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.
May 16, 2011
May 15, 2011
For a cool $645k, you can become the new master of this magnificent dragon, plus a free small house behind. According to the friendly agent, Thailand is the birth place of this bronze sea serpent, and his name is “Ralph”, who enjoys water play on important occasions.
May 4, 2011
Schefflera taiwaniana (台湾鹅掌柴) is a new evergreen shrub from high mountains of Taiwan. The unique thing about this elegant beauty is that it is much hardier than your typical house plant Scheffleras (S. arboricola and S. actinophylla ). Now Monrovia Nursery may have been too optimistic to give it a cold tolerance rating of USDA Zone 7, which is 0F or -17.8C, but judging by the reports from zone-pushing gardeners in UK, it is at least good to about 20F. So it should be great as a tropicalesque backdrop for most Bay Area gardens.
It was Dan Hinkley the renowned plant explorer who first brought this plant back to the U.S., but while his fellow collector from UK has had it available at Crug Farm Nursery for quite some time (For plant lovers, it is painful to see many other exciting Schefflera species exclusively available there), Schefflera taiwaniana never went into trade here. A certain large seed company may played a part when they bought Dan’s independent nursery, Heronswood, and subsequently moved it to the East Coast.
The fortune has finally changed a couple years ago, when Monrovia and Dan teamed up to offer a line of collector plants including S. taiwaniana. It is scheduled to be widely released in spring 2012, but a few plants has gotten out last year (2010) and it caused quite a stir among serious gardeners in the Pacific Northwest.
April 26, 2011
My koi-keeping hobby has taken me to Cherry Hill Koi near the famously creepy Winchester Mystery House and the trendy Santana Row shopping area. And the most exciting discovery is a big specimen of Magnolia X alba, which I called the king of all fragrant plants in a previous blog entry. For a long time, this species was under the name of Michelia alba, or Michelia champaca ‘alba’(Monrovia Nursery), but a few years ago American botanists lumped all Michelias plus several other related genera into Magnolia. It is also verified that this particular species is indeed a hybrid between Magnolia champaca and Magnolia montana , which accounts for the extra cross sign in the new name.
April 12, 2011
Yesterday (April 11) I attended a board meeting of my local district of Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) in Palo Alto. With a little free time before the meeting, I went by Elizabeth Gamble Garden for a quick tour. Gamble Garden is a local oasis of horticulture with two and a half acres of well-tended plants. It is free to the public and open all year. Since they have many mature specimens of all kinds of garden plants (no tropicals yet and I need to volunteer to help), I usually go for a visit at least once a month to see what is in season. Yesterday the first attention-grabbing flowers were the long blooms of Wisteria floribunda and the double ones of Wisteria sinensis.
April 6, 2011
The Cactus and Succulent Society of San Jose had its annual sale last Saturday (April 2). Last time I attended this show was in 2006, and I remember the big crowd in a buying frenzy and all the fascinating show plants. Now I am happy to report that the show has kept its tradition very well.
April 2, 2011
A little over a week ago, one of my most treasured plants started to bloom for the first time. It is a compact cultivar of Clivia miniata from China. This plant started as a gift seed from my mother back in the fall of 2007. A few more seeds came in the same batch but I gave those to friends and only kept one for myself.
March 30, 2011
One of my favorite features of the SF Garden Show is the Hot Plant Picks display. Every year various nurseries send their new introductions to this debutante party.
Here are this year’s show benches full of goodies:
February 18, 2011
In the San Francisco Bay Area, our winter usually ends around Valentine’s Day, or Februrary 14th. This is one of my favorite times of the year since the days are getting longer, yet the air is still cool and moist. Best of all, many trees are putting up extravagant flower shows while the chores and frenzies of spring are still weeks away.
First is one of our best tried-and-true stars: Acacia baileyana with bright yellow mini-balls exuding a subtle violet fragrance. It is said that Acacias are blamed unfairly for allergies since their bloom time overlaps with those of the less conspicuous pollen mongers of grasses. I say we should plant more of these small drought-tolerant trees. (but not the weedy blackwood acacia, A. melanoxylon)
April 28, 2010
It has been terribly busy in the last few months since we are moving to a bigger home. We have put up our old home for sale and it is almost certain that it will be sold in the next month or so. When we first bought it in 1999, the backyard was 1000 square feet of bare dirt. My wife and I spent most of our leisure time for more than a year to get it into shape. About eight tons of bad soils were hauled out before new soil, new pavers, and new plants all came in. It seemed like every week there was a pile of something on the driveway, and it was very exciting to see all the changes and progresses. That experience was a major factor for me to make the decision of becoming a landscape designer. It was so much more rewarding than working hard on an engineering project for several months only to see it getting cancelled for some other reasons.
Here are some photos of our garden in the beautiful and wet spring of 2010:
1. One of the frontyard beds completed in 2008 after removing a boring Bradford Pear tree and a small patch of lawn. The big shrub with blue spikes of flowers is Echium candicans ‘Star of Madeira’ and the giant-leafed plant in the back is Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Steroidal Giant’. Both are extremely fast growers.