2015-06-14

Someone's been eating my Cercis

I was admiring the fog on my Cercis occidentalis



When I noticed some leaf damage and a critter.


Who's been eating my Cercis?



Have some more there's plenty to go around.

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2015-06-12

Possum, raccoon, skunk, house cat

I suspect that the raccoons are to blame for the immense piles of scat that have accumulated on top of my patch of Erigeron glaucus (Seaside daisy).  I set the trap in a likely area (not the toilet area, that seemed indelicate) to see who was visiting my yard.


2015-06-11

Palo Verde tree

This is a Palo Verde tree in Phoenix, Arizona (Parkinsonia or Cercidium species). In that area these trees are planted all over and appear to reseed frequently. This photo was taken on Memorial Day weekend in Phoenix and it was typical of the trees we saw there - just beautiful. I see them planted more and more in my part of California, but the blooms never look quite like they did in Phoenix. Maybe I just haven't seen them at the right time of year, the weather isn't quite right, or the commonly used California garden selection doesn't have the prolific blooms of the (presumably) wilder Phoenix variety. That can happen - there are three Parkinsonia species and a grower may choose to produce a hybrid or garden selection en masse from cuttings or other method that produces clonal invariants. Bloom seems delayed here by a month or more compared to Phoenix.
Though I live in Palos Verdes, the "green sticks" where my hill gets its name are not the green sticks of the Palo Verde tree branches*: Parkinsonia is is only endemic to the southeastern desert part of the state. Nonetheless, native plant enthusiasts in my area sometimes use Palo Verde as part of their gardens and it looks good - beautiful blooms and striking branch structure.

 There's a Desert Museum selection that was once popular - I think it still is.

In the late 1970's Mark Dimmitt with the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) began noticing Blue Palo Verdes that exhibited characteristics suggesting they were hybrids of other Palo Verde species. He collected and planted seeds from the assorted trees he had observed and began evaluating them. By 1981 he had identified a thornless seedling as clearly superior to the others collected. Careful evaluation of the genetic composition of this hybrid, named 'Desert Museum', revealed it to be a complex hybrid having genetic characteristics from Mexican, Blue and Foothill Palo Verde. Dimmitt suspects that 'Desert Museum' gets it vigorous growth, sturdy, upright branching habit and bright flowers from P. aculeate, and its small delicate leaves from the Cercidium species. Trees have tolerated temperatures of 15 degrees without damage in Tucson. The most remarkable and unique feature of this hybrid is the absence of thorns. Flowers are slightly larger than those of P. aculeata and other Cercidiums and trees have been observed to flower abundantly as early as mid-March in southern Arizona with intense, full bloom lasting into late spring and early summer. Intermittent flowering can continue into the mid to late fall. Source: http://www.aridzonetrees.com

*The green sticks in the place name Palos Verdes are thought to be the reeds that once surrounded the hill in the low lying (and navigable by canoe) marsh areas that are now parts of Lomita, Torrance, San Pedro, and other cities.

2015-06-10

0.08" rain; seaon total 9.29"


On 9-Jun I received 0.08" of rain in my back yard for a season total of  9.29" of rain.  Once again, this is a totally normal number for Los Angeles, so if you had native plants in your garden instead of grass you wouldn't be overwhelmed with the water needs.


2015-05-18

Rain 0.76"; 9.21" season total

We had a surprising amount of rain yesterday and overnight at my house: 0.7" and then a bit more on the following day.  This is quite late in the season for us to get this much rain - 75% of the time May has 0.25" or less rain in the LA area.  The rainfall total of 9.21" is normal for LA, which most frequently gets between 8 and 10 inches of rain per year.

If you have established native plants, they ought to do well in your garden this year with even a moderate amount of supplemental watering.  If you are establishing native plants, they will still need a bit of extra water to get through the summer.  Deep, infrequent, waterings are usually best.

2015-05-08

Another 0.1" of rain; season total 8.45"

I predicted that we were done with rain for the year, but I was wrong. An overnight and early a.m. Storm gave us another 0.1" for a total of 8.45". This is not an unusual amount of rain for the Los Angeles area, so once again I say that this part of the state is having normal winter. If we landscaped with native plants we'd be sitting pretty in terms of keeping out yards alive.


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2015-04-10

What can we say about Los Angeles area rainfall this winter?

I've received 8.35" of rain in my back yard this year.  Since I have a few years worth of data on rainfall in my back yard, and decades of data from the nearby Los Angeles area, I feel that I can draw a few conclusions.

1. Rain barrels still suck.  I've said this before and here's a short synopsis of why with the caveats.  This last winter we had 17 storms come through that dropped measurable precipitation.  That's 17 opportunities to catch rain water.  The typical home rain water harvesting setup involves 50 to 100 gallons of storage.  So that's perhaps 1700 gallons of rain water you could have saved and used after the storm has passed.  Go figure out how much that actually saved in money versus the cost of the installation.  I've done that already for you, and it's not worth it.  Wouldn't you like to use that water during the summer on your vegetables?  Don't bother, you can't realistically save 50 to 100 gallons for that long.

Caveats: When storage is abundant (several times the amount of rain that your roof sheds in one storm) then it might make sense.  There are under-house bladders and cisterns that seem to meet that criterion.  When storm frequency is greater then it might make sense.  When storm season is longer it might make sense. If you have occasional summer storms then it might make sense.  The climatic conditions aren't likely to change enough in California even in the face of  global climate change.  Really, don't bother with a mere barrel or two.

2. Rain water retention still makes sense.  When you are storing the rain in the ground (eliminating run off using swales, or rain gardens, or permeable hardscape, or however you do it) then it's easy to store large amounts and you don't have to fuss with infrastructure costs or maintenance other than your garden.

3. This winter was typical for Los Angeles.  Everyone's crying drought, but the native plants living locally got a normal amount of rain.  Do you think this is surprising?  The most frequent amount of rainfall that the greater Los Angeles area gets is 8-10 inches per year.  Over the past decades of rainfall data that I've analyzed, we received 8-10 inches of rain in 16 of them.  For comparison, we received 6-8 inches of rain in 8 years, and 10-12 inches of rain in 9 years.  Folks, the LA area is RIGHT ON TARGET for the rain we received this year.  It's dry here, but for our native plants THIS WAS A NORMAL YEAR.  Let's not try to make Los Angeles a subtropical paradise by importing water and concentrate instead on showcasing our California paradise.

0.1" rain; season total 8.35"

0.1" of rain fell on the night of the 7th in my back yard which brought the season total to 8.35".  Since I think that this is the last rain for the year, I'll list all the storms.



Date    Amount    Total
           (inches)    2013-14
8-Sep      0.1    0.10
31-Oct    0.37    0.47
1-Nov     0.17    0.64
13-Nov    0.05    0.69
30-Nov    0.03    0.72
3-Dec      2.47    3.19
12-Dec    0.92    4.11
16-Dec    1.01    5.12
31-Dec    0.1    5.22
11-Jan     1.51    6.73
26-Jan     0.3    7.03
30-Jan     0.04    7.07
23-Feb    0.3    7.37
28-Feb    0.09    7.46
1-Mar     0.2    7.66
2-Mar      0.59    8.25
7-Apr      0.1    8.35


I certainly don't claim to have a perfect record, but I'm pretty good about recording each storm.


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California Native Plant Week and the long game

California Native Plant Week (CNPW) is upon us, but it always seems like it's late to me.  In northern California where winter seems to hang on a bit longer, I think the timing might be more apropos, but for me in the Los Angeles area it's always seemed like the garden has hit its peak several weeks ago.

Not that CNPW isn't a good idea.  As a state-wide acknowledgement of the richness of our natural environment, it's an excellent advertising tool.  Still, pity the naive Joan Q Public who admires a native plant in bloom during CNPW then tries to plant it in the following week in mid-April.  She is near certainly doomed to failure for a multitude of reasons. 

Mostly, Joan may not fully realize the long game that one plays as a native plant gardener:

April, year 1: It's CNPW.  First lay eyes on a plant you admire.  Plant your selection in your garden  Ah, satisfaction!  You ought to be enjoying that plant soon, right?
June, year 1: Plant dies more often than not and dissatisfaction ensues.  If not, then it doesn't grow much in summer anyway so you might as well have waited until Oct-Nov.
Oct-Nov, year 1: Replant, if you are dedicated or a glutton for punishment.  If you are patient and haven't lost the inspiration since April, then plant for the first time.
April, year 2: It's CNPW, but your plant has only just settled in after a nice winter, and it's not an abundant bloomer after only 6 months in the ground.  Don't rip it out in disappointment.  Wait some more.
June, year 2: Plant has to make it through the summer.  You are careful and it does.  Hurray!
November, year 2: Plant establishes and grows due to winter rainfall.  Ahhhh.  Almost done.
April, year 3: Plant blooms.  Double Hurray!  You are done after only 3 years.

At this point the reasonably patient Joan Q Public may ask, "Why plant a Toyon when a Cotoneaster will fill in so much more quickly?"

2015-04-08

Squirrel deterrent

But they will hop right over the screen....Oh.





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2015-04-04

Friendship Park II

What's not to like?


Brazilian pepper, wall to wall Euphorbia terracina, and mustard forests.

Aside from that it's a nice view.

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2015-04-03

Friendship Park

Here's an interesting sign.


With all that mustard, one wonders how they define restoration.

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2015-03-20

From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow....

...and grow, and grow, and grow.  I'm sure it was cute when it was smaller.  As a gangly pre-teen, it's not even reached close to its final height. At least it's not planted beneath power lines. 

Don't do this.