Archive for November, 2008

First Camellia Flowers of the Season

These pictures show some of the first camellia blooms in our yard this season. We have nine camellia bushes in our yard. All of them except one were planted by previous owners of the house. A few of ours have very large trunks and look like they could be as much as 50 years old. Camellias can have a very long lifespan. Some have lived 100 years or more.

The particular camellia in these pictures looks to be about 20-25 years old. It is definitely a camellia japonica, but I am not sure what particular type of japonica it is. My best guess is that it is a Louise Hairston Variegated, a variety that was developed in the USA in 1967.

Camellias are gorgeous flowers. When one is in full bloom, a large plant can be covered with hundreds of flowers, each a few inches in diameter. Camellias also have glossy dark evergreen leaves that are attractive all year long. They come in a huge variety of shapes, although nearly all camellias are red, pink, white, or a combination thereof. One of the best things about camellias is the fact that they flower during cool weather. In general, camellias flower from October through April. Most of the camellia japonicas in our area (USDA zone 9) bloom from January through March. They are one of the few plants we have that bloom in the winter months.

Camellias are popular plants in our neighborhood. Nearly every yard has at least one. They add color to the neighborhood during the colder months, and their foliage remains attractive during the warmer months.

Camellias prefer a shady location. Most of our camellias are planted on the northeast and northwest sides of our house. Some of our camellias have grown higher than the roof line, and as a result, the top branches receive sun most of the day. But they don’t seem to mind as long as the roots and lower branches are shaded.

November 29 2008 | Camellias | No Comments »

White Simplicity Rose

I planted this white simplicity rose in our garden about 5 years ago as a bare root rose along with yellow and pink simplicity bare root roses. The pink simplicity roses grew but never bloomed. After about 3 years without a single flower, I pulled them up. The yellow simplicity rose blooms, but it doesn’t impress visually in terms of both its leaves and flowers. It doesn’t get many flowers, and the flowers it does get lose their petals quickly. Its leaves seem to have gotten infected with some kind of fungus. I plan to pull it up this winter and replace it with a different variety.

On the other hand, the white simplicity rose has grown and bloomed beautifully. It produces a lot of flowers, and it’s flowers are nice looking, but the flowers do not have much of a fragrance. It’s blooming now in late November, even though it’s growing in a spot that receives only about 2 hours of direct but filtered sunlight this time of year. This picture was taken last weekend.

I also have two white iceberg rose bushes. Iceberg is another floribunda rose. The flowers of iceberg look very similar to simplicity. However, I prefer simplicity to iceberg, because the simplicity rose’s branches grow upright and are sturdier than iceberg. The iceberg rose grows long weak branches that extend too far outward from the center of the plant.

When rain or sprinkler water hits opened iceberg rose flowers, the branches sag down toward the ground. They often do not perk up after drying off, giving the plant an uncared for look. Iceberg roses tend to need more aggressive pruning to keep them looking manicured. I rarely prune the simplicity rose, and it still looks very well manicured even after a rain.

Also, the leaves of the simplicity rose are much larger and more attractive looking than the leaves of our iceberg roses. The simplicity rose leaves are a healthy dark glossy green color, while the leaves of our iceberg roses are a lighter green color and are much smaller.

November 23 2008 | Roses | No Comments »

Granny Smith Apples

I planted a granny smith apple tree transplant in our yard in 2006. It’s a scrawny little tree. It hasn’t grown much since I planted it, even though I have been watering it regularly and fertilizing it twice a year. Even so, I have high hopes that it will undergo a growth spurt eventually.

This tree produced about 8 apples this season. The apples are large enough to cause the tree’s weak branches to sag down toward the ground. A few of the branches have broken off under the weight of just one or two apples. The tree has so few branches that some of the apples got sunburned in the summertime.

I picked granny smith partly because it has a lower chill requirement than most apples and partly because I like the flavor. The granny smith apple flavor is slightly tart, at least when it is fully ripe. People who think that granny smith apples are supposed to be extremely tart have never eaten a fully ripened one. I think that the flavor is like a very mild version of a tart green apple candy.

Some sources say that granny smith apples should be picked in September. But I have heard that they are best left on the tree until after November 1, weather permitting. Last year, I harvested them the first week of November, and they were only slightly tart. Most of them had a great flavor, although a few were bland. This year, I am leaving them on the tree a few weeks longer to see what difference, if any, a few extra weeks would make. I have harvested a few so far, and they taste about the same as last year.

November 17 2008 | Apples | 1 Comment »

Big Beef Tomatoes Ripened Just in Time

I planted one big beef tomato plant and one early girl tomato plant in our raised bed garden in early July. As of a month ago, the big beef tomato plant hadn’t produced more than 3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, but the plant was full of green tomatoes. As shown in this picture, many of the big beef tomatoes ripened just in time to be picked before a change in the weather that occurred here about 2 weeks ago.

Before Halloween, I picked about 15 large red tomatoes and made a big batch of tomato sauce with them. The weekend after Halloween, a large rain storm came in, and the temperature got much cooler. The highs were only in the low 60s (F) here, although the lows were well above freezing in the 40s. After that weather event, most of the remaining tomatoes turned mildew, and the plant’s leaves turned brown. I pulled up the plant a few days ago.

Our last frost usually occurs in February. So next year, I plan to plant a big beef tomato in the ground by April 1st. It just takes too long for big beef tomatoes to ripen to plant one after about June 1st.

Our early girl tomato that we also planted in early July produced ripe tomatoes by September. If we have the space next July, I would consider putting in a late early girl planting again to ensure an autumn harvest of tomatoes.

November 15 2008 | Tomatoes | No Comments »

Julia Child Roses Still Opening

The growing seasons is largely over here in Northern California. As of mid-November, our roses are no longer growing new buds, but the buds that developed on our rose bushes in October are continuing to open this month.

This photograph shows a few of the flowers that are open on our Julia Child floribunda rose bush. The flowers of this rose have an eye-catching pale orange color and a mildly sweet candy smell that is very different from the typical rose smell. The flowers resemble an English rose in terms of their shape and petal pattern. Like many other floribunda roses, our Julia Child rose tends to produce many more flowers than a hybrid tea, although its flowers are smaller than the flowers of a hybrid tea rose.

We planted our Julia Child rose bush in our garden about 2 years ago, and it has doubled in size since then. This rose has a bushy growing habit. Rather than growing a few long canes like a hybrid tea rose, it grows lots of short stems and lots of glossy leaves that give the bush a filled-out rounded shape. However, its flowers are not ideal for cutting, because their stems are so short.

November 10 2008 | Roses | No Comments »

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