Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring front yard flowers and one annoyed kitty

I'm just a blogging fool today. That's because I should be cleaning and running errands and packing before my trip.

Here's what's blooming in my front yard right now. Had gone out to check the mail and couldn't resist grabbing my camera.

Emily rarely smiles for the camera. In fact, she rarely sits still for the camera. It's difficult to get good pictures of her because the moment she knows you're paying attention to her, she jumps down and starts rubbing against your leg. When I was photographing poppies this morning, she bit me to get my attention.

yellow 'Lady Banks' rose

Pink cyclamen


Calif. Poppies against Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis)

More Lady Banks

Poppies and Ixia, both of which get by on natural rainfall

Buzz Kill by Novella Carpenter in

Buzz Kill

I enjoyed this piece, and it relates to recent news regarding bee die-offs across the country. I'll be looking for bees when my lavender blooms. I'm pretty convinced my veggie garden productivity last year was aided by the constant buzz around my lavender plants. It wasn't an intentional planting arrangement, but it seemed to help and it sure beats having to hand-pollinate.

If you're not a paid Salon subscriber, you will have to sit through an online ad or two before reading the article. Such is life in the frugal lane.

Mendo or bust

I'm going to Mendo next week. Will check in from Moody's if there's anything horticulturally significant to report. Yes, I'm bringing my camera. Not sure what the weather will be like, though. I'm hoping to get in some good bike rides, but if it's raining we'll have to go to plan B, which is to eat and lounge by the fire. It's all good.

New book: The Home Orchard

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Organic Landscape Maintenance in Sacramento

Recently, the Sacramento Stormwater Quality Partnership published the River-Friendly Landscape Guide, along with a companion brochure for homeowners titled "Choosing a Landscape Professional." The brochure gives general guidelines for choosing an ecologically aware landscape professional, but doesn't list local companies following "river-friendly" landscape practices. That left me wondering-- Who in the Sacramento area offers organic or river-friendly or ecologically sound (i.e. sustainable) landscape maintenance services?

Guess what? I found a couple.

The emphasis seems to be on lawns, probably because nearly every house has one and it's still a measure of residential prowess. It's also true that while neighbors compare lawns like cars, nobody seems to want to maintain their own.

We hire mow-and-blow crews and maintenance companies employing traditional methods for keeping grass frequently shorn, weed free and dark green... but at what cost? High water requirements aside, lawn maintenace has traditionally contributed to fertilizer and pesticide runoff into our creeks and rivers, not to mention the residual hazards to people, pets and wildlife right on our very own properties.

In today's copy of Inside Arden, I learned about State of the Earth, a local company offering residential and commercial landscape services promoting, according to their website, "... sustainable landscapes by using intelligent practices and organic materials, creating more robust and vibrant plant communities that looks great and can cope more successfully with seasonal changes and threats from pests."

State of the Earth
Phone: 916-978-9630
Snail Mail: P.O. Box 255366, Sacramento, CA 95865

I've also heard much about Steve Zien's
Living Resources Company over the years. According to the Living Resources Company website, they "...will evaluate your soil type, fertility, and percolation rate, grass type, turf density, pests present, and thatch depth. A custom organic fertility and pest management program is then designed and implemented to improve and maintain your landscape at its best. Normal maintenance includes foliar fertilization, pest control monitoring, and recommendations. Pest control and weed control can also be included at the option of the client."

Living Resources Company
Snail Mail: BUGS, P.O. Box 76, Citrus Heights, CA 95611
Phone: 916-726-5377

In a related vein, if you have a chance to install an ecologically friendly landscape or want to revamp your old landscape, you might want to call licensed contractor Dave Roberts of Roberts Landscape. His focus is sustainable landscapes and his creds are impressive.

David R. Roberts, Owner
5960 South Land Park Drive #174
Sacramento, CA 95822
Telephone : 916/444-6458
Fax : 916/441-6066

  • State of California Contractors License #590317, C-27 Landscape
  • Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture 1975 California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo
  • Member of the California Landscape Contractors Association
  • California Department of Pesticide Regulation Qualified Applicator License #30038
  • California Certified Nursery Professional #626 since 1975
  • Liability
  • Workmans Compensation
  • Available upon request

If, on the other hand, you're a DIY'er, by all means order the River-Friendly Landscape guide and frequent the UC IPM website. Your lawn and garden can look as green and pristine as your neighbors' without a single skull-and-crossbones-bearing product.

Whether you're a DIY'er or prefer to hire out, you now have some very viable options for switching to greener methods of maintaining your yard without risking the health of your family, your pets, your neighbors and everything downstream of you. Imagine if we all did that (cue John Lennon music).

My next quest? A list of landscape maintenance companies using quiet, non-polluting tools. Am I dreaming?

Propagating Succulents

I heart succulents. They're fascinating looking, so easy to grow, and thrive on neglect. The biggest threat to succulents in my area is frosts and freezes, which makes them good candidates for containers. I've been on a succulent kick for a few years now and noticed that whenever a leaf broke off and fell on the soil surface, I would often end up with a new plant!

Turns out tip cuttings root just as easily.

Here are the results of my first attempt to propagate succulents in flats. You don't need to get that fancy, though. Pinching off a tip cutting and sticking it in the same or another pot in plain old cactus mix works just as well.

Some "mother plants"

flats of cuttings

tip cuttings and leaf cuttings

I experimented with leaf placement by sticking some upright in cactus mix, some on the soil surface, leaf base pointing up and some on the soil surface, leaf base touching the soil. They're all rooting.

Ideally, you want to allow your cuttings to callus over for a few days in a dry, semi-shaded location before planting. Spring and summer are particularly good times for makin' babies... succulent babies... oh, heck, all kinds of babies...

regrowth after tip cuttings were taken


leaf rooting in air!

To learn more about propagating succulents, this link will get you started:

I also referred to this book.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

2007 San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Here are a few snippets from this year's show. The standouts for me were the really fabulous succulents, bromeliads, orchids and grasses. I managed to exercise self-restraint and only walked away with three 4" plants from the Annie's Annuals booth.

Missed the seminars and was especially bummed that I missed Amy Stewart... again. Also bummed to have missed Keeyla Meadows and Annie of Annie's Annuals.

Welcome to the Cow Palace, where the lighting is famously ghastly, yet the bathrooms are sparkling clean.


If you have a weakness for summer bulbs like lilies, dahlias, callas and more... you'll be a quivering mess when you enter the Plant Market.

More orchids!

Proven Bromeliads for Bay Area Gardens by the Bromeliad Society of San Francisco, featured super cool bromeliads and took home a Gold Medal. Congrats.

Flower lights

American Institute of Floral Design
Eye Candy – Crystal Award


Greenlee Nursery and partners

The Metropolitan Meadow: Driving Towards a Solution –
Gold Award,
American Horticultural Society Environmental Award,
Garden Designers’ Award

I was impressed with how well this garden re-created a grassy meadow feel. It had a natural, ever-so-slightly haphazard look that made it look like undesigned design.

Oh, and in case you didn't notice, there's a giant red car plopped in the middle of the garden.

"Under the Sea"
by Organic Mechanics

Fabulous plants, but you ain't gettin' me in that shell chair. Ouch! Congrats on winning Best of Show!

Old World – New World - Crystal Award
Would you like a martini next to a copper fountain while sitting on a tractor seat?

Or would you prefer red wine out of a jar? I'm a wine out of a jar kind of gal... Add some nice cheeses, cool music and it's a party!

Very striking. Conceptual gardens normally bug me, but I really like this one.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mark Morford thinks gardening makes you bland as milk

You read San Francisco Chronicle's Mark Morford? I do, and while I love his writing style and irreverent reverence toward life and this crazy, mixed up world we live in... this morning he dissed gardening! Big time! See following snippet. For more context, read the whole thing.

Any thoughts on why gardening makes you "bland-as-milk" in Mark's mind? Is it because posession of a patch of dirt on which to grow plants means you're stuck in one place? Does it mean you can never travel because all your plants will die? Does it mean you never do anything crazy?

Can you be edgy and irreverent and still be a gardener?

Ok, well, I'm off to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. Ho hum. Yawn. Right? ;-)

Is Your Fetus A Republican?
Soon, DNA testing will tell if your baby is gay. Or smart. Or the next George Bush. Ready?
By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
Friday, March 23, 2007

"Here are but a few of the imminent questions: What would you do if you knew your unborn child was, without doubt, destined to be gay? Or what if you knew your unborn had all the DNA markings of, say, a drug addict? How about if you knew he was genetically predisposed toward becoming, oh, a severe Republican, one with, say, a vicious hate-filled talk-radio show somewhere in the Deep South that ranted about war and gays and uppity wimmin and the need for more prisons and guns in the schools?

Would you celebrate? Would you scream? Would you abort? Would you call Fox News and demand your own reality show? Or would you immediately seek medical treatment to turn that hapless helpless bundle of goo and tissue and possibility into a nice straitlaced bland-as-milk moderate Democrat with a thing for gardening and the missionary position and tepid travel magazines?"

Read more. Then send an uppity e-mail to You cuh-razy gardeners, you. ;-)

Friday, March 16, 2007

UCD Professor Art Shapiro's Butterfly Studies and Website

Biggest butterfly net ever
Prof's 35-year study flutters about on Web

By Matt Weiser - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 12:33 am PDT Thursday, March 15, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B3

The article mentions Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, which has lotsa photos of lotsa butterflies. It's a great resource. There's also a great page on Butterfly Gardening in the Sacramento Valley and, in a quest for photographic excellence, a call for butterfly photos that are as good or better than photos already posted. You will be credited if they use your photo.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Compost... yourself!

Now you can... with EcoCoffins! Gardeney looking, huh?

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Nursery profiles in March issue of Sac Mag

The March, 2007 issue of Sacramento Magazine includes a few nursery profiles, profiles on local Green Thumbs and a piece on backyard birding. Some articles are in the print version only and some are online. Check it out.

Sacramento City Cemetery garden featured in the San Francisco Chronicle

Great piece on Hamilton Square and Sharon Patrician in the Chronicle!

Garden blooms where dead lie in Sacramento
A pioneer cemetery tended by dedicated volunteers is also a nursery for native bees
Alison Rood, Special to The Chronicle

Saturday, March 3, 2007