Thursday, May 31, 2007

Support the Parkway Ride

Hey, nature lovers, Rex Cycles' annual Support the Parkway ride is on June 9. Click here to sign up. Your tax-deductible $70 entry fee includes a t-shirt, snacks and drinks at rest stops and lunch by JR's Texas Bar-B-Que.

I plan to ride as far as I can in time to make it back for the lunch, but you are even welcome to skip the ride and head straight for lunch. This is a fun ride... not a race... and a great cause.

Here's a write-up in the Bee.

June 11 edit:

See what you missed?

Local wildlife...

Good vittles...

Bikes mingling...


More nature...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Been doing some more planting...

Weeder and I went to POW, Capital (Sunrise) and Windmill on Monday. Here's what I got:

1 5-gallon 'Tropicanna' canna... nice big plants right now
3 1-gallon um, um, um, oh, what the hell are they called?
3 5-gallon European white birch trees for some quick screening of the neighbor's bathroom window that looks down into our yard.

(thanks, Weeder, for whipping out your camera)

If you're gonna go to the trouble of putting up a sign, why block it? ;-)

Sooooooooo many perennials, so little time.

This is what my one 'Tropicanna' canna looks like. I wish I could have bought the whole row. Lucky for y'all, I didn't.


Hey, that's the plant I bought three of that I can't remember the name of. Drought tolerant. Lavender flowers. Don't see it a lot around here. Weeder? Anyone? Help?

Dark purple butterfly bush. Gorgeous.

We stopped at Davis Ranch on the way to lunch at El Pollo Loco (quite yum for fast food) hoping their famous sweet white corn would be ready. Not for two more weeks! Rats! We did spy this nifty hydroponic strawberry setup that appears to be new. So sci-fi looking. Growing strawberries vertically is genius. Oh, and I didn't go home empty-handed. They had some lovely lean asparagus spears and plump garlic.

Next stop...

'Lemon Boy' tomato... planted it last year and it was felled as a seedling and I never re-planted.
Several little 'Gold Rush' zucchini plants... Yay! So happy to find these! My FAVE zucchini.
3 6-packs 'Bright Lights' chard... a little late getting it in but it never seems to quit producing so I'm not worried.

I'm late getting most of my veggies in, but that's nothing new for me.

And finally, on the way home so how could we not...

4" 'Dolce Peach Melba' Heuchera... already have, but couldn't resist another
4" Ursinia anthemoides from Annie's Annuals... this reseeds and I love it.
4" Calceolaria Mexicana... Weeder raves, so I must try it.

You gotta get over to Windmill right now. They have a great selection of Annie's and Blooms in 4" and some really nice gallon perennials too.

I was hoping to find 'Costoluto Genovese' and a black tomato as the last... no, really, I promise this time... additions to my 2007 tomato lineup. Capital was sold out of C.G., as was Windmill. I picked up a black heirloom tomato at Capital, put it down, picked it up and thought I put it on my cart... but somehow it didn't make it home with me. What a space cadet.

May 30 edit: I did buy a black tomato! 'Black Prince' was hiding behind one of the passenger seats in my van and is now planted. Not a space cadet after all... just a loser... of things.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Baby 'Heatwave' tomato

In a quest to find more tomato varieties suited to the hot-summer Central Valley, I'm starting to grow varieties bred for heat tolerance. Up first is 'Heatwave', a healthy specimen of which I picked up on impulse at Home Depot.

Our summer days often exceed 90 degrees, which is around the temperature at which tomato fruit set fails for certain tomato varieties.

From UC VRIC: "When daytime temperatures consistently exceed 90OF, fruit set failure may also be expected in many tomato varieties. Some varieties are more tolerant of high temperatures and will continue to set fruit when others fall. Under these conditions, it will be helpful to keep the plants in a healthy growing condition so that flowers which develop will have a better chance to survive. This includes the maintenance of a constant moisture supply, the elimination of damaging insects, and the control of diseases. Fruitsetting hormones are not effective in hot weather."

My 'Heatwave' baby was grown by Bonnie Plants. Here's their description:

Heatwave VFFA
Fruit size: 8 oz
Matures: 70 days

An abundant producer of bright red fruit even when the temperature is in the mid 90s, Heatwave hybrid produces early in the season on determinate vines. Resistant to verticillium wilt (V), fusarium wilt races 1 and 2 (F), and alternaria stem canker (A).

But how does it taste? Stay tuned.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Here is the Phygelius I mentioned that was about to bloom in my backyard. I love the pinky coral color and contrasting creamy yellow underneath. I'd love to plant phygelius where I could look up at its nodding florets. Might have to try it in a tall container sometime.


It's hard to believe lilies are so easy to grow. The energy and beauty stored in their bulbs makes me appear to be a more attentive gardener than I am. I just plant and water and wait for the show.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Grow-off, Show-off Kitchen Gardening Contest

Check out this contest sponsored by Kitchen Gardeners International (KGI) and Mother Earth News.

How to enter
Entries must be received by 5pm Eastern, November 1, 2007. All entries must be submitted using the official entry form and submitted either by e-mail to or by snailmail to Kitchen Gardeners International, 3 Powderhorn Drive, Scarborough, Maine, 04074, USA. E-mail and early entries are encouraged.

KGI will be posting entries on their website as they receive them.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Red orchid cactus

From a single passalong cutting (thanks, Cheryl and Cheryl's friend), came this obscenely beautiful epiphyllum. I don't know its species and/or cultivar name because it was given to me as "red orchid cactus". Who cares, though, right? It's just... wow.

Want to see how it looked last May, and want to see the Mother Plant? Click here. Mailorder sources for epis include:

Don's Epiphyllum World

Also check Ebay sellers.

Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora, commonly known as Chilean rock purslane, is one of my new favorites in the garden. It's new to me, anyway. Last summer or fall, I spotted it in bloom in one-gallon cans at Emigh Hardware. The fleshy, silvery-grey foliage reminds me of sedum (another fave), but you will be pleasantly surprised by its delicate, clear pink poppy-like flowers, held on nodding wiry stems up to 2 1/2 feet tall.

Despite a few frosts and freezes here in Carmichael this winter, C. grandiflora wintered over nicely up against the southern side of my stucco house. It receives bright, lightly filtered light next to my lath patio cover. According to a Dave's Garden member, it propagates from separated "rootballs" which should callus over for a few days before re-planting. Haven't tried that yet, but I am experimenting with tip cuttings as well. Oh, and you can buy it at Annie's Annuals.

Today's bloom

My plant's foliage with young buds just beginning to emerge

(Photo from Dave's Garden, taken by Dave's Garden member RWhiz)

Monday, May 14, 2007

For Sale: House with scummy pool full of mosquitoes

New front in war in mosquitoes

Real estate agents urged to report untended pools, ponds.

By Jim Wasserman - Bee Staff Writer

Last Updated 12:06 am PDT Monday, May 14, 2007
Story appeared in MAIN NEWS section, Page A1

To report unmaintained pools in your neighborhood:

Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District

Placer Mosquito and Vector Control

El Dorado County Vector Control

Sutter-Yuba Mosquito and Vector Control District

Food for thought...

Editorial notebook: La fruta del diablo

Published 12:00 am PDT Monday, May 14, 2007
Story appeared in EDITORIALS section, Page B4

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Garden update

I'm sitting on my patio in a comfy but plastic Adirondack chair that will leave a chalky white film on my butt when I get up. Hey, they were only 20 bucks each and seemed like a good deal at the time. It's 7:22 pm, sun is setting, the temperature feels like 72 degrees of perfection. The garden is absolutely still except for the movement of a few bees (yes, bees), ants and at this very moment, a hummingbird. An owl is hooting in the nearby park. Two yellow-billed magpies are carrying on a conversation from separate trees.

My laptop is propped precariously on my crossed legs, my Sennheiser PX100 headphones (a very good value, I might add) are delivering 'Darlin' Do Not Fear' by Brett Dennen while the sun sets.

When I look to the left, I see a 4 1/2 foot tall coral-flowered Phygelius a friend gave me for my birthday last year that's about to bloom for the first time. Other bloomers as I survey the yard include: lavender, penstemon, columbine, orchid cactus, abutilon, verbena bonariensis, roses, salvia, California bush anemone, wallflower, coral bells, lamium, cerinthe, California poppy, million bells, kangaroo paws, 'Get Mee' campanula, etc. Lilies planted in the last couple years in the ground and in pots are tall, budded stalks about to put on a big show.

Winter cold wiped out my beloved bush echium, Mexican bush sage, and nearly all of my hopseeds. A few weeks ago, the gaps and overall scorched earth vibe in the backyard made me want to go plant shopping. I'm glad I waited because I would have definitely over-planted. Now I see that the daylilies, veronica, agapanthus, penstemon, butterfly bush, and other warm-weather plants are really taking off and filling in those gaps. I still need to add some fillers, but not nearly as many as I thought.

I mowed and edged the lawn... yes, on Mother's Day... and yes, my teenage son was supposed to have done it last week. I got tired of asking. He did compliment my work and even admitted the lawn looked better than when he mows it. I offered to show him my technique.

Last week, I planted tomatoes and basil. Let's see... tomatoes were 'Sungold', 'Early Girl' and 'Heatwave'. One more... an heirloom... should be plenty for me this year. The basil plants are Genovese and they're being protected from snails quite successfully by Plant Defenders. Oh, and I put in three 'Anaheim' peppers. I will start some 'Gold Rush' yellow zucchini this week from seed. They're delicious and excellent producers. Like I even need to mention that about zucchini. I'm not going to go nuts with the veggies this year. I tend to overplant. For some reason, I'm finding it easier than usual to avoid frantic overplanting. I think it's the yoga. It mellows me out and the effect is somewhat residual.

I plan to replace my dead hopseeds with more hopseeds, but purple ones this time. Bronzy purple foliage adds such drama to the garden. Speaking of drama, my 'Tropicana' cannas are about 2 1/2 feet high after dying back completely to the ground over winter.

Ok, I just saw a mosquito. Time to go in. Somebody's barbecuing steak. I wish my blog had smellevision. Goodnight from my northern California backyard. As I log off, The Staple Singers are singing 'I'll Take You There.'

I'll post some flower pics soon. It'd be a crime not to.

Trees to help block auto exhaust at Arden Middle School

Trees will be a breath of fresh air for school

By Chris Bowman - Bee Staff Writer

Last Updated 12:18 am PDT Saturday, May 12, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B1

This is a great idea. For years, I've wondered about the air quality at Arden Middle School. In fact, I decided to take it out of the running as a potential middle school for my son because of my own (usually overprotective) air-quality concerns. Back then it was just a hunch. Now the high concentration of particulate pollution at the school has been verified, quantified and they're working on an arboreal solution. Yay trees!

This school is located on the corner of Watt Avenue and Arden Way in Sacramento, CA. Arden is a fairly busy street, but Watt is a multi-lane major thoroughfare for neighborhood traffic and cars and trucks getting off and on Highways 50 and 80. Plus, the light at the intersection of Watt and Arden is a long one, which means lots of idling cars followed by accelerating cars. All day long. Cough, cough, choke, choke. I'm surprised those kids aren't walking around with oxygen tanks, hunched over like longtime pack-a-day smokers.

I applaud the efforts to improve school grounds air quality by planting a tree buffer. I just wish they'd consider greater tree diversity. Another Bee article stated that redwood trees were tops at intercepting auto exhaust. I wonder why only oaks and cedars were planted. I'd also like to point out the obvious aesthetic benefits of planting trees at the school. Arden being a very tree-oriented neighborhood, I'm surprised they weren't planted sooner for beautification reasons... and to give the kids some shade. Is it because of safety and maintenance issues? Dunno, but I'm glad to see this much-needed buffer being installed.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The seedier side of California tomato production

Probe of tomato board pushed
By Dennis Pollock - Fresno Bee
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 11, 2007
Story appeared in BUSINESS section, Page D1

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Mark Morford on Colony Collapse Disorder

"MaMo" addresses the bee problem, AKA Colony Collapse Disorder, in today's column, with humor, as he often does. So if you like your bitter news with a dose of honey...

Apocalypse Of The Honeybees - How poetically appropriate that the End of Man should come from such a tiny, sweet source Mark Morford,, 05/09/07

What can you do that might help bring back the bees? Yes, it's entirely possible bee populations will rebound without our help, but there's no harm in helping now, especially considering scientists are still stumped by the massive die-offs. We're hearing possible culprits include pesticides, GMOs, cell phones, parasites, mites, fungi, and Ashlee Simpson. In the meantime, think about doing your part:

-- Garden organically and practice Integrated Pest Management in your own backyard.
-- Buy organic.
-- Throw away your cell phone. Kidding! I hope.
-- Boycott GMO crops.
-- Support organizations working to help the bees.
-- Elect environmentally-aware representatives.
-- Plant bee-attracting flowers: bee balm, lavender, salvia, zinnia, natives, etc.
-- Put up a bee house (see below).
-- Hug a scientist. Better yet, donate to your local college's entomology department.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Can I get a gardening rain check?

Sometimes I come somewhat grudgingly back to gardening after a long, wet winter. I'm like a teenager... like my teenager... who keeps pushing the snooze button on a school day. Only it's not a school bell looming over me, it's weeds. And drought. And a lawn that could swallow my short-legged dogs if I'm not careful. The fact of the matter is that I'm a lazy slacker of a gardener.

I hate weeding. I hate mulching. I hate feeding. I love planting. I love shopping for plants. I love deadheading, but not major pruning. I love watering with a hose, but hate hooking up drip systems. I really love photographing flowers. Yes, I earned a degree in horticulture from a respectable university, but most days it looks like I attended the Fickle Princess School of Mood Gardening. Not moon gardening, mood gardening.

If I'm in one of those magical moods which, perhaps not coincidentally, coincide with days when I'm well rested and sufficiently caffeinated, I can haul ass in the garden. Other times... ok, most of the time... gardening consists of watching weeds reach flowering stage, watching flowers wilt, and watching my dogs disappear into the lawn. This does bring on feelings of guilt and distress and inadequacy... and I usually respond by performing some hideous but tiny gardening task. Reactively, not proactively, I might add.

But today, I got a rain check. I don't have to tackle the weeds in my veggie beds. Can't find the damn hula hoe anyway. It probably hula'd its way over to a more worthy garden. As for me, I've got to scuffle off to yoga class. Believe me, I need it. Looming garden chores really stress me out. Namaste. I believe that translates to "Yours in sloth".

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

My bloom cup runneth over...

California bush anemone (Carpenteria californica)

Red orchid cactus

Dianthus hybrid 'Devon Cottage Rosie Cheeks'... very prolific bloomer

Chinese ground orchids and lamium

Purple Million Bells

'Chicago Peace' rose