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Scorching Shades of Solstice
updated: Jun 21, 2009, 12:00 AM

Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Scorching Shades of Summer Solstice
by Billy Goodnick

"Maybe it's just me, but it just doesn't quite feel like summer yet. Sure, we had 90-degree weather in March, but that doesn't count. So we need your help THIS SATURDAY NIGHT June 20."

That's the intro to a message I just sent to King Bee fans. It's also a way for me to start my Edhat article while shamelessly plugging my band, which just happens to be playing at El Capitan Canyon this Saturday night. Bring your dancin' shoes and get your funk on.

Now back to me. I've loved the cool, cloudy weather we've had for the past few weeks. That's because comfort-wise, I'm more of a slug than a lizard. Living in the San Fernando Valley for 16 years accounts for why I throw my flip-flops at the TV whenever the weather-folks say "It's going to be a beautiful day today with temperatures climbing into the upper 80s."

Gaaaaarrrrrrhhhhgggg!!!! That's not "beautiful" weather; that's "my knickers are gonna stick to my loins" weather. I abandoned those wretched 110-degree summer days for the coast to assure that I could sleep without first dredging myself in a 55-gallon drum of baby powder.

But like it or not, I got my first real summer vibe late this afternoon while walking Biff the Wonder Spaniel. I had my trusty Nikon S10 on me and was dazzled by all the hot colored flowers blooming around me. Orange canna lilies, golden bougainvillea and spiky copper kangaroo paws were nearly poking my eyes out, reminding me that this is Summer Solstice Parade weekend! When I see these hot hues I picture the always-colorful Solstice posters. [insert solstice poster]

In the spirit of making peace with summer, I thought I'd turn y'all on to few of my favorite hot plants (not to be confused with James Brown's " Hot Pants"). But stay tuned for a few special announcements at the end of this post.

This revelation of radiance runs from bright yellow through overzealous orange and into the fiery randiness of red.

Golden Bush Daisy (Euryops pectinatus): The upside: super-easy to grow, water-wise, green all year. Downside: gotta shear off the dead flowers when it's done blooming. Give it at least a half-day of direct sun and a 4-foot wide space.

Rose: I just kill them, so if you need good advice check in with the SB Rose Society. Not the poster child of sustainable Santa Barbara plants, but gosh, it's hot.

Lemon: I did a bit of scholarly research on this and discovered that lemons are one of the key ingredients of summer's iconic beverage, lemonade. Citrus are some of the easiest fruit trees to grow in our climate. Just don't be too stingy with the water, and hit them with a little extra organic fertilizer that has some of the "trace minerals" (iron, manganese, sulfur, etc.).

Bougainvillea: What can I say - you can't take two steps in Santa Barbara without running into these brilliantly colorful gifts from South America. They range in color from sensuous maroon bracts (the flowers are little white jobbers in the center) through red, pink, purple, orange, gold (like the one pictured here at W. Canon Perdido & De la Vina) and even white. Most are genetically predisposed to get huge, so think about where you're planting it and how much pruning you want added to your life sentence.

Canna Lily: These guys just scream tropical island, though they do just fine in our Mediterranean climate. A half day of sun is essential, and be prepared for them to look pretty ratty as the weather cools down in late fall. Then it's time to cut them to the ground (off with their heads!) and await their resurrection as spring awakens your garden. To look their best, you'll need to provide a bit more water than the other plant selections.

Canna Lily foliage: Same plant as above. Even if it's not in bloom, these leaves are stunning.

Lion's Tail (Leonotis leonorus - fun name, eh?): Listen to me now and believe me later when I tell you this is a member of the mint family (square stems). This very drought tolerant native of southern Africa has quite a long bloom period and a well-behaved upright architecture. They top out at about five feet and can take all the sun you can give them.

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae): Another South African native, this plant grows in just about any soil (or ample collection of belly button lint) but can change from a cute little, well-behaved accent plant to the gorilla in the room after a number of years. Before you decide to plant, take a drive around town and look at how big the older ones get. Take heed! They don't take well to pruning and you have to remove all the flower stems once they're spent.

Kangaroo Paw (Anigozanthos ‘Bush Sunset'): Talk about exotic, this genus of plant, in all the hot colors plus a deep pink (A. ‘Pink Joey') can be a little fickle. The key is good drainage. If you have heavy adobe soil, fuggetaboutit, but if drainage is not a concern, you'll have a great supply of cut flowers for the dining room table.

Parrot's Beak (Lotus berthelotii): This little charmer, hailing from the Canary Islands, forms a soft, low silvery mat that looks great even when it's not ablaze with flowers in June and July. Plant this baby above a retaining wall where it can spill and prepare to be knocked out by the other-worldly flowers.

So those are my Summer Solstice-colored plants. If you want to take one or two for a spin in your garden, do your homework first.

Now for two bits of news:

1. By now, this week's Independent will have published an article from Owen Dell about the sorry state of affairs at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. It's a well-researched, maturely presented, very fair accounting of what is going on and a call for a few heads to roll. I encourage you to read Owen's piece and act as you see fit. Big changes are needed to assure that the Garden remains the important resource it has been to the community and horticultural world for decades to come. Nuff said.

2. In my second flagrant exercise of shameless self-promotion, I'm getting the word out that I'll be teaching "Introduction to Landscape Design" (EH 202) at SB City College this fall. It's a general but comprehensive class that goes far beyond the curriculum I've taught through Adult Ed for a couple of decades. Though it's part of the Environmental Horticulture department, there is no prerequisite, you don't have to be an EH major, and the class is equally appropriate for those training for the landscape profession, or interested "civilians." The three hour per week class starts Monday, August 24 at 6 PM and runs for 16 weeks. For more info, click.

3. I retire from my city gig this month and will be joining some friends at Dargan's to hoist a flagon of peated single-malt Irish whiskey (or two or three) on Thursday, June 25, starting around 5. If you know me and wanna say ‘hi', come on down. No RSVP needed.

Enjoy your summer and when the temps climb above 75, think of me under a rock somewhere, bitching and moaning.

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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


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