Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mmmmmm, slugs are tasty

*Sigh.* Meet my hero, the humble California Towhee that scratches under my leaf litter and eats slugs and other superfluous invertebrates. After that I get to hear him splashing in the birdbath and off he flies. Daily ritual, all day long. Towhee, on behalf of my dahlias and seedlings I thank you. Mind you, this is not the actual bird. My guy was too busy to pose.
(photo credit Stephen Lea, taken in Berkeley, CA)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

'Margaret Long' falls off a log

That's about how easy it is to propagate. A couple of months ago I started off with one nasturtium 'Margaret Long' that I purchased from Annie's Annuals & Perennials in Richmond (I go to the nursery in person for the swoon factor) and now I have five baby plants, nicely rooted and one mama plant with the misshapen botanical equivalent of stretch marks. Wouldn't you sag like that if you'd given birth to quintuplets?

I did an online search first to see if the plant was under patent and could find nothing. 'Margaret Long' first appeared in an Irish garden as a sport of the double red nasturtium 'Hermine Grashof' back in the '70's, so the 20 year patent limit has come and gone. Neither of these nasturtiums set seed, so cuttings it is. I could not rationalize spending over sixty dollars for six easy-to-root plants. So Annie (who rocks the gardening world, by the way) got my first wad of dough and I am high on 'Margaret.'
My experience has been if you want to propagate nasturtiums from cuttings, just stick them into wet potting soil and you'll have roots enough to plant out in about two to three weeks.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Little Shop of Horrors - part 2

This is what the centaurea macrocephala shown in a previous post has turned into. It's big, it attracts aphids (which my jillions of ladybugs devour) and the brown bracts that form prior to the bloom look oddly like little dead artichokes. I'm curious to see if any of these buds will bloom simultaneously so that the plant looks less weird. I've already changed my mind about using it as a cut flower. If it doesn't evolve, off with its macrocephala. I'll post its progress.

Crop circles

So, I went trotting outside early morning a couple of days ago to admire the catmint and bask in the sound of buzzing bees (they're baaack) and found this, one of the plants completely flattened, with the stems radiating out from the crown: bizarre, symmetrical, very crop circle-ish. Initially there was no other evidence and I had not been abducted onto an alien medical spacecraft during the night. Maybe it was a defective catmint and could not hold the weight of its blooms? Nay. It was an alien, alright, who belongs to no-one and roams the neighborhood. Finally I saw the culprit slink away from under the 'Graham Thomas' rose (very thorny, he's safe there). He moved too fast for me to get a photo, therefore....

...I'll have to substitute a shot of Gino, so you can get an idea of the deceptive form these aliens take. They even sometimes ruthlessly send their young (not related to Gino)...
...which you see here on my niece Kanishia's shoulder making itself as appealing as possible to trick her into thinking he's a real cat. I see a future catmint flattener with some serious aaaahhhhh factor going on.
It's all OK, though, because the plant in question was Jeffy's favorite, so it must smell especially nice. There are many more catmints in the garden, standing tall and putting out bloom like there's no tomorrow.

(please spay and neuter pets)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Margaret's Rose

Rosa 'Tequila' - first of the the season, posted in memory of Margaret, who died yesterday.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Saved from the shovel

Lobelia laxifolia, offsets obtained before the gardener at a local business dug it out of their perennial border. I had no idea what it was at the time but it was a splendid affair, growing fountain-like, lush, over five feet tall and smothered in the blossoms you see here. My little guy in the photo is only about 10 inches tall but I have great hopes based on parent plant.
(How about that lovely exposed irrigation pipe? I'm working on it, really I am.)

Waking up

The garden is starting to stretch and yawn a little and wake up slowly. It was stinkin' hot today and a few things wilted so I was out there in shorts and work boots with the hose. I have drip irrigation but the clock isn't working so my plan is to flush the system and make periodic water settings like all good farmers should.

A little bit of color is starting to push. My soil is rich and loamy so I have big poppy plants with few flowers.

Little shop of horrors! The photo is a tad fuzzy but the thing was lunging and snarling at me so I couldn't get a clear shot (Centaurea macrocephala). This is its third spring in the ground and it's the first year I'll get bloom. If you live in a rural or boggy area avoid this plant as it can be invasive. I plan to use this one for cut flowers so it will get whacked back before going to seed. By the way, this photo shows only a small portion of the plant; it's at least 3 feet wide, and covered with buds. Creepy, scary buds

The catmint started blooming a couple of days ago, but sadly very few honey bees are visiting, numbers perhaps reduced by colony collapse. I am, however, seeing carpenter, bumble, and orchard mason bees.