This year there have been a lot of volunteer sunflowers all over the neighborhood. Why this year? Whatever the reason, they are a welcome sight, even amongst the weeds and bromes.
Artists and obsession:
Artists, aging, and obsession:
“I have drawn things since I was 6. All that I made before the age of 65 is not worth counting. At 73 I began to understand the true construction of animals, plants, trees, birds, fishes, and insects. At 90 I will enter into the secret of things. At 110, everything – every dot, every dash – will live. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age, I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself ‘The Old Man Mad About Drawing.'” ~ Hokusai
“Mount Fuji is a popular subject for Japanese art due to its cultural and religious significance. This belief can be traced to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, where a goddess deposits the elixir of life on the peak. As the historian Henry Smith explains, “Thus from an early time, Mt. Fuji was seen as the source of the secret of immortality, a tradition that was at the heart of Hokusai’s own obsession with the mountain.”” Wikipedia
Here in Boyes Hot Springs, we have a similarly visible, tall monument, and while the Spa does not claim to bestow eternal life, it definitely makes life more enjoyable, and is a worthy subject of an artist’s obsession.
“It all adds up to a reminder that, even as the art historians have been slowly trying to squeeze the history our their discipline, artists have been assiduously turning them selves in to historians, archivists even collectors of a sort.” Barry Schwabsky, The Nation Magazine, April 2014
“Historically revered by Native Americans for its healing power, the elegant Spanish mission–style Inn boasts an enviable location atop an ancient thermal mineral spring, flowing from 1,100 feet below the surface. The tranquility and beauty of this environment is echoed throughout the 40,000-square-foot spa, which offers endless opportunities to find your energy.” From the SMI website
Photographs courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society and the author.
In 2008 final construction drawings for “Phase 2 Stage 1” of the Highway 12 sidewalk project were issued. The drawings are detailed and very specific, as they would be. Everything is spelled out, down to the design of the hardware used to hold up mail boxes, sign details, and the depth of fence posts.
One thing that was not thought about is the space created, or delineated between the edge of the sidewalk and buildings, fences and walls along the highway. Formerly just part of the shoulder of the road, these unpaved spaces became the chaotic province of weeds and trash, unclaimed and untended by anybody.
This 300’ strip on the east side of the highway between Hawthorne and Thomson is a good example.
Other examples of wasted space.
The new sidewalks, streetlights, and other amenities provided by the project are much appreciated in the community. It’s a shame that the interstices of the design were not dealt with originally, but they now represent an opportunity for creativity and community engagement. Let a hundred fledgling landscape architects bloom!
A fiesta on Mothers Day, 2019:Mariachi in Boyes Hot Springs. https://youtu.be/fUv7VsVHFw4
For lovers of the prickly vegetable, the presence of groves of wild artichokes, as we have in the Valley of the Moon, might seem like an indication of paradise. In addition to being delicious, artichoke flowers are beautiful, fragrant, and attract bees.
However, the wild cynara carduncula is a fearsome invasive plant.
According to the California Invasive Plant Council, the thistle was probably imported from Europe in the early 19th century as a food plant. It becomes invasive when it escapes cultivation and begins to reproduce from seed. Darwin found it growing in the Argentine pampas in 1889 in an area of “hundreds of square miles.”
At its worst, the “edible thistle” forms thickets that are impenetrable by humans or animals and that shade out native plants. As they develop tap roots eight feet deep and produce seed banks that endure for five years, they are very difficult to control.
More info at this link:
Very early spring 2018, the little calendula are filling many of the open spaces in Sonoma Valley. Some folks think it’s a weed, others love it.
Is it a weed?
“Calendula (probably arvensis, but there is a larger flowered officianalis) is listed on Cal Flora as non-native to our area but not invasive. So it depends on your definition of a weed: any non-native, or the ones that most upset biodiversity? I don’t mind them; they’re pretty and have some medicinal uses. Since they tend to grow in disturbed and/or agricultural areas, no one knows for certain what grew there in the first place, so planting something else with the goal of restoration would involve some guesswork.” Hannah Aclufi via Facebook
According to Wikipedia:
A weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, “a plant in the wrong place”.
Examples commonly are plants unwanted in human-controlled settings, such as farm fields, gardens, lawns, and parks. Taxonomically, the term “weed” has no botanical significance, because a plant that is a weed in one context is not a weed when growing in a situation where it is in fact wanted, and where one species of plant is a valuable crop plant, another species in the same genus might be a serious weed, such as a wild bramble growing among cultivated loganberries. In the same way, volunteer crops (plants) are regarded as weeds in a subsequent crop.
Many plants that people widely regard as weeds also are intentionally grown in gardens and other cultivated settings, in which case they are sometimes called beneficial weeds.
These little plants tend to inhabit waste spaces, roadsides, and untended open fields. They will grow in gardens, but are easily removed and are not aggressively spreading, like oxalis or dandelions.
So there can be a differing of opinion.
The term weed also is applied to any plant that grows or reproduces aggressively, or is invasive outside its native habitat. More broadly “weed” occasionally is applied pejoratively to species outside the plant kingdom, species that can survive in diverse environments and reproduce quickly; in this sense it has even been applied to humans.
So, let’s not get up on our high horses when deciding what is a weed or what isn’t. Humans are a weed species, but there are some benefits to our existence!
Calendula have medicinal uses as a remedy for skin problems as well as an anti-inflammatory.
And, on a taxinomical note:
“There is a lot of magic in the naming of things. It is my contention that the more we know about nature’s secrets, the more we can enjoy it. Simply being able to call the elements of nature by their proper names helps us to experience them and allows their beauty to unfold…” Obi Kaufmann, The California Field Atlas.
“I find the Latin names for the plants as beautiful as the plants themselves … “ Wyethia Angustifolia (Hannah Aclufi) https://viridiplantae.com/about/
Just south of the Sonoma Mission Inn, on the west side of Highway 12, Sierra Drive intersects.
At that corner stands one of our landmark oak trees. The tree is in front of the building that now houses Ross Drulis Cusenberry Architects. The building was built in 1966 for Sierra National Bank. It seems that the street, originally known as Meincke Road (more on that later), was renamed for the bank. The street also has the distinction of being on the former NWPRR right-of-way (the tracks were removed in 1942).
Our tree is a Valley Oak, Quercus lobata. According to the California Native Plant Society (http://calscape.org/), the Valley Oak ranges over the interior valleys of the State, and needs to be near a source of water (Lily Creek*, which flows down Arroyo Road, tunnels under the highway very near the tree.) It can grow to 100’ in height and live for as many as 500 years. The tree in question, which has three trunks, certainly could be 100 years old. We have a photograph of the tree (and building) from 1973, which shows it to be in pretty poor shape. In 2018 it appears to be much healthier.
*Thanks to Greg Larson for the creek name.
1973 top. 2018 bottom. Top photo courtesy of the Sonoma Valley Historical Society.
The tree may appear in some other historic photos.
Boyes Depot, 1930s, (approximately located in the parking lot behind the Plaza Center Building), looking north to Sonoma Mountain. The oak in the foreground is possibly the Sierra Drive tree.
Photo by Zan Stark, 1950s. The location is opposite Arroyo Road on the Highway.
Oaks are never more beautiful than in winter.
Next post: About Sierra Drive/Meincke Road.