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This single Arum leaf grew up from a tuber among sorrel and dandelions in an area that used to be heavily sheltered and shaded by a dense bush. When the bush was removed, whatever leaves the Arum used to have were also destroyed and removed – and I never noticed them, if they were there.

Arums are related to the familiar white calla lilly, Zantedeschia aethiopica which is commonly seen in gardens in California, and frequently used in bouquets for weddings and funerals. Arums are usually smaller and have similar but less showy flowers. Many of them make up for this relative inconspicuousness by bearing gorgeous, bright red or yellow berries once the flowers fade. Sadly, the berries are poisonous, to people at least.

This Arum could be Italian lords and ladies, A. italica or maybe I. maculatum, both European species escaped from cultivation throughout the Americas.

Typically this kind of Arum grows in damp, shady places. With the newly bright sunshine in this spot, it will be interesting to see if this brave little plant is able to thrive. Some good news is that there is a Leonotus bush just sunward that promises to grow and provide some shade.

If it does well, there will eventually be one or more flowers. I’ll be watching!

See Arum maculatum at the Wikipedia page. See Italian lords and ladies (what a great name!) in many cultivated varieties at aroid.org.

A favorite plant is this sweet little blueberry bush, inherited from a neighbor. It was planted in this spot when it had only two tiny branchlets. The first year it bore nine berries, but what sweet, plump juicy treats they were.

This year, after a lush crop of more than 100 white-pink flowers, its six branches were laden heavily with plump, blue, edible gifts. While some of them were shared with the birds and slugs, most of them ended up inside of me. With the berries long gone the bush shows a different color as its leaves turn bright red.

Blueberries are in the family Ericaceae, a huge group that includes cranberries, heaths, manzanitas, madrones, strawberry trees, azaleas and rhododendrons. Most of these prefer low-fertility, acid conditions. My favorite close blueberry relative is Hawaii’s little red ohelo berry, which I have enjoyed while hiking in the lava fields near Kilauea volcano.

It’s hard to determine exactly what variety of blueberry this is. All of them are Vaccinium species, but there are several wild types and many cultivars. My best guess is that it is a hybrid of V. corymbosum (highbush blueberry) and V. angustifolium (lowbush blueberry). That would make it a half-high blueberry, very hardy and typically grown in California.

Follow back through time and read the previous blueberry post. From there you can follow further back to even earlier posts.

As the weather cools and the rains begin, the garden explodes into glorious color. There’s a lot happening here. Let’s take a tour!

In the foreground just left of center, a Leonotus bush pokes up tall stems bearing bursts of orange flowers. It’s a drought-tolerant bush from South Africa that is well-loved by pollinators.

At the far left, a Pyracantha shrub also pushes up tall stems, bent down by huge bunches of bright red berries. Before I took over this garden it was a huge, dense, unhappy, unhealthy, never-blooming, spherical monstrosity, frequently shaped by evil gardeners with their noisy gas-powered trimmers. I violently chopped it right down to stumps (what fun that was!) and it grew back. Now it is a noble creature of beautiful form, whose berries are just getting to the point where the birds will feast. Much better, don’t you think?

Against the wall in back is a large and happy princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana) which drops its crazy purple petals all over the walkway. It’s related to geraniums.

In the middle ground behind the Leonotus is a huge, dense bush of Salvia, possibly S. nemorosa. Its abundant purple flower stalks are serious food sources for black carpenter bees, honey bees, various flies, wasps, and of course our local hummingbirds. What a contributor!

To the extreme right, a few bright orange flowers shine from among the dark green leaves of a cape honeysuckle bush (Tecoma capensis). Another African native, this plant used to be a huge, scraggly beast struggling in the deep shade of a magnolia tree that is no longer there. I chopped it right back down to the ground, and now the new growth is being severely pruned as needed so that it is no more than a few feet high. Nonetheless, it is happy and showing lots of buds and flowers, which the hummingbirds are enjoying.

UPDATE: A closer look at this tamed giant.

Although it shows no brilliant color other than green, I must also mention the avocado sapling poking up at right of center, between the  cape honeysuckle and the Leonotus. Just a few months ago it was a small sprout with only a few glossy green leaves. Soon, it will be the tallest plant in the garden. My plan is to let it grow tall, but to prune off the lower branches. That way its remaining lowest branches will eventually shade the currently summer-sun-blasted bank below the fence (off the picture at the left) while its lack of lower growth will allow the sun to still bless the rest of the garden. Maybe in some years it will even start dropping edible fruit.

What a joy it is to watch the seasons change in the deep nature garden!

Knowing that I am friendly to diverse life forms, local friends and neighbors frequently drop off plants in pots, unwanted or extra seed packets, cuttings, and even bugs in jars (hopefully with holes in the lid!)

The newborn semi-dry desert container shown above contains a cactus and succulent dropped off by an anonymous friend, plus a bit of sedum from another container. All three will enjoy the expansion room in this new home, basking in the sun in a sheltered place on the upstairs deck.

This strawberry is also a new resident. It is enjoying the rich, seeded compost that has been added to its pot. Already, various green shoots are sprouting up. Most of the new seedlings will be removed, so that the strawberry plant can thrive with little competition. Some, like the edible chickweed that will cascade down the outside of the pot, will be left in.

Like these two new container ecosystem art gardens, my own life is also experiencing a fresh restart. Working with an excellent new guide, I am creatively evolving a brand new approach to the whole ecosystem gardening multi-project, and there’s a big, new, related goal in the more distant future that promises to be a lot of fun.

In the near future, watch these pages for updates on the new ecosystem art-garden offerings. With the help of the new guide, for the first time in years I can see a clear and (hopefully!) realistic path toward the goal of earning my entire income from ecosystem gardens and related projects.

You may remember the blueberry flowers earlier this year. They are now berries, and it looks like a bumper crop from this still-young bush. Already these plump beauties are starting to show some purple-blue color!

UPDATE: the first ripe blueberries!

While the blueberries have been ripening, a sturdy escarole plant has sprung up right nearby. Its curly-leaved flower stalks punch up through the blueberry stems and the leaves of the neighboring bearded iris clump.

The blue flowers look like chicory, which makes sense because escarole is Chicorium endivia, closely related to the roadside plant whose roots contain many flavorful substances:

Do you see the lady beetle peeking out just below the flower?

Chicory, endive, frisée, escarole, all very close relatives, all edible in various ways, all wonderful to have in the garden. But where did the seed come from for this escarole plant? It remains a happy mystery.

Do you remember the happy springtime raspberry bush? It has grown quite a lot, and now there are berries – but as anticipated, they are less than impressive.

Above is shown the very best stem of berries on the bush. It has three small berries, the largest of which has a mighty seven drupelets. Still, they are a pretty red color and the very tiny drupelets actually do taste like raspberry.

Most of the berries look more like the somewhat pathetic specimen at right, with two whole drupelets. Why are the berries so small? Very likely this bush is a hybrid between two commercial plants, whose genes got reassorted during the cross. Such hybrids rarely turn out to be of much edible value, whether the plant in question is a raspberry, radish, or rutabaga.

It is because of this quality hit from hybrid plants that heirloom seeds are so important for use in ecosystem farming. Heirlooms, if properly cultivated and pollinated, provide steady quality through many generations. Because of this long-term consistency, heirloom crops and other plants can also be more easily selected for new, better traits, which are easier to spot against the steady gene line.

UPDATE: A blast from the past and a more current photo.

Meanwhile, not far away something more impressive is growing. Remember the first blackberry flower? Now it and its sisters are growing into some very respectable looking berries:

The red color of this gorgeous specimen is intermediate between the hard, green berries and the luscious, ripe black ones. Most of the 50 or so blackberries on the canes still look more like the younger ones below, posing next to the rain gauge with leaves glowing in the sun:

Berries from previous years on these canes were delicious. This year’s crop is even larger! The size of the crop is especially interesting, considering that the canes are growing out of this container, featuring a carpet of moss and sedum, blackberry canes coming up at the right, and a happy carrot going to seed on the left: