Banquet Piece, Pieter Claez

Friday, November 25, 2016

Alameda County Historical Books

textsPast and present of Alameda County, California

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Should you prune native California plants?

What Would Deer Do?
The California Bay Tree is well suited to sheering,
if you believe what the deer do.
Good Question and many people say that you are likely to kill the native plant if you don't do it the right time of year. Many of our plants evolved with fire and root-sprout. Many have evolved with a four-footed garden maintenance crew. Other plants live in creekbeds that alternate between drought and torrential water. You've got to be observant and refer to those experts who have had experience.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Flying Dragon

Looking very Smaug-like
Visitors at Shinn Park often ask about one particular plant - the flying dragon hedge (Poncirus trifoliata). The hedge that surrounds the Japanese garden is quite eyecatching. "What IS it?" they ask. "Can I eat the fruit?"

Poncirus trifoliata (aka trifoliate orange) is from Northern China and Korea. The original plan by Mai Arbegast specified a "solid hedge of plant such as Poncirus trifoliata to enclose garden...." to discourage dogs and trespassing. This unusual pointy feature of the garden really does encourage the use of the three gates into the garden. You only get stuck in it, or by it, once and then you avoid it.

The flying dragon fruit can apparently be eaten (or it might be poisonous according to one source), but the recipes given make it sound fairly unpalatable. My favorite recipe for a flying dragon citrus drink is "One fruit, five barrels of sugar, and five barrels of water".  A "barrel" is a somewhat loose measurement and can be somewhere between 26 and 53 gallons. But you get the idea. Needs dilution.

A good review of its uses are here. (Always double check your sources when trying something new!)

Big Sigh...Poncirus trifoliata is now Citrus trifoliata.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Plants of the Canary Islands

Roses and palms have a nice relationship.
Would you like something that occurs
in the Canary Islands?
Looking for some plants to continue your theme of the Canary Islands?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pruning Wisteria

First of all, is it a Chinese, Japanese, or American wisteria?

Which way do tendrils twine? To decide this, look at the vine from ground to tip. Check as if you were looking up the vine.

  • Clockwise? Chinese (Wisteria sinensis) or American (Wisteria frutescens)
  • Counter-clockwise? Japanese (Wisteria floribunda)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Natives for Shade

Lucky you! You've got dry shade. Why not plant some of the wonderful shade-loving summer-dry non-riparian California natives?

These are the plants we see in the shady oak/bay canyons and slopes of the East Bay hills.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

First Palms in Northern California - Another Opinion

The News, August 11, 1917
An intriguing statement: "Never have I been able to discover anyone who knew of the introduction of palms in San Jose until recently. Repeatedly I have been told that they grew neither at Mission Santa Clara nor Mission San Jose before the Americans came and this is probably true."

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mystery Pink Flower

Last year in May, I ran across a mystery tree in our local park. "Hello, Lovely!" I said, "I don't think that I've seen your likes anywhere before. I don't even think I recognize your family. You are very pretty though! Who are you?"

The flowers are pink and tropical looking. The leaves green and glossy. I googled "pink flower tree" and many other combinations. Nothing looked right. I even used google image and came up short.

I posted a question on a forum asking if anyone knew what it was and stumped two experts. (However, eventually one person had a Southern California friend who knew.)

I tried out the Urban Tree Key and to my surprise I found out what this tree is. If you want to cover up the answer and try this yourself, you can discover it, too.

Illustrated Plant Nuts from 1877

1887 Gardener's Monthly
I have a stack of last year's magazines to catch up on.

Now I see that I'm 129 years behind on The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturalist.

Purchasing Palms in Early California

B.S. Fox's nursery in San Jose, 1873
I have my hands on some early nursery catalogs. What were the palms that were grown at that time, right after California statehood and after the Civil War? Where were they getting their seed? Is there really a palm named Seaforthia?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Louis Prevost Nursery in San Jose

From San Jose News, January 27, 1942
Louis Prévost had one of the first "Pleasure gardens" in San Jose. Mrs. Mattie Reed Lewis saw the first La France rose in his garden. La France is considered the first hybrid tea rose. He also possibly inspired B.S. Fox and John Rock in their nursery endeavors.He brought the first or some of the first California fan palm seeds to San Jose.

This article says his property is now Live Oak Park. Lots of live oaks. Where was this park?

There is a picture of his home that was "bounded by Guadalupe River, a line just north of San Carlos street, and what is now Spencer Avenue and West William Street." Definitely confusing directions! There is a Prevost Street near Spencer. Need old map!

What I found was a 1956 map pre-freeway map. It looks like it is exactly where the Children's Discovery Museum is located!

He died in 1869, according to the photo.

On a Search for Old Palms

Marked up Brainard map from the 
1880 Santa Clara County Brainard Agricultural Atlas.
Individual maps are accessed on right hand side. 
This is the Berryessa & Milpitas districts map.
The green outline is a golf course! 
See next map.

John Rock's nursery in the 1880's was near Wayne Station. This map overlay (onto Google Earth) shows where his property lies, outline in blue. His future partner R.D. Fox (& his wife) has two nursery properties, outlined in red.

An excellent lead is that Chilean wine palms are in these areas.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why Canary Island Palms?

Canary Island palms at entrance
to California Nursery Historical Park
Why would the Franciscan fathers have brought the Canary Island ornamental palm with them when they came to California? What good were they?

Most of us grumble when the fronds drop. The fronds can't be put in the green bin, because they are too hard to shred. The fruit is mostly pit. There must have been some redeeming quality that us modern folks don't know.

Lots of theories...

  1. In a landscape with few trees, they can help you find the mission from a distance. But it takes years and years for them to get tall. 
  2. The sturdy frond petioles could be used for something, surely?
  3. Fronds could be used as thatch?
  4. Wine?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Red-Flowering Horsechestnut at the park

Red-flowering horsechestnut
Aesculus × carnea
April 2015
A very lovely tree. But what is it?

It is a hybrid of the American Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and the European horse-chestnut (A. hippocastanum). According to the Missouri Botanical Garden it was discovered in 1812. There's a story there.

The Red-Flowering Horsechestnut was introduced to California very early on. John Rock's Nursery in San Jose sold it in 1888. The California Nursery Company in Niles had it in the 1893 catalog..

Three baby chestnut seedlings this year. I am assured by an unknown (to me) expert on Facebook that the seedlings should look like the parent. Has one of them crossed with the California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) in the parking lot at the park? I will check if the bloom period is the same. Right now the buckeye has leaves again. I've seen flowers on other buckeyes (3/8/2016), but haven't noticed on ours. Will report back! If blooming periods do not overlap, then we can expect a red-flowering horsechestnut.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Early California Horticulture Publications

California Horticulture

Just ran into this really lovely illustration on the cover of California Horticulture by George C. Roeding.

Starting a page to collect all of these early horticultural books and booklets.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Plants and our Brains

Where I live in California, people often dislike certain trees, one type in particular, because they do not look like they belong here. (You know who I'm talking about, Canary Island ornamental date palm!). However, most trees in our city are not from California. They are from China, India, Africa, South America, Lord Howe's Island, Italy, Paraguay, etc. etc. etc.  Only by the grace of our industrious jays do we have native trees in our yards. And those are usually pulled out and put into the green bin.

So why do some trees look like they belong here and some don't? Why does a deodar cedar look okay on our streets when it is from the Himalayas? Why do camphor trees look ok when they are from China? Why do liquidambars look good here even though they are from the rainy summer East coast and usually living in a forest?

Monday, January 18, 2016

Motoring about the Countryside in a "Benzene Buggy" 1915

The Gardens of San Quentin, 1921

The Garden Magazine, September 1921
I ran into a reference about the gardens of San Quentin in a history of George C. Roeding who died in 1928.

In 1921, "The Garden Beautiful was the idea of a prisoner Pat Tyrone as he was nicknamed who is now free to enjoy the flowers outside. His name has been adopted for every head gardener Roman numerals being added so Pat Tyrone III is now directing this unique garden. Every plant grown has been donated by flower lovers. The members of the Dahlia Society of California each year send a gift box of their best and newest and last spring an appeal was made to the American Dahlia Society members who responded liberally." (p. 197)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pruning a Tea Rose

Do we deadhead the Niles Cochet or not? This was a lively discussion today in the garden. 

Five, Seven, and Two discussing their predicament.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Oldest Rose Garden in the United States?

According to the 1917 American Rose Annual, the Van Cortlandt Manor has the oldest dating from 1681. Is it still believed to be the oldest?

That will take some sleuthing!