Rain 1.30"; season total 1.82"

The storm that blew through Thursday and Friday left 1.30" in my back yard, bringing the season's total to 1.82".  This was a nice rainfall - never so heavy that it couldn't soak in wherever it fell.

30 Nov 2012 1.30"


Oleander Aphids - Aphis nerii

One of my native plant list serves has had these yellow aphids as a topic of discussion.  They are non-native and are presumed to have arrived with the oleander that is omnipresent in S. California.  They also like milkweed (Asclepias), which is what they are see on here.  I also have Oleander in the yard, but it was surprising how quickly these guys arrived and spread on the milkweed.  It was so fast that I thought for certain that I'd brought the plant home with an unseen infestation.


Crocus sativus - Saffron Crocus

I grew Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) at my other house and managed one meal from the collected stigma (the culinary term is thread) of the several bulbs that I planted. I blogged about it here and here.  The scent was incredible, but I think that I didn't manage the saffron threads very well because the cooked flavor was faint. Or perhaps I didn't have enough.  C. sativus is a mediterranean plant, so it's compatible with low water gardens and a prime choice for those that want to grow an exotic and expensive seasoning.

Besides kitchen uses, saffron has been used in folk medicine for centuries and more recently leaves and threads have been evaluated as anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory agents, with findings that the threads are pharmacologically active.

In late October of this year  I planted 70 Crocus sativus bulbs.  To spare you many pictures of freshly planted bulbs, I'll let you search Google for pictures of soil instead.

Fast forward to mid November, and we have action! The bulbs are poking their first leaves out of the planters in several areas. At Juli's house, where I planted a few days earlier, the signs of growth were slightly earlier, just as one would expect.


A trip to the "Pot Depot"

I continue to like Pottery Manufacturing and Distribution, which I call the "Pot Depot". (Tour it here on YouTube.)   Since I was there last they have increased their outdoor space by adding additional shelving units.

They also have an indoor space, which I did not photograph.  Give them a try.  Their prices seem reasonable (though I thought them a touch higher during a recent visit) and Tuesdays are 10% off for seniors. 


rain 0.2"; season total 0.52"

With the last several rains I'm up to 0.52" for the season. 9-Nov 0.2 16-Nov 0.07 17-Nov 0.2 The 9-Nov rain didn't really bring up any weeds, but the latest one did.


Ship tracks and climate

Ship tracks are the exhaust plumes of large ships, which can have significant impact on weather patterns, particularly in areas near large ports such as Los Angeles / Long Beach. An interesting blog post written by a friend summarizes their effects on local weather.

Ship Tracks and our changing weather


Allium uniforlium from seed

I've got a bulb fascination this year.  Other people are going crazy for bulbs too.  Country Mouse has discussed bulbs recently.

I'm purchasing a number of bulbs, but I thought I'd first try to make use of the stock I have on hand.  I have some Allium unifolium (wild onion, Pink Meadow Onion, One-leaf Onion) seed from a couple plants at my previous house.  They must be two years old (Normally I'd put the date that I harvested the seed, but for some reason I didn't.  Why do I think I'll remember this stuff?) and there's not a lot after separating the chaff from the seed.  I'm a crummy seed saver, often putting whole seed heads in bags until I need them  These looked OK, despite the less than optimum treatment.


Night time at home

I'll regret not having that Giant Bird of Paradise to frame my shots, but that's the only reason I'll regret not having it. This was an iPhone shot., my camera of choice lately.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Signs of fall in the California native garden

Whats all this hear about California not having seasons?  Ususally I just change the subject when an unenlightened person tells me that there's no seasons in California.  This time I thought I'd get some evidence, so Juli and I took a stroll in the Madrona Marsh demonstration garden to find out more.

Muhlenbergia rigens california deer grass

Muhlenbergia rigens (California Deer Grass) with stalks awaving.  Sycamore trees dropping their leaves.  Nope.  That can't be a sign of fall - the sky is too blue.


And then there were five

Note to self: next year harvest earlier.

There must have been 20 giant pomegranates but all that are left are these five. Must be possums or perhaps birds.


Digging for pepper

I'm not planting Begonias in the shade and I'm not putting in a fresh crop of Impatiens by the front door -   that's a decidedly minor subset of the gardening universe.  I'm talking about real gardening - shirt soaked through with sweat, swinging an axe and shovel for hours, sore muscles, correcting another's huge plant mistake, foundation for the future type of work. This is dirt in your shoes, dust in your nose, and blisters on your hands. This is archetypal man's work: atavistic and primal, physical and concrete, but with a time frame where even those of short attention span can see progress.  Your forefathers cleared forests with this type of work.  This is the kind of work that makes even American lagers taste good. 
Brazilian Pepper Tree stump removal
I'm digging out a large Brazilian Pepper, and it feels like victory.


Your garden friend, the axe

Like the Ginsu Knife, the axe has a variety of uses. I like it best as a burly garden tool: bashing through errant roots and eliminating small stumps with a minimum of brute exertion. I've been somewhat successful at the latter recently: Trees that were cut off at the ground will resprout if you let them, but a bit of quick axe work and a small squirt of herbicide decreases the likelihood of resprouting without requiring you to remove the roots and disturb the soil.

This is the largest stump that I photographed, but you can easily go larger with this technique. There is an upper limit on size, however.  Keys are for scale.  This stump was also drilled to let me apply a stump decomposition enhancer.

I'll bring the axe down a few times in one direction, then switch to about 90 degrees from the initial direction. Towards the end of the axe work, grab your handy spray bottle of herbicide and spray into the split wood. Don't over do it. Sometimes it helps to spray while the axe is still lodged in the stump since many splits tend to close up once the axe is removed.  If you are resolute that you don't want to use herbicide, then don't - it's really a belt and suspenders approach.  Splitting stumps exposes enough surface area that they tend to do very poorly in terms of resprouting, even without the herbicide.

For goodness sake, learn how to swing an axe properly, keep your toes safely out of the way, and keep the axe sharp with a mill bastard file.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


It's Global Warming, Stupid

It's Global Warming, Stupid is the title of a November 01, 2012, article by Paul M. Barrett in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Barrett cites a sea change in the attitudes of the American mainstream of thought about the veracity of global climate change, and uses Super Storm / Hurricane Sandy as an example of its impacts, though with appropriate caveats on the differences between weather and climate.   He also cites authorities other than the usual scientists, since a vocal minority of Americans seem to believe that mendacious scientists have a political axe to grind when it comes to believing that cause and effect are related:

 ...forget the scientists ostensibly devoted to advancing knowledge and saving lives. Listen instead to corporate insurers committed to compiling statistics for profit. On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.

 Barrett's article is in line with other polls that show the same trend.  Meanwhile, we scientists have been waiting for the rest of the U.S. to catch up. 

If we ever want to do something about climate change, it will be a large undertaking.  For a science and engineering approach to the large problem of our energy future try the Do the Math blog.


Camissonia slaughter

I've killed more plants.
dead Cammissonia cheiranthifolia "Beach Primrose"
Two of the three Cammissonia cheiranthifolia "Beach Primrose" that I purchased from Annies Annuals croaked unexpectedly and ended up looking like the picture above. I may have kept them overwatered and drowned them or perhaps they were poorly stored in my too shady side yard. When they started to look limp I tried simply moving them to brighter shade, but most of them didn't make it.  Fortunately,