Tom’s Garden

Growing by the Bay

Author: xensen (Page 2 of 20)

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.

Read More

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.

lemons

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Steph and Lebron

Steph breaks down LBJ

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

Waaarrriiiooorrrsss!!!

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.”

Read More

Golden Gate Bridge with rocks and waves - detail

Happy 80th Birthday, Golden Gate Bridge

Buddhist monks perform a ritual at the Golden Gate Bridge

Tibetan Buddhist monks perform a ritual at the Golden Gate Bridge.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A few photos from through the years.

Gruss an Aachen rose flower detail.

Grüss an Aachen Rose, again

Gruss an Aachen rose flowers.

Grüss an Aachen rose flowers.

The  Grüss an Aachen rose certainly loved our wet winter. This is just a photo post. For info about this rose, see this earlier post.

 

 

Garden, 7 May 2017.

Bloomiferous

This is one of the best times of year here for flowers in the garden.

Brugmansia 'Charles 'Grimaldi'

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’

Brugmansia 'Charles 'Grimaldi'

Brugmansia ‘Charles ‘Grimaldi’.

Not everything in the garden has to be obscure. ‘Charles Grimaldi’ is one of the most widely available cultivars of Brugmansia for a reason. It’s fragrant, attractive, and reliable. Today I enjoyed playing with photography of some of its large, trumpet-shaped flowers.

 

Brugmansia 'Charles 'Grimaldi'

Brugmansia ‘Charles ‘Grimaldi’.

Mine is growing at the property line under oak and plum trees, as well as bottlebrush and other shrubs. This is an area that gets some morning sun but it is protected from the hottest and most intense sunlight. Under these circumstances the plant has grown tall, maybe twelve feet or more. I give it occasional water during our dry summer season, but not a lot, since it seems to manage pretty well on its own — though the flowers (which are about a foot tall) will wilt a bit in hot, dry weather (but generally recover in the evening, when the fragrance is greatest). It flowers pretty much continuously, year round in my location.

Read More

Neap Tide cocktail detail showing color.

Neap Tide (cocktail)

The Neap Tide, a refreshing cocktail.

The Neap Tide, a refreshing cocktail.

Today’s fluid delight is something I’m calling a Neap Tide. Neap tides are when the difference between high and low is the least. Steady as she goes. (And this is similar to something Laird’s calls a Tidal Wave.)*

INGREDIENTS
1.5 oz. Laird’s Applejack
0.5 oz. Campari or Bruto Americano
4.0 oz. Orange juice

Stir with ice and strain. You can add an orange garnish. The result is a refreshing drink, with a flavor the evokes grapefruit, that it would probably be all too easy to overdo.

I’m temporarily out of Bruto Americano, so I used Campari, but the Bruto would, I’m sure, be great. As long as you like that kind of thing (as I do) — if bitter isn’t your taste, you could try substituting Apertol, which is sweeter and more citrusy. Hey, they love it in the Veneto and the Alto Adige. If, on the other hand, the OJ is too sweet for your palate, rebalance it with the Campari, or add something like Old Tom’s Aromatic Bitters.


A Tidal Wave is a combination of 1.5 oz. Applejack, 4 oz. OJ, and a splash of cranberry juice.

Detail of Grüss an Aachen Rose flower.

Grüss an Aachen Rose update

Grüss an Aachen Rose flower.

Grüss an Aachen Rose flower.

I’ve talked about Grüss an Aachen roses before. I don’t grow a lot of roses, but I like this one. The problem with modern roses is that they were bred strictly for flowers, and the plant and its foliage lack the nice bush form of old-fashioned roses. But after our wet winter this year, the Grüss an Aachen looks fine. It is blooming profusely, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

 

calandrinia spectabilis

Calandrinia spectabilis

Calandrinia spectabilis flower.

Calandrinia spectabilis flower.

Calandrinia spectabilis — the rare plant with no real common name (though some commercial growers are trying to brand it as Rock Purslane) — is native to the deserts of Chile. In does very well in our area. For one thing, it needs virtually no water. After five years of drought that’s a big plus, even if this last year set records for wetness. I mean, it doesn’t just manage for a while without water, it outright laughs at drought.  So it’s a great plant to put in that corner that the garden hose is hard to get to.

Read More

Detail of illustration of salad greens from Johnny's catalogue.

Browsing the seed catalogues: Johnny’s Selected Seeds

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Maine, 7.75 x 10.25 in., 244 pp.

Cover of catalogue from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Maine, 7.75 x 10.25 in., 244 pp.

Next up on our tour of seed catalogues is my favorite of all, Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Johnny’s, based in Winslow, Maine, is a large operation that was started in 1973 in New Hampshire by a 22-year-old named Rob Johnston. Back then it was briefly called Johnny Apple Seeds, but that name had already been taken. Now employee owned, Johnny’s is a member of the Safe Seed Initiative, pledging that it will not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants.

One thing I love about this catalogue is the wealth of information in it. It’s better than many most of the gardening books I’ve got from the library. Growing guides are provided for many varieties of vegetable. Second, extraordinary comparison images show differences among varieties. And, finally, the photography is excellent. All three features can be seen in this excerpt from the bush beans section:

Johnnys Selected Seeds, excerpt from section on bush beans.

Johnnys Selected Seeds, excerpt from section on bush beans.

Read More

A new look for Tom’s Garden

I’ve changed the look of this blog (but not the content very much). Mainly what you will see now is larger images. (The typography and sidebar configuration is also changed.) I think this makes sense because much of the content here is photographic. Previously I used a distinct homepage with small square thumbnails linking to the posts. Let me know if you have any thoughts about the new look. Here’s what the homepage used to look like:

The look of the former home page of this blog (using a modified child of the apostrophe theme).

The look of the former home page of this blog (using a modified child of the Apostrophe theme).

jasmine

Jasmine

Star jasmine.

Star jasmine.

I’ve been traveling and haven’t posted much here for a little while. So here’s some Star Jasmine to tide us over.

Geums.

The Prodigal Gardener

The garden, April 9, 2017

Returned to the Bay Area after a while away. I was worried when I heard about a local heat wave while we were gone, but fortunately a neighbor agreed to do some watering. Almost everything came through marvelously, and there are a lot of spring blooms (more on that later).

The garden, April 9, 2017

Wheelbarrow detail.

The Orange Wheelbarrow

Orange wheelbarrow.

So much depends upon an orange wheelbarrow, scarred from rough use, beside the green citrus.

Cunonia capensis

Cunonia capensis, Butterknife Tree

Stipule of Cononia capensis, Butterknife Tree.

Stipule of Cunonia capensis, Butterknife Tree.

Some leafstalks are marked by outgrowths at the base, usually on opposite sides. These were named stipules by Linnaeus, from the Latin word stipula, meaning “straw” or “stalk.” Not all plants have stipules, and among those that do, they vary greatly in appearance “and might appear as glands, scales, hairs, spines, or laminar (leaf-like) structures.” The remarkable, conspicuous stipules of Cunonia capensis, the African Red Alder, or Butterspoon or Butterknife Tree, are a focal point in the garden, almost always remarked upon by people who see them for the first time. The paired stipules are reddish in color and pressed together like cupped hands — or like butterspoons, I guess, whatever those are. (I say “butterknife” rather than “butterspoon.” I can see how the stipules are spoonlike, but I don’t apply my butter with a spoon, do you?)

An evergreen multistemmed perennial shrub or small tree from South Africa, this is one of my favorite specimen plants. I used to have several that I lost in our severe, years-long drought. The plant doesn’t need constant water, but it doesn’t like being dry, and I was careless (or all too responsible a California citizen). It also dislikes heat, and I’m now growing this one in a large container in part shade. While the tree can reach thirty feet in damp forests, it is seldom seen above fifteen feet in the open. Several sources report that it can be kept for many years in a container, and this has been my experience. It grows in zones 9–11 and prefers good drainage.

Read More

Many ducks.

The morning commute

 

This brings back memories of my commute to San Francisco’s Civic Center, right down to the honking and passing along the shoulder. The traffic here is just moving a bit faster.

At this South African vineyard, a thousand Indian Runner Ducks keep the vines free of snails. The ducks are probably more enthusiastic workers than most of my fellow commuters. But then, they get paid in snails.

I guess all our garden needs now is a few hundred ducks.

Crabapple blossoms.

The prettiest fruiting tree blossoms

Crabapple blossoms, March 2017.

Crabapple blossoms, March 2017.

Crabapple, hands down.

Page 2 of 20

Some rights reserved 2017 Tom’s Garden. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via rightreading.com/contact.htm.