Edelweiss – Fail

‘Small and white, clean and bright’? They only got as far as ‘small’ and ‘clean’, but did not get to ‘white’ and ‘bright’.

Edelweiss, edelweiss, every morning you greet me. Small and white, clean and bright, you look happy to meet me. Blossom of snow, may you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever. Edelweiss, edelweiss, bless my homeland forever.”

Why are there no corny songs like this about California poppy?

Although I never met edelweiss before, I always thought that it must be quite excellent. Those who are familiar with it where it grows wild in European mountains seem to believe so. It does not look like much in pictures, so must be much more impressive if experienced directly.

A colleague here who met it directly in Austria decided to grow some, and easily procured seed online. The seed was chilled in a freezer to simulate winter in the Alps, and sown just prior to the last of the rain as winter ended. They germinated, and the seedlings started to grow, but then mildewed. The potting soil that they were in was likely too rich and too damp.

After all, edelweiss naturally lives in limestone scree, where the climate is harsh. Such environments are less than hospitable to fungal pathogens that cause mildew. Rich and well watered medium that would be considered to be a good situation for so many other seedlings may not be what edelweiss seedlings are comfortable with.

There are already plans to try edelweiss again next year. Seed might get sown in sandier medium, and a bit later in the year, so that they are not so regularly dampened by rain. If they survive beyond their seedling stage, they will likely become more resilient as they get established in an appropriate landscape. There are a few situations here where sandy soil drains well.

Perhaps I will eventually experience edelweiss, and see what all the fuss is about.

Horridculture – Dust Bowl

Cimarron County in 1940 or the road out back last Wednesday?


In a commotion that an Okie would flee from, the road out back got blown last week. What a mess! Dust was everywhere, and I mean, except for the road from which it was blown, it went ‘everywhere’. The engines of the two blowers at full throttle echoed loudly against pavement, the cinder block and metallic walls of the industrial buildings, and under the broad eaves above.

Fortunately, no one else was here to be bothered by it. Actually, no one would have been as bothered by it as we were by the crud that was on the road prior to getting blown. We know that blowing is sometimes necessary. There are only a few windows on the industrial buildings, and they were all closed. The few vehicles that happened to be parked nearby were already dirty.

Where I lived in town many years ago, the apartment buildings to the north and south were ‘maintained’ by so-called mow-blow-and-go ‘gardeners’. The building to the south lacked a lawn, but there was plenty of shrubbery there to be destroyed, even though the name of the technique does not rhyme with the rest of the routine. For both buildings, blowing dust was extreme.

There was no attempt to be tactful about it. The so-called ‘gardeners’ operated their blowers very loudly at full throttle, with no regard for where all the crud went from the pavement. Much of it went onto cars in the carports. Much went into the washrooms. Almost monthly, I needed to ignite the blown out pilot for the water heater in the washroom of the building to the north.

Both back corners of my garden were paved. There was a small paved laundry yard to the north, and a small paved trash yard to the south. The so-called ‘gardeners’ on both sides removed the kickboards from below the rear panels of those dreadful fences that I disliked so much, and blew the detritus from the neighboring properties into may back yard as if I would not notice.

When I replaced the kickboards, the so-called ‘gardeners’ broke pieces of them out, and continued with their technique. There was not much detritus from pavement that got blown weekly, but it was enough for me to collect and show to the property management of the adjacent apartments. It put the ‘go’ in ‘mow-blow-and-go’. It was the same technique only a few years apart.

As necessary as they are, and even though they can be used properly and tactfully, blowers still annoy me. The noise, the dust, and the seemingly innate disregard for others are not justified by their efficiency. I have used them, so I know that a practical degree of tact does not compromise efficiency. They exemplify the worst of what a formerly respectable industry has become.

Horridculture – Plastic Is Forever

Ah, the memories.

Horticulturists are environmentalists by definition. Whether we grow horticultural commodities, install such commodities into landscape, maintain such landscapes and associated trees, or design such landscapes, the vegetation that we work with affects the environment. Many of us should take our innately significant environmental responsibilities more seriously than we do.

We should also be realistic about our environmentalism. For example, there is no problem with designing a landscape that attracts butterflies for a client who enjoys butterflies in the garden. However, we should not promote butterfly gardening as something that benefits the environment and ecosystem by distracting insects from native flowers that rely on them for pollination.

I have never been one of ‘those’ extreme environmentalists. I do not want to save all vegetation. Some trees are too hazardous to those in the landscape below. Some exotic species are too aggressively invasive within a natural ecosystem, and therefore detrimental to the environment. Planting a proper tree where it will be an asset is fun; but too many trees obscure sunlight.

Fake environmentalism made good environmentalism look bad, and is contrary to it. Associated sustainability has become a cheap fad to capitalize on. Sustainably grown produce is pointless relative to the fuel necessary to transport what is grown in remote places, and all the plastic that it gets wrapped in. The volume of plastic needed to make sustainability possible is baffling.

Our compost is not the best, but it is adequately composted. Except for eggshells, the only recognizable bits are non-biodegradable plastics that mistakenly got mixed in, such as small bits of cellophane from the cafeteria kitchens. The most prominently abundant are these small stickers that were originally affixed to individual and mostly sustainably grown fruits and vegetables.

Are so many bits of non-biodegradable plastic so necessary to demonstrate sustainability and environmentalism?

Nature Gets Too Much Credit

So much of nature is unnatural.

Vegetation make people feel closer to nature. It is, after all, what most of us expect to see out in the wild. Most vegetation that is observed in forests and undeveloped areas really is natural. Much of the associated insects and wildlife are natural as well. Such flora and fauna know how to survive within their respective ecosystems. They can not rely on any unnatural intervention from anyone.

Naturalized exotic (non-native) species proliferate only because they are adapted to similar environmental conditions. A lack of pathogens that afflicted them within their natural ranges is a major advantage for most of them. Nonetheless, they are unnatural components of what is commonly considered to be nature. Most naturalized exotic species actually interfere significantly with nature.

Vegetation and associated wildlife that inhabits synthetic landscapes is very different from that which lives out in nature. Only some of the vegetation has potential to naturalize. Even less is native. Almost all of it is reliant on artificial intervention for survival, particularly irrigation. Associated wildlife is reliant on the survival of the reliant vegetation. Landscapes accommodate. Nature does not.

With few exceptions, landscapes that emulate nature are impractical. Landscapes within forests are some of those few exceptions that might need no more than what the forests provide. Even in such situations, combustible vegetation and structurally deficient trees should be cleared away from homes. In California, nature is innately combustible. It is messy and potentially dangerous too.

Most urban landscapes of California would still be dreadfully bleak if limited to natural components. Both San Jose and Los Angeles are naturally chaparral regions. They were formerly inhabited by sparsely dispersed trees on scrubby grasslands. Now, relatively abundant vegetation in both regions is more appealing, and improves urban lifestyles, but is nothing like what nature intended.

Nature is simply inadequate for what is expected of urban landscapes of California.

California Is A Big Place

There are all kinds of natives.

California is a big place, with more environmental diversity than any other state and most other countries. It includes rainy and cool forests of Del Norte County, and dry and hot deserts of Imperial County. The snowy mountains of Placer County and the mild coastal plains of Los Angeles County are here too. There are hundreds of miles of sandy beaches and big fertile valleys.

Consequently, plants that are native to California are just as diverse. Many that are very well adapted to the environments that they naturally live in are not so well adapted to other environments that may be only a few miles away. They really do not want to go to some of the more divergent climates in other regions.

Coastal redwood that is so happy within its natural range on the foggy western slopes of the coast ranges to the north are not so happy on the drier eastern slopes of the same ranges. It probably would not survive for long in the Mojave Desert. California fan palm from the hot and arid region of Palm Springs languishes on the damp and cool western edge of San Francisco.

Most of the popular California native plants are popular because they do not need much water, if they need any at all. However, some are as unhappy with local climate conditions as exotic plants from other continents are. For example, few plants tolerate drought as well as Joshua tree does. Yet, Joshua tree is likely to grow fast and then rot because winters are too damp for them locally.

Of all the excellent plants that are native to California, the most excellent for local gardens are either the few plants that are native to the local region, or the many others that are native to similar regions. They do not need cold Sierra Nevada Winters, hot Death Valley summers, Mojave Desert aridity or San Francisco fog. They are right at home here.

Even natives need some help adapting to a new garden. Confining their roots to cans while they grow in nurseries is very unnatural for them. Once planted, they will need to be watered while their roots disperse enough to survive on rainfall, or with minimal watering.

Horridculture – ?!

This is how appreciated camellias bloom.

I seriously can not think of a title for this one. All that comes to mind is too objectionable. Writing about it will not be much easier.

It began with a few mature camellias that were in need of grooming a few months ago. They were sufficiently shabby that I did not mind pruning them at the wrong time. Ultimately, almost all of what was groomed out was necrotic anyway, so did not compromise bloom significantly. I was pleased that the eventual bloom would be better presented against a neater background.

Then, I was informed that several of the same camellias would need to be removed to facilitate the installation of a new sidewalk. That would have been useful information before I put such meticulous effort into grooming them. It was briefly annoying; but I did not fret long. I planned to recycle the camellias, and realized that I would have groomed them in the process anyway.

At the time, there was no rush. I thought that the camellias would get to bloom prior to relocation. In the meantime, someone else removed a rotting madrone stump nearby. I thinned and groomed a sloppy filbert into an impressively tailored specimen. Immediate relocation of the camellias was not yet a priority. We had not even identified the precise location of the sidewalk.

Then, there was another disappointment. The project was unexpectedly scheduled immediately after another nearby project that would be completed in only a few days. It would have been more expensive for the crew to leave after finishing the primary project, and then return for the secondary project. I might salvage the camellias, but I knew I could not salvage their bloom.

That is not the worst of it. After planning to relocate the five or so offending camellias on Wednesday or Thursday, I was informed on Tuesday morning that three had already been removed by the backhoe operator who had removed old concrete pavement from the other nearby project. By removed, I mean they got torn mercilessly from the ground and completely destroyed.

One of two relocated camellias demonstrates how mature the three that were needlessly destroyed were, although they were not so broad. That is a shovel handle in front.

No other excavation was done. Asphalt pavement and a curb that need to be removed remain intact. The unwanted ivy is just as unwanted and intact as it was before this weird incident, as if nothing happened. The craters where the camellias got gouged out are barely visible. The only other damage was the mutilation of my well groomed filbert, which was not even in the way.

It was as if the camellias were targeted. Two survived only because someone arrived on site to stop the backhoe operator from destroying them also. There was no regard for any associated subterranean infrastructure, such as an irrigation system and electrical landscape lighting. I suspect that the filbert was mangled just because it was too close to one of the targeted camellias.

I tried to conceal my anger as I frantically relocated the two surviving camellias, while the backhoe operator who so needlessly and blatantly destroyed the other three worked with the crew at the other project just a few yards away. I tried to convince myself that the incident was merely an honest mistake. I doubt that the backhoe operator intentionally targeted the camellias.

As I finished, and was calmly leaving the site, something happened that made me realize that perhaps some of my anger was not completely unfounded. I still do not believe that the backhoe operator was intentionally malicious. I realized instead that the backhoe operator, regardless of his intentions, should most certainly not be operating such potentially dangerous machinery.

From where the crew was taking a break, and the backhoe operator seemed to be enjoying a cigarette, a voluminous and aromatic cloud of marijuana smoke drifted to where I could smell it.

What these guys do prior to or after work is none of my business, as long as it does not compromise their safety or rationality. If someone wants to go off and use their so-called medication in private during the day, he should do so discretely and moderately. Someone who can generate such a voluminous cloud of smoke with no regard to what others think about it has a problem.

Someone took the initiative to destroy my formerly well tailored filbert, but not to remove the carcass. I could have left it to regenerate, but I do not want to look at it anymore.

Felton League


When I started posting my weekly gardening articles here, along with a few other odds and ends, I reserved the right to occasionally post articles or information that is not directly related to horticulture. I do not do it often, but I will do it now, in order to briefly explain another blog that I started today.
Felton League
It will feature articles and insight about the distinguished small group of displaced or socially marginalized people and their friends in Felton in California. In other words, it will be about our homeless Community.
In about 2013, at a time when the homeless were more openly persecuted and assaulted, and evenly violently attacked, Felton League began as an informational forum on Facebook. We had been discouraged by the portrayal of the homeless in other so-called ‘community’ groups. Disparaging pictures, often contrived, were shared openly for the amusement of haters. This is common on the pages of our local law enforcement agencies.
Well, that seemed like a good idea. We started sharing pictures of those taking pictures of us, and describing how they stalked us for the sake of taking such pictures. They did not like that, and accused us of stalking, harassment, and all sorts of nonsense. They were also much more careful about how they stalked us.
In fact, the stalking subsided so much shortly after the establishment of Felton League, that the page was almost deleted. Instead, it remained as a Community forum for topics that were of interest to our segment of the Community. It was designed to appeal to less than one percent of the populace, most of whom do not use Facebook, but gained quite a following. There were nearly a hundred followers, but less than a dozen homeless.
That seemed rather odd, especially since a local hate group that specializes in the derision of the homeless, and claiming to represent ‘everyone’ in town, had only about three dozen followers when an associate checked in on them about a month ago. It became obvious that others beyond our Community appreciate the insight.
It is now time to expand Felton League. I hope that this blog makes it more available to a broader audience. I will not post daily. Nor will I discuss certain local events and news that are not directly related to our distinguished small group. As unpleasant as homelessness is, I hope that readers find Felton League to be insightful and perhaps, in some ways, encouraging.
The three men in the pictures above and below are three old friends and members of our Community who have passed away since the establishment of Felton League, and are three of the reasons why I continue to write.

Felton League can be found at feltonleague.com



Horridculture – Fake Environmentalism

P90515Fake environmentalism is a HUGE topic, so for now, will be limited to fake environmentalism as justification for the eviction of homeless encampments.
The yellow triangle in the picture above was the site of the Hero’s Camp, which was more commonly known as Ross Camp, and located behind Ross Dress For Less in Gateway Plaza in Santa Cruz. It is gone now. This satellite image was taken by Google Maps prior to the development of the Camp. I did not get pictures of the camp while inhabited, but you have likely seen enough other camps in the news to imagine what it looked like.
It really was as big as it looks, and really did exhibit all the problems that you hear about in the news, although not to such an exaggerated degree. Not everyone there used syringes to inject illicit narcotics. Not everyone there was an alcoholic. Not everyone was violent, from somewhere else, or a criminal. This is not about such issues anyway. It is about how the two hundred or so unhoused people who lived here affected the environment.
Was there trash? Of course there was. Was it more than what two hundred people who live in homes generate? No. Houseless people do not generate as much trash as the housed, simply because they lack resources to purchase the commodities from which so much trash is generated. The houseless certainly do not waste as much as the housed. Their trash just happens to be more visible for outsiders who do not know any better to see.
Furthermore, what is so typically described and perceived as trash is actually the belongings of those who live in such camps. Without closets, cabinets or furniture, our belongings would look about the same, except much more voluminous. When we take just some of the belongings that we don’t want or need and put them out in front of our homes, it is a garage sale, and likely amounts to much more than individual homeless people own.
The satellite image from Google Maps below shows the neighborhood where my grandparents lived in Felton, less than seven miles north of where the picture above was taken. Their old home is right in the middle of the picture. There were not so many other homes there when they arrived, just as World War II was ending. They lived a relatively modest lifestyle, on a small suburban parcel. They were not concerned about the environment.
Why should they have been? Even now, the people who live in homes here can generate as much trash as they want to, and no one will complain about it. They can fill their homes with their belongings, and put them neatly away in closets, cabinets and drawers. There are alcoholics in this neighborhood, as well as a few who are addicted to illicit narcotics. Some are criminals. Some are violent. Few are native. Again, this is off the main topic.
None of that is visible in this satellite image anyway. What it shows instead is how the lifestyles of those who live in homes are more detrimental to the environment than the lifestyles of those who lack homes. This picture is the same scale as the picture above, so you can see that only a few homes would fit into an area comparable to that in which about two hundred unhoused people lived. Only a few people live in each of these few homes.
What that means is that two hundred people like those who lived at the Hero’s Camp live dispersed over a much larger area, on land from which trees and vegetation needed to be removed. They all live in homes that are made of wood derived from trees that grew in forests. These homes are furnished with synthetic plaster, carpet, paint, glass, vinyl, metals and all sorts of materials that needed to be quarried, processed or manufactured.
It doesn’t end there. These homes consume energy for heating, lighting and whatever else that gas and electricity are used for. Cars driven by those who live in homes are also constructed from raw materials, and then need fuel to function. Water is consumed as if it were not a very limited resource. Much of it gets mixed with soaps and detergents before going back into the environment. Chlorine volatilizes from chlorinated swimming pools.
Then there are the landscapes and gardens, the parts of domestic lifestyles that we actually believe to be beneficial to the environment. They contain exotic (non-native) plants that compete with native species, and interfere with natural ecological processes. Irrigation of the landscapes stimulates redwoods and accelerated decay of oaks. Soil amendments, fertilizers and some of the pesticides change the chemistry of the soil and ground water.
Just compare these two pictures. As bad as the mess at Hero’s Camp was, the two hundred people who lived there were less detrimental to the environment and the local ecosystem than those who live in just a few of the homes visible in the picture below. Those who claim to be concerned about the environment should be more concerned about the ecologically detrimental lifestyles of those who live in homes than those who lack homes.P90515+

Metallic Roses

P90203‘Sterling Silver’ and ‘Stainless Steel’ are two hybrid tea roses that were quite popular decades ago. ‘Copper’ and ‘Aluminum’ are not. However, I did happen to write a bit about the aluminum roses in the picture above on the Facebook page of Felton League on January 28, and included a link to an older article that featured a picture of copper roses. They are not at all relevant to horticulture, but are interesting nonetheless.

Felton League is an informational forum for the distinguished small group of displaced or socially outcast people and their friends in Felton, California. That is how it is described on Facebook. Those who are more directly familiar with us know us as a community group that not only advocates for the local homeless, but also provides compelling insight into homeless culture, and confronts the trend of animosity and hostility for anyone perceived to be homeless.

This is the post on Felton League from January 28:

Some of us participate in the River Cleanups here and elsewhere in Santa Cruz County. Some regularly collect trash for disposal throughout the year. One takes trash collection a step further by creating these metallic roses from some of the collected debris. They were featured in this article about garden art that was published in local newspapers between San Francisco and Beverly Hills in the summer of 2017; https://tonytomeo.com/2018/07/12/be-tactful-with-garden-art/ . (Not all of the articles used this illustration. The link is for the article as it was posted last July, about a year after it was published.) The copper roses of the original article were made from copper pipe. The newer silvery roses are made from flashing found in the San Lorenzo River. The thorny stems are made from scraps of fencing material that resembles a fine gauge of hog wire, that was found closer to Zayante Creek. The leaves are wired on with random bits of copper wire. These roses are often sold to tourists and local merchants to finance the banquets hosted by ‘Let’s Have Soup’ in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

Horridculture – Slurry

p90130This is likely the worst illustration that I have ever used. It is sort of what it looks like; a mud puddle. What I mean by ‘sort of’ is that this is no ordinary mud. It is a now solidified slurry that was rinsed from a concrete delivery truck. Yes, solidified, right there next to an embankment covered with carpet roses. The curb near the top of the picture is where the embankment starts. The small pile of debris to the upper left is some of what I was pruning from the roses. There was another solidified puddle of slurry just a few yards away. They were just dumped there as if no one would notice.

What makes this even more infuriating is that there is a sign on the main gate into the site, as well as a few others throughout the site, explaining to everyone coming and going that they must wash mud or other crud from their vehicles before leaving the site, so that they leave nothing on the roadway outside. This refers mainly to mud on the tires, but really includes anything that makes a mess. There are washing stations within the site for those who must wash their tires before leaving. There is also a site for slurry such as this, that can not be rinsed into culverts that drain into the adjacent creeks. The management of the project did everything necessary to prevent this sort of thing from happening. Yet, here it is.

A smaller but more destructive puddle of slurry was dumped into my downtown planter box by tile setters working in an adjacent shop. https://tonytomeo.com/2017/11/04/my-tiny-downtown-garden/ That mess needed to be broken apart and removed, but could not be separated from the perennials that is flowed around before solidifying. All of the canna foliage, some nasturtiums and some of the aloes were destroyed.

The insensitivity is ridiculous. I could not imagine leaving debris from pruning roses where the new concrete was installed, as if no one would notice. Yet, such disregard for landscaped areas is quite common. That is why trees that are to be salvaged on a construction site need to be fenced. Even with fencing, they are very often damaged or ruined by those operating machinery. Wouldn’t that be comparable to an arborist cutting a tree down in the most efficient manner, even if it fell onto an adjacent house?