Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Plant profile: Impatiens sodenii (Impatiens)

Latin name: Impatiens sodenii (pronounced "im-PAY-shens so-DEN-ee-eye")
Common name: Shrub Balsam, Poor Man's Rhododendron
Originally from: Tropical East African highlands of Kenya and Tanzania.
Blooms: Pink, white, some varieties streaked.
Light: Shade, part sun
Water: Drought tolerant
Drainage: Excellent
Height x width: 5'+ tall and wide
USDA Zones: 10-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Under the cherry plum trees.

It has taken me a while to write a profile on this plant, but Matt suggested it this morning, and I thought "why not." Why has it taken a while?  Well, this was not one of my favorite plants when we were first given it, for several reasons. None of them particularly good reasons, I admit.

First, it was a bit of a scraggly specimen. Looking at it's tropical foliage I thought "uh-oh, this is a plant that wants lots of water and it going to die gradually and painfully and everyone will think I am a bad person..." Watching plants die is not in my game plan.

Second, it has pink flowers. Pale pink. And froofy. It is the 7 year old ballerina-wannabe of the plant world. Ugh. Speaking as an ex-pale pink loving 7 year old ballerina-wannabe I can safely say this is a phase most girls get past, and don't look back on. Unless they are reminded of it by such plants as this. *grit teeth*

Third, it's old fashioned. This ain't no cutting edge, hybrid Kelly Griffin aloe, impactfully-toothed hard-core agave of awe-inspiring proportions, or stylish, graceful and austere ornamental grass. It's an old lady shrub. WTF! NIMBY, OMG!!!!1! Blech!!!!!! >:x

Fourth, it is called the Poor Man's Rhododendron. If you absolutely love Rhodies and can't grow them are you really going to grow this? I think not - it looks nothing like a Rhodie! Impatiens sodenii is to Rhododendrons what KFC is to chickens, my friend. And friends don't let friends go to the KFC of plants.

However. Here I am writing a profile on it. Why, you ask? One reason.

It loves dry shade.

And if you know anything about gardening, you know that a plant who loves to grow with almost no light or water, and flowers almost all year round in that situation, the very death of normal plants, is a plant to get down on your knees and worship. That's right people, go out to the garden today and see that little bugger flowering in late December and think about it. It's a Christmas miracle. ;)

UPDATE: well as it turns out it does need SOME water - after 5 years of drought it was looking distinctly stringy... it does seed around and perk up with a watering, so we're not removing them.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shed, part 5!

This is it! The shed is done! OMG, I could cry. But I won't. Instead I'll let Matt take a bow for finishing up the shed today while I planted some really gorgeous plants in the garden.

Yeah, yeah, we still need to add shelves and so on inside the shed, but it's ready to rock and already housing the wheelbarrow and hose reel.

This is it, Emily: you now HAVE to remember the combination for the lock, or no tool access for you! ;)

Leucadendron "Jester"
The plants that went in today were:

1 Leucadendron "Jester"
1 Cordyline "Torbay Dazzler"
1 Cordyline "Electric Pink"
1 Asclepias curassavica "Silky Gold"
2 Epilobium californica (California Fuchsia)

Cordyline "Torbay Dazzler"
I also rearranged some Aloe arborescens to make room for all the mad Cordylines. I think the middle front and middle back beds are looking really great now, and we have a set of three Epilobiums near the bench - look out when they flower: it'll be awesome.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Shed, part 4

Oh crikey - when will it ever end?
Today Matt and I headed out before work in a slight rain to work on the shed. We put on the roof frame and started adding roof panels when we discovered that we’d installed one of the roof frame beams upside down.

Rather than take it all apart, because that would have been So Annoying, we decided to drill extra holes in the beam to make it work. But did we have a suitable drill bit? We did not. So we had to pack up and quit after an hour.

Oh boy… at least the shed is looking pretty complete at this stage! Two more roof panels and the door and we are done.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Shed, part 3

Knowing that the shed was not complete, and knowing we'll have some wet and windy weather coming, Matt and I got up early and went out to work on getting it finished today before work.

Happily everything was still in place, and we did a solid hour and a half of work before having to leave for our cubicles. We got three and a half walls completed, and the next step is to add the roof.

I am worried that some(crazy/drunk)one will try and stand on the roof at some point - and it feels like it's not going to be all that strong... I wonder if we should put barbed wire up there?
We are up to page 46 of the manual. I do not think we are over the worst. We'll be out there agin tomorow morning at least. Whose idea was this?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Plant shopping in Carmel

I was in Carmel Valley yesterday on an abortive horse shopping trip, and found myself with a little time to kill between discovering the horse seller was insane, and picking up Matt from the beach where he was surfing.

I happened upon Griggs Nursery and went in: what a great place! A huge area was stocked with very nice plants, and the person in charge helpful and knowledgeable. I quickly loaded up a few nice specimens for P. Garden:

1 Leucadendron "Jester"
1 Cordyline "Torbay Dazzler" in a hefty 3 gallon size.
1 Cordyline "Electric Pink" in a 2 gallon pot.

All these are for the middle front bed which is going to be pretty stunning (Outrageous? Garish? Yay!) I think.

Driving down the road I came across another nursery - Valley Hills. I found a few more items from the wishlist there:

1 Asclepias curassavica "Silky Gold"
2 Epilobium californica (California Fuchsia)
1 Perovskia atriplicifolia (Russian Sage)

After the car was loaded with plants I felt much better about the 6 hour round trip to Carmel. Fun times!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shed, part 2

OK today was an extra workday to try and get the shed completed. I had 2 yards of 3/4 crush gravel delivered yesterday and we needed to put it under the shed area to make a good, long-lasting foundation.

Happily, Matt, Jessica, Emily and Eliot showed up to help and yes, the gravel moving was a right heavy job... argh! We started at 11am and I just walked in the door half an hour ago, at 3pm. I am shattered!

Matt was busy sawing wood and screwing together the foundation while the rest of us carted gravel up the hill (of course it had to be uphill - why is it always uphill?!) in the wheelbarrow or in tubs until a little after 1pm. Darn cordless drill died (again!) but luckily Ryan dropped by with his for Matt to use.

Then Matt and I tried to put the shed on the (very sturdy and I hope long-lasting) foundation as quickly as possible, bearing in mind the instruction manual was over 25 pages long and the 250 pound package the shed came in contained something like a thousand parts...

However, the instructions did say the shed could be assembled by 2 people in 2 hours. So we were optimistic.

No chance.

The base rails went on, the roof frame was assembled, and the first wall went up. Every diagram required careful consideration due to the similarity of the pieces, and the tiny diagrams. It was complicated... we were tired...

Then Matt realized his baseball game was starting oh, about 5 minutes ago, and he dropped everything to make it there.

Leaving me with everything to put away.

I just ate a big slice of tiramisu. I feel better now.

Stay tuned for part 3 of the shed building, which I'm now going to have to try and fit in before the holidays. In all my spare time. HA!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Extra volunteer day!

Come on out tomorrow at 11am - we're having an extra volunteer day to finish up the shed.
2 yards of gravel were delivered today, so we'll move that to the shed base first, then get to the walls and doors fun. Hope you can make it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Plant profile: Glaucium (Horned Poppy)

Glaucium grandiflorum
(Orange Horned Poppy)
Here’s an interesting group of plants from the poppy family. Glaucium (Horned Poppy) is a genus of about 25 species of annual, biennial or perennial plants. They commonly grow in saline habitats, like along coasts and in salt pans. The name "Horned Poppy" comes from their seed pods, which are long, thin and curved like a horn, and can be up to a foot long in some species. The Latin name "Glaucium" comes from the Greek "Glaukos" which means "ashen" or "pale" due to the silvery stems and leaves of the plant

Latin name: Glaucium (pronounced "GLAW-kee-um")
Common name: Horned Poppy.
Originally from: Europe, North Africa and Southwest and Central Asia.
Blooms: Yellow, orange, or red.
Light: Full sun!
Water: Drought tolerant
Where to find in P. Garden: The brights bed has a group of each of the species mentioned.

We have two types at PG:
Glaucium grandiflorum (Orange Horned Poppy): Orange flowers cover it from spring through December, and the foliage is a silvery-blue, blowsy web of leaves. Native to Turkey and Iraq.

Glaucium flavum (Yellow Horned Poppy): Native of Western Europe. We saw these thriving on the beach in Crete, and knew right away they’re tough plants. They have clear yellow flowers and silvery fern-like foliage.

Glaucium grandiflorum
(Orange Horned Poppy)
The key to keeping Glaucium happy is awful, sandy soil; “treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen” is the key here - they have more silvery foliage and tend to be perennial if grown in poor-quality soil. Great for your xeric or beach garden!

These plants contain a chemical called glaucine. According to Wikipedia, "Glaucine is the main alkaloid component in Glaucium flavum. Glaucine has bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory effects, acting as a PDE4 inhibitor and calcium channel blocker, and is used medically as an antitussive in some countries. Glaucine may produce side effects such as sedation, fatigue, and a hallucinogenic effect characterized by colorful visual images, and has recently been detected as a recreational drug."

An oil obtained from the seed is used for as a fuel for lighting, it burns cleanly. It is also used in soap making. The yellow sap from the plant's stems is said to cure warts, and among the Bedouins Glaucium arabicum (known to them as "na'aman") is used as a treatment for conjunctivitis in livestock. It has also been used for cataracts in humans, and its use in treating viruses like herpes, flu and mumps, and various cancers, is being studied. However, due to very poisonous side effects home treatment with this plant is not recommended at all!

UPDATE June 2016: Due to too much "good" soil (ie not straight sand) ours got big and shrubby and blew out. None survived, but they put on a great show before they went!.

Monday, December 5, 2011

350 daffs planted

Yesterday the entire front edge of the brights bed got a border of mixed daffodil bulbs and a good weeding. I also put 4 bags of the daffodil "Cheerfulness" in the middle front bed. Only 60 bulbs left to plant!

I cut back a few plants for the winter too. Boom.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I (heart) Steve Broyles

Well lookee here: Steve Broyles stood by his word and fixed the hole in the fence opposite Center Hardware.

What a guy. And it doesn't look like anyone will be able to undo that repair job in a hurry. We'd better get out there and plant up the gap before something happens.

Plants needed:

1 Lavatera "Barnsley" (the lavender kind - for right end of left bed)
2 Dendromecon rigida (Bush Poppy) (for gap and left end next to current pink mallow)
1 Lavatera assurgentiflora (Island Mallow) (the pink one - for middle area)
6 Dietes clumps from PG min - could use more.

Looks like a shopping trip is on order...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Uh oh...

This just in: the 75% off bulbs at Home Despot sale is still going on. This time I succumbed to190 daffodil bulbs for under $15. Including 10 "Tahiti" bulbs. Squeee!

I think the front border is about to get the Welsh treatment...

Shed - part 1

Jessica, Matt, Paloma,
Patrick and Nate: digging it.
Today's volunteer day was, as usual, amazing. Although I'm pulled left and right with questions, and as a result feel like my contribution is minimal, I look around at the end of the day and see the results and I'm always deeply impressed by what everyone accomplished.

Today, we set out to get the new shed's foundation area set up. This involved a lot of digging - out came the digging bar, and Jessica, Matt, Patrick, Nate and Paloma set to work next to the composter levelling out an area for the new shed.

Patrick, Emily and
John: pruning it.
The footprint of the shed is 8' x 4' so there was a good amount of rock hard dirt to move away from the site to get it to fit on the sloped area. Several large rocks came out, and several cupcakes were consumed as energy boosters. The dirt was spread along the pathway, and Jessica and John added a plank there to prevent it all rolling downhill.

Emily, Jason, Eddy, Maile and Carlin showed up, and Matt and Eddy went to buy lumber for the foundation of the shed. This left everyone else at a loose end so I got them going on extra tasks.

How to prune a Euphorbia, by Jessica.
The Salvia gesnerifolia "Tequila" lost half it's height, as did the unknown Salvia next to it, thanks to Carlin.  The aster Symphyotrichum novi-belgii "Bill's Big Blue" was cut down to the ground and a Euphorbia "Excalibur"was cut back to just the right level by Jessica.

Neatly bordered by John.
The Verbena bonariensis was cut to the ground and the border rebuilt by John,  One clump of the Crocosmia "Lucifer" was cut back, and many weeds were eradicated by Paloma, Emily and Maile. And the white Watsonia bulbs that had been hanging around forever finally got planted by Patrick, thank goodness. Lastly, Jason, Emily and Jessica trimmed up and planted a whole lot of Calandrinia spectabilis cuttings given to us by Anna.

Matt and Eddy came back from their little lumber odyssey with the right stuff for the job, and quickly set about installing a 10' long, 12" tall terrace parallel to the composters, held in place with rebar.

Don't they look pleased?
They flattened the area and you can see from the pics that the 4' x 8' piece of plywood for the foundation fits perfectly. Great job team - if Matt and I get a "wild hare" to finish putting up the shed I'll send out an email so anyone interested can join in. Wild hares welcome ;)
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