An Alameda Garden: July 2007

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What Color Is Your Tree Trunk?

The LA Times has an interesting article about landscape designer Ted Weiant and his penchant for painting the trunks of his trees in assorted colors. Weiant says it began a few years ago when he felt that he needed to do something with some unhealthy-looking camellias in his backyard. He decided that instead of pulling them out, he'd paint them with blue outdoor latex paint. He figured either the paint would protect them and they'd get healthier, or it would kill them and then he'd take them out. Nothing to lose, really. The camellias did improve and Weiant went on to paint more of his trees, including a now all-green fig tree.

The article made me laugh a little, remembering some of the comments that were getting batted around a few months ago at Garden Rant regarding painting garden furniture. If some people have strong feelings about painting furniture, how would they react to the idea of painting trees? Personally, I find the idea a bit intriguing. I'm not sure there's a place in my garden for a blue or pink or yellow tree, but god knows, the camellia at the side of my house has been annoying me for a while now. Someday, well, me ... a paintbrush ... a spare quart of paint ... and a tree that can't run away .... It could happen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A Bit of Alameda in Sunset Magazine

While clicking through the latest offerings on, I came across an article on patios in the round and one particular patio caught my eye. It was comprised of irregular pieces of black slate interspersed with aluminum letters of varying sizes. Being a bit of a text-junkie, I love to see designs incorporating letters and words and entire chunks of text. I was even more impressed and surprised to see that the design is from an Alameda garden and was designed by Alameda landscape designer, Shirley Alexandra Watts.

Clicking through to Watts' web site, I found even more exciting designs. It appears Watts also has a love of incorporating text into her garden designs and she does it extremely well. Check out the Frankenstein lamps (the bottom photo on the Lights page) and the fountain at the Sicilian Garden at American Soils. I also really liked the images from the Park Street Residence. Park Street is the main drag in Alameda, mostly commercial with only a few blocks of older houses at the south end. I love the idea that tucked away on one of the busiest streets in town is this little garden hideway.

It's also worth noting that Watts was trained in the Merritt College Landscape Horticulture program. This is not the first time I've been very impressed by one of Merritt's former design students.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy Accidents

I wish I could claim I planned this, but I honestly didn't. Just one of those times when serendipity in the garden does its thing particularly well. I suppose the names should have tipped me off that they'd go great together: Stargazer lily and Heavenly Blue morning glory.

Call it kismet.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Right Plant, Right Place (I Hope)

I've been on the lookout for a while for the right plant to anchor the back corner of the little bed that sits right outside my back steps. I had planted Bleeding Hearts here before, but I think it was too sunny, because they bloomed and grew one season and then never came back.

What I was looking for was something substantial but not overwhelming. Something that would grow to no more than 3 feet high, and not so wide that it would squeeze out the other plants already there. (Right now, that's just catmint and a few Stargazer lillies, but earlier in the season there were iris, freesias, and snapdragons.) Because this spot is the site of a little memorial garden, I wanted a plant that would also have some meaning, either through the language of flowers, the name of the plant, or the color.

I think I may have found what I was looking for: Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury.' This plant has amazing foliage--maple-like leaves splotched with dark green, bright red, and deep burgundy. And then there are the flowers--single-petal blooms of deep, I mean really deep, burgundy that darkens to very nearly black in the throat. Ever since reading Blackswamp Girl's post at A Study in Contrasts about her black Watchman hollyhock, I've been thinking that a black flower would make a nice addition to this part of the garden. I'm doubly pleased with the hibiscus because it also has such striking foliage. I think it looks great between the peachy-beige stucco on my house and the lighter green foliage of the plants surrounding it.

If it does as well as I'm hoping it will, I think I'll also take a cutting to root for the front yard as well.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Partying with Propagators

I got word today that I've been granted a scholarship from the International Plant Propagators' Society to attend their Annual Meeting in October in Salem, Oregon. My propagation instructor, Susan Ashley, had encouraged everyone in our class to apply for the scholarships and I think a few others besides me applied as well. Hopefully, they got scholarships too. Susan said the people in the IPPS are a good group and the meetings are fun and interesting, so I'm really looking forward to it. In addition, I'll get a one-year student membership in the IPPS.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Tomato Sighting

Although my original plan this spring was to skip planting tomatoes altogether, when I visited the Baia Nicchia booth at the Alameda Farmers Market several weeks ago, I couldn't pass up the chance to try out some of their tomato plants. Baia Nicchia is a local grower that specializes in tomato plants that are particularly well-suited for our coastal climate. They sell heirlooms as well as F1 hybrids and judging from the pictures I've seen, their tomatoes are gorgeous.

I picked four varieties to try out:
  1. Maglia Rosa, a Baia Nicchia original, is an egg-shaped tomato with mottled pink skin. It is a cross of Speckled Roman and Black Cherry.
  2. Vesuvio, another Baia Nicchia hybrid, is derived from San Marzano. It is shaped like a long-pepper and well-suited for container growing.
  3. SunGold is a cherry tomato.
  4. Costoluto Genovese is an Italian heirloom.
The first to fruit is Costoluto Genovese, pictured here. They are only about the size of a penny right now, so we're a long way from anything edible. But there's something about that first tomato siting--it just smacks of hope.

(And yes, I still can't stand the taste of tomatoes, but I do like growing them for family and friends. I'm also hoping to get some sauce or salsa canned this year, and I'm also determined to try fried green tomatoes for the first time. The Costoluto Genovese should be a good candidate for this.)
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