Magnificent Magnolia

Two years ago I picked this Magnolia Felix Jury as the center piece for an old friend’s backyard. Today marks the first time that this tree is showing what it can do. Each glowing pink blossum is more than 8″ across, regally perched on the tips of branches. Their color, form, and texture are just impeccable. The only thing missing is a bit more fragrance, which may come later with a more mature tree.


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Signs of new year

Officially this winter is still not over, as proven by the thick layer of frost on the roof last night (2/5), but many flowers are already in full action. Quite a few also bring great fragrance, no doubt to entice the chill-braving pollinators.

Golden Trumpet Tree

From my neighborhood park. She was known as Tabebuia chrysotricha but is now Handroanthus c. just because of some extra minute hairs on the leaves and flowers. Job well done, petty botanists!

Spring is Here

Even though this winter has been unusually warm, it is still nice to feel the return of spring. The days are getting noticeably longer and the temperature is rising. Of course we wouldn’t mind a few more good soaking rainstorms, but the last two wet winters should be enough to let us put off worrying about droughts and water rationing this year.

I have been working on my own garden for the last several months. It was a major undertaking since I had to get rid of tons of concrete pavings that were improperly sloped. The front yard is mostly finished and here is a comparison of the before and the after:

before
after

Most of my clients know that I always recommend against front lawns, and I have to admit that the fresh patch of green did look nice and clean. Unfortunately, it takes too much water and maintenance in our Mediterranean climate. In the long run, I hope that my feature-rich new garden will appeal to more people with its low water usage, diverse plants, and functional living space.

Here are a couple more photos from my front yard. The fountain is hack job of a table-top fountain and a large pot from IKEA. My wife and I did it together since we could not find any ready-made ones that would satisfy both of us. It has been a big draw for neighborhood birds as soon as I set it up, and very few people can resist the joyful charm of seeing birds thrashing and playing in water.

fountainraised bed

Dreams Happen Playhouses

In early June, I happend upon a Playhouse Tour at the trendy Stanford Shopping Center. A total of 15 structures were lavishly designed and built by Bay Area architects, designers and builders. Most were auctioned to benefit Rebuilding Together Peninsula, a non-profit organization helping low-income family to repair their homes. It was a real treat to see this great collection of functional and innovative structures for juniors’ outdoor living.

First are some classical themed ones. The slides could use some camouflage.

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Tanglewood by SDG Architects

Empress Tree

It is the time of the year that our resident female monarch (Paulownia tomentosa) is showing off her collection of fancy gowns and fine jewelry. If you head back a young specimen to ground (stooling) every winter, you will never get the jewelry(flowers), but you will be rewarded with gigantic tropical-looking leaves about two feet across on next year’s new shoots.

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Paulownia