Friday, February 27, 2009

Flowering Plum Tree Resurrection Story of Hope for Friday Floral

There's a bit of a comeback story going on in my back yard.  

There was an ancient plum tree here when I moved in.  I don't know the name, but I know it has wonderful, sweet plums with dark purple skins and bright creamy yellow flesh.  It's probably an older variety.  

The plums taste best when they ripen on the tree, otherwise the skins taste bitter plus they don't keep long on the kitchen counter.  But I don't care.  They taste wonderful and I await the few-week window in the summer when I'm happy to have them and share them with my neighbors. 

I keep meaning to learn how to can so I can make jelly with them, but they get eaten pretty fast.

Anyway, this tree was half dead two years ago. Now as Miracle Max (Billy Crystal) in The Princess Bride would say, it is "mostly dead".  The dead parts have even become home to a family of termites.  I read that termites only eat the dead wood so I look the other way.  The branches are peeling with big holes in the wood.  Every once in a while huge branches break off in my hand when I trim off dead parts.  

I've tried to make its golden years as comfortable as possible.  I just can't bear to cut it down until it's really done.  When it loses its leaves in the fall, I thank it for all the wonderful fruit and sadly bid it goodnight, wondering if it will be back in the spring.

Well, this week the plum has astounded me with a branch of pretty white flowers.  

One branch.  

I am thrilled to see my old friend return for another year.  And I try to take a little hope from this dear old tree.  These will be my favorite flowers for the year, as they say; a flower that blooms in adversity is the most beautiful of all.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Peach Flavored Roses With Raindrops For Friday Floral

OK, they don't really taste like peaches, they're just peachy in color, and they really smell like roses.  The rain stopped just long enough for me to take this photo of my blooming rose.  It's peach or salmon colored.  I can't find the tag in the mud so we'll have to remain in suspense as to its name. 

I've made a point of planting roses first for their fragrance and then for the color.  I knew a pastel peach would make color matching dicey.  I planted it next to a bright yellow rose and the two make a nice bouquet (when they're blooming at the same time.)  This pastel orange color also looks pretty with lavender flowers or anything white.  Now that I think of it, I'll have to try these roses in an arrangement with my Peace Rose and see how they look.

Another clue to this rose's identity is the blooming habit.  It never seems to get that perfect arrangement of petals unfolding.  There's either a double center or something else going on in center of the rose.  Kind of a fun little quirk.  I'm thinking of turning this rose into a poster or note card.  Let me know what you think.

And feel free to add your guess as to the name of this rose.  We have more rain in the forecast (yay) so it'll take me a few days to unearth the name tag.


Friday, February 6, 2009

An Orange Blossoms And Oranges Postcard From California For Friday Floral


I'm sending you some hope that spring really is on the way. It's going to get better and thaw out, and also there's nothing better than a good relationship with your neighbor. 

I'm trying to cheer you up with some orange blossoms and a little guided imagery. 

The flowers are just starting to open on my orange tree. Just look at the photo and try to smell them. Pretend you are standing in the sun. It feels warm on your back as you lean into the orange tree. 

The Santa Anas are making it warm, but not too dusty.  The little fat oval orange buds are popping open and perfuming the air around you.  Breathe.

Better?

The oranges from last year are finally starting to get ripe. Hopefully I've gotten them safely through the frost season here. We'll have to cut one open later and see.

Here's a story I found about neighbors helping each other. Hopefully that will cheer you up too. It's about an Amish family in Kentucky who took care of his neighbors after the Ice Storm. So, wave at one of your neighbors today too.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to Buy Teak or Other Forest Products; First Read The Free Greenpeace Good Wood Guide

I found a great garden resource I'd like to share with you all.  It is for anyone who is shopping for indoor or outdoor patio furniture this summer and more to the point, anyone who likes breathing air on this planet.  It's by our Australia Pacific Greenpeace pals, called The Good Wood Guide and lets you look up almost any wood or wood product to see if it is environmentally responsible or not.  If you are in the market to enhance your outdoor space with fine wood, I'd check their list first.

You can do your search either by species or product.  On the species side they answer the questions; Is This  A Good Wood? Alternatives, Color, Uses Of The Wood, Properties (helpful for comparing), County Of Origin and the trees' Threat in Natural Habitat.

It also cuts through a lot of the snake oil out there.  I suppose you can thank the Teak Industry for my gardening rant.  I keep getting emals from sellers who want to link to my website and of course, want me to link to them.   Aside from the spam factor, it's even more irritating because I know they haven't  bothered to read my website.  If they had they'd see I take a dim view of environmental irresponsibility like food irradiation, have a tendency towards organic insecticide recipes and have drawn the ire (and snake oil) of Frankenfood manufacturers in Australia for defending organic gardener Prince Charles's bashing of GM food.  PS Calling my organic compadres in Australia for comments section btw.

It's all part of their blitz to convince you it's OK to buy certain types of wood regardless of the true cost.  For example, I see 1,300 articles on a popular ezine site touting the benefits of using teak wood outdoors.  All are carefully keyworded and phrased to stroke your ego.  Only Greenpeace will tell you that you have a 50/50 chance of buying responsible teak.  That means the other 50% of the teak you buy is probably harvested illegally, possibly by using slave or political prisoner labor.

Under "Threat In Natural Habitat" Greenpeace reports; "Burma is the only country that still exports teak from natural forests. Between 1999 and 2000 over half the teak exported from Burma was logged illegally. The sale of teak is a key source of foreign currency for Burma's military dictatorship."

Which begs the Bigger-Picture question:  do I really have to plop my fat sweaty hide down on part of a teak tree anyway? ….to sit and stare at my trees?  It's not that I am anti-wood.  I am pro Good Wood.  I think pine is fine.  I suppose if I were restoring a ship or an antique piano, I'd be in the market for a little teak or mahogany.  But as far as new stuff goes, especially in my garden it's either some kind of plastic (hopefully recycled) or pine (which I wind up painting anyway) or wood scraps I've kept from my shrub and tree pruning.  But I digress.

There are two Hot-Button Tree issues not addressed in The Guide.  The closest to my native Californian heart is my State Tree; the California Redwood.  Um, no technically they aren't endangered but neither are certain Fur Trade animals like those baby seals.  By focusing on the redwoods alone we are literally missing the forest for the trees.

Redwoods form the backbone of the forest. Several endangered species and entire ecosystems are built around the redwoods.  The tallest living thing on Earth is Hyperion, a redwood tree, measuring at 115.55 m (379.1 feet) in Redwood National Park.  To read more about our old growth redwood forests and efforts to save them visit The Nature Conservancy.

These magical redwood photos are courtesy of Michael Schweppe on flickr, go see all of his enchanted photos.

Another State Tree being loved to death by it's own state is the cypress and the clearcutting of Louisiana cypress for mulch.  Cypress isn't endangered either, but the coastal areas need those stands of cypress to help buffer the inland areas from storms.  SaveOurCypress.org is working to get Big Retail like Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowes to stop carrying things like "no float" cypress products.  Check your own local stores and their website to see how you can help.

Here are a few photos from basinkeeper.org of a Kingfisher on a cypress stump in the Atchafalaya Basin, and a bag of that nice mulch on a dead stump.

According to SaveOurCypress.org:

Though Louisiana's wetlands face serious threats from coastal land loss and development, widespread clear cutting of cypress forests is also a very imminent danger.  In the past cypress mulch used to be a by-product of lumber mills. This is no longer true. The mulch purchased today comes from wide spread clear cutting of entire eco systems.  Loggers are operating with little to no oversight. No state laws exist to protect Louisiana's state tree; some that are more than 1,000 years old.  A mixed message: State and Federal Officials are asking our nation for billions of dollars to restore Louisiana's coast. However, it's not clear whether our cypress forests, which help to combat coastal erosion, are adequately protected from logging under current state and federal laws.  Read more and find great mulch alternatives (like compost or leaves) at SaveOurCypress.org.



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