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Archive for June, 2010

The Living Bottle Tree

bottle tree

Bottle Tree in November

I’m intrigued by the Southern and African tradition of making bottle trees to trap evil spirits, but living in California I don’t know much about it and I hadn’t ever seen one in person, so I was pleased to discover one in my neighborhood. It’s in front of a house with various symbols painted on the front door and the utility box, and while I was taking the pbotos a guy whizzed past me on a bicycle and said, “Careful! They’re witches!”

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June

June

June

Felder Rushing has a great collection of photos and a short history of the practice. And there’s a massive flickr collection. Traditionally, it seems to have been done with a dead tree or with sticks stuck in the ground; Crape Myrtles are the iconic species. Nowadays many are constructed of metal or some other material, rather than an actual tree. Very few seem to be from a tree that is still alive.

The Utility Box

The Utility Box

I don’t want to mess with any witch juju, but it seems okay to show the utility box which has the same stars and moons as the front door. It never would have occurred to me to adorn a utility box. It’s surprisingly pleasing.

PlantSF

Farewell to Spring and Blessed Calendula

Farewell to Spring and Blessed Calendula

Happy Solstice everyone. Gotta say, it snuck up on me. I’ll still be in spring mode for a couple of more weeks, though the plants seem to know what time it is. A few days ago, the first Clarkias opened. Farewell to Spring.

Somewhat unrelated (though I see that clarkias are blooming in the relevant photos from last year) Landscape Architecture Magazine has an article, From Gray to Green, about PlantSF.org, a non-profit that works to take out pavement in San Francisco and replace it with permeable and planted surfaces. Basically, too much of San Francisco is covered with buildings and concrete — between 60 and 90% according to the article — so the sewer system often gets overloaded during rainstorms, dumping dirty runoff and raw sewage into the bay. Yuck. Richmond has the same problem, clearly visible every time it rains. The solution is to replace concrete with surfaces that allow stormwater to infiltrate into the soil. Enter PlantSF.

Plantsf.org Planting

We went to a PlantSF planting party last year (according to the article, that particular project was called ‘Mission Roots,’ who knew?). These photos are from two PlantSF plantings, taken several months later, sometime around June to judge from the blooming clarkias. I can’t remember which street we worked on, but it was somewhere in the Mission a few blocks from Humphry Slocombe (Oolong or Guinness Gingerbread ice cream anyone?). It’s not too often I use an ice cream shop as a landmark, but that’s how I found the sites when I went by afterwards to see the finished plantings, and I’m sure I could never find them again without having a cone first.

The Garden Now That We’re Gone

A while back, James at LostintheLandscape did a post titled Our Gardens After We’re Gone, musing about what might happen to his garden if or when he is no longer stewarding it. TownMouse and Bradzio at RootedinCalifornia and probably some other folks followed up with posts about what might happen to their own gardens. It makes sense that it was such a popular topic; gardening is largely about planning and envisioning the future. Anita and I have to do that pretty much all the time, and quite a few of the gardens we install are essentially a ‘garden with us gone’. After we design and plant, we usually return to do maintenance occasionally, but often times we just walk away. There are a few gardens out there that we installed and never saw again. It’s interesting to imagine what they look like.

One garden that we do see on a weekly basis is an example of some of the different things that can happen. We installed it four years ago and maintained it for about two, but then the client moved and took some of the plants with him. It was a shock the first time I saw the garden without them, but now I’m used to it and I find it interesting to see how the rest of the planting has endured.

The Intact Section (minus a couple of shrubs in the back right)

This section is still largely intact, with just a couple of shrubs missing. It looks like the new tenants might be weeding it and watering (the irrigation system was a casualty when the plants were transplanted, but someone might be hand-watering), though it’s hard to guess about the watering this early in the dry season. The weeds were pretty thoroughly eradicated by the time we stopped maintaining it, so the plants might be holding off interlopers.

Coyote Brush Pioneer

This section, with every plant moved to the new location, is a landscape designer’s memento mori. Coyote brush, one of the main pioneer plants in this area has already moved in. Without humans pulling the volunteers, I think coyote brush would pop up in almost every garden we’ve ever installed.

Ceanothus with weeds

Ceanothus with weeds

This Ceanothus and the Salvia clevelandii in the first photo are fighting the good fight against weeds. This section was never on irrigation and clearly doesn’t get any weeding. Salvia and ceanothus versus weeds, who will win? There’s probably some coyote brush in there somewhere getting ready to join the battle.

The Smokebush at its New Home

This smokebush is one of the plants that was transplanted to the new location. It’s easy to understand why the owner would want to take it with him.

June Bloom Day — Spicebush Edition

This June Bloom Day finds the garden needing some clean up and maintenance, but with plenty of things blooming. I like how the Brodiaeas look and the big spicebush in the back is really happy and the purple leaved canna in our gray water container is about to start blooming, but all of the spring bloomers still need to be deadheaded and there are bamboo leaves in all the plants, and the skunks have also started digging in the garden. I can hear them out there digging as I do this post. There are four young ones in the local family this year, an improvement over last year when there were seven.

Oriental Lily, possibly Stargazer

Oriental Lily

This Oriental lily is probably the most accurate depiction of the state of the garden.

Lemon Lily, Lilium parryi

Lemon Lily, Lilium parryi

I have several Lilium parryi, the native Lemon Lily, grown from seed, now in gallon pots. This is their third year and my second flower. The flower doesn’t last long, but it’s really pretty.

Fried Egg Flower, Matillija Poppy

Fried Egg Flower, Matillija Poppy

This year the Matillija poppies really remind me of fried eggs.

Monardella macrantha Marian Sampson

Monardella macrantha Marian Sampson

The Monardella macrantha is draping down into the foliage of some Clarkia. It might have my favorite red of all the California natives.

Scrophularia

Scrophularia

The Scrophularia is a nice red if you put your face or camera about three inches away. Otherwise, it can be hard to tell that it’s blooming. I like the Galvezia from a little more of a distance.

Galvezia speciosa, Island Snapdragon

Galvezia speciosa, Island Snapdragon

Calycanthus occidentalis, Western Spicebush

Calycanthus occidentalis, Western Spicebush

A couple more shots of the Spicebush which has completely taken over the area in front of the outdoor shower. The fragrance of the flowers is just barely noticeable, unlike the wisteria which was very strong. Interestingly, the fallen petals of the wisteria burned holes through the leaves everywhere that they landed on the spicebush. None of the other plants have that problem.

Nasturtium in the Spicebush

Nasturtium in the Spicebush

Western Spicebush, Calycanthus occidentalis

Spicebush and Canna

Thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardens for creating and hosting bloom day. Click over for links to all sorts of other blogs showing off their flowers.

I’ve been keeping a list of everything in bloom in our garden each month, so I’ll be adding that to this post when I get a chance. It usually takes me a couple of days to add it.

The Bee Tree

‘…a hole in back you could put your fist in, if it were a small fist and you wanted to put it there…’ Hemingway, A Natural History of the Dead

The last few weeks we’ve been working in a yard that has a wild bee hive in an old silver maple. Apparently, they vanish each winter and a big, noisy swarm returns in the spring. On cold days, the hole in the trunk steams faintly. The bees are mellow in the morning, but in the late afternoon they make a loud buzz like every cartoon representation of an angry bee swarm that I’ve ever seen. It’s a little disconcerting, though they are far too busy to pay any attention to me.

I bet there’s some nice honey in there, but I’m sure not going in after it.

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