Monday, February 23, 2015

Yard planting Phase 2

This time last year we completed phase 1 of our yard planting. Regular readers will recall that we rent here in the USA, so our yard has been landscaped on a low budget, utilizing all the coloured gravels that were left behind in odd shapes by the previous tenant. Last year we redesigned this, creating broad sweeps of color with a perimeter border that we planted with sub-tropicals - I can't resist the colour of species like Bougainvillea, Tecoma, Podranea, Senna, Hibiscus etc. All of that has settled in well.

Last year's plantings a year later

Anyway we had always planned to plant the black gravel area with a few well spaced desert plants. Now I'm not a great fan of cacti and succulents but some can be very architectural and others do have pretty flowers. So here we are with planting phase 2.  I was rather putting this off as I have arthritis in my right hand and this makes digging tough - good excuse I know! Having bought the plants I persuaded my good friend Jim to assist and yesterday we planted it.

Jim wielding the spade
The new desert plantings
The big agaves were planted last year having traveled from our last home. All the rest is new.Planting cacti with big spines is daunting but I had been told to try using polystyrene blocks and this worked perfectly. I had purchased one rather expensive golden barrel cactus and then found similar ones for sale at $5.98 at the local Lowes, so bought two more. Annoyingly the expensive one turned out to be totally rotted when tipped from the pot. Grown in a wet peat compost - ridiculous! Its going back for a refund!

Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' - thanks Chad for the correction

An unknown agave given to me

Echinocactus grosonii

Euphorbia mammillaris Variegata

Ferocactus cylindraceus

Kalanchoe luciae

Opuntia - robusta I think

Opuntia rufida

Pachypodium lamerei - Madagascar palm - will grow tall and slender

I have one final plant I'd like to add and this is a rather lovely willowy succulent that I took to be an Aloe but have discovered its Furcraea macdougalii. If anyone knows a source, do let me know. And there is one last job to do - instal the irrigation - even desert plants need some water here!

The desired Furcraea but in someone else's yard.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Name dropping again

Apologies for tardiness in recent posting but I've been very busy with the art stuff and guess most of you  plants and garden people are less interested in flowers on paper, rather than the real thing. If you want to know what I have been doing check my Facebook link.

Anyway, the other day Philip and I were on our way to an art exhibition - yes here we go again! But we passed a new landscape scheme which was nicely planted  alongside the boundary of a new development - all good desert plants. What really caught my eye was the professional labeling of the key plants used - just like a botanical garden Each plant had a common name, a botanical name, a Spanish name and the Cahuilla name. The Cahuilla tribe are the local native Americans who own much of the land around this area and there are many Spanish speaking South Americans here. In addition there was some text about each plant and its use.

Brittle bush is a Californian native and stays alive throughout the harsh dry summers here. At this time of the year it grows some new silvery leaves and sports a crown of yellow daisy flowers.  The foliage is fragrant and it has medicinal uses. What a great idea - interest and education!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

'Durban' makes a come-back

Went to a local nursery yesterday and bought some plants for my planned desert bed here. To my delight I also found a very healthy plant of Canna 'Durban' (syn 'Phasion') Some of you plantaholics may know that I used to have the National Collection of Canna before virus wiped them out. Back in 1994 a friend visiting South Africa sent me back a small piece of this canna. This was when I was running my own nursery in Cornwall. It was an exciting new cultivar and in its second season with me I managed to make 30 dvisions which i sold at £15 a plant but I didn't have the capital to really promote it. 

Subsequently it was renamed 'Tropicanna' by a nurseryman called Tesselaar, propagated and has since been sold in vast quantities in bright orange pots. His patent was however overturned under European law as it was proved that it was already in cultivation here before he patented it.  One up to the small nurseryman who can propagate without paying a royalty. I was doubly pleased as the plant I found is virus free and most commercial stocks are now infected. I told yesterday's nursery person the story and she gave me the plant free!

Apologies to any of you who also read my Facebook as this is a duplicate posting! Busy week hanging the new show at the local gallery!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Life and times of Philip and Ian

My severest critic who always reads this blog before I post, is my partner Philip who corrects my English, often suggests and title and inevitably finds the places where I have missed apostrophes! He has often said that I should make this more personal but there again its a gardening blog - we don't agree on everything! But the other week Philip surprised me with a lovely gift of a new iPhone6 - wow - super technology and I am the guy who wasn't really into phones! My previous, an iPhone4 was found in the street whilst out running two years ago and I was instantly converted!

Top of the aerial tramway - Palm Springs

San Francisco

Hot day at the Getty Center Los Angeles

But to get to the point, I had become increasingly impressed by the camera capabilities of the new iPhones and was itching to get the latest, mainly for this reason. It's far easier to carry an iPhone in my pocket than a bulky SLR camera with a zoom lens! This all set me thinking how cameras have changed in my lifetime. As a kid I recall my parents had a box Brownie, a simple black cube that of course took film that had to be developed at the chemists and resulted in black and white 'snaps'. From my teens, I took slides of plants and gardens and collected thousands before the change to digital which seemed an immense leap but now I have over 27,000 garden and plant pictures.
Box Brownie camera

Rather losing the thread of this blog but trying to be a bit more personal, I thought I'd tell you a little about us - Philip and I. We have now been together 19 years, originally meeting back in Nottingham, becoming Civil Partners in  2006 and getting married in New York in 2012. Philip is now a US citizen and I have my Green Card. Palm Springs is now very much our home, although we still own a house back in Nottingham. So a few pictures taken with a range of cameras from black and white through to digital and iPhone.

Back in my teens
Ian teaching - way back in the 1980's

Philip teaching back at Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham
Brighton Pride - many years ago
Bournmouth UK - Big kid!
Philip's last starring role - Bobby in Sondheim's 'Company'

Arty mirror pic at Floriade some years ago

Fort Lauderdale holiday - years ago

Trying on the merchandise at Disneyland
The year I broke my foot!

Rainforest Cafe - thereby hangs a tale!

Thought I was the flower arranger!

On board a tram in San Francisco

Millennium Night - don't ask what he was wearing underneath!

Millennium Night but what was I thinking?

Previous car - no comment on the colour!

Civil Partnership 2006
New York Marriage with Mark and Keith as witnesses


Philip in Eisenhower uniform in USA

Philip finally walks on water outside the Louvre in Paris

Philip becomes a USA citizen

On board the Queen Mary II

Friday, January 9, 2015

Tenderloin and seasonal vegetables

Just back from a lightening trip to San Francisco for three days and as promised a bit of new horticulture. As well as visiting two art galleries, I did check out the botanic garden  but I'll tell you about that next time.  On my way back from Golden Gate Park, dozing in the oh-so-efficient bus, my sleepy eyes spied a small community garden bang in the city centre, so yesterday I trekked back to find it.

It was worth the walk. This wonderful city centre allotment is only yards from San Francisco's Civic Centre with its huge gilded cupola and formal square. The building adjacent to the garden bears a sign suggesting it is or was an electricity sub-station, so presumably the land was previously just derelict. The area, called the Tenderloin, has traditionally been underprivileged and has no local grocery store. There are many homeless and poor people.  The garden is run by volunteers and the food produced is distributed free.

I have to admit in the past to showing horticultural snobbery about some similar projects but this one seemed to be neatly laid out, well maintained and complete with drip irrigation. It was obviously producing valid crops. In addition there was a pretty little ornamental garden in one corner complete with an  arid bed and a golden Brugmansia in full bloom - not bad for January!

More information on the Tenderloin People's Garden - click this link.