Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Survival of the Fittest



During the last month and a half, we traveled all over (the world) for one reason or another.  As a result the garden was left to tend for itself most of the time.  Thanks to automated irrigation system, the plants are all fine.  The only problem was that there are some plants scattered all over the yard that are normally hand-watered, just because I like doing it.  Some of them, such as the zinnias, basil, chives, palm trees and some succulents, got severely stressed.  Fortunately, I am not an emotional gardener - I threw away those that did not make it.  The reason they died is that I was attending to more important things in life.  Yes, there are more important things than the garden.  Anyone who is says otherwise doesn't have life :)

Today I was in backyard filling up the bird feeders,watering, and taking pictures when I saw noticed that the grape vine attach itself onto the faucet as if it is trying to get water from it.  It was trying to survive in my absence!  😄

Slowly over the years, my garden has evolved from a high to a low maintenance garden.  First step was to eliminate all that are not supposed to be in my garden such as thorny roses.  They are beautiful plants but they are not always beautiful.  This gardener also does not fancy being poked by plants.  Now, we are at the phase where, the fittest remain.  A plant is fit for my garden if it not only survives but remain beautiful even when I do not tend to it for two weeks or more.  These are the plants that a gardener can enjoy. 


Sunday, March 18, 2018

Some Random Thoughts

Finch: Dining in style

In every garden some life form beyond the gardener's design will appear, thrive, provide, consume, destroy, or invade .  The garden can be artificial in the sense that some things abound beyond the natural.  As a result life thrive there - not only the things we put and plant there but also some others.  One gardening action is not an end but a beginning of a series of changes in the place.  For example, the simple act of digging the soil exposes some weed seeds in the deeper parts of the ground.  Then the seed is exposed to more surface moisture and warmth from the sun.  It grows into a plant called weed.  Soon a butterfly is attracted to the flowers which will soon attract small birds.  The small birds linger around and soon predators will their way to the garden.  Ans do so on.   

Resident Dove

Wildlife, wild as we call them, benefit directly and indirectly from our domesticated yards called gardens.  Here at the Lewis garden, the  mocking birds come to eat their share grapes when the fruits are ripe and what ever we do not harvest, the squirrels will slowly harvest them even when the grapes become dry as raisins.  I think they prefer it that way.  We feed the doves and quails but the hawks and cats come uninvited.  We plant apples to enjoy some fruits but the worms enjoy the first bite.  The same thing is true with all the vegetables we plant.  We dream of nice organic clean lettuce for the salad but the aphids always try to take the first taste.  I guess that is how the world operates.  :)

We change our environment and our environment will change us, hopefully for the better.  That is the point of tending the ground.  Plants we plant change the yard around our homes.  Things come and go; grow and die; produce and consume; beautify and tarnish - because we did something different. And then we see a different world.  Suddenly we realize that we live in a different place.  It is very delightful to see life (plants and animals alike) come and linger around.  They make us slow down and appreciate the things we often take for granted.  And it is all because of a single act we do.  


Hummingbird


Squirrel eating dry grapes


Quails:  Standing room only

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Garden Chores

The first daffodil flower this year.

Things we did in the yard today:
My fellow gardener (aka husband) and I took the time to do some work in the yard on this overcast day.

1.  Remove all old leaves around the yard.   There some areas in the yard where a layer of leaves might be used as mulch.  However there are also areas that are intended to be kept neat and clean - at this time should should be cleaned from all old plant parts.

2.  Empty water from open vessels.  There are always containers or pot saucers in the yard that collect water when it rains which need to be emptied to discourage mosquitoes from breeding in them and to protect the roots of plants in containers.

3.  Fill up bird feeders.  The birds are not only delightful to watch but they are also helpful in eating some of the pests around the yard.

4.  Spread snail bait and pesticide (granules) for soil-born insects such as grubs on the lawn area.

5.  Fertilize the lawn.  At this time of the year, complete fertilizer, such as 16-16-16 helps the grass develop not just the part that are seen but also the the roots which is necessary for our dry area.  The better root system the plants have, the better ability it has to search for water and other resources during the drier months.  With that said, my fellow gardener decided to use the Weed and Feed from last year.  It contained a high dose of nitrogen (28-0-2) and some herbicide (2,4 D).  High levels of nitrogen is not needed by the grass at this time but it's not detrimental, so no big deal.  The problem was the herbicide in the fertilizer because I saw him spreading it around the succulents!  We'll see what happens next.  :)

6.  Prune shrubs.  Rosemary, Mexican sage, Santa Barbara daisies.

7.  Fortified the surrounding hollow blocks of the compost pile.


Mint:  Expelled from the vegetable plot.

8.  Remove mint runners from vegetable plots.  I left one mint plant outside the container last year and this time there are new mint everywhere.  I knew it was going to happen but I did not anticipate how far they would go within a year.  :)

9.  Mow the grass.  The grass needed a little haircut today.  And it looks better now.

After we got done with yard work, we had lunch and then watched the Masterpiece movie "Great Expectations".  I think we deserved it. :)

Every day spent tending the garden is a beautiful day.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Super Sugar Snap Pea

Pea 'Super Sugar Snap' (Pisum sativum) Seeds

Today marks the beginning of spring in my garden because the first seeds that would grow in my little garden this year just got planted.  Our weather here can change swiftly from cold (Foothills-cold) to hot (Inland-hot) which poses a challenge in  scheduling to plant any of the cool season crops such as peas.  In previous years, the consistent problem has been having the temperatures get critically high before my peas produce pods.  Hopefully this time will be different.

Super Sugar Snap is an earlier variety, maturing within 64 days from planting.  It is supposed to have shorter veins than the older varieties which would make it snap better and more fun to eat.  Another favorable feature of this variety is its high resistance to powdery mildew and leaf roll virus. We need to understand that the conditions that favor the growth of powdery mildew is the same as the conditions required by the most of the cool-season crops: High relative humidity (RH) at nighttime; drier or low RH during daytime; and mild temperatures (70-80 ºF).  Therefore, in choosing a variety, diseases resistance must be given special consideration. 

Every day spent tending the garden is a beautiful day.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Dusty Miller



Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) is a unique plant with silvery and lacy leaves which varies with variety.  which made it useful in creating contrast and accent against the predominantly green or red foliage in the garden.  It's neutral color makes it a great choice for as a filler plant in any border.



Last season, I planted dusty miller along with marigolds and blue lobelia and alyssum in the large containers that hold orange and pomegranate trees.  The arrangement was delightful all the way to the late fall.  But now only the silvery dusty miller remains.   Dusty miller, as much as it is labelled as an annual in your local nursery, is a perennial.  Yes, dusty miller is a perennial plant.


When the plant gets to a mature stage, the shape becomes irregular and the stems get woody.  The plant seem to undergo bolting at flowering.  However,  this can be solved by pruning the plant to shape.  As for the ones I have in my containers (as seen in the picture below) they will soon be transferred to the ground before I plant new annuals into the containers again.  



Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Aeonium haworthii: Survival Mechanism

Fig. 1    Aeonium haworthii 'Pinwheel' 

Aeonium haworthii (Pinwheel) is a succulent species in the Crassulaceae family. Because this plant has been growing in my garden for so long, I am a witness to the behavior of this plant at least in our USDA Zone 9 area.  It is a sturdy plant which can thrive with minimal care.  The winters here are harsh and summers are very dry and very hot and yet there has been no mortality to account for - the plant just doesn't die.  However depending on the microclimate and eventually the plant may undergo some levels of stress in the drier months.

Fig. 2    Curled in leaves:  Behavior of stressed plants

This year we had recurring problem with faulty drip irrigation where some plants were not getting watered and among them were the 'Pinwheels'.  And because they are succulents it takes longer before physical signs of stress become noticeable.  Sometimes when the symptoms become visible, the physiological stress is already at an advanced stage. Symptoms happen is stages.  Firstly is the yellowing of the lower leaves on the stem.    Then these leaves abscise (fall off the plant), but that is easily ignored as the more prominent parts of the plants are still normal.  Then the third stage is more recognizable:  the leaves begin to curl in to form a seemingly closed flower as in Fig. 2.  This the the point when even the untrained eye will notice the symptoms.

So several of my plants exhibited this third stage.  But my point here is to give emphasis to the ability of the plant to survive after it has undergone critical conditions.  It has been my observation that when stressed-plants experience the first sign of favorable condition, through rain or watering, they respond very quickly.  Adventitious roots grow (Fig. 3) from older stems at a very fast rate to take advantage of the moisture - first in the atmosphere and then into the ground.  This is one of the many survival mechanisms succulents rely on - which makes them withstand severely stressful conditions.

Fig. 3     Adventitious roots appear when favorable condition are sensed by the plant.

When a stem of this succulent plant is separated from the plant, it will behave as if it is the last of its kind and thus try to preserve its species (Fig. 4).  It will heal all wounds that potentially pose as outlets of the remaining water stored in its tissues.  The leaves protect the tender growing point and conserve moisture by curling in its leaves.  Dried as it may seem, the detached stem is ever sensing changes in the atmosphere.  Once favorable conditions occur, root growth commences  (Fig. 4).

Fig.  4     Detached stem of Aeonium haworthii 'Pinwheel' displays survival techniques.

Succulents are interesting plants indeed.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Kalanchoe Panamensis: Hidden Flowers

Kalanchoe panamemsis flowers:  dimpled heart-shaped pendants.

Since I started painting, I have become more observant of the little details of plants.  The desire to portray plants parts accurately, summons me to look at them more intensely than I used to.  Yesterday as I was walking in the secret garden (one section of my yard) where some succulents grow, I noticed something different with the Kalanchoe panamensis.  Some of the leaves seemed lacking the magenta color on leaf margins.  The initial question was, could it be that the terminal ends of these plants lose the pigmentation when the temperatures are low?  But upon close observation, it turned out that the plants were in bloom.  Then the next question was, why only now?  This plant has been in my garden for years.  Could it be that I was less observant then?  Or could it be that I was just not in the garden when flowering occurred in the past?


The flowers are generally light in color but some pigmentation were visible on random buds.

The Kalanchoe panamensis blooms on the terminal ends of the stems.  At this stage, the flowers look like heart-like pendants that hang in clusters.  They are beautiful now.  But I expect that these flowers still have to undergo several development stages.  And since all flowers must open, I'm excited to see how these ones will pave the way for pollination to happen.  Stay tuned. 😊

Kalanchoe panamemsis before flower initiation

Stroll in your garden and learn something new.  
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