Dark crimson ruffled flowers open from pointed ovoid buds and are carried singly or in small clusters on long strong stems. They have the form of a hybrid Tea and are followed by orange hips. The vigorous plant is upright and prickly, and dark green leaves that are leathery and glossy. Don Juan is one of the best climbing roses and is especially known for its fabulous fragrance. It grows well on pillars, fences, arbors, and walls, and flowers are good for the vase. [click to continue…]
For centuries mankind has thought of the natural environment as something to conquer and control but that is changing and Nancy Lawson’s book, The Humane Gardener, is an eloquent voice for that change. Lawson gives convincing arguments for learning how to live in harmony with nature and presents ways to do so. Drawing from the experience of gardeners across the country as well as from information from scientists and horticulturalists, Lawson shows how a partnership with plants and animals can work to enrich both the landscape and our own spirit. [click to continue…]
Corn speedwell is a clump-forming annual native of Europe, Africa, and Asia where it grows in disturbed areas such as garden, lawns, pastures and waste places. It and is a member of the plantain family, Plantaginaceae, that also includes foxgloves, turtlehead and snapdragon. Corn speedwell is wide spread across the US growing in areas with full sun and medium moist to dry lean soil where competition from other plants is minimal. [click to continue…]
Tan oak is an evergreen shrub or tree native to western US from Oregon to California where it grows on dry, rocky slopes and in chaparral. It is a member of the beech family, Fagaceae, that also includes chestnuts. The thick, leathery leaves are three to six long and are shiny light green with whitish undersides. They are coarsely toothed and covered with orange-brown hairs when young. Upright catkins two to four inches long of small male flowers that are white before tuning rust colored appear from late spring to early summer. Inconspicuous yellow-green female flowers are produced at the base of the catkins and give way to small clusters of one inch long egg-shaped acorns that require eighteen months to mature. Each acorn has a saucer-shaped cup with dense spines and a woody nut shell. Although eaten by squirrels, the nuts are very bitter and Native Americans leached them before grinding them into flour. Useful as a specimen, hedge, screen, or in borders and woodland gardens. The genus name Notholithocarpus comes from the Latin word nothus meaning false, and the Greek words lithos meaning stone, and karpos meaning fruit, referring to the acorn. The specific epithet, densiflorus comes from the Latin words densus meaning dense or crowded, and florus meaning flowered. [click to continue…]
Barley (Hordeum vulgare) is a major cereal grain and a member of the grass family (Poaceae). It is an annual and grows over 36 inches tall so is considered a tall grass. The stems are hairless, often branched at the base, and bear cylindrical bristly seed heads that look like fox tails. Barley is used today for human consumption, animal fodder, and the production of beer and whiskey. [click to continue…]
Blueblossom, also known as wild/California lilac, is an evergreen shrub endemic to southern Oregon to southern California where it grows in open woods and chaparral of coastal mountains. It is a member of the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae, and not closely related the true lilac, Syringa. The shrub is dense and has small oval leaves are glossy and have three prominent veins on the underside. In spring to early summer the tiny blue to white flowers are carried in three inch long spike-like clusters that resemble the staff (thyrsus) of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine. The plants are as a specimen, or for hedges and screens, and may be pruned to resemble a small tree for a patio. Several cultivars are available that vary primarily in size and flower color. Many pollinators feed on the flowers including bees and butterflies, and the larvae of some moths and butterflies feed on the leaves. Several birds eat the fruit and deer, elk, and rabbits browse the foliage. The generic name Ceanothus comes from the Greek word keanothus meaning spiny plant. The specific epithet, thyrisiflorus comes from the Greek word thursos, referring to the staff of Bacchus, and the Latin word flos, floris, meaning flower.
Type: Evergreen flowering shrub
Outstanding Feature: Flowers
Growth Rate: Rapid
Bloom: Tiny blue to white flowers in three inch long spike-like clusters, from spring to early summer
Size: 4-30’ H x 5-30′ W (depending on the cultivar)
Light: Full sun to part shade
Soil: Average, medium moist well-drained, alkaline; tolerates drought once established
Hardiness: Zones 8-10
Care: Prune to maintain shape.
Pests and Diseases: None of significance except browsers
Propagation: Seed, cuttings
If you have been drinking California wines over the last several decades you might have noticed that they are constantly changing. These changes are the focus of Jon Bonne’s book, The New California Wine. With a palette trained by Old World wines and experience running the wine section of the San Francisco Chronicle, Bonne surveys the wine making industry of California, explains the changes, and provides an intimate look at the land and winemakers responsible for those changes. [click to continue…]
Garden angelica is a biennial native to cooler parts of Europe and Asia. It is a large plant and needs plenty of space in the garden. The first year it produces a clump of leaves and in the second year produces a stout hallow stem that grows up to six feet tall and bears the flowers. The tiny flowers have green-white petals and are produced in large globes up to six to nine inches across. The flowers appear in early summer and mature into attractive seed heads in late summer. The yellow-green leaves are douby compound, each leaf being two to three feet long with leaflets three inches long. The flowers heads are so big they can only be used in large arrangements but they can be pulled apart and for use in small ones. The seed heads can be dried. [click to continue…]
Sweetbay is a deciduous to semi evergreen tree native to the eastern coastal plain of the US, from Massachusetts to Florida, west to Texas, Texas, where it grows in low woods swamps, and streambanks. It is a member of the magnolia family, Magnoliaceae, that also includes tuliptree (Liriodendron). Although a tree in the southern part of its range it is likely to be more shrub-like in the northern parts. The bark is smooth and green on young branches, smooth dark gray on older branches and trunk. The leathery oval leaves are simple, shiny green on top, silvery below, and 3-6 inches long by 1-1.5 inches wide. The sweetly fragrant creamy-white flowers are cup-shaped, two to three inches across, and have nine to twelve tepals. They are produced singly in mid-spring and give way to twoinch long cone-like aggregate fruits with bright red seeds that are attractive to birds. The tree is a good choice for a specimen tree, borders, rain garden, woodland garden, and especially patios where its fragrance can be enjoyed. It is often planted in parks and is useful for wet areas where few other plants will grow. Several cultivars are available that vary most importantly in their hardiness and evergreen nature.
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Bloody cranesbill is an herbaceous perennial native t Europe and temperate Asia where it grows in grasslands, open woodlands, sand dunes, and rocky slopes. Thick rhizomes form mounts of shallowly divided waxy basal leaves and deeply divided stem leaves. The foliage is dark green in the summer but turns crimson red in the fall. The magenta flowers are 1-1 ½ inches across, saucer shaped, and are carried singly on slender stems from spring into summer over a long bloom time. The flowers are not long lasting in the vase but can add a very bright spot of color to small arrangements. The beautiful fall foliage is a tempting addition to arrangements but will only last 24 hours. Cultivars are available with white or rose flowers, and with varying heights. [click to continue…]