Chrysanthemum is famously diverse and colorful.

Chrysanthemum compensates for its lack of fragrance with rich color and variable form. Centuries of breeding have produced countless shades and tints within the yellow, orange and red range. This includes pink as a tint of red, cream as a tint of yellow, and bronze as a shade of orange. Some reds and pinks are precariously close to purple or lavender. There is, of course, white as well.

Flowers may be solitary big pom-poms, multiple small buttons, or anything in between. Many are daisy types, mostly with bright yellow centers. Spider chrysanthemums have strangely elongated and hooked ray florets, which are generally thought of as ‘petals’. Some chrysanthemums that would otherwise bloom with many small flowers can be groomed to bloom with fewer bigger flowers.

Chrysanthemums with compact growth and uniform bloom are popular as short term annuals for autumn. Their primary bloom phase is impressively profuse. Unfortunately, few get an opportunity to bloom again. Other cool season annuals replace most of them for winter. In ideal situation, with rich media and regular watering, chrysanthemums can actually perform as short term perennials.


Tony Tomeo

70927lthumbsparePerhaps I should see this movie. I hear that it is pretty lame. I sort of wanted to see it because it was filmed in Cambria, about thirty miles to the northwest of where Brent and I were in our last year of studying horticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo at the time. Yet, I never select movies. I always leave that up to whomever I am seeing the particular movie with. None of my friends ever wanted to see Arachnophobia. The one friend who you would think would want to see it because of where and when it was filmed wanted nothing to do with it. You see, Brent, the famous horticulturist and landscape designer who works outside where spiders live, is afflicted with Arachnophobia.

About a year before the filming of Arachnophobia began, in early 1988, Brent lived in Sequoia Hall at Cal Poly to the…

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Tony Tomeo


GREEN – Greening Residential Environments Empowering Neighborhoods – allocates resources, procured from both municipal funding and private donations, to the installation, maintenance and protection of trees in public spaces within the collective urban forest of Los Angeles, and to the enforcement of environmental justice.

How is that for a mission statement?

It is no coincidence that GREEN is also Brent’s last name. He is quite vain. Really though, it works.

Brent has been planting street trees since we were in school in the 1980s, and did his first big project of thirty trees in the median of San Vicente Boulevard on his thirtieth birthday in 1998. This January, twenty years later, he will be planting fifty more trees.

Here and there, I will be writing more articles about these projects. They are too involved to write just one article about. For now, I would like to mention the Facebook page…

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Articles such as this one from three years ago are why I now typically write to comply with the ‘Horridculture’ theme on Wednesdays.

Tony Tomeo

P71104Gardening is not for everyone. If you are reading this, you probably enjoy gardening. There are many more people who simply are not interested in it. Some tend to their own gardens in a basic manner just to keep their homes looking good. Most hire gardeners to maintain their landscapes for them.

I use the term ‘maintain’ very lightly. What they really do is keep the lawn from getting too deep, and other plants from getting too overgrown. Very few really care how they accomplish these basic requirements.

I could go into the detail about how they brag about saving water while wasting enough to drown trees, or how they shear everything within reach into nondescript . . . whatever they get shorn into, or how most problems that arborists encounter in their work are caused by gardeners. Instead, I am just gong to talk briefly about two examples of…

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Tony Tomeo

P71029+Remember the movie from 1988? I don’t either. I never saw it. Gang violence is not my idea of a good time. The title ‘Colors’ refers to the use of distinguishing colors by the gangs of Los Angeles. Gang members wear colors that correspond to their respective gang affiliation.

As autumn progresses, some of us get to gloat about our colors. New England gets the most and best colors, with a full range of reds, oranges and yellows, as well as browns and burgundies. The Appalachian Mountains to the south seem to go lighter on the reds and burgundies, concentrating more on oranges. The upper Midwest around Minnesota excels at the rich reds, with yellows confined to groves of cottonwoods. The lower Midwest does well with clear browns alternating with yellows, and even some oranges. The Rocky Mountains have a good range of color, with more gold than the Appalachians…

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My Tiny Downtown Garden

Tony Tomeo

P71105Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue are the two main streets of downtown Los Gatos. They are the main shopping district, and the part of town that everyone sees. As much as things have changed, a bit of the familiar remains. Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe is still next door to the (rebuilt) Los Gatos Cinema. The brick La Canada Building miraculously survived the Earthquake. The simple deco Park Vista Building across the street is just as elegant now as it was a century ago. There are still concerts in the Town Plaza in summertime, shaded by the Town Christmas Tree that gets lit up in December.

Both Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue are outfitted with big planter boxes that give the downtown a more relaxed and colorful ambiance. Each planter is elevated about a foot and a half, and contains one or two Indian hawthorn trees. A low wrought iron…

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Moss Rose

Moss rose can bloom until frost.

The recent unseasonably warm weather was no problem for any remaining moss rose, Portulaca grandiflora. They usually start to look rather tired as the weather gets cooler this time of year, and eventually succumb to the first frost. Where allowed to do so, they can regenerate next year from seed. I like to collect their seed during the summer or autumn so that I can sow them after the last frost of the following winter. Through spring and summer, I find that additional plants are easy to grow from cuttings.

The inch wide flowers are white, pink, red, orange or yellow, with only a few ruffled petals. Modern varieties that have rufflier ‘double’ flowers and richer colors still seem to be less popular than the more delicate traditional types. The cylindrical and succulent leaves are only about an inch long. The small plants can get more than six inches deep where they are happy or crowded. Moss rose likes good exposure and decent soil, but does not need the rich soil that most other annuals demand. Nor does it necessarily need such regular watering.


As I have been recycling old articles such as this one for the past several weeks, it has been difficult to conform to the ‘Horridculture’ theme on Wednesdays. I will resume the tradition as I eventually resume writing new articles.

Tony Tomeo

P71027Heating homes has certainly changed. It has gotten much more efficient and less polluting. Homes are much better insulated than they were only a few decades ago. Heating systems use much less fuel, and produce much cleaner exhaust. That is partly how more than a million people who live in San Jose now make less smog than when there were half as many.

The unfortunate part of that efficiency is the decline in popularity of traditional fireplaces and stoves. Burning wood is now politically incorrect, and at times, even illegal. ‘Spare the air’ days are strictly enforced when air quality gets unpleasant.

In San Jose, building codes do not allow fireplaces to be build into new homes. Only homes that were build with fireplaces or stoves prior to the ordinance are outfitted with them. Fireplaces that are damaged by earthquakes are often removed instead of repaired.

Tending a fire does…

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Anatomically Correct Horticulture

Tony Tomeo

P71026Certain fruits and vegetables were so much more palatable before studying botany. Knowing what they really are sort of puts a damper on things.

Real fruits, including those known as vegetables, are no problem. We all know what they are, and they have the seeds to prove it. Just like flowers reward pollinators with nectar, many plants use fruit to get animals and people to disperse their seeds. Therefore, the fruit is designed to be eaten.

The majority of vegetables are fine too. It seems natural to eat leaves, stems, roots and even flowers. Things get a bit weird with petioles of rhubarb, celery and cardoon, since the leaves are not eaten. Cinnamon bark and saffron stamens also seems a bit odd. What about maple syrup? Is it a vegetable too?

Then there are fruits and vegetables that are not what we think they are.

You will never look at…

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Tony Tomeo

P71022Before you send me a comment about it, I am already aware that this is a very bad picture. It was taken with my primitive telephone because it was convenient at the time. This tired looking butterfly might not have waited for me to get the camera. It passed away, seemingly peacefully, right there on the hood of the old Chevrolet. It did not seem to be injured in any way. It probably simply expired like butterflies do after breeding. It is a natural process that the butterfly did not seem to be too distressed about. It gets no obituary because I am not qualified to write one. We are not sufficiently acquainted. I do not even know the specie of this butterfly.

Now that he or she is deceased, I ponder the beauty of these insects. They are so graceful and very colorful. They flutter about like animated flowers…

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