Change Of Scenery

This too is reblogged from more than three years ago.

via Change Of Scenery

Pink Trumpet Tree


This is why I do not often use pictures that my colleague, Brent Green, sends to me. He frequently tells me what I should feature in my gardening column, and sends me what he considers to be good pictures for such topics. This picture would have been good for writing about the sky over Los Angeles, or the neighbors’ driveway, since those are two of the most prominent features here. Where did all the smog go?

Chimneys in Los Angeles seem silly to me. Even if the weather got cool enough for a fire in a fireplace, there is no firewood to burn. The chimney to the far right certainly seems to be original to the house, but how did it survive all the earthquakes since the house was built, probably in the 1940s or 1950s? There have been a few moderate earthquakes since then.

Those signs that warn potential criminals of non-existent home security systems are even sillier, and just cluttering otherwise nice landscapes. There is nothing official looking about them. There are bins of them for sale in the local big box stores. Shouldn’t we all assume that since the home on the left is in Los Angeles, that it is outfitted with home security system that is more impressive than that silly, irrelevant and unwelcoming sign?

I would guess that what Brent really wanted to send a picture of was the big pink trumpet tree, Tabebuia heterophylla. After all, it does happen to be sort of in the middle of the picture. It really was spectacular while blooming late last winter. However, even if Brent had sent a good picture of it, I would not have featured it. Most of those who read my gardening column are not within regions where pink trumpet tree blooms like this.


P80110We are now two days into it. Is it any different than three days ago, the last day of autumn? Not really. Even in harsher climates, the changes from one season to the next are gradual. Like the phases of the moon, the seasons are constantly phasing out of the previous, and into the next. The dates of the first and last days of each season, which are determined by the position of the Earth within its orbit around the sun, are technicalities.
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are of course opposite of what they are here. That seems odd to me. The calendar is the same there as here. It seems obvious to me that winter and all seasons should be determined by the same dates there that they are determined by here. If winter began last Friday here, it should have done the same there, on the the same date. Longer days and warmer weather are consequences of location, south of the Equator. It is hard to imagine that January and February are summer there.
It also seems odd to me that all maps are oriented with North directed towards the top. Shouldn’t South be at the top South of the Equator? Must Australia be the ‘land down under’ to those who live there? Things would be so much simpler if Columbus has just stayed home, and the World was still flat.
Anyway, we do not get much winter here. The weather gets a bit cooler, and we will eventually get more rain. When I went to Oklahoma six years ago, I thought that I would finally get to experience a real winter, but we left just before New Year’s Day, while the weather was still somewhat mild. This little bit of snow was about all we got.

Upgrade Today

P80624This is it; the big day. I will delay it no longer. I said that I would upgrade quite some time ago, but had not yet done so.

Will this upgrade improve anything? I really do not know. I tried to do a bit of research in regard to the advantages of an upgrade, and could find very little of the information that I was looking for. It seems to me that upgrading will initiate more work for me, but will not necessarily make my articles more accessible or appealing. I will need to make improvements to the presentation of my articles on my own. Upgrading makes these improvements possible, but does not execute improvements without my efforts and direction. Nor does it change the content to improve accuracy for a broader audience. My articles will still be half a year late-or-early for Australia and all other places in the Southern Hemisphere. Harsh summer heat and winter cold will still be topics that will be lacking merely because the climate here lacks such variables. Upgrading can do only so much.

After my minimal research, I determined that the most efficient means by which to determine if an upgrade would be beneficial is to try it.

Something should be done. The newspaper group that I started writing for nearly twenty years ago no longer features my gardening column. Other newspapers that feature it only do so occasionally. Some do it monthly. Some do it when space is available. One of the larger newspapers features it weekly, but only for their online version. It is not easy to justify writing my articles if they are not being distributed like they had been.

By the time you read this, the upgrade will have been initiated. We will see what happens.

25 Yrs

Fiercely Local

P80624There are two terms that I avoid using within the context of my writing:

1. SILICON VALLEY – The name of the main newspaper group that I had been writing for since 1998, almost twenty years ago, is the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers. As much as I enjoyed writing for the small local newspapers of the group, I hate the name. I find the term ‘Silicon Valley’ to be offensive. It exemplifies that which destroyed the idyllic culture and lifestyle of the Santa Clara Valley, which is also known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight. I have never written the term until now.

2. BLOG – It is the contraction of ‘web log’. The ‘log’ in ‘blog’ is not what bother me. It implies a chronological journal, perhaps documenting experiences that are relevant to a designated topic. It is the ‘b’, or more specifically, the ‘web’ in ‘blog’ that is the problem. It implies that information posted on a ‘blog’ gets shared on the World Wide Web. The reason that I avoided sharing my gardening article on the World Wide Web for so long is that they are written very specifically for the Santa Clara Valley. Although some of them are rather universal to gardening, and some are relevant to regions with similar climates and soils, some are not relevant and perhaps inaccurate for other regions.

My gardening column started with the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, which at that time was ‘fiercely local’. I always thought that was an odd term, but it makes sense. It means that each of the local newspapers features news that is relevant to their specified local communities. Los Gatos Weekly Times was for the news of Los Gatos. Saratoga News was for the news of Saratoga, and so on. When I started writing my gardening column, I wrote about gardening within our local climate and local soils. I could write about local gardening events and even the weather it it happened to be particularly relevant to gardening at the time.

As the gardening column was added to other newspapers in other regions, I was no longer able to write about local events or weather. I was very fortunate early on that all of the newspapers that used the column happened to be within the same climate zones. However, when it was added to the Canyon News of Beverly Hills (in the region of Los Angeles), and a bit later to the related San Francisco News, it became necessary to modify some of the articles to accommodate for differences of climate. Articles that were universally applicable needed no modification. However, those that were too specific to our local climate needed to be edited for the other two climates. For example, when writing about bare root fruit trees, I deleted discussion of apple and pear trees from the copy of the article that was sent to the Canyon News, and replaced it with discussion of bare root plants that are popular and appropriate in that particular region.

Over the years, I realized that my articles became too available online. Not only were they posted within the context of the online versions of the newspapers that had access to it, but they could be inadvertently opened from other related online newspaper . . . or just about anywhere. Someone in Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Australia or anywhere in the World could click onto one of my articles just as easily as a local article, and could do so without knowing that it was written for a completely different climate or hemisphere!

I explain in my ‘About’ section that the articles are written for the Santa Clara Valley, but I doubt that means much to those who find the articled without seeing that explanation. I will continue to write my article for the newspapers that still use them, and will continue to post those articles, as well as ‘elaborations’ articles on my ‘blog’. Like so many other gardening articles that are out there nowadays, they will be inaccurate for some regions. Those reading them will need to use their own discretion.

What is sad about all this is that I started writing my garden column precisely because I was so frustrated with what was being published in the San Jose Mercury News at the time. It was typically written quite well, and by professional writers, but was very often very inaccurate because those writing it were either writing for other regions, or simply knew nothing about horticulture. I was so pleased with the opportunity to write accurate information about gardening for our region. Yet, after all these years, I feel like I am now doing exactly what I found to be so frustrating twenty years ago.


P80624.jpgThis autumn, it would have been twenty years that I have been writing my weekly gardening column for the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers, affectionately known as SVCN. It would have been excellent if it had lasted that long, but it was discontinued a few months ago. There was no warning, although we all know the direction that such media is going nowadays, and that such changes are abrupt. Nothing is like it was nearly twenty years ago.

My weekly gardening columns will continue for the other newspapers that still use it, even if they do not use it for their print versions. Again, due to the way such media operates nowadays, I have no idea of which newspapers who have access to it actually use it, or if they use it for their print versions or merely their online versions.

I could elaborate on the history of my garden column and its inclusion into the various other newspapers that continue to use it, but that can just as easily be another topic for another time. Perhaps I will merely put a bit of that information in my ‘About’ section if I ever get around to updating it. I have another topic to discuss now.

I would like to upgrade this blog. I would like to make it as fancy and user-friendly as some of the other blogs that are out there. I know that the last thing I need right now is more work, but I also want to maintain this as an venue for my weekly gardening column, particularly if other newspapers are likely to discontinue using it in the future.

Upgrading will include selling add space, or at least making add space available to advertisers who can use it. Newspapers pay very minimally for my weekly gardening column, and the newspaper group that payed the most for it no longer uses it. Advertisements might help to justify the work that goes into writing a new gardening article weekly. Hopefully, no one will be to bothered by these changes. I have enjoyed writing my weekly gardening column for almost twenty years, and would like to be able to continue doing so for a while longer.


Change Of Scenery


Hollywood is the Capital City of the entertainment industry because there is such a variety of scenery within relatively minimal proximity to Southern California. Before Hollywood, silent movies were made mostly in Niles, located about halfway between San Jose and Oakland, for the same reason. Snowy mountains, foggy forests, arid deserts, idyllic beaches, open prairies, placid lakes, and wild rivers can all be found within only a few hundred miles. California really has it all. The Santa Clara Valley alone has more climate zones than the entire state of Kansas.

I have not moved around California much. I spent a few summers in San Bruno and Montara, went to school in San Luis Obispo, and sometimes work in the Los Angeles area, but otherwise lived in the two adjacent counties of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz, just a short distance from the homes of my ancestors. Los Gatos is actually in both counties. Technically, most of my gardening has been within Sunset Zones 15 and 16. However, my garden in the Santa Cruz Mountains gets more than two feet of rain, which is about twice what the western side of the Santa Clara Valley gets, even though it is in the same zone!

That is not the only difference. Instead of homogeneously rich alluvial Santa Clara Valley soil, I work with a variety of strange soils; sometimes filled with pulverized sandstone, sometimes sand under a thin layer of forest duff. I do not know what I will find until I start to dig. The Santa Cruz Mountains are such that I might have less flat area dispersed over nearly nine mountainside acres than friends in the Valley have on a single flat suburban lot. Much of it is shaded by tall coastal redwoods. The deer in the Mountains eat more than the gardeners in the Valley can steal.

This all makes it very challenging to grow many of the plants that I enjoy so much and acquired from the Santa Clara Valley. Some adapt quite nicely; but many of the most important ones really want to be back in the Valley. The rhubarb from my great grandfather’s garden looks great, but seriously lacks flavor. I just want to keep it going long enough to find a sunnier and warmer spot with richer soil to relocate it to. The two quince trees that were grown from cutting from an old tree in western San Jose seem to be fine, but much of the fruit gets taken away by rodents before it develops.

Then there are the fig trees. There are fourteen of them! About half are copies of the first fig trees I ever met when I was a kid. Some are black figs. Some are white. I think that only one is a honey fig. They are all very important to me. I am very fortunate to be able to grow them. However, like the rhubarb, they need a sunnier and warmer spot. If they make any fruit at all, it is bland and pithy. My objective with them now is to grow them in the cool and partly shaded spot where they are presently located so that they can provide cuttings to plant when a better situations becomes available. In that regard, they are actually doing just fine!

I really wish I could do my gardening in the Santa Clara Valley; but if I had to do it the other way around, it would be just as difficult. I mean that if I had a big garden in the Santa Clara Valley, and had to give up gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains, many of my favorite plants would not like the transition. The Mountain grown apples that I have always taken for granted would never be as happy in the Valley. Neither would Douglas firs or bigleaf maples. Redwoods are common in the Valley, but are not the same as they are in their natural range. There’s no place like home.