Archive for May, 2011


How to Marry the Right Tree to the Right Site

May 11, 2011

Monday, I shared a difficult and sad lesson about poor tree placement. The wrong site and tree choice can be costly and disfiguring to landscapes. I want to help you avoid these blunders. Below are some basic questions to consider. Take this list with you when shopping at your local nursery. Most nursery workers won’t question your choice or bring up these crucial considerations once you’re at the checkout counter. So take the time to ask a lot of questions.

  • What species or variety is suited for your zone and microclimate(s)?
  • What type of soil does the planting site have? Does it need amending? Does it have good drainage?
  • How much horizontal and vertical space is available in the planting site? In 30 to 40 years, that little sapling will be a mature tree. Will it still fit the space?
  • Will the tree encroach on the neighbor’s property, your roof, sheds, vehicles, or other pertinent structures?
  • Is the species or variety susceptible to particular diseases or pests?
  • Is it messy? Will it drop fruit, seedpods, bark, broken branches, or blossoms?
  • Will the tree interfere with overhead or underground utility wires as it matures?
  • Does it have a vigorous root system known to uplift hardscape or interfere with underground plumbing and septic systems?

The Deadly Tattoo

May 9, 2011

Last Friday I mentioned a distant roar that woke me from a ten-minute snooze on Tuesday. I promised to share what aroused me, so here’s the postponed segment of I’m Back.

Continued from Tuesday, May 06:  When Ralphie started barking I knew what was happening and avoided looking out the window for a long time. I could hear the sounds of the horrid execution, the reverberation of jagged jaws coming from the driveway’s entrance, 600 feet from my house.

Since February, two healthy, sixty-foot redwoods (and two oaks), have worn the mark of death. After a massive blackout last year due to a felled tree on a transmission line, PG&E put out a contract on trees tall enough to repeat the same damages should they fall.

I don’t know where the blackout took place, but our earth’s ecology will be unbalanced without these remarkable organisms. At least, my little twenty-acre patch will be.

Joe had planted the redwoods from five-gallon pots and nurtured them into adulthood. Each stood proud on either side of the driveway as welcome symbols to our home. The dark evergreen branches provided ornamental beauty against summer’s dry pastures and winter’s bare silver maples lining the driveway. The redwoods increased our property’s real estate value. They added a sense of serenity to anyone who embraced the details of their majestic wholesomeness.

It’s our fault for planting them under utility lines. At the time, we were uneducated, amateur, DIY landscapers. Looking at the redwoods’ huge statue, it makes one wonder how we couldn’t foresee the future and possible damages. Buying the wrong tree is a common mistake. It’s like roasting your first turkey without knowing to look in the cavity for giblets.

The two oak trees hold a different story. Planted by a squirrel, human, or a fallen acorn the oaks were here long before we arrived. They’re still standing, one directly across the driveway entrance and the other a few feet north, both on the opposite side of the transmission lines. With the mark of death painted on each trunk, it won’t be long before they’re executed too.


White Carnation is Synonymous with Mother’s Day

May 7, 2011 Registered & Protected

By Bernadine Chapman-Cruz

The white carnation is synonymous with the virtues of motherhood. A mother’s unconditional love for her child is recognized around the world on Mother’s Day. More than a century has passed since Anna Jarvis organized the first mother’s day acknowledgement, a religious remembrance in honor her deceased mother.

Today, this heartwarming tradition has evolved into Mother’s Day, celebrated on the second Sunday in May.  The first mother’s day festivities were held in a West Virginia church. Sunday services included liturgy highlighting all mothers’ esteemed role in raising their families. As part of the services, every woman in the congregation received a white carnation, Mrs. Jarvis’ favorite flower, to commemorate this heartwarming sentiment.

Cherished around the globe, the carnation is one of the oldest cultivated flowers. In addition to its heartiness and beauty, the carnation is a floral artist’s favorite. When creating a corsage, boutonniere, bouquet or other floral décor, even after cutting, the carnation retains its freshness longer than other flowers commonly used in floral design.

The carnation is easily adaptable to a variety of floral arrangements from welcoming newborns to expressing condolences in a sympathy remembrance.  These ruffled flowers are easy to work with, inexpensive and delightful as a ‘single stem’ or when incorporated with other flowers in any floral arrangement.

Through history, the carnation has come to represent a variety of feelings, emotions and sentiments specific to carnation color. The most common carnation color associations include:

White – innocence, pure love, sweetness, luck

Dark Red – love, passion, affection, respect

Light Red – admiration

Pink – gratitude, remembrance, thoughtfulness, thankfulness

Yellow – distain, rejection, disappointment

On Mother’s Day, remember your mother with a bouquet of white carnations. This thoughtful gift will be cherished and carnations just might become a family tradition.  Copyright ©2011 Bernadine Chapman-Cruz


Soulful Plotting

May 6, 2011


A thickened stem (storage organ, capable of storing food), with roots growing from it, which grows horizontally below or on the soil surface. New growth then emerges from different points of the rhizome. Examples Bearded Irises, Calla Lily and some lawn grasses are rhizome plants.


I’m Back!

May 6, 2011

In case you’re wondering why I haven’t posted since Monday, here’s an account of what has happened.

Tuesday, May 03:  As soon as I managed to get my new, hand-me-down computer running the landlines died. Until today, I couldn’t communicate with the world via telephone or cyberspace. I couldn’t check incoming emails, conduct internet research, or publicize Wednesday’s Guest Writer’s article.

In addition, two of my county fair entries were damaged (my fault) and my green bean seedlings that appeared happy and perky on Monday turned into crispy, brown foliage today.

The beans are growing along a fence line between a row of vigorous snow peas and asparagus bean seedlings. The brown green beans no longer blend beautifully between its neighbors. Like an unkempt front yard in the middle of well-groomed landscapes, the green beans are an eyesore.

I hadn’t fertilized. It wasn’t windy. The soil was damp so there’s no logical reason for fried leaves. It’s just one of those mysterious disorders that oftentimes leaves the caregiver baffled.

Since the stalks look good, I’m going to watch them for a week. If new leaf buds appear, I won’t replant. Replanting now would put harvest off for month.

The lifeless landlines, damaged county fair entries, and impaired bean crop are minor setbacks, slight disappointments. However, the distant roar of heavy equipment that woke me from a ten-minute snooze this afternoon was anything but trivial. More on this next week. 

Thursday, May 05:  Late afternoon Verizon repaired my landlines, and my hand-me-down computer is running smoothly. Now, though, the “service engine soon light” in my car lite up like a huge hotel sign. Tomorrow, I’ll have to take it into the shop which means I won’t have transportation to the Amador Master Gardeners’ annual plant sale to volunteer with set up and sales—a fun day that I will miss.

The good news is that Wednesday’s article, written by Guest Writer Bernadine Chapman-Cruz,  will be posted Saturday.  (There’s always something good to look  toward.) Stayed tuned for tomorrow’s Soulful Plotting and Bernadine’s article on the history of Mother’s Day.


Artichoke Facts

May 2, 2011


Scientific NameCynara scolymus

Description:  Artichokes are large thistle-like perennials with silver-leaves. The bud or vegetable has prickly petals. When artichoke buds are left to bloom they produce beautiful lavender flowers.

History:  The French are credited with bringing the first artichokes to the U.S. during the early 1900’s. By the 1920’s artichokes were being shipped to the east coast. Soon Half Moon Bay billed itself as the artichoke capital of the world.

Nutritional Value:

½ cup, boiled =

Calories 37

Fat 9.1 g

Calories from fat 2%

Sodium 55 mg

Protein 1.9 g

Carbohydrate 8.7 g

Planting Tips:  Artichokes prefer cool, moist summers with mild winters but usually do well in some hot climates. Depending on the variety and climate, artichokes can be grown as a perennial or annual.

Plant artichokes in early fall, late winter or early spring after last frost date. Start seed, rooted offshoots, or divisions from mature plants. Plant in full sun, in rich well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Fertilize in early spring. Artichokes love water so keep moist and mulch deep. Some buds will develop the first spring but a good crop usually starts one year after planting. Plants mature in size 3×3 feet but can grow up to 8 feet wide and 4 feet high so allow room for growth.

Watch for aphids, earwigs, slugs, and snails. Every three or four years, dig up and divide otherwise production will decline from overcrowding.

Harvest Tips: Harvest while buds are tight and two to four inches in diameter. Cut the stem two or three inches below the bud. The California Master Gardener Handbook says, “A recommended cultural procedure is to cut the entire plant down to, or slightly below soil level after the spring production peak. Reduce irrigation for several weeks. Once you resume irrigation, it encourages rapid and vigorous regrowth bearing new buds for fall production period.”

Recommended Varieties:  Imperial Star, Emerald, Big Heart, Desert Globe, Green Globe. Check with your local nursery for varieties that grow best in your zone.

Copyright © 2011 Dianne Marie Andre

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