Location – Location -Location!

P80422Speaking of which, this is not the right location!

This unhappy Mexican fan palm may have grown here from seed, as they often do. They are notorious for growing under utility cables because that is where birds drop so many of their seed. Perhaps the seed for this one was dropped by a bird perched on the sign many years ago.

Ironic, isn’t it. Birds tend to perch on utility cables and signs and in trees and everywhere that palms should not be planted. How often do they drop seeds out in the open, where whey will not encroach into something as they grow up? Why can’t they drop palm seeds in places where palm trees would actually be an asset? It happens sometimes, but not as often as palms appear where they are not wanted.

The picture below shows three larger Mexican fan palms that were intentionally planted in the original landscape, with a smaller palm between two of the larger palms. The palm in the first picture is barely visible in front of the sign in the background, and is about the same size as the smaller tree that is more visible between the taller trees.

It is possible and perhaps likely that the two smaller palms were not planted intentionally. It is also possible that someone actually planted them.

It does not matter now. The palm in front of the sign needs to be removed. The removal of all the foliage will not kill it. It will generate new foliage that will again obscure the sign if the tree is not eliminated soon. There is no way to prune the palm to divert growth around the sign. It has only one terminal bud, and is unable to generate another if topped. Palms under utility cables have the same problem. Once they get too close to the cables, they must be removed.

Getting back to the first picture. The shock and awe of the defoliation of the subject Mexican fan palm was likely sufficient distraction to prevent anyone from noticing the queen palm foliage peeking around the right side of the sign. Unlike Mexican fan palms, queen palms rarely grow from seed here, especially in a spot where there are no other queen palms nearby. Yes, someone planted ‘another’ palm in the same spot!P80422+



P80421KHalston, with the help of several friends could make a nice pill box hat. That is the origin of the name; from pill box hate fame. This might help clarify, https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/caution/ . Yes, Halston was a gopher.

Halston was causing some significant damage that was more of a concern than fashion. Halston started by making several large volcanoes under an already distressed ‘Yoshino’ flowering cherry tree right on the edge of the main road. I really did not want any more of the roots to be ruined. I dug into the main tunnels and set traps; but Halston was very elusive, and pushed traps out of the tunnels, and left them unsprung at the surface of the soil.

Halston was very busy last weekend, creating a chain of volcanoes like the volcanic islands of Hawaii. They were right along the edge of a paved walkway, so were both unsightly and messy. Halston had to go.P80421K+

Halston would not go easily though. Excavation into the tunnels was getting to be as damaging as the tunneling had been. I dug to follow the tunnel from the volcanoes for several feet without reaching the main lateral tunnel. I did not want to dig any farther. I had already cut a few small roots, and did not want to cut any more.

Halston compelled me to do something that I had never done before with gopher traps. I was always taught to dig down from the tunnel that comes to the surface, to find the main lateral tunnel, or ‘run’, that continues to the left and right of the tunnel to the surface. Traps should be set in pairs, with one to the left, and one to the right, within the main run. If a gopher perceives a problem in a tunnel to the surface, that tunnel gets abandoned, and the gopher simply excavates a new surface tunnel. However, a gopher is not so likely to bypass a main run. Since I could not find the main run without damaging more roots, I set the first trap in the tunnel that I had dug up for several feet from where it came to the surface, and the second trap in another open tunnel with only a small volcano that was located several feet away.

I really did not expect to catch anything, but to my surprise, all excavation stopped, and Halston was in the first trap when I pulled it up the following morning. Also to my surprise, Halston was quite diminutive! Because of the extend of all the damage, I was expecting a larger gopher. Several more that I would have estimated would be needed for a pill box hat.P80421K++

Six on Saturday: Camellias on Parade


The camellias are STILL blooming! They may not bloom profusely, but they have been blooming for quite a while. I do not know how many different cultivars are here, but there are more than I can fit into just six pictures. There are six more for next week, although two might be the same. They are the dark pink or red camellias. For this week, we have two light pink and four white camellias. I did not get any picture of the sasanqua camellias. I have not seen reticulata camellias or any other specie here.

1. This clear pink camellia is probably my least favorite of these six, only because it is a bit too casual for my taste.P80421
2. This clear pink camellia looks more refined. I really like this form.P80421+
3. Now we have white, my favorite color, but the bright yellow stamens in the middle make this casual camellia look like a fried egg.P80421++
4. I happen to prefer this fluffier white, with less prominent stamens.P80421+++
5. Wow! This one really looks yummy!P80421++++
6. Now my favorite; so simple, and so white, although, the camellia in the previous pictures actually looks yummier!4bd5
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Prelude to Dogwood

P80481My weekly gardening column does not have much space for everything that should be said about the various topics and featured specie. I just try to fit the most basic of information into the space available, but usually would like to fit more in.

Sometimes, I would like to fit more pictures in too. It can be difficult to select just one camellia, or just one rhododendron. I typically select those that have the best contrast for black and white pictures, just in case some newspapers must deprive them of their color. That often means that I get to select my favorite white flowers rather than their more colorful counterparts. Regardless, there are so many good pictures that do not get seen. Then, there are also many qualities of the subjects that are difficult or impossible to show in pictures.

The dogwood picture that will get posted on Tuesday is pretty good, and happens to be white, but does not show how spectacular the tree that produced the bloom is. I selected a picture that was a close up of the same flowers in the picture below. Unfortunately, even if I had room for another picture, I could not get one that adequately represented the splendor of the tree. The best I could get is the picture above. I might try to get more pictures of pink and red dogwoods in the next few days, but pictures are nothing like the real thing. I had the same difficulty with the flowering cherries. The bloom was spectacular close up, but the trees looked like pink clouds on trunks from a distance.

If you can imagine, the tree in the picture is about twenty feet tall. It can be seen half a block away, through the adjacent deciduous trees. It looks just like a dogwood in Virginia should look, but happens to be right here on the West Coast, where you would not expect to see such an excellent specimen. Does that help?

I used to grow dogwood trees in the mid 1990s. They are not my favorite spring flowering tree because they do not do so well in the Santa Clara Valley. You would not know that by how well they do here on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a few miles away. There are many specimens in the neighborhood that are comparable to this one. Some are pink. A few are almost brick red. The foliage probably does not color as well in autumn as it would in Virginia, but by our standards, it colors nicely.

Two very happy pink dogwoods are in front of an elegant home of early American architecture that is located just downhill from the white dogwood in the picture above. Even with redwoods and coast live oaks all around, the dogwood trees and home really look like they could be in the vicinity of Virginia. It is obvious why those from the East are so fond of dogwoods.P80481+

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day April 15 – My First


There is so much blooming or finishing blooming here in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos that it is difficult to select only a few pictures. These flowers are not from my home garden, but are from nearby Mount Hermon, which is located on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a few miles north of Santa Cruz. I enjoy the horticulture of the Santa Clara Valley, where San Jose is located, more than anywhere else in the world. However, there are many flowers that perform better in the cooler and moister climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains that separate the Santa Clara Valley from the Pacific Ocean. Mount Hermon is located in USDA Zone 9.

Daffodil are probably all done by now. The last to bloom earlier this week were in somewhat shaded spots. This one was looking a bit tired. Daffodils are one of only a few bulbs that will naturalize in our mild climate.4bd1

Forsythia also finished a while ago. This picture was taken at about the same time earlier in the week as the daffodil above. This tired specimen was not actually in the landscape, but was in a small nursery where gardeners stock recycled plants and recently acquired plants that have not yet been installed into the landscape. Forsythia is rare here. There is only one other in the landscaped area that we are aware of.4bd2

Dutch iris is a surprise every year. As I mentioned with the daffodil, there are not many bulbs that naturalize here. Dutch iris is one of those bulbs that needs more of a chill than it can get here. However, this colony blooms reliably every spring!4bd3

Flowering cherry is spectacular against the dark green backdrop of redwoods. A pair of mature ‘Yoshino’ or ‘Akebono’ flowering cherries in downtown Mount Hermon are the most famous in town. They are very old and sadly, must be removed. A few others have been planted nearby. There are at least three ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherries in other areas. I do not know what cultivar this one is. It might be my favorite because it is so striking white; my favorite color. This picture was taken at about the same time earlier in the week as the daffodil and forsythia. Only the ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherries continue to bloom now.4bd4

Camellia bloom for quite a while. A few blooms sneak out in midwinter before the main bloom phase, and a few flowers are still blooming now. There are at least a dozen cultivars here. This elegant white camellia might be my favorite.4bd5

Azalea is even more variable than the camellias. Many are of course finished blooming; but a few still have unopened buds that will bloom this week! This is my favorite, obviously because it is white. I used to grow azaleas in the mid 1990s, as our second major crop. Rhododendrons were our primary major crop. We also grew camellias as our fourth major crop.4bd6

Garden Bloggers all over America and in other countries can share what is blooming in their gardens on the fifteenth of each month on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day”, hosted by Carol Michael’s May Dreams Garden at http://www.maydreamsgardens.com

Memorial Tree Update to the Updated Update, etc. – the Sequel to all those other Sequels

P80415KWe can keep this more brief than that long title.

The small and young Memorial Tree, which is also known as the Scofield Tree, in Felton Covered Bridge Park is doing quite well. Nothing unexpected is happening. It just looks too happy to not get a picture of it. It is well foliated and lush like a happy valley oak should be at this time of year. The only improvement it could implement would be to divert more growth to the main vertical trunk. So far, growth is somewhat evenly distributed over all actively growing stems. The little tree is consequently quite fluffy. The main trunk will eventually get bound to a stake to direct growth upward for a straight and vertical trunk. Lateral stems may need to get pruned back so that they do not dominate. They remain for now, to sustain healthy growth and to promote trunk caliper growth. Weeds around the trunk will get pulled so that ‘gardeners’ will hopefully keep a safe distance with their weed whackers. The previous update with links to even more previous updates can be found at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/scofield-tree-update-spring-2018/ .

Charlie’s Memorial Tree is a healthy sweetgum nearby, just outside of the southwest corner of the same parking lot that the Memorial Tree is in. It is several years older and significantly larger than the Memorial Tree, and is also quite healthy and foliating lushly. However, no matter how diligently it gets correctively pruned, it continues to develop minor structural deficiencies, which are unfortunately normal for the species. The top was broken out while the tree was young, so a lateral branch dominated as a new top, only to get broken as well. Consequently, as the tree matures, the trunk will be somewhat bent and slightly leaning, which is the big picture, is not really a problem. Charlie is the little Boston Terrier depicted in the mural that was mentioned in the article from yesterday at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/foliage-is-not-always-the-answer/ .P80415K+

Stag Party

P80415Staghorn ferns are epiphytes. They cling to tree trunks, rocks or whatever they happen to grab onto. They can root into decayed wood if it is porous enough, but they are satisfied to just cling to the exterior. They do not need soil. They sort of make their own soil by collecting debris that falls from the canopies of trees above. In the jungles where they live, they get all the water they need from rain. They often live in the crotches of branches because that is where they happen to land. (The epiphyte I wrote about earlier was just a palm that landed in the wrong place, but is not really an epiphyte. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/epiphyte/ )

In home gardens, staghorn ferns are often grown on wooden plaques so that they can be moved around like potted plants. Because it does not rain much here, they need to be watered occasionally. They do not grow very fast, but eventually need to be attached to larger plaques, or divided into smaller clumps that fit onto new plaques. Alternatively, they can be grown like plants in hanging pots, but without the pots. Even if they start out in pots, they may eventually envelop and obscure their pots, and form a big rounded hanging mass that only wants water and debris from above. A small bit of fertilizer might improve their naturally light color, but too much will roast leaf margins.

My colleague Brent Green acquired this humongous and well rounded specimen from a client who wanted it removed from an olive tree that it had grown too big for. It had been there for decades. Brent gives it a banana every month or so because it likes potassium. It does not get much debris from above in Brent’s well groomed garden.

Foliage Is Not Always The Answer

P80414KFoliar tapestries are impressive in the right situation. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/02/25/foliar-tapestries/ They work as nicely on exterior walls as conventional tapestries or paintings might work on interior walls. However, they require much more maintenance!

Trendy green walls are overrated. Their only real advantage is that they are pretty. They are not a ‘real’ solution to anything. They may keep the interior of a small building a bit cooler, but no more than light colored paint or a shade structure would. They do not save water, and actually use more water than plants grown in the ground. All that water is likely to rot the walls behind, or the decking below. They do nothing for melting glaciers or saving the planet. In a few more years, when they are no longer trendy, they will be more junk in the landfills.

Most obtrusive exterior walls can be obscured or partly obscured with less demanding plants that grow either up from below, or downward from above. Unpainted concrete walls can be outfitted with clinging vines if space is inadequate for upright shrubbery or a shorn hedge in front. Backfilled retaining walls can be outfitted with pendulous or ground cover plants that can cascade downward for a few feet.

A non-horticultural option is a good old fashioned mural. Yes, the sort that get painted on. They are about as expensive as foliar murals are, but once installed, they can last for years with only minimal maintenance, and no watering.

There is much more detail to the murals shown here. These are just close up pictures of little dogs who were memorialized in the murals. Incidentally, the only sweetgum tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is a memorial tree that was planted for Charlie, the Boston terrier in the mural below.P80414K++P80414K+.JPG

Six on Saturday: Cherry on Top


The flowering cherry trees are like something from Washington D C. They are remarkably happy in our particular location. The air is a bit cooler and a bit more humid than in the Santa Clara Valley. The redwood forest protects them from wind. These pictures were taken last Monday. Bloom is finishing now. The trees in the first picture are already mostly green with new foliage. Bloom was excellent while it lasted.

Azaleas are still in full bloom in the same area. Some are farther along. Others still have buds opening. They seem to be a bit late this year.

The Dutch iris is interesting because it is so uncommon here. In other locations, it blooms well only once, and then does not get adequate chill to bloom the following year. These Dutch iris are doing quite well near the ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherry in the third picture, and have been blooming reliable for several years.

The pansies, which are actually easy to grow here, did not do as well as other plants that should not have done as well as they did. A few bare spots are evident. However, because they are partly shaded and cooled by the redwoods, pansies can stay in this spot near the flowering cherries in the first and second pictures until the weather gets too warm for them in summer. In other places not so far away, they would have been replaced by warm season annuals already.

1. flowering cherry – Some know them as ‘Yoshino’. Others think they are ‘Akebono’. I really need to find out what they are so that we can add more before these deteriorating old trees get removed.P80414
2. flowering cherry – Double flowers are not my favorite, but the clear bright white is. Again, we do not know what cultivar this is.P80414+
3. flowering cherry – This one is obviously ‘Kwanzan’.P80414++
4. azalea – This red azalea should be easy to identify, but no one really cares what cultivar it is.P80414+++
5. Dutch iris – In our climate, this is impressively reliable bloom.P80414++++
6. pansies – Yes, I know they are cliché; but they happened to be blooming near the flowering cherries, so I could not just ignore them.P80414+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:



P80411After all the years it was out there, someone, somewhere must have gotten good pictures of it. I never did. Nor did anyone I know. It was something of a famous landmark in Santa Clara.

First, I should explain these pictures that my niece sent from here Mid City Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles. As you can see, this is a well kept middle aged home with minimal setback from the sidewalk. It is in a delightfully tree shaded neighborhood of comparable homes.

What are those black and white silhouettes of city skylines on those two plastic panels in front, you ask? They are a fence. Seriously. There are several similar panels around the perimeter of the front yard, at the edge of the sidewalk, and up the sides. They depict a variety of familiar landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower Bridge and so on. They are all jumbled together so that landmarks from cities that are thousands of miles apart can share the same skyline. Mount Rushmore is depicted on the gate, adjacent to a city skyline that features both the Gateway Arch and the Sydney Opera House. Someone actually paid a lot of money to get this fence constructed and installed around the front garden of their otherwise well tended home. But wait; there’s more.

The picture below shows what lurks behind the fence. It was actually worse before the fence was built, when it was in full view. As tacky as the fence is, at least it obscures it. ‘It’ is a fountain; but not just any fountain. This picture does not do it justice. It really should be viewed at night, when it lights up with disco lights and emits eerily illuminated water vapor. It sometimes plays music. Yes, someone really though it was a good idea to put this in the front yard, where, before the fence was built, it was visible to anyone in the vicinity.P80411+

Now, getting back to the mower. It did not work. It probably worked at one time. It was an old mower, from before the mid-1960s or so. The person who owned it apparently did not like using it, but did not want to get rid of it either.

He had it bronzed. Yup. Bronzed. The front garden of his mid-1950s tract home in Santa Clara was paved with exposed aggregate concrete, with a big pedestal in the middle, on which, the bronzed mower was proudly displayed. The concrete was of exceptional quality, and would have made a nice patio if it had a bit of landscaping around it. Instead, it was surrounded by only a simple but tasteful low iron fence with tan slumpstone pillars. The fence surrounded the perimeter of the front garden, at the edge of the sidewalk and up the sides. There was no plant material in the front garden. None.

The mower debuted sometime about 1970. The kids of my generation do not remember it not being there, so it was there as long as any of us can remember. Some of our parents believe it might have been there as early as 1964. The home and paved front yard were always impeccably maintained.

Tacky? Yes, of course.

Crazy? Maybe.

It gets worse.

In about 1995, the home sold. It actually sold rather quickly because it was in such good condition. Everyone thought that whomever purchased it would remove all the pavement and the mower, and landscape the front garden. But no. They moved in, painted the home a different color, and maintained the front garden as it had always been maintained. What is the point of living in such a nice home in such a nice neighborhood with such nice soil and in one of the best climates on in the World if the garden is paved?!

Only a few years ago, the home was sold a second time, and those who purchased it finally removed all the concrete and bronzed mower, and outfitted the home with a simple but presentable landscape that is more compatible with the rest of the neighborhood.

The funny thing is that everyone in that neighborhood had lived with the bronzed mower for so long that it was somewhat saddening to see it go! We all knew why it needed to go, and that the home looks so much better without it, but it was familiar. It was cool in a weird sort of way. It was defiant. It certainly was unique. It was environmentally responsible, and about as drought tolerant as it gets.

It is still impossible to imagine that the black and white plastic ‘city skyline’ fence and steamy disco fountain within will ever be so appreciated; but who knows?