Apr
1
0

Plant of the Month

Blue Palo Verde
Parkinsonia florida 

  • Plant Form: Tree
  • Water Use: Very low
  • Mature Size: 20-30 ft. tall and wide
  • Exposure: Full sun
  • Bloom Time: Spring (March-May)
  • Native to: California, Arizona, Mexico
  • Hardiness: Cold hardy to 12°F

The beautiful green trunk of Blue Palo Verde is not only a striking sculptural addition to your landscape, but its green bark allows this drought-tolerant tree to keep manufacturing sugars for growth even if its leaves have dropped from lack of water in summer.

 

Blue Palo Verde is prized as much for its unique green branches and trunk as it is for the masses of lemon-yellow flowers that cover this fast-growing tree in spring. Its green limbs allow this graceful but thorny tree to continue to carry on some photosynthesis when its small leaves drop due to drought or cold. A popular hybrid of this species known as ‘Desert Museum’ has no spines. Palo Verde is so drought tolerant, it needs very little or no irrigation after becoming established. Prune to showcase its beautiful branching, but avoid pruning heavily at any one time to maintain its growth structure. Desert birds including hummingbirds and verdin love to nest and raise their young in Palo Verde trees. This extremely popular tree provides filtered shade all year, and can be used as a sculptural focal point or shade tree in many garden styles.

 

Check out our “Garden Tasks” for April 

Dec
1
0

Enjoy Toyon All Winter

 

Winter brings with it the colorful red berries of our native Toyon, also called “Christmas Berry” (Heteromeles arbutifolia). Besides being an attractive, fire-resistant, evergreen shrub (or tree if pruned), Toyon produces clusters of bright red berries that persist all winter, providing perfect holiday decorations for mantels, wreaths, and centerpieces. We have been picking clusters from our yard the past few weeks to use for holiday arrangements, and are sharing them with friends for their decorations. We still have plenty to share with the birds who also love the berries.

Native American Indians used the cooked or dried berries for food and beverages, as well as for dyes and paints. If you have toyons in your yard, or have a harvesting area in our chaparral communities in the foothills or mountains of southern California, check now for the ripe berries in time for Christmas decorations. After the holidays, dry the berries to use for recipes later. Some of the traditional uses for the berries include:

Toyon fruit leather (fresh berries simmered, then blended in a food processor, sweetened, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, then spread thin onto parchment and dehydrated)

Toyon “not-quite-cranberry” sauce (fresh berries simmered in apple juice, sweetened with honey, thickened with arrowroot, and spiced with orange zest)

Toyon berry spice (dried berries ground into a fine powder, then combined with other flours or used as a spice for a tangy, fruity taste)

Toyon cider (dried berries boiled in water while crushing them, then strained, and sweetening the “cider” with honey or agave nectar)

Winter bouquet including Toyon berries, strawberry tree fruit, sugarbush, and California juniper.
May
31
0

Sugarbush for “lemonade”

Summer’s approach has teased the “sugar” out of our Sugarbush fruits, which are ready for harvesting from June until August. The red “berries” of our native Sugarbush (Rhus ovata) are oozing with an acidic, sugary sap that imparts a tart flavor to the fruits, technically called drupes (berry-like fruits with one seed enclosed in a hardened shell or “stone”). The sticky berries have a velvety pubescence, and become reddish when ripe.

Native Americans dried the berries to preserve them, soaked them in water, then heated them to make a sort of hot pink lemonade. The tart strings of white sap were used as an acidic flavoring or sweetener for other foods. The dried fruits were also ground into a flour for mush.

This attractive evergreen shrub has lush foliage of leathery leaves that are folded along the midrib, making them look like deep green taco shells. Sugarbush is a favorite landscape plant for southwest gardens, tolerant of drought, heat, wind, and frost. See our Plant of the Month treatment of Sugarbush as a valuable landscape plant.

We have planted sugarbush along the perimeter of our property as a privacy screen, so we have plenty of berries to harvest for beverages. The berries are sticky, so you may want to occasionally wash your hands or wear latex or rubber gloves while harvesting. We love making “wild lemonade” by soaking the berries in hot water. Here is our recipe:

Sugarbush Lemonade ~ Pour 1 quart of boiling water over 2 cups of dried or fresh berries. Do not wash the berries before using, or you will wash the flavoring off the berries. Let steep for about 20 minutes (or use cool water and let stand for 24 hours). Strain through a fine sieve to remove berries. Sweeten to taste with honey, agave nectar, or stevia. Serve chilled for a refreshing drink in summer, or hot as a warming winter brew.

 

NOTICE:

Due to coronavirus restrictions, all of Robin’s upcoming workshops and eco-discovery walks have been postponed.

 

 

These events will be rescheduled
when we know it is safe to gather again.  

 

***

Mar. 21, 2020 ~ Gardening with Native Plants: 12:30 – 4:30 pm

Mar. 26, 2020 ~ Eco-Discovery Tour – Andreas Canyon: 10 am – 12:30 pm

Apr. 4, 2020 ~ Gardening with Native Plants: 12:30 – 4:30 pm

May 6, 2020 ~ Making Native Desert Teas: 12:30-3:30 pm

See below for details on each workshop and tour

***If you are gifting a workshop or tour registration to someone, we can send an attractive gift card to your friend or loved one. Just email us, and we will send a personalized gift card to them!

Jan
23
0

Spring Workshop Schedule

Robin’s upcoming workshops

and eco-discovery walks

~ Reserve your space now for lots of fun later ~

Click on the date for class information

***

Feb. 8, 2020 ~ Healing, Helpful, & Edible Native Plants: 12:30-3:30 pm 

Mar. 21, 2020 ~ Gardening with Native Plants: 12:30 – 4:30 pm

Mar. 26, 2020 ~ Eco-Discovery Tour – Andreas Canyon: 10 am – 12:30 pm

Apr. 4, 2020 ~ Gardening with Native Plants: 12:30 – 4:30 pm

May 6, 2020 ~ Making Native Desert Teas: 12:30-3:30 pm

See below for details on each workshop and tour


***If you are gifting a workshop or tour registration to someone,
we can send an attractive gift card to your friend or loved one.
Just email us, and we will send a personalized gift card to them!

Winter brings with it the colorful red berries of our native Toyon, also called “Christmas Berry” (Heteromeles arbutifolia). Besides being an attractive, fire-resistant, evergreen shrub (or tree if pruned), Toyon produces clusters of bright red berries that persist all winter, providing perfect holiday decorations for mantels, wreaths, and centerpieces. We have been picking clusters from our yard the past few weeks to use for holiday arrangements, and are sharing them with friends for their decorations. We still have plenty to share with the birds who also love the berries.

Native American Indians used the cooked or dried berries for food and beverages, as well as for dyes and paints. If you have toyons in your yard, or have a harvesting area in our chaparral communities in the foothills or mountains of southern California, check now for the ripe berries in time for Christmas decorations. After the holidays, dry the berries to use for recipes later. Some of the traditional uses for the berries include:

Toyon fruit leather (fresh berries simmered, then blended in a food processor, sweetened, spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, then spread thin onto parchment and dehydrated)

Toyon “not-quite-cranberry” sauce (fresh berries simmered in apple juice, sweetened with honey, thickened with arrowroot, and spiced with orange zest)

Toyon berry spice (dried berries ground into a fine powder, then combined with other flours or used as a spice for a tangy, fruity taste)

Toyon cider (dried berries boiled in water while crushing them, then strained, and sweetening the “cider” with honey or agave)

Winter bouquet including Toyon berries, strawberry tree fruit, sugarbush,
and California juniper.