Friday, December 26, 2014

Fun in the Fynbos Tour Resources (South African Tour)

South African Plants

KirstenboschFynbosJamianIhsaan.flv - YouTube
“Dazzling Quilts Of Colour”, South Africa’s Lovely Fynbos Flowerscapes « Wild Open Eye
▶ Into the Fynbos: Conserving Biodiversity in the Cape Floristic Region - YouTube
▶ Grootbos | Cape Floral Kingdom - Flowers of South Africa - YouTube
Trecanna Nursery South African Plants 2009 - YouTube
Biodiversity+Fynbos+Film - YouTube
▶ The Fynbos Trail - YouTube
Video -- Karoo Biome -- National Geographic
Flowers of South Africa Video by Plants
West Coast flowers, South Africa Tourism, Mobile Version - YouTube
Grootbos | Cape Floral Kingdom - Flowers of South Africa - YouTube

South African Bulbs

September In Your Garden : Start Planting With South African Bulbs - Los Angeles Times
South African Bulbs at Desirable Plants - Stocklist A-Z
The Bulb Maven: South African bulbs
Bulbs for Fall Planting
Growing Amaryllis - Growing Amaryllis Bulbs, How To Grow Amaryllis Bulbs, Amaryllis Bulb Growing Guide - White Flower Farm
Colorful, spring-blooming bulbs from South Africa - SFGate
Pacific Bulb Society | Lachenalia Species One
dry river bed on Pinterest | 34 Pins
Encino Hills Contemporary - contemporary - Landscape - Los Angeles - ecocentrix landscape architecture
Sunny Slope with Drainage Wash, Perennials and Edibles - Mediterranean - Landscape - santa barbara - by Donna Lynn - Landscape Designer
Telos Rare Bulbs, South African Bulbs, California Native Bulbs, South American Bulbs, Mediterranean Bulbs
Pacific Bulb Society | Where to Obtain Species Bulbs

Reasons to use Caution with Euphorbias

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Little Light at the End of the PSHB Tunnel.

A relatively new pest continues to wreak havoc on L.A.'s trees and threatens the avocado industry. Until now hope for control of the pest has been slim -but just recently that has changed.

The polyphagous shot hole borer (PSHB) is one of those new pests that makes entomologists and  pest control advisors look bad. This small beetle from somewhere in southeast Asia (we think) bores into perfectly healthy trees (we're mostly sure) where it completes its life cycle. It infests more than 200 trees (but that number is growing). Over 30 trees are reproductive hosts in which the borer can reproduce and wreak havoc on other nearby trees (but we're not sure that number is going to stay the same) and many more area adversely effected by the beetle (another number that keeps on growing).

What makes this pest particularly irksome is that it goes after trees that are the heart and soul of what it is to be a Californian: Avocados, Coast Live Oaks, California Sycamores, and many other native California trees. Right now it's in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, and now parts of San Diego counties, but there is nothing, save for its seeming preference for well watered trees, to keep it from spreading to the rest of the state. No pesticide has yet found to be really effective in controlling it -this fact due to the pest feeding only on the fungus that it spreads from tree to tree and not on the wood tissue that traditionally carries insecticides from the roots or trunk where they're applied to the feeding jaws of the target insect.

They are also incestuous, with the small number of sibling male beetles mating with their much more numerous sisters. This means that there is no mating cycle to disrupt because they mate in the moist, fungus filled chambers of the beetles galleries. Galleries that penetrate deeply into the heartwood of the tree so they mate there and not out in the open where a pesticide coupled with a mating pheromone could kill enough of the pests to control them. The best treatment so far has been a once every 6 week bark spray -a frequency of application and amount of pesticide that is far too expensive for most homeowners and growers.

Yes, this pest is depressing. Every time I've talked about, consulted about it, or lectured about it I feel like Debbie Downer on pessimistic steroids. But there is finally some good news. It appears that a pheromone-like compound is effective in attracting the beetle. P-menthenol, a chemical compound called a terpene that has been isolated from among other plants Yarrow, can attract the beetle from over 50 feet.

In p-menthenol could be used to attract the beetle to a concentration of pesticide or spores of a fungus that is pathenogenic to the beetle and allow that beetle to bring those substances back to the galleries from where it first emerged to chase the scent.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall 2014 Leaf Tour

Thank you everybody who came for the 2014 Fall Leaf Tour. It was fun tour, although the leaves were not cooperating. Here's a link to the images I used to show how fall usually looks here. Each of the photos also has its location in the information section of the slide show.

Peacock posing in front of Ginkgo biloba in full fall color. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Floss Silk Tree (Ceiba speciosa and friends) Tour

One of my favorite Ceiba pix

Tour Related Links:

Flowering Plant Families, UH Botany
All the fascinating genera of the family Bombacaceae

Bombacaceae (Bombax family) - 114 images at images, phylogeny, nomenclature for (Bombacaceae)
Bombacaceae (Bombax family) - 114 images at images, phylogeny, nomenclature for (Bombacaceae)
Use the above links to Bombacaceae on the site to see its relation to other families in its order (Malvales). 

Bombacaceae (plant family) -- Encyclopedia Britannica
The EB's treatment of this economically important plant family. 

Friday Flower – “Palo Borracho” | Beetles In The Bush
Find out how an entomologist feels about Ceibas

The Ceiba Foundation
A conservation organization dedicated to both preserving the tree and its environment. 

Ochroma pyramidale - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A Ceiba relative that is the source of balsa wood. 

Seed and Plant Sources

Rare exotic tropical plants and seeds
A possible source of Adensonia seeds and plants.

B and T World Seeds
A French firm that sells thousands of types of seeds. 

Ceiba speciosa and its' shadow of fallen petals  -this one is located on Tallac knoll up above the Herb Garden. 


How To Tell the Difference Between the Four Arboretum Ceiba speciosa (was Chorisia speciosa)  Introductions.

More Pretty Pictures

Seedling Ceiba speciosa

Seedling Ceiba speciosa

Ceiba speciosa 'Los Angeles Beautiful'

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cape Grape

The Grape Ape would probably eat the Cape Grape. 
A local gardener left me a plant sample that was new to me. It looked kind of like a grape, but it wasn't familiar. I Google'd grape and then Cissus, and with each added a few leaf shape terms that were descriptive of the sample's leaves, and was lucky enough to get a hit: Rhoicissus tomentosa (aka Rhoicissus capensis). A native of the cape area of South Africa, It's fruits are edible but its roots are said to be poisonous.

Cape grape (Rhoicissus tomentosa) sample brought in by a local gardener. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Puppy Pits

I received a phone call from a gentleman who had been walking his puppy outdoors when the puppy ingested some type of plant material. The dog then regurgitated a fibrous pod (or pit). The caller asked what he should do and if I knew what the plant material could be (see illustrations below). The first thing I did was urge him to go to a veterinarian. About a half hour later he called me from the vets and said that he sent some pictures of the regurgitated object for me to inspect. I took a look at the pods and did several Google image searches using terms related to the incident. Using the term "Dog vomit fibrous fruit" I came upon a blog page where the blogger was writing about his puppy eating a similar fruit. Doing some more research and talking again to the owner it appears that dogs like Queen palm fruit and indeed the gentleman who called had passed by an area where these fruit were on the ground and he did recall his puppy eating the fruit. Puzzle solved, dog not in danger, and now I know that Queen palms (Arecastrum romanzoffianum) are not only not harmful to dogs (unless the dog eats too many and get an intestinal blockage from the fiber) they are edible and quite good. Although there are no terribly toxic palms there are some bad actors (as this article in the 'Dave's Garden' gardening bulletin board points out) and some terribly toxic palm look-alikes such as sago palms. 

Fibrous fruit of Aracastrum romanzoffianum after it's been through a puppy's digestive track. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Most Drought Tolerant Bamboo


I'm again tapping your expertise.  This time it's about bamboo.  We're thinking of planting some bamboo to provide a kind of natural wall for privacy in a strip that's surrounded by a low concrete wall with driveway on one side and a concrete patio on the other.  Thus, the bamboo would seem to be sufficiently contained.  Ideally, its a type that tops off at 8-10 feet tall.

Thanks, Vince

Hi Vince,

Is water use a concern for you?

Cheers,   Frank


 This is probably a 20 foot run of bamboo, so I'm guessing that wouldn't be too much of a water demand, and the area gets sun all day.

Thanks, Vince

Hi Vince,

Most bamboos are big water users, so keep that in mind. That being said I would recommend Phyllostachys aurea planted in a rhizome barrier. P. aurea is the most drought tolerant of the bamboos. You’ll want to wait till spring or late winter to start it.

Cheers,   Frank 

Phyllostachys aurea

Friday, August 22, 2014

Back from Vacation, Ate some Shrooms!

I just got married (to a wonderful woman who is, coincidentally, a master gardener) and I'm back from the honeymoon. We spent all last week in Mammoth Lakes, a beautiful mountain town and ski resort located in the eastern Sierra mountains. We were lucky as it rained the night we got there, providing some relief from the drought and bringing up some very tasty mushrooms. The first one below is Pine Bolete, the one below that and the cut mushroom ready for sauteing is Boletus edulis, also known as the Porcini in Italy and the Cepe in France. Boletus edulis is very tasty and its texture is one of the finest of any mushroom; slightly crunchy and meaty at the same time.

Pine bolete
Boletus edulis
Boletus edulis ready for sauteing. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

I Fought The Lawn and the Lawn Won: Drought Related Links

Turf Colorant

If you don’t want to give up your turf you can keep it looking good –even if it’s dormant and brown by using a suitable lawn dye.

Michigan State University articles:

North Carolina State article on seeding vs. turf colorant:

Other Turf Colorant Articles and Product Links:

Drought Related Government Links:

Drought and Water Conservation Related Videos:

There are a bunch of things you can do to fine tune your irrigation system that not only save water but help prevent over-watering related diseases and insects -these videos touch on several of these methods. 

Water Smart Tips - Understanding ET Rates - YouTube (Using ET rates can save you water AND make your landscape healthier)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Perfumery Tour Links

Here are links to subjects covered by

 this Saturday's perfume tour:

Scientific Articles on Scemt

University of North Carolina Perfume Class Syllabus
Why Certain Smells Trigger Positive Memories | Psychology Today
The Science of Scent | Psychology Today

Luca Turin 
Luca Turin is an accomplished perfumer and a maverick biologists whose theories on scent and scent perception were at first rejected and are now being embraced by the scientific community. 
Luca Turin: The science of scent | Talk Video |

BBC Documentary on the Perfume Industry
Part 1 The history of perfumes. 
Part 2 The current state of the perfume industry (go to 20:20 for a very interesting vignette on perfume design and memory).
Part 3 The future of the perfume industry. 

Perfume Notes notes page

Do It Yourself Perfume
Perfumers Apprentice Perfume Kits for Learning the Basics
Essential Oils (K-L) - Essential Oils & Extracts - Our Products
A to K Certified Pure Essential Oils - Wholesale Supplies Plus

Perfume General
Basenotes - independent online guide to 20,000+ fragrances, with articles, fragrance news, fragrance reviews and more...

Allergies and Perfume
Allergic reactions trigger blow to perfume industry | euronews, reporter
BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database) Home Page; for looking up plant allergies. 

Perfumers Who Took the Tour
Roxana Illuminated Perfume: We were privileged to have Roxana, a natural perfumer, on the tour with us. Roxana detailed the fascinating creative process she goes through in designing a perfume. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Machete Time

Q. I live in Senior Mobile Home Park in Orange County. I have three exceedingly large agaves which the park owners want me to remove. They are spiny and intimidating. What's the best way to get rid of them? 

Danny Trejo in 'Machete Kills' courtesy of

To answer this question I took some inspiration from a movie hero who is also spiny and intimidating: Danny Trejo's 'Machete'.

A. Use a machete. Just hoist machete over your head, take aim, yell "MACHETE!" and bring the full wrath of your machete against the bases of the agaves leaves, starting from the bottom and working your way up, cutting them off close to their bases on the main portion of the agave.

After you've cut all the leaves (which at certain times of the year can be roasted and eaten) off you are left with a pineapple-shaped agave heart. You can do one of two things: 
  1. Dig out the 'pineapple', and throw it in the trash, or if not small enough to fit in the barrels, take the whole mess to a landfill; composting the fibrous leaves and heart can be impossible unless you have a chipper that can deal with palm leaves. 
  2. Dig out the 'pineapple' and roast it in an appropriate sized fire (please check local fire regulations first)  until it is heated through and through. Chop open the 'pineapple', scoop out the wet pulp (see the 'Cooking with a Broad' blog entry detailing this), strain it, ferment it, and enjoy the mexican alcoholic drink 'pulque'. After you've had your fill of pulque take your machete, raise it in the air and yell "MACHETE!" Make sure your machete is stashed away and your hands are out in the open when the police arrive.