Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: "They" say it tastes like chicken

I was wandering through my garden camera in hand yesterday and came across something unexpected.

This stump came with the garden

Do you see it?  Take a closer look at the base of the stump.

The growths are clearly fungus of some sort associated with the tree stump's decay, which is well advanced.  I looked online for clues to its identification, not even sure than both growths were the same variety of fungus.  My best guess is that the first growth, and possibly both, are what's known as chicken of the woods fungus, or Laetiporus.  There are at least 18 known species and these fungal growths are still developing so my identification isn't definitive.  It isn't showing the shelf-like structure characteristic of these fungi but then it's only just appeared.  The fungus is commonly found on decaying hardwood trees and it's said to taste a lot like chicken.  Chicken of the woods is reportedly sold to chefs and restaurants for $12-25 per pound.  Recipes using it are available online.  (You can find one here.)  I did not taste it and have no intention of doing so.  There are warnings online about eating any such mushrooms found growing on conifers, eucalyptus and cedar trees due to toxins they absorb and I think there's a good chance this stump, which was already decaying when we moved in nearly ten years ago, was that of a eucalyptus tree.  

Chicken of the woods isn't nearly as attractive as turkey-tail mushrooms but at least it's not as ugly as the dog vomit slime mold I showed on a few weeks ago.  However, even dog vomit slime mold is far more more attractive than the behavior displayed by the current occupant of our White House last night.  Even if you can forgive the uncaring and irresponsible behavior he's displayed in handling the US response to the pandemic, forget that his administration is seeking to dismantle a health care system during that pandemic without any alternative proposal, ignore his manipulation of the country's tax code, dismiss his supporters' insistence on pushing through a Supreme Court candidate through the nomination process in contravention of the rules the Senate accepted in 2016, turn a deaf ear to his statements about those who serve in the military, and disregard his refusal to accept the country's unbroken respect for the peaceful transition of power, can anyone really excuse the disgraceful behavior he displayed last night, which included among other things, support for white supremacy?  I've never been so depressed and sickened by an American politician in my life - and make no mistake, despite his assertion that he's not a politician, that's the role he's playing now inside his delusion that he's starring in a reality TV show.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, September 28, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Vivid Color

We're facing another heatwave this week so I cut a lot of what was blooming in my cutting garden on Sunday morning.  Dare I hope that this will be our last heatwave of the year?  There are no guarantees and rain is still a distant prospect but my cutting garden is in peak giving mode nonetheless.

The intense color of Dahlia 'Rip City' grabbed my attention when I first saw a photo of the flower online early this year.  I ordered the tuber but I didn't really expect it to live up to its publicity photo; however, it has.

The blooms of 'Rip City' are almost black

Back view: The dahlia's color made it difficult to find partners that would complement rather than clash with its dark bluish-black undertones

Top view: Hot pinks offered the best match and the purplish color of Ageratum corymbosum's foliage gave the arrangement additional interest

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Rip City', foliage of Ageratum corymbosum, Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Callistemon hybrid 'Hot Pink', Cuphea hybrid 'Starfire Pink', and Pentas lanceolata

Even though I used Dahlia 'Enchantress' in a vase last week, a good flush of fresh blooms had me cutting it again for another vase this week.  'Enchantress' performed well last year as well.  It's an especially prolific bloomer.

New blooms of a noID Japanese anemone that came with the garden were a last minute addition to play off the yellow in the center of the dahlias and the in the Lantana flowers

Back view: I used a few Zinnia 'Envy' flowers as accents here

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Enchantress', Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Lantana 'Samantha', noID Anemone hupehensis, and Zinnia elegans 'Envy'

As it's fall and I'd like to welcome the change of seasons (even if it doesn't yet feel like fall here yet), I cut sunflowers for a third vase.

The bees and the birds have been all over the flowers of this 'Delta Sunflower' in the cutting garden so I felt a twinge of guilt in taking some but the bush is still producing a steady supply of new blooms

Back view: I added stems of variegated Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' to brighten the mix a bit

Top view

Clockwise from the top: Helianthus annuus 'Delta Sunflower', Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

A friend planned to stop by to bring me a package of the cleaning wipes that have eluded me for months, so I prepared a final impromptu arrangement in a jelly jar to hand off to her as well.

The centerpiece of this arrangement was Dahlia 'Belle of Barmera'.  Other elements included: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' (foliage), Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Blush'

I hope you enjoy a colorful week too!  For more flower arrangements, visit the leader of our merry IAVOM band, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, September 25, 2020

Putting a positive spin on my late summer garden

Okay, I know that, technically speaking, it's now fall in the Northern Hemisphere; however, summer probably won't really come to an end for another 5-6 weeks in my area of Southern California.  In fact, aided by our devilish Santa Ana winds, we're expecting high temperatures in the 90s next week.  My garden is generally at its lowest ebb at this time of year.  After the last severe heatwave some areas look downright sad but the extra hand-watering I did in advance of that nasty heatwave did help and there are a few things to crow about.

This hybrid Callistemon 'Hot Pink' surprised me with a flush of blooms.  I think it's the first time it's flowered this year.

Despite the fact that the heatwave singed all the buds on Dahlia 'Iceberg', it produced another gigantic bloom.  The stem was very short and I couldn't cut it without sacrificing the two side buds so I decided to enjoy it where it was in my cutting garden.

Dahlia 'Rip City' produced its first blooms.  The first dahlia tuber I planted this year, it was nearly the last to bloom but it currently has more than two dozen buds,

'Rip City' (left) is nearly black.  The contrast with 'Loverboy' (right) emphasizes just how dark it is.

Helianthus annuus 'Delta Sunflower' is very happy in my cutting garden.  Both the bees and the birds are all over it.

This isn't the most impressive photo but I was thrilled when I noticed a bud on this Iris germanica 'Autumn Circus'.  The plant was a gift from a friend in late May.  It's a reblooming variety and this will be its first bloom.

Even though I threw out my rule against planting anything other than succulents during the summer months, I also managed to hang onto most of what I've recently planted.  Last Friday, I posted a photo of a new delivery of mail order plants. 

This was last week's delivery from Annie's Annuals & Perennials in Northern California

After unpacking the box, I held off on planting those new arrivals until early this week but I took care of all of them early this week.  Here's a closer look at the newly installed plants:

This is Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass'.  I've wanted one for a long time but large specimens are pricey, if you can even find them.  I'm giving this one an opportunity to bulk up a bit in a pot before it gets a permanent placement in the garden.

This is one of three new Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' plants.  I admittedly have a lot of these already but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to plant a few more in 4-inch pots as the fall and winter-planted specimens have always done the best in my garden.

Ceanothus x pallidus 'Marie Simon', a pink-flowered variety, was my biggest splurge.  I plan to plant it in my back border but I'm going to let it spread its roots in this temporary pot until I'm comfortably certain that our hot weather is behind us.

This drought-tolerant white-flowering groundcover, Falkia repens, was an impulse purchase.  I divided it in two before planting it out.

I have a checkered past with Penstemon in this garden but Penstemon x gloxiniodes 'Midnight' is supposed to be tough.  I planted three in an area that already contains pink and blue Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), Salvia 'Mystic Spires' and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink'.

Sideritis cypria is a plant I've grown before that has very interesting flowers.  This is a new location for these plants.

Pleased at having everything taken care of, I treated myself to another trip to my local garden center.  I was in the area to get my flu shot, so why not stop?  New plants are a better reward for taking care of that chore than a lollipop. 

The three grass-like plants in the 1-gallon pots are Lomandra.  The green one is a replacement for one than died (the first and only loss of these plants I've had).  I'd been looking for additional pots of the variegated variety, 'Platinum Beauty' and I found these at a reasonable price, so I couldn't pass them up (and I've already planted both).  The rest consists of three 4-inch pots of Santolinas and 6-packs of Digitalis purpurea and Limonium perezii, all best purchased in small sizes.

I can't help it.  Even though it still feels like summer here, I can feel fall's siren call and fall is prime planting season in this part of the country.  I've got several significant projects in the offing but must hold off on some of these until the tree service pays its annual visit, probably next month.  The arborist dropped by this week to discuss what I want done and, in addition to the annual trimming, I'm having two trees taken out.  Their removal makes me very sad but there really isn't any alternative as one is dead and the other is nearly so.

I think the Heteromeles arbutifolia (aka Toyon) was felled by the pathogen that causes sudden oak death.  This tree-sized shrub is one of many plants sensitive to the pathogen.  Once I noticed the leaves turning red, it was already too late.  As it sits on the top of a steep slope overlooking a neighbor's driveway and next to a huge tree stump, I'm not going to be able to plant another tree in that spot but I may try making room for one nearby.

We had emergency surgery performed on this Albizia julibrissin (aka mimosa) two years ago in an effort to stop or slow the spread of damage caused by shot-hole borers but the tree's decline continued.  It produced unsightly adventitious growth and the bark of its trunk is now decaying.  Despite the fact that it also sits atop a steep slope, the arborist believes we can safely grind the stump on the inside of the hedge behind it.  I'm hoping I can plant a small tree in that area but that idea requires further evaluation.

Time to get to work on planting the rest of what I picked up at the garden center this week and planning for the future.  Happy gardening!

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: Accept joy where you find it

It's been really difficult to feel happy about much of anything of late.  But even the darkest days have their moments.  I thought I'd share two of those from the past week.

Late last week, when it was still too hot to do much in the garden and the air quality remained poor, I decided to spend an hour pulling up and potting several agave pups I'd spied in various locations of my garden.  When done, I labeled them and others I'd collected earlier and put them out on the curb for neighbors to take if they were so inclined.

This was the group's class picture, taken before I placed them on the curb.  The group included: Agave desmettiana 'Variegata', A. funkiana 'Blue Haze', A. 'Jaws', and A. pygmaea 'Dragon Toes'.

I'd only just put them out and grabbed my camera to take a photo when the first car pulled to a stop in front of them

About an hour and a half after I put them out, all but three were gone.  Another two went the next morning.  Poor Agave funkiana 'Blue Haze', admittedly the runt of the litter, didn't find a new home but I've put it aside in the hope it'll bulk up before my next give-away.

Yesterday, it was the birds in the backyard fountain that made me smile.  There was a steady steam of them but catching them bathing isn't always easy as they usually fly away as soon as I get close to the window.  However, one fellow was so caught up with his bath, he paid me no mind.

Most of the bathers were house finches and lesser gold finches.  I think this one was one of the former group.
I've noticed that house finches are particularly serious about their baths

He splashed about a half dozen times before deciding he was done and relinquishing the fountain to a trio of the smaller finches

I was happy to bask in his pleasure, if only for a moment

The United States reached the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths associated with COVID-19 this week.  The US accounts for 4.23% of the world's population, yet our total deaths currently represent 21% of the total attributed to COVID-19 worldwide.  That's not just sad, it's pathetic.  We're the richest country in the world and our per capita death rate from the virus is the 11th highest in the world.  The number of lies that have come directly from the horse's mouth regarding the virus are incredible.  While the occupant of the White House can't be blamed for importing the virus, he, his minions and his apologists should be held accountable for their monumental failures to manage the response to it.  Are we prepared to allow them to compound their failures and continue to lie?  VOTE. 

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, September 21, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: In remembrance of the Notorious RBG

We received yet another blow to the gut last week when news came that the Notorious RBG, the esteemed US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, passed away on Friday.  As the news was reported, I literally stood up and shouted "NO!" at the TV as if I could stop what had already happened.  She had a difficult climb to reach the pinnacle of the nation's judicial system, only the second woman to be appointed to that station, and she spent her 27 years there pursuing the cause of equal justice under the law.  Everyone knew she was ill as she'd fought various forms of cancer over the past decade but she was a fighter who seldom lost a day of testimony before the court throughout those battles.  Many, myself included, hoped and prayed that she'd outlast the current administration but that was not to be.  We owe her much and can only hope that we can channel some of the courage, strength, and dedication to the causes she pursued on our behalf.  Anyone unfamiliar with her history or achievements can find a summary here.  

Flowers are a traditional form of remembrance and, other than tears and a commitment to pursue the battles she fought using my vote in the coming and future elections and whatever my pocketbook can spare, flowers are the best I have to offer today.

Vase #1:

Dahlia 'Belle of Barmera', larger than the span of my hand, was the inspiration for this vase

Back view, featuring assorted Zinnias and Grevillea foliage

Top view

Top row: Alstroemeria 'Inca Sunshine', Amaranthus, Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Mocha Mint', and Zinnia elegans
Second row:Dahlias 'Belle of Barmera' and 'Labyrinth'
Third row: Grevillea foliage and Grevilleas 'Ned Kelly', 'Peaches & Cream' and 'Superb'

Vase #2:

An unplanned combination of Dahlias 'Candlelight' and 'Enchantress'

Plectranthus scutellariodies 'Florida Sun' (coleus) dresses up the back view

Top view

Clockwise from upper left: Dahlia 'Candlelight', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Dahlia 'Enchantress', Leucanthemum x superbum, and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Florida Sun'

Vase #3:

A last minute creation for the kitchen island

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Cosmos bipinnatus, Leucophyllum laevigatum, Salvia leucantha, and Vitex trifolia

For other IAVOM creations, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

The political fight over RBG's replacement is already gearing up and it threatens to eclipse our mourning of her loss as hypocrites in the Senate (who refused former President Obama a vote on his Supreme Court candidate's nomination 7 months before the last election because the selection was "too close" to the next presidential election) now rush to fill her seat before this November's election.  I think they may underestimate the response if they pursue that goal - I believe that the backlash may cost them much more than they realize in the long run.  VOTE!!!

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party