Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nut grass has balls

Admit it, you admire the will to live that nut grass demonstrates. This one takes its job as a pernicious weed seriously by growing up out of 3” of gravel. Underneath that is a layer of filter fabric, and under that, soil which was scraped and pounded level and compact, and was pretty poor to begin with. Some of its nut grass companions are also hooking a couple hard turns to grow up from under the flagstones.

I pull them up, but their tubers stay under the filter fabric and send up new shoots. Sometimes the nodules do pull up out of the flower beds, and I stop to nick one with a fingernail and smell it. Did you ever notice what a delicious rootbeer scent a nut grass nut has?

You may not believe it from the unappetizing photo here, but finding a recipe for nut grass was on my garden geek to-do list. Somehow I associated it with the drink horchata so recently, I checked that. The internet provided a selection of informative and conflicting facts or factoids about nut grass (actually a sedge, not grass) which I’ll summarize:

The delicious nut grass tubers come from yellow nut sedge or chufa / Cyperus esculentis. The ones I have growing are different--purple nut sedge / Cyperus rotunda, described as ‘bitter’. I’m a little disappointed. I thought I might cool off some day after weeding with a glass of home made horchata. However, the aromatic oil is extracted for ayurvedic medicine (alas, not one of my projects) and the nuts are eaten in Africa as a last resort famine food.

So famine is one method of controlling nut grass. Times are not that bad at my house, thanks. A 20% vinegar solution sprayed down into the gap where the stalk was just pulled will get results too. But it will be on the second round, because nut grass is pretty determined to survive that, as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seedlings, no tag

These shorties sprouted from the pits of some exotic fruit eaten 3+ years ago. Cherimoya? Mamey? Sapotes? Canistel? Weeds? The tags are long gone.

Both seedlings were in a pot which was plundered by squirrels, haphazardly shifted around the garden whenever our construction site encroached, stowed in the dense shade of a tree and rarely watered, abandoned outside all winter, then repotted. It is amazing that they have survived my plant propagation 'technique'.

Maybe someone will recognize the leaves and if so, tell me please! I think it might be nice to know what I am growing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Unkind words about sagos

In California, apparently you lock down a good specimen of sago / Cycas revoluta. In Houston, the issue has not come up--at least not for me, because I don’t design with them. I do get asked to pull out badly placed specimens where an eye-gouging mammoth has grown from a Boston fern-sized charmer.

Dare ya to walk through there.

The reason they don’t get filched is that we are near sago saturation here, with a dull stiff cycad in almost every yard and landscape. Besides looking ‘tropical’ (though they hail from Japan), I reckon sagos’ popularity is supported by their easy propagation, durability and fast growth, for a cycad. (They flush out yearly with an increasing number of fronds. Compare that to the mingy frond per year on a Dioon edule). With the ease of making more sagos, filching them should be irrelevant.

Recently a subcontractor who works with me was telling about a job he’d been hired to do: relocate a sago that had a cable running through the trunk and into a subterranean concrete footing. He tripled the price. We shook our heads at the wonder of it.

It would be too much to hope that California would come and take these sagos away.

What am I missing here? What is the crazy appeal of this plant? Do they actually get pirated away in Houston, too?