take full sun to light shade. In container gardens they will remain small and are often used for bonsai. In the ground these succulent plants will slowly reach a height of 4 – 5”.

They are just as easy to care for as their jade cousins, Crassula ovata. They are happy indoors or outdoors.

Crassulas are drought tolerant and only want light watering. Let the soil dry out between watering to avoid rot. Every year mine are able to take a light frost for a few hours. I'd give them overhead protection in winter.

I’ve got a little corner of the garden that I’d like to look like an underwater grotto - except without the water. Here in Los Angeles we don’t get a lot of rain, so I’m planting it with succulents. These plants add a dramatic touch and look like some sort of sea plant or coral to me. - And the ceramic fish likes hiding in them too.

For more crassula care info visit me on theGardenPages Spoon Jade page...

Reader Poll: Do you grow your jade plants indoors or out?
What other names have you seen for this plant?

River Rock and Limestone Mosaic Garden Fence Inspiration

Looking for ways to dress up your plain block wall? Here's a fun idea I saw driving around.

This beautiful wall is built from river rocks, flat stones, limestone and other cool material. It runs for about half a city block. It is a 'real' wall, built out of stone. It must've taken forever to build. They had to work out how each stone fit with the other, how it would stand and how it would last. It has been there for a few decades, so they must have been doing something right. This wall is also about six miles away from the Northridge Earthquake epicenter and it still looks perfect!

Now, I'm not suggesting you go out and build a wall like this next weekend (although let me know if you do)!

We all seem to have a problem area that needs dressing up like some cinder block or a flat stretch of plain wall.

How about covering it with a facade of rocks? You could attach them with plaster or tile adhesives perhaps. Or you could try painting a pattern like this on your cinder block. I'd try it on a small stretch of wall first, just to get the hang of things first.

Any Master Rocksmiths out there? Have you tried something like this?
Let me know, and send me a link if you have photos.


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