Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Banksia integrifolia

Botanical Name:  Banksia integrifolia
Common Name:  Coastal Banksia
Family:  Proteaceae
Country of Origin:  Possibly Eastern Australia
Named after Sir Joseph Banks


This picture was taken at the UC Davis Arboretum.   The flowers were very striking and hard to miss. I noticed at least two specimens of Banksia during our recent visit there but I am not sure what varieties they are.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

Wildlife Refuge

Hummingbirds eat nectar and small insects.  

"If you feed them they'll come..."  That is true to most of nature.  Living things can sense the direction of the source of good things and tend to gravitate towards it.  Life was designed that way for survival.  In the case of plants, their roots grow toward moist areas and the leaves towards the light.  If plants that seem so immobile can get to the food how much more to those that are equipped with wings and legs?  

Yes, I'm referring to the birds and other small mammals that now seem to reside in our garden because we have been regularly giving them food.  In return they give us entertainment and they help with pest control by eating aphids, larvae, slugs and snails that have found their way to my garden.    

There are so many wild doves in the area but we got our resident ones.

All of these birds can be attracted to a garden depending on the plants growing around.  However, in the absence of plants they can be lured by providing them feeds and water.  During summer time, water is as important as the feed in attracting them to the garden.  

He's cute but he scares the birds from the feeders.

The other thing that make a garden bird-friendly is the presence of bushes that provide shelter and cover from predator.  In our garden, the boxwood hedges provide just that to the finches when the hawk tries to get to them.

Broken saucers can still serve as a feeder.


Old breads are not wasted.  

When the quails are around, they bring down the snail population.

If you want to make your garden more interesting this season, try attracting more birds into it. 

Even doves enjoy the hammock in the garden

Birds are good boarders, they pay their fees in terms of entertainment and pest control.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Dehiscent Fruits




Fig. 1   Arbus precatorius seedpods in watercolor.
 It is a plant that grows as a weed in the coastal areas of my hometown in the Philippines.
And for the sake of nostalgia, I decided to draw it based on a picture I saw on the internet.


One the subjects I have enjoyed painting recently have been some dehiscent fruits.  These are the fruits that split-open at maturity to reveal or release the seeds in them.  Dehiscence is nature's seed dispersal mechanism.

Sometimes as gardeners we seem to be focused on the flowers especially on ornamental plants such as the Fortnight Lily (Dietes iridioides).  However as a plant scientist, I seem to be more fascinated by the inherent ultimate purpose of the plant which is reproduction.  Flowers are mainly there to facilitate the seed production.  It is for this very reason that the petalss are not very lasting - they fade right after pollination.  The fruits which contain the seeds are the true star of the whole show.


Fig. 2  Dietes iridiodes seedpods in watercolor.
Commonly known as Fortnight Lily, it is a popular choice for the local landscapes because of its heat and drought tolerance. It has beautiful white flowers that bloom in waves from spring to fall.  After the petals fade away, prominent green seedpods take the place of the flowers.  However, during this time of year blackish-gray cracked seedpods hover over the evergreen leaves.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Colorful Flapjacks

Older leaves turning yellow while the flower stalk remaining bluish gray.

Kalanchoe luciae 'Flapjacks' are very interesting succulents because of their flat leaves with colors that seem to change with the seasons.  I noticed that during seasons when the plants undergo stress, such as heat, drought and cold, the leaves tend to carry a warmer yellowish color starting from the older leaves.  In the spring and fall seasons, the red color intensifies with a hint of blue near the growing points of the plant.


'Flapjacks' make succulent specimen for containers and the garden. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Why Pomegranates Crack Open



After we had the first real rain this month, I saw that some of the fruits from the pomegranate tree cracked.  The plan was to keep them on the tree till December so that we will have an abundance of red color in the kitchen.  But I guess we'll just have to eat some of them sooner.  :)

Why do pomegranates crack or split?
 
1.  Sudden increase of available moisture at maturity.  When the fruits are mature and a sudden increase of available soil moisture occurs, as in the case of rain, some of the fruits responds by splitting.

2.  Inconsistent watering.  Sometimes fruits split when watering is inconsistent.  When the plants undergo incipient wilting prior to watering, the fruits tend to split.  This phenomenon can also be observed in other crops like tomatoes during the summer after a spell of hot weather and plants are given more water to compensate for the wilting.

3.  Some varieties are more susceptible to splitting than some.  Although I would say that genetic attributes of a plant fail to deliver when cultural management are not up to par.  This pomegranate in the picture is 'Wonderful', known to be resistant to cracking.  But because it is growing in a container, the soil is often on the side of dry.  While the tree can survive on less water, the sudden rise in available water triggers extreme physiological changes defying that which genetics was meant to accomplish.



When the pomegranate fruits crack open, it must be time to eat them.  :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Picture of the Day: Guttation on Broccoli



Beautiful guttation!  I was inspecting my broccoli plants for bugs when I saw this beautiful beads dangling on the edges of the leaves.  They are just a reminder that we had a good amount of precipitation during the last couple of days.  And because this is California, we get some really nice sunny weather afterwards providing the conditions for guttation to occur.

For more information about this phenomenon, read my earlier post on Guttation.

Stroll in your garden regularly.  
There is always something to discover there.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Aphids on Napa Cabbage



My battle with pests continues.  When I thought the cabbage worms on the kale have been eradicated, I found another colony of insurgents on the underside of the Napa cabbage leaves -- Aphids!  What looked like soil particles are pests sucking the life out of my plants.  Aphids are very tiny insects but they are not to be taken for granted because of their ability multiply at an alarming rate.

Aphids are parthenogenetic.  They have the ability to reproduce asexually.  They can reproduce without mating - giving birth to multiple live offspring in a day (1).  Not all of theme  have wings but they have some allies - the ants - that can move them from one place to another better place.

So what do you do when you find out that your young plants are infested with aphids?  When it comes to my kitchen garden I resist the temptation to spray anything store-bought for as long as possible.  In other words, pesticides are my last recourse.   At the first sign of infestation, aphid colonies can be easily disrupted by spraying them off with water.  Repeat daily until they are gone maybe about three to four days depending on how severe the infestation.  If you think they are beyond water-treatment, I would use Neem Oil or other plant-based pesticides.

In addition to this, there are also beneficial insects that are naturally around your garden such as ladybugs (Coccinella septempunctata) and lacewings (Chrysoperla rufilabris).  To increase their population in your garden you can buy them from your local nursery and let them out where the problem is most severe.

After all the secret is not in the toxicity level of the pesticide but the conscientiousness of the gardener in regularly inspecting the garden.  When the problem is caught early, it is manageable.


Stroll in your garden.  
It is good for you and your plants.  :)

__________
1 Integrated Pest Management (UC)
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