Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A cathouse in Carmichael

This is the cedar cat house kit I ordered online for my outdoor cat, Emily. She's an outdoor cat because she sprays and doesn't get along with our 19.5-year-old indoor cat, Bud. Emily does fine outside, though. She rolls around in the dirt, supplements her PetSmart diet with a bit of hunting, and knows her way around the culdesac. The neighborhood cats know this is Emily's place.

Still, I'll sleep better at night knowing she has a warm house to come home to. Carmichael gets cold in winter.

The kit I bought was pre-built, then disassembled, then shipped to me so I could whine and cuss and reassemble the thing. I was having a hard time with the square-holed screws (WTF? Not flat-head? Not Phillips-head?) UNTIL I discovered the custom drill bit included in the bag with the screws. My bad. Took me a lot longer than the projected 15 minutes, but I did it all by myself! I am woman, hear me grunt, curse and whine!

This is actually a semi-enclosed front patio area. A hopseed hedge conceals Emily's house from the street.

Emily's temporary housing, clearly judged to be inadequate.

Emily's first walk-through.

Emily's imagining living here.

I think she likes it, but she seems to be saying, "Hey, this pad's supposed to be heated. You better get crackin' on that, Angela."

Tree dahlias 2008, mission accomplished!

Yay, my tree dahlias bloomed before they froze! The open buds pictured below, which were looking happy on the day I took these pics, are fairly withered this morning. Today's remaining unopened buds look like they could still open. Judging from the frosty feeling outside this morning, I'm not betting on that.

The lighting wasn't great when I shot these pics, but I couldn't really sit around all day waiting for better light.

My tree dahlias are so tall that turning on my flash didn't help much.

Lower leaves look a little funky. A fussier person than I would probably get on a ladder and remove them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Look what I scored on ebay

After seeing Cheryl's bloom in person, ebay called out to me. For $9.99 plus shipping, here's what I got. I hope to be able to share stem sections as the plant matures. This highly-rated ebay seller also offers lots of epi varieties.

Ebay description:

GIANT STAPELIAD - Has 10"+ diameter blooms, likes simular soil mix as Epis-kinda rich it likes fertilizer in warm months, little or no fert in cold months. Blooms from July to Nov. and occassionally at other times (in my climate,bloom times maybe longer shorter depending on your location). Like most Stapelias it has a pungent smell the first day the blooms open to attract insects to reproduce itself, but mainly its only the first day open. The blooms are huge and look like 5" balloons before opening. Easy to root and grow, just change the soil in spring if you want lots of blooms and fertilize when you fertilize your other plants, not a picky plant likes alot of water too except Dec to feb when its resting or semi-dormant, just dont let it go completely dry. The pictures below shows one close up and a full shot to show how it grows, its in a large 24" opening basket to give you an idea of scale/size. The stems can grow even longer but they interfere with other plants i may have beneath it so i cut them off, new shoots emerge laterally from the main stem,self branching and self duplicating but if you want alot give it some help and you will have even more. Almost too easy to grow, doesnt really need maturity to bloom only fert and rootbound helps so many plants in one basket is best. One thing that can kill it- cannot go below freezing! Other than that its foolproof! Really easy to grow. If you remove some early developing buds on each stem leaving only one you can get 12" + blooms too!

This auction is for 1 large branch 10"+ Long of GIANT STAPELIAD with at least 3 + stems attached ,all the stems if separated can be rooted, but this will be sent as a big piece. GIANT STAPELIAD Is an easy to grow Stapelia that grows and roots very easy and is a reliable bloomer every season.

Buyer pays $5.95 s/h to the lower 48 states, i'am willing to ship to more areas but additional shipping cost may apply. After first auction shipping is actual cost via U.S.P.S. Priority mail, just let me know when your ready and i'll combine all for you.

Please e-mail me if you have any questions


Happy Thanksgiving

Lots to be thankful for. Like Obama. And tree dahlias opening before the first frost. And family and friends. And food!

Before I embark on a new stuffing recipe (see below) that I'm bringing to my family's Thanksgiving dinner at 3:00 p.m. Lynch time (a rather nebulous concept of time), I wanted to share a few pics I just snapped in the yard.

Today is misty and overcast, with lots of dew. The moment you step out back, it feels like you're getting a fancy facial. Or, what I imagine a fancy facial to feel like should I ever get one.

I also wanted to share a link to Anne Lamott's Thanksgiving piece in Salon. I was wondering when we'd hear from her after this oh, so nerve-jangling election and was pleasantly surprised to come across this in my feed reader in box.

Way high up in the sky... my tree dahlia's beginning to bloom.

My cigar plant guarantees hummingbirds will visit my garden today. I feel better knowing they're well fed.

Valley oak leaves resting on an Acanthus leaf.

Oak leaves often pile up on my Cordyline plants this time of year.

Salvia leucantha and Tibouchina urvilleana going purple-crazy in my garden right now.

Where's the bird bath?

Oh, yeah... my stuffing recipe. Fine Cooking has this really fun, interactive Create Your Own Recipe feature where you pick your own ingredients.

Here's what I concocted:

Bread Stuffing, Just the Way You Like It

My Recipe: Sausage, Pine Nut and Sage Stuffing

Serves eight to ten


16 oz. French bread
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cups chopped celery
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2-1/2 cups low-salt turkey or chicken broth (homemade or canned)
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 tsp kosher salt; more as needed
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter (optional)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
vegetable oil or cooking spray, for baking dish


Tear or cut the bread into 3/4-inch pieces until you have 8 to 10 cups. If working a day ahead, lay the pieces out on a rack and leave them uncovered on the counter to dry overnight. Otherwise, spread the bread out on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 275° F oven, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until it is crisp and mostly dry; it will continue to dry a bit as it cools. Depending on how moist the bread is to begin with, oven-drying takes 15 to 45 minutes.

In a large skillet, cook sweet Italian sausage over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until browned and fully cooked. Add the garlic, celery, and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly softened but still have some crunch. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and stir in pine nuts.

Add the bread to the large mixing bowl, along with the sage, flat-leaf parsley, and lemon zest, and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour 1-1/2 cups of the broth, plus the wine, over the stuffing. If the liquid isn't immediately absorbed and pools at the bottom of the bowl, you have enough; just toss the mixture occasionally for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed. At first, the bread cubes may feel wet on the outside and still be dry on the inside, but they'll even out as the stuffing cooks. If the bread immediately sucks up the initial 2 cups of liquid, add another 1/2 cup of broth and taste the mixture. The bread should be moist but not soggy. Add up to another 1/2 cup of broth if necessary.

Taste the mixture and add salt and pepper as needed. If the mixture doesn't taste as rich as you'd like, add enough melted unsalted butter to suit your taste. Once you're satisfied with the flavor of the mixture, stir in the beaten eggs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sunday at Cheryl's place...

is always colorful. In between trying to attract some particular bird visitor with a tub of Birdacious Bark Butter, knocking over a cement egret (or whatever that thing is), and making sure Phoebe the dog didn't literally bowl me over with canine enthusiasm, Cheryl walked the yard with me to scout for blooms and other camera-worthy slices of the garden.

Here are just a few. The big deal that got me out of the house on this lazy Sunday was the fact that the Stapelia her daughter gave her was in bloom for the first time. That, alone, made it worth getting out of my pajamas. I had to see that thing in the flesh. Oh, and it was nice seeing Cheryl too. ;-)

It may look like she's strangling that bird, but she's actually trying to keep it from falling over. I think.

11 inches!

Carrion Plant (Stapelia gigantea)

I was hoping for a hint of its reported "rotting meat" scent and maybe a few flies, but it didn't smell like anything. I'll bet if we get a warm day, though, Cheryl might end up moving that beauty off the front porch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lost in Translation

OK, you guys gotta check out this French blog post about my blog. Can't read a lick of it, but it looks like a really cool blog!

As bloggers, we have the ability to see who's linking to our blogs, and my curious nature has me checking every now and then, especially when I'm avoiding an unpleasant task or tasks.

When I followed the link, I saw that the post was written in French, a language I had a brief fling with in my freshman year of high school. Needless to say, French and I parted way as friends, but with my foreign language skills virginity still intact. In other words, I have no idea what this blogger was saying about my blog.

So I Babel Fished it. The translation sheds a little light, but remains fascinatingly cryptic.

From this...
"Très joli blog d'Angela Pratt, qui vit vers Sacramento dans le nord de la Californie où elle ballade son appareil photo. c'est chez elle que j'ai repéré cette graminée barbapapa."
I got this...
"Very pretty blog d' Angela Pratt, which lives towards Sacramento in the north of California where it ballade its camera. c' is at it that j' located this graminaceous barbapapa."
Better French students than I... I need a better translation and I've got to know what is meant by this "graminaceous barbapapa"! It sounds so... so... well... kind of Italian, actually. Not that I speak Italian.

Coupon alert- Windmill Nursery

One of my favorite local nurseries is offering a 20% off coupon through my gardening website,! I've never charged nurseries for a listing on my homespun site, but I decided it was a genius idea to offer coupon space. Why? Because it benefits you, the gardener... me, the web slave... and any nursery wanting to increase foot traffic.

Windmill is a family-run nursery, manager Andrew has a hort. degree from UC Davis, their plants are meticulously cared for, and they carry a wide selection of... well... everything-- native plants, interesting perennials, Annie's Annuals and perennials, water plants, Christmas trees, herbs, bonsai starters, succulents, trees, shrubs, grasses, gifts, seeds, bulbs, organic products and more. They had me at Annie's Annuals, really, but I also really appreciate all the other stuff. See my Windmill-related blog posts.

Anyway, check it out! Print that baby and get over there before the coupon expires. It's still fall, which we all know is the best time for Californians to plant just about everything. It's also a great time to do a little Christmas shopping and Windmill goes all out this time of year.

When you use your coupon, report back and let us know what you got!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

November splendor

My tree dahlias (Dahlia imperialis) are right on schedule. I first noticed buds at the beginning of November... way high up in the sky... approaching twenty feet... despite the fact that I cut them back in summer in an apparently futile attempt at shorter, bushier plants.

So, yeah, this is year three and I think it's safe to say that tree dahlias will grow for extreme gardeners in Sacramento. They're crazy fun-- way too tall, prone to toppling from strong wind gusts, and might be snuffed out at the first cold snap before the buds open. But OMG, when you see those sky-scraping pink flowers you'll want to yell, "The tree dahlias are blooming! The tree dahlias are blooming!" with the same level of excitement Navin Johnson expressed when the new phone books arrived.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), pink sedum (now yellow, with brown seedheads), and spent agapanthus

In the last few years, I've been trying to provide overwintering hummingbirds with a source of homegrown nectar. Why? Because I'm too lazy to keep fresh nectar in my hummingbird feeders. The mixing... the boiling... the pouring... the storing. The doing it all over again. Ugh.

So far, Salvia and Cuphea have made November more nectarrific and colorful. Since November 4, doesn't it seem like everything is just a little bit more sparkly?

Giant Cigar Plant (Cuphea micropetala)

Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea)

It's a big, bushy, sprawling plant with lovely gray-green leaves.

Purple oxalis and Corokia cotoneaster in a pot.

Mushrooms, oak leaves, and nasturtiums

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Greenlee event recap

I really enjoyed John Greenlee's grass talk on Saturday at the lovely Sierra 2 Center in Curtis Park. Greenlee seems to be aiming to broaden our concept of what a "lawn" can be. It doesn't have to be fertilized and watered and mown within an inch of its life; Instead, you can simulate a mini-meadow using undulating waves of ornamental perennial grasses. And while you're at it, why not sprinkle in a few native bulbs or wildflowers? How does mowing once a year sound?

Achieving a meadow look on a small scale, and in a way that dares to please even your fussiest neighbors, can be accomplished. But you want to have a plan in place before you kill your sod.

Read all you can about ornamental grasses, see what's native or suited to our Mediterranean climate, and seriously consider calling an APLD member for help. Many APLD designers attended Mr. Greenlee's seminar and are probably pretty fired up about ornamental grasses and meadow gardens. Hey, if Greenlee's famous clients like Diane Keaton can kick the grass habit, so can we.

One of the grasses Greenlee talked about a lot was California native grass Carex pansa. It's cute and he had some for sale at the post-seminar plant sale. One audience member asked for a deer-resistant grass recommendation. Know what he said? Deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens. They may bed down in it, but apparently they won't eat it. Your roses, on the other hand...

You can get a taste of Greenlee's presentation by checking out his website's Products page. There's a slideshow, plant list and plant gallery.

Eye-catching yards

Thought I'd share a couple garden elements that caught my eye on a recent bike ride through a nearby neighborhood. Right now with the leaves turning, flowers still blooming and ornamental grasses in peak plumage, it's a great time to hop on your bike or go for a walk in the greater Sacramento area. Hurry, before winter chaps all our... um... grasses.

How cool is this rock wall planted with Echeveria?!

Beautiful example of an autumn-focused plant palette

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too distracted to garden much

My thoughts lately have been consumed not by gardening, but with the election. I'm fine to ignore my garden right now. It's autumn and plant growth has slowed to an enjoyable pace. The election, though, is peaking with only two weeks left before perhaps the most important vote in our lifetime. There can be no Garden Bliss when one is in Election Hell.

To soothe myself, I read my Mark Morford, my CNN... I watch my SNL, my Daily Show... I bite my fingernails... while my bulb auger sits in the garage untouched.

I count the Obama yard signs on the morning drive to my son's school. I curse their absence every time a thief sweeps through in the night, leaving the inexplicable McCain/Palin signs untouched.

And this is California, where Obama is in like Flynn. Still, I fret. Like Obama said, "Don't get cocky". When someone steals your yard signs, buy more. When someone sprays hateful graffiti all over your fence, repaint as soon as possible.

Like these guys did.

What prompted me to grab my slightly dusty camera this morning was the un-ignorable light shining on a few unexpected orchid cactus blooms and buds. In late October! While walking the yard, I discovered my little Annie dog in one of my half-barrels, triumphantly digging up an acorn planted by a squirrel she hopes to finally catch one day. To Eukanuba-fed Annie, pure sport; To the squirrel, an investment lost to a fatcat chihuahua.

We all have our dreams and desires... sometimes clashing and sometimes meshing. At least I know I'm not alone. Here's someone who has a worse case of Restless Voter Syndrome (RVS) than I do.