Growing by the Bay

Month: June 2017



Shiso (Perilla frutescens var. crispa).

Shiso (Perilla frutescens var. crispa).

This is shiso, a plant in the mint family. The stems and undersides of the leaves are purple, and the plant resembles coleus. (There is also a green-stemmed variety, and a frillier type.) Shiso, a form of perilla, originated in East or Southeast Asia, and is mentioned in a text from around 500 CE. The purple form, called akajiso, is used for coloring pickled plum (umeboshi) and as a distinctive flavor reminiscent of mint and cinnamon in a variety of dishes. The green type is probably better as a fresh green, but the purple kind adds an ornamental element to the garden.

Calendrinia spectabilis, Stipa arundinacea, Iochroma coccinea.

Calendrinia spectabilis, Stipa arundinacea, Iochroma coccinea

Calendrinia spectabilis, Stipa arundinacea, Iochroma coccinea.

Front to back: Calendrinia spectabilis, Stipa arundinacea, Iochroma coccinea.

Datura wrightii, Sacred Datura.

Datura wrightii, Sacred Datura.

South-facing wall. Front l-r: <em>Artemisia absinthium</em> (wormwood), <em>Calendrinia spectabilis</em>. Back l-r: White Genoa Fig, Persian Lime.

South-facing wall. Front l-r: Artemisia absinthium (wormwood), Calendrinia spectabilis. Back l-r: White Genoa Fig, Persian Lime.

Hummingbird Sage and White Sage (California natives).

Hummingbird Sage and White Sage (California natives).

Yellowfin yellow zucchini leaf.

Yellowfin yellow zucchini leaf.

Johnson's Hybrid Aloe.

Johnson’s Hybrid Aloe.

Trying to identify this plant . . .

Trying to identify this plant . . .

Scabiosa anthemifolia detail.

Scabiosa anthemifolia

Scabiosa anthemifolia.

Scabiosa anthemifolia, Pincushion Flower.

We were delighted this morning to discover a Monarch butterfly in the garden. We hadn’t been visited by one in several years, since the great decline. The Monarchs require Asclepias — milkweed — to thrive (the larvae absorb toxic steroids, called cardenolides, which protect them from predators), and Roundup has been killing all the milkweed. But more and more people in Northern California are, like us, now growing milkweed, and I hope this visit is a sign the butterflies are on the rebound.

Today’s butterfly was particularly interested in the Scabiosa anthemifolia. Though not a California native (it hails from Africa, Europe and Asia), its nectar is popular with all sorts of our local flying critters.

California Rises from the Drought

This Nasa “video” is really a slideshow. You might want to turn the music down or off. Cool photos from space though.

lemon water

Lemon water for a hot day.

broken lemon branch

Lost two fairly big lemon tree branches to excessive fruit weight. Should have thinned them out, but this has never happened before, so I wasn’t concerned.


What should I do with all these lemons?

Warriors Parade sign

Golden State Warriors 2017 championship parade photos

Waaar-i-ors! Great fun at the GSW championship parade. I missed some of the players and coaches, but I did get several cool photos. Here are a few.

young fan on lamp post

Fans were climbing the urban landscape for views of the Dubs.

Using Bokashi to convert kitchen waste to garden greenery

Bokashi system: pail with tight lid and spigot, cup for Bokashi tea, implement for pressing down food waste materials, and Bokashi starter.

Bokashi system: pail with tight lid and spigot, cup for Bokashi tea, implement for pressing down food waste materials, and Bokashi starter.

Fermentation is the bacterial and fungal process of decomposing sugars that gives us wine, beer, cheese, salame, pickles, kimchi, and so much more. Recently I made a post about making homemade ginger beer, a process that uses wild bacteria to ferment ginger brew. (The bible for kitchen fermentation is Sandor Katz’s The Art of Fermentation.) Today I would like to talk about using fermentation to safely convert the valuable nutrients in kitchen waste into effective fertilizer for the garden.

Steph and Lebron

Steph breaks down LBJ

Great slo-mo video (might take a moment to load).


Swallowtail caterpillar detail.

Western Swallowtail Butterflies

Western Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Jupiter's Beard flower.

Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly on Jupiter’s Beard flower.

The Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus), seen here, is a native of western North America, from the Rockies (and sometimes farther east) to the Pacific and from British Columbia to Baja California. Coastal Northern California, where I live, is one of its favorite habitats. It is a large butterfly, with a wingspan of about three to four inches (females are larger than males). It can be seen flitting about from spring through fall, and occasionally even in winter.

Art Shapiro, professor of Evolution and Ecology at the University of California, Davis, says that “The Western Tiger Swallowtail is basically a species of riparian forest, where it glides majestically back and forth along the watercourse. It has expanded into older urban neighborhoods where several of its host genera are grown as shade trees, and behaves as if the street were a watercourse. In the high country and on the Sierran east slope its usual host is Aspen.”

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