red bird of paradise

To track down poinciana plants, you would have to journey into Madagascar, the West Indies, Uruguay or tropical Mexico. Or you could visit the front of an office building opposite Taft High School on Ventura Boulevard, just west of Winnetka Avenue, between a Denny’s and a Mobil gas station, in Woodland Hills.
The poinciana flowers of note, whether adorned with yellow, orange or red petals, are endowed with long, arching red stamens. It is these stamens that make them memorable.
On Ventura Boulevard, a yellow poinciana (Caesalpinia gilliesii) and a red poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) are blooming now. These Caesalpinias, named for the 16th-century Italian botanist Andrea Caesalpini, are commonly referred to as bird of paradise bushes or desert birds of paradise, in homage to their plumage of red stamens and their minimal water requirement.
Descriptive words are not easily found for Caesalpinias. Although they are exotic looking, it would be difficult to call them beautiful. They are sparse plants, with the bipinnate leaves and small leaflets of many leguminous species. They have an unlush, xerophytic look, but grow quickly and may be used as unconventional screens or hedges.
Plant Caesalpinias in well-drained soil if you want them to live for more than a few years. They should be pruned hard, just before spring, to half or less of their mature, 10- to 12-foot height. Otherwise, they will get leggy and produce progressively fewer flowers each year. Caesalpinia seeds and pods are highly toxic.
Much different in appearance from shrub poincianas is a tropical tree known as the royal poinciana or flamboyant (Delonix regia), a species we can only dream about in Los Angeles because of its strictly tropical habitat. Probably the best reason to take a cruise in the Caribbean is the opportunity for viewing the royal poinciana (named after M. de Poinci, the 17th-century governor of Martinique). The scarlet flowers and feathery, verdant foliage of this species have given it a reputation as the most beautiful ornamental tree in the world.
There has recently been a spate of inquiries sent to this writer concerning methods for control of squirrels. Thanks to the Internet, a person can find the solution to almost any problem including, it appears, unwanted squirrels.
For starters, consider acquisition of a dog or cat. Either of these territorial pets seems to have the power to deter squirrels from entering its backyard domain.
Squirrels are especially attracted to the seeds in bird feeders, so if you have one of these avian food banks, either remove it or consider this suggestion made by Bill Adler Jr.: “To outwit squirrels, you have to be willing to spend time and effort. For nearly every strategy you come up with, over time squirrels are going to undo that strategy … Don’t just string a bird feeder on a wire between two distant trees – string the wire through record albums to make it harder for squirrels to walk across that wire.”
Then there’s the “predator urine” alternative. The suppliers of this product line certainly have logic behind them. In their words: “In the wild, the relationship between predator and prey defines the daily routine of virtually every animal alive. In this life and death game of hide-and-seek, the scent of urine is often the only warning a prey has that a predator is nearby. This scent of predator urine triggers a primal reaction in the prey. Even though a coyote has not been seen in an area for decades, its urine scent will cause a deer or other prey to involuntarily and instinctively seek a safer location.” Coyote, fox, wolf and bobcat urine are available, with fox urine being recommended as the squirrel repellent of choice. Order from J&C Marketing by calling (800) 218-1749.
If you are repelled by the above repellent, consider N.I.M.B.Y., an anti-nuisance animal spray made of “natural oils blended to work with nature.” Order from DMX Industries in St. Louis at (314) 385-9396.
Live trapping is a tried and true measure for squirrel abatement. Havahart and TOM traps are available. Nurseries such as Green Thumb, 21828 Sherman Way in Canoga Park, should carry one brand or the other. Put the trap at the base of the tree inhabited by your squirrel. After trapping your fluffy-tailed nemesis, you’ll have to take him at least three miles away before letting him go; otherwise, he may find his way back to your house. Check with your local animal control officer about regulations concerning live trapping and release.
To become a true expert on the subject, pick up a copy of “Outwitting Squirrels: 101 Cunning Strategems to Reduce Dramatically the Egregious Misappropriation of Seed from Your Bird Feeder by Squirrels” (Chicago Review Press; 1996). This book, written by Bill Adler, has sold more than 100,000 copies. It can be ordered over the Internet through amazon.com.
Tip of the week: For a free Common Ground Gardening Newsletter – made possible by Los Angeles County Cooperative Extension and its volunteers – with a page of gardening information for each month, call the Master Gardener Phone Helpline at (213) 838-4541.

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