Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Morning colors at the Arboretum

(top: Rhus aromatica 'Grow-Low. middle: 'View across the Fern Valley Meadow. bottom: Sun rising through a native tree in the Asian Collections.)

You can tell it's a good mast year when ripe acorns are uneaten on the Live Oaks

 I went to the Grove today to see if I could find any ripe acorns on the Live oaks. Unlike most acorns they are sweet, not sour. I like to eat a few every year.  I was amazed at the numbers, there were thousands....well hundreds and hundreds. Typically this time of year when the acorns ripen, the Grove is filled with the clamor of bluejays who fight over every acorn as it ripens. I knew it was a good year for nuts. I remembered Joan telling me that the middle of Fern Valley was filled with acorns and I heard Dan on the radio asking Carole if there was a better way to remove acorns from the Azalea Collection. There are going to be some happy vertebrates this year.

The National Grove of State Trees is a good sized area, ~30 acres, at the Arboretum that's laid out in a grid so that each of the fifty states has a square in which specimens of their state tree are planted. No, Hawaii's trees aren't hardy.. Quercus virginiana, the Live Oak, is the state tree of Georgia. Pecans, Carya illinoiensis, is the state tree of Texas.

Every year, come fall, I monitor the Pecans checking every week or so to see if they've ripened. They don't ripen well here, but again this year is an exception. The trees were loaded with nuts and most of them were ripe. Now I've been watching those trees for 8 years now and typically the trees have a few hundred nuts total; of these most abort or fail to ripen. Today I grabbed a dozen quickly and almost all of them were ripe and delicious. I don't know why this year is better than normal. Maybe the trees need to be a certain size to bear well, maybe ripening has to do with cumulative heat, maybe last year's wet fall and warm winter. Who knows?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I ruthlessly edited the orchids this year.. it looks like there are more empty pots than plants!

We've passed the average first frost date for the area so I'm working my way towards bringing in the tropicals.

 My goal for the orchids was to get rid of 5-10 containers and I surprised myself. The compost heap got at least 15 and I kept almost 15. The problem is they accumulate and become more work than reward. Over the years we've finally figured out what does work for us in this south-facing window, but there's just a limit to the number. When we go to Florida we buy a handful for the house for the time we're there and if we've driven, which we do once a year, they come home. Soft hearted gardeners! 

The large containers, I gather near doors so that when frost is predicted, it's a simple thing to drag them inside. Tender dieback tropicals are left outside until frost toasts their leaves, cut back, rolled inside, and stacked in the cool part of the basement. It's the woody tropicals that are the issue: plumerias, gardenias, hibiscus, bombax. Every year they're larger but the basement stays the same size. It'll be pretty crowded near the window, but they know the routine; lacking the power of locomotion, they don't have much choice. Maybe being all crushed together for the winter provides them an opportunity to talk about their summers. Possibly to complain about how regularly they  were watered or fertilized, or their siting, though the old (~30 year) gardenia got a new position immersed in the front plantings with a good view of the street. After spending his whole life in the  back garden, it must have been exciting to be able to watch all that life to by.