A morning at the Botanical Garden

Yesterday morning I spent a few hours doing Master Gardener volunteer time at the Botanical Garden Building in Balboa Park. Sunday mornings are quiet and it was a treat to hang out in this historic building surrounded by beautiful plants. The place was decked out with red and yellow poinsettias for the holidays which only added to the experience. Built in 1915, this building is one of the largest lath structures in the world.

Holiday spirit at the Botanical Garden

The bromiliads on the west end of the building were very interesting and more appealing to me than I thought they would be. I have not had good luck with bromiliads and have sent a lot of them to bromiliad heaven. At Balboa Park I can enjoy all the varieties they are growing.
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Orchids were pretty, too.
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The people watching was fun. It was quite the entourage of families getting Christmas card pictures taken in front of the poinsettias. A lot of Europeans visited. An entertaining moment came when a little boy ended up in the little pond. He was no worse for wear. His mother was right there and fished him out, but he was covered in pond scum and was not a happy camper. I was tempted to yell, “Clean-up in Aisle 6!” but I kept my mouth shut. 😉

One of the specimens in the building is a Deppia splendens. Native to Mexico, this plant is extinct in the wild, but is propagated widely, so it’s not going away anytime soon. Pretty blooms….

Deppea splendens 'Aguston'

What a spectacular place!

A peaceful Sunday morning


Melia is the Hawaiian translation for Plumeria. Yesterday I heard a talk about plumeria trees. Tom Cook of Tom’s Plumerias in Solana Beach brought a lot of flowers of different varieties to show, as well as plants and cuttings that were available to purchase.

Plumeria need at least six hours of full sun and good drainage, should be planted south facing, and they should be allowed to dry out in between waterings to prevent rot. San Diego, inland and coastal, grows beautiful plumeria, in an array of colors.

They are potassium feeders so it’s important to fertilize with a heavier potassium mix (a higher P number in the N-P-K numbers) when the leaves are starting to bud out. It’s important to remember not to feed plants as we get closer to cold weather because the nutrients will promote tender growth that is easily frost damaged. The potassium will promote a stronger bloom which is, of course, the main reason we grow these tropical beauts. Also, now is a great time to feed your plants with Sul-Po-Mag. Sul-Po-Mag is a naturally occurring mineral containing significant quantities of sulfur, potash, and magnesium. Another dose of these trace minerals in the spring will really boost the health and bloom potential.

Cuttings are easy to cultivate for new plants. There are two kinds of cuttings – stem cuts and tip cuts. Early spring is the optimal time for cuttings, but in our mild weather, you can cut pretty much year round. RooTone isn’t necessary, but it sure can’t hurt. RooTone has nutrients for a good solid start, and a fungicide to prevent diseases. Soil type is important because good drainage is crucial. A mix of 2/3 E.B. Stone (Edna’s Best) potting soil and 1/3 perlite is a good soil medium. Again, don’t keep the starts soaked or you’ll just end up with a rotten mess. Roots take about 4-6 weeks to begin developing. Patience is a virtue….

Stem cuttings are sections of a plumeria branch, with both ends of the branch cut. A little trick if you aren’t sure which end is supposed to be up, is to look at the leaf nodes and make sure they look like smiley-faces. The advantage to stem cutting is that the stem will do more branching out.

Tip cuttings are only cut on one end with the natural end of the branch at the other end. Important note when cutting tips – Trim or snap off all the leaves on the branch. If the leaves are left on, the transpiration process will continue and the stems will dehydrate. The advantage of tip cuttings is that they are early bloomers, but beware that growth will be slowed because the plant’s energy is being diverted from root development to make those flowers.

I have one tree in the front yard, but am not inclined to have any more because I’m out of room, but I bought two cuttings (‘Lanai’ – pink, and ‘Celadine’-yellow) from Tom that are different colors and I’m going to attempt to graft them onto my existing tree. (I’ll document that when it happens.) I learned alot today and will strive to do better with my existing plant.

An interesting tidbit I learned with more research: Plumeria were only introduced to the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s. They are native to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. I had no idea!

Some handy websites to check out:
Tom’s Plumerias – the guest speaker.
Southern California Plumeria Society
Plumeria Society of America
Exotic Plumerias

Thin It Out – Part II

I sat down to leaf through my gardening magazines and came across an article in the June/July 2010 issue of ‘Organic Gardening’ magazine about fruit thinning that shed more light on my rather vague post of a few days ago.

The article talks about apple tree thinning in particular. The natural fruit drops that occurs as an apple tree sheds excess fruit as a natural thinning process that is normal for apple trees. The more fruit a tree brings to fully ripe and ready to be picked, the more energy the tree is expending on developing the fruit and keeping the tree healthy. If a tree has a particularly heavy crop one year, it is less likely to bear so much fruit the next. Even with the natural fruit drop it is usually helpful to do more selective thinning of little apples (the article says the size of a dime) to promote a better crop.

So, how to thin…. The article says to start with diseased or deformed apples first, then identify the largest apple in the cluster and remove the other apples around it. The rule of them is to have the apples spaced approximately six inches apart along the limb.

I was glad to find this information and, in retrospect, it makes total sense.

Mi Esposo gets the job done!

Mi Esposo stepped up and put in another couple of hours for me in the yard on Sunday. First, he weeded in the backyard, which is awful work because the weeds poke up between the bricks, and it is very labor intensive. If it was left up to me, we’d have a sort-of faux lawn back there because I would never get around to weeding. I have other things to do, such as wandering around the front yard with my coffee, talking to fellow gardeners, looking at seed catalogs, watching the birds at the bird feeder, wondering what I could plant if I had an acre, wondering what else I could plant vertically, wonder if I should move this plant over there, or that plant over here – well, the list never ends, but it IS important stuff to think about….if you are me!

Mi Esposo, on the other hand, is a man of action. “Let’s get the job done”, “We’re burning daylight”, and “Earth to Lessy” are some of his classic lines because usually I’m multi-tasking badly (for a sampling, read above!) and he’s standing around waiting for me to stop coming up with new ideas for garden projects. Anyway, he accomplished some big projects on Sunday, my favorite being the Strawberry Wall.

Basically he created a terraced wall on top of a raised bed that, historically, hasn’t been a very productive plot. I HAVE been having good luck with the few strawberries I had planted there already, so I decided to go with success and add to the strawberry crop. The strawberry pots I had in another part of the garden weren’t growing well, I think because the terra cotta gets too hot, so I moved those plants into the new section.

Voila! Project completed.

We’re off to a good start thanks to Mi Esposo!

A New Day….

After a week of blustery rain, the sun came out today and the garden came to life. I was glad to spend time outside with my plants. There was a bit of wind damage, but rain has a way of making plants look so vibrant and fresh. A good flushing does wonders.

I assessed the garden to see what kind of damage occurred from yesterday’s hailstorm. This echeverria’s tender leaves show how hard the hail came down – hail holes! Fortunately, that was the worst of it.

Damage from hail

I had to fill up the bird feeders because the birds were out en masse and they were hungry! This pretty little bird is a House Finch.

I found a special treat today – a new butterfly just emerged from its cocoon. It spent the day sunning itself, looking more vibrant as the day went by. A little miracle….