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sunday clippings 7/6/14

I think the conversation left off with brillantaisia, the salvia look-alike I stumbled upon at the local city college. Except it’s not really a salvia but a member of the acanthaceae family. I did go back for photos and also had an odd encounter with a woman on a bike, who pedaled up to me and matter-of-factly imparted an account while I snapped photos about three youths who were chasing her, trying to steal her bike. Concerned and alarmed, I turned fully toward her and away from the gaping flowers of brillantaisia, whose tall stems were blowing in the twilight sky at my back, and anxiously scanned the campus, which was empty except for me, the woman calmly straddling the bike, and Marty & Ein waiting a small distance away in his VW bus. Did she live close by? Yes. Could we load her and the bike in the bus and take her home? No. Did she need an escort home? No. Confused by her flat demeanor, which didn’t square at all with the account of attempted theft, I repeated the questions again, trying a different order, but she declined all offers of help, never letting up that steady, slightly unnerving gaze she had first fixed on me. I studied her face, too, and could gather about as much information from her inscrutable expression as I could from the brillantaisia, which somehow came to be growing on this chain-link fence behind me and this mysterious woman on the bike. The woman and what she really wanted from me will forever remain a mystery, but it was easy enough to find out some information on the Giant Salvia:

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Brillantaisia subulugurica (or possibly b. ulugurica) on a chain-link fence at Long Beach City College.

From the Flora of Zimbabwe:

Soft-wooded aromatic shrub or even rarely a small tree, up to 5 m tall. Leaves opposite, more or less broadly ovate, sometimes purple-tinged, 10-40 cm long, often cordate at the base but lamina running back down into a winged petiole; margin coarsely toothed with small and large teeth. Flowers in a more or less open, branched purplish inflorescence, 10-40 cm long. Corolla pale to bright blue, mauve, violet or purple, 2 lipped; upper lip 25-52 mm long, covered with purplish glandular hairs; lower lip 17-40 mm long, 3-lobed. Capsule 25-45 mm long, glandular-hairy. Worldwide distribution: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe.”

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Cuttings have already rooted, and I’ll probably trial the plants in large trash bins like these.

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They can be had cheap from the big box stores to hold big shrubby stuff like Salvia ‘Amistad.’
It dawned on me just a few weeks ago that I had no salvias for the hummingbirds this fall, and these large pails were perfect for a last-minute course correction.

Everyone has probably seen these articles shared on Facebook by the time I mention them the old-fashioned way on a blog, but it’s always worth linking to anything Michael Tortorello writes. His recent piece for The New York Times, Botany’s New Boys, held a particular interest because I keep bumping into these young botany boys at the community garden. Last week one of them regaled me with his enthusiasm for fungi and visions of cash-crop success with shitaki mushrooms grown in a month’s time. Where will he get the spores? I asked.
You guessed it, a TED talk is the answer: Paul Stamet’s “6 ways mushrooms can save the world.” (Transcript here.)
I always fantasize about airbnb’ing our house when the TED talks roll into town about a mile away every spring.

Even with the recent news that Facebook has conducted covert psychology experiments on unwitting subscribers, it seems foolish not to get on board when there’s such a wealth of garden-related stuff being shared. I was introduced to Carolyn Mullet’s page when she asked permission to use a few photos, and found she has a knack for sourcing gardens that I never see via other sites like Pinterest.

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Carolyn asks on her Facebook page how are California gardens faring in this miserable drought. Lots of choices among tough aromatic herbs and small shrubs, succulents, grasses.

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Sometimes being in a tight spot can inspire new ideas. This mother of a drought makes invention a necessity.

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I’ve been half-heartedly (six months now) cleaning up my FB account and streamlining it more for garden-related stuff. Maybe I’ll finish that project one day, and then I’ll link stuff like this:
“Sowing a Garden One Knit Flower at a Time,” Smithsonian article on artist Tatyana Yanishevsky

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What’s sowing and growing in my garden is Mina lobata, the Spanish flag vine. I love it when treasures like this self-seed.

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From the recent CSSA sale, Aloe cameronii has found a home.
Confined mostly to the front garden and containers, succulents are increasingly sneaking into the back garden, which means it’s slowly developing into a drier garden too.

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Also from the sale, variegated Agave x leopoldii will cool his heels in a container for a while. Tag says “choice hybrid of A. schidigera?”

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Lots of those containers find their way under the flea market display pipe stand, which I still can’t bring myself to dismantle.

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There’s always something new and full of potential to fasten to it which would otherwise be forgotten and tucked away in a drawer.
I think I’m allowing this indulgence because, otherwise, we’ve really been clearing stuff out. Really.

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Some of those containers have been migrating to the east patio, which is more dappled sun.

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I clocked our “June gloom” lasting until 2 p.m. last week. But June has unfortunately been well-trained not to spread that lovely grey morning quilt into July.
In July it simply disappears, and like a switch has been flipped, those 70 days become 90 days.

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For those 90-degree days, the golden-leaved tansy ‘Isla Gold.’

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So good with the melianthus.

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The Miscanthus ‘Cabaret’ in the metal tank loves the 90 days too, which have pushed it to the top of the pergola.


I’ll be clearing my desk to get away to Portland for the garden blogger meetup later in the week, so there may not be any more non-stories about women on bikes and whatnot until I move this mountain of work out of the way. But I’ll be needing occasional distractions, so please keeping documenting July in your gardens and I promise to do the same as soon as I can.

7 comments to sunday clippings 7/6/14

  • What a pleasure to read! Especially on 90+ degree afternoons cooped up inside the house. Your writing almost exceeds, at least, it is equal to the quality of your photos, all top-notch. Many thank yous.

  • Your July looks lovely, eerie lady on a bike or not. Onward to Oregon.

  • The Brilliantasia is very interesting, even aside from the sad and disconcerting woman on the bicycle. Your home garden, as always, is also interesting. Mine, too, seems to be progressing in a drier direction, albeit more slowly and possibly with greater reluctance. I look forward to your posts on the Fling – I dithered too long trying to decide if I could leave my sick cat, only to have him leave me on his own schedule.

  • David Feix

    Enjoy your summer warmth, such a foreign concept here in Berkeley. Will have to make my own journey up to Portland later this summer, (hopefully), to reconnect with old college friends, and finally explore Paul’s Xera Nursery and of course Sean Hogan’s as well. Wish I knew the secret of getting Mina lobata to reseed up here; mine never does.

    Spent Sunday afternoon browsing at Annie’s Annuals, posting some of my favorites on FB.

  • Denise

    @Jane, happy to provide some summer reading!
    @Hoov, I seem to attract loads of eerie. Looking forward to catching up with you in Portland.
    @Kris, other than establishing new plants, I never water the front and have been trying to remember to give at least the hedges, the box and dwarf ollies, a deep water at least once in summer! In the back garden, I’m pretty diligent about watering the lemon cypresses deeply, and I’m dragging the hose around to deep water everything in the back before I leave. But in the back of my mind is the possibility of turning the back garden into the near-xeriscape that’s in the front. Maybe we’ll see you at next year’s fling, wherever it may be.
    @David, as far as vines, there’s the fabulous rhodochiton vine which loves the Bay Area and refuses to grow here! I’m so looking forward to browsing some PNW nurseries.

  • Oooo la la… another scrumptious post Denise. I love all your vignettes and all so superbly photographed. That Brillantaisia is beautiful. I’m looking forward to seeing how you do with it. Too strange about that woman on the bike. That would have made me terribly uncomfortable.

    I’m growing Mina lobata for the first time this year and I’m loving it. What a lovely vigorous vine and looks delicate for all its vigor. Nice.

  • ks

    I was feeling philosophical when reading this post Denise..The lady on the bike being pursued by an unknown enemy, the Brillantaisia on the chain link fence, hailing from some of the most dysfunctional places on earth. June gloom continues here. I’m ok with that-see you in a few days !

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