Author and natural historian, Daniel Mathews, draws attention to the alarming plight of the conifer forests of the dry American West, from British Columbia to New Mexico. He discusses the intertwined causes of the forests’ decline including fire, pests, diseases, and drought, all made more devastating by global warming and misguided management practices of the past. While acknowledging that the forests of the future will be different from those of the past, Mathews is hopeful that in the future we can optimize forest cover where possible through big changes in attitudes and forest management techniques. This, of course, will not be popular or easy, but lies within our grasp.
The text present information on wildfire issues such as prescribed burning, bark beetles, and white pine blister rust, through accounts of visits to endangered sites where scientific researches are investigating the problems and formulating possible solutions. We learn about the Great Basin bristlecone pines that have survived everything the environment has thrown at them for 5,000 years, the tree ring analysis used to reveal the severity of past spring and fall fires, and the evidence from packrat nest middens to determine species composition and fire frequency of sites. All of this carefully presented material is written in a very readable style and is enhanced by beautiful sketches of the various trees that are the concern of the book. Mathew’s work brings awareness to a problem that affects a large and important resource in our country and, hopefully, will help bring about needed changes.
The basic garden trowel has a handle with a scoop-shaped blade that is wider near the handle and pointed at the far end. The point may be sharp or not but is always sharp enough to easily dig into the soil. The trowel may be made entirely of plastic, or have a metal blade with a wooden, metal, or plastic handle. The better trowels have carbon steel or stainless steel blades and some blades may be etched with measurements that aid in such tasks as determining depth of planting or space between plants. Handles vary but should be smooth and fit comfortably into the hand. The strength of the tang (bar that connects the blade with the handle) is significant to the life of the trowel as if it bends the usefulness of the trowel is over. Trowels are easy to lose in the garden so consider one that has a bright colored handle that will not blend in with the garden soil or plants. In some cases, an inexpensive plastic trowel can be a reasonable selection if the rate of trowel loss is high. Photo Credit Wikipedia
Native to California and Baja California, this variable annual, perennial or subshrub, is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes sunflower, daisy and lettuce. It usually grows 1-2′ tall and forms a greenish to gray-green clump or stand of erect stems and deeply 4-5 lobed or divided leaves. From winter to summer, terminal clusters of up to 30 bright golden yellow flower heads appear. Each flower head is flat, about 3/8 ” across and consists of a few rounded to oval ray florets surrounding a large center of disc florets. The fruit is a tiny achene with a very small pappus. The flowers are attractive to bees and other pollinators and the fine foliage adds texture to the garden but the plant is winter deciduous and may also lose leaves in the summer if stressed. The genus name, Eriophyllum, comes from the Greek words erion, meaning wool, and phyllon, meaning leaf, and refers to the woolly looking hairs on young leaves. The specific epithet, confertiflorum, comes from the Latin words confertus meaning crowded and floris meaning flower and refers to the densely packed florets in the flower head.
With their soft fuzzy appearance and resemblance to teddy-bear’s arms these shrubs or small trees have a strong visual appeal that belies their danger to passers-by. They grow up to 8′ tall and have a stout, upright trunk with many jointed branches that fall off with maturity leaving a tree like plant. The trunk and branches are green and densely covered with silvery white, 1″ long spines that create the soft fuzzy look. In spring and summer, yellow-green flowers appear at the tips of the stems and give way to fruits that contains few viable seeds. Pack rats use the stems that fall off the plant as a defense around their burrows. Teddy bear cholla does well in a xeriscape and is a popular choice for cactus, desert, rock, and Mediterranean gardens.
Also called California brittlebush, this shrub is native to coastal southern California and Baja California, and is a member of the aster family, Asteraceae, that also includes daisy, yarrow and lettuce. The plant usually grows 3-4′ tall and has many thin brittle branches covered with widely-spaced, ovate to lanceolate green leaves 1-2″ long. The leaves tend to drop in summer in response to drought. During the rainy season from winter to spring, solitary flower heads appear. Each head is about 3″ wide and has 15-25 bright yellow ray florets around a protruding center of yellowish to purplish brown disc florets. The florets give way to tiny dry fruits that lack a pappus. The flowers attract butterflies and other pollinators, the seeds provide food for birds, and the plant is a host for the larvae of the Bay checkerspot butterfly, an endangered species. In addition, the flowers are good in the vase. Fast growing, easy to grow, and drought tolerant, California bush sunflower is valued as a ground cover and for erosion control. Photo Credit Daderot-Wikimedia-Media
Author, Kim Roman, presents a comprehensive guide to growing edible plants indoors in this easy to understand, well-organized book. Limited space and resources do not have to prevent most people from growing at least some food year round. Even warm weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, and tender herbs can be grown indoors if the proper conditions are provided and Roman offers several different methods for achieving success.
Also known as Canada puccoon, bloodwort, redroot, red puccoon, Indian paint, and black paste, bloodroot is a member of the poppy family, Papaveraceae, that also includes bleeding heart, greater celandine, and corydalis. Both its common and botanical genus name come from the red juice of the root, stem and leaves that was used by native Americans as a dye and insect repellent. In spite of its name, bloodroot is a lovely early spring ephemeral that is native to deciduous woods from Nova Scotia to Florida and west to the Great Lakes. The plant produces stolons and can quickly form a dense stand which can serve as an attractive ground cover. In the dry periods of mid summer the plant may yellow and go dormant if not mulched. Photo Credit Jay Sturner Wikimedia Commons
Also known as fringed Indian pink and Mexican campion, this herbaceous perennial is native to northern Mexico and southwestern US from California to Texas and is a member of the carnation family, Caryophyllaceae, that also includes baby’s breath, chickweeds, and sandworts. Growing from a taproot, the plant forms clumps up to 24″ tall and has one to many slender branching stems that are glandular and sticky. Sometimes the branches are vine-like and creep through surrounding vegetation. The lanceolate leaves are covered with sticky hairs and are up to 4″ long but decrease in size on the upper portions of the stems. From late spring to mid summer, loose terminal clusters of star-shaped flowers appear. Each flower is about 1″ across, has 5 bright red petals that are deeply divided into 4-6 pointed lobes, and attracts hummingbirds and insects. Depending on light, heat, and moisture, the plant may go dormant in the summer but is eye catching when in bloom and a good choice for rock, native plant, bird, and woodland gardens. The genus name, Silene, honors the Ancient Greek woodland deity, Silenus, who was a companion and tutor to the wine god Dionysus. The specific epithet, laciniata, is from the Latin word lacinia meaning flap or edge of a garment, and refers to the deeply lobed petals.
The blooms of this perennial grass are just plain cute and are bound to attract children of all ages along with their parents. The plant grows 1-2′ tall and has fine, soft, gray-green leaves and summer flowerheads that look like bunny tails. The “tails” can be up to 3″ long, are dense and furry, and invite touching. Unlike most grasses, the flowerheads do not shatter and so moms may like them for fresh and dry arrangements. Also known as Turk’s head grass and hare’s tail grass, it is a native of Mediterranean shores, and although perennial is often grown as an annual in USDA Zones 7 and colder. Use in beds, borders, containers or informal sites for an irresistible look (and touch) .
Also known as powdery liveforever, and powdery dudleya, north coast dudleya, and sea lettuce, this evergreen succulent is native to the coastlines of northern California and Oregon where is grows on bluffs and coastal hillsides. It is a member of the stonecrop family, Crassulaceae, that also includes sedum, jade plant, and hens and chicks. The plant grows from a branching woody base and forms a rosette of leaves 4-8″ tall and 12″ across. The fleshy leaves are up to 2.4″ long, spade-shaped, and very pale green or chalky white but often with bright red edges or tips when conditions become particularly dry. From late spring to early fall, terminal clusters of bright lemon yellow, urn-shaped flowers appear on erect branching stems that are up to 12″ tall and pale green with pink or red tinting. The flowers attract hummingbird and butterflies. Plants develop their best red color when dry and may become dormant during the summer when water is lacking. They are tolerant of drought, salt spray, and lean soil and are a good choice for coastal, native plant, wall, rock, wildlife, butterfly, and hummingbird gardens. The genus name, Dudleya, honors William Russel Dudley (1849 – 1911), a botanist who taught at Cornell and Stanford. The specific epithet, farinosa, is the Latin word meaning floury, and refers to the color of the leaves.