Archive for June, 2011

A Visit to the Orchid Whisperer

My only two orchids needed some TLC.  Bob the Orchid Whipserer, my new friend from the Master Gardeners’s class, offered to help me out and take a look at them.  I got some great information from Bob and got to see his amazing collection of exquisite orchids.

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Urban Horticulture Updates

I’ve repotted my mini fern and stunted rosemary into larger pots.  I love rosemary for culinary purposes, but have been so afraid to use it as it hasn’t grown in over a year!  I just hope the full sun and and larger pot just do the trick to letting it become a lushous culinary plant.



Strawberries are doing beautifully, but to reiterate I am definitely going to get a lot more plants next year because 3 plants just ain’t cutting it for our appetites!

Alpine Strawberries

“Welcomes” are in order for my first rose bud!  Unfortunately it’s covered in the powdery mildew fungus.  I found a fantastic article on this ailment about causes and remedies.

Rose Bud

Citronella is doing quite wonderfully!  The flowers smell amazing (as potent if not more than jasmine).  While I was out on the patio for 15 minutes today, I observed 3 bees go and take care of their business with the lemon flowers.

Meyer Lemon Tree

Meyer Lemons Flowers

Meyer Lemons

Like a Bee in a Candy Store

I made a trip to Lowe’s in San Jose last week, where I have found the best prices for seeds.  They have a great selection of varieties as well.  My mission was to get flower seeds to attract beneficial insects and replenish my herb supply.  WARNING: FOXGLOVE IS VERY POISONOUS TO CATS AND DOGS.

I finally got around to planting all the seeds.  Now we sit back, wait,  and let the magic happen!

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Plant Light Mature Height Estimated Days to Germination Actual Days to Germination
Alyssum (carpet of snow) Partly shady 4-6 in. 5-14 4
Foxglove (mixed colors) Partly shady 4 ft. 7-14  10
Catnip Full Sun 25-35 in. 8-12  8
Four O’Clocks (Tea Time Mix) Full Sun 24 in. 7-10  9
Chamomile (German) Full Sun 20-30 in. 7-14  5
Basil (Dark Opal Purple) Full Sun 18 in. 14-21  7
Rosemary (Romero) Full Sun 18 in. 14-21  15
Sunflower (mixed colors) Full Sun 4 ½ ft 14-21  6

“Insects – Let’s Learn to Love Them!”

Today was the first time I attended a gardening class.  Till now, my lessons have been directly from my grandfather or by trial and error.  I’ve got to say that the class was phenomenal!  I learned so much about insects and the benefits of having insects in your garden.  I must say that the class taught by the UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara was of excellent quality.  Their expert knowledge and good experience made them stand out as very reliable sources.

The following slideshow pictures were all taken by renound nature photographer Robert Shimmon whom I had the pleasure of meeting today.

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We talked about the balance of nature and how bugs fit in.  Apparently 97% of insects are beneficial.

Two Major Life Cycles

Complete Metamorphosis

Simple Metamorphosis

Egg -> Larva -> Pupa -> Butterfly
  1. Insect hatches from the egg
  2. The insect gets bigger and bigger
  3. Insect might shed its exoskeleton and grow more

  • Butterfly
  • Moth
  • Beetles
  • Flies
  • Ants
  • Bees
  • Wasps

  • Grasshoppers
  • Aphids (can also give live birth)

It’s very helpful to have gloves and a hand lens on hand while you are examining the insects on your plants.

***Predators and Parasites can take care of insects.

  • Predational stages of lady beetles will eat everything.
  • Black beatles are great predators of slugs and snail eggs.
  • Lace wing adults and larva are voracious feeders of aphids
  • Wasps are tremendously beneficial for controlling insect population.
  • Brown eggs near aphids with holes are parasitized.
How to attract beneficial insects?
***Diversity is really important
Insects eat:
  • Nectar for energy (contain carbs and sugar)
  • Pollen for protein
  • Leaves
Daisy like flowers are “landing pads” for bees
Tubular flowers (ex: Fox Gloves)
Tiny little flowers (ex: Alyssum) for small insects
In order to maintain a supply of beneficial insects all year-long, you must have flowers blooming all year-long.
* Don’t be fastidious.  If leaves are falling down, don’t pic them up right away.  There might be eggs beneath them.
* Tolerate insects “chewing” leaves
When is it a problem?
  • Identify that there’s a problem
  • Monitor your plants to see their normal state
  • Can you deal with the problem with mechanical/physical controls?
  • ex: Smash, squish, hose off with water
Biological Solutions
  • You can buy beneficial insects from your garden center but the insects will most likely fly away!
  • You can put a bag over a particular infested plant and release the beneficial insects to feast in the sealed bag.
  • Bacillus Thorengensis (bacterial solution) have no effect on beneficials.
  • Slug O to get rid of snails (skunks and possums might eat them as well)
  • Tangle Foot
Special Slug Solution Recipe given by our Master Gardener instructor
2 Cups of water
2 Tbs of sugar
2 Tbs of bread baking yeast
  • Place your terracotta pots upside down
  • All snails will go in because it’s dark and moist
  • You can just throw them away.
Final resort….Insecticides
Make sure to follow the instructions carefully!

UCCE Master Gardeners of Santa Clara Demo Garden

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Herbal Essenses

One of the great things about gardening and nature in general is that there are sometimes unintended results that break up the monotony of one’s life.  Here is a video of Mo, our neighborhood feral cat who finally found the cat nip source!  I had to record a video of Mo going at it with the catnip!

Dead Like Disco

I have slaughtered the aphids that almost sucked the life out of my demure and elegant rose!  In the following pictures you can see the aphids having expired, have fallen off the plant and lay dead.  🙂  I have also pruned the plant, because I did research on mildew and found that it was at the irreversible stage for the afflicted leaves.

Aphids and Mildew are taking over my rose plant

I finally decided to take action and do something about the nasty aphids covering my rose and the more recent fungus that has caused mildew (a white powdery dust) on the leaves.  Although there are home made remedies, I made an impulse purchase at Lowes today and got a chemical insecticide and fungicide for roses.  These are the most common problems one can face with growing roses.  I’ve never been good at keeping roses alive, but hopefully with more research I’ll do well with this plant.  I will be starting the medication tomorrow.  I’ll keep posting updates!

PS. I feel the same way about Aphids as I do the Honey Badger!

Sacré Bleu!

Vanda Orchid

I have a confession, I love exotic orchids!

I was just driving back from Monterey to San Jose the other day and had time to kill. Whenever I make this commute I always drive by this huge sign called South Pacific Orchids by the Masten exit off 101 in Gilroy.  This day I decided to go on a mini adventure and find this orchid grower and check out his treasures. Lucky for me, I met the owner Dan who was so nice and informative about his business and orchid care!   The orchid prices ranged from $10-35.  Such a great deal!  The plants were in great health, obviously benefiting from Dan’s TLC and expert knowledge of orchids. There was such a fantastic selection of varieties I’ve never seen at the Safeways or Trader Joes’s.  I was so impressed!  Then I spotted an extra exotic flower hanging from the ceiling.  I had to have it!  Dan informed me that this orchid is named Vanda and told me to spray it with water everyday.  I’ve been spraying the roots down everyday religiously!  The flowers are just sooo beautiful!

I can not wait to go back to South Pacific Orchids and add to my exotic orchid collection!

Later when I finally got home our landlord’s parents paid Christian and I a visit to look at some power outlet issues we had at the loft.  The mother saw the new gem of my garden and got so excited.  I showed her my patio and it quickly became evident she was very knowledgeable in orchids and gardening.  She started giving me recommendations as to placement of my plants in relation to the sun exposure my patio gets.  Her suggestion was that I put the orchid in a shady location under a tree.  So as you can see, I have followed her advice and done just that.  She also told me to move my rose out into the sunniest area.  Perhaps keeping the rose in the shade is what caused it to get the mildew fungus in the first place.

location location location

I moved about 10 miles south

The larger pots were heavy enough to maintain stability but I used my trusty crate from college to transport the smaller plants. There were a few flower pots that had slugs and worms on their bottoms that were very muddy so I decided to leave them at the old place. I figured the new tenants would have a nice cheerful greeting from their new purple pansies!

I have moved downtown to a loft that has a patio about 25% the size of the prior patio. I’ll have less space to work with, but I don’t foresee that to be a problem just yet. It wasn’t like I was utilizing all of the space at the old place anyway.

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