December 2011 Bulletin
December in the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden
The world’s oldest trees, Ginkgos, also known as Maidenhair Trees, are the only survivors of a family that existed more than 200 million years ago. Even though they were living during the time of the dinosaurs, they eventually vanished in most regions of the world. But they had survived in China, where they were found in mountainous regions, palaces, temple gardens and monasteries. Buddhist monks, since the Middle Ages, had cultivated the trees because of their medicinal and culinary properties. The seeds then found their way to Japan and Korea. Early scientists thought the Ginkgos were extinct, until they were discovered in Japan by German naturalist and physician, Engelbert Kaempfer, who brought the seeds to Europe in the early 1700s.
Can Winter be Far Behind?
I can't recall a more magnificent autumn in the Conejo than we have been enjoying this year. The newly gathered leaves that adorned our Thanksgiving Day table were of every hue imaginable. Outdoors, so plentiful as to provide great piles for kids to jump into and toss into the air. As gardening chores go, not much fun to rake up however. Much more inspiring is the transition into wintry days that offer opportune planting times for California native species and other hearty perennials and shrubs. We will be featuring many at the sales area on Sundays. Come take a look.
What's in a Name?
With holidays around the corner, many stores start filling their shelves with bright red Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). ʻPulcherrimaʼactually means beautiful, and, Iʼll admit, they are interesting looking plants; but poinsettias are not my ʻcup of teaʼ. So, what does one do? Well, if you are abudding horticulturist (pun intended) who lives in Southern California, you substitute a plant that is often referred to as “Winterʼs flower” because it can bring color to your cool-season garden. The plant I speak of is the Hellebore. Now, some might say, “What the heck is a Hellebore?” This shade-loving plant ranges from 1 to 3 feet tall and wide and many are evergreen. Given the right care, they can last for decades! Isnʼt that reason enough to read on?
First, letʼs do the translation. The word Helleborus most probably comes from a combination of Greek words: ʻhellosʼmeaning fawn and ʻborosʼ, eaten. It is pronounced hel-eh-BORE-us. This mightsuggest that it is a tender, forest favorite of baby deer, but, Hellebore is one of the four classic poisons in history and it actually repels deer. (The other three being nightshade, hemlock & aconite.) ʻNigerʼrefers to the black roots on this plant. (Black Hellebore roots were used as a remedy for ʻmaniaʼby physicians B.C. by insertion into the ear canal. Science has brought us a long way from this!) (Just to set the record straight, the other plant, Poinsettia, is also toxic if ingested; so keep both ofthese plants away from holiday tables.)
Sunday Plant Sales
Red Hot Poker (kniphofia uvaria)
Our featured plant this month is the stunning Red Hot Poker. They are in full bloom and will continue to bloom through December. According to Irene Benyoung, they are being sold in gallon containers and will be discounted. Plant sales are held every Sunday at the CVBG from 10:30-2:30 in the area next to the Kids' Adventure Garden, located at 350 W. Gainsborough Rd. California natives, hardy, water wise perennials, shrubs, trees and succulents, reasonably priced are available. CVBG volunteers will be happy to help you with selections and share their expertise.
The birthday parties held at the KAG on Saturdays have become very popular. So popular that Betty needs more volunteers to give her some help. It is a lot of fun and not too much work. Sometimes the kids come in costumes, depending on what the 'theme' of the party may be. The adults set up and take down the tables and chairs. There is a donation to use the garden. You help by keep your eyes on the kids as they get excited about having a party at the KAG. Sometimes you even get a piece of birthday cake. If you are willing to help by giving a few hours of your time, give Betty a call at 1-818-889-0560.
The Conejo Valley Botanic Garden Needs YOU!