October 21, 2015

La cadena

Heavy: a vignette for Wednesday. 

This wonderful, ginormous (logging?) chain was at a fave local salvage yard on Tuesday afternoon. $15 or $20, can't remember. Too bulky for my little garden, and not exactly right for my design sensibility (such as it is), but oh, I was tempted.

For the Wendesday Vignette meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.

October 18, 2015

Weekend before a plant sale

Ay caramba, such low light this morning. Do not adjust your screen! 
This is Agave 'Little Shark' — or is it? (Louie's says 'Little Shark.')

What an odd day! Cool (65F) this morning, and so overcast that 8:00 AM looked more like an hour before sunrise. Rain off and on. It's a perfect day to curl up with tea or coffee and catch up on reading. Give me a good read, a sturdy tea kettle with a whistle you can hear a mile away, and a mug of chai, and I'm set. (Latest issues of Atomic Ranch and Garden Design Magazine are waiting.) 

This coming weekend is the 33rd Annual Friends of U.C. Riverside Botanic Gardens Fall Plant Sale, or, as I like to think of it, a perfect Saturday. (I've been cutting and pasting from their sale list, but an FYI: they always have some small/young succulents — Aloe erinacea, for example — that aren't listed.) First I'll hit the sale, then Wild Birds Unlimited in Riverside to see what's new, then Gloria's Nursery for a big pot and a cactus (lots of opuntia love right now), then Louie's Nursery to look around (they have a nice succulent selection), and then the scenic route home. I feel a bit like E.B. White's Wilbur (who planned a perfect day down to the last slop — only to have it ruined by rain [though I've done all this in the rain, and it's still quite wonderful]). Oh, and Sunday is the Brannaman Roping Finals in Santa Ynez, but that's a whole nother post. 

This weekend I'm dealing with the "one in, one out" rule of gardening in a small space. Are there any plants in my garden that should really go to new homes? Why yes, there always are! Since my garden is mostly in containers, and since the Gates folks are happy to rehome succulents, moving things along is a relatively easy process, thank heaven. In theory, this will make more room for the opuntias and native shrubs I hope to nab at UC Riverside. Plants on the way out have been moved to the side yard, awaiting the judge's final decision...

Here are photos of some of the more or less permanent fixtures in my yard these days, plant-wise, along with a few new additions. Warning: lots of photos.

Aloe africana. The tree in the ground behind it is a walnut: a native walnut tree in a two foot wide strip next to the house. To be fair to previous occupants, a bird probably planted it. The arborist offered to put it (where else?) in a pot for me.

A tiny Mangave 'Bloodspot.'

And not far away, a smallish Agave bovicornuta.

Bunper crop! The Meyer lemon was a neglected shrub when I moved in, but it's much happier now, and will be even happier after the arborist removes dead wood and tidies everything up. ("You have a Meyer lemon!" said the arborist. "Oh, no," I said to the arborist. "It's just an ordinary lemon." [dies of shame] 
It's a Meyer lemon. 
[Although I grew up surrounded by citrus groves, and love them, citrus fruit seems to trigger arthritis flare-ups, and I've avoided citrus most of my life. Need some lemons?])

Gone suburban. This Thanksgiving Cactus is in a hanging basket next to the lemon tree.

Morning light is wonderful through the leaves of Grevillea 'Long John' — I'm just afraid this plant would be happier in the ground. Probably needs more sun. And I'm afraid to prune it, which is ridiculous, since in general I'm a lop-branches-off-with-abandon kind of person. We'll see how it does this winter.

Agave montana. It survived last winter's snow with no protection, but I'm bringing it under cover this year.

In the pot ghetto (oh, who am I kidding — my entire garden is a pot ghetto): a new, NOID agave from Jurupa. 'Baccarat'...?

Finally potted: Agave victoriae-reginae 'Golden Princess,' from Tony Marino of the Gates club.

The beautiful foliage of Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon.'

Opuntia basilaris, the king of the glochids. Seriously, this cactus sits back and sneers at puny humans through a cloud of dispersing glochids. Great flowers!

Vision of a dream come true at Louie's Nursery. I want an entire wall of big opuntias. Working on it.

Also at Louie's, a perfect  Agave guiengola 'Crème Brûlée.' As Gerhard has written, guiengolas bruise if you look hard at them. This one is well-protected and gets just the right amount of sun — mine (below) gets too little. Must get an arbor... 

My 'Crème Brûlée.' I love these guys, and as luck would have it, they're big puppers: see below.

One of three pups on this plant.

Opuntia nursery. The school district groundskeepers tore out a big variegated opuntia that was thriving (seven feet high) behind a friend's classroom at work. I managed to salvage a few pieces, and have four or five pots with little variegated opuntias now. It looks like Joseph's Coat (Opuntia monacantha var. variegata).

My gnarliest-spined titanota has a pup!

Please grow up to look like your mom.

Orostachys iwarenge. Such a cool little plant! Found this one at Hunter's Nursery up at Big Bear Lake last summer, and as directed put in it a wide, WIDE pot so that it would have room to sow seed and be bigger next year.

Dies after flowering (Noooo...!!), but comes back from seed each year. (All right then.)

Looks like a fairy garden. Right, Annie's Annuals?

Yucca gigantea. This plant was on a neighbor's porch in Big Bear, of all places, looking dead as a doornail, and I got it when they sold their cabin. Took months for it to show signs of life, but it's thriving now. No intention of ever putting this thing in the ground.

Nearby, some Aloe arborescens going nuts.

And in front of the aloes, a California fuschia, also from Hunter's Nursery in Big Bear. The galvanized bucket was a salvage find, and my welder put a nice hole in the bottom. Now, what plant to put in it?

That flower reminds me: I finally got a hemidemisemi-decent snap of the first Aloe elgonica bloom.

Baby elgonicas.

One of several good-sized elgonica pups I separated from the mothership. Original big plant came from fave Gloria's Nursery in Riverside.

The leaves on Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi 'Variegata' are bordered with the loveliest hot-pink ever — the camera refuses to catch it [/no photo skills].

A new titanota from fellow Gates club member Rob Roy MacGregor.

And another titanota [note to self: do a post on your titanotas], this one a Kelly Griffin variety called 'Stacked.'

A million pups on this Aloe suprafoliata...

... and none on this one [a rescue plant from a Gates salvage operation]. A meaningful difference, suggests palmbob [last comment]. I love to see this oldster blooming.

How cool to be small enough to build a little web in this well-armed Aloe marlothii? Which, by the way, is as green in real life as his relative below, just washed out in this early morning photo.

Another aloe pup! This is a David Verity aloe called 'Spiney,' and you can read about its parentage here.

Nooooo...!! Disaster strikes. This is not my big Kissho Kan (thank the powers), but a nice medium-sized one. For the heck of it I did minor surgery, removed the rotted leaf, sprayed with straight (rubbing) alcohol. Damage seems localized. No symptoms of mites, as far as I can tell. If it can't be saved, there are many pups, including one that is very light-colored.

More disaster: mealy bugs attacked my oldest agave, a twenty year old A. parryi var. huachucensis. Those are dead mealies — I alcoholized 'em. When the leaf opens a bit more I'll clean things up with a toothpick. Poor parryi! 

All this disaster is too much. I need to see a pug.

Lily to the rescue! Here's my sister's pug, Lily, watching the nightly news up at the cabin. Whew! Everything is better now.

If you've made it this far, thanks for looking! Have a good week and a great weekend, whether you're in Santa Ynez, or at that other plant sale (hint: it's in San Marino), or racing me to the opuntias at UC Riverside.

Bookend: a slightly later-in-the-day, slightly better shot of Agave 'Little Shark,' with its beautiful dark spines and leaf margins. I love this one.

October 14, 2015

Vignette for Wednesday

Between a rock and a hard place. The equivalent in Spanish may be more fitting here: entre la espada y la pared [between the sword and the wall]. 

That pretty sedum with pink flowers, surrounded above by stones and spines, is called Sunsparkler® Dazzleberry. (I am not making this up.) I love it.

Thanks to Flutter & Hum for creating and hosting this weekly meme.

October 13, 2015

Hummingbirds, a cactus, and John Gould

Buffon's Plumeteer, now White-vented Plumeleteer, from John Gould's A Monograph of the Trochilidae or Humming Birds, Vol. II. "The figures are of the size of life." 

He was the son of a gardener. "Scanty education," says Wiki. John Gould was also a gardener himself (employed at Windsor in his teens), and a taxidermist, an ornithologist, an author, a publisher, an artist, and the first Curator and Preserver at the museum of the Zoological Society of London:
His identification of the birds now nicknamed "Darwin's finches" played a role in the inception of Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. Gould's work is referenced in Charles Darwin's book, On the Origin of Species.
A number of birds are named for him — check out the amazing Dot-eared Coquette (Lophornis gouldii). Gould collected birds in Australia and Tasmania, but didn't see much of the west. This killed me a little: 
Throughout his professional life Gould had a strong interest in hummingbirds. He accumulated a collection of 320 species, which he exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Despite his interest, Gould had never seen a live hummingbird. In May 1857 he travelled to the United States with his second son, Charles. He arrived in New York too early in the season to see hummingbirds in that city, but on 21 May 1857, in Bartram's Gardens in Philadelphia, he finally saw his first live one, a ruby-throated hummingbird. He then continued to Washington D.C. where he saw large numbers in the gardens of the Capitol. Gould attempted to return to England with live specimens, but, as he was not aware of the conditions necessary to keep them, they only lived for two months at most.[Quotes from Wiki.]
Poor creatures.

Gould never traveled to South America, so I imagine the plants in his illustrations were drawn from botanical collections. I wonder why he chose that cactus. (Echinopsis?) This species of plumeleteer is a forest bird, I think, though the print above looks like savanna or desert (one reason I bought a copy of it ages ago, at the Huntington). Unimaginable challenges for naturalists back in the day, and now anyone with a bit of tech can find information on DNA sequencing and dozens of photos and videos of the birds in habitat. We're lucky, and luckier still if we can see hummingbirds any time we look out the window.

White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii)
White-vented Plumeleteer (Chalybura buffonii) photographed by Ron Knight in Colombia.

Heliodoxa aurescens
Gould's Jewelfront (Heliodoxa aurescens) photographed by Joao Quental in Perú.

Gould's Inca humming bird, Machu Picchu, Peru
Gould's Inca (Coeligena inca) photographed by Phillip Edwards in
 Machu Picchu, Perú.

October 9, 2015

Botanical illustrations

Opuntia robusta et al by M.E. Eaton [Mary Emily Eaton]

This site (via the Opuntiads group on Facebook) is a real rabbit hole of a time sink. Three more by Eaton:

And down the rabbit hole we go:

Many of the prints are available in large resolutions. Have a favorite botanical (or zoological) illustrations site to share? I'd love to see it. Off to look at hummingbirds now: