Monthly Archives: July 2015

Following the Vascular Trail: The Path of Water from Soil to Atmosphere

Oak Savanna on a dry hilltop in Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, Sonoma County, California.

Oak Savanna on a dry hilltop in Shiloh Ranch Regional Park, Sonoma County, California.

Second in the Water Series

Try to imagine life without water….No matter how dry it may seem to be here, the soil cracked open in supplication, the lawns toasted and tan, Rhododendrons with their leaves curled and burnt along their margins, Vine and Japanese Maples, their leaves crisped blowing down curbs in late summer’s heat, there is water…everywhere, locked deeply in tissues, bound tightly to soil particles. Like most things, there are no absolutes with water. It is not simply here then gone, but on a continuum of availability. Biological scientists and agronomists will often speak of ‘dry weight’ when looking at growth trying to minimize the variability of water weight in living organisms. They bake the subject in autoclaves reducing water weight to zero without igniting and burning the carbon and more ‘solid’ structure to ash. There is water throughout the structure of plants, hydrating their cells, making possible the many processes at work within them. There is water in the atmosphere even on a blistering hot and clear day in the form of vapor effecting everything from the Evapotranspiration Rate, (ET), to how hot or cold we may feel beyond what the thermometer reads; and there is water in the soil though our plants be wilting or dead of desiccation, and it effectively sucks the moisture from our skin when we work bare handed in it. Water is everywhere even in the dry periods within the desert and, nature is okay with that and has in fact adjusted to it. Our gardens, however, are anomalies we’ve created. We are invested in them and as gardeners we do what we can to assure their survival, and more, their success! Continue reading


Water, Irrigation, Xeric: Related and Essential Garden Vocabulary

The fountain in the Peninsula Park Rose Garden, a frosty February morning

Water, beautiful and essential.  The fountain in the Peninsula Park Rose Garden, a frosty February morning

First in the Water Series

Water is essential to all life on Earth. It comprises a very significant percentage of the mass of every life form. It is the vehicle without which the various metabolic processes would cease. It dissolves and carries in solution the many elements organisms require to build their tissues. It helps produce the conditions necessary for other supporting life forms.  In it’s heating and cooling it creates the weather that helps define the parameters and limits to life in any given place. It works as an erosive medium breaking down landscapes and helping create new ones upon which life adapts and grows. Water moves across and through the surfaces of the Earth in a dynamic yet stable manner helping create the conditions within which life may evolve. It fills that sweet spot moving readily from gaseous form to liquid to solid where our water/carbon based life forms can take advantage of its transformations.  Without it life as we know it would end.  With our disruption, we have altered the pathways and cycling of water across the landscape and so have altered the conditions under which life must live, cutting down forests, draining wetlands, channelizing streams, grading and paving the Earth’s surface. Our actions have directly impacted every habitat, every landscape, on Earth. We are even changing the weather patterns themselves, changing the conditions within which it operates driven by the sun’s energy.  We are massively altering the Earth’s landscapes and its atmosphere in which all of this happens. It is taking on a ‘life’ of its own as we accelerate the rates of deforestation, desertification, expanding urban heat islands, while we continue the mining and burning of carbon previously sequestered for millions of years pressing us on into massive perturbations in our climate patterns. Everything is connected to water. Continue reading

Musa basjoo to Musa sikkimensis to Musa s. ‘Red Tiger’: Garden Updates, July 1, ’15

Musa sikkimense with soft back light

Musa sikkimense with soft back light. That’s Canna ‘Bengal Tiger’ with its pin-stripping in the background and Bowle’s Golden Carex low to the right

I suppose there are gardeners out there who are completely satisfied with their gardens and have no plans for changes, expansions or wholesale overhaul, but not me.  Musa basjoo was my first Banana plant.  I grew it for several years.  It is still widely grown in our region.  There’s nothing wrong with it, but I removed mine and replaced it with Musa sikkimensis, the plant pictured above.  In my opinion the foliage, and the way it is carried on the plant, is superior to M. basjoo.  First, is the more vertical angle that it holds its leaves.  This shows off the underside of the leaves and lets morning or afternoon sun light illuminate the leaves causing them to ‘glow’.  The red mid-rib of the leaves really stand out!  In M. basjoo, this doesn’t happen because they’re held in a nearly flat position.  M. basjoo also lacks the red mid-rib.  Next, and this is my opinion from having watched these plants over a period of years, is that M. sikkimensis allows its leaves to ‘flutter in a breeze lettting it ‘spill’ more wind preventing some of the shredding that can afflict Bananas on windy sites, something like the larger Ensete does.  So, why am I preparing to remove it now and swap it out? Continue reading