Thursday, April 5, 2012

Random Garden Thoughts and Pictures

Cottony Cushion Scale on a Mandarin tree
A favorite pest of citrus, pittorsporum and nandina here in California: cottony cushion scale. This sucking insect protects itself from most predators with a cottony covering. Also guarding the scale: ants, which harvest the secretions of the scale for food. Control the ants with ant bait; control the scale with either a blast of water from the hose or an application of horticultural oil. Avoid harsh chemical insecticides which may deter one of the few beneficial insects that feeds on this scale: the vedalia beetle.

According to  the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website: do not apply imidacloprid (Merit or Bayer Advanced Citrus Fruit and Vegetables) for cottony cushion scale control. Although imidacloprid has scale insects listed on the label, it doesn’t kill cottony cushion scale. 

The Tumbling Event at the Scale Olympics
To make matters worse, imidacloprid is very toxic to vedalia beetles. The beetles are poisoned when they feed on cottony cushion scale that have ingested imidacloprid. Cottony cushion scale outbreaks have been observed following use of this insecticide because the vedalia beetles were removed and the insecticide didn’t control the pest.


Magic Kingdom Beehives?

Seen at Disneyland. Clever use of alyssum in the shape of a lantern or beehive.


Easy source of baby greens? Start them from seed in smallish containers (3" pots, perhaps). Keep them on an outside table near the kitchen window for an easy meal reminder. Snip 'em as you need 'em!


As seen at the National Heirloom Exposition, Sept. 2011:

The National Heirloom Exposition and Pure Food Fair in Santa Rosa last September was Disneyland for Grow-it-Yourselfers. Here, the Redwood Empire Chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers had this beautiful pear on display, the Conseiller de la Cour.

From the book, "The Fruit Manual: Containing The Descriptions And Synonyms Of The Fruits And Fruit Trees Of Great Britain" comes this description of the Conseiller de la Cour: "Fruit, large, sometimes very large, being near four inches and a half long, and three inches and three-quarters wide; oblong pyriform, pretty even in its outline, but slightly undulating. Skin, thickly covered with cinnamon-coloured russet, so much so as to be encrusted with it, and permitting only very little of the pale yellow ground to show through it. Eye, large and open, with long, stout, and somewhat woody segments, set in a moderate depression. Stalk, from an inch to an inch and a quarter long, inserted on the wide, blunt apex of the fruit without depression. Flesh, yellowish, very tender, melting, and buttery, with an abundant richly flavoured juice, which is sweet, sprightly, and with a fine perfume.This is one of the finest pears in cultivation, and ripens about the end of October and beginning of November. The tree is hardy, vigorous, and an abundant bearer, forming fine pyramids and standards. Mr. R. D. Blackmore says it is 'a very fine pear. Coarse from a wall. I have grown it to weigh 18 oz.'"


 Also from the National Heirloom Exposition at Santa Rosa last September: this first place winning tomato, Pink Berkeley Tie-Dye. Annie's Annuals describes it: "With metallic green stripes this port-wine colored beefsteak (avg size: 8-12 oz) boasts an excellent sweet, rich, dark tomato flavor. Rated higher than ‘Cherokee Purple’ for taste & HIGHLY RECOMMENDED  FOR THOSE OF US WITH COOL SUMMERS. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse calls them 'Tomatoes you’ll never forget!'”


Here's a red meat watermelon radish, from Heirloom Organic Gardens in San Benito County. It was a crowd stopper at the National Heirloom Exposition. They sell their fresh produce at Farmers Markets in the Bay Area.

All gardening is local; so, be wary of falling in love with a plant when you're on vacation. This stunner is the Pink Rice Flower (Pimelea ferruginea), an Australian native plant as seen at Cambria Nursery and Florist, in Cambria, CA. Cambria is located in California's Garden of Eden, also known as the Central Coast, near Morro Bay. Frosts seldom happen there. Unlike here, in the Sacramento area.

From the online plant description: "The Pimelea ferruginea needs a minimum temperature superior to 15°C." 
For us Fahrenheit heads, that translates to 59 degrees F. Considering that our average nighttime low temperature is below 59 for 8 MONTHS A YEAR, this would not be a good choice as a perennial for Sacramento. Summer annual, perhaps.


Pictures do not do justice to the brilliant hues of red-orange on this Chinese Pistache, "Keith Davey". On a clear, fall day, you can see this tree a mile away.


I was impressed with the performance in 2011 of the Shock Wave Coral Crush Petunia. A great cascading plant with no insect problems (at least here!) with an extended bloom season. Even better, the petunia plant in that container with the Kumquat tree survived our freezing winter, and is greening up again.


Garden quiz time. 
The reason winegrape growers place rose bushes at the end of their vineyard rows:
a) To alert them to a powdery mildew outbreak;
b) To alert them to an insect infestation;
c) Red roses mark the rows of red winegrapes; white, the white wine.
d) They're pretty.

 d) is correct. Different strains of powdery mildew attack roses. Insects that bother both would attack the grapes first. And if the color of the rose indicated the varietal, then an apricot colored rose would mean that they are growing Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill wine!

Sacramento County Farm Advisor and Viticulture specialist Chuck Ingels says the practice may have been tried in France a long time ago to detect powdery mildew early, but it doesn't work because the mildew of grape is a completely different species from that of the rose and they have different temperature requirements.  And roses get aphids but grapes don't.

Powdery mildew on grapes: Erisiphe necator.
Powdery mildew on rose: Sphaerotheca pannosa
Downy Mildew On grapes: Plasmopara viticola
Downy mildew of roses—Peronospora sparsa

Viticulture instructor Andy Walker at UC Davis says that roses are planted strictly for aesthetics.

One blogger took a trip to the vineyards of Italy where the winemaker discussed the issue:

"Singore Razzi explained how they grow the grapes for their wine. We wondered why there were rose bushes at the end of  each row of grapes and found out that very sophisticated tests were done by scientists on the soil and after those tests the rose bushes were  planted to tell the wine master how the soil is doing. If the roses stay fresh and perfect they know the grapes are doing just as well...when a bush is 'sick' they know those grapes growing in that row are 'sick" also.'
No winemaker is going to rely on roses to tell them about the quality of the wine. But it certainly impresses visitors; and, they probably bought more wine because of their sophistication!"


Old broccoli that should be pulled? A closer look...

Bees in Flowering Broccoli

This is why I take my time before yanking out spent winter vegetables that have bolted. The flowers attract beneficial insects, such as honeybees and bumblebees. And that flowering broccoli comes at a time (early spring) when you want a lot of bees in your yard for pollinating fruit trees.
Here's more on attracting beneficials to your yard.


  1. This was a great post of a variety of subjects.

  2. Are those little wasps that burrow into the dirt harmfull to my blueberry bushes? They are about 1/2 inch long.

  3. That pear doesn't really match the descriptions of Conseiller de la Court, or any other pictures I can find. I have one labeled the same which I probably got at the redwood empire CRFG scion exchange and which looks like it's probably the same pear. I have to doubt that that identification is correct. It's a good pear though. Very large, with a distinctive and strong blush on one side.