Six on Saturday: Revenge of Halston Junior

The saga continues. This time, descendants of Halston have invaded a bed that was outfitted with a layer of gopher wire that was intended to prevent such invasion. This apparently ineffective gopher wire now provides a layer of defense for the invaders. Attempts to cut through the wire in order to set traps causes tunnels to collapse, so that there are no intact tunnels in which to set the traps. These pictures are several days old. Not many nasturtiums remain. Some of the adjacent scarlet sage are missing also.

1. Nasturtiums grow like weeds. Perhaps they are. Nonetheless, they are among my favorites. These were supposed to be a mix of colors, but are mostly this vivid orange. I could not complain.

2. Is this very pale yellow or creamy white? Of the many nasturtiums that grew here from seed of mixed colors, this was one of only a few that were not the richly reddish orange shown above.

3. Bright yellow was about as scarce, with only two plants of this color. Another bloomed with rich red flowers; but I neglected to get a picture of it. I never met a nasturtium that I did not like.

4. This was a problem. The entire top of the stone wall had been occupied by healthy nasturtiums earlier. The small plant with yellow flowers to the right of this gap was just beginning to wilt.

5. This was below the gap. The main stem, which is now to the lower left, was chewed through. There was no attempt to hide the evidence, although other plants had been pulled underground.

6. Just in case there was any doubt about who the culprit was, this new volcano appeared nearby. Unfortunately, the gopher wire that was installed below this bed now impedes with trapping.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


P80113My little planter box downtown that I wrote about last week and earlier must be the weirdest garden that I have ever tended to. ( ) I certainly enjoy it. There are not many horticultural problems that can not be remedied by simply removing plants that should not be out there anyway. The weirdness though is just . . . weird . . . and unique to the situation of a tiny garden in such a public space.

I have had weird neighbors before. Hey, I live where I do. Well, a resident of Nicholson Avenue saw me working on my garden one day and stopped to tell me what I should plant in it for compatibility with the color scheme of the front garden of her home a block and a half to the west. You see, she payed a lot of money for her home, and I payed nothing for my planter box that belonged to the town that her expensive taxes sustain. I just smiled and nodded my head until she drove away. I then continued to plant flowers that were compatible with the color scheme of Mike’s Bikes, the bicycle store that my planter box happens to be in front of.

Being in front of a bicycle store, the planter box collects quite a bit of discarded bicycle parts. Just about any part that can be purchased in the store and changed on the sidewalk out front has ended up in the planter box. I also find nice beer and wine glasses discarded by patrons of local bars. A worse aspect of the proximity to bars is that those who imbibe excessively sometimes barf into the planter box. Speaking of puddles, a contractor who was doing some tile work at Mike’s Bikes dumped a bucket of slurry from the mortar into my planter box, leaving a puddle of mortar that solidified into a round concrete disc about two and a half feet wide and an inch and a half thick. Cannas, housleeks, aloes and nasturtiums were all encased, and had to be removed with the concrete!

I prefer to grow flowers that are small and abundant rather than larger flowers that would be missed when they get taken. My bronze houseleek has been trying to grow as long as the green houseleeks, but gets broken off and taken as soon as it starts to look good. I figured that nasturtiums were too abundant to be missed if someone too a few. Yet, I noticed that so many were getting taken that the blank flower stalks were more evident than developing flowers. When I confronted someone who was taking them and putting them in a big plastic bag full of plucked nasturtium flowers, she told me that they are edible. So? I certainly do not mind sharing; but if anyone wants to eat THAT many of them, they should grow them in their own garden!

On another occasion, someone stopped to tell me that rosemary is a useful culinary herb, as if it were not something that a horticulturist would know about, and then yanked a huge chunk of it from the meticulously tailored rosemary that cascaded so nicely over the wall of the planter box before I could chase him away. Another chunk of rosemary was burned by the exhaust of a car that was left idling in the loading zone while a client of Mike’s Bikes was inside retrieving his bicycle from the repair shop. The drama just never ends.

But there is one oddity that I neither mind nor tamper with. It has not become a problem yet. On the north side of the planter box, adjacent to the backside of a park bench, pebbles and small stones have been gathering for a few months. Some disappear as new ones arrive, so that there are never too many at any one time. At first, I thought that they were just some of the detritus that someone flung aside after sweeping out their car while parked at the curb. Yet, there is no other trash or debris associated with the stones. They happen to be in the only spot that has been undefiled by discarded bicycle parts, glasses or barf. They seem to be placed quite deliberately in small groupings and patterns. They reminded me of those small stones that some people like to place in gravel Zen Gardens. I really do not know why they are there; but if someone is able to enjoy this little garden downtown in that way, than I probably should not interfere. The pebbles remain.P80113+

Well, Well, Well!

P80106+Right next door to my downtown planter box, ( ) just to the east on Nicholson Avenue, there is a tree well for a small London plane street tree that has not grown much in the past few years since it was installed. The poor tree is in a difficult situation. It probably does not mind getting bumped with car doors every once in a while, but bicycles getting chained to it have been abrasive to the bark of the main trunk. The location next to a Mike’s Bikes does not help. The staff at Mike’s Bikes has had limited success with promoting the use of a nearby bicycle rack instead, by displaying their own bicycles next to the tree.

The tree well collects a bit of trash that gets blown about by the wind. Weeds are sometimes able to grow up through the mulch of detritus. No one wants to pull the weeds or collect the trash because dogs do what dogs do on street trees. The crew that comes by to water young street trees through spring and summer occasionally stops to pull weeds and remove trash. As the tree eventually grows, they will cut more rings out of the grate to accommodate the expanding trunk. For now, the grate is only a few inches away from the trunk and the stake.

My planter box next door generates quite a bit of biomass. Some of it gets shared with neighboring planter boxes. The big houseleeks have really gotten around town. Two large specimens were installed into a pair of urns that flanked the front door of Mike’s Bikes, although only one remains. The nasturtiums that get so impressive through winter and into spring are even more prolific and generous with their seed. Cuttings of other minor succulents have been shared as well.

The tree well was a bit too vacant. We all know that the Public Works Crews take care of it, and no one want to tamper with that. Well, maybe. You know, houseleek and nasturtium can be so prolific. Nasturtium will drop their seed anywhere, and some unavoidably found their way into the tree well, where they grow right around the trunk. They do not go much farther without getting trampled back into bounds. A big cutting of houseleek seemed like it would be a good companion to the nasturtium, and adds a bit more substance. It grew like a weed last year before getting roasted and broken over summer. It is making a comeback now, with nasturtium seedlings appearing around the base. The Public Works Crews do not seem to mind them. Both the houseleek and the nasturtiums inhibit weed growth, and neither mind what dogs do to them. Well, well, well, the tree well gets a happy ending.

My Tiny Downtown Garden

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 railing protects the contents of the planter boxes. Irrigation s automated. That is about all that the planters have in common.

Each planter box is ‘adopted’ by a member of the community, or a community group, each with different styles and different ideas of what we should plant in our boxes. Some like things neat and trim. Others believe that bigger is better. Some like plenty of foliage. Others like lots of colorful flowers. Some planter boxes even get adorned with seasonal decorations.

My little planter box is on the northwest corner of Nicholson Avenue and North Santa Cruz Avenue. It has a brass plaque with my name on it. It is my little garden space downtown, where I get to express my simple gardening style for everyone to see, even though I grow a few flowery things there that I would not actually waste space on in my own garden.

The trailing rosemary that cascades over the wall so nicely was there when I got the planter. So were the montbretia and liriope, which I did not want to remove because someone else had gone through the effort of planting them. When there was more space available, I planted a few inexpensive flowering annuals, like pansies and calendulas. As things grew, there was less space for annuals. Besides, I wanted to make a point of doing this planter nicely with sustainable plants that I propagated myself.

The two largest features are common aeoniums. The two original cuttings were on the dashboard in the car for weeks before I finally stuck them in the planter. They came from the home of a friend’s mother in Monterey. We emptied the home out after she passed away. It was gratifying that they found a home in my planter box, and even more gratifying that they grew so well and provided countless cuttings for copies all over town, including in other planter boxes. Between the two big aeoniums, there is a small bronze aeonium. It is the same age as the two big ones, but grows slower, and is regularly set back by people breaking off and taking the stems as fast as they grow.

These three aeoniums were not alone on the dashboard. They arrived with another related succulent, which I believe to be an old fashioned echeveria, and some sort of compact aloe. The echeveria has spread out over much of the area between the big aeoniums. The aloe is still confined to one corner.

To contrast with all the pale green foliage, I added two bronze ‘Australia’ cannas. They cost only a few dollars, and were probably my biggest expense in this entire project.

The most impressive feature of the planter box are the nasturtiums. Yes, common, simple and cheap nasturtiums. I wanted to get straight yellow nasturtiums for compatibility with the signs of the neighboring bicycle shop, but could not find any at the time. I instead started with the common ‘Jewels’ mix, which is still my favorite. After self sowing, the subsequent feral nasturtiums are only orange and yellow, with only one or two red blooming plants. What made them so excellent is how they grew! They overwhelmed the trailing rosemary (which is fine since they die back in summer when the rosemary takes over), and cascaded onto the walkway and curb. They filled the space between the railing and an adjacent bench, and even started growing through the bench. There was so much bright orange and yellow that no one seemed to mind that it was nasturtium.

After a long and warm summer, the aeoniums need serious grooming, and the nasturtium need to be replaced. I really hope that the planter box will be as impressive as it was last winter. The picture here is not very good. Perhaps I will get a better picture in a few months.