DryStoneGarden

Plants and Stone for California Gardens

Flower

Archive for February, 2009

California Native Cut Flowers

ninebark with california poppies

ninebark with california poppies

As part of the DryStoneGarden/BuenoLuna 2009 quality-of-life initiative, which more or less exists, we are trying to do a lot of cut flowers this year. We spend a lot of time in gardens, so it should be easy enough to do if we stay motivated. Cut flowers are a good way to see flower and plant combinations, so we’re planning to post some of them on the blog. The idea is to be interesting and random, rather than Martha Stewart. Bear with us as we figure out how to photograph them.

The foliage in this one is ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus, with california poppies. Some people seem to think cal poppies aren’t a good cut flower (for instance, they aren’t on the Annie’s Annuals list), but we use them a lot. I like the new, tightly furled ones best. We sear them in hot water (which some people say you only do for Papaver poppies and not Eschscholzia, but has never hurt anything when we’ve done it and doesn’t take much effort) and then they slowly open over the course of a few days, and then it’s usually time to discard them and find something new. Ninebarks are great for the foliage; they always have a lot of crossing branches to cut. The only reason to not use them in arrangements is that they are so easy to use as cuttings and get a whole new plant. There’s a photo of just the ninebark alone below.

–Update 4/24–One of the ninebark branches rooted while it was in the vase and already has roots to the bottom of a 4″ pot, so I guess it’s not an either/or between using them for arrangements or as cuttings.

physocarpus capitatus, ninebark

physocarpus capitatus, ninebark

Striped Agave & California Fescue

California fescue & striped agave

California fescue & striped agave

The blues in the striped agave and Festuca californica are a pretty obvious match. Festucas look really nice this time of year, especially next to Arizona flagstone and terra cotta pots. We put the agave there to stop me from stepping across the narrow planting bed. You can’t really top agaves for crowd control.

Talking to Plants

source bizarrerecords.com       

image source: bizarrerecords.com

I wonder if Dr. Millstein does any vocals on the album. Probably not. I’ve done some looking around on the internet for information about talking to plants, but never found anything definitive. Anita and I are convinced it works, and a lot of the green thumb gardeners that we know swear by it. I’ve heard of various studies — one where they reportedly hooked up plants to an electrocardiograph and measured the physiological changes when people spoke to them, supposedly the talking caused measurable responses — but I haven’t actually seen any studies, only hearsay. Most of the info on the internet deals with the effect of music, rather than talking. (more…)

Three Rivers Flagstone

three rivers flagstone

Three Rivers Flagstone

One of our clients calls Three Rivers flagstone “purple zebra,” which is a pretty accurate description. It always catches our clients’ eyes when they visit the stoneyard, though they often balk at the price, as it became really expensive a few years ago and is probably the most expensive flagstone commonly available in the Bay Area. It’s from one of the largest flagstone quarries in the United States, located up in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. The quarry wanted to expand and the Bush administration, in their inimitable way, told them to go right ahead and not worry about doing an environmental impact study. An environmental group, the Western Watersheds Project, which owned a wildlife preserve adjacent to the quarry, then sued, and a judge agreed with the environmentalists that yes, U.S. law does require environmental impact studies, and temporarily shut down work at the quarry. Everyone settled out of court and the price then went up a couple of hundred dollars to around $750/ton.

I’ve seen the stone described as a type of quartz-sandstone and as argillite. Answers.com defines argillite as “an intermediate between shale and slate, that does not possess true slaty cleavage,” which sounds about right, except that I would add that Three Rivers is really hard and heavy. (Can I say that I prefer my stone with a bit more cleavage? It’s true. Cleavage is the tendency of stone to break cleanly.) The swirls of color in Three Rivers come from irregular mineral layers which look cool but make the stone inclined to break irregularly. The patio in the photo, for instance, has rougher, wider joints than I would do with a cleaner-breaking stone like a sandstone. To get tight joints with Three Rivers, you pretty much have to cut everything with a saw. We usually only use Three Rivers for stepping stones, paths, and small patios; it can look too busy when used for larger areas.

Quarriesandbeyond.org has links to info about the Three Rivers quarry on their list of quarries in Idaho.

Three Rivers Flagstone Patio

Three Rivers Flagstone Patio

WalkScore

  map of a compact community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org 

map of a compact community, walkability within 1 mile, from sightline.org

In the planning world, one mile is considered walkable and one quarter of a mile is the gold standard. WalkScore.com takes that standard and gives a rating from 1-100 for an address, giving high points for things like stores, libraries, and schools within a quarter mile and diminishing points for up to a mile. The ratings seem fairly accurate, my current address gets an 83, very walkable, while the house where I grew up gets a 27, very unwalkable. That matches with my experience at both places.
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Evergreen Pesto

We grow a lot of basil for pesto, freezing large batches using the ice cube tray method (a revelation when I heard about it: mix your pesto, leave out the cheese, freeze it in ice cube trays, then store the cubes in ziplocks, defrost a cube at a time and serve, preferably on a baguette with a poached egg and cheese), but we like parsley pesto just as well or even better than the basil stuff and we’re able to have it fresh year-round. I used to deride the parsley batches (2 cups parsley, 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup walnuts, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, pepper in a blender) as poor-man’s-pesto, but now I think I prefer it; it tastes really fresh and green, and it’s much easier for us to grow, not caring about our lack of summer heat. Last year’s parsley plants are starting to bolt, so I planted the next batch this past week, six plants. With any luck we can keep production going without any significant lag.

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