Saturday, December 20, 2014

Portrait of Lucky

The neighbors a few houses down raised turkeys this year.  I could hear turkey gobbles during the day all summer.  When Thanksgiving came, only "Lucky" remained--he was the smallest, so he was pardoned.  The rest were Not Lucky.  They were dinner.
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Lucky is a Royal Palm Turkey, a heritage breed first developed in the 1920's.
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He's a handsome guy.
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With a dozen chickens (hens) for company, Lucky is not alone.  He's not the boss, though.  Rosie is the boss:
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It's okay, Lucky and Rosie.  I'm vegetarian. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Neighborhood Foliage

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The sun is back.  Whether or not we get a drop more rain this season, the several inches of the last three weeks was a treat.  Foliage around the neighborhood is now clean of a half-year's coating of dust.  
A neighbor's Agave attenuata in bloom, one house over, but attenuata's foliage is always the star for me. 
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Two houses over, another.
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That's a weeping Callistemnon in the background.  It makes a good smallish tree here.
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A rare sight, some moss come alive due to the rain.
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Several volunteer Pyracanthas out on the road.  Their berries are plentiful, while the native Toyons have none at all--they skipped blooming this summer.  
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Back at home, still waiting on 'Joe Hoak'.  He slowed down even more because of the overcast and rain.  I broke off the very tip of the bloom stalk in order to encourage bulbils, though apparently the bulbils will fail as plants.  What the heck.
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 His sons seem to have established themselves now.  
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So that's a bit of foliage for today.  The sun is back out, time to distribute rain water and finish planting the west slope.  
Agave marmorata, clean version:
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Visit Digging for more December foliage.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bloom Day December 2014

The garden is in transition this month from the rich colors of autumn roses to the Aloe spires of winter.  'Rozanne' goes on and on in all seasons.
She never stops:
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'Molineux', spotted by the rain
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'Little White Pet' stayed clean
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The HOA garden has a 'Rhapsody In Blue'.  This cultivar doesn't like Southern California, producing only a handful of flowers per year on a sad, gangly plant.  On those rare flowers, though, marvelous greyish purple color.
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'Yves Piaget'
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'Gruss an Aachen'
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Aloidendron (Aloe) 'Hercules' looms behind 'William Shakespeare 2000'
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Aloe arborescens always marked the beginning of prime Aloe season here.  I removed our yellow version because of a massive gall mite infestation.  At least the orange version is plentiful in the neighborhood:
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Compare the flower of Aloe arborescens...
 photo blum5409_zpsd80806e6.jpg the longer, slimmer Aloe vanbalenii:
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Aloe vanbalenii's flowers tend to angle every which way, but each rosette can produce multiple flower stems and a clump in bloom is impressive.
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Aloe capitata is all charm.
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The bees love it, too.
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A. striata's flower has just appeared.
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The same goes for A. ferox:
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'Hercules' is beginning to dominate the front slope.  It has grown so much this year I wonder if it is now large enough to produce its first flower.  In front is Grevillea 'Moonlight':
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A very happy Bloom Day to all;  we have yet more precious rain on the way, and therefore so much to celebrate!

See more beautiful blooms over at May Dreams

Sunday, December 14, 2014

No--It Couldn't Be! Could It?!?

Rain gives them an appetite.  Honey, there's a pellet on your forehead.
 We woke to rain Friday morning.
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No gardening for Friday.
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The rainfalls of the past three years have been skimpy in both number and the amount of rain they actually delivered.  The previous storm ten days ago, and the storm that arrived Friday both delivered.
This is what did it:  an atmospheric river of tropical moisture breaking off northwards, meeting a cold low pressure system coming down from the northern Pacific, creating rain for California.
Chart by NOAA, arrow by moi.
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Dust and spiderwebs got washed off.
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Tillandsia usneoides turned green.  I didn't know it could turn green.  
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It rained enough to actually wet down the exterior of the house. 
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Water pouring down.  Oh look, there's a drought-tolerant native California plant (Baccharis) growing out of the scupper.
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I'd emptied the bins of rain water collected in the previous storm into the garden.  Friday morning they were all full again...for a while.
Full enough to spring a leak:
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I pumped the fountain full of water, to save for a few days.  When the soil dries out a bit, I'll use it to water the driest areas of the garden. 
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The koi enjoyed the rain.  
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They could stick their heads out of the water without fear of their faces drying out.  
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Streams of water started running down the exterior walls in a way I have not seen for several years.
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And then I saw it:  the most amazing wonderful thing!  No--it couldn't be!
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Yes!  A puddle!  A puddle!  An actual puddle!  

Friday, December 12, 2014

Agave shawii, Mother of 'Blue Flame'

Agave shawii at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Agave shawii, along with Agave deserti and Agave utahensis, is one of the few Agaves native to California, but is the only California Agave native to the coastal region.  Agave shawii is a medium sized rosette at 2-3' (60-91 cm) tall by 3' (91 cm) wide, but it eventually can form massive (yet orderly!) thickets of individual plants.  The flower stalk is quite big and bold for an Agave of moderate size. 
Agave shawii bloom at San Diego Botanic Garden:
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Big and bold:
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The last known documented native colony of Agave shawii in California was dug out to expand the Department of Homeland Security's border fence between the US and Mexico.  Aggressive development of coastal California and Baja Mexico are rapidly destroying Agave shawii habitat.  The species is considered endangered in the wilds of Baja and essentially extinct in California.  
The coastal origin of A. shawii is apparent at the Desert Museum near Tucson, Arizona.  Too hot for shawii.
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A young colony thriving at the coastal UCI Botanic Garden:
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A stunning loner at the San Diego Botanic Garden:
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I do not have Agave shawii in my garden.  It is a beautiful plant, but an enormous colony of them is a commitment of considerable space.  The closest I've come to a shawii is the hybrid 'Blue Flame', of which Agave shawii is the seed parent.  (The pollen parent is Agave attenuata).  
Spineless, toothless, soft attenuata...
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'Blue Flame' has characteristics of both parents, less fierce than shawii, (but with shawii's vigor), less soft than attenuata, (but with attenuata's grace), while the blue foliage color is all its own. 
Agave 'Blue Flame' looking fairly green at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.  Speaking of enormous colonies...
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The 'Blue Flame' flower:
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 Bluer and bigger at the San Diego Botanic Garden:
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Our garden's little example, wet and leaf-littered in recent rain:
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And 'Blue Flame' backed with Aeoniums at the Huntington:
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Agave shawii, proud mama.