Showing posts with label annies annuals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label annies annuals. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Pollinators on the brain

Growing up I viewed bees as the enemy because my mother is very allergic to them. I hated the enormous Callistemon in our backyard because it was buzzing with insects that wanted to kill my mom (in my mind, at least). I'm terrified of spiders and I still scream if an ant or beetle crawls across my foot in the garden. As a result, I don't know how to explain how obsessed I've become with bugs.

I was going through Kate Bryant's archive on Portland Monthly and ran across an article on attracting pollinators to your yard which somehow led to this plant list that will help attract beneficial insects to your garden, which led to me completely falling down the pollinator rabbit hole, all of which culminated in reading this article on neocotinoids and their devastating effect on pollinators.

It left me sort of depressed and then 50,000 bumblebees were killed by a landscaping company who sprayed some linden trees in a Target parking lot with pesticide and I was really depressed. So what do we do when we get sad? We buy plants! What do we do if all the nurseries are closed and we're feeling impatient? We buy them online!

I placed an order to Annie's Annuals for a buckwheat I'd had on my wishlist for a long time: Eriogonum grande var. rubescens.

Image source: Annie's Annuals

Buckwheat is a favorite plant for hover flies, whose larvae eat aphids, a LOT of them. The larvae can eat an aphid a minute but they don't eat your plants. They look more like bees than flies. Aphids were the reason that landscaping crew sprayed the linden trees, killing all of those bumblebees.

Image source

We have a pretty bad problem with aphids on the roses in the lab, so I placed a buckwheat there. Of course, I ripped out most of my roses but my next-door neighbor still has about 15 planted here. Now I just have to hope that her mow-and-blow guys don't spray this area.

Buckwheats like it hot and dry, which is perfect for this area. This buckwheat is evergreen and tidy, growing to 1' x 3'. The undersides of its spoon-shaped leaves are silver and fuzzy. I want to find a spot in the backyard for another, since the cabbage aphids have recently discovered my edibles.

I've never had a desire to grow sunflowers but I gave in and ordered 'Lemon Queen' which is the official sunflower of The Great Sunflower Project, which has been tracking honeybee colonies for years.

Image source: Annie's Annuals
I also picked up some Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', which is supposedly loved by bees. And it's pretty.

Image source: Annie's Annuals

Then this weekend a friend and I went to Portland Nursery and I picked up something for the butterflies: Achillea millefolium 'Terracotta.' After being like, "Where are the freaking butterflies?!" I've witnessed two swallowtails sailing through my yard. I haven't yet witnessed them landing or feeding on anything, but hopefully they'll check out my garden and tell their butterfly friends, "That place is cool. We should hang out there."

Are you unhealthily fixating on anything lately? Any plants I'm missing that will single-handedly repair the damage all these landscapers have done? Sometimes it feels like that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to come to terms with pollinators I've always hated, like wasps. We frequently have them drinking from the bird bath (cute!) and I know they're important predators of bugs that cause a lot of destruction in the garden, but they still make me nervous.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Close but no Chionochloa

After trying to steal some red tussock grass (Chionochloa rubra) from Cistus a few weekends back, I've been feverishly trying to locate someone who carries it. I've been annoying every nursery in town and scouring the Internet for online carriers. No one has it.

Last weekend I had to head down to the Bay Area for a work meeting, so I flew in early and my parents and I went to Annie's Annuals.

We were cruising around and enjoying the sunshine when I spotted the biggest, most beautiful red tussock grass in a pot. It was so beautiful that I didn't even take a picture of it. I was too busy plotting to steal it.

I immediately went into super-annoying mode, asking every worker there, "Can I ask you a weird question? Can I take a plug of that grass?" One employee asked me if I'd brought a hand trowel and if I knew that was an option, I would have. I asked another employee, telling him, "I'll pay any amount of money for a tiny plug of that grass!" He was like, "Oh, I'll get it for you," and I went skipping over to my father, smug that being a pain in the ass was totally going to work!

That guy was a liar. Apparently his manager shut the idea down, explaining that the beautiful grass I was eyeing was their mother plant and they'd be using it to make more plants . . . in 2014. She said I could put it on my wishlist and I actually whined out loud to her that I wanted it noooooooowwwww.

The whole point of this is to say, if you see this grass in a nursery will you buy it? I will pay you twice over for the trouble and make you cookies. I was complaining to Greg that I want this grass so badly that I feel like I will perish if I don't get it. Then he was like, "Okay this is actually concerning me. Do you really feel that way?" and I flounced off shouting, "My gardener friends will understand!"

Do you understand? Am I teetering on the brink of insanity? Have you ever wanted a plant so badly you felt like you'd self-combust if you didn't get it?

I mean, come on, that's a beautiful grass.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Planning other people's gardens

My sister recently texted me with a request for plant ideas on her back patio. The owner of their condo installed a new fence and took out the English ivy that was covering the old fence (my guess is that it will be back) and gave them an additional four inches of bare dirt. She misses the greenness of the ivy but doesn't want to do edibles this year. She wants tough, drought tolerant ornamentals that can take part shade and won't require daily watering once they are established. She has young kids that play out there, so the plants can't be poisonous, pokey, or irritating.

The area is 17' long and 22" deep. This is a split view of the area at 8am:

And 1pm:

And 6pm:

So half the the space is getting dappled shade and half is getting full sun at the hottest part of the day. She lives in Campbell, CA. Her zone is 9b, which gets pretty hot in the summer, with about 19" of rain annually. It's not unreasonable for her to take a trip to Richmond to visit Annie's Annuals. Her kids are out of school for the summer and they'd have a blast there, right? As a result, I picked out plants solely from Annie's. She should be able to dig up and move everything she plants if they move to another house.

Here's what I have picked out so far. If she had full sun at her disposal this would have been a LOT easier. Salvias! Agastaches! So! Many! Grasses! This was a fun challenge. For whatever reason the color blue has always reminded me of my sister, but she's also a brash, sassy shit-talker, so I included some hot orange with lots of chartreuse to brighten up the shade. Presented in no particular order (all images are from the Annie's Annuals website) . . .

Aeonium escobarii, a blue-hued succulent:

Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee', a compact, chartreuse perennial that smells nice. This is only plant that might need regular water.

 Anchusa azurea 'Alkanet', a pretty 3-4' bush covered in blue flowers. I just purchased one of these for my yard. 

Asclepias curassavica, a grey-leafed evergreen milkweed with hot orange flowers. It attracts butterflies and is 3-4' tall and wide.

Muhlenbergia rigens, a tough low-water grass that might self-seed but she's in a rental so who cares! This one really might be too big for the space.

Crassula lycopidiodes, a chartreuse succulent that I want to grow in my yard so badly.

Senecio mandraliscae, a blue succulent that will work as a groundcover. Bonus: it grows in our brother's yard, so she can dig some up and not spend any money on it.

Here's the mock-up of what I had envisioned. I used the iPad app Paper, which I'm deeply in love with right now.

And with chicken scratch writing on it. Can you tell I don't own a stylus?

Option 1, nothing is to scale.

The grass anchors the L-curve with the Aeonium on the left and the Crassula and Senecio to the right. That leads to the orange milkweed, the Anchusa, three bunches of the Agastache, then another milkweed, and finishing with another combo of Crassula and Senecio.  Here's how the plants would look, going left to right.

The total should clock in at about $73, if she goes with this list. 

I've also thought about this placement: 

Option 2, nothing is to scale.

Or this one:

Option 3, nothing is to scale.

Seasoned gardeners: do you have any opinions on plant placement, plant choices, or anything else? Any glaring errors? As I'm writing this I'm noticing that her cement is stained with a light blue, which pretty much matches the Senecio I'd planned to use as a groundcover. That might look dumb.