Where I lived in town, the backyard was surrounded on three sides by fences, with the house on the only unfenced fourth side. These were the sort of fences that were common in suburban neighborhoods. They kept children and dogs in or out of adjacent gardens, and probably provided some sense of privacy, although I never understood why we all needed such privacy there.
I mean, if I really wanted significant privacy, I would not have lived in town, where the homes and gardens were all so close together. I enjoyed living there, and I enjoyed my neighbors. We could hear some of each others conversations and televisions, but no one seemed to mind. It was worth living in such an excellent neighborhood so close to everything we could want in town.
Years ago, suburban fences were not too obtrusive. They were only about four feet high. Some of the…
Everyone seems to be familiar with radish, Raphanus raphanistrum subspecies sativus. It has been so popular with so many cultures for so long that its origin is now impossible to identify. It likely originated in Southeastern Asia at least two thousand years ago. After so many centuries, it has become remarkably variable in regard to flavor, form and color.
Radish are generally cool season root vegetables, although their foliage and flowers are also edible. They can be red, pink, purple, yellow, green, black or white, with white flesh. Their form might be almost spherical, cylindrical or tapered like a carrot. Small types are only about an inch to three inches long. Some daikon radish can get as long as two feet!
Because radish are typically smaller than most other root vegetables, they mature faster. Therefore, their seed can get started in their garden slightly later. If they mature too soon, warmth may cause them to bolt, which ruins their flavor and texture. Subsequent phases extend production, by resuming production as previous phases exhaust their production.
September began with the warmest weather of the year. Such weather is not uncommon for late summer here. It can happen as late as early autumn. Still, it can be disconcerting while weather should be cooling. Cool season vegetable plants that are technically now seasonable dislike such warmth. Cole vegetables are particularly responsive to weather.
Cole vegetables are within the Cruciferae family, which is alternatively the Brassicaceae family. They therefore also classify as crucifers or brassicas. They include various forms of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, collard, kale, kohlrabi, mustard, turnip, radish, arugula, rutabaga and Brussels sprouts. As variable as they are, several are of the same species.
Broccoli and cauliflower are floral vegetables, since their primary edible parts are bloom. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard, kale, arugula, mustard greens and turnip greens are foliar. Turnip, radish and rutabaga are roots. Kohlrabi is a distended stem. Mustard seed, which is a seasoning instead of a vegetable, is the only common fruiting cole vegetable.
Therefore, unlike most warm season vegetables, cole vegetables should not fruit or go to seed. Broccoli and cauliflower only begin to bloom, but do not finish prior to harvest. This is why most cole vegetables are cool season vegetables here. Warmth stimulates bolting and bloom, which ruins flavor and palatability. Cool weather prolongs vegetative growth.
Contrary to the implications of recent weather, cool season vegetables, including several cole vegetables, are seasonable. This is the time to sow seed for turnip, radish, rutabaga and other cool season root vegetables directly into the garden. Transplant of seedlings is disfiguring to roots. Weather should be cooler by the time new seedlings start to develop.
Arugula, turnip greens, mustard greens, collard, kale and kohlrabi likewise develop most efficiently from seed. However, transplanted seedlings can be adequately productive too. Because only a few broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants are likely sufficient, cell pack seedlings are likely more practical than seed. Since they are already growing, they can get planted a bit later.
Just to be clear, I earned the title of Johnny Appleseed before my colleague Brent Green did. While Brent was secretive about our tree planting projects in Los Angeles, I was not so about our similar projects in Los Gatos. While Brent’s neighbors wondered where their new street trees were coming from, mine read about their new park trees in the Los Gatos Weekly Times.
In fact, the exposure from that article is how I started my weekly gardening column in the same newspaper just a few months later, in October of 1998. Los Gatos is a smaller town than Los Angeles is. Secrecy was not an option. Sadly, our projects in Los Gatos, and then in Scott’s Valley, did not continue. We concentrated our urban tree planting efforts in Mid City Los Angeles.
The tree planting projects that I am referring to are our Birthday Trees that I wrote…
Wildlife is a topic that is notably lacking from my articles. I mention only that which must be ‘escorted’ out of the landscapes, like Halston Junior. Gophers, racoons, squirrels, rats, skunks, mice, opossums, rabbits, deer, mountain lions, coyotes, rattlesnakes, turkeys, geese, woodpeckers, jays, crows, bees, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and feral boars can potentially be problematic.
There are probably at least a few more. This list does not even include bad neighbors or domestic animals. Nor does it include foxes, just because they eat mice, rats and snails, and do not seem to cause any problems. Butterflies and most birds, except those listed, are quite tolerable. Insects and mites that damage plants deserve their own list. I don’t know where ticks fit in.
Most unwelcome wildlife at least tries to stay out of my way. Others seem to make sport of antagonizing me. Skunks try to be friendly; but I…
‘Lily’ is such a vague designation. So many of the popular flowers that are known as ‘lily’ are not even remotely related to real lilies, which are of the genus Lilium. It is no wonder that many of them are confused about their obligations to the gardens that they inhabit. Some bloom unseasonably. Some develop unusual floral or foliar color. Their confusion can be contagious to flowers that are not even classified as lilies, such as #3 of these Six. Fortunately, the weird behavior of these flowers that live in denial of their true identities has been harmlessly and undeniably delightful. Such aberration is how new cultivars are sometimes discovered.
1. Lily of the Nile is in denial of its bloom season. After all others have been deadheaded, this one continues to bloom. It should be copied if its delayed bloom schedule is genetic.
2. Belladonna lily, or naked lady, followed its lead. Mr. Stephens of Garden Ruminations explained that it may be another variety or species. Other naked ladies have gone seedy.
3. Dahlia is the one of these Six that does not try to be a lily. However, it is trying to be a new color. It was simply yellow last year. Perhaps it got this idea from ‘Cleopatra’ canna.
4. Canna lily, or canna, is trying an unexpected foliar color. Its parent is a bronze Canna musifolia, like the other seedling at the top of the picture. I anticipated genetic stability.
5. ‘Cleopatra’ canna generally, although not always, displays weirdly random red stripes on spotty yellow blooms. It seems to have shared much of its red with the yellow dahlia.
6. ‘Wyoming’ canna bloomed exclusively orange until this richly orangish red appeared. Perhaps ‘Cleopatra’ of the Nile was seedier than naked ladies with more than the dahlia.
What a weird tree! Fiddle leaf fig, Ficus lyrata, is an uncommon but familiar large scale houseplant that we might not welcome into our homes if we knew how it behaves where it grows wild in the lower rainforests of Western Africa. Although it can grow upward from the ground like almost all other trees do, it often germinates and begins to grow as an epiphyte, within organic debris that accumulates in the branch unions of other trees. While suspended, it extends roots downward. Once these roots reach the forest floor, they develop into multiple trunks that overwhelm and crush the host tree as they grow.
The bold foliage is typically dark drab green, like the shades of green that were so popular for Buicks in 1970, with prominent pale green veins. Individual leaves are about a foot long and potentially nearly as broad at the distal (outward) ends, often with randomly wavy margins. Like fiddles, they are narrower in the middles, or actually more often narrower at the proximal (inward) ends. When pruning becomes necessary, the caustic sap should be soaked from fresh cuts with paper towels so that it does not drip and stain.
A combination of modern horticultural apathy and too many choices was probably the demise of conformity in home gardens. Formal hedges or even informal screens of several of the same plants are nearly obsolete. Ironically, long and low barrier hedges and so called ‘orchards’ of identical trees planted in regimented rows or grid patterns have become common in large landscapes in public spaces.
Those of us who still crave formal hedges, paired trees or any such symmetry in our home gardens must be more careful with the selection of the plants that need to conform than would have been necessary decades ago when there was less variety to complicate things. It is just too easy to get different varieties of the same plant. Only plants with matching cultivar (cultivated variety) names will necessarily match. (Yet, on rare occasion, even these are inaccurate.) For example, ‘Emerald’ arborvitaes will match other ‘Emerald’ arborvitaes, but will not match ‘Green splendor’ arborvitae, no matter how they resemble each other in the nursery.
Plants that are identified by their characteristics instead of by cultivar name are riskier. Blue lily-of-the-Nile could be any one of many different cultivars with blue flowers. It is therefore best to obtain all lily-of-the-Nile for any matching group from the same group in the same nursery at the same time. What will be available next week may actually be a different variety with a different shade of blue and different foliar characteristics. Nurseries bring stock in from so many different growers.
Adding new plants to replace those that have died within established hedges or streets flanked with the same trees can be particularly difficult, especially if the old varieties are no longer available. The old fashioned yellowish Japanese boxwood that was so common for small hedges in the 1950’s has not been common in nurseries for several decades. Replacement plants are darker green. Some are even compact cultivars or different specie like English boxwood. When lined up and shorn together, they make ‘calico’ hedges.
This is no way to get the dirt on someone. There is no dirt involved. If there were, it would be referred to as ‘soil’. ‘Dirt’ is a term used by those who do not know any better.
Anyway, this is about the media that plants are grown in. It might be called growing media, potting media, potting mix or simply potting soil. Some in the horticultural industries might say that, because it is assembled from a variety of components that do not naturally occur together, growing media is synthetic. Because it lacks real soil, most of us refer to it simply as soilless.
Now, I am aware that not all media are created equal. The medium that we grew citrus in was much sandier than what we grew rhododendrons in. It was purchased already mixed specifically for citrus, and ready for use. The medium for the rhododendrons was mixed…
More than a dozen species of Phlox are native to various ecosystems of California. They are generally uncommon within refined home gardens though. The more popular garden phlox, Phlox paniculata, is native east of Kansas. It naturalizes in some regions, such as the Pacific Northwest. Locally, it might self-sow only where it gets water through summer.
Garden phlox can get as high and wide as three feet. Some modern cultivars should stay a bit more compact. Individual flowers are only about an inch wide, but bloom with many others on dense panicles that are as wide as six inches. This richly fragrant bloom is red, pink, white, pastel orange or pastel purple, and continues for almost a month of summer.
As its potential for naturalization suggests, garden phlox is not particularly demanding. It appreciates good exposure, but can tolerate a bit of partial shade. It enjoys richly organic soil but can survive within soil of mediocre quality if it is not too dense. Regular watering sustains bloom, but established plants can survive with minimal watering after blooming. Propagation by division of large or overgrown plants while dormant through late winter is very easy.