It’s 1962 and newly elected Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin is deeply concerned about the lack of attention our embattled environment is receiving. He proposes a Conservation Tour for President Kennedy that falls far short of expectations.
It’s not until 1969 that the idea, fueled by Vietnam War demonstrations and college campus “teach-ins”, comes to him for a nationwide grass-roots demonstration for the environment.
Without email, twitter or facebook the very first Earth Day takes place on April 22, 1970 with an estimated 20 million participants across the nation. Forty-one years later, it has grown into aglobal day of environmental awareness, education, action, demonstration and conservation. On April 22 your participation and support is as important as ever.
The Orange has held a special place in history certainly as far back as the 17th century when Louis XIV built his Orangerie even before he began to turn a modest hunting lodge (by royal standards) into the Palace of Versailles.
During the summer Louis’ more than 1000 tress were and are (even today) displayed across the Parc de Versailles at the base of the Palace. In the winter, they are moved indoors to their own palace where they are tended to by a battalion of gardeners.
But Louis isn’t the only person to have a special relationship with the orange. It played an important role in the history of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley, in fact most of Southern California, because before there were cities and freeways or even Doheny and his oil wells, there were orange groves – miles and miles and miles or orange groves.
So in honor of this illustrious and juicy fruit and because it’s spring and the orange blossoms are budding on my Valencia Orange tree, we’re going to look at the Orange both as a bearer or succulent juices and as an ornamental addition to your own “Parc” or “Orangerie.”
An orange’s bright, shiny green foliage looks great both in the ground and in a great big terracotta pot. Orange trees, loaded with fruit in terracotta pots always remind me of Florence and the combination makes a great addition to any garden or balcony. Should you want to add a container and an orange tree to your patio, I suggest planting a dwarfed specie.
Oranges, like all citrus trees, prefer full sun and well-drained soil. Drainage is particularly important with containers and I suggest you mix cactus mix or sand (50/50) with a standard garden soil and make sure that their feet don’t stand in water. Oranges also benefit from regular feedings – every two months spring through fall. There are a number of good organic citrus fertilizers on the market.
Oranges are easy to grow in the home garden and ripen at a time (late winter to early spring) when deciduous trees are just coming out of dormancy. While they are all ornamental, you might make your selection based on whether you want them for eating or juicing. While you can eat any orange and squeeze juice out of all of them, certain varieties just lend themselves better to each category.
For eating, navel-type oranges such as Washington or Lane Late Navel oranges are easiest to peel. For juicing, nothing beats the Valencia (AKA Midknight Valencia) orange. If you are looking for distinct flavor and color, consider blood oranges like the Moro, Sanguinelli or Tarrocco. For something completely different you might want to try the Cara Cara Navel.
This year’s California Landscape Contractors Association’s Landscape Industry Show offered, in addition to the usual garden art, nursery stock, turf equipment, fertilizer and lighting, a number of interesting booths and products designed specifically to deal with Southern California’s single most pressing problem – water, or lack there of!
“Chinatown” or How Water Came To LA
One of my very favorite films is “Chinatown,” not only because it’s brilliantly written, acted and directed, but because it’s based on fact, albeit somewhat fictionalized, and one of its principal characters is LA itself.
This is the existential gardening question that so many people never bother to ask? Or they simply reply, with more than a little attitude, “My gardener looks after it.” Which brings me to the question …
The red buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) originates from the Channel Islands off the coast of California.
This attractive, small shrub features a rewarding show of red
blooms throughout the summer. Prefers full sun and, once
established, is drought resistant; the plants don’t usually need
water after the first summer. As a bonus, it does best in clay soil!
And the butterflies find it irresistible.
Red Monkey Flower
The red monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus var. puniceus) is a two-foot high evergreen shrub with striking, tubular red flowers during the spring and summer.
The hummingbirds certainly love them! It prefers full sun but will also grow in partial shade (try some under your oak tree). Once established, it has low water needs, but it does need good drainage. It grows to 2 feet x 2 feet.
The toyon, or Christmasberry (Heteromeles arbutifolia), is an evergreen shrub to small tree that usually grows to 10 feet high by 6 feet wide. Very old specimens can grow even larger.
It is ubiquitous in the California landscape, a delightful evergreen tree with white flowers in summer and red berries in winter. It is drought resistant and hardy down to at least to 10° F.
The toyon is adaptable to a variety of soil conditions. On the coast, it prefers full sun but will also tolerate full shade. There is also the cultivar ‘Davis Gold’ which has all of the great characteristics of the species but with golden yellow berries instead of the red berries.
Here in Southern California the great big beautifully, rolling, grassy lawn is quickly going the way of the dinosaur. It’s not just municipal water regulations growing every more restrictive that’s causing it, but the ever increasing cost of water. In 10 years I predict that the “front lawn” will be but a memory and the lawn mower, if it exists at all, will only be seen on the playing field.
So what’s a gardener or homeowner to do if they want a bit of grass under foot or paw?
While a new form of buffalo grass called UC Verde has been engineered for our southwest climate, there is a problem with it. It does not do at all well in the shade or along the coast where the mornings are foggy or June gloom runs from May till August.
Here are three suggestions that will provide a lawn-like equivalent and allow for rolling around in.
1. Bermudagrass such as “Santa Ana” or “Tifgreen” is very drought-resistant and will stay green along the coast even in winter. It takes no more water than the daisy-like ground cover, gazanias. In a drought it will go brown but it will not die. As for watering, it’s far better to water it longer once a week than more shallowly and for a shorter length of time three times a week.
2. Creeping white yarrow or woolly yarrow (Achillea tomentosa) can be planted as a lawn. Plant seeds in fall and keep the ground damp until they are germinated. It will take a little time to become established but it will eventually make a ferny green mat that is very pleasant to walk on and very durable. The flowers are a bonus and can be taken off after blooms fade with a weed-wacker.
3. Lippia (Phyla nodiflora) is a drought-resistant, low ground cover that takes foot traffic, but it does bear pink flowers in June that bring bees. You can mow them off in June with a lawn mower in order that your dog’s paws won’t get stung. (Bees in the garden don’t sting except when you accidentally step on one or grasp one by mistake.) Or just be careful where you walk during that particular month.
There are also other drought-resistant solutions including eliminating the lawn all together and replacing it with drought-resistant native and Mediterranean plants. The result can be quite beautiful but it’s not ideal for your dog or child to play in.
As I hear of new or reengineered species of drought-resistant grass I will check them out and keep you apprised.
But if you don’t need a lawn for a specific purpose, think seriously about replacing it. It will save you great deal of money and make an enormous water-conservation contribution.
I am super excited to share a few things with you guys. One I am gathering a lot of contact right now to begin to put out there about garden, landscape, and just overall plant and outdoor yard maintenance. I hope there is plenty of interest in my tips. I welcome your comments and suggestions on topics you are interested in. As for my recent happenings I will be at the LA convention center October 2nd and 3rd joining my dear friend Ricardo of Ricardo’s Nursery (you can find out more about his nursery here) for the Home Remodeling & Decorating Show. I will be sharing lots of tips on garden irrigation, planning and design. I hope you will be able to come out and visit us. You can purchase tickets here. I am also working on a new project I am excited about more details to come. Till next time happy gardening everyone!
My first post of my new blog please check out my website here I am super excited about the redesign. I intend this blog to be a place where I share what is going on in my business as well as tips and tools to help you make your garden or landscape beautiful. I have a video page where I will be posting my youtube videos and you can also check them out below on the toolbar across the bottom. Please visit me on facebook and twitter (which you can do by clicking on the names below in the toolbar across the bottom of my blog) as I am entering this social media maze hoping to keep up to date everywhere. Please comment and let me know you were here and your thoughts on my new website and blog and I look forward to walking through the garden with you. Ciao!