Aroused by rain

The appearance of this mushroom after a much-needed rain in the Los Angeles foothills demanded that I Find The Camera. In the interim between putting the photo on Facebook this morning with a request for an ID and getting a response to an e-mailed query from Los Angeles County Natural History Museum mycologist Florence Nishida this evening, speculation as to its genus involved unbridled merriment. Southern California resident treasure, memoirist Erika Schickel, ventured that it was a Micropenisula shlongaeria. My own suspicion had been a Phallus anthonyweinerii. After more ribald speculation and some genuine mycological story-telling on the social network, Nishida’s response by e-mail in early evening had a “eureka” quality.

You are a lucky girl,” she wrote, “nature has gifted you with a stinkhorn, aka phalloid fungus. It’s probably Lysurus borealis, though another species is very common in southern California, Lysurus mokusin. Just looking at your

The Dry Garden: A shear education

One of the first things that I wanted to do in my new garden last year was to cut down the persimmon tree at the center of the large backyard. As early rains stripped the last of the leaves from its limbs and crows pecked at a few fruit, it looked less like a tree and more like an accident scene. Had the person who pruned its tangle of stumped and crossed limbs been a maniac? A gaping crack where the main branches met the trunk looked like it had been smote from heaven.

Only catching sight of its last fall leaves at twilight stopped me. A year later, restoring that wounded tree has become one of my passions. After scant fruit last year, this fall the tree — perhaps 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide — has produced so much fruit that I’ve called in friends and told

The Dry Garden: Empathy for the underground

To learn more about why poisoning gophers is to kill indiscriminately, click on this graphic by UCLA Environmental Studies student Christine Danner to be taken to the site Urban Carnivores.

Plant ecologist Paula Schiffman came to praise gophers when she packed a lecture last spring hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the California Native Plant Society. It was awkward for the Cal State Northridge professor, given that most of the audience filling a cold, no-frills Santa Monica meeting room had come to learn how to kill the animals.

The atmosphere only got colder as Schiffman’s live-and-let-live message began to sink in: Gophers were here before us, they are integral to our local ecology, and one of the most common ways that we kill them also can accidentally poison a whole host of other animals.

Click here to keep reading The Dry Garden’s “Detente with the gopher

Occupy outdoors

If proof were needed why I am not a professional photographer, this post is it. But somehow I had to salute a weekend spent at two delightful events — the Los Angeles Community Garden Council gathering of community organizers from all over the LA Basin and the fall festival at Rancho Santa Ana’s Grow Native Nursery at the VA Hospital in Westwood. Both were packed with the best kind of people — gardeners. Both had too many good speakers to count, including LA’s leading horticulturist Lili Singer, seed saver David King, mycologist and Victory Gardener nonpareil Florence Nishida, and Tim Dundon, provisioner of craptonite (aka composted stable manure) to the Foothills. Dundon, it should be added, didn’t lecture but performed “Born to be Wild” while stamping a hoe. The picture is out of focus because I was dancing while taking it. Jeff Spurrier will be covering

The Dry Garden: Being John Goodman

Left to their own devices, these newly planted New Zealand flaxes, called Phormium 'Sea Jade,' would each reach five feet in diameter -- fast. They've been put in a new public garden one-foot-on-center to create a quick sense of fill. Nurseries and landscape designers take the praise and money and then run. The facilities manager who inherits this garden, or the homeowner who innocently emulates it, will be left with an ensuing maintenance nightmare.

The single hardest thing to remember in fall planting season is restraint. After summer dormancy, everything looks so fresh. Salvias are pushing out their autumn blooms. We gardeners are full of pent-up expectation. Everything feels possible! Many things are. Keep that elation. Just resist the urge to crowd young plants during installation, a temptation so strong that almost everyone does it.

The problem may be that we treat young plants like babies, which in some ways

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