Saturday, December 25, 2010

Pinion Pine Nuts

Ever since I have been in the nursery business, and probably longer than that, there has been a demand for pinion pine trees. They grow at a turtles pace, especially when they don’t get supplemental irrigation. It may take 20 years to grow and eight foot tree I plant them every year from seeds that I collect or buy. This year I bought nuts sometime in October. I have a fridge that doesn’t work. I store them there because the mice can’t get to them. I did not get them planted when I wanted to. I remember during the night or when I am out of town. I planted the nuts yesterday about one inch apart in three germination trays. There were seventy-two nuts in each tray. I planted part of them directly into the Leach tubes that I use. Some I sprinkled in germination trays filled with soil. They are watered and in a heated greenhouse just waiting to grow. I have to keep the mice away. I have traps set for them and there are cats around that get them, Check out Great Basin Natives for more native plants.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring Before the Wildflowers Flower

Today was the first day of the year that I had a chance to check out the wild flowers. The snow had melted and the road was dry. I did not go all the way up the Cal Valley road. I did not have much time to go any higher and there was probably snow in the shady part of the road at a higher elevation. There was nothing flowering, but a lot of plants that were beginning to grow. In another week or two there should be some flowering. I have a few pictures.

The top picture is Eriogonum umbulatum and Flox taken today. The Second photo is Eriogonum blooming taken last year. The third picture is the estragulas taken last year and the last picture is the estragulas taken today.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Planting Trees That Don't Use Much Water

Many drought tolerant trees are irrigated by the use of drip lines. Initially A small tree doesn't require much water. The quantity of water for each tree may be set for one gallon every day. That keeps the tree alive and tree may grow quite well. The roots stay where the water is so the tree doesn't develop a good root system. A hard Wind may blow the tree over; especially if the wind comes just after they are irrigated. The roots don't grow beyond the wet soil from one gallon of water. If the tree survives the wind, the water is turned off because it is felt that it can grow in the yard like it grows in its native environment. When the supplementary water is shut off the tree begins to suffer from the lack of water. It is better to give the tree seven gallons of water once a week instead of one gallon everyday. As the tree grows water should be applied further from the trunk to encourage roots to move out. The tree has a much better chance of surviving on water from the sky if the roots have grown out a substantial distance from the trunk of the tree. Many of the drought tolerant trees have roots that grow a foot below the surface of the ground, but are way beyond the drip line. There are some years that there is not enough rainfall to soak the soil more than a foot deep. The trees have and extensive shallow root system that can capture rainfall.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Great Basin Natives Home Page

Great Basin Natives Home Page Some of the seeds that I planted since December are starting to come up. Black Sage, Artemisia nova, is showing tiny leaves at this time. The tiny seeds of the Fern Bush,Chamaebatiaria millefolium, are germinating nicely. It is a beautiful plant the looks good in all seasons. The aromatic leaves are fern like. Later in the summer white blossoms appear that attract all kinds of pollinators. In the fall there are brown seed heads at the top of green leafed stems. The green turns to a faded yellow in the early winter. Spring brings dark brown seed heads atop new green fern leaves. This drought tolerant shrub grows from two to four feet wide and two to four feet tall. After establishment, it survives on ten to twenty inches of water that falls from the sky. Nice plant for the back of the boarder or around the house in front of widows.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mice and Rice

Mice have been eating the Indian Rice Grass, Oryzopsis hymenoides, seed. I planted six trays of Indian seed about six weeks ago. I have noticed over the last week that mice have been digging up and eating the seeds. I put out three traps last night baited with peanut butter. This morning two of the traps had been tripped. One was upside down and the peanut butter bait was gone from the other trap. The third trap had some dry meat on it that I had tied to the trigger last fall. It was not touched. I have had this problem before, but having ten cats around has been very helpful. Maybe we should stop feeding the cats. I asked for suggestions on Facebook this evening and one person suggested that I hot glue dry dog food to the trap. Even though it is dark, I went out to the greenhouse with a flash light; brought in the traps; hot glued some dried cat foot to the traps. I will check in the morning to see what has happened. We should take advantage of this mouse skill and train them to sniff drugs at the airport, schools, and other places. They could easily and quietly do their job in the dark.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Deep Freeze

It snowed for about three days over a month ago. When the snowing stopped, the night time temperature dropped to over ten degrees below zero. I did not checked the greenhouse once during that time. It was dark when I tromped out through the snow. I opened the door and water was spraying all over. There was a valve right near the joint that had pulled apart. I quickly put a bucket over the spray and shut the water off. That joint has been leaking a little for a couple of years. I thought that the water pressure pulled the connection apart; no damage; I then went back to the house.

A few days later when the weather was a little warmer, I went to work. The fertilizer injector and all the piping to it were broken. The manifolds on the heating bench were broken. And the piping from the hot water heater was broken. The furnace pilot light had gone out and there was no heat for three of the coldest days of the winter. Most all of the tender plants froze. some of the tender cacti were not damaged. One of the surprises was the pomegranate bush. About three weeks later it started to bud and now there are four inches of new growth.

I lit the pilot light, ordered a new fertilizer injector, and a new manifold. I installed the new manifold and discovered that the circulation pump did not work. I ordered that Monday and got it today, Friday. It is hooked up and working. The seed trays on the heating bench must be happy. Things are beginning to grow again.

The pilot light has gone out before, but it wasn't cold enough to damage any of the plant material. I better get me an alarm to let me know when it happens again.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Zauschneria latifolia, Hummingbird's Trumpet

Hummingbird's Trumpet, Zauschneria latifolia. A great plant loved by humming birds and native plant people alike. Buds develop at the end of each each stem, then a new bud develops. Later the first buds began to flower and then the next. This continues all summer. One stem will have empty seed capsules, seed, flowers, new flowers, and buds at the same time. I picked seeds several times a week during the summer last year. Drought stops the flowering. A monthly soaking will keep the flowers blooming all summer. Four or five plants in a basket or tub makes a good display. It spread by under ground stems and by seeds. I have a plant in my yard that has been there since 1999.

It is also known as California Fuchsia. I made a hanging basket with a lot of flowers A 14 inch Bloom Master basket has three rows of holes with ten holes in each row. Last year I put a Zauscheneria latifolia plant in each hole and ten plants in the top. That's 40 plants in all. It bloomed lightly last year. I left it in a cold frame all winter to partially protect it from the hard freezing. I checked it today and new growth has started. There will be multiple stems out of each hole this year where last year there was one or two stems. I am expecting a great floral display this summer. I cleaned it up by cutting off all of the old growth. You can buy plants at Great Basin Natives.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Princes Plume, Stanleya pinnata

The warmer weather is affecting the plants in the cold frames. Buds of some of the trees and shrubs are beginning to swell. Some of the perennials are starting to grow. The Stanleya pinnata, Princes Plume. is one such perennial. It has remained green all winter and now shows leaf growth. If it remains in the cold frame much longer it will start to flower before gardeners can start planting. Yellow flowers on tall spikes starts blooming on the bottom of the top half of the stem. Over the course of the summer it blooms all the way to the top. There are ripe seeds at the bottom and flowers in the middle and new buds at the top of the flower stem. Older plants have numerous flower stems with a very long blooming time. It grows at various elevations, but an outstanding characteristic is its ability to survive on limited rainfall. These are ready to go now for those living in a warmer climate. See them at

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Box Elder, Acer negundo

The mention of Box Elder tree instanly brings to mind "no, no," the Box Elder bug. Box Elder is the most widely distributed of all the North American maples, It grows coast to coast and from Canada to Guatemala. This tree grows in almost every county in Utah. It is a fast growing shade tree that will grow in soils where other maples may not grow. The Box Elder bug lives off the seeds of the female tree. But Cutting down every Box Elder tree in your neighborhood or town would not eliminate the Box Elder bug. The bugs can fly a couple of miles from their food source. Also they can live on other maple trees and ash trees. Source

If any of you are interested in making maple syrup, The Box Elder tree is a good source for sap. Tapping a maple tree is rather easy. You will need some barbed couplers, plastic tubing the same size as the couplers, a drill and bit to make the hole, and a container to catch the sap. Find a tree that has a minimum diameter of 18 inches. The larger the tree the more sap that you will get. I used a gallon jug to collect the sap. It always ran over when I got back the next day. I would recommend a five gallon container. Have the tubing ready by inserting the coupler into the tubing. The sap may start flowing just as soon as you drill the hole. Drill the hole high enough to leave room below for the container. The hole should go about an inch beyond the cambium layer. The coupler should fit tight in the bark so the sap will not leak out. Caution: If the coupler goes beyond the cambium layer into the wood, the sap will not go through the coupler. Insert one end of the coupler and tubing into the hole. Of course the other end goes into the container. Several trees can be tapped at the same time and collection tubes can be hooked together.

You do this when the the day are warm and the nights are cold. This happens in February and March. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. A gallon of sap will make about one half cup of syrup.

Boiling sap in the house makes sticky walls. boiling outside over a wood fire is the traditional way. It is probably cheaper to buy the syrup, but it tastes good and is fun for the whole family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some Miscapes

There are many things to consider in building a landscape. The problem that most people have, and even some of the professional people, has to do with mature plant size. In my yard, I have moved plants to a different location because they were planted to close together. There are a bunch more that need to be moved. Smaller plants cost a whole lot less money, and for most of them it doesn't take very long for them to grow bigger.

There is a breezeway between my house and the garage with a block path that goes to the backyard. After I put in the walking blocks, I planted several shrubs. They really looked nice for a couple of years, and still look nice, but the shrubs have grown over the path. I can still walk on it but when I do I brush against the shrubs. That's OK except when it rains or snows. Then I have to go off the path and walk across some flower beds to keep from getting wet. To fix it I could move the shrubs or move the path. I ended up moving the path which was a whole lot easier. That is just one of many examples.

When one installs smaller plants. You can get more plants for the dollar. However, with the smaller plants the yard looks pretty barren the first couple of year because there is a whole lot of space between each plant. The temptation to put them closer together is very great. I started a small dry garden that looked pretty bad because the plants were very small. My wife saw that and had me plant annuals in the bare space. The annuals required more water, but the first year for perennials also requires the same amount of water. That garden looked really good. We will see how it looks this spring.

Another problems is zoning your garden. Many gardeners do not consider the water requirement of the plant material. Most yards with sprinklers have several zones for the lawn. There would be some shrub zones and then some zones for the annuals and perennials. The problems is having different water requirements plants in the same zone. One plant may require watering every other day and then another one that does well by being watered once a month. Even natives plants have differing water requirements.

Consider natural landscapes. There are some that have a dominant plant like sagebrush, pines, or rabbit brush, but they are pretty boring. They may all have perennials that bloom at different times of the year and are of different heights. There are some annuals that bloom in different times of the year. The natural landscape is more interesting where the desert plants meet the pinions and junipers. Or where the pinion/junipers meet the mountain trees and shrubs. All the plants in the natural landscape have the same water requirement. Years of higher rainfall produce a greater floral display than the years with lower rainfall.

Generally speaking annuals bloom all summer and perennials bloom for one to four weeks. They bloom, go to seed, and then they are done. Therefore, one should plant some perennials that bloom in the spring, some in the summer and others that would blooming the fall. Flower color should also be considered. Planting a few annuals among the perennials will give nice color all summer long.

Plant height is another consideration in the landscape. Usually tall plants are in the back and short ones in the front. But that doesn't always have to be that way. If there are short plants in the back, There has to be some opening past the taller plants so that the short plants can be seen. I don’t like to see plants in rows with tall row in the back and each row getting shorter until the shortest plants in the front row.

A landscape should be attractive in winter or summer. Consider how a plant looks in the winter. Evergreens look good in the winter. Shrubs that have pleasing color bark or contorted branches have a high winter impact. Great Basin Natives

Monday, January 18, 2010

Starting a Native Garden

A couple of days ago I received the following email:

I need advice on what to do with horrible patches of salt grass in my yard. I envision cosmos and lots of wild flowers, buckwheat, rocks, but what I have are a few trees and salt grass. Any tips?

Saltgrass, Distichlis spicata, is native to Utah and many other western states. It is very stiff grass that can grow in various soil types. It can grow in the dry desert and in mud and water. It is not a grass that children would like to play on or go barefooted. There are several positives for it. You don't have to water it, and it can hold the soil together to help prevent erosion. I would consider using some of it in the landscape. You could consider using it as walking paths where you could walk through your native landscape. The following plants arranged in your yard will leave you with beautiful, sustainable native landscape. All would have to be watered weekly for one full summer after planting. After that one watering in each of the following months of June, July, and August.
  • Gaillardia aristata, Blanket Flower
  • Antennaria parvifolia , Pussytoes
  • Arenaria fendleri, Shrubby Sandwart
  • Argemone munita, Prickly Poppy
  • Dalea purpurea, Violet Prairie Clover
  • Eriogonum jamesii, James Sulphur Flower
  • Eriogonum ovalifolium, Coin Buckwheat
  • Eriogonum racemosum, Pink Smoke Buckwheat
  • Eriogonum umbulatum
  • Linum perenne, Lewis' Blue Flax
  • Mirabilis multiflora, Desert Four O'clock
  • Oenothera casespitoso, Tufted Evening Primrose
  • Penstemon barbatus, Scarlet Bugler Penstemon
  • Penstemon eatonii, Eaton Penstemon
  • Penstemon palmeri, Palmer's Penstemon
  • Penstemon angustifolius, var. dulcis
  • Perityle stansburyi, Stansbury's Rock Daisy
  • Solidago canadensis, Golden Rod
  • Sphaeraicea munroana, Munroe's Globemallow
  • Stanleya pinnata, Prince's Plume
  • Bouteloua gacilis, Blue Gramma
  • Bouteloua curtipendula, Sideoats grama
  • Elymus cinereus, Great Basin Wild Rye
  • Sporobolus airoides
  • Chamaebatiaria millefolium, Fernbush
  • Ephedra viridis, Mormon Tea
  • Gutierrezia sarothrae, Broom Snakebrush
  • Rhus aromatica var. Trilobata
  • Ribes aureum, Golden Currant
  • Sheperdia argentea, Silver Buffaloberry
  • Yucca Kanabensis, Kanab Yucca
  • Yucca utahensis, Utah Yucca
  • Acer negundo, Box Elder
  • Celtis reticulata, Netleaf Hackberry
  • Juniperus osteosperma, Utah Juniper
There are some other plants that might fit, but I don't know how they would do in your climate. Also there are cacti, cholla, bulbs that do well with only the winter rain and snow. Great Basin Natives