Monday, November 30, 2009

Palm Springs Style Gardening

Why would a Portland, Oregon, gardener be interested in a book called Palm Springs-Style Gardening? Two reasons…the plants and the extremes. Many of the plants suited to desert gardening are my favorites, and I’m always interested to know more about them. Plus I find it very compelling to learn about gardening in a climate that is so different from mine, like a place where the dormant season is summer, not winter.
After moving to Palm Springs the author, Maureen Gilmer, found there were few books available that addressed the specialized gardening needs of the Coachella Valley. Including unrelenting heat and sun (over 300 days a year), little water, strong wind, and soil that exhibits signs of its history as an inland sea.

The extreme sun exposure and heat is startling to read about. I can’t imagine gardening in an environment where the temperatures are regularly so high that they stress a plant to a point where it ceases to photosynthesize. And while I plant in pots so I can move them to friendlier environments in the winter, when there is too much rain and cold, Palm Springs gardeners use such methods to protect their plants from too much sun and heat in the summer.

In Palm Springs the drying wind is also an issue, in this photo Maureen shows an example of how semi-transparent screens block the wind and yet still allow light into the garden. Isn’t it gorgeous? And it makes the area beyond private; for me the fact that it is a wind break is just a bonus.
The chapters are broken into plant categories such as: The Palms, The Africans, and The Low Desert Natives…which include the agaves and yuccas, like this Yucca Rostrata…hopefully someday Sammy will be this tall…
The chapters introduce readers to plants that will survive, and hopefully thrive in Palm Springs. Since Palm Springs is, at least partially, still a winter respite for part-time residents there is a whole segment of the population that never sees the harsh circumstances that their garden is left behind to face. The selections in this book are aimed to help them make educated choices that will allow their garden to weather the cruel summer months.
Another chapter called The Tropical’s includes this picture of a plant I know (and love) as an indoor grower, the Sansevieria. Isn’t this a great entry way? I want to live in this house! Perhaps a future vacation to Palm Springs is in order. There is also a section on the evil Agave Snout Weevil which unfortunately has wiped out most of the “old growth” agaves throughout Palm Springs. I pray I never see this pest in my garden. Hopefully it’s terrified of our cold temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest. And just when I was feeling serious climate envy the author notes that New Zealand Flax is a “no-go” In the desert. Finally! Something I can grow that they can’t!

Seriously though this was a great read for Fall in Portland when we’re facing the coldest wettest months of the year ahead. I enjoyed being transplanted to a place where the sun is too bright, and Summer too warm!

And in case you are wondering here is my disclaimer…I purchased the book Palm Springs-Style Gardening and really enjoyed it, so I wanted to do a blog post about it. I contacted the publisher to make sure they were ok with my scanning and including a few pictures. Not only were they ok with it but they sent me these jpegs of the pictures I wanted to include in my post. Everything in life should be this easy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola' or Japanese Forest Grass

Earlier in the week I made it home before dark on a dry-ish afternoon (a rare occurrence these days) I took advantage and had a look around the garden. I was surprised at the bright golden color the Hakonechloa had taken on. I don’t remember this grass ever adding to the fall garden, seems it has always just looked dead, this year it has these colorful tones.
I love the shaggy look of this grass, this is one of those plants I can’t help but run my fingers through when I see it in the nursery.
Since I started gardening in Portland I think this is the first year I haven’t bought another plant. It was a bit of an addiction…which I think I’ve managed to get in check.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’m so thankful that I started this crazy thing called blogging this year and have met so many wonderful people…Happy Thanksgiving to you all from danger garden! Enjoy this day…

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Citrus! In Oregon?

When I first saw these trees I thought (for just second) citrus! Then I remembered I don’t live in California, or Arizona. And besides...where are the leaves?Then I wondered what kind of person decorates their trees for Thanksgiving? Then I realized they were persimmons! Aren’t they fabulous, how seasonally picture perfect!
I’ve never ate a persimmon, have you?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winter protection with a touch of class

Driving to work one cool morning I noticed the owner of these bananas out wrapping them in bubble wrap*. My first thought was “OMG, what does he know that I don’t?!” Turns out nothing, there was no freeze predicted. Maybe he’s one of those lucky birds that fly south for the winter and he was preparing to depart for a few months?
The next day I saw the end result with the bamboo wrap covering the plastic. Nice! So many times winter protection for tender plants ends up looking trashy. Not this one…it actually looks like a tropical themed party might break out at any moment! *If you’re unfamiliar with overwintering Musa basjoo in Portland typically the “trunk” or pseudo-stem is wrapped in bubble wrap, burlap, insulation or some such material to keep it from dying back to the ground. That way you start out in spring with some height already on your bananas. I typically wait until after the leaves have been killed by a frost to wrap mine. Last year I must have done a poor job on one because it flopped over in a pile of mush in January, however by mid summer it had re-grown to its previous height.

Monday, November 23, 2009

San Marcos Growers

Part of my continuing series on our October trip to California…
While in Santa Barbara I was able to visit San Marcos Growers. Since they are a wholesale operation I didn’t think I would be permitted, but I emailed them in advance, explained my agave passion and promised not to try to buy anything. I just wanted to drool, or I mean look. So either they saw a kindred spirit, or wanted to see what kind of freak used so many exclamation points (!!!) while explaining their love of agaves!! And their desire to visit the nursery!!

This is charming little building is the office, where I was asked to check-in.
Walking in I was a little intimidated, like Dorothy walking up to the great and powerful Oz. Please your Excellency, grant me my request to walk through your fields of Aloes, Agaves and Cordylines, (oh my!)

I really did feel like I was walking into The Land of Oz. All of these huge amazing plants were for sale!!!! Living near this nursery would be very very dangerous.

They had just put together this enticing agave display right near the office. Agave 'Joe Hoak' is pretty much my latest obsession.
Agave ghiesbreghtii, you’ve got a love a plant this determined to grow. Look at the little pup peaking out the bottom!
And this one is no slacker… although it must have bloomed recently as the mother plant is dead.Furcraea macdougalii, in the middle
This is one of those plants that I should be able to identify by now, is it related to Sonchus acaulis? Can you imagine filling up one of these and having it pull up in front of your house?
Or even one of these little vans? All of these gems were in an ‘off-limits’ area marked sold. Some lucky person…
Agave 'Blue Glow'…handy that I actually got to see it glowing Look at this Agave attenuatta mess. My made-up explanation is that somebody called and asked if they wanted to rescue a field of agaves that was going to be dug up for a construction project.
Agave cupreata, in mass...
Agave franzosinii
And a group of little Agave franzosinii
Sharkskin Agave
Aloe barberae, Tree Aloe
Aloe 'Hercules' (who named this plant?)
Aloe plicatilis, Fan Aloe
Aloe speciosa, Tilt-head Aloe
Boophone disticha Oxbane (I think)
Flower of the Erythrina crista-galli, Cockspur Coral Tree
Kalanchoe luciae Paddle Plant
Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta Sport' - don't these leaves look like they would be soft, like a Hosta? Nope! They are more "agave-like"...wishin' I had one...
Aloe or Agave? I am not sure. Cordys and Flax
Not sure what this beauty is, amazing though...Looking towards their planted gardens Agave franzosinii
Agave franzosinii with a 6’2” husband for scale
Another huge specimen And another of my new fav’s….which since I do not know their real name I am calling Agave 'marmoleum' And I’m not proud to admit I pushed the limits of their kindness and asked to buy something. Remember the little aloe that got away from me at Flora Grubb? Well it was an Aloe marlothii…
How cute are they? My heart was heavy with the idea of walking away from them again. I asked and they were kind enough to sell me one. I’m sure I was testing their patience, and dealing with me was taking away from what they should have been doing, after all they are a wholesale nursery and do not sell to the public.
Of course the bad person in me was thinking….”uhm, well, why stop there! Maybe I should run back out and grab a few more things….”
But that would have been wrong.
So I didn’t.
But I wish I would have…