Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the CNPS videos

Everyone must either know this or be able to search for it by now, but in case there is one person who doesn't, the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society has a web page where they host a number of pertinent videos.


That's all.


Pete Veilleux - native plant gardens on Pinterest

Follow Pete's garden pins at http://www.pinterest.com/ho2cultcha/california-native-gardens/.

I guess that many of the photos are his own.  This one jumped out at me because it seemed a signature container style of his. see https://flic.kr/p/o5Gw7v

Pete is the owner of east bay wilds.

My pins (not of Ca native plants, yet) are located at http://www.pinterest.com/brentamorgan/


The Fifth Season

Sent to me via email from Jake Sigg.  I think this is an eloquent restatement.

The old complaint about California not having seasons is, of course, wrong.  The dry season is California's winter, its plant dormancy period.  For some reason, though, our culture doesn't really want to acknowledge the dry season.  Millions of people swear by cold winters, and like nothing better than to put on down parkas and romp in the snow.  Very few revel in cavorting through the chaparral and dry grass on a blazing California August day.  The very idea seems perverse, although dry-grass cavorting is actually the more "natural" of the two pursuits according to generally held theories of human origins.  A biped ape of the African savannah would certainly be happier in a California August than in an Ohio January.  Perhaps modern humans are repelled by the dry hills because it reminds some forgotten corner of their brains of a time when there were leopards and baboons in the tall grass.

Californians tend to treat their dry summers as though they were embarrassing lapses of taste.  They cover them up, sweep them under the rug.  Cities are full of evergreen plantings and painstakingly watered lawns.  For every garden of native grasses, chaparral plants, and oaks, there are thousands of artificial edens of hibiscus, banana trees, and tree ferns.  Freeway borders are carefully, almost obsessively, planted with evergreens--eucalyptus, oleander, redwood, pine--anything to avoid showing the traveler a bare branch or a patch of dead grass.  Somehow the barrenness of a snowscape is considered pretty, that of a bare landscape ugly.

I think we lose something important by covering up the dry season--the element of change.  Change is the one universal attribute of life, and it is often very frightening; but attempts to avoid it usually turn out worse than letting it happen.  The green and white California cities look a little like cemeteries during the dry season.  There is a similar preoccupation with an eternal springtime.  Like most easterners (I grew up in Connecticut), I was favorably impressed with eternal springtime when I first came to California in 1968, but I've since come to view it with suspicion.  There's something embalmed about it.  The wrinkled body of the old, unwatered California may be a little scary, but it is the true source of renewal here.

There are difficulties about coming to terms with the dry season and giving it an honored place beside the four traditional Anglo seasons.  For all its harshness, the California dry season is actually quite fragile.  It very quickly shows the marks of mistreatment or neglect.  A golden meadow of dry grass and tarweeds turns into a dusty trash heap when subjected to any degree of trampling or littering.  The native perennial grasses are beautiful plants perfectly adapted to living through dry summers, but they've been largely wiped out by livestock grazing and competition from introduced annual grasses.  The native oak trees seem to be headed in the same direction, since the heavy grazing that goes on in most areas makes it difficult for them to reproduce.

David Rains Wallace, The Untamed Garden


Goodbye, Canada

I learned that there's a Mediterranean climate in Canada's coastal islands in the vicinity of Victoria. A Garry oak woodland on many of the islands is in decline. It shares characteristics with oak woodlands in California.


0.09" rain; season total 5.59"

It's rare in southern California to have significant rainfall after April, yet that's exactly what we had earlier this week. I was away and didn't get to my rain gauge until a couple days had passed.

date   amnt(in.) Tot(in.)
27-Oct 0.15 0.15
20-Nov 0.54 0.69
29-Nov 0.4 1.09
7-Dec 0.27 1.36
29-Jan 0.001 1.36
2-Feb 0.19 1.55
6-Feb 0.28 1.83
7-Feb 0.02 1.85
26-Feb 0.83 2.68
27-Feb 1.5 4.18
1-Mar 1 5.18
25-Mar 0.02 5.20
2-Aug 0.09 5.29

While I measured 0.08", I'm booking 0.09" to allow for evaporation effects. A quick search for nearby weather stations suggested that was a close enough number.  For purposes of rainfall accounting, our rainy season runs September 1 to August 31 of the following year, so I suppose we could always get a bit more.

August monsoon season

While I was away, we got some exciting monsoon weather.  My local rainfall I estimate at 0.09", but local mountains had lots of rain.  The LA Times reported that,

A tropical rain storm that caused deadly floods and destructive mudslides in the San Gabriel Mountains on Sunday was the kind of weather event seen only once about every 500 years, the National Weather Service said.

Starting at about 2:45 p.m., the storm dropped nearly 4 inches of rain onto Mt. Baldy in a single hour, triggering mudslides and floods that killed one motorist and severely damaged more than 30 homes.
The deluge also cut off the community of Forest Falls after mudslides of up to 10-feet high buried the town’s lone road connecting it to California 38. San Bernardino County firefighters were still assessing the damage Monday and Tuesday, but said about 100 buildings had sustained damage.
The storm was the product of an “orographic flow” -- when moisture-saturated air is pushed up by a mountain’s natural topography and is squeezed like a sponge. A wave of tropical air blown north from Central America gave the storm extra ammunition, climatologists said.

I drove by Forest Falls on Highway 38 out of Mentone on Monday, and although I saw evidence of rainfall such as small pebbles and sand on the road, I didn't see any evidence  that rainfall was present in amounts of concern on the highway (about 1/2 to 1 mile away from the community of Forest Falls).  Clearly, the community of Forest Falls didn't have that experience, which is a lesson in how localized weather and weather effects can be, particularly in the mountains.

Alaskan trip

Vicinity of Anchorage. Doesn't look much like home.

- Posted from my iPhone



There were plenty of mosquitos in the Sierra. I had countermeasures.

Fortunately, mosquitoes weren't omnipresent.  More pleasant critters abounded:


Kings Canyon

I take a lot of photos when I backpack but then the question is what to do with them. I guess I'll share a few.

This looks like Paradise Valley. We backpacked up it on the outbound leg. At the point I took this photo, we were on the return leg and I finally got to see the valley from a distance.

- Posted from my iPhone


Remember that hot spell we had? II

Recall the heat damaged new garden install at the neighbor's house? It shows no signs of a hard start in life. What you see below are Encelia for the most part, planted because the neighbor requested "sunflowers". What he really wanted is in the background in this photo. Sharing is caring they say.

- Posted from my iPhone


Garden design series at Mother Nature's Backyard

There's been a lot of information posted over at Mother Nature's Backyard blog since I last visited.  Mother Nature's Backyard is particularly relevant to me, since they write about California native plant gardening in back yard location mere miles from my house.

To my chagrin, it was dropped from my list of blogs to visit regularly.  However, in a way it's fortunate that I've gone so long without a check in since they are now on part 11 of a garden design series that I think is quite insightful, giving me plenty of reading and thinking material to digest in one go.  I might have found it frustrating to wait for the installments if I were following along, so perhaps it's a lucky thing that I was able to catch the design series late in the game. I'm not quite through with it, but it seems thorough so far - more like approachable class material than a casual blog post. No specific author is listed, but I suspect that Dr. Connie Vadheim (CSU Dominguez Hills) is the main author of the design series, so it should be no surprise that the series is as thorough as it is. 

So far as I can tell, they don't have a table of contents to the design series, so here is one:

http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/02/designing-your-new-california-garden-9.html (Part 1)
http://mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com/2014/03/designing-your-new-california-garden-9.html (Part 2)