Saturday, January 15, 2011

What the Heck is a Joshua Tree?

I just came back from a trip to Southern California, where a friend and I spent part of a day hiking and taking in the sights at Joshua Tree National Park. I grew up in California and have seen a lot of the Golden State, but this was my first visit to this particular park.

We entered the park at its southern edge, just off I-10. After driving for miles through typical barren dessert terrain, we began to see, here and there, small specimens of the famous Joshua Trees. They look to me like a cross between a palm and a dracaena.

As we drove further still, we began to see extraordinary rock formations and larger Joshua Trees.

We stopped to hike in the Hidden Valley area amid more stunning rock and mature trees.

Here you see four sizes of Joshua Trees silhouetted against the blue sky and rock.

Of course, Joshua Trees don't grow in Seattle, but plant people like me are curious. I wanted to know more about these trees after our day in the park. So I looked them up. As it happens, they are related to a plant that we see often in Seattle. The flower stalk in the photo below offers a hint.

Joshua Trees are in the Yucca family (Y. brevifolia) and they are related to those spiky plants that we see all over the city (Y. filimentosa) that sport 4-7' tall spikes of creamy white flowers in spring. Strange as it might seem, an echo of the dessert blooms right here in our own front yards.

Related post:

How Do You Say Yucca?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Northwest Flower and Garden Show

"There is a long standing rumor that spring is the time of renewal, but that's only if you ignore the depressing clutter and din of the season. All that flowering and budding and birthing - the messy youthfulness of Spring actually verges on SQUALOR. Spring is too busy, too full of itself, too much like a 20-year-old to be the best time for reflection, re-grouping, and starting fresh. For that, you need December." -- Vivian Swift
I love this quote. The only thing I would change is that I would replace the word "December" with the word "winter." Winter is that quiet, gestational season when we gardeners take stock of our gardens and make plans for the coming year. While our gardens sleep, we dream.

Fortunately, we folks in the Pacific Northwest have more than just magazines and seed catalogs to inspire our dreams. We have the Northwest Flower and Garden Show coming our way, February 23-27, at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle.

One of the largest of its kind in the US, this show features over 20 spectacular display gardens, more than 300 exhibitors in its Market Place, and offers an outstanding roster of free gardening seminars presented by gardening experts.

For complete information, visit the Northwest Flower and Garden Show website. While you are there, buy your tickets online -- and save $4!