2012-04-05

Last chance native planting

March 31 wasn't really the last chance to plant natives California plants in my garden, but The Payne Foundation's Poppy Day coincided with a rare free weekend and a growing realization that I had lost the battle to plant in the favorable fall to winter time frame, so I went with a determined will and a very specific shopping list: Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud tree, 3 needed) and Vitus 'Roger's Red' (Roger's Red grape, 1 needed).  I felt that these two would be sufficiently commonplace that there would be scads available and I certainly didn't want to bite off more than I could chew.  Not so much.  Vitus Roger's Red is available much more commonly in fall; only a couple were available that day, and they were reportedly scooped up by a savvy someone who arrived as the gates opened, two hours before I arrived.  However, Cercis was available and I picked up 3 1 gal plants per plan.  Along the way, I picked up a 1 gal Adiantum capillus-veneris 'Banksianum' (Maidenhair fern), 3 1 gal Artemisia californica 'Canyon Grey' (A low growing California Sagebrush selection), 3 1 gal Iris 'Pacific Coast Hybrid' for Juli's yard. Why not? After all, they were on offer at 15% off for Foundation members. How's that old expression go? Don't buy more natives than you can easily plant in weekend?

Leaving the Payne Foundation with my unintentional bounty, I decided to try my Roger's Red luck at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's West LA outpost, the Grow Native Nursery. I found something unexpectedly red when I got there, but it wasn't Roger's Red. It was Tomato Mania, selling tens of different and healthy-looking 4" tomato starts. Holy Ketchup, Batman. I ended up with 5 4" tomato plants as well as three more Heuchera maxima (Island Coral Bells) to complement the ones flourishing in my north side yard already. I also swooped down on three each 4" Eschscholzia californica maritima (Coastal California Poppy - a more robust plant than the inland variety and most easily distinguished by the flower's color variation as opposed to the solid orange of the inland variety) and on three Mimulus (Monkeyflower) 'Eleanor' hybrids. And why not, since members got a 10% discount? Still no Roger's Red, however, except some poor looking 5 gal specimens at the absurd price of $32. I had to pass on the whole Roger's Red concept until fall. This was completely in line with my tight spending control and philosophy of not biting off more than I could chew.

Since I'd planned only to purchase three plants, I hadn't come prepared with a covered bin to place the plants in and they all ended up in the small cab of my truck to avoid wind buffeting and the hockey puck effect if placed loose in the bed.

I spent the rest of the day planting, but I didn't get all the natives installed. With warming weather, I'm facing a deadline to get them in the ground and the increased chance of early mortality if they don't make it gracefully into and through summer. Fortunately, Wednesday and Saturday have showers in the forecast - that's my signal to bring on the water on those days even if we don't get lots of rain.

Here's some planting that I did get done.

Before:
After, alternating poppies and Mimulus:
Mimulus 'Eleanor'. I wish all my phone camera shots of flowers turned out this good.
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) also managed to make it into my car and was planted in a likely spot on the south side of my house in partial shade. I'm hoping for a truly wild tasting berry, but I'm not sure if my growing conditions are optimum or if it will produce well. We'll see. Hopefully I will be biting on more than I can chew with this plant.