Archive for the ‘Growing Global’ Category

Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers

Lowland Tropics room, Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco offers a number of sites for the plant lover. In a view from the road, we see two sun-lovers sprawled on a blanket on the wide open lawn space. Annual garden plots set off a strikingly-bright white Conservatory of Flowers beyond. Small chaperoned troupes of delightful children are prancing about . . . taking in the fresh April air between potty breaks.

The Conservatory’s main center dome is flanked by a wing of two galleries on the right—Highland Tropics Plants and Aquatic Plants. The wing to the left of the dome offers a Potted Plants display and temporary special exhibit room. I cross the entrance threshold and immediately find myself in a moist Palm Court of towering green Lowland Tropical plants—a magnificent thick display of ferns, banana, cacao, Jurassic cycads and much more. Here and there blue and orange bits of color are randomly cast, source being the sunshine through the structure’s stained glass.

Through the next door, the Highland Tropics gallery recreates high elevation forests of the tropics. There’s a nice display of mosses and the epiphytes which I like—plants that grow on other plants. The room offers much to whet our appreciation of orchids. This is where a renowned collection of Pleurothallid orchids can be found. Through another door, the Aquatic Plants room is picture perfect as we learn about water lilies and lotus. Also on view is a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants and bromeliads.

This striking building is said to be the oldest public conservatory in the Western hemisphere—opening in 1879—as well as the oldest structure in the park.

Much thanks goes to recent restoration efforts and dollars to do so. With these plants well-established and in such a yesteryear atmosphere, I just might get inspiration for writing a Victorian historical novel. At this conservatory one can get close to specimens: smell the gardenia, inspect the fronds, study orchid details and view exotics from around the world. http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/

While others might prefer a huge botanical exhibit extravaganza as found in some other large cities, I felt this was just the right size with an ambiance for a mini-retreat—leaving time for other Golden Gate Park experiences. Next stop: Japanese Tea Garden.

Nancy R. Peck

Aquatic Plants room Conservatory of Flowers

Aquatic Plants room, Conservatory of Flowers


Read Full Post »

Botanical Garden at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I’ve left the desk-nest this week and am touring the San Francisco area. Sunny weather. That’s always a nice gift to bring to one’s host.

Field trip to UC Berkeley Botanical Garden: Up up up the hill the car crawls past two flagmen. Grunting trucks are painstakingly choreographed  in the renovation/retrofit project going on at the old university football stadium. Destination reached and admission paid, we enter this very diverse 34-acre UC Berkeley research garden—13,000 varieties sectioned off by geographic regions of the world’s continents. First we enter the Arid House with its large collection of the quirkiest of cacti, sheltered, because they would not tolerate the Bay Area’s dampness. The collection dates back to the 1920s.

Exiting that shed, one is immediately struck by (photo above) the “Southern Africa” rocky hillside on the left dotted with oranges, yellow, purple annuals and bulbs and fan aloes. Turn around and there’s a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco Bay behind a gauze of atmospheric blue.

I’m always attracted by the sound of water features. The Japanese Pond (photo below) augments the diminutive Strawberry Creek which runs midway through the property. The pond is set off by a small waterfall framed by maples, empress tree and dogwoods. But the pool’s claim to fame is its breeding ground reputation for Taricha torosa (newts), native to upper Strawberry Canyon. I got to see several newt couples doing their thing which is always interesting. Ah spring.

The loudest aspect of the botanical gardens, I would say, is a chorus of frogs. They live in a pond ecosystem which lies between the Herb Garden and Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden. No need to follow path signs, just follow your ears.

There’s much to see and learn at this botanical garden but I did notice that some toddlers couldn’t be happier frolicking around a small man-built water feature next to the tour deck and rest rooms. Down close to the ground and with attention to details they were fascinated searching for the little slimy critters clinging for dear life to the concrete pond wall.


For a list of garden tours click here http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/education/tours.shtml#children

Nancy R. Peck

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden Japanese Pool

Japanese Pool at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Read Full Post »

garden in Austria

See the garden gnomes lurking in the corners of this Austrian garden?

The recent Gnomeo & Juliet animated feature film inspired a dear friend-reader to suggest I get to know garden gnomes a little better. Great idea.

Now I know in some circles garden gnomes are considered déclassé (banned from the great Chelsea Flower Show, UK for one). The mass consumerism associated with garden gnome ornaments—and their bold colors—make for cautious use in today’s residential garden.

But regardless of where they stand in our individual taste-meters, it is interesting to note that these figurines actually originated in the 19th century in Germany, where they became known as Gartenzwerg (“garden dwarf”).

In addition, according to Wikipedia, Philip Griebel made these and “terracotta animals as decorations . . . based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of [their] willingness to help in the garden at night.” Popularity quickly spread across Germany and into France and were “first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1847 by Sir Charles Isham, when he brought 21 terracotta figures back from a trip to Germany and placed them as ornaments in the gardens of his home, Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire.”

Perhaps back in 1847 garden gnomes were smaller and of earthier tones. Can you imagine today’s gnomes here? http://www.lamporthall.co.uk/

My research seems to have hit a wall, but feel free to send in your gnome encounter stories.

Read Full Post »

Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School

Those in San Francisco are in for a treat this weekend March 19 and 20, 2011 for the Ikebana International biennial Flower Show. Much of the proceeds will be donated to disaster relief in Japan. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Ikebana International, founded in 1959, is one of the most active chapters in the world and includes members from seven schools.

Pictured above is an arrangement by Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School. The Sogetsu School, one of many Ikebana schools, has a more free-style philosophy with emphasis on the artist’s expression and message. The school was founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara who believed anyone could make ikebana anywhere with anything.

Unlike the spherical mass of traditional Western arrangement, ikebana is based on the structural concept of an unequal triangle: with scarcity, minimalism, emphasis on shape, line and form. The Sogetsu philosophy: plants are beautiful just as they are and can be arranged in an effective style to be appreciated even more. The school encourages students to be individual and imaginative.

Other Ikebana International chapters in the U.S. are located in Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Honolulu, Washington, DC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland OR and others.




Read Full Post »


In 1999 the Corals for Conservation program began in Fiji. The “Coral Gardens Initiative” uses hands-on methods and training to connect individuals in local communities to the restoration of degraded coral reef ecosystems.

As part of the coral program, we trim bits and pieces off of rare, and where possible temperature tolerant corals, and then grow them to several hundred times the original fragment size to create “mother corals”. Two-year-old mother corals are then trimmed to produce coral seed fragments that the communities grow in the coral farms and restoration sites. All of the coral farms thus produce only second and third generation corals, completely avoiding the negative impact of wild harvesting of corals.

Enjoy this video below and visit http://www.coralsforconservation.com/default.html

Picture source: ‘sheyneg’ Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives

Read Full Post »

When I was 12 years old, I unexpectedly walked in on a flower show. It was in my junior high school cafeteria. I remember thinking what on earth are these women doing here hunched over these tables of flower pots—every single pot was an African Violet.

My gosh, I wondered, what had driven these women to this kind of obsession. No, actually at age 12, it was probably more like “this is weird,” followed by a quick exit.

Nevertheless, I had recognized these plants because my mother had had some at home. The pots lived on a setting of small rocks in a tray, soaking up some sun in the day-bright TV room. In a good week we would see purple blossoms and light pink ones too.  

“Water them from the bottom, she’d say, don’t drip water on the leaves.” They were a first introduction to fuzzy leaves.

Another vague memory I have is inserting an African violet cutting into a jam glass topped by aluminum foil, I guess to hold the leaf in place. In about a month a root would form and we’d pot it. Months later there would be a bigger plant. Propagation is fun, see? That’s about the extent of my memory.

Recently, I visited a friend named Mary. In her living room window she has a large round and rustic wicker basket overflowing with a grouping of six very healthy Saintpaulia in a southerly window. They look as healthy as can be. She feigns horticultural nonchalance about their success, but I want to learn her secrets.

Today I explored an African Violet blog in Romania (she grows Buckeye Blushing, Bliznecy, Autumn Halo, Ma’s Winter Moon) and another blog in Sweden where I learned “There are about twenty wild species of African violets, some of which are endangered in their natural habitats in East Africa. In the range of 40-45,000 hybrids circulate among collectors and growers in the world!”  A translated Ukrainian blog reads “My violets are increasingly occupying space in my apartment, but nevertheless, I always bring home new varieties.”

If you are interested in growing AV’s to show, check out this website www.avsc.ca.  At Amazon dot com, there’s a few copies left of Pauline Bartholomew’s “Growing to Show . . . African Violets”. Other books about African Violets are also available.

There’s also the African Violet Society of America www.avsa.org. which incorporated in 1947 and has grown to be “the largest society devoted to a single indoor plant in the world.”

I got a kick out of a YouTube video walking the viewer through an entire African Violet show in Central New Jersey (2010). Great specimens. Click here to view it. Chet Atkins and Les Paul were at the show too (kidding).

Also at Youtube you can find short demos on how to propogate them, for example this one.

Isn’t it nice how memories grow fonder with the passing of each year? Viva la African Violets!  

I’d love to hear of your childhood memories having to do with houseplants or gardening. Do share.

Photo source: Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike by ‘Wildfeuer’

Nancy R. Peck

Read Full Post »

Christmas tree

Does it seem like the conifers that you bring into the house are getting drier and drier—or is it my imagination? No sooner does the tree get into the house that the needles begin their fall-off—even as you’re cramming the trunk into its water trough or gingerly placing ornaments on the tree. A real indication that the days are numbered for this already dead tree. 

I keep my fingers crossed that the tree doesn’t lose its needles in unison in front of everyone. I know it is going to happen shortly. Will it be right after the last-gasp Vacuum of the Year? Or in the middle of the New Year’s Eve Epic Party of the Year. The anticipation rather reminds me of Cinderella waiting to lose her gown at the stroke of midnight EST. 

If you happened to be listening to National Public Radio on December 10 you might have heard an interview with Dr. Raj Lada, founding director of the Christmas Tree Research Center of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College. His research aims to increase needle retention where growing fir trees is a multi-million dollar commercial industry. Good news, Dr. Lada is said to be on the verge of doubling the life of the cut Christmas tree. At the facility they are working on a method that will block the release of ethylene. In basic terms, this would be like slowing or halting the ripening of a banana. 

His remedy isn’t here yet but in the meantime, I deduced these recommendations from the interview:

  • The trauma of transport can trigger the start of the ethylene process. You might want to buy from producers closest to you, cutting down when you select it. In transport—the less shaking the better.
  • If you do buy from a retailer, hope that they’ve been keeping them in a water vessel.
  • Once you have your specimen home, re-cut the trunk at least one inch.
  • Lights alter a tree’s metabolic function and they are also spectrum sensitive. White lights might be preferable and don’t turn them off at night. “When the tree is in the dark it will start “respiring” more, using all its carbohydrates too soon.”
  • Keep your tree stand filled with water, checking it daily. A glycerin product in the water is pointless as it will not reach the necessary height due to its viscosity. Also adding sugar to the water or fertilizer will have little effect.
  • Don’t use products that close stomata as they will shut down the carbon dioxide exchange needed for photosynthesis. It needs to have the sugar synthesized every day.
  • Keep the tree in a cooler room if possible (but not at freezing temperatures). Keep it away from the kitchen.
  • Finally, keep fruit away from the tree. Fruit gives off ethylene.

I wonder how Cinderella would deal with needle-drop? I guess she’d just get out her dustpan every hour on the hour. Or maybe she would have thrown in the towel and had a tree crafted of glass instead.

Here’s the transcript of the NPR interview with Dr. Lada.

Photo by Jean-Pierre Bazard, Wikimedia Creative Commons

 Nancy R. Peck

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »