Foliage Friday: Acanthus Mollis

Today’s Foliage Friday is this large stately flowering bush that I saw around Filoli, but also see in my neighborhood.

Earlier in the year, the ones planted in my neighborhood didn’t have the flowering stalks; they just large glossy rhubarb-like leaves. I knew it wasn’t rhubarb of course, but I wondered if they were somehow related.

Continue reading “Foliage Friday: Acanthus Mollis”

Nate’s Forest

Nate has been collecting seeds – from trees in his neighborhood or fruit from the grocery store – and germinating them. He has amassed quite a collection of small potted trees on his balcony.

There is a small patch of land near his apartment that is overgrown with weeds. It seems like public property (we’re not 100% sure…) He has taken it over as his own personal forest.

Continue reading “Nate’s Forest”

Should I Direct Sow or Transplant?

I started nearly all of my seeds indoors this year rather than direct sowing them into the garden space. The one exception was lettuce. I chose to do it this way primarily because I could better control the conditions inside, so I thought I’d have been success than if I tried to direct sow in the ground.

But I read seed packets, and many of them recommend direct sowing, rather than transplanting. Do I really need to be direct sowing?

Continue reading “Should I Direct Sow or Transplant?”

Foliage Friday: Centaurea

Today’s foliage friday is this alien-looking flower that was familiar to me, but I couldn’t think of the name:


I get centaurea and centranthus mixed up for some reason. Very different flowers.

Centranthus ruber (Red Valerian)
Centranthus not Centaurea! (Image from

Centaureas are a genus of plants in the Asteracea family (which includes daisies, zinnias, and many other classic flowers). They can be perennials, biennials, or annuals. What I didn’t know about Centaurea is that they can be invasive weeds!

In Oregon and Washington, some species of Centaurea are considered noxious, class B, weeds! From what I understand, Centaurea originated in Europe or the Meditterranean and was brought over the the US as seeds. The plant produces hundreds of seeds each year, and they spread easily. The species that are considered invasive in Oregon and Washington are Centaurea diffusa and Centaurea maculosa, more commonly known as knapweed. Another common name for some of the invasive Centaurea species is starthistle.  

On the other hand, Centaureas provide lots of nectar for beneficial insects and pollinators.

According to a GardenSmart Oregon pamphlet (link), non-invasive alternatives to C. maculosa or C. diffusa include Centaurea moschata and Scabiosa columbaria (which just so happens to have been a recent foliage friday).

Amberboa moschata1UME.jpg
Centaurea moschata
Scabiosa (not columbaria)

Growing Dahlias From Seed: Round 3

I’ve tried starting dahlias from seed twice before, and both times I got zero germination (in Palo Alto, and in Portland). I figured the seeds were duds, but, my dad – not wanting to waste the seeds he collected – decided to try again. This time, he put them on the heat mat.

He read online that dahlia seeds like a warm environment – at least 70°F – to germinate. They seem to have liked that, because….

Ta Da!

There are 11 small dahlia seedlings. Note to my future self: use a heat mat to start dahlia seeds!

From what I read, dahlias take 100-120 days from seed to flower. One hundred days from when dad started these seeds would be early September, I believe. We should still be frost free by then, so there’s a chance we’ll see some flowers from these dahlias! I can’t wait to see what variety we get!

One of the original dahlias

Summer Reading: Garden Edition

Perhaps it’s more appropriate to post a garden reading list in the winter when there’s less gardening to do and therefore more time to read, but I can’t resist a good summer reading list. It makes me want to read allll the books!

Here’s my Summer Reading Syllabus: Garden Edition.

Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
40725379. sy475

This is a memoir written by Barbara Kingsolver about a year in her family’s life trying to eat as locally as possible and grow much of their own food in Appalachia. This is an oldie but a goodie. I’ve already read this book at least twice.

The Well-Gardened Mind by Sue Stuart-Smith

This has been on my TBR list for a while now….it’s written by a psychiatrist and gardener about the benefits of nature on our mental health. I don’t really need a book to tell me that gardening is good for our mental health, but I’m interested in what this book has to say nonetheless.

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

This book was on a lot of best-sellers lists last summer at the peak of the BLM movement. I’m a little worried its over-hyped because of the cross-over between BLM and indigenous peoples (the topic of this book), but we’ll see…

The New Heirloom Garden by Ellen Ecker Ogden
50336055. sx318

This is mostly just a fun eye-candy book. The reviews are mixed – if you’re looking for practical gardening design advice, this does not seem like a book worth reading. I’m just interested in flipping through the pages.

Uprooted by Page Dickey
Uprooted: A Gardener Reflects on Beginning Again

I read Embroidered Ground, an earlier memoir from gardener, Page Dickey, about creating her Duck Hill garden. It was … meh…. 3/5 stars. But this book, Uprooted, has gotten some good publicity, so I’m giving her another chance! Uprooted is another memoir about moving away from her Duck Hill garden and creating yet another garden (or not).

Nature’s Best Hope by Doug Tallamy
43212849. sx318

Admittedly….this is not one I’m looking forward to reading per se… This book is a “I-should-read-this-book” book. It sounds kind of dry and depressing, but the topic of conversation as it pertains to gardening is very important, and something I need to learn more about. I’m sure it will be very educational, and every good summer reading list should have an I-know-you-don’t-want-to-but-it’ll-be-good-for-you book.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
17465453. sy475

It’s hard to find good, well-written, garden-themed fiction. This one is about a botanist…I’m not sure how much gardening it will include, but I’ve enjoyed other books written by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I’m curious about this one.

Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

A cookbook! Cookbooks is one of my favorite genres – I read them cover to cover. I could probably make an entire Summer Reading List that is exclusively cookbooks, but I will refrain…. This one is by Deborah Madison – vegetarian chef extraordinaire – and, from the previews, it looks right up my alley: interesting, unique, original recipes that I would never have thought to create myself. I can’t wait to read this one all the way through!