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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Angel Trumpet femme fatale

Angel’s Trumpet-Official name of genus is now Brugmansia. Many SoCal gardens have them as the flower is beautiful and night-scented. First saw them in the Getty Gardens, trimmed to a parasol shape, dripping with flowers, looking like they belonged in a  Rousseau painting  (Le Douanier.)  Enchanted, secured one for the garden. Discovered over time the way to achieve the parasol effect with lots of pendant blossoms was to prune the sucker heavily, as it blooms on new wood. Such a pretty plant.

(photo from W commons)
Always knew the plant was toxic—it is a member of the solanum family, (Deadly Nightshade, tomatoes and potatoes.) The  closest relative is loco-weed, Datura. But a lot of wonderful plants are toxic; say oleander. Never personally held toxic quality  against the Angel’s Trumpet.
However,according to the what's left of the L.A. Times, the  latest teenage turn-on in South L.A. is the Brugmania flower which ingested, is hallucinogenic. (Social Notes From All Over Dept.) The police in L.A. would like you to get rid of the plant if you have one flowering in your garden.

Haven’t had any trouble with drug-crazed teenagers harvesting my flowers, but was bemused to find the name Angel’s Trumpets might signify  the crack of doom summoning you to the next world……

The Reader is warned.

See W for chapter and verse on varieties, more pictures, directions for cultivation if you are a drug-crazed teenager or,equally crazed, an obsessed gardener.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lavender Trumpet vine and more on the Inca Calendar

Here's my neighbor's lavender trumpet vine making a get away into my yard. .

Got back to the original source of the pictures from the Inca calendar--O  Internet.....blessing upon your inventors (and Al Gore.) 

 The original document was written for the edification of the Pope, by Poma de Ayala in 1580. Only one copy of the manuscript exists, ( the Pope never got it) and it's in a library in Denmark, and posted on the Internet.
The Inca agricultural calendar is a window on a lost world. The growing season for their major grain crop (maize) seems so much like our growing season in SoCal. Their maize (zara) was an irrigated crop, grown in parterres, on terraces, planted in the late summer. Seems to mirror our growing season, despite the difference in altitude, and reversal of seasons below the Equator.

Inca agricultural practices were so efficient they managed to feed a large urban population, the Inca himself, his court, the nobles and themselves. It’s been said if their terraced, irrigated agriculture were re-instated in the Andes area, poverty and hunger could be erased in that part of the world. Worth a look?  Here's August again since, thanks to translations of the ms.. it is clearer what's happening here.

In the Inca Calendar, this is the Time of Opening the Land

The story begins with (left to right) a representative of the Inca with his official costume on, with an empty seed bag in his left hand. He is the only person in the picture wearing sandals, he’s wearing a ceremonial head dress and an outfit that appears to picture the lay-out for the 2 crops these farmers are going to grow. (Reminiscent of the purpose of the stained glass windows in medieval churches—directions for the illiterate.) He’s a walking graphic lay-out.

The 2 crops are maize,(zara) in parterres at the bottom of the slope and potatoes (pope) at the top of the terracing in linked small beds. It’s c. 1580 but we can still “read” the story.

Four big parterres of maize. One for the Inca, one for the nobility, one for the bureaucracy --- priest/astronomers/ record keepers whose observatory turns up in a later month--- and one plot for the farmers.

(The Inca had to pay for a lot of servants out of his share, but I suspect the aristocracy were responsible for the roads and possibly the irrigation in their “district”. The whole story is rather like the serf system in Europe. It’s even more like the Chinese* system of government in the middle ages, in which the mandarins oversaw things like keeping the canals repaired for flood control). Irrigated terracing has to be carefully tended. Very labor intensive.

Back to our August  story: there are 3 men with digging, cultivating and harvesting tools—the farmers. The one wearing a head dress 4th in the line will appear in several other picture stories wearing his head dress (perhaps he’s a local priest/shaman/medicine man) but his major job is keeping the birds, foxes, skunks and parrots from eating the maize seed, and crop—let’s call him the Animal Control. To the right is a well-dressed lady—the quoy’s representative— a stand-in for the actual Inca Queen (the quoy) who has the seed to hand-out. At the bottom are the 3 “land girls” who are going to plant and tend the seed. They are singing. The text over the heads of the 4 men gives the song which is a kind of hymn of praise to the queen (the quoy). The girls indicate they  understand the directions for planting and tending.

The sun is at the center looking very strong (it’s hot) of the picture, and there are no streams on the mountains.It’s the dry season—no rain until January, Feb and March. No Moon. The actual planting doesn’t begin until September, just as we would do it here.The whole scene pictures a minga—a gathering of the collective for some purpose under the Inca system. August was a much loved month--- a kind of "everybody takes a vacation time" -- Paris in August.

Note: If you want to see the ms. yourself, go to W, put in Poma de Ayala and follow the yellow brick road!

Chinese. According to  Archeology Magazine's articles on recent  DNA info---:  all  the MesoAmericans originated in China and spread downward from the  Artic land bridge, drifting South as far as Terra Del Fuego.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Unexpected Parterres Turn up in Inca Calendar c 1580

Had no idea the Inca practiced a sophisticated and highly bureaucratic form of agriculture before the Conquest . The workers were given the grain, showed how to plant it, cultivate and store it -as is happening here. There's someone with a hoe on the right, parrots flying above the corn, another female worker carrying cut corn to a store house.

 The wife of the Inca-- the quoy, was basically in charge of the Dept. of Agriculture-- the quoy in turn appointed various female overseers who distributed the grain .

 In other scenes from the Calendar men are shown hoeing, loading llamas, and making the holes for the seed as they are doing above. Inca farming was amazingly productive and supported their heavily populated cities. Like  So Cal gardeners the Inca irrigated their crops.

If we are contemplating turning our lawns into food gardens as Heather Flores suggests in her provocative book    Food Not Lawns  we might as well be as aesthetically pleasing and as efficient as possible, no?

Take a page from the Inca Calendar. The climate the Inca worked with was much like our own , and as the efficiency experts of MesoAmerica found parterres worked for them I'm fairly sure that's the best way to grow food on former lawns. It's also an easy way to control run-off to cut down on the pollution of the Pacific. Highly recommended reading:  Ocean Friendly Gardens

 Douglas Kent explains how to set up paths so they absorb water, prevent run-off, filter the water --all very practical mostly involving knowing how to do it, and a shovel.
Another consideration --- a garden set up  in parterres is the likely to be more popular with the neighbors who worry about the neighborhood going to seed  (sorry, couldn't resist that) than a less structured cottage garden . The French  potager is usually set up in parterres as well and we all know where they stand in the history of garden making.

Note: all the pictures and the Inca garden information are taken from Edward  Hyams (op.cited)  A  History of Gardens And Garden Making (out of print, publ.1971 by Praeger)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Trouble in Paradise/Backyard Babe goes Noir

He caught her with egg on her face! This femme fatale has been eating the eggs of the 3 other hens.

 The level of information on the misbehavior of hens is sadly lacking on the Internet. Wikopedia has failed us. Is this what chicken maevens call "cannibalism"?

 Look at that unrepentant face. She planning her next eggsecution. What to do? Isolation? Rehab? Debeaking?


Posted by PicasaThis man does not look like a debeaker.
What can he do? Turning her into a casserole has been suggested..... but she's so pretty. Or, finding her a new home where she could play out her goth  game---alone. Does anyone out there know of a rehab for  delinquent hens?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Catch up on the Lime Tree, the Urban farm and Playing hooky

If you look to the left you can spot the Christmas tree lights that not only saved the life of the Key lime but encouraged it so much that it bloomed profusely for the first time in its life. It appears to be setting fruit. Stay tuned!

 Let's hear it for UC Davis (blog 12/18/2009) and their excellent advice for keeping tender citrus warm.

Bitter sweet  report on the poppies (same blog.) All came up, were thriving, growing madly when a huge piece of plywood squashed the whole bed flat. (The house was being painted---workman don't pay attention  to things like seedling.) Did a very late sowing of California poppies to compensate. A good rain today should get them started. 

The local urban garden ( Food Not Lawns) is is definitely working. The hot chicks( blog 3/10/2010)  have turned into hip  hens and are producing 4 eggs a day.

The blog is late and brief this week-- the sirens called:

However should have done my homework on  betting the maidens.

Friday, April 2, 2010

More patterned gardens- parterres and knots for--- parking strips??

Fig. 2
Parterre’s ( “meaning on the ground"- thanks Wikopedia! ) have not gone out.This  is one of  Rosemary Verey's  and here's her plan for this garden.If you disregard her plant choices and translate the pattern in to    succulents in yellow green, medium green and blue green in a raised bed--it just might work. To date raised beds around here look more like this:

  Herb gardens in every other gardening magazine have a parterre design-- and very nice ones, at that. A woven design is also called a knot garden, and in England gardeners, really get off on them. You can order interesting plans for Celtic Knots from the Book of Kells, ( Knot Gardens Unravelled)  for mucho dinaro or you can copy a simple one from a photograph . Or get out your copy of the Book of Kells and trace your own.

Nothing to it, right? Might be a little challenging to translate to plants, but not without interest for a rainy day......

But we are pressing on into less exotic territory with parterre’s to be created of succulents. Formal patterns work well for parking strips---of which there are far too many strips covered with thirsty grass all over So Cal. Or, even less inspiring, strips that are barely covered with expiring annuals and weeds.

It is not easy to plan an informal succulent parking strip that isn’t going to look like nobody understands it. You could try the Gertrude Jekyll approach to borders for ideas. However, a formal pattern merely requires 2 0r 3 3 different succulent ground covers of warm and cool  greens:

See Vesey plan above Fig. 2
Or  this This is a plan Verey did for a low water parking strip in Florida. It would work in SoCal just as well.

Or you could go to a design based on repeating this pattern :
from Debra Lee Baldwin (op cit). We are not talking box hedges here but plants sold by the flat at around five to seven dollars retail at all the Big Box garden centers: ice plant, freeway daisies, gazanias, sedums.  Not a major expense;  parking strips are not enormous. The average around here is 6 ‘ by 24’.

 Low-water plants in formal patterns are well within the competence of maintenance gardeners. All the pattern needs is an occasional weed removed and maybe a little clipping . No sprinkler systems required.