I am having problems with mushrooms coming up in my north-facing back lawn.
There are two kinds: the “toadstool” type and a weird, flat-topped, yellow-tinted, irregular-shaped type. As I have two small pups, I fear them eating and being poisoned by these pesky mushrooms. Aside from less water (which I’ve tried), and picking and digging them out each morning (does that method propagate them?), is there something I can do?
Also, I have a China doll tree that I planted two years ago. It has grown from a 6-inch plant to an 18-foot tree. It bloomed for the first time this year. How often does it bloom? For how long? How long are the blooms supposed to last? Do you know anything about their root systems (invasive)?
Anything special that I should know about this tree?
Toadstools and other lawn mushrooms are generally nontoxic but, as a rule, it is not a good idea to let puppies (or small children) outside before removing mushrooms from the lawn or garden. You may have to do this on a daily basis for a while, but the mushrooms should stop sprouting soon enough. Mushrooms are saprophytes, which means that they feed on dead or decaying organic matter. Mushrooms sprout where compost was applied, either under a new lawn or over an old one, or where an old piece of wood is decomposing, or where a tree stump or its roots have rotted. Mushrooms can be a positive sign, indicating a high level of soil fertility.
Digging out mushrooms does not cause them to spread, and they should disappear without special treatment within a month or so.
China doll (Radermachera sinica) is unusual in our area since it may serve either as an indoor plant or, under protected conditions, as a landscape tree. Indoors, it needs a good dose of bright light, but outdoors it does best in somewhat shady locations. Years ago, I saw a mature China doll at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia that was more than 30 feet tall.
Being a member of the Bignonia family, whose members include many species of trumpet vines, it flowers during the spring. Its fragrant white blooms are produced on shoot terminals only after the tree has reached a height of 15 to 20 feet.
Although it may be grown outdoors as far north as San Jose and Sacramento, it is somewhat sensitive to cold, owing to its tropical origins, and could be damaged in a frost. Its lacy foliage, considered to be among the most beautiful in the botanical kingdom, is a highly polished emerald green. Its roots are not known to be invasive.
I want to know what kinds of plants are attractive but do not need much water. We have a large area to keep green.
>Celia De La O, Arleta
With a bit of local investigation and research, you could probably answer your question yourself, based on the plants that look good in your own neighborhood.
Whatever grows well for your neighbors will probably grow well for you, too, since you share the same climate and are probably digging in the same kind of soil as well.
I would talk to your neighbors about their plants. Notice which plants are attractive to you and ask about their water needs. You are also reasonably close to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley at 10459 Tuxford Street. You might want to visit the nursery there, as nearly all of the plants on display are water thrifty. For more information, call (818) 768-1802.
Many of the plants that flower exclusively in late fall, winter or early spring, including most California natives, have low water requirements.
The logic is simple. A drought tolerant plant will bloom just before, during, or immediately after the limited rainy season – here, it’s from November through March – that molds its environment. The moisture present in the soil coincides with the flowering of water-thrifty plants so that the vital processes of pollination and seed formation, as well as seed germination, can proceed prior to the onset of hot weather.
I enjoyed your article on Peruvian lilies but have not been able to locate any. Any suggestions as to where I might find them?”
>Mike Mularky, Saugus
Peruvian lilies (Alstroemeria) are fairly common in the nursery trade. Any neighborhood nursery, as opposed to home centers with nursery departments, should be able to special order them for you. I have found the dwarf Peruvian lilies, with their low mounding growth habit, to be especially rewarding.
If bird of paradise is our classic perennial winter bloomer for the sun, the kaffir lily, also from South Africa, is our outstanding perennial winter bloomer for the shade. Once you see a kaffir lily (Clivia miniata), you will not forget it. Sets of broad, deep-green foliar straps emerge and then cascade in opposite directions from the center of the plant, where clusters of orange, tubular flowers also develop. This plant is a favorite selection for sun-deprived breezeways and is found growing under the San Diego Freeway in Brentwood, between Sepulveda Boulevard and the entry to the Getty Center. There is also a pale yellow kaffir lily you may want to consider.
Its leaves are narrower and its flowers more modest than those of its orange cousin.