Monday, October 22, 2012

Introducing Encelia 'Gimbel's Gold'

Working in horticulture for years, I am always looking for new varieties either in nurseries or out in nature etc.  Wherever I am I keep an eye for variations in habit and foliage.  Two years ago, while in hiking Griffith Park I noticed a strange stem on an Encelia californica, our beautiful and abundant brittlebush.  I snapped a little yellowy stem off of the plant and crammed it into a plastic water bottle.

Fortunately the cutting struck,  and after several months I took many more cuttings from that new plant.  This spring I planted several in the ground to see how they would perform. Below are some photos that I took this morning.  I think 'Gimbel's Gold' is a winner, what do you think?  I can't wait for the plant to be covered in those yellow daisies!  The only drawback is that the variegation only shows on the new growth.

Monday, October 15, 2012

In the category of flowers so large they're silly, relatively speaking of course... Stapelia gigantea


It has been such a long summer.  So much for autumn, the heat waves roll on.  I really do want to blog... Sorry for being away for so long.  And for those of you who asked, yes I will be blogging about my trip to Europe.  :)

Sometimes plants bloom even when you neglect and de facto abuse them.  Put sun plants in shade, shade plants in sun, water the dry plants and dry out the water plants. You might think I don't like plants. And there is much justification in the name of testing and discovery.  This is the case of my Stapelia gigantea. Given to me  a while back from my friends Sue and James of The Folly Bowl, I did have every intention of integrating this succulent into the garden, but the spots in the garden keep shrinking. So there it sat on the side yard in partial shade nearly rotting in moist potting soil... for about a year and a half!  Why did I finally take pity on it and move it to the sun? Pity I guess.

So, seemingly out of spite it bloomed this week. I've been watching the pregnant podlike blooms swelling for quite a while, waiting waiting waiting.  Yesterday it happened the alien was swarmed with flies. Yup, carrion scented, just what you want in the garden. Still, its a keeper.

If you want a cutting, let me know.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tees for tomatoes

Ever wonder what to do with old T-shirts?  This week I was looking for twine and found that I was completely out.  OK nobody panic.  My tomatoes desperately needed to be lashed to their stakes. Being the thrifty man that I am, I went after the stack of tees headed to the thrift store and snipped and ripped my way to tomato tie heaven.


First cut out the arms and seams until you are left with a clear section of fabric. Then snip on one side and tear.  You have to tear down the warp or the weft, I don't know which is which but you can do a little test before you get to ahead of yourself.  One direction tears neatly (for good ties) and the other direction is hopeless. If you tear down the right side the ties naturally curl up to make a soft bit of rope.  Now you will be ready to stake your veggies.

you're welcome.   ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Why not elope with a French cantaloupe?

FINALLY!  After months of waiting my first Charentais melon is ripe.   They're tiny little melons but seem to be pretty easy to grow and kinda cute. They are only a little bigger than an apple.  I've been crouching on the ground for weeks trying to sniff to see if these guys are ready.  Today I detected that familiar aroma and when I tugged ever so gently on the melon it gave itself to me.

FYI I got these seeds from Johnny's.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

garden appreciation

My friend Mike surprised me with this entry for the word "Garden" on our Drawsomething game.  LOL

Mike's drawing

And here's a shot I just took

Monday, June 18, 2012

Great dinner guests do all the blogging for you....

Wow, what a nice write up.  Photos are great.  And all the concepts are neatly referred back to earlier posts. Now why can't I blog like that.

Thanks Janine!

Laguna Dirt at Cross Pollination

Sunday, May 13, 2012

B Side

Hey there.

The reason I title this post B side, is that I finally got around to labeling the frames. I put a number on top and a number and A or B on the sides of the frames. In this way the progress of each frame can be monitored without confusing them.

Well, I was super eager to get into the hive today. I've been waiting/hoping for the hive to sort itself out.  Things were going great for the first two weeks then things seemed to not be going not so well...  The workers were making queens which isn't good.  Anyway, I was relieved today to see that they had not started another queen cell.  Other positive signs were present, for one the hive seemed more vigorous if a bit defensive.  There were, or so it seemed, a lot more workers in the hive, and the more bees there are the more work can be done.  Upon close examination I could see that the majority of the cells in the brood frames had eggs or larva in the open cells. I also noticed that she had laid eggs more to the edges of some of the brood frames, so in general it appears that she is laying more.  By the looks of it the queen is really in gear now.

All in all it seems like the hive is sorting itself out and it won't be too long before we are putting the first deep super on the hive.

Here are this week's pics:

by the numbers

does this bee suit make me look fat? LOL

4 B

can you spot the eggs, or the emerging worker bee?

funky frame was moved position and they turned this from brood comb to honeycomb 


capped and uncapped brood

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bees update

It's bee-n over a month since we installed the bee package. And when I first wrote about the bees, I thought that everything was hunky dory.  But shortly after the second week I noticed a big drop in activity in the hive as well as many dead bees just in front of the hive. Thankfully my bee mentor Rob came by to take a look. By then it had been a month and all sorts of bee drama was brewing!

When we opened the hive right away we noticed queen cells. this is not what you would want or expect to see with a young colony.  And it seemed like one of the cells was already empty. We thought is this why there seem to be fewer bees?? Then as we inspected the hive I (the novice) spotted a second queen! We think she must have emerged that very day.  We also noticed a bunch of drone cells that were maturing.  Rob also thought that the brood was not evenly laid. Maybe we don't have such a good queen after all....

The following weekend Rob dropped by again to take a look.  Unfortunately we found yet another queen cell in the works. We cut it out to stop them from rearing another queen, possibly for the young queen to take over the one we just installed. Perhaps the workers know something we don't?

In any case the hive seemed more vigorous and there were young worker bees emerging as we inspected the hive.  Hopefully they will soon join the ranks and begin to get this hive in order.

Today the hive was very active and I'm not sure why. hopefully it is vigor and not robbing or some other bizarre behavior I'm unaware of.

Below are some shots from last Sunday

honey and bee bread

the comb that I forced into a frame


brood frame

can you spot the drone?

can you spot the queen?

Garden tour and many thanks

I just wanted to say thinks to everyone who braved the parking to come to this weekend's charity garden tour. We raised over $300 bucks for charity, which I feel is respectable since there were 40 + other gardens for people to leave their money.

How lovely it was to see old friends and new faces enjoying my garden! It was a surprise to see the cottage garden set obviously enjoying my crazy garden.

Thanks again to everyone!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mary Lou's tour (come see my garden for yourself)

Many of you out there in Orange County and Long Beach and elsewhere fondly remember a little nursery called Heard's Country Gardens. Tucked away in an odd quasi industrial area of Westminster sat a nursery that was the brainchild of Mary Lou Heard.  Filled with rare perennials, it captured the hearts of gardeners in the area.

Once when I was 15 or 16 years old I went to Heard's with my grandma to pick out some herbs.  I was visiting from Northern California and loved to see the variety of plants that the nursery had to offer.  There were few people in the nursery that day, and Mary Lou was grooming plants in the 4" area. I said to her "I love this blue eyed grass, it grows on my parents ranch", Mary Lou said something like "I like it too, it's one of my favorites", then I said something to the effect of "it's a tiny iris relative you know" and Mary Lou said plainly "no, it's not".  I then asked Mary Lou if she had a plant encyclopedia where we might check the plant's family. She showed me directly to the book.  I was right. Mary Lou offered me a job on the spot.  I told her the 500 mile commute would be tough and that I'd probably better finish high school.

Later when I was 19, I was living in the area and looking for work. I went and asked for the job she had offered me. She took my number and said she would call me. I heard nothing for two weeks. At this point I called and was asked "how can I help you" to which I replied "I want you to hire me".  She did.  And so began my career in horticulture.  At first I was just a leaf picker and a hose dragging waterer, but every week with the help of Mary Lou and others in the nursery I learned about plants. So many plants. Mary Lou kept such a wide variety around and sometimes there would be a flat of plants in one day and you wouldn't see them again until the next year or ever.  But I learned them all, or at least as best as I could.

I worked for Mary Lou for about 5 years, until she closed the nursery.  After two years of battling colon cancer she had to let the business go.  Later that summer she passed away.

There are countless stories I could tell about Mary Lou, but the thing that I want to share is that she had a pure love of plants and gardening.  That is why she started the garden tour.  Mary Lou always wanted it to be about real people and real gardens. She wanted people to be able to share their love of gardening with each other.

Today the garden tour lives on in her name.  It benefits a women's shelter, a horticultural scholarship and a cancer charity.

After all these years my garden will be on the tour, I think Mary Lou would be proud.  I hope you all can come see my garden this Sunday 10am to 5 pm.

Here is the info:

In case you forget, my name is Dustin

addresses for the tour

Here are some before and after shots.

Front yard early 2010

Frontyard 2012

Frontyard 2010

Frontyard 2012

Backyard 2010

Backyard 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Phew! It's a garden!

Long hours and late nights....   Here's some photos of my garden entry "Simple | Modern | Tranquil"  Tonight we had the awards ceremony, we placed third.

hope you can all come, exhibit is open until Sunday night.  Southern California Garden Show


Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I guess it's time to come clean.  When I started this blog I wanted it to be about my garden and about my personal experiences as a gardener.  What I have not written about is the fact that I am a garden designer (Second Nature Garden Design).  This week I am participating in the Southern California Garden Show at South Coast Plaza, so it seems appropriate to share.  And I though you all might like to see the exhibit. Below is the rendering I submitted to enter the contest.  Of course there will be tweaks and changes so you'll have to come and see what the real thing looks.  Hope you can all make it.  Show opens Thursday.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bee-ing organized

I can't resist puns. I'm sure in time scientists will find that it's a faulty gene.  You'll be hearing lots of bee jokes. Just a fair warning.

This morning I was a very industrious person, I got up early and finally finished the enclosure for the apiary.  Now I have a lockable gate to keep the hordes away.

While I was in there working like a busy bee, I decided I could get organized.  I noticed when we first took the hive apart for inspection that I had no place to put the frames of comb aside without pressing into the bees. This did not kill bees but it was also not an ideal situation. So, I set up a wall where I can hang several frames at once, where the bees can move freely. Then I decided to take an old piece of plywood and turn it into a small work surface.

here is the result:

the model for the organized urban beekeeper, comb observation center, work surface and extra supers.  What more could you want?!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Progress in the backyard

Finally, finally, finally the water feature the dining area is completed... I hope.  I had my buddies assemble the block, and stucco in the inside a couple weeks ago. But for months I had the block sitting in position. Originally I wanted to see if I liked the way it looked with the deconstructed industrial-ish screen, and I did.  But there it sat. And friends would ask, "is that a coffin?".  Great start to a project eh? A few days ago I at long last purchased the black waterproofing need to really finish the pond, and applied it according to the manufacturer's directions. I hope it works. At least tonight in the afternoon light it all looked so great.  I can't wait to see the stars reflected in its surface.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

They call it mellow yellow...

This morning I was surprised to wake to overcast skies.  Some people hate these days, but I love them. I love the way it feels like morning all day long, even if it isn't good for telling time.  And I love the way softer colors pop under gray skies.

Here in my nascent "Golden Garden",  Achillea 'Moonshine' is really standing out as the doer and the champ that it is.  Being a hybrid it shows true hybrid vigor, I've seen it blooming at all months of teh year in So. Cal.  Silver foliage is another reason to choose this cultivar over A. millefolium. You may also be pleased that it is clumping, not spreading. And... the individual flower clusters last a very long time!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Snap shot: Fine spring day

                                                        The weather was perfect today! :)

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Well, I have once again been bad and neglected the blog. Sorry about that.  I have been very busy though.  And I wanted to share with you my first beehive. Below are the photos taken today.  This is just after two weeks time from the initial installation of the bee package. We brought a pure European queen and intend on keeping the hive free of African genetics, which is of course a concern in our area. My buddy Geoffrey (partner in bee crime) took these excellent photos.  Enjoy!

Here you see the purchased foundation (wax sheet) and thicker comb that bees did more or less freeform 

Here I'm examining comb that is mostly honey

These cells are stores for a great variety of local pollens

Holding the frame to the sun allows me to see the comb very clearly

We left too much space between frames initially and the bees made this big comb by attaching it to the lid of the hive, it fell off when I opened the hive.  

Same large section of comb that is not attached to a frame.  You can see honey and capped brood cells!

Same comb, upper section close-up, lots of yummy honey.  I later wired this comb into a frame. Conform damn it!

another frame

Here I'm gently brushing the bees away from the comb.  Notice the centrally located brood cells.  We have a good queen!

Capped and uncapped brood cells

This frame has from top to bottom: uncapped honey, pollen stores and empty drawn out comb

Here she is, the queen has a gold mark on her back.  Even though I have set this frame aside she doesn't stop laying for a second.

More queen action

Here some spilled honey is being conserved (gobbled up) by this worker. Geoffrey and I had a little taste. You could tell the honey wasn't quite ready but it was delicious and decidedly HONEY!


Golden goodness

Another nice close-up. Did I mention how proud we are of our girls?!