Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

But I did promise you more photos from the Bay Area. I may have only been there for four days, but I've got pictures for two weeks of posts. Don't panic. I won't actually post two weeks' worth, even if I do find that just looking at these pictures makes me feel at least 20 degrees cooler.

And I think we can agree that we can all use that about now.

Until my dream comes true of moving to California, I'll just stare at this rose and feel as if it has happened.

We stumbled upon this rose garden in Golden Gate Park while on our way to the De Young Museum. I think it just reinforces my thesis that gardening is just too easy in northern California. This garden is barely Google-able. MSS posted about the two more famous more gardening destinations in Golden Gate Park: Conservatory of Flowers and the Strybing Arboretum.

This rose garden is in the same park and gets almost no love.

And yet, look at these blooms. Don't they merit more love? Apparently not in San Francisco.

Even the rose petals were gorgeous.

Even the blue bird (not sure this identification is correct) seemed blasé about the roses. He wouldn't even look at them.

I wasn't able to get the names of all these roses. The museum was closing soon, and more significantly, the fog was rolling in. We still needed to head up to the tower in the museum for a view of the city.

I was a little disappointed that we arrived a day early for the Chihuly exhibition, but we did get to see this sculpture of his on the museum's grounds.

Inside, we did visit some of the other exhibits, and I was thrilled to find the nation's first garden blogger: Edwin Hale Lincoln. Okay, so he wasn't the first, but he would have been with these gorgeous photographs. Here's one of a Turk's cap lily from 1904. (Yes, this is a photograph, not an illustration. I hardly knew one could take such pictures in 1904. Do you think it's a jpeg or a RAW file-)

From the museum's tower, I got a better view of the grounds.

I was most fascinated by the rooftop garden going in at the Academy of Sciences.

"The Living Roof´s 1.7 million native plants were specially chosen to flourish in Golden Gate Park´s climate.

After experimenting with thirty native species, the finalists were all able to self-propagate. They will thrive with little water, resist the salt spray from ocean air, and tolerate wind.

The roof will provide habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. A future project will seek to introduce the endangered San Bruno elfin butterfly and the Bay checkerspot butterfly to this new habitat."

The fog was really rolling in so we headed back over the bay.

The temperature had dropped while were in inside, and my best guess is that it was 50 degrees. That's right, 50 degrees.

Northern California, I don't care if you'll ruin my nascent blogging hobby. Fifty degrees in June, and I'm yours.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Why There Are So Many Austin Garden Bloggers

I think I have finally figured out why Austin is the garden blogging center of the universe. To explain my point, I will present my theory on why there are so few northern California garden blogs.

(I do know there are some very good garden bloggers in northern California. My statements are in no way backed by scientific analysis, but they do include a tongue firmly lodged in my cheek. I did try to do some searching on Blotanical.com, but I have to admit that that site mystifies me. I managed to register on it but have since been unable to quite figure out what I am supposed to do with it. I've been faved a few times but can't even go to those bloggers' pages. So if you are one of them, I apologize. I've tried resetting my password, etc. I just think I've tapped out that portion of my brain!)

Okay, back to the main subject. Here's my thesis: There aren't that many northern California garden bloggers because gardening is just far too easy in that area. Imagine if you were a Berkeley garden blogger and every day, you had to write posts like, "Planted flowers. Didn't water, didn't fertilize, didn't sweat while planting, didn't get bit by mosquitoes. Everything grew well."


Where's the drama? Where's the fight for survival? Where's the worry over too high heat or an early frost? When your average temperatures vary by only 30 degrees ANNUALLY how can you make that exciting compared to Austin's temperatures that can vary by 50 degrees in ONE day?

When the biggest problem is controlling the unruly growth of calla lilies, can you really expect empathy from readers? When agapanthus grows like a weed and blooms at will, can you really expect the rest of us to ooh and aah over one of one thousand blooms? (Okay, well, I admit, I still find it beautiful no matter how many blooms I see.)

If your fuschia plant grows more like a tree than a container plant we struggle to keep alive, should you expect any comment other than "Yeah, yeah, yeah, what else have you got?"

Just because you could show us cute pictures of a fuchsia bloom turned into a ballerina, do you really think you can hold our attention for months?

I guess you could tell us about the geraniums that your neighbors are accidentally growing because they do NOTHING in the yard.

Or you could tell us how this rose just keeps coming back and blooming and perfuming your entire yard when you really just had had enough of the aromatic rose smell and have tried to kill it for months now?

I guess if all else failed, you could show us photos of your local flower shop to try to convince us that not everyone in the area has a green thumb and some people have to--gasp--buy flowers instead of just growing their own.

Maybe you could interest us by claiming that this is the yellow rose of Texas?

But I will anoint you the best, most interesting, scintillating blogger in the world if you let me come live with you for the rest of the summer.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Was It Heaven? Close

I just spent a long weekend in northern California, primarily around Berkeley. And I am in love, again. (I've been there before and fall in love every time.) This time I was so excited to be in the land that Mark Twain never actually described as "the coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco" for many reasons: a girls' weekend; traveling with a good Austin friend to visit another good friend, and former Austinite, who was celebrating a BIG birthday; and, have I mentioned, the HIGH temperature was 75 degrees? We also visited with other Austinites who now call the land of milk and honey home. (I'm still working on my plan to become one of them.)

I've got so many photos and stories to share, but today I will start with a hike in Redwood Regional Park, in Oakland. Northern California is exceedingly dog friendly, and Redwood Park is one of the many leash-free areas. The area is also home to Ohlone Dog Park in Berkeley, recognized as the nation's first dog park, and Point Isabel, which, at 23 acres, is the nation's largest dog park.

I don't think my friend's dog, Sadie, know how lucky she is, but I sure did. I won't be hiking in Texas again without sweating for a few months.

The East Bay Regional Park district website describes the park:
"On Redwood Road, just a few miles over the ridge from downtown Oakland, is a hidden redwood forest whose peaceful groves give little evidence of its bustling past. In the mid-1800s, what is now Redwood Regional Park was the scene of extensive logging to supply building materials for the San Francisco Bay Area.

The logging era has long since passed, and a stately forest of 150-foot coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) has replaced those cut down."

I'm fairly certain this tree is a pine, not a redwood, but you get the idea about the height and the majesty.

These plants reminded me a bit of inland sea oats, but with puffier oats. They were all over the area and just sort of floated in the air.

These poppies were part of the John Da Vega Grove, at the start of our hike.

Everything seems to grow well and easily in California, including the invasive nonnatives like French broom.

My friend said that the poison oak is so bad in the area that the volunteers who help remove the broom wear full head-to-toe protective garments. I think they might even wear inhalers.

So my newfound love has a couple of flaws.

And maybe one big one:

But I'd still love to spend every summer and maybe a few other seasons there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Giving In to Summer

Even sunflowers hate the sun sometime.

The official start of summer is still ten days away, and yet here we are already with ten days of temperatures over 100 degrees so far this year. Even the leaves of my sunflower are burnt to a crisp.

The heat makes me irritable, particularly when I look at my vegetable garden. Now I fully admit that I bear some responsibility for its sad state. I have focused too much attention on the Lady Bird Lake bed. It is fully mulched and watered on a set scheduled. My own vegetable patch is, well, not.

That might explain why this yellow pencil pod bean looks like this.

I've already ripped out the lemon cucumber after a harvest of one. The suyo cucumbers should come out as well but I'd like to get as least one cucumber from the five plants I started with. I'm not sure that I will.

Last weekend I gave a friend who loves homegrown tomatoes one of mine as a birthday present. I wasn't really joking when I told her that that tomato might represent one-tenth of my entire harvest. The tomatoes aren't blooming because it's too hot, and I think that's part of the problem with the peppers and cucumbers.

The chard has actually lasted longer than I expected but it too is burnt around the edges.

But I will not be defeated entirely. I am just moving on a month earlier to more heat-tolerant plants (although I do wonder how tolerant they will be). I planted some okra and malabar spinach. I am going to plant some sweet potatoes, if my order ever arrives. I also planted some purple hyacinth bean (inedible but heat tolerant) to cover the trellis I put in for the cucumbers.

I also ordered scads of southern peas from Willhite Seed. I ordered Texas pink-eye (hmm, maybe that wasn't a good choice; sounds more like a disease than something edible. I may have ordered in haste), black crowder, Texas cream, California black-eye, and CT pink-eye (well, crap, I didn't realize I ordered two diseases, one for each eye) purplehull.

And you know, the funny thing--I don't even like black-eyed peas, and I'm from the South. I just wanted something that had a better chance of growing, and I could find out as I have with other vegetables, that I like them if I grow them. If nothing else, growing peas will improve my soil.

Over in ornamentals, the story is almost as sad. Most of my cosmos flowers are gone as well, but I let them go to seed and love how the seeds look. I even saved them.

The passionflower overall looks better than this leaf, but it still hasn't bloomed since the one white bloom almost two months ago. The other perennials that should be blooming are instead showing why you should plant them in the fall, and why even drought tolerant plants need supplemental water their first year.

The one plant in my garden doing well, surprisingly well even, is the morning glory. A friend gave me some very delicate looking seedlings two months ago. I didn't think they would even survive being transplanted.

And yet here they are blooming and covering the trellis. I guess that's why I'll keep gardening. Sometimes, something blooms and makes you forget about all the other dismal plant failures!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Herbe à la Puce

If you'd like a little insight as to why this blog is called Vert, check out Susan's post at Garden Rant.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How the Humid Half Lives

Last weekend my husband and I went to visit his family near Houston. They've never actually lived in Houston, but for those who don't know the area, it's an easy answer. They originally lived in Spring but most have moved farther west, which continues to make our drive shorter.

We usually stay with his sister who lives in Magnolia. He's got five sisters, all of whom live within twenty minutes or so of each other (the equivalent of living within five minutes of each other in Austin). Her outdoor pool and patio have become the unofficial family gathering spot, and it's easy to see why.

The amazing part of the pool is that my sister-in-law and her husband (well, mainly my brother-in-law) did the majority of the stonework themselves. My brother-in-law becomes a Zen master as he stares at each rock, trying to figure out where it will fit best.

They also tinted the pool lining so that the water color is a nice calm, and not chemical looking, blue. Every time we go visit they've added some new seating area or outdoor feature. Either the fire pit (seen barely in the distance) . . .

or the dry creek bed to its right were the latest elements.

My sister-in-law is a bit of a plant freak (meant in only the kindest of ways), and she always enjoys showing me her latest additions. I think she does a great job of layering and combining textures. I love how the sweet potato vine trails down the rock toward the pool while the society garlic behind it reaches for the sky.

She's also done a nice job of repeating plants in different locations. Here the potato vines are combined with some horsetail in a tall planter.

One reason she put so many plants at the front edge of the pool is to keep people from diving in where it's too shallow. What a beautiful safety feature.

She couldn't remember the name of this plant, presumably a lily, so anyone knows I'll happily pass it along. (And it will up my ante to be the sisters' favorite sister-in-law, even if I am the only one!) I don't have to tell her that the Internets helped me!

My sister-in-law also loves yard art, which makes it easy to buy presents for her. I bought this dragonfly (and the other seen elsewhere) for her from Barry George, a local Austin artist on the East Austin Studio Tour. I'm not sure what I will do if he ever stops selling them.

My in-laws moved to Magnolia in search of land, and when they first lived there, they had it. They still have it now, but the big box stores have now arrived, and it's no longer the country. But my in-laws and their daughters are doing their part to maintain the original country feel.

That's one of the lambs they raise for FFA. Our dog loves visiting because between the pool and the lambs, it's like doggie Disneyland. We love visiting with her because she comes home very tired.

While many of my sister-in-law's plants grow here in Austin, some are more suited to their more easterly location and remind me of the plants that are common in Alabama, where I grew up, even if most of our hydrangeas were blue, not pink.

This lace cap hydrangea on the side of the house is huge.

I did venture into the shady front yard to take a picture of this hosta, but then I got too hot and headed back to the pool.

Can you blame me?