Saturday, June 23, 2007

Nasty Night Soil Soils my Garden

The image and text don't match, but that's is exactly what it's been like going into my garden lately and finding beautiful blooms, amid clouds a flies and a the stench of cat scat. Despite my ongoing attempts to trap and neuter the feral cat population in the neighborhood, they don't seem deterred in choosing my beds for their nightly toilette. That was bad enough. Then to add insult to injury, they've managed to break off several branches of my lovely corner Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'bloodgood', on their climb out of the garden after doing their business. Oh what to do, what to do. Jared has offered an elecric fence. My sister has recommended nails or glass shards driven into the tops of the fence rails. I've tried stones, sticks, large (ugly but usefull) garden ornaments which all work but they the cats move onto another spot in the garden. The current favorite is under the orange tree. So many litter boxes, so little time.

Ironically there was an article in the chronicle today on poisoning of ferals. I could so easily sympathize. You just get to the point where you want them all to be euthanized. Despite enjoying seeing them out there frolicking, I just can't take the fighting, flies, scat and spray any more. After going to the trouble of catching 20 animals, having them fixed and releasing them, this is how they repay me. What is a gardener to do?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Curating Plant Collections

The plant palette is a curious thing to work with. The longer I garden the more I learn about what to consider when combining plants, beyond the obvious color-form-texture complements and contrasts they present when first put into the ground.

This Fuchsia, for instance, was a discounted, leggy, penny-pot when I set it into the ground next to this Sago Palm. The Loropetalum that is now shadowed underneath was small, but I expected it to takeover the bed. Instead the Fuchsia has been the dominant one, and I am pleasantly surprised. I do have to be vigilant in pruning it back as it mounds across the pathway, but it is much more vigorous that I had known. My sister has had this plant in a pot for years, and therefore my growth expectations were warped.

Additionally, whenever growing plants in the bay area, it seems I have to add a few feet in both height and width to the Sunset 'mature' height given.

The other two plants that have been completely obscured in this bed are the two beautiful Japanese painted ferns and the black Mondo grasses, which are very happy and spreading by runners. Some day I'll figure out how to give them all some space.

Urban Seed Gathering

Back in March I was sick of watching my Abutilon 'nabob' languish in this spot in the western planter. I decided I'd try a Ricinus 'dwarf red' a.k.a. Castor Bean Plant. The plant has poisonous seeds, which goes along with so much else in the garden. In fact at this point I'm thinking most plants are poisonous, and the ones that are not are the exception, maybe not the same ratios as mushrooms, but it does seem that nearly every plant I pick has poison stems, poison seeds, agitating sap, or all of the above.

So back to the Ricinus: Despite my efforts to secure a seedling from a local nursery, they all said that these would come in a few months. Interestingly, I did place an order for one at Sloat, and they have yet to call. I know our winter cold snap devastated many of the outlying nurseries, but still, sometimes I think someone should establish a nursery in SF to get ahead of the competition.
I really wanted this plant. I drive by a large one every day on my way up 20th street onto the hill. I decided one day during nap-time to walk up the street with a trowel and a scissor and see if I could secure a cutting, or even better a seedling. At first I concentrated on finding some ripened seed pods to harvest and germinated. Then, Lo and behold, I saw that the entire bed beneath the giant (10-ft tall) tree was sprouting with seedlings. I gently pried one out of the ground and carried it home after cutting a few pods for seeds and stuffing my pockets.

I gently transplanted my seedling, but it didn't take. I then planted a seed. Weeks and then months went by and I gave up and came up with a new plant for the space--a Cana lily. Again faced with having to wait until summer to get one, I gently dug up a corm from one I have and cut a chunk free to transplant. As you can see here, despite severing the top of the leaf, it is sprouting and has taken. Then, as I was watering by Cana, I see to have awakened what I thought was my failed Ricinus seed, and POP, out it came one day last week. So the two shall grow together side by side, until I have to move one or the other.