An Alameda Garden: March 2007

Friday, March 23, 2007

San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

Yesterday I went to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, one of the two biggest shows of this kind on the west coast. The show was somewhat smaller than last year and I think I did a better job of avoiding sensory overload this time around, but it's still a lot to take in.

My first impression was that the display gardens were a little better this year compared to last year, more textural, less (for lack of a better word) odd. That being said, my favorite garden was a kooky scene called "Under the Sea" by Organic Mechanics. Using a wide range of succulents and some very cool metal sculptures, they re-created the look of a seabed. The use of form and texture was terrific, and the variations of foliage color gave it the look of dappled undersea lighting.

An Octopus's Garden

This dining area had the most amazing (and least comfortable-looking) chairs!

The garden even included a great outdoor shower.

But if the undersea look is not to your taste, how about this bit of "Eye Candy" from the American Institute of Floral Designers? Just in case you were wondering what to do with all those carnations you're growing, now you know--you can build a poodle out of them.

Scary, isn't it?

Or maybe something more urban/gritty is what you're looking for. I left the guy in the shot to give a sense of the scale of these massive metal martini-glass-shaped planters. Talk about vertical gardening!

But for all the scenes that are screaming for your attention at a show like this, sometimes it's the simpler sights that make you hit the breaks as you tear through the aisles trying to see it all. I'm not a huge fan of bonsai, but nevertheless this was one of those sights:

And for Snappy, here's another--a glimpse of orchid heaven:

But there was more to do at the show than take pretty pictures. I attended a reception for the Garden Writers Association, which I've just recently joined. There we heard from the organizers of the show and the show's sponsors, Sunset Publishing and Smith & Hawken. (Sunset actually gave us all comp copies of the new edition of the Western Garden Book, which was definitely the best goodie-bag goodie I've ever received.) There was also a brief talk and slide show by Fergus Garrett of the Great Dixter gardens in England. I even had the opportunity to meet Amy Stewart of Flower Confidential and Garden Rant fame, who seems to be bearing up well in the midst of her book tour.

There was inevitably some talk of "trends" and they all seem to be pointing away from anyone actually getting their hands dirty in the garden. What can I say? I looked at Amy. Amy looked at me. We shrugged. I sense another rant coming.

Perhaps the best part of the show for me, though, was seeing so many people who have made careers out of writing about, talking about, judging, and otherwise drooling over flowers and gardens. Nice work if you can get it...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Rose Harvest Tour

The Russian River Rose Company in Healdsburg is again offering rose harvest tours this year from April 12 to May 29. I posted last year about my experience on the tour. It really is a lovely way to spend the day--up to your neck in fragrant fields watching fat bees gettin' busy on a smorgasbord of roses while you fill your basket with blooms. Then there are tea and goodies to sample, roses to buy, and as long as you're in the neighborhood, why not stop by a winery or two on the way home. If you're in the vicinity, I highly recommend the tour.

As an aside, the climbing rose I bought there last year (called Rachel's Smile) has established itself well and is in bud!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Grafting 101--Success!

After attending the California Rare Fruit Growers Association's scion exchange in January, I was excited to try grafting. In early February we covered grafting and budding in the propagation class I'm taking at Merritt College and in the lab there I tried doing a whip-and-tongue graft of a plum onto a peach rootstock. That plant is still in the greenhouse on campus and I haven't checked yet to see how it's doing. But after that class, I felt ready to try grafting on my own and on February 17 I grafted two Fuji scions onto apple rootstocks. Here's how it went.

Here are the supplies I worked with: leather-palmed gloves (we used kevlar butcher's gloves in class and I would recommend getting those); a sharp utility knife; pruning shears; scissors; alcohol for cleaning the blades; parafilm for wrapping the graft; saran wrap for covering the graft (next time I do this, I'll use the press-and-seal kind of wrap); a brown paper bag for covering the entire plant; and green garden tape for securing the paper bag. In the future, I would also try using grafting wax to seal the grafts--apparently this really increases the success rate.

I started with two apple rootstocks, about the size of a pencil in diameter:

I got two kinds of apple scions at the scion exchange--Early Fuji (the two long, narrow sticks) and Fuji (the smaller, shorter stick). It's important that the scion and the rootstock be the same diameter at the location of the graft.

I cut the rootstock off in between nodes a few inches above the ground with the pruning shears. Using the utility knife, I made a diagonal cut on the rootstock and then made a downward slice about one-third of the way in at the top of the diagonal cut. I made matching cuts on the scion and fit the two pieces together:

Here is a closer look at the graft, and as you can see, it's not a very good fit. It's really a challenge to get the rootstock and scion cuts to match perfectly and it must take a lot of practice. I was worried that this graft wouldn't take, but it did seem that much of the cambium layers were lining up so I figured I'd hope for the best.

The next step is wrapping the graft in parafilm. Parafilm is a very stretchy plastic-like film used in labs. It helps to seal the graft up tight so the scion doesn't dry out, but it also allows for buds to break through the parafilm, which eventually deteriorates and falls off. I also trimmed the top of the scion and wrapped that in parafilm as well.

If I were using grafting wax, I'd have covered the graft and the top cut with that, but instead I wrapped it in saran wrap to keep moisture from getting to the cut wood.

Following all that, I covered the entire plant with a brown paper bag and put the pot in my carport, out of direct sunlight. I kept the plant lightly watered and after a couple weeks I took the paper bag off. Today I moved the plants out into the sunlight and removed the saran wrap. Here's what I saw:

The bud below the graft is from the rootstock and will need to be trimmed off, but the leaf buds at the top show that the scion is clearly alive and it appears the graft has taken. The other apple that I grafted hasn't budded so far, so I can't tell if that's just slow or if that graft failed.

As challenging and frustrating as it can be to make good matching cuts for grafting, I really enjoyed doing this and hope to do more of it. It's another example of how even far-less-than-perfect attempts in the garden can yield surprisingly good results.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Letting Congress Know Where You Stand on the Climate Crisis

Next Wednesday (March 21st) Al Gore will testify before Congress on the issue of global warming and the most immediate actions that the government needs to take to end the climate crisis. Gore has already gathered close to 300,000 signatures to present to Congress on Wednesday to demonstrate the public's concern on this issue. If you want to register your concern as well, click here to fill out a postcard to your representative that Al Gore will personally deliver. The goal is to gather at least 350,000 signatures, but it seems to me that there should be many, many more than that. Please consider adding your name to the roll.

Update 5/22/07: When Al Gore spoke to Congress yesterday, he took with him more than 519,000 postcards from the public telling them that it's time to take action. Gore's presentation at both the House and Senate committees was well-informed and passionate. Watching the committee hearings was both encouraging and aggravating--encouraging that the hearings are taking place, and aggravating to see dinosaurs like Sen. Inhoffe who are living high on funding from the oil lobby while they deny that global warning even exists. I found it interesting also to read that the House Republican leadership refused to appoint any Republican to the bipartisan Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming unless they would take the position that human activity is not causing global warming. Clearly, the Republicans are sticking to their oil-loving agenda no matter what the science says.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bloom Day

If this is the 15th, this must be Bloom Day. Here's a sample of what's blooming in the garden right now:


Tete-a-Tete Daffodils


Kangaroo Apple

Aloe vera


Professor Einstein Daffodil

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Even Snails Are Conservationists

It's amazing what you can learn when you waste an incredible amount of time surfing the Net. Like the fact that snails conserve energy by re-using the mucus trails they travel on. Apparently, even barely sentient mollusks know what people like Ann Coulter and other right-wingers can't grasp: energy efficiency just makes sense.

Of course, I wish snails would be energy-efficient in someone else's garden...

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