Monday, July 27, 2015

Succulent Gardens

The Succulent Gardens located in 2133 Elkhorn Rd, Castroville, California is a remarkable destination for any gardener.  It functions as a nursery and demonstration center but it also boasts beautiful and mature succulent/cactus gardens.  I had the pleasure to take pictures and buy a few plants during our visit there earlier this year.  


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Ruth Bancroft Garden: A Garden of Austerity

Planted with water-wise plants, the Ruth Bancroft Garden exemplifies an austere garden.  It is not the typical lush and colorful garden where everything is provided and all challenges are eliminated to optimize the performance of plants. In this garden, the plants are those that can live on less water - it is not that they do not need more water but that they have a deeper tolerance to drought.

Here are pictures of some plants I saw:

1.  Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)

2.  Agave peryii - starting to bloom

3.  Agave havardiana

4. Echinopsis huascha

4.  Probably a Stenocereus_eruca

5.  (Help me name this plant)

6.  (Help me name this plant)

Visit your local public gardens to expand your imagination.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Peaches are Ripe Again

It is that time of the year when we are flooded with peaches.  What this means is that peaches will be served every meal for a couple of weeks and I will be busy preserving the ones we cannot consume or share with our neighbors.  Sometimes it is hard to decipher whether this is a blessing or burden.  One thing is sure - it starts as the former and ends as the later. :)

The tree has a sad history.  The tree has suffered severe cases of  leaf curl (Taphrina deformans) in the past years drastically reducing the canopy cover not only for purposes of photosynthesis but for shading.  The location of the tree can get very hot in the summer - the sun exposed portion of the trunk can crack and separates from the cambium layer.  At present the bark on half of the trunk's girth is peeling off. We pruned the tree last year with the intention of eventually removing it.  In fact, already I bought a pluot tree to take it's place (close to the plum tree). But this year's peach crop tells me to delay the process.

Plant a fruit tree this year for the enjoyment of many 
generations to come. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Tanacetum parthenium

Tanacetum parthenium (L.)
Common name:  Feverfew; Wild Chamomile
Other Names: Chrysanthemum parthenium
                        Leucanthemum parthenium
                 Pyrethrum parthenium 
                 Matricaria parthenium
Family: Asteraceae
Origin:  The Balkan Peninsula

Tanacetum pathenium (feverfew) is a perennial plant that is traditionally cultivated for its medicinal properties. Extensive studies throughout the ages have shown that the flowers and fruits are known to contain parthenolide which accounts for the medicinal potency of this plant.  However, beyond its therapeutic uses, tanacetum parthenium is also an important ornamental plant in landscapes.  Dainty white flowers with yellow center rise above the canopy of the plant in the summer and fall - making it an excellent plant choice for mixed borders.  

In my garden, feverfew came as a volunteer plant - in other words, it is a self-seeding plant.  Over the years it has spread and I had to deliberately contain it on the eastern side of the patio providing an added visual interest in that area. This plant requires very little to thrive. In our Zone 9 area, it is almost evergreen but I cut it back every year in the winter to give it a clean fresh growth for the spring.  

Suggested Reading:  Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.): A systematic review

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Beyond Fern Fronds

Fig. 1   Fern fronds

A fern that has a flower is not a true fern and anything that resembles a flower on a fern is not a true flower. Ferns are not flowering plants but they are capable of reproduction through spores. The purpose of this article is to point out where this flowerless-reproduction takes place.

New fronds on ferns start out plain green (Fig. 1).  While some fronds are sterile, some are fertile for reproduction which can be differentiated by inspecting the under-side of the fronds as they begin to develop sori - the reproductive structure in ferns (Fig. 2).   

The sori  start out as rows of two dimentional dots (Fig. 2) and as they mature they turn increasingly three-dimensional resulting in an embossed appearance on the fronds. At this point, the sori are enclosed in a thin flap of tissue called indusium.  

Fig. 2.  Sori (singular: sorus) on the underside of  fertile fern fronds.

The indusium at first covers, the entire sorus (Fig.2).  However, as the sori mature, the indusia slowly recede to unveil the growing sporangia (Fig. 3) - each sorus containing clusters of sporangia. Eventually, the and finally detaches from the sorus leaving a velvety house of spores (Fig.4). 

Fig. 3   Indusium slowly revealing the sporangia as they mature.

Sporangium  (Fig. 4) is a receptacle in which asexual spores are developed.  Ferns are flowerless and seedless plants - therefore, they do not undergo sexual fertilization where a male cell unites with a female cell to form a new embryo.  Instead, they have sporangia that are like tiny packages containing multitudes of spores - all potentially capable of cell division to produce a multi-cellular organism - a new plant.  Minute as they are, spores are designed to survive and dispersed - they remain viable for a long time until favorable conditions are met.

Fig. 4    Sporangia all ready for dispersal.

Now that we know about fertile fern fronds that give rise to aggregates of sori that hold the sporangia which are the vessels that contain the spores, we can say that the fronds are not ordinary leaves.  Unlike the leaves of flowering plants which function mainly as sites for photosynthesis, the fern fronds perform dual functions - photosynthetic and reproductive. 

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