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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Mexican Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) Talks Back

Truly  demented readers will doubtless remember the Mexican Lime that has been Mano a mano with me since 2009. For less passionate readers  (see Dec 13 2009 blog)--- bought this lime tree, put it against a hot wall where it lost  its leaves when the temperature dropped into the 30’s. Thinking it was dying, applied first aid a la UC Davis by wrapping it in Christmas lights.
Then moved it to south side of the house on snazzy new terrace. Lime responded by bearing 3 very seedy  limes ( 6/9/2010). It then promptly once more lost its leaves in the next cold spell.Argh.
No image--I was planning to give it away!
Had the gardener move it to a 20 gal black pot, return it to the west side, but this time sheltered by a bamboo hedge (the roots) while its head was in the west sun. The plan was to give it to some non-gardener who would give it a new home, not knowing how surly and unfruitful a tree it was. (Wanna buy a duck? …)

The Lime got watered occasionally along with 2 other potted tangerine trees with whom I had no quarrel. Au contraire, they were good trees and bore profusely.Forgot about putting the lime on Craig’s list temporarily and finding a new home for the balky thing.

Apparently the deva in charge of this tree has a wicked sense of humor--why am I not surprised?

The lime tree today  covered with blossoms . Bees are clustered on it. ….. okay, okay….flowers are being pollinated. Can’t give it away--- now. Score: Lime 3, this gardener 0.
Chastened--- resolve to be more respectful of plant communications in the future.
Scrub Jay W
 Standing in the kitchen door, brooding over defeat at hands of lime tree when Cheeky Bird whisks into the kitchen past my ear, lands on the counter and squawks at me. Cheeky Bird is a scrub jay who has trained the entire household to give him peanuts---or else.
(This is a w common photo, but since to the uninitiated eye, coastal Western scrub jays all look alike…. Cheeky does not trust cameras.) What is so remarkable about Cheeky Bird is that he has taught 2 generations of offspring to :
1) recognize the peanut givers from the non-peanut givers in the household (2 to 2)
2) Get the peanuts by sitting on the handle of a basket ---but not come in the kitchen. Instead the offspring make a small chuckling noise as if to say, “I’m here, waiting…” whereas Cheeky  himself is noisy demanding and unabashed about coming into the house.

 Cheeky is a corvid. The group includes ravens, crows and jays. Crows and ravens have been studied pretty extensively-- see on Ravens.
 The U of Oregon did a whole documentary on crows (called, believe it or not, Crows) which played at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. The scientists at U OR were rather astonished to find crows recognize individual human faces, have "culture" , teach their young to recognize the good guys from the bad guys.

 So far as I know, jay birds are bereft of a scientific study on their intelligence, but size doesn't count. Jays recognize individual faces, and teach their offspring to recognize people just as crows do. It's also been established jays and crows have episodic memory---they don't forget where they put their car keys....

Next: a new super hero---- Alexander von Humboldt


Saturday, February 4, 2012

David Austin "English Roses" for So Cal and a Meilland

Darcy Bussell

This rose is named for  the premier ballerina of the Royal Ballet. She was 20. Darcy went from strength to strength as a dancer and was awarded the OBE. Here she is in Balanchine's Rubies.

The rose named in her honor  --unlike some of the Austin roses---  is especially recommended for our zone and will " will remain bushy and compact even in the warmest areas, making it ideal for the front of rose beds or the mixed border" . And it smells good. If you can't find this rose in stock now at your local nursery, hasten to the Austin website and order one there.

David Austin is too well known to need any detailed biography here--and it's all on the Austin website anyway. However, he's my hero because all his roses smell like roses used to smell, and some smell absolutely heavenly. Austin roses have a character of their own. The first ones this gardener tried all grew nicely but were slow to establish themselves-- Gertrude Jekyll, Graham Thomas,Pilgrim,. However, Teasing Georgia and  Abraham Darby took off running

. In recent years Austin has his  roses sold in this country,  grown in Tyler,Texas, and many of them are totally  adapted to our climate.

Jude the Obscure

This rose , besides being spectacular has won some impressive prizes for scent  which is described as " having a strong fruity fragrance with hints of guava and sweet white wine". Hmmmm.....this sensual delight is not one of Austin's more appropriately named roses . It applies to one of Thomas Hardy's more depressed character( which is saying a lot, as most of them are depressed.)  Jude hangs himself. Perhaps Mr. Austin is not a great reader? Any votes out there for re-naming it Jude Law, a sensual delight to the eye even if we don't know how he smells?


This lovely won the medal for Best Scented Rose of the Year** . What makes it a sure thing  is the fact that it is named for the Wolverhampton Soccer Team.With recommendations like that ........ how can we lose? 

Not to be missed is another recent rose

Lady Emma Hamilton

And what did she do? Quite a few scandalous things***. She was a country girl who made it in London, (she was Romney's favorite model) married a Lord and became the lover of British  naval hero Lord Nelson. Austin named the rose to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar. Well, okay, perhaps a bit of a stretch..... but Lady Emma is luscious has a strong "fruity scent of pear grape and citrus. It is vigorous and free flowering. 

Last but far from least, is Meilland's Yves Piaget,  named for the president of watchmaker/jeweler SA Piaget. ( Piaget is a famous  French firm of long standing ---made watches for Napoleon). Yves It is a superb rose, tough, undemanding and disease resistant .

Yves Piaget

This rose smells spicy, and has great substance which makes it a great cut flower. It lives without complaint, on grey water from the washing machine and is a particular favorite in this garden.


** at the Royal National Rose Society Trials
*** See movie starring Vivien Leigh and Lawrence Olivier That Hamilton Woman made when Leigh and Olivier were young and in love. In black and white, not a memorable  film but do they  look good.