Tuesday, October 9, 2012

From Front Lawn to Santa Cruz Edible Gardens Tour

Chard, strawberries, daylilies, orange sedge and loropetalum.
On August 25th, I was fortunate enough to be involved with Slow Food Santa Cruz's first annual Edible Gardens Tour which toured 15 private and public gardens of varying styles, applications and uses. There were several showcase gardens, homespun eclectic gardens, a massively producing food forest, a tomato garden with tomato tasting and poetry reading, and a couple community gardens to name a few. It was a huge success with a fantastic turnout. Over 200 tickets were sold and the tour was very well received. There are several slideshows, blogs, and a pages I can direct you to as so I will provide some links at the end of this blogtastic story. As I've probably mentioned before, I'm from the school of integrated edibles and enjoy integrating fruit trees, herbs, fruits and vegies in the existing landscape while keeping with the aesthetic. The garden I designed that was featured was in this vein. Here is a short photo story of the transformation of building this garden.

BEFORE. The front yard had this lawn that sloped, was never used and never looked good due to all the wacky grading. So we cut out and graded a semi-circle area to enlarge the existing front walk into a patio. Creating a drystack feildstone retaining wall and (soon to be lush combination of edible and ornamental plants).

MID. As you can see even right after installation, it looks miles better and created a special space for the homeowner to sit and relax. In just a short 6 months, the garden is lush and bountiful. Chard and strawberries spilling over lilies and grasses.

AFTER. Now you can see it's all grown in. In the picture to the left there is a fig tree, apple tree, pomegranite, madarin, oregano, creeping thyme (in flagstones), carex, daylilies, parsley, tomatoes, euphorbia, loropetalum and leucodendron to name a few. Gemstones of color and edibility in a Santa Cruz Garden, all watered by drip, mind you.

Easy & affordable custom water feature.

  And what's a sanctuary without the sound of running water? Contrary to popular belief, not all water features run thousands of dollars. We hand selected a beautiful pot at Pottery Planet and their subterranean basin (water feature kit) and with a little instruction reading, voila- there you have a beautiful water feature! What's great about the sub-terranean basin and recirculating pump features is that they are safe to have around young children or gardens where critters frequent- as there's no standing water. Also in feng shui, having running water at the entrance of the house is supposed to bring prosperity as well as create a harmonious tranquil space.

Installing the basin for water feature.

You can join the facebook Edible Gardens Tour page by clicking here: https://www.facebook.com/SantaCruzEdibleGardensTour
And a great little blog article written about the tour can be seen here: http://www.imagesforrenewal.com/general/slow-down-and-garden/
Oh and lastly, the pre-tour article from the Sentinel (where both Homeless Garden Project and my biz gets a little shout out): http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/food/ci_21369899/slow-down-and-see-whats-growing-slow-food

Monday, January 30, 2012

A story about a beautiful "naked" lady

Amaryllis belladonna (Italian: "beautiful lady") is one of my favorite short botanical rant topics. Native to the Cape of Good Hope it has naturalized in our similar Mediterranean climate (here, in California). Currently in the Bay Area you can see them in their green winter mode- out on the trail, roadsides and in the garden- and so is my great opportunity to rant away:

Amaryllis belladonna, or as it's more often affectionately known, the "naked lady" is a plant that has many layers of stories. Firstly, of course, it is so often the butt of many a joke as us plant folk don't have enough silly named plants to work with, so we tend to exploit the few ones that are around for a few good laughs... from "blue dicks" to "naked ladies". Often times this is where the story for most end, an excuse to get a rise after saying you have naked ladies in your front yard. This I can appreciate. Although to delve deeper one would learn that the reason they are referred to as "naked" is because they exhibit a  strange form of botanical....ness called hysteranthy (sidebar: another notable plant that shares this phenomenon is saffron). This is when the flower comes before the leaves. Basically the bulbs that stay in the ground shoot up the leaves in mid to late winter . Strappy vibrant green. Currently you can see them in the bay area in their less flashy appearance. I like to think of them as "clothed ladies" and what better time to be clothed than at winter. It all just seems so appropriate.

Photo taken at Fremont Older
Around Spring the leaves yellow, dry up and translocate the nutrients back to the bulbs. Several months later, in late Summer, pop up these beautiful "naked" ladies. Letting it all hang out with flower stalk and pink blossoms.

The Etymological: Some sources claim the name belladonna was given due to the flowers resembling the complexion of a beautiful lady. Amaryllis in Greek means fresh and sparkling, although originally Amaryllis was a Greek nymph who has her own story of love and tragedy where she pierced her own heart to make a flower to win the one she loved.

The Ethnobotanical: Amaryllis belladonna was used by women in Italy back in the Victorian era to dilate pupils in order to appear more attractive*. And even today the amaryllis belladonna is used for similar purposes: atropine, an alkaloid of belladonna that blocks certain nerve impulses, is used by ophthalmologists to dilate the pupils for eye exams. That's a pretty cool lady.