Sunday, March 30, 2008

Orchids from the Show

I wasn't going to buy any orchids!

But feeling a bit cocky with three cymbidiums blooming this year, I got a deep red miniature and couldn't resist a beautiful epidendrum. I never really got the epidenrums to thrive for me in SoCal and they didn't last long up here but they look so great, I talked myself into another try. The cymbidium is small and I may winter it inside. I will definitely winter the epidendrum inside.

The orchid plants at the show were incredible and the prices were fantastic. I just wish I had better accommodations. I would have bought more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Plumeria from the Show

I knew I shouldn't but I can't resist plumeria. Ever since my two year Army tour included Ft . Shafter Hawaii, I have longed to grow them along with other Hawaiian garden plants. I had two plants which I brought from LA when we moved. One was about four feet tall (not including pot) and the other about two. They were too big (and too ugly) to bring in the house so by the second year they died.
In LA it never got warm enough near the coast for the buds to open so when they first arrived in July I enjoyed seeing them flower but it was their swan song.
I was irresistably drawn to the hawaiian booth selling plumeria plants and cuttings. After several passes and hearing that the cuttings were only $10, I had to do it. The saleslady was encouraging about growing them in Sacramento but she told me something I never knew which sealed the deal. She said they need to be in a small pot to bloom. In a large pot, they would just grow. I always assumed that growing them big would encourage blooming and wondered how the nurseries managed to get flowers on the small ones they sell. If I bought two, she would even throw in the fertilizer (she insisted that they need to be well fertilized to match the volcanic soil in Hawaii).
So here are my cuttings ready to put out roots and start growing. If I keep them small, I can find someplace in the house for them in the winter. Really.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Succulents From the Show

I usually cannot resist succulents and the plants for sale were choice. I kept eying the displays as I prowled the vendor floors, finally deciding that I had to take some home. After waiting in line to purchase, I was told that my plants totaled $25 and the minimum credit card purchase was $40. They would take checks but, of course, my checkbook was in the car. I asked the lady if she could put them aside while I got it but I knew that if I lugged all my purchases back to the car, I would never return. Then I saw the atm. Normally I will never use a private atm but otherwise these cuties would never be mine. So, risking identity theft, I replenished my cash and bought. Actually, now that I have all the plants home, I think these were my best purchase. But then, that's what I think today. Tomorrow will be a different story.

My new plants are from bottom left, Echeveria afterglow, top Euphoribia sticks on fire and finally on the right Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. I don't yet know what I will do with them. The little guy needs repotting but beyond that I need to put them someplace where I can admire them.
And if I need more, I know where to get them.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Flowers

Another narcisssus and a species tulip

Back Yard Easter Sunday

This is a view of my tiny flat backyard taken from the retaining wall and looking northeast. You can see two of my maple trees sporting birdfeeders and a birdhouse, the two rosa mutabilis against the fence ( they have buds and should be blooming in a week) and my beleaguered cymbidiums ,clustered under the tree to the right. You can see that I have plenty of space to fill. My problem is finding something that grows in the first place and then survives to come back the next year.

Behind (to the right and back ) is my slope. Maybe I will get some pictures of that next week.

Resolution Completed

All is well with my new water lily- or at least it is now residing in a spiffy new pot with genuine aquatic potting media. I had to order the tub from Michigan, not being able to determine a local source from the web. Wouldn't you know that as soon as it came, I found an equestrian supply store not too far from my local nursery with real stock tanks in the front display. Sometime I will check them out but for now my water lily has a home.

This is the pot. It looks like a felt bag but must be made out of some non-decomposing material.

And here is the potting medium. It says you can mix it with loam but I used it straight. I still need the fertilizer tabs but lets see how helvola likes it's new home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Monday Rosemary

Another beautiful Monday. The rosemary are beautiful trailing over the retaining wall at the foot of my hillside backyard.

Took care of some odds and ends. Cleaned the patio and set up the outdoor furniture. Repotted three of my cymbidiums using the coco chip bricks I got at the SFF&GS- I knew I should have bought more bricks. Most of the others need repotting but I would rather stagger the repotting so as not to discourage blooms next year.
While inspecting my plants, I discovered one more that has a bloom stalk.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Gardens in the Dark

I guess that the central area full of display gardens was supposed to be the high point of the show. They are impressive... and clearly the result of a lot of work but they are like model homes - flamboyant, eyecatching and empty. They aren't your backyard, or even your rich neighbor's. They don;t offer much to the down and dirty gardener. I guess they showcase designers and landscaping firms but I don't know that they provide much help if I were seeking a landscaper.

I circled the arena trying to get into the spirit of the displays but it just wouldn't come. First of all, what's with the darkness? I suppose it helps cover up the fabrication of these displays and maybe its all for the good. It made me feel like a con job, however.

I took a few pictures. These were the best of the lot and they don;t reveal much.

Still the gardens were merely an interlude at the show for me, a break in the intensity of the reall excitement - the shopping.

Show Stopper

They had more than plants at the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. There was this show-stopping garden umbrella. Two sizes, several colors. It folds up...........and it has solar lights. I wanted it real bad but the county, state and feds have claimed all my assets and more so it is not to be.

They have a show special price but even that won't make it work this year. Maybe next year.

I could have waited

One of the plant vendors at the SFF&GS was selling water plants, particularly water lilies. They had my recently purchased hardy miniature, Helvola, all prepackaged in a nice planter for immediate use in a water garden. My helvola, which arrived last week, is a little plant with leaves and roots but badly in need of a pot and appropriate soil. Naturally, I should have realized that I would need soil and a pot but it never occurred to me so when the poor naked plant arrived, I went out to the web and ordered them. They are now on the way but meanwhile my helvola languishes in a saucer of water. I guess its no big deal because my tub isn't here year either.

The only revelation is that I could have gotten my water lily at SFF&GS had I waited and maybe saved a little money. One of the water plant purveyors at the show is from nearby Elk Grove. If I can't get the fertilizer tabs which I neglected to order with my soil and pots -and didn't buy at the show because I ran short of cash for small purchases- from my local nurseries, I can get them from him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

San Franciso Flower and Garden Show

First impressio

Walking from the non-preferred parking area toward the show you cross over the traffic entering the complex. Then you are there, the famous Cow Palace.

Inside is an incredible sight wonderland of vendors, exhibsition gardens and food. (I noticed one attendee complained about the limited fare but there seemed to me to be a
wide range of food offerings). For me, a nondescript polish sausage was all I needed to keep me going for 5 hours of gawking and buying.

We drove down from Sacramento leaving at about 9:00 AM. I dropped my wife off at Union Square f or a day of browsing San Francisco art galleries and got to the Cow Palace at about 11:00 AM. Inside, I first passed quickly though the vendors to see what was available and plan later purchases. Then I looked at the display gardens and returned to the vendors for actual purchases. I quickly became very grateful for the check stands because some of my purchases were heavy and all were awkward to carry. By the time I was finished, my wife had left two messages on my cellphone wondering where I was (cellphone coverage in the Palace seems to be spotty). I left about 3:30 PM but with the very heavy traffic and my unfamiliarity with driving in San Francisco, it was 4:30 before I spotted her on the steps of Union Square opposite Macy's. Then to a nice restaurant on the Embarcadero and back to Sacramento.

More reactions and comments later.

Monday, March 10, 2008

If you're going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...

Oh, wait! That's not what I meant to say.

The only possible reason to go to San Francisco this week is to attend the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. OK it's really in Daley City, but back to the point.

If you are new to the show here are your assignments.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

And One More

New kid that is.

This is tea rose Sofrano which arrived from the Antique Rose Emporium. I really didn't want it for another week or so, primarily because that is when my other roses are coming. They didn't ask when I wanted it and shipped right when I ordered. Their roses come in gallon pots and can wait nicely for me to hack a hole in the rock pile for it. It would be plenty fine to plant it this weekend which turned warm and sunny. The old roses are sprouting strongly and its the kind of day you want to visit the garden center and buy something. I am holding off for Friday when , at long last, I visit the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show. I am hoping for inspiration and some new additions to my garden.

Meanwhile, Narcissus

The most spectacular displays right now in my garden are the narcissus. I have planted the hillside behind my house with bulbs each fall (except last year) and the result is clusters of flowers scattered over the slope. I thought I was planting many bulbs but clearly I could have multiplied my planting by 5 or maybe ten to get really spectacular results. Still what I have is beautiful.

Last year I was thinking of planting some whites. I am still thinking. When I see all the yellow flowers, it seems that white would detract. Maybe just a few.

I also planted lots of muscari, thinking how nice the blue flowers would be against the yellow. I don't know how they do it for the pictures but in my garden the muscari bloom after the narcissus and they are dinky little things. I probably need to read the fine print.

New Kids

I couldn't resist some new plants. I am a sucker for bromeliads despite a poor track record. Here (middle) is a Dyckia x 'Icicle seedling'. Beautiful color.

Next (bottom) Bilbergia nutans. It's not so spectacular but I think I can grow it and get some color on my patio during off season. And finally (top) Aloe lineata.

These little guys are my first order from Yucca Do and I am impressed. I have been browsing their online catalogue for a few years and finally succumbed.

I have long hoped to find a better landscape plan than agapanthus for my area. They look good in spring but in summer here they turn into crispy critters. Low growing aloes would give the same effect and survive the summers looking acceptable. I haven't yet determined if the dreaded landscape cops approve of aloes so, for now, my new guy will be in a pot.

Sorry for the strange labeling and layout. Who knew what blogger would do?

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I had a large collection of cymbidium orchids which were easy to grow in coastal LA. Naturally I brought them all along with our move to the idyllic Sierra foothills along with rubber trees (ficus elastica), brugmansia, various cacti and miscellaneous other plants in pots which I had accumulated over the years in Southern California. I even rented a small truck to haul them up after their four month exile to my son’s San Pedro front yard.

I was not sure that they would survive the first winter even though I knew that cymbidiums can manage in nearby Sacramento. They all survived but not one bloomed the first year. Then I worried that they would not survive the summer. They did even though I had no shade in my newly landscaped yard.

I now was confident that I could keep them alive but the next challenge was could I persuade them to bloom. Blooming them had never been a trick in SoCal. I used the bloom and grow fertilizers in the appropriate seasons and the orchids responded appreciatively. I maintained this practice after the move but got no blooms in the first two years. This year was to be my final try. I would either have some blooms or give up on cymbidiums and focus on something more appropriate for my climate.

This year I had two plants bloom. The first was my miniature green flowers variety (Sweetheart 'King Arthur'). It has always grown like a weed and flowered like a champion so I was not surprised that it would be the first to step up. In addition it is an early flowering variety which sets buds up in the fall for winter flowering. As a result it had many bloom stalks formed before it got cold and the blooms actually opened in January despite some pretty cold weather. Those blooms are still on the plant but way past beauty.

The surprise was the second plant, another miniature, only red (If I knew the variety once, I don't any longer). This year the stalks popped up about December and just last week opened. The flowers are a bit stressed looking but much better than no flowers at all.

I can only speculate what might have made the difference but this encourages me to hope for even better results next year.

My first thought is that I moved the plants from an exposed location on the retaining wall to a more sheltered location under one of my maple trees and in front of the retaining wall. There they receive shelter from the hot summer sun and perhaps some protection from the winter cold. I will keep them where they are.

On another front, now that it seems that I am having success with them, I plan to repot a few of the most pot bound plants before the summer heat.

One final thought is that my normal month for beginning the bloom fertilizer is October. I plan to switch in September to see if I can get more blooms.