Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

"It's a holdup, not a botany lesson!"

A lovely seedling of Lupinus
holding a diamond of water.
Will update the species when it blooms.
Yellow, I think it is.
Probably the first reference to lupins - that I remember - was from Monty Python. I have this quirky association with them, so anytime I see a lupine I will start singing "Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the spoor..." 

Enjoy several Dennis Moore episodes here.

"She's bloody dying and all you bring us is lupins. All we've eaten, mate, for the last four bleeding weeks is lupin soup, roast lupin, steamed lupin, braised lupin in lupin sauce, lupin in the basket with sautéed lupins, lupin meringue pie, lupin sorbet. We sit on lupins, we sleep in lupins, we feed the cat on lupins, we burn lupins, we even wear the bloody things!"

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Grafting the delicious sounding 6-15-150

The beautiful and prolific Kaffir lime
I planted a Kaffir lime about 10 years ago and it has provided me with more than enough yummy lime leaves and some pretty awful tasting lime fruits. Kaffir lime marmalade, no thanks!

When a shoot started growing from the rootstock I decided to let it go so I could try citrus budding. As with many things, time went by. And when I got around to this project, the shoot was taller than our 7-foot fence with perhaps another thorny seven feet heading off into the neighbor's yard.

So I finally got serious about grafting.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blue is my favorite color...

But which blue is the sky?
Did my photo even capture the right color? when I heard that Alexander von Humboldt had a cyanometer to measure the blueness of the sky, I decided that I need one, too.

What is "sky blue"? I've taken painting classes and am not sure I've ever achieved sky blue. I remember that Dr. Raabe was looking for a sky-blue flower. I wonder if he ever found it. And measuring its wavelength seems like cheating.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Medlar Medley

Medlar awaiting bletting.
An otherwise disappointing fruit.
A hard tart fruit of Medieval propagation
Sat listlessly awaiting fermentation.

    "You must," sang the wise Bette Midler,
    "Show patience for the bletting medlar!"

"Sorbic acid is its only taste salvation!"

Visiting Niles and the California Nursery Historical Park

Are you wondering what else you can do in Niles?

Sunset magazine recently ran an article about the Niles district. Check out their article

Not listed in the article are Devout coffeeBroncho Billy pizza, the Nile Cafe, and Mr. Mikey's.  What can I say?

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Florist Shops After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire

The shops are numbered and correspond to the numbers below.
From The American Florist, June 2, 1906

The American Florist reported on how their members fared in the 1906 earthquake and fire. Photos of shops were included.

John McLaren and his wife made space for the earthquake refugees and helped out others in many ways.

As of this June 1906 report, some of the San Francisco florist shops had reopened.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Unexpectedly Delectable Cape Gooseberry

Little fruits that you unwrap
from a jacket of their own invention.

Wow! Strawberry, Pineapple, Guava Nectar all in one tiny package. Willy Wonka would have invented it if it had not existed.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Steampunk waterworks

 Birds made to sing, and be silent alternately by flowing Water
The villa d'Este (constructed 1550-1580s') had at least one waterwork inspired by Hero's Pneumatica.

From the sound of it, the bird sang while the owl was turned away. While the owl turns away, the birds do play!

Hero is considered by some to be the inventor of the steam engine, perhaps in the 4th century A.D.

Gonna have to try this at home.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Towering Garden Art

Whenever I see a tower, I take a look from below. Here are some of my favorites. Some were created for art and others for electrical reasons.

This tower resides in the sculpture garden of the Kröller Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands. From a distance it looks quite fragile and insubstantial, like a pile of magnetized needles, ready to fall into another form at a gust of wind. However, when you look at it from below, all the pipes orient themselves into a six-pointed star, quite substantial.

Needle Tower II, 1969

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Twenty-Two Splendid Fan Palms for the Midwinter Fair

Fan Palm at the Midwinter Fair (might be a Trachycarpus, not Washingtonia)
SFPL SF History Center
Left to right:
Manufacturers Building, other, Firth Wheel
In May 1893, John Rock of the California Nursery Company gave twenty-two fan palms to Golden Gate Park. The trees were more than 25 years old, so they were planted in 1868, just 3 years after Rock's Nursery was established. The Midwinter Fair opened in January 1894 running until July. Perhaps there are photos of the palms somewhere. Is this one?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Banana Plant at San Jose Fair 1887

Eastern Capitalists examining Banana Plant
Banana Plant in Fruit. 
March 5, 1887, Pacific Rural Press, page 193

"On entering the pavilion during the recent citrus fair at San Jose, one obtained a glimpse like that shown in the engraving on this page, the prominent object in the foreground being the thrifty banana plant fromJohn Rock's nurseries near the city of San Jose. This plant stood 10 feet high, had a stalk 8 inches in diameter, and leaves 6 feet long by 18 inches broad. The bunch of fruit, 18 inches long, was still green, and the blossoms had not disappeared. The plant was in fine show condition and was much admired.

The camera, though charged with the special duty of catching the banana, captured also a vista of the inner parts of the pavilion, including a group of people who may be regarded as Eastern capitalists delighted with the grand display made of California productions. One is apt to meet many such people at our industrial fairs in all parts of the State."

Oh, Pacific Rural Press editor, so witty! Pardon the fruit colored fonts. I couldn't help it.

Be sure to check out the Orange Monument on page one and "E. Borguinon's Floral Monument" on page 197.  On page 196, there is an explanation "Our Illustrations" explaining the new photographotype process.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Old Books about Old Roses

From Rosarum Monographia.
Ethelyn Emery Keays wrote the classic 1935 book Old Roses.  Ethelyn was a rose rustler before there was such a name for the people who went searching for our lost rose varieties in gardens, cemeteries, and road sides.

Her chapter on "Libraries and Rose Books" lists the books that she used for her rose research. Ethelyn visited these books at libraries and gardens. Many of the books are online now. She might have loved the easy access to all of these old books. It would have have made research quite easy. However, I suspect that she enjoyed meeting the interesting people who took care of the books.

I have collected several of her references here and will add as I go.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Early color photos of palm trees

"Alley of Chamaerops excelsus, Windmill Palm"
from the World Digital Library
I am on a search for early examples of "avenue of palms" and "palm allées". This early color photo turned up in my search.  Wowy wow wow!

We know this palm now as Trachycarpus fortunei.

The photographer was Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863–1944). From the description, this photo would have been taken somewhere from 1905 to 1915.

See other pictures in this collection of the Russian Empire.  Incredible!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two Famous California Horticulturalists

In 1907 George C. Roeding and Luther Burbank were somewhat equally famous, at least on the front page of the Pacific Rural Press, March 16, 1907. How is it that Luther Burbank is the only one who remains on the public mind?

The 1907 New Products of the Trees catalog contains these two photos and the same "Meeting of the Ways".

The following is the text from the California Fruit Bulletin:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Infinite Tulips

Or infinite flying cows!
Adriaen Pauw's garden in Amsterdam (or near Amsterdam) had an mirror illusion trick to multiply the number of tulips in the garden. A looking-glass cabinet stood in the bed of tulips and made the bed look as though it had infinite tulips. Naturally I want an infinity cabinet as well, for my small garden. However, this was in the 1600's and perhaps the book that has a description of such a cabinet is not scanned yet.  Or it was never described. Here's what I found along the way.

Goat Crooks and Rockrose Ticklers

The crook,
the "flail", and the
ladanum-impregnated goat's beard
I love the smell of rockrose. I used to run past some hedges of pink rockrose and always stopped to sniff it. Was it Cistus creticus?

I just learned that the crook and and flail possibly represented the tools of a goatherd in Egypt: the "crook" for managing goats and the "flail" for gathering the resins from rockrose.  The resins were used to make labdanum.

Given the choice I would rather spend eternity with something nice smelling (to show how RICH I was) than spend eternity showing what a disciplinarian I was. 

Give me a fabulous smelling resin-soaked goatbeard, my crook to manage my goats, and a tool to gather more resins and I'd be happy. But that's me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Old Roses

Already dog-eared...
Just returned from the National Heirloom Expo 2015. Heirloom plants and heritage breed animals. Piles of squash and rows of tomatoes. Very cute big and little piggies, bronze age goats. Lots of interesting thought-provoking speakers (and some really out-there speakers). Good food and good music.

Talked to the Heritage Rose Group people who had some booklets and some old roses for sale.

There are many people who call themselves "Rose Rustlers" who (very politely) find and propagate old roses found in cemeteries, homesteads, and old houses.

Initially, I was drawn to their booth because I'm looking for the Niles Cochet rose that was introduced by the California Nursery Company in 1906. However, I'm also interested in old roses because many are very drought tolerant and some might provide edible petals and rose hips.

How did fountains work before electricity?

Fountain of Alcázar
N.A. Wells
I just read about the fountains in the gardens of Alcázar in Seville where some of the fountains have extra jets - burladores (or "jokers") that wet unwary visitors.

First thought was -- I want one.

Second thought was -- How did they do that before electrity?

Third thought was -- can this technology be adapted today?

So I went looking for the burladores.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

California Nursery Company, 1888

Pacific Rural Press, April 14, 1888

The Nursery Business.

The business of tree propagation, as might be inferred from the fact that orchards and vineyards are multiplying with such rapidity, is one of the most important lines of our horticultural industry. It has had its ups and downs, as have most productive efforts in this State, and, in fact, anywhere. The oscillations are, however, more sudden and marked in California than elsewhere, because horticultural fevers and fashions here surge higher and fall lower than in older countries. When the tree-plant-ing fever runs high, nurserymen multiply; you can hardly fire off a gun anywhere without hitting one. When the fruit prices have been low for a time you might hunt all day for one— unless you should hunt in the advertising columns of the Rural Press, and there you will always find the most enterprising of them. Growing nursery stock is very much like growing hops, except that surplus fruit trees are of no earthly account—you can't even make homemade beer out of them. As with nursery stock, however, as with hops, those who operate the business intelligently and enterprisingly and stay with it through thick and thin become well-to-do and are generally well esteemed in the community— except now and then when an order for winter apple trees is filled with cherry plums. Such incidents sometimes lead orchard-planters to think nurserymen are not honest.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Hortulus, Walafridi Strabi

Something lots of gardeners wonder about their cuke tendrils:
why are there two coils,
one going one way and the other,
the other way?
Walafred Strabo (wikipedia) was a monk (808-849 A.D) who wrote about his garden. Here he writes about gourds:

"Gourds also grow up high from modest seeds. Their leaves look like shields and cast huge shadows, and they send out their tendrils from several different branches.
You know how ivy encircles tall elms, how it wraps its arms around the tree trunk on the ground and then hides the rough bark all the way to the top in a covering mantel of green leaves.

And you know how the grapevines growing in an orchard will climb up a tree and hang grapes on the top branches, pulling themselves upwards by their own strength-- how reddish grapes hand from alien branches, and Bacchus sags down through a carpet of green, while vines poiferate and penetrate the canpoy of foliage.
The gourd plant rises up from weak seedlings and, in a similar fashion, clambers up a supporting trellis, and grasps the alder branches with its coiling shoots.

So that no raging storm can tear it loose, it sends out just as many shoots as there are knots which need to be tied, and since each tendril then bifurcates, each joint on the trellis is doubly tied left and right.
Did Walafred Strabo notice the coils? He continues.

The Wild Garden, William Robinson

The Wild Garden was published originally in 1870. In 1903, it was republished (with many changes?) with illustrations by Alfred Parsons with this note:
"The wild rose has given her petals to the winds for over twenty summers since this book with its solitary wood cut first saw the light, and if these many years give me any right to judge my own book, I may say that much experience since tells me that the 'Wild Garden' deserved to live, and that such ideas carried out with some regard to the soil and other things affecting plants in each place, may be fertile in making our open air gardens more artistic and delightful."

Read the illustrated 1903 version of The Wild Garden in Google books.

Calypso's Garden on Ogygia

Odysseus and Calypso in the caves of Ogygia
From Wikipedia
Jan Brueghel the Elder
c. 1616
A great fire blazed on the hearth and the smell of cedar cleanly split and sweetwood burning bright wafted a cloud of fragrance down the island. Deep inside she sang, the goddess Calypso, lifting her breathtaking voice as she glided back and forth before her loom, her golden shuttle weaving. Thick, luxuriant woods grew round the cave, alders and black poplars, pungent cypress too, and there birds roosted, folding their long wings, owls and hawks and the spread-beaked ravens of the sea, black skimmers who make their living off the waves. And round the mouth of the cavern trailed a vine laden with clusters, bursting with ripe grapes. Four springs in a row, bubbling clear and cold, running side-by-side, took channels left and right. Soft meadows spreading round were starred with violets, lush with beds of parsley. Why, even a deathless god who came upon that place would gaze in wonder, heart entranced with pleasure.

(Robert Fagle's translation of the Odyssey)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

First palms in the east bay?

Palms at Palmdale in Mission San Jose.
I have seen it stated that the Franciscan padres brought the first palms, Canary Island date palms, to California. If that is the case, then the first palms in the east bay would have been at Mission San Jose which was established in 1797. I read somewhere (will find!) that one of these palms might still live at Palmdale, across the street from the mission. That would make it a 218 year old palm. Do they live that long?

Palmdale has a long interesting history and is soon to close to make way for development.

I finally went there after so many years of living here in Fremont. What magnificent trees and property.

Landscape of the subconcious

That 'S' of sand and the split rail fence
lured us where?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Do Lawns Belong in California?

Lawn, roses, and palms
That's "California"
This is a slight rephrasing of Lockwood De Forest Jr. original question "Do Lawns Belong in Southern California". I do not know what is his answer...yet. However, I assume the answer was a resounding "NO" from him, but "YES" from everyone else. 

His question made me remember the following funny story that I read some years ago. I can't remember where I saw it first, but this story has circulated all over the world. It resonates!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Giant Rhubarb and Giant Sequoias

Niles Giant Rhubard, 1919
This year I spent hours looking through old California Nursery Company orders. I was searching for the palm trees that were sent to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. I ran into many other interesting orders that I put on the back-burner for future research.

Two orders were for different members of the Hearst family.

One order was on November 25, 1914 - for Mrs. P. A. Hearst in Pleasanton - for two kinds of rhubarb, Myatt's Linnaeas and Lorenzo. The order was probably for 150 rhubarb stalks, not plants, because they were 5 cents each and a plant went for 25 cents each. The order filled 3 bags. I wonder what was the rhubarb dessert that Mrs. Hearst and her guests enjoyed at the Hacienda del Pozo de Verona ?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The first Wildflower Day was at the PPIE April 24,1915

[From Builders of Our Valley, A City of Small Farms, Bertha Marguerite Rice, 1957, p.70-72]
"So great was the wealth of marvelous beauty in the infinite variety of California's native flora, that a "Wild Flower Day" was founded on April 24, 1915, at San Francisco; with an exhibit at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. This State Wild Flower Exhibit was for 10 years an annual event, presented by its founder, Mrs. Bertha M. Rice; and so profound was the interest awakened by these displays that thousands of San Francisco school children and flower lovers from far and near availed themselves of the privilege of studying the marvelous array of the State's flora. Men like David Starr Jordan, Luther Burbank and scientists and educators, whose names ranked with the world's great citizens, participated in the event. Indeed, Luther Burbank, in his address on a memorable occasion during the celebration of 1921, said: "I am not sure but that this is the greatest work that is being done in the world today. Its influence is so far-reaching."

Monday, August 3, 2015

Native Fruits of California

I've seen several old references about crossing Japanese or French plums to a native plum, with no indication of the species. What plants are they referring to?

Here's a plum description from The California Fruits and How to Grown Them (Edward Wickson, 1889, p. 281): "Gaviota - Burbank cross of Japanese and native American; very large, deep red; flesh yellow, firm and sweet; pit small; rather late bloomer. Favored in the Vacaville district for shipping " Native American? Native Californian?

Wickson's book has a chapter called "The Wild Fruits of California" that is helpful to know which California native fruits were known.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Palms as Icon

How did the palm become such an icon of California? Read about it here: "A Brief History of Palm Trees in Southern California" (Dec. 7, 2011).

Interesting that "The L.A. Department of Water and Power has said that as the city's palm trees die, most will not be replaced with new palms but with trees more adapted to the region's semi-arid climate, requiring less water and offering more shade." (KCET Nov. 26, 2006).

These are old reports. What is LA doing now?

How does the history of palms in Santa Clara & Alameda counties fit in with the LA story? More on that later.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What use are Canary Island palms?

Why were Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis) planted at each California mission? (But first, were they?) This palm does not have edible fruit. So why would the padres bring this particular palm to California?

Did someone accidentally take the seeds thinking they were the true date palm seeds (Phoenix dactylifera)?

What use would it have been to the Franciscans in the late 1700's?

Certainly they were good for building materials (thatch, braces, posts), plotting a course to your local mission, making a hat. What else?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mad about Madias

Madia elegans, Front yard,
from seed from Berkeley Botanic Garden
What can I say about this perfect little flower with the wonderful smell? This tarweed is out there when all the wimpy spring wildflowers have given up the ghost and is still pushing out flowers until the first fall rains. It's one of my favorites.

It's interesting for so many reasons:

  • The pineapply smell that sticks to your legs when you walk through fields of tarweed.
  • The resins trap insects and attract other insects who eat insects. 
  • The great color and petal variations in my area: white/yellow, white/red, yellow, white.
  • How did a seed or seeds of a plant of the subtribe Madiinae from the West Coast of the Americas (California?) make it to Hawaii and evolve into so many other plants.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The oldest nursery catalog in California?

Warren and Son's Garden and Nurseries - is this the first and oldest nursery catalog in California issued in 1853? One hundred and fifty-two years ago?

According to Tangible Memories, Californians and their gardens, 1800-1950, it is.

There is no mention of this nursery in the California Nurserymen and the Plant Industry, however.

The Bancroft libary has the catalog and I went to visit it. This is not a photograph of that catalog, because I signed something saying I wouldn't publish it. This is actually an image that I created using fonts that were simlar to the catalog. So many fonts! It must have been more fun to set them all.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Which Milkweeds grow here?

Showy milkweed, narrow leaf milkweek, and California milkweed are the three milkweeds that occur in our local hills ("What Grows Here" from Calflora). Apparently showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) is less common than California milkweed (Asclepias californica) in our area, according to a note on a Rare and Unusual Plants list for Garin/Driy Creek Regional Parks. But showy milkweed has been reported in Garin or Dry Creek park.

This year is a really good year for California milkweed in Dry Creek Park. I've never seen so many as this year (at least since I started paying attention in the last couple of years). Last year was really sad for so many plants, but this year we've seen many wildflowers, even though we are still in a drought.

Classic 1959 science movie is still good today

This is a classic 1959 science movie, "Water Movement in the Soil"!  Sorry, it's not science fiction, but a science fact, movie.

Two of my instructors at Merritt, different classes, mentioned this movie when talking about soil and water. You will find out why clay soils are good for dry regions and how dryland farming works on clay soils. And why we are now told to plant in native soil rather than amended native soils. This is not generally accepted yet. If you buy a rose plant or fruit tree you will still be sold soil amendments along with your plant. But it's better to put the soil amendments on top and let the worms work it down and let the humic acid do its magic.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Who pollinates the tomatoes and in what key?

Bumblebee on coyote mint at Garin Park 
"I like the joke on the bumblebee;
His wings are too small to hold him.
He really can’t fly, professors agree
But nobody ever told him."    ~~Anonymous
"Tiny Insect, Big Impact" is at the Oakland Museum until July 24.

I wrote a blog on tomato flower pollinators a couple of years ago and this exhibit rounds out the information very well. 

Bumblebees buzz in Middle C and are very good at shaking loose the pollen for tomatoes, peppers, blueberries, and manzanitas.

Monday, May 25, 2015

iPhone Closeups of Ridiculously small flowers

Really tiny flower...
Hard to even find one.
This little plant has been growing in the tortoise area. The tortoise has lots of cheeseweed to eat, but I'm worried that this little plant might be poisonous and that I'd better pull it out.

The problem is that I can't see the really really tiny flower in order to identify it!

So I've been playing around with my iPhone close-up to see if I can get a good picture.

This one is not bad.

I found this helpful article on shooting closeups with the iPhone and see that Camera+ is in my future.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Map of the Redwoods in 1881

I've been looking for this map for a long time. What was the original range of the East Bay Redwoods? I wondered if they were ever south of Castro Valley, but it looks like they were not.

Mission San Jose supposedly was built using redwood logs. How did they get down here???

Read more here.

Check out Grandfather Tree near Merritt.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Mission Peak, 1904

Mission Peak, 1904

In the History of  Washington Township (1904), the Womens' Club of Washington Township wrote about Mission Peak.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Fabulous Mesembryanthemum Hedge of PPIE

Scott Street Entrance,
mesembryanthemum hedge.
San Francisco Public Library

Our generation thinks that we created the green wall. However, 100 years ago, the "mesembryanthemum hedge" at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition was twenty feet high and 1150 feet long and far surpasses any current day green wall I've ever seen or heard about.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Giant Amsinckia of Union City

 This giant Amsinckia flower is stretched oout over five or six stories overlooking a play ground in Union City near the BART station. Kudos to the artist!

Who painted this amazing mural?

It was Mona Caron. Check her on Facebook and on Laughing Squid.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Lillian Moore Rose, PPIE's award winning rose

From the clues below,
I hand-colored
Lillian Moore,
The Panama-Pacific International Exposition held many horticultural contests. One contest was for a rose with an award of $1000 which by some calculations would be about $24,000 today, nothing to sneeze at.

In the American Florist in 1912, there is a small note that George Roeding announced a $1000 prize for a rose contest for PPIE:
San Francisco Calif - Geo. C. Roeding, chief of the department of horticulture of the Panama Pacific International Exposition, has been authorized to make the announcement that a prize of $1,000 will be offered for a new rose to be named in honor of the exposition.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Island of Rare Fruits and Trees

A Pleasure Island for Plant Nuts
Today we discovered a garden treasure in Fremont in a place that was so very unexpected. This garden is only a few miles from home.  It is on a peninsula, almost an island, in our local quarry lakes.  The garden, even in January, was full of bright colors, odd shapes, strange flowers, exotic plants, fruits, and a promise of free samples. Just the list of conifers takes up 8 pages. Wow.

I was as excited as Pinocchio when he first saw Pleasure Island, without the dire consequences (donkey ears) that Pinocchio's friends suffered.