An Alameda Garden: October 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

This and That

I'm still not really up to speed with the garden, but I've been making some minimal efforts. I did some pruning earlier this week, including cutting back the passion flower vine (remember that vine that I was so concerned wouldn't grow at all back in the spring?). It had grown almost as tall as the house and was blocking most of the laundry room window, which is one of only two windows I have into the back yard. I cut it back to the trellis and I'm certain it will regrow just fine.

I also did a little pruning on the Kangaroo Apple shrub along the back fence. It has ripe berries now, although I haven't tasted them yet. The berries are edible when ripe, but poisonous when unripe--I'm not sure how much of a guinea pig I want to be. After pruning the bush, I decided it was the right place to hang a beautiful gourd birdhouse that I bought at the Museum of the American Indian in New York. The gourd is decorated all around with bees and beehive cells--really skilled handiwork.

I also bought some plants and bulbs at the Fall Plant Sale at the Merritt College Landscape-Horticulture Dept. I got three plants and although they're not exactly the best-looking specimens right now, I think they'll do fine when I finally get them placed. I got a flowering cherry tree (for only $8), a really interesting yellow abutilon with variegated leaves, and a cape gooseberry (its papery husks are shown in the photo at the right). I'm waiting for the flowering cherry to go dormant before I transplant it--it badly needs transplanting as it already has roots growing out of the bottom of the pot. I've tucked the potted abutilon away in the back corner of the yard where it will get partial shade. In the winter, when I can finally move the small lilac I stupidly planted there to a sunnier spot, I'll then plant the abutilon in its place. I had to repot the cape gooseberry right away, though. It was clearly root-bound in its one-gallon pot, so I've put it in a five-gallon pot for the time being. I'm not familiar with these plants and I want to watch its growth habits for a while before I place it somewhere permanent. I also picked up 20 more freesia bulbs and ten King Alfred daffodils. I intend to put a lot more bulbs in than that, but there wasn't much of a bulb selection at this sale.

There's still a lot more I want to get done in the garden before the rains start (probably in early November if we're running true to form), but I seem to be suffering from a combination of distractedness and procrastination. I guess it's time to pull together a to-do list and get to it.

And yet, perhaps to give myself one more reason to procrastinate in the garden, I've ordered a copy of Henry Mitchell's The Essential Earthman, the first pick for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club started by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. I'm sure when the wet weather hits, I'll be very happy to stay inside with a good gardening book.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Late Bloomers

We've had some wet, dreary weather the last few days that feels more like November than October, and consequently I've been more inclined to stay inside and knit than get out in the garden and start tackling my very long to-do list. I did go out today to check things out and was surprised to find some new blooms.

The first I noticed were a couple of purple flowers on the Vigna caracalla (snail shell vine) that I planted about 3 or 4 months ago. It was very slow-growing at first, but then it really took off at the end of the summer. It only has a few blooms now--two fully open flowers and several of the twisting, snail-like buds. The Sunset Garden Books says it's perennial and that it should be cut to the ground when frost gets to it. It always makes me nervous to cut things back that hard, but I'll try it and see how it comes back next year.

Also in bloom is a gorgeous pink Watsonia that I got in my class last semester. My instructor brought many divisions of a plant from her yard and offered them to anyone in the class who wanted them. I wasn't sure what color it would turn out to be, but I couldn't be happier with the way it turned out.

And the Roma pole beans I planted about two months ago are growing vigorously and flowering. I think I'm still at least two weeks away from being able to harvest any beans but it's good to see things headed in the right direction.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Autumn in New York

After several weeks of being crazy-busy with work, followed by a one-week, long-awaited vacation, I'm finally back at my desk and sane enough to start blogging again. It's surprising how much I've missed it and how much I've missed reading my favorite blogs--I have a lot of catching up to do.

So it seems that while I had my head buried in paperwork, summer ended. When the first day of autumn rolled around I found myself on a plane to New York (Manhattan, to be specific). NYC is a great place to be in the fall. Even though the autumn colors hadn't kicked in yet, there was an interesting patchwork of weather (heat, humidity, wind, some gorgeous blue skies, and a little rain) and a great autumn-y feeling in the air. And even though we spent much of the time indoors seeing a few Broadway shows and visiting some museums, I found there is a surprising amount of nature to be experienced in the city.

While New York may be a concrete jungle, it's not without greenery. Trees line the streets, large planters with lush foliage dot the sidewalks, and rooftop gardens are tucked away high atop the skyscrapers. In many ways, New York does a better job of incorporating trees and plants into the landscape than many suburbs do.

And then there is Central Park, a whopping man-made slice of nature and truly a magnificent respite from the full-on sensory overload of the city. We hardly scratched the surface exploring it and I expect it would take months to really cover all of it.

There are even connections to nature in the most surprising places, like this sculpture in the courtyard outside Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. Called the Trinity Root, it was cast from pieces of the roots of a sycamore tree that stood outside St. Paul's Chapel and was destroyed on 9-11 in the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. It's an amazing piece, stark and tangled, and it seemed like a most fitting memorial to the tree and everything else that was lost that day.

So now I'm back home, easing back into real life. Today I was back at my arboriculture class and tomorrow I'll be back in the garden. My friend Karen kept it watered for me while I was away, but there's a lot of weeding, pruning, and planting to do. I also have some tweaking in mind for this blog, beginning with this new look for the new season.

Happy Autumn, everyone!
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