Tag Archives: politics

proper pesticide application

In this photo Lt. John Pike of the police force of the University of California, Davis demonstrates the proper way to apply pesticides and fungicides in your garden. The lieutenant’s top tips:

  • Wear gloves! The stuff is gross. Keep it off your hands.
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. You don’t want the nasty stuff on you!
  • Pick a day with little or no wind. You want to control exactly where the poison goes.
  • Apply from the distance recommended by the manufacturer. The product label should tell you. Too close, you waste material. Too far, you risk ineffective coverage and your treatment won’t have the desired effect.
  • Wear eye protection. I know, I know. I don’t have the visor down in the photo. Silly me. Don’t do as I do, just do as I say!

The riot-gear helmet is entirely optional, but a respirator–or at least a mask–is a really good idea. Happy spraying!

For other parodies of last Friday’s UC Davis pepper spray incident check out:
[ tumblr ]
[ Huffington Post ]
[ The New York Times ]

And why stop there? Invite Lt. Pike over to tomorrow’s Thanksgiving pictures! Entice him into your vacation pictures with your ex! And what better way to improve those musty family pictures with the siblings you’re not sure you’re really related to?

not for sale to minors (november bloom day)

Things have slowed down. It’s November for godsakes. But stuff keeps happening in the garden.

Probably the most remarkable thing blooming is this, a variegated mutation of Salvia divinorum.

I noticed the variegation a few months ago and will try to propagate the part of the plant with speckled leaves. A sport partially lacking chlorophyll would be at an evolutionary disadvantage out in the wilds, but gardeners–We’re weird–we’ll propagate these runts just because they’re pretty-like.

This is probably the most dramatic of the alligatored leaves. Even though many leaves are variegated, you can see that it hasn’t stopped those parts of the plant from flowering.

Enough of the leaves, this being Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. (Thanks as usual to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting this monthly meme on every fifteenth of the month.) Let’s take a look at the flowers.

The blooms are fuzzy up-close, like some other salvias, including the Mexican bush sage, Salvia leucantha, a dependable low-water plant that’s common in Southern California and beyond. This blossom looks very friendly in a lisping, come-hither, snaggletoothed sort of way.

Unfortunately if you’re a gardener under the age of 18 in California you can’t purchase this plant. In some other states owning a plant can buy you three years in prison. I’m sorry but all this sounds ridiculous. People sometimes complain about a government being a “nanny-state,” but many of the states where you hear that claim being made loudest are ones that are likely to ban this plant. Hey, look at the cool flowers! Look at the the cool leaves! This is obviously a plant with ornamental value, just like Gramma Olive’s opium poppies.

Flowers are scarce all around, but if you look deep enough into many plants you’ll see a few hardy holdouts still in bloom. And with winter on the way, there are a precocious winter bloomers starting to do their thing. This one’s germander sage, Salvia chamaedryoides. As far as I know, this plant the rest of those featured here are perfectly legal to grow everywhere.

Another salvia, the common but cool "Hot Lips"


Gaillardia pulchella with an appreciative honeybee
Oxalis purpurea, white form
Paperwhite narcissus
Galvezia speciosa 'Firecracker'
Galvezia juncea, a species from near-by in Mexico, a member of the snapdragon family.


And here's another local with a name change pending. Was: Isomeris arborea; Now is: Peritoma arborea. Gack.
A rare local native, something I've known as Coreopsis maritima. But in the new Jepson manual all the California species we knew as coreopsis have been moved to the genus Leptosyne. Leptosyne maritima--that one's going take a while getting used to. (Sorry for the ragged half-flower. That is all that survived the weekend rains.)
Sphaeralcea ambigua, the first blooms in a while
An orange epidendrum. I think you saw this last month
Gutierrezia californica--a wispy plant with almost no leaves and a delicate cloud of yellow flowers
San Miguel Island buckwheat, Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, definitely not peaking...
Euphorbia Diamond Frost--This hit just a few years ago and everyone was talking about it. Now...almost nothing. Interesting. Gardeners aren't fickle, are they?
Desperate, flower-starved times call for desparate measures, in this case the macro lens for these tiny creeping thyme flowers...
Gaura lindheimeri
Camellia Cleopatra, yes it was in bloom in October for that month's Bloom Day

And, finally, a few shots of everyone’s favorite this time of year, Protea Pink Ice. Happy Bloomday!

california native plant week

Darlingtonia californica growing at California Carnivores.

You may have heard already, but if not I wanted to relay some great news about the passing this week of ACT 173, a bill that would declare the third week of April California Native Plant Week. The legislature has been deadlocked over the state budget and I was worrying this bill would get stalled along with everything else. But such was not the case–Yay!

Our state flower: California poppy, Escholzia californica, shown in its coastal form.

If you’re into reading documents containing lots of “whereas-es” you can view the full resolution [ here ].

April is high bloom season for a lot of the natives, so it should be a great time of year to spread the word about California natives.

world’s thorniest rose?

I grew this fiercely thorny rose, Rosa minutifolia, for over a decade. With wild-rose-pink flowers barely two inches across, its petals were crinkled and delicate, but the blooms were never particularly stunning when compared to the buxom, botoxed blooms of typical garden roses. The leaves were tiny to the point of almost being non-existent, and I’ve already mentioned the incredible number of thorns that made this just about the prickliest thing I’ve ever dealt with. (The only similarly thorny roses I can think of are a few heirloom moss roses like Alfred de Dalmas that I grew in my early teen rose-growing years.) So spiny is it that one of its early collectors proposed an alternate name for it: Rosa horrida. (Check out the fascinating tale of its discovery by Barbara Ertter here.)

In the end, I think I grew it partly because of its weirdly cool thorniness and its interesting story, but also because of its artificial, political rarity. In the United States, this rose is found only as a small island population along the Mexican border on Otay Mesa, here in San Diego County. This extreme rarity has placed it on California’s endangered species list. Skip south into Mexico a few dozen miles, however, and the plant begins to become a fairly common member of the chaparral plant community, forming great mounded thickets three to four feet high and many feet across. The notion that the plant is particularly rare is an artifact of national boundaries. Erase the US-Mexico border, and Rosa minutifolia becomes a mainstay of part of the pan-Californian ecosystem.

I find that to be a weird little mental game: Is the plant rare or not? What odd things do political boundaries do to how we understand the natural world that those boundaries are drawn over? Does that mean that it’s crazy to call this an endangered plant?

To that last question, I’ll answer that we really should consider it a plant to protect. We need to preserve what’s left of the diversity that remains in the world. If the plant goes extinct in California, it’s gone from California. Never mind that it has cousins south of the border.

Borderlands, Continental Divide produced by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology from iLCP on Vimeo.

And these days the purely conceptual notion of a national border is turning into a physical reality, as the ginormous border fence project turns the United States into a freakish zoo exhibit behind bars as this video produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology shows. (I also did a brief post related to all this recently, on the destruction of Smuggler’s Gulch.) When the only know U.S. population of this plant is further isolated from its southern kin, it becomes all the more desperate to preserve what little we have left.

When we were preparing the back yard for a small room addition we needed to move a few plants out of the way. My Rosa minutifolia was one of them. Used to near-desert conditions, the plant shoots down roots far into the ground, maybe even 20 feet deep. I guess I didn’t get enough of the roots, not to mention the fact that the transplant took place in the high heat of summer. The plant declined and then died over the course of a couple months.

I see the plant here and there. A native plant sale might have a few plants. The Tree of Life Nursery stocks it. Botanical gardens sometimes have a little thicket of it (or a massive thicket of it as is the case at Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden where “five rooted cuttings planted…in 1954 had become ‘one large tangled mass’ nearly 30 feet across by 1982” [ source ]). All these photos are from the Huntington’s Desert Garden, where the rose grows alongside cactus and other things that make its spininess look right at home.

I get nostalgic whenever I see it. My little plant, which was set in awful, dense, dry soil in a much too shady spot, never grew or flowered much. Nipping at the dead branches kept it from forming a Rosa horrida thicket. But I continued to coddle it for whatever reasons any of us coddle interesting, under-performing plants. And one of these days I wouldn’t be surprised if I plant another little thicket of it.

destroying smuggler’s gulch

Smugglers Gulch and Tijuana River Valley

I’m standing in the United States as I take this picture. The hills you see are less than a mile to the south but are mostly in Mexico, across the border. The low break in the hills carries the name Smuggler’s Gulch.

The mouth of said gulch has been part of one of the more controversial terraforming projects in progress as we speak, the demonstration of enhanced fencing techniques that is the US-Mexico border fence. Ironic/pathetic isn’t it, that not that many weeks ago the news was buzzing with the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, but here in many of our back yards new walls are going up? I’ll leave discussion of the ethics and human costs of the fence-building mindset to organizations like Amnesty International or even the Catholic Church, but the project’s costs to stuff like nature are pretty steep as well.

Left: This photo by April Reese from a January Land Letter shows much better than my photo just some of the earth moving that went into blocking off this canyon. [ Source ]

When people hear that the Department of Homeland Security is building a fence they might say, oh that’s nice, what harm can a little 15 foot tall fence do? Well, place your nice little 15 foot fence on top of 35,000 truckloads of fill dirt essentially forming an earthen dam designed to contain humans instead of water. Humans have more cognitive ability than water molecules, so what might contain water will just send the humans to the next available crossing point.

The rich coastal chaparral that was here has been bulldozed and buried. Hay wattles with some hydroseeded low-growing plants will be expect to take care of erosion control. Down-slope, the sensitive habitat of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve waits to see what’s going to happen once the rains begin.

the rain might not belong to you

At first I thought it was a good idea. I never imagined that in some communities it would be prohibited.


During some of the recent rains I put some little buckets to catch rainwater that had drained off the roof. In this part of the state you can hardly ever have too much water, and good-quality water is extra-valuable.



One of my water-use indulgences is an experimental little bog garden with carnivorous plants. Tap water here has four times the dissolved solids usually recommended for these swamp-dwellers, so in warmer weather they get five gallons a week of reverse osmosis water from the local water store. Collecting fresh rainwater seemed like a much more sustainable alternative.

Left: Drosera Marston Dragon.
Drosera capensis, red form, with deerfly snack.

Yesterday’s LA Times had an article on residents in some of the dryland Four Corners states who were finding out that collecting rainwater was actually illegal in their communities. Because of a complex patchwork of water rights agreements, many homeowners actually don’t own the rainwater that falls on their houses.

Here’s a quick snippet from the article:

“If you try to collect rainwater, well, that water really belongs to someone else,” said Doug Kemper, executive director of the Colorado Water Congress… Frank Jaeger of the Parker Water and Sanitation District, on the arid foothills south of Denver, sees water harvesting as an insidious attempt to take water from entities that have paid dearly for the resource. “Every drop of water that comes down keeps the ground wet and helps the flow of the river,” Jaeger said. He scoffs at arguments that harvesters like Holstrom only take a few drops from rivers. “Everything always starts with one little bite at a time.”

I have a healthy respect for the rule of reasonable laws, but these seemed way beyond the pale. Like, are they worried these people are going to bottle the rainwater and sell it to us in Southern California?

Here within view of the Pacific Ocean, any water not retained in the ground would just wash down the storm drains and slide out into the bay. I doubt we have the same sorts of rules. But for many folks in Utah or Colorado who are trying to grow their own veggies, doing what they can to reduce become more self-sustaining and reduce their footprint on the earth, things aren’t so easy.

What do you think? Should the rainwater belong to all of us?

after a little more research…

If you read it on the internet it must be true, right? I’ve had some questions about a recent post that relayed some information on farmers in Iraq being prohibited from saving seeds. After doing more detailed research it looks like some of the exact facts need to be scrutinized a little more critically. But your conclusions on the situation may not change much.

All the bluster revolves around Order 81, a directive on plant variety protection that Paul Bremer, the U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority administrator, pushed pushed into effect (at the behest of Monsanto, according to a 2008 interview with F. William Engdahl). The press release from Focus on the Global South and GRAIN that got the firestorm of opinion going declares that, “while historically the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources, the new US-imposed patent law introduces a system of monopoly rights over seeds.” If you look at the current version of the release you’ll see that it’s all marked up with corrections and clarifications, with a piece of emphatic clarification at the beginning of the release:

The law does not prohibit Iraqi farmers from using or saving “traditional” seeds. It prohibits them from reusing seeds of “new” plant varieties registered under the law. In practical terms, this means they cannot save those seeds for re-use either.

So is Focus on the Global South and GRAIN thinking the law is benign and just? Their press release may be contrite about the confusion they might have caused, but in the current rewritten version still goes on to decry the order as a slap in the face against food sovereignty at the same time it drives big agribusiness into the traditional ways of traditional peoples.

It’s all fascinating reading that gives more nuance and background to the conclusions that people were coming to. In the end it’s not only a case about people’s ways of life being destroyed, nor is it a simple case of protecting intellectual property. Here are a few samples of what’s out there:

Iraq’s new patent law: A declaration of war against farmers (the original press release, 2004-5)

Iraq and Washington’s ‘seeds of democracy’ by William F. Engdahl (2005)

Why Iraqi Farmers Might Prefer Death to Paul Bremer’s Order 81 by Nancy Scola (2007)


I really would like to see a contemporary analysis of the situation. Was all this bluster? Or has the situation played out as many feared? Based on stories of the social and environmental costs of reliance on Monsanto crops has created in some parts of India, for instance, I suspect things can’t be going well in Iraq.

seed saving banned?

View the update to this post here.

Here’s a bit of political unpleasantness I read about in a seed description in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog listing for the Iraqi tomato variety, Rouge D’Irak:

Saving seeds was made illegal under the “Colonial Powers” of the United States. Under the new law, Iraqi farmers must only plant seeds from “protected varieties” from international corporations.

First Hiliburton, then Blackwater, and now monster agribusiness taking advantage of the war. I wish I was surprised.

The Baker Creek online catalog actually lists five different plants of Iraqi origin, in case you’d like to help preserve varieties that Iraqi farmers now can’t legally grow from their own seeds: four tomatoes, Tatar of Mongolistan, Rouge D’Irak, Al-Kuffa, and Nineveh; along with a melon, Baghdad Long. Aren’t you heirloom tomato specialists looking for new varieties to try? How about these plants with an amazing contemporary history?

Doing some quick research on this I ran across a posting over at The Alchemist’s Garden that’s great reading. Take a look!