Santa Barbara Botanic Garden purchases

I was up in Santa Barbara on 5 Oct and made a stop by the SBBG.  I thought hard about not buying anything, but come on!  How fun would that be?  They had a great selection which they plan to maintain throughout the month of October.

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama Grass) species 4x1 gal $8 ea - I realized that I had some planted already when I got home.  This grass has a cool-looking seed head that looks like an eyelash and it's been on my mind to try it mixed in with the Carex pragracilis that defines a garden path.  It's also a UC Davis Arboretum all star plant (meaning adaptable and hard to kill). 

Calliandra californica (Baja Fairy Duster) 1 gal- A previous inhabitant of the garden, I lost it when I tried to transplant it.  It was so beautiful and successful in its previous location that I need a do-over.

Chilopsis linearis (Desert Willow) 1 gal- The one I have has been in a pot and I think that it's compromised.  This will hopefully go in the ground

Oxalis oregana (Redwood sorrel) 1 gal- I have a shady, damp, spot for this to nap all summer long on the north side of the house where the condensate from the AC is sent.

The last three were 9 or 10 each, but I lost track of which had the highest price.

Total 60.00 plus tax


2018-2019 rainfall total 25.32"

Here's all the data that I recorded during the last rainy season. There are certainly a few minor errors, since I wasn't as attentive as in previous years, so consider this total a lower bound.  The overall take home message was that we got plenty of rain.

Date RecordedAmountCumulative



Miss Rhumphius

I received a recommendation for a children's book the other day. 

Miss Rhumphius is a woman who scatters lupine seed all around town. Written by Barbara Cooney, it has very nice illustrations.  Available at the usual places one buys such things, you can read it to a child in kindergarten or they might read it on their own in later grades.

The book seems apropos because of the native Arroyo lupine that grows all over Palos Verdes, despite the tendency of the city to treat it like a common weed. Someday I fear it will all be gone in favor of non-native grasses. A lupine explosion might wake a few people up to the beauty that we have already for free in our back yard.


TPF 2/16/19

In years past, this is the sort of thing that a gardener would tape into their garden notebook. I'll just leave it here.

For later search:

Lepechinia cardiophylla 1 9.00
Diplacus (Mimulus) 'Trish' 2 16
Calystegia macrstegia 1 9.00
Styrax redivivus 1 9.00
Cirsium occidentale 4" 3 13.50
Carex pansa 4" 12 54.00
Seeds 2 9.00

Brent - via iPhone

Fwd: New California Roadkill Observation System!

I previously noted to good work of the CROS.  Although somewhat morbid, roadkill is certainly a definite way to identify wildlife. Identifying is the first step to managing (perhaps with a view to alleviate roadkill?).  Tagged this with the camera trap tag while tongue firmly in cheek.

Some time ago I received this nice update on the new Roadkill Observation System from Fraser Shilling:

Dear CROS Team,
We are happy to announce a new version of CROS!
New CROS offers the following:

* Support for smartphones and tablets (mobile devices). You can now enter data with your smart phone more easily.
* Single photo upload to create observation. If you setup your phone to allow location to be shared (called geotagging), uploading only the photo will create the whole record. This saves lots of time, and you can optionally enter more details, like the species, at a later time.
* More streamlined user interface for entering data.
* You can still view all of your data on a map, or download it to a CSV file.

If you have entered at least one observation into CROS, we transferred your account to new CROS, and all you need to do is setup a new password. Here are the steps.
1. Go to this page:
2. Enter your email address and click submit. Then check your email and click on the link that will help you reset your password.
3. Enter your new password and you should be all set to use it next time you want to login.

If you have any problems, just email Fraser & Dave (fmshilling@ucdavis.edu; dwaetjen@ucdavis.edu) and we can help you.

If you signed up for CROS but never entered an observation, you will need to create a new account (or enter observations anonymously). Follow this link to create an account:
Thanks for your interest and contributions,
The CROS Team at the Road Ecology Center


The plant sales start early

Made the following purchase at Annie's Annuals at sale prices.  While this is clear-out-the old type of sale, the bring-in-the-new type of native plant sales are just around the corner.  I hope I can bridge the end months of summer with these plants into the cooler establishment months of autumn. 

With shipping, I pay the same price at Annie's as full retail in my neck of the woods (Los Angeles area) but I don't have to put up with traffic.  Also, I figured out a way to filter Annie's web site sale items for California Native plants, so it made my selection easier. (As a side note, having decided that I will garden with Ca native plants exclusively actually makes my gardening easier.  Imagine the analysis paralysis that I would have if I could choose outside that slice of the plant world.) 

I already have one successful 'Margarita BOP' Penstemon but two others failed in nearby locations.  I'll get a retry with this order.  Also, I'll have a similar set of P. 'Blue Springs' to play with - maybe I will plant them together in a big drift or two. 

The Monardella 'Marian Sampson' is an experiment.  I think that underneath the Encelia where it will get occasional summer water would be a good place.  Apparently it's hard to establish, so I will improve my odds with two.

Annie's received the following order on 08/20/19
Order Information:
Order #235504
Item ID Product Name Quantity Unit Price Total
4611 Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP' 2 $6.71 $13.42
5062 Monardella macrantha 'Marian Sampson' 2 $5.96 $11.92
818 Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' "Foothill Penstemon" 2 $6.71 $13.42
Subtotal $38.76
Sales Tax (9.50%) $3.68
Shipping $13.95
Total $56.39
Credit Card $56.39


5.54" of rain; season total 20.78"

We had 5.54" inches of rain this last couple weeks and the mountains around LA were covered in snow  - a beautiful sight in winter.  For those is less Mediterranean parts of the world, this is a really bountiful rain year for us.  The garden was of course full of weeds, but the natives have responded well too.

2/21/2019 0.02
2/17/2019 0.07
2/16/2019 0.04
2/15/2019 0.82
2/14/2019 3.50
2/12/2019 0.30
2/10/2019 0.20
2/9/2019 0.29
2/5/2019 0.30


10.42" rain over the past 30 days; 15.24" season total so far

Over about the past 30 days, I've accumulated 10.42" of rain in my back yard as shown below.  The dates are the dates that I read the rain gauge.  

2/4/2019 0.20
2/3/2019 1.75
1/31/2019 0.74
1/16/19 1.80
1/15/2019 1.61
1/14/2019 1.85
1/13/2019 0.02
1/12/2019 1.28
1/7/2019 0.77
1/5/2019 0.40

This is good news for us, considering that last year we had in the low single digits of inches of rain.


Recent rains total 4.81" so far

Today it's a bit wet out - we'll see if we get additional measurable moisture.

Recent rains have brought us a lot of water, particularly compared to last year's drought.  In my backyard with its recently removed spa and concrete decking plus addition of replacement soil, the back yard is a mud pit.  However, it seems to infiltrate rain water reasonably well due to the sandy nature of the soil.  Still, I don't want to walk on it, since I'll track mud everywhere.  Note to self: Move the rain gauge closer to the house to avoid the mud trek and improve my data hygiene on the weather station.

This year, with one previous storm in October dropping 0.9" and the storms noted below we now have 4.81".  Last water-year I measured 4.24" total, for the entire season.

11/22 0.5" rain. (This is a bit of a guess.  The rain gauge in the yard read 5.5"!  Oops - I guess I got a little wild with the hose or someone is punking me.  My weather station read-out was unplugged since forever and it didn't have battery backup, so it was useless.  Batteries now installed!) My report of 0.5" comes from a couple nearby weather stations.

11/29/18 1.31" (I didn't collect the number until several days after the event, and at that time I booked 1.30".  Evaporation seems to be minimal, however, since the newly revived weather station on the roof reported 1.31")

12/7/2018 3.0" on the rain gauge.


Comment on LA Times article "Deadly California fires prompt bold thinking about prevention: Shelters, strict zoning, buyouts"

Comment on the LA Times, "Deadly California fires prompt bold thinking about prevention: Shelters, strict zoning, buyouts"

The answer isn't one thing, but rather all of the above, and the article does a pretty good job of highlighting actions that the state could take: Suggesting we rethink and update our approach to urban planning and fire-hardening of structures as well as location and siting of structures. There are plenty of contributors that don't receive mention: There's the now well-known idea that we are grappling with a legacy of lands management that have made our forests susceptible to recurring high-intensity fires. Also not mentioned are invasive grasses that contribute to fuel loading and spread of fire. Nor is air pollution noted, which can increase the growth of invasive and fire-prone plant species through dry-fall of nitrogen-containing pollutants from the air. But those aren't really the point of the article, either.

What we can address is local (state wide) standards. The recurring cost of lives and property lost that is otherwise avoidable will make such an effort worth while, despite higher up-front costs. We shouldn't just rebuild without thought. After all, isnt't a definition of insanity doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome?

However, as the article notes, state flow-down of minimum standards for emergency egress, materials, design, and land use is bound to come up against fierce opposition from local planning advocates. That's a natural reaction, but the smarter thing to do is to change our approach in the face of new information.


Purchase from TPF

I took advantage of some sale plants and the tax was about covered by my member discount, so I was out the door for $118.26

Carey pansa flat of 50 plugs $72
Asclepias fascicularis 4" 2 for $9
Bouteloua gracillis 4" 5 for $22.50
Allium unifolium 4" 3 for $4.50


Summer purchases and plantings from TPF and Annie's Annuals

We made some native plant purchases on 7/21/18 at the Theodore Payne Foundation (and had to hold them on the shady side of the house for several weeks due to hot weather) and I made some additional purchases at Annie's Annuals on 8/16/18 (arrived 8/21).

Corethrogyne filanginifolia - Silver carpet sand aster. I noted this good looking ground cover in use at several nearby properties when on the 2018 Payne Foundation garden tour. It worked best as sidewalk or pathway edging. Formerly known as Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' and still maintained under that name on TPF web site (and presumably others). We purchased two 1 gal. containers for $9 each.

I was particularly pleased to work with Juli on a native grass experiment.  We went "bigish" with 50 plugs of Carex pansa to test as a turf substitute and see how it does. I saw C. pansa on the Payne Foundation tour at nearby Mother Nature's backyard in Gardena where it is used for a lawn-like meadow effect and although TPF didn't recommend it based on my description of our locale (USDA Zone 11a, sandy soil, full sun) I think the climate is similar enough to Gardena that it's worth a shot.  If it doesn't work out on our pathway, we can move what remains to another location.   

Both the Corethrogyne and Carex were planted out in late August (perhaps 8/22).  Summer planting isn't ideal, but I used the practice of filling the planting holes with water, allowing it to drain, and then planting.  Subsequent watering has been by soaker hose for deep watering and shower-end hose sprayer in between the deep waterings.  Despite the adverse time of year for planting, the Carex seems to be establishing, with new growth showing just a week or two later and the Corethrogyne hasn't shown signs of early death.  Both are aided by the cooler and foggy mornings we've had between late August and now (early Sept).  Happily, the same weather is forecast for the next 10 days. 

Second thoughts: Based on the information I found later (noted below) we might have been better off with Carex praegracillis, since the implication is that C. praegracillis is better adapted to low moisure. TPF web site contradicts the message I took from the Greenlee quote and says that C. praegracillis requires moist soil. Our soil is sandy, and not particularly moist unless irrigated.

About Carex pansa John Greenlee says, "This creeping evergreen native western American sedge is perhaps the best and most widely used ground cover grass to use a lawn substitute and for meadow making. California meadow sedge is not a true grass, but rather a close cousin and member of the Cyperaceae family. It has dark green glossy foliage on slowly creeping stems that form a lawn-like colony, with far less mowing than any conventional lawn. It is our go-to grass for natural lawns and meadows. Originally found in nature from Baja to British Colombia, much of its natural habitat no longer exists. Usually found in the coastal strand, in prairies, and colonies near water, usually in moist sandy soils. In nature it follows riparian corridors from the beach inland until it integrates and is replaced by its nearly identical cousin Carex praegracilis."

Annie's Annuals sent the following items, which arrived on 8/21 packed tightly into a durable shipping box while I was away on travel.

Item ID Product Name Quantity Unit Price Total
2983 Aquilegia eximia "Serpentine Columbine" 2  @ $10.95
3993 Polystichum munitum "Western Sword Fern" 1 @ $8.95
906 Salvia apiana "White Sage" 1 @ $9.95

Again, the plants went into storage on the shady side of the house, and there the story might have ended except that last night I was reminded that they were there.  Except for the Salvia, they were all in fine fettle, since I had watered them from time to time between episodes of forgetfulness.  I don't know if the Salvia suffered a little trauma to its tallest stalk or it was in the early stages of a fungal episode, but I quickly planted the little guy in some sandy soil on a slope where it will get abundant sun.  I've lost these plants before, and I might lose this one.  The others will need to wait until later in the week.  I have them planned for pots, until a garden location inspires me.


Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Juli and I went to see Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.  I was aware of his garden design philosophy prior to seeing the movie and Juli was not.  The picture below shows him in one of his gardens and captures the essence of his design philosphy.  Simplistically stated, he gardens for year-round interest and therefore pays close attention to form and out-of-bloom-season performance of the plants he uses. 
This is something that native plant gardeners have to cultivate within themselves too: both an awareness of out-of-season look and an appreciation for it.