Saturday, June 8, 2013

Don't fall for this gimmick!

This time of year, Home Depot can reveal some succulent and cactus treasures and other times, they'll shock you with horrible gimmicks like these below.

Behold The Kosmik cactus! A.K.A. Cacti that have been spray painted or dyed neon colors to fool the unsuspecting buyer! What a load of crap! I feel so bad for these little guys!

These "Kosmik" colors include like neon pink, aqua, neon yelow and electric blue. If you see these in person, look closely at the spines, you'll see the color has adhered to the white spines and has also saturated the green skin beneath. The tag even mentions that "new spines emerge as a glistening white or gleaming yellow" which clearly tells you that this color was merely spray painted on top.

It's horrible to think that they sprayed these little guys with chemicals. In this photo, it looks like some people bought them and check out the little balls of color left behind. It gives you an idea of how unnatural this collection is. Don't buy them and don't encourage this trick! So, what does a normal "thimble cactus" actually look like?

Like this. WHITE spines and if you treat them nice, they'll even have darling, little delicate flowers! While cactus are definitely exotic looking plants, these neon colors just don't exist in real life.

And while I'm on the subject, Home Depot is also known to sell cacti with glued on flowers. It looks like this:

The colors on the flower seem about right seem right. It even looks like what a cactus flower would do. At first, if you're not knowledgeable about cacti, you might think it's real (and hey, I've bought some before!) But on closer inspection. It's just a dyed, dry flower that has been HOT GLUED to the plant! After a while, the cactus will grow and the flower will fall off leaving you with an ugly glob of hard glue stuck between the spines. It will be unsightly and impossible to remove. Your poor plant will live with this glob for years. :(

What do cacti flowers ACTUALLY look like?

Cactus flowers emerge from a tubular stem that can be either green or the color of the petals. The flower itself can come in variety of shades and usually has a VERY silky feel to the touch. (Not dry and brittle like the fake flowers.) 

So, if you see a flower at Home Depot on your cactus, look carefully at the base. You can usually see the glue!

Don't pay extra for a gimmick. Don't encourage this foul business trick!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Things are starting to grow again!

It's always exciting to see new growth coming onto your plants.  :)  I've been working so hard on the hardscaping that I haven't had much time to update or put any special care into any particular plant.  But now that the yard is mostly done, I can refocus on cultivation.

This baby agave americana variegated kept a red edge on it's leaves.  Unusual, and very nice.

This is my Shohin Bonsai bench.  Mostly traditional bonsai material with the exception of the fockea edulis.  Two of my rooted cuttings are doing well also.  One was a crepe myrtle from the tree in the front yard.  The other is a boxwood cutting.  Everything is super green.

Our E.G. Waterhouse camelia has petite bright pink flowers.

These are flowers from our Coral Bells Kurume azalea shrub.  The shrub is still a baby at barely over a foot tall.  It's a toughie but still alive!  :)

This is a flower from our Goldmine nectarine tree.  The flowers are very similar to cherry blossoms, peach, and purple leaf plum.  It'll be tricky to compete with the animals for some fruit.  Last year we lost.

My first Japanese Black Pine.  New candles are coming up.  I will work on energy balancing on this guy soon.  April is feeding time.

This is my third Japanese Black Pine.  I bought it specifically to grow and train as bonsai.  It was originally about 5 feet tall.  I chopped it to about 20".  It's got some movement going on in there.  I like it.

Squirrel 1 - Me 0.  Now we know who's taking one bite out of every avocado and running off.  He isn't scared of us at all.  I think he might have eaten the few we had last year nectarines too.  I think he's threatening me with his stiff tail.

This wisteria was a bonsai inherited by me from my Dad's original collection.  A family friend adopted it when my Dad was no longer able to take care of his plants.  I didn't have the space to take any plants at that time.  It turned out that the family friend was too busy to take care of it also.  That was when I adopted it.  When I first received it, it was just a bunch of tangled up vines that were about 5 feet long.  I didn't do much.  Just a little trimming and fertilizer brought this tree a long ways.  It's had a tough past but hopefully it'll be on it's way to recovery now.  Wisteria has a very strong and pleasant fragrance.  I really love this tree it was moved very close to the house so that we could enjoy it more.

Here we are enjoying a wonderful weathered Saturday afternoon after a good lunch at Porto's.  :D

Our Howard McMinn Manzanita is flowering tiny white flowers.  :)  Yay!

At 6" off the ground, they seem a little low for humming birds, but who knows!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Patio foundation with pea gravel and decomposed granite

 Brick Patio Foundation project:

Instead of resting like my cat, I worked on my patio's sub base.

I removed about 6" of soil where the patio is going to be. Used that soil to build berms for my two cactus/succulent islands. A garden hoe is a must to spread the decomposed granite around.  This is the first rough estimate layer.


Then landscape fabric, a couple inches of pea gravel, and a couple of inches of decomposed granite. I used 1" pvc pipes and a 2x4 to screed the DG. There is a slight slope away from the house. I dropped the level 1" every 8 ft. The longest part of the patio goes 16 feet back adjacent to the north wall.

My plan is to use a herring bone pattern with the bricks with the arrow shapes pointed towards the south east corner of the yard. That will draw the eye towards that corner of the yard.  I use a low end Gorilla dump cart that has "no flat" tires.  I think that is much easier than pushing a wheelbarrow around because you don't have to lift the weight nor balance the load as much.  The brick patio will be nicely shaded during the summer when the sun angle is more overhead.

I watered the sub base and tamped it down.  It's a great feeling to see the patio coming so close to done.

I use drip irrigation, and will leave the lines above the patio for easy maintenance.  I plan to use only solar lights, and if I need a power outlet back here, I'll just use an extension cord so no need for under patio electricity or irrigation.  I'll save myself future headaches by keeping it simple there.

For long portions of the patio, I duct taped two sections of pipe together. You can see the wooden stakes I used to calculate and mark the slope away from the house here.  It feels so good to see a flat surface after so much hard labor work.  :)

Here is a photo of the 2x4 lumber I used to screed the DG to make it the proper level.  I can hardly wait to get the bricks laid.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Best sand box ever! :)

We finally did it!  These photos were taken at the crack of noon.  My wife and I moved 15 tons of 3/8" pea gravel from our driveway into the backyard and it looks amazing.  I was so excited to see it today for the first time in day light that I didn't even bother to run around to trim off excess pieces of landscape fabric around some edges or tidy up the mounds of extra gravel before photographing.  What can I say.  I'm a gardener, not a perfectionist.  I'll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

My desert roses have been in bloom since early June, and they're still going.

Here's what it looked like before the metamorphosis.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Backyard building materials

Materials cost

This is what our back yard currently looks like.

A couple of years ago, I had a slightly different plan for the yard.  I asked a landscape designer and builder for an estimate of how much it would cost to execute.  He said he would charge me $30,000 to do it all.  Needless to say, that was not an option.

Our yard is approximately 50' x 50'.  The perimeter has already been planted and mulched.  I asked for enough gravel to cover 40' x 40' area with 2" of gravel.  I bought everything at National Building Supply in Sylmar, CA.

3/8" pea gravel - 15 tons x $21 = $315

Decomposed granite - 8 scoops x $15 = $120

LB 3 Rivers Rock - 1,700 lbs (1 pallet) x $0.18 = $306

Delivery $75

Terra cotta brown charcoal bricks $1.30 per sq. ft. (normally $1.90) x 400 sq. ft. = $520
2nd Delivery $45.  Not the red ones, the neutral ones.  I just put them next to common red bricks for comparison.

Grand Total $1,381

The only thing I need in addition is a few 1" pvc pipes, and an edging to hammer down around the outside perimeter.  Oh yeah, and it will also cost me blood, sweat, and pain; the labor of love.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

V&N Nursery in Venice, CA review

I went to V&N Nursery in Venice, CA recently.  The staff is friendly and helpful.  The grounds are clean and organized.  This is definitely a nursery for succulent gardeners and collectors.  Nothing is tagged with a price or plant ID so you have to ask how much everything costs.  Their prices are pretty fair.  I would still stand behind the "if you can buy a plant at Home Depot, then do it" rule because they usually have the lowest prices and the plants are guaranteed for a year.  Their webpage is not helpful at all other than to get their address.  The nice thing here is that it's usually very cool weather here since it's very near to the beach.  San Diego has some awesome succulent gardens but boy are they scorching especially in the summer.

 This is an interesting vertical succulent frame display they made.

 They have a few decent succulent arrangements on display.

 They sell some decorative gravel and rocks for potting arrangements and terrariums.

 Succulents are good for relieving itching.

 Everyone needs a giant dinosaur in their garden.

 They carry several landscape sized plants including these large golden barrels that grow super slow.

The quality that makes this nursery stand out is the fact that they have some nice landscape sized plants for decent prices.  I mean plants that are probably not going to randomly show up at the Home Depot.  These include a Aloe barbarae, Aloe marlothii, Aloe ramosissima, and Yucca rostrata.  There are probably several more.  They also have Totem Pole cactus but that seems to be expensive everywhere unless you buy a tiny piece.  There are no discounted bargain bin plants here.  Overall, this is a pretty good nursery for succulents in the L.A. area that I've been to with a decent selection and prices.