Wednesday, January 19, 2022


 Ahoy all.  After telling many of my clients about which annuals do best for cool weather in SoCal, I thought maybe I'd tell you too.  Let me start with why this is an issue.  There are many annuals that DON'T do well.  Everybody loves Pansies.  But they get crown rot and 3/4 of them die even if you plant them high like you're supposed to. I get around that problem by only planting some in pots in my own garden. Lately even Violas are having the same issue.  Snapdragons are pretty.  But often they sit for a few months before flowering.  I don't have time for that! And I have seen small caterpillars eat the flowers inside the bud before it even opens.  Iceland Poppies are beautiful when I see them. But squirrels will eat the plant down to a nub. So, what is left?  Calendulas! 

Calendula is a cool season annual native to Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean.  It was used as a medicinal herb to combat headaches, fever and toothaches and is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also edible though I've never tried it.  The foliage is kinda stinky.     Colors available are yellow, orange and some mixtures.  They are great in borders or companions for roses and Irises because they only get about 8" tall and wide.  I plant them in Autumn and they'll last until it gets hot.  I do have two clients who can keep them through the summer. And sometimes they will reseed and pop up here and there.  I end up yanking mine to get in summer annuals BEFORE it gets too hot usually in May. It's nice to get 6 months out of an annual.  They do best with a little deadheading. And they will last for several days as a cut flower with a short stem. 

Yellow and orange are the most common. 

Last fall in October I was really to plant and I couldn't find them in my local under-the-power-lines nursery(who is cheaper than other nurseries).  So I went to another good nursery and spent triple the money and got what I could find.  They ended up being a mixture and I got some really pretty colors.  

I love this peachy one!  

And this one with the dark center is really pretty!

Here is that peachy one all the way open to show that dark eye. 

 One of my favorite things about Calendulas is that the petals feel like bird feathers.  They're super soft and pettable.  So, we still have time for you to plant some Calendulas here in SoCal if you want.  Enjoy! 

Happy Gardening! 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

30 Year Old Staghorn Fern

 Ahoy all.  I haven't posted in a year and a half.  Did you miss me?  I kinda stopped because I rarely get comments and it doesn't seem worthwhile if you aren't reading.  So, if you want me to post more, please let me know.

On Christmas Eve I backed out of our driveway on my way to work and noticed that my 30 year old Staghorn Fern -Platycerium bifurcatum had fallen.  The chain finally completely rusted away and the plant was sitting on the ground.  Luckily there were no plants underneath is to get crushed! I planted that fern 5 houses ago when I still worked at a nursery back in maybe 1990!  

This is the plant that when people come to my garden they say "What IS that?" I've had it for so long and except for a few surgeries it's no trouble.  When we were house hunting I wanted a tree for my Staghorn fern.  I knew that if the house had all the other things I wanted but no tree, I would have given the fern away.  But our Ash tree holds it fine!  

Long ago I began with a 12" wire basket.  What you do is place wet green moss inside the basket lining it completely. Then fill with some potting soil. Then set one or more stag horn ferns on top.  You can use fishing line(or whatever works) to tie it down because there are no roots to hold it up.  The fern grows shields that anchors it to the basket(or if mounted on wood) and spreads by spores(or magic) to eventually cover the whole basket.  It gets watered when I water the rest of the garden.  

New baby shield groping

And the plant being a fern spreads by spores to make more shields and antlers. 

brown spores

Back to the present.  I thought UGH, that is going to be a ton of surgery to cut into it to find the old wire basket(assuming it has not disintegrated) to attach new chain.  Then I bought the wrong chain at a nursery and had to go to Home Depot to buy stainless steel chain.  I spent too much money.   Then my Rick offered a different solution, to make a circle of chain with three chains attached too it, essentially cradling the fern.  Yay, less work and no surgery!  

So, Rick bought even more chain and made the cradle.  We put it under and around the fern.   He bought pulleys to lift it with rope.   We had it all harnessed and tried to lift it.  It was still too wet as we had enjoyed 6" of rain before and after Christmas.   So we waited a week.  It was still too heavy.  

So, it sat for 2 weeks sitting on a milk crate to dry out.  

Today it got lifted!  It's too low in my opinion.  But we'll wait to adjust it.  

Here I am with my old friend.

Do you grow a Staghorn Fern?  I'd love to hear about it.  Thanks for reading.  

Happy Gardening!