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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.
This Nasa “video” is really a slideshow. You might want to turn the music down or off. Cool photos from space though.
Lemon water for a hot day.
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?
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.
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.
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.”
A few photos from through the years.
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.
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.
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.)*
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.
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 — 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.
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:
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:
I’ve been traveling and haven’t posted much here for a little while. So here’s some Star Jasmine to tide us over.
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).