An Alameda Garden: June 2007

Friday, June 29, 2007

Support Your Local Pollinator

Believe it or not, this week (June 24-30) is National Pollinator Week. There have been events going on throughout the country designed to encourage appreciation of the vital and monumental job that pollinators perform moving tiny bits of pollen from one flower to the next--a thankless task that they happily do, and oh by the way, if they stopped doing it our entire ecosystem would basically shut down. If nothing else, the current problem with Colony Collapse Disorder, which is decimating the honeybee population, should serve as a reminder not to take these guys for granted.

As part of the pollinator lovefest, the U.S. Postal Service is unveiling a new stamp dedicated to the best-known (and perhaps the cutest) pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are a given, and I suppose it was nice of the USPS to include bats, which, however useful they may be, do creep some people out. But where is the recognition for the less lovable, but no less hard-working pollinators? Where's the stamp commemorating the hard work of slugs, snails, ants, flies, and beetles? So here's to the unsung heroes--the creepy-crawlies, the flying annoyances, the slimy little bastards who keep our gardens pollinated. Everyone, raise your glass!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Now the Feds Are Coming After Salvia

As if it's not bad enough that the U.S. government has wasted billions of dollars in a hopeless effort to eradicate marijuana use, now it appears they're getting interested in a particular variety of salvia (Salvia divinorum). According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, the plant's leaves cause hallucinations similar to the effect of LSD or magic mushrooms when chewed or smoked. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has taken a sudden interest in the plant, which is native to Mexico but is now being legally grown here.

Now, I'm not an advocate of hallucinogenic drugs. Personally, I find reality weird and disturbing enough. I'm just hoping that this will not become another ridiculous target in the so-called war on drugs. It's bad enough that we are not allowed to reap the many practical benefits of hemp. It would be a shame if we had to worry about the DEA going after our salvias too.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

In Memoriam

Today we are having the funeral for my Aunt Helen, who died last week at the age of 87. Before Alzheimer's got its grip on her, she was a clever, busy, and very caring woman who took care of her family, including a daughter with MS, and her home, which included a beautiful garden. I spent a lot of time with Helen when I was growing up. Her home was just around the corner from my school and I went over there when school let out to wait until my mom was home from work.

In those afternoons, when it was just Helen, my cousin Dorothy who for the most part couldn't communicate, and me hanging out, I got my first introduction to someone who really loved to garden. I could see how she looked forward to the afternoons that were warm enough to take my cousin out in the wheelchair into the backyard, where Helen would dig in. It looked like a lot of work to me, but I know now how replenishing it must have been for her.

I am beginning plans for a small memorial garden for Helen somewhere in my yard, but in truth much of my garden is already a memorial to her. The passion flower vine, the canna, the cherry tree, the poor man's orchid (shown here) are all plants I learned to love in her garden. I hope wherever she is now, there is a beautiful garden for her and plenty of time to work in it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Favorite Plant of the Moment

Every once in a great while I make a really fantastic plant choice and the plant gods smile. Last summer I ordered this snail vine (Vigna caracalla) from a catalog. I'd never actually seen the plant in real life but I loved the description of the tightly curled, snailshell-like buds and thought I'd give it a try. I planted it at the sunny end of the bed on the east side of my back yard in the hope that it would eventually fill out and cover the latticed fence that separates my yard from my oh-so-close nextdoor neighbor. By autumn it had gotten off to a good start. Then the winter frosts did a nasty bit of work on it, but now it is rebounding nicely. It's still a long way from being a full privacy screen, but who cares? The flowers are a gorgeous shade of lavender and the greenish-purple buds still wow me.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Flora Grubb Gardens

Yesterday my friend Linda and I visited Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco. This nursery recently relocated to its new location in the Bayview/Hunters Point area and has been getting a lot of attention, so we had to check it out.

What we found was a pretty impressive selection of plants, especially succulents. The nursery also shares space with The Palmbroker, so there's a great selection of palms as well. We found some plants you don't usually find in nurseries--Linda found an Italian herb called Nepetella, which she told me she's never found anywhere else. And even with the more common plants, there was a better-than-usual selection.

Flora Grubb bills itself as both a nursery and a design studio and they offer lots of amazing decorative items for the garden, such as ornate wood and wrought iron doors and an array of large pots in varied styles. Here's the sad part: these tend to be high-end items, well beyond my garden budget. I found some brown rectangular pots that would look perfect in my front yard, but at $350 each, that's so not going to happen.

So I contented myself (for now) with wandering and admiring. I browsed the excellent selection of garden design books and drank an amazing latte. (No kidding, their barista is a true artist. Do not leave this place without enjoying a coffee drink.) I know I'll be going back to Flora Grubb.
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