March came in like a wet lion and went out as a warm and dry lamb.
Spring Flowers - Ranunculus
Spring Flowers - Anemone
2016 is the second year for our Narrow-leaf Blue-eyed grass. Sisyrinchium angustifolium is noted for its violet-blue flowers and branched flowering stems. Though their foliage is grass-like, the blue-eyed grasses belong to the iris family not the grass family. It is native to southeast USA where it occurs in damp open woods, slopes and along stream banks.
Spring flowers - Sparaxis
The tree has a lot of flowers but few fruit. I thought the tree might not be self-fertile so I planted a Bing cherry tree next to it, hoping for cross-pollination. The Bing tree started flowering two weeks after the Lapins tree flowered. The amount of cherries from either tree wasn’t great. So I could not confirm that cross-pollination was occurring.
The next step was to try grafts. In Spring 2015, I returned from the Santa Clara Valley Fruit Growers Exchange with six scion branches that I grafted onto my mature Lapins cherry tree. Three of the six grafts took. This year, all three grafts have produced fruit.
My next theory is that the developing fruit are dropping due to drought stress. The tree is in the remains of a swimming pool so its only moisture comes from rain or lawn sprinkers. In 2015, I removed the lawn. So in 2016, I have decided to water the trees more heavily. During the fruiting season (late spring and into summer), a mature cherry tree can use 37 gallons per day through evapotranspiration (according to a UC document). Every 3 days I run the hose at full volume (10 gallons per minute) for 10 minutes.
The decision to not spray fungicide in January was a mistake: both Blenheim apricot trees and both nectarine trees are suffering from fungus problems. Lots of small branches (and a few larger ones) wither and die. I am removing fuzzy mummy fruits when they appear. I am going to remove one of the nectarines and replace it with the Panache Fig
My brother Adam came up from southern California with a Panache Fig tree in a 10-gallon pot. The Panache Fig (aka Tiger Fig) has a yellow and green-striped skin with a strawberry-colored flesh. Unlike our Black Mission Fig, the Panache Fig does not have a spring crop. It is supposed to have a larger fall crop. Because it loves the heat, I will pot it next to our south facing wall. Note: the 3 giant leaves near the ground are from our second-year Rhubarb.
In 2015 I tried several trunk grafts of fig scions on our Black Mission Fig tree to increase yield. None of them took. However it seems to have scared the fig tree into producing a sucker trunk that has produced several fall fruits and has fruit this spring. While the literature suggests removing it, as long as the fruit are tasty and the yield is up, I will live the second trunk.
We have a dwarf Black Mulberry tree growing in a large container. At this age the tree is shrub-like with several trunks about 6 feet tall from soil-height. During a wind storm, the trunks were really moving but they survived. This is the first year it is flowering and has set fruit. The flowers are tiny (a fraction of an inch) and unimpressive. The fruit when small are reddish. The mature fruit will turn black and resemble a blackberry. It is said they make good preserved jams and jellies.
During March, I heavily pruned (30% cut back) our 40-year-old Tangerine tree. That tree is in a 24-inch wide side trench.
Our 40-year-old Oro Blanco Grapefruit tree continues to produce lots of fruit. I topped it to the 9-foot height of our neighbor’s garage.
Our 15-year-old Washington Naval Orange tree finished its fruits and is blossoming. The orange tree is growing in the same 24-inch wide trench that runs the length of the side of the yard for 100 feet.
Our 15-year-old Improved Meyers Lemon continues to produce all the lemons we need.
Due to the wet El Nino winter, the Amaryllis belladona bulbs (commonly known as pink ladies or naked ladies), are having a bumper growth this year. The bulbs produce fleshy leaves from January through April; then the leaves die off; and finally in August the flower stalks/scapes emerge with their gorgeous pink flower heads.
The dahlias have broken the ground surface.
During the last few days of March, our blackberry bushes are flowering. This is two weeks earlier than 15 years ago.
The hanging baskets are doing well with their purple and pink Pericallis, multi-colored Primrose, and purple Lantana, surrounded by shorter plants like Bacopa, Lithodora, Pansies and Violas. I have drip-irrigation running to the hanger poles but the plants still require more shade in the afternoon because of the solar heat reflected off of 9 foot tall stucco walls.
The winter vegetables I planted in November (cabbage, kale, carrots and beets) continue to grow but the obstacles to a bountiful harvest are huge. The winter is neither cold or long enough and these crops do better in the ground rather than in containers.