Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hot-blooded houseguests

The undeniable glamour of tropical plants is temptation indeed for gardeners who live in cold-winter climates. Those three-foot leaves; those lethal, trumpet-shaped Datura blooms--they're all Ava Gardner compared to the Doris Day domesticity of our faithful hollies and lilacs.

So in early summer we succumb, we buy, we lug them around the garden to just the right spot, we rush out with sheets as the evenings get colder. And finally we have to do it. One day turns far too chilly and we invite them to crowd indoors with us until spring.

Ava Gardner, with her long cigarette holder and her way of taking over a party, was sensational outside in a large garden. Living with her at close quarters is another matter.

Just how many times do you want your face slapped by a banana leaf as you edge your way through the dining room this winter?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Winter Garden: Kathleen Alcalá, Bainbridge Island, Washington

Award-winning author Kathleen Alcalá lives on Bainbridge Island. The current conditions have given her a White Garden effect that outdoes Vita Sackville-West's at Sissinghurst.  What is it with authors and white gardens?


Bainbridge Island is due west of Seattle, a 30 minute ferry ride across Puget Sound. Kathleen's garden has unusual but lovely amounts of snow for this Zone 8 area. We'll look at it again in the spring, I hope.


Pearl is not a winter-sports enthusiast. Kathleen says Pearl is concentrating all her energy on trying to make the snow go away.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Garden Nomenclature



This is the season for dreaming by the fire with seed catalogs. Are you baffled by some of the catalog Latin lingo? Here's a quick guide:
  1. Genus is in Capitalized italics
  2. Species is in lower case italics
  3. Variety can include size, color, habit or more. The variety is often in 'single quotation marks', especially if it is named after a person or place.
  4. The catalog then often adds the common name, commentary, and suggestions for companion plantings.
For an example, let's look at a humorous listing from a mock nursery catalog put out by Shady Deals Nursery:

Colocasia esculenta 'Pelosii' (Nancy's Revenge Elephant's Ear) $5,000. A real first of its kind! While we find this attractive, we've also found it to be quite aggressive and very detrimental to nearby bushes, so watch it closely. A superb choice for the West Coast.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Winter Solstice 2008

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Proper Snow Shoveling Technique

First Snow Shovel


The scrunch of the snow against the shovel blade, the astringency of the sharp air, the thrill of being out in the snowy scene...

and after ten minutes I'm wondering, How many times will I have to DO this? When does Spring arrive?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

First Snow in Nevada County

For our dear friend Wayne, who is traveling tonight under the bright moon. 

Heavy Frost in Nevada County

Heavy frost here in the foothills, ice on the decks in the morning, waiting for the first snow.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Potatoes in the Winter Garden

We're having a mild winter so far in the Sierra Nevada foothills, with some freezing at night. The nice man (above) from the Virginia Farm Bureau says we could still be pulling potatoes straight from our gardens in this weather. He inspired me, especially with his no-dig harvesting method. What is your potato philosophy?

Oh potato, potato, potato!

A short, frantic, musical tribute to the potato by Cheryl Wheeler:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Compulsive Gardeners: Top Ten List


It all started one night with an email from a gardener friend:

On Yahoo there was a headline that I thought I read as Compulsive Gardening Threatens Savings for Older Americans. I can relate to that--however, it was Compulsive Gambling, which I can't relate to at all!

We see what we want to see....

Catherine

This led to a midnight flurry of emails between the two of us, resulting in:

Top Ten Signs That You Are A Compulsive Gardener

1) You know the specialties of nurseries and garden shops in a 50-mile radius, and when they have their sales.

2) You always have a gardening book on your night stand.

3) You buy plants just because you like their names (e.g., Society Garlic).

4) Dethatching the lawn seems like a better use of funds than insulating the house.

5) You resent having to travel out of town for the milestone birthday parties of beloved relatives because you really need to stay home and water during a heat wave.

6) Buying 50 bulbs of one variety of Narcissus is a thrifty choice (bulk discount!)--not an extravagance.

7) You sit in the movie theater, as everyone else is leaving, to catch the end of the credits and find out which garden was a film location.

8) You argue with trained horticulturists about Latin names (oops, Centranthus and Valeriana really are the same plant).

9) You wonder how a serious gardener could call her blog Daffodil when everyone knows that is not the correct...oh, never mind!

10) Your turn--what would you add to this list?



*Turns out that the Centranthus/Valeriana issue is the subject of a lively debate in the horticultural world.