Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Not the thornless boysenberries again


Can you tell I am so thrilled with my thornless boysenberries? One thing I'd like to do but have failed so far is to get a photo of the bees visiting the fleurs. Yes, we have wild bees here in urban southern California. Where they live, I do not know. We're pretty densely populated here so they must be pretty sneaky. Here are past photos.
Family: Rosaceae, Rubus urcinus
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Tree mallow flowering

I regret I don't know the exact species of this mallow but it came from the Theodore Payne Foundation, a local treasure selling plants native to southern California. Drought tolerant, it seems to be in flower most of the year. It grows well also. I need to cut it back frequently so that I will be in compliance with the community garden rules not to intrude onto the path. It actually seems to be a large bush, and if I let it, will probably take over the plot, along with the nasturtiums.
Family Malvaceae, Lavatera sp.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Last of the freesias

In this area, it seems the vernal equinox signals the end of the freesia blooms, unfortunate because freesias are one of my favorite early spring flowers. Since I'm short on space, I chose freesias because they bring two things, their heavenly scent as well as their ethereal blooms. When I first got my community garden plot, freesias were the first bulbs I happily planted. I'm thrilled they have faithfully bloomed each year. Family Iridacea, Freesia sp.
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Nasturtium hiding

If I didn't weed, not one bit, my plot would probably look like one large mound of nasturtiums reaching up to the sky. They need not fear me, however. I think the nasturtiums know I like them, their florescent fleurs and indomitable spirit. Here's one hiding underneath the garden hose.
Family: Tropaeolaceae, Tropaeolum sp.
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thornless boysenberries celebrating spring

Living in coastal southern California, I've heard it said that we don't really have seasons. It's true we don't have the dramatic seasonal changes you might see in more northern parts of North America, but I would argue we do have seasons. Our seasonal changes are more subtle. My thornless boysenberries are case in point. In the week after the vernal equinox, my thornless boysenberries celebrated the start of spring by growing innumerable flower buds from every node. It looks like it'll be a good year for berries.
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Friday, March 26, 2010

My lonely chard seedling


Since I think I have zillions of slugs lying in wait for any tender seedling emerging from the soil, I tend to start my seeds at home. I use recycled yogurt cups filled with sterile potting soil, holes punched in the bottom for drainage. After germination, I take the seedlings outside to harden. I like to enrich the soil with compost and fertilizer before transplanting. Chard seems hungry for fertilizer so I make sure to use plenty. In the background, you can see how linarias (toadflax) fills in the blank spaces of my garden. Family: Chenopodiaceae, Beta vulgaris var. cicla
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Sugar snap pea pods maturing

My sugar snap peas are maturing, ready to be picked soon. I think they are much sweeter than even the sugar snap peas from the famous Farmers' Market in this area. I rarely get to cook them because we eat them soon as I get them home. As the days are getting warmer, we'll see the end of sugar snap peas soon. I'm thinking it's time to plant green beans and zucchini for the summer and hope it's not too late.

Family: Fabaceae, Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon
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Budding Meyer lemon

Now that we have passed the spring equinox, it seems as a magic signal told many of my plants to go ahead and get started. Following its cue, my Meyer lemon, which sits potted, sprouted a new set of leaves along with a few flower buds. I know my photo here seems quite unimpressive but I'm thrilled to see new growth. I'm looking forward to the smell of lemon flowers. In the background to the left are the linarias. The pots in the background are home to my blueberry plants.

Family: Rutaceae, Citrus X meyeri
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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Flowering mizuna

Here is my patch of mizuna, finally flowering. I'll probably let it go to seed. I've been cutting leaves to use in soup. I have planted another patch. We'll see how long it lasts, as the weather is beginning to feel more like summer. Since this is the first year of growing mizuna, I've never collected seed before. I'll see how it goes.
Family: Brassicacea, Brassica rapa, var. nipponsinica

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White yarrow

When I inherited my community garden plot, I was a bit overwhelmed as it was overflowing with all sorts of plants growing in nearly every spot of soil, weeds, wildflowers and everything else all mixed up together. My husband's suggestion was to get a minirototiller to get rid of everything all at once and start all over. I couldn't bring myself to do that. I later learned the previous gardener was on a quest to grow only white flowers in her plot. During a random googling session, I found there is actually a lovely name for such gardens: a moon garden. This white yarrow I have kept since I like the leafy fronds and the white flowers that shoot out over the leaves. In the background, my thornless boysenberry vines hang, now sporting blooms.



Family: Asteraceae, Achillea sp.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

With arugula going to seed

I'm very happy to let a few of my plants go to seed. Arugula, in particular, is an easy plant from which to harvest seeds for future salads. Here's a clump of arugula blooming. I hope to gather some seeds in a few weeks. If I can remember, I try to throw out a few patches of arugula seeds every few weeks to keep arugula growing in my garden.
Family: Brassicaceae, Eruca sativa
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With toadflax growing in every spare spot

I love that these self-seed every year, inevitably in an array of easter egg colors. Spring has certainly sprung when I see linarias in my garden. I thought these were in the family Scrophulariaceae but was quite surprised to find that they have been reclassified into the Plantaginaceae family.

Family: Plantaginaceae, Linaria sp.
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White hollyhock

Another legacy plant from the previous gardener, these white hollyhocks probably were a key element of her moon garden. In the past, I had many more of these, and on full moon nights, these hollyhocks stood tall, luminously glowing in the dark. I could spot my garden from afar.
Family: Malvaceae, Alcea sp.
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Cold tolerant tomato, Valencia

I may be foolhardy or even a bit impetuous but I just had to do it: I planted my first tomato plant last month in February. A cold tolerant beauty called Valencia, I bought it from Hayground Organic Gardening. Jimmy and Logan Williams sell all sorts of wonderful plants at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Saturday and Wednesday.

We had a warm spell this week, and the Valencia responded well. I find growing tomatoes here by the coast to be a challenge. We experience cold overcast foggy summers when the rest of the Los Angeles basin basks in heat and sun. Not surprisingly, last summer, it was the cold tolerant varieties which produced tomatoes, such as my Paul Robeson and Carmello.

Family: Solanaceae, Solanum lycopersicum
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Shirley's CA poppies


Familly: Papaveraceae, Eschscholzia californica
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Friday, March 19, 2010

First flower on my thornless boysenberry

As we near the spring equinox, it seems the plants are revving up to go into high gear. Here is the first flower on my thornless boysenberry saying hello to the early morning sun. This year, I have trellised the vines on bamboo poles, tied perpendicular to tbars which have been pounded into the ground about a foot deep. You can see a glimpse of the bamboo inthis photo.

Family: Rosaceae, Rubus urcinus
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Calla lily, another white legacy flower

I inherited this white Calla lily from the previous community gardener, who seemed to have amassed an interesting collection of white flowers during her regime. While googling, I came across the term 'moon garden', describing a garden filled with only white flowers. In my hands, this plot is no longer a moon garden since I am rather fond of pink flowers.

Family: Araceae, Zantedeschia sp., probably aethiopica
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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Four leaf clovers in my garden


Happy St. Paddy's Day!
I know this is not the greatest photo but if you look carefully, these are truly four leaved plants. Colloquially called water clover, I've found they adore water and shade. This week, they are growing in a pot in my community plot but I'm considering bringing them back to balcony living since it's getting a bit warm and sunny. I wasn't sure what they were until I spied some at the United States Botanical Garden near the Smithsonian in DC, a fascinating place to visit, btw. The ones at the US Botanical Garden hailed from Australia, ironically enough, as wikipedia indicated there are a few species native to North America. Here's more on what wikipedia says about this family. I was surprised to find they are actually ferns, which is why I have been waiting in vain for flowers in order to ID them. Note, I don't know which ones I have.
Family: Marsileaceae, Marsilea sp. probably
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Maui onions

I bought these as seedlings from Jimmy and Logan Williams of Hayground Organics. They sell all kinds of amazing plants at the Santa Monica Farmers' Markets on Saturday and Wednesday.

Family: Liliaceae
Allium cepa
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Sugar snap peas

I still haven't figured out the best way to trellis sugar snap peas. This time, I placed tomato cages, the ones that topple over as soon as your tomato gets large and bushy, upside down on the ground, anchored with a few poles and then planted the peas inside. Needless to say, I rarely use those tomato cages for growing tomatoes.

Family: Fabaceae
Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon
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Friday, March 12, 2010

California Poppy

I inherited these white California poppies from the previous gardener, who left a legacy of all sorts of other white flowers in this plot. Each year, I collect the seed pods, leave them wrapped in my car in newspaper for a few weeks until I hear them exploding open, and then gather up the seeds to plant for the next year. It makes for a messy car but I do like saving seeds. Family: Papaveraceae
Genus: Eschscholzia californica
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Daffodil

From last month

Family: Amaryllidaceae
Genus: Narcissus sp.
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At least my mizuna is happy in this weather

I know it's going to warm up this week but my mizuna has been very happy in this cold, at least for us in Southern Cal, weather.

I use mizuna in chicken noodle soup, added at the very end, or in miso soup.
Family: Brassicaceae
Genus: Brassica rapa, var. nipponsinica

Here's info on mizuna from SpecialtyProduce.com

Nutritional Value

Dark green leaves offer the most nutrition and provide beta carotene, vitamins, minerals, plus are a source of fiber. Low in calories, greens are a dieter's delight and salvation as they healthy eating without an abundance of calories...

Applications

Mix tender little mizuna leaves with other greens or enjoy alone. Steamed mizuna is delicious topped with a light sauce or melted butter. Toss in stir-fries the last minute of cooking. Great in soups. Quickly wilt mizuna leaves; add a touch of garlic and a dash of oil. Mature mizuna makes a perfect substitute for chard or kale...To store, place in a plastic bag; keep in crisper drawer of refrigerator. Do not wash until ready to use; rinse briefly in cold water. For optimum flavor and texture, use within three to five days.

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