One pot at a time status update

This post is dated 29 Feb which is when it was started, but then I saved it as a draft and completed it on 04 Mar.

It's time for a status report on my One Pot At A Time projects. One Pot At A Time may be an outgrowth of Project SOUND at Cal State Dominguez Hills. For more of what I know about it, click on the One Pot tag at the bottom of this post.

I received four different types of wildflower seed that I sowed on on 19 Jan. A fifth seed type I procured from the Payne Foundation and sowed later. I used wonderfully inexpensive ($9 each), blue glazed clay pot, 12" across, that I purchased from the seconds pile at the Pot Depot. The pots get direct sun during the middle of the day, but are shaded during morning and evening. I think the seedlings would all do better in a sunnier spot, but lack of time and higher priority projects seem to make this difficult for me. Later in the year it'll be sunnier in my back yard as the sun moves higher in the sky.

Coastal Tidytips (Layia platyglossa) - First out of the gate. I think that I took pains to distribute the seed uniformly, but it certainly came up non-uniformly. Besides the obvious reason for this (that I didn't really spread the seed uniformly) I can think of two more possible reasons: aggressive watering moved the seed around and shade from the edge of the pot has delayed the germination of the seeds on the shaded side of the pot. I think that a more recent inspection of the pot shows that I now have germination of one or two more on the right side of this picture. I've also turned the pot recently. We'll see if that hurries the more shaded side.

Douglas' Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) - Sparse germination, but perhaps these few are just leading the pack.

Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata) - No germination yet.

Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor) - This had poor germination. Re-reading my information sheet I see that it likes to have the seed soaked for 24H prior to sowing. All the seeds did get the benefit of nearly a week of rain, but perhaps that wasn't soon enough after sowing.

Here's the Lupinus up close

Linanthus ciliatus (now called Leptosiphon ciliatus) from T. Payne purchse was sown later, but is coming up gangbusters already. There's been a great deal more sprouts since this photo was taken.
A zoomed image.

Edit: 05 March - These photos all have a reddish cast that I wasn't aware of when posting. This hasn't been a problem before, so I blame my fumble fingers for selecting some odd compensation setting on my digital camera.


Afternoon chores

I left work at 4:30 today and with the little bit of light left in the day I was able to get another 15' of garden border built and a few weeds pulled.

I decided to enlarge the final stretch of border planting area on the basis that I want less grass (or whatever I finally end up with in place of grass) and more bulbs, shrubs, small trees, etc.

It felt good to get outside.

Tool supplier

Nate's seemed to have one of every small machine tool that you could ever want, in stock.

Nate's Industrial Tools, Inc
22904 S. Western Ave
Torrance, CA 90501


Springboard Ale

Made by New Belgium Brewing. 98% ale brewed with Wormwood, Lycium, and Schisandra. 2% Ale aged in oak barrels.

There are Wikipedia entries for each: Wormwood, Lycium, Schisandra. It's interesting to compare the relatively restrained prose of Wikipedia to some of the herbal health sites. Take this claim for Schisandra

"Taking a cue from the Chinese, now even the herbal practitioners in the West have begun to realize the medicinal value of schisandra. They have hailed the herb as an effective ‘adaptogen’, a mediator that helps in enhancing the body’s defiance against diseases, anxiety, stress, and weaknesses as well as many other devastating physical conditions. Now scientists as well as physicians emphasize that ‘schisandra is highly beneficial in enhancing energy levels, refill and nurture the viscera, perk up eyesight, improve the activities of the muscles and also influence the energy cells throughout the body’."

The beer itself is good: clean, bright, slight fruity and a hint of sweet on the finish


Sunset magazine blog

Fresh Dirt, the Sunset magazine blog seems to feature native plants from time to time.

Bloom tour of my garden

Let's see what's blooming today in my garden. Some garden bloggers are organized enough to do this on the 15th of each month.

Verbena lilacina (Lilac Verbena), Phaecelia tenacetifolia (Wild Heliotrope), and Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) at the bottom.

Goldfields. This is my worst shot of the day because the flowers are out of focus. The camera also seems to over-saturate on small colorful bits as well. These are blooming at the margins of my meadow. In times past, they apparently covered acres. They are very short lived and are the first to show their faces.
My salad citrus. Well, they were flowers once. Meyer lemons on the right. Oranges and tangerines on the left.

Mexican sage. This has good years and bad years. I think this will be a good year. I'm gradually phasing it out of the garden.

California poppies. This is a maritime variety or a maritime hybrid. A neighbor had wild seeds from Mexico from year ago and some ended in my yard. Can you see the color fade at the edges? That's the key. The foliage is slightly different from the inland poppy as well.

Salvia clevelandii Alan Chickering. A hummingbird was on this in the morning.

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage). I didn't see any hummingbirds on this sage.

Mimulus (Monkeyflower). This blooms for a long time.

Cauliflower. Yum.

Peas. Yummier.

Not shown: Ceanothus (Darkstar and one other whose ssp. name I have forgotten)

Rain 2.17"; Season total 13.65"

We're in the midst of a week of rainy weather and a heavy storm came through last night, dumping 1.52" on my house.

A storm ending 21 Feb dropped 0.18" in my back yard, which was only the first of several storms to come. Here's the rainfall that followed.

21 Feb 0.18"
22 Feb 0.45" (AM)
22 Feb 0.02" (PM)
24 Feb 1.52" (AM)
total = 2.17" thus far

My rainfall measurements seems to be a bit lower than official reports.

The seasonal total is what I've managed to measure in my back yard. 13.65" is just into the fourth quartile of rainfall for Los Angeles at this time of year.

I've changed the date on this post, originally posted on 22 Feb, as I've added new information.

Grace's whole meteorology thread on BadMomGoodMom.

Weekend accomplishments

With a sunny Saturday morning, I managed to load the truck with a large amount of concrete debris from the back yard and make a dump run.

Sadly, it's not economically feasible to recycle the concrete at the local (3 miles away) concrete recycling place - they charge 4 times what the dump charges.

With a rainy Sunday ahead, I'll focus on some indoor tasks.

Solar fountain - huzzah!

I recently got an email from the National Wildlife Federation advertising a sale. I followed the link and lo and behold - there's a solar powered fountain on sale. With a special 33% members discount on top of the sale price it was just under $60 to my doorstep after adding shipping. I think that's a fair price, but not a steal. The basin part is made in India of iron and copper (plate?) and the whole thing went together in a self-evident way.

My awareness of solar fountains was raised by Kathy over at Pardon Our Dust who earlier gave effusive praise for her solar fountain. In fact, her praise at first seemed a bit over the top, but now I'm beginning to see what she likes about it.

I still haven't been convinced that there is any positive return on investment to be made from going solar in this case, but I have to admit that the solar aspect of the fountain is the best part. Of course I like that I can locate the fountain without regard to power connection. But here's what I like best, and it's something that might be considered a liability in other cases: When clouds pass overhead or other changes occur in sun exposure the pump will will slow or even stop for a while. This is great because rather than the metronomic patter of a constant stream of water, I have a sound that can vary significantly through the day. I find this far more organic, interesting, and relaxing than the constant tinkle of a grid-powered pump.


March 6 and 16th native plant classs; Mar 1 native plant sale

Received on email:

The 'Out of the Wilds' class on March 6 features a Coastal Prairie/Shrubland palette. This group of plants works well for all of us who live in the lower elevations of western L.A. county. We've attached a flyer and hope you can attend.

Thursday, March 6th 2008 – 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Arthur Johnson Memorial Park
Community Room
1200 W. 170th St
Gardena, CA

We will have a small plant sale at Madrona Nature Center on March 1 from 12:00 to 1:30 p.m. Featured will be native grasses, annual wildflowers and some great perennials & shrubs.

We've also scheduled a 'Planning, Preparing and Planting Your Native Lawn' workshop for Sunday March 16th from 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Madrona Nature Center. This will be a hands-on session to help you work through your 'lawn make-over'. Seating will be limited, so please sign up early if you'd like to attend.

Madrona Marsh Nature Center
3201 Plaza Del Amo, Torrance

Enjoy the rain!

--Tracy & Connie


If you build it they will come

Juli was right. After 6 months of NOTHING, I had two. Then 4, 8, 20, and more. Now that they're here, I'm not so sure that I want them.


The full complement (8 to 10 on the sock plus more waiting in the wings) can eat all the seeds from that sock in just a few days!

Bonus chore - bathroom repipe redux

I had an offer of plumbing help from Rex Frankel of Rare Earth News in comments below, so that has spurred me to post of picture of what I'm dealing with in the bath right now. This is photo of the pipe nipple that normally feeds the tub spout. As you can see it's original 1954 galvanized that has thoroughly rotted. I suspect that corrosion was helped along by caustic cleaning solutions that worked their way back onto the pipe. The tile is a homeowner special of indeterminate age.

Since I'm planning a repipe soon enough, this might be the goad that gets that whole effort going. However, because my son and I have to live in the house, I had wanted to phase the repipe in over time without disabling the bathroom or kitchen (which shares the wall with the bath) until I'm ready to deal with the consequences. Therefore it's worth looking at repair options.

Repair plan of attack:

1. Dig out caulking with tub plugged to prevent debris falling into drain. Use wet/dry vac to clean up debris.
1A. Inspect further back in wall.
1B. Apply Liquid Wrench to threads at elbow.

2. If it looks solid further in, attempt to unthread with pipe wrench

3. If that attempt fails or appears unwise, apply heat with MAP torch (don't have a lower heat propane torch). I believe the idea is that thermal expansion of the metal will break rusted threads free.

4. Attempt to unthread with pipe wrench

5. Measure depth of elbow in wall. Visit full service local hardware store for a basic replacement spigot and assistance cutting and threading new nipple to correct length. Maybe a stock length will work.


Bonus chore - bathroom repipe?

I leaned on the tub spigot and it broke off, revealing a completely rotten pipe underneath. I think that the previous owner may have actually glued it to the bathroom tile with caulk. Fortunately, my diverter valve is in the wall, not attached to the tub spigot.

So this rotted pipe is just sticking out of the wall, but I don't know if I can even unthread it from the elbow where it attaches because it's so corroded. This is definitely a bonus chore. But it could grow since the advanced state of decay suggests that I need to replace all my original 1954 galvanized plumbing sooner rather than later.

Monday tasks

I was outside all day on Monday, with the exception of a short brunch with Juli, and accomplished at least two things on my pressing To Do list.

I dug up the three large Morea plants (Fortnight Lily, now known as Dietes iridioides, but formerly in the genus Moraea) in front of the porch and planted Salvia apiana (White Sage) and Salvia apiana x leucophylla "Desperado". We'll see which one I like best and then pick a loser with a shovel. That point's at least a year or more off, so I have the best of both worlds for now. I've scattered some of last year's Phaecelia seed in the bare spots, so hopefully I'll have a tall and colorful screen for summer while the sage grows up and out.

The front porch entry, now free of congestion, is fully available for me to apply some of my new and hard-won design intelligence. The future entry path will be separated from the driveway and of different materials in order to better define both it and the entry to the house. I'm thinking brick, since I have so much at hand, but custom concrete pavers are a possibility too. This will leave room for a planting (on trellis?) next to the garage that will soften the whole "giant blank door facing the street that looks kind of industrial/medieval" thing I have going on now. This part goes on the To Do list for later.

With the exception of the Mexican Sage and a salad citrus tree (multiple citrus varieties grafted on one tree) the entire front yard is planted in California natives.

I scattered seed in the back yard too: Goldfields (I see one in the front already has a flower, so perhaps a bit late) and Clatonia. My son, with instructions to scatter the Caltonia perfoliata (Miners lettuce) sparingly, managed to use all the seed up in about 3 yards.

I planted four 4" containers with Linum lewisii (Blue Flax). This might give me a nice contrasting element amidst all the Yarrow in the meadow. If not, I'll find room elsewhere. I also planted four 4" pots of Dodecatheon clevelandii, and some year old Lavatera seed from a plant that is the descendant of seeds taken from one of the islands in the early 1900's by a neighbor's family. A quick check of the web indicates that the Dodecatheon might need cold, damp stratification to do its best. I just scattered a few seeds per container in my usual shotgun approach. This web site suggests moving to the freezer if no germination in 3-4 weeks.

I ran the string trimmer in the back yard and finally, I stuccoed around the new electrical box. My previous efforts were sub par at best - I was able to scratch the previous patch out with a wooden stick. So I removed it, painted with concrete adhesive, and re-patched the hole. I decided that I didn't need to bother with a scratch coat, and did it all in one pass, using stucco patch mix straight out of the bag but adding perhaps 20% more by volume of portland cement. Finish texture was matched with a wet sponge. This attempt is setting up nicely. Hopefully it will be OK through our coming rain.


The Omnivore's Dilemma - commentary

Michael Pollan is getting a lot of attention for his recent book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto. (tag phrase: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.")

I buy used books, so I'm reading his previous book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (2006).

I'm about 3/4 of the way through the book and it's been a fascinating tour of our industrial agricultural food system, our industrial organic food system, a beyond organic / local food system, and in the final pages a local hunter/gatherer food system.

His complete message is nuanced and best read and interpreted for one's self, but one obvious take home message is that there are glaring problems with application of industrial techniques to food production. A brief summary of the guiding philosophy one could take home from the book is here.

The introduction and first chapter of The Omnivore's Dilemma (PDF)

Other writing by Michael Pollan.

Coast live oak planting from acorns I

Back in late December my brother and I collected and planted a couple hundred Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak or California Live Oak) acorns up on the "upper 40" hillside at my parents' place in Santa Barbara. Due to uncommonly cold weather in spring of 2007, the acorn yield was very high this year, so collecting the acorns was easy. Acorns came from the ground and from trees. Generally we just scratched a hole in the leaf mulch or soil and pressed them in with our thumb. My father and I also started some in 1 gal containers filled with local soil in case we didn't have enough rain.

Well, we've had enough rain (even down in Los Angeles, where a couple containers with acorns sat out in my back yard and had supplemental hose waterings). One of the two acorns (or more? I can't recall how many I planted, but it was at least two) sprouted the other day. Quercus agrifolia oaks sprouts are red when they first burst on the scene, and it takes them only a couple days to develop a recognizable oak leaf shape.

I expected to see many similar small sprouts on the upper 40, where perhaps 200 acorns were planted. However, I wasn't able to find a single sprouting acorn. I did inadvertently dug up couple acorns that I had previously planted there. One had formed an extensive tap root, but no structure above soil. The other I was not able to accurately observe.

In the 1 gal containers, many of the oak sprouts had already sent their roots down the bottom and in many cases they had started to coil around the container interior. The above ground to below ground ratio must have been 1:20 in some cases. Perhaps root confinement causes early above ground growth. In any case, I'm not willing give up on all the acorns on the upper 40. I think there's a good chance that we'll see a number of sprouts. The process will be to wait a year or two and then select winners if there are too many.

Californiaoaks.org has a recipe for preparing and storing acorns to plant, but I've found that with the two species I've tried here in southern California, that none of the washing in dilute bleach and cold storage is necessary, if starting in containers. I place the acorns in a tub of water and select those that sink to the bottom, scrape the soil to a depth of 0.5 - 1", place the acorn sideways in the hole, (a little up or down doesn't seem to matter) cover, and water.

Dad's birthday

My father turned 70 this weekend, so my son and I visited Santa Barbara for the grand event. Dinner was a beef rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, salad, and asparagus. Cherries jubilee was dessert. Good stuff, and well appreciated by all.

Presents were minimal, as we were told the birthday boy was touchy about actually recognizing the day. We brought a nice card, ourselves, and some native plant materials for the upper 40 - a Lavatera (Tree mallow) in 5 gal pot and a new Quercus agrifolia (Coast live oak) sprout in a 1 gallon pot. I put in a couple hours planting 6 or 8 new oak sprouts (my father had his own, started from acorns), a couple new black sage plants (from cuttings off a nearby hiking trail), and the Lavatera. It's not exactly clear how well the natives (other than oaks) are received, but I think they've proven their mettle over the past year and something needs to be done to plant that hill. The neighbor thinks that he's adding value by watering the ivy.

When I was growing up, it was just my brothers and I who did the heavy yard work. Now my parents pay a gardener to do the parts of the yard that they see on a regular basis. The areas farther away don't get all the attention they need.

Back on the present theme, I didn't manage to come through in time with the hand made wooden sign indicating "Private Drive", though I now have the router tooling to make it and plan to do so presently. For birthday 71, I could make "Keep off the grass", and for birthday 72 I could consider the merits of a simple, "Keep Out!". After that, I'm sure it will devolve into the usual "Trespassers Will Be Shot" followed by "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter" and maybe a sign giving actual misdirections farther down the road. Curmudgeonly behavior runs in the family, so I should start now on my own signs - they're sounding like they could be useful.


Rain ~0.01"; season total = 11.48"

Light rain fell this AM. It was enough to wet the ground and make a few puddles, but not enough to register on my rain gauge, so I'll assign it a hundredth of an inch.

Sometimes weather is science, but other times it's plain old weather.


Local high schools

2000 Census map (use to map schools within districts and demographic info)

Torrance (district maps)
West High
South High

Palos Verdes (District office) (PV residents attend either high school)
PV High
Peninsula High

El Segundo High

Redondo Beach (district map)
Redondo Union High (very large)

San Pedro High (by reputation, not personally known. In LAUSD)

Narbonne High (Magnet programs)


Jury duty

I put in my jury service today. Los Angeles has a one-day-one-trial system, so you call in for a week and show up only if told to via phone. I wasn't chosen for any trials, so I'm done for the next 364 days. The one jury for which I could have been selected had Christopher Darden as defense attorney. When introduced to the potential jurors, he stood up and said hello with friendly smile and a sort of bow.

I noticed that most of my fellow jurors were white, with the rest black and asian. Most jurors looked over 35. I saw few hispanics, though of course that observation conflates ethnicity with race. Nonetheless, it didn't seem too representative of Los Angeles.

We were categorized in three groups - those who's employer would pay for unlimited days of service, those who had employers that would pay for a limited number of days (between 1 and 300), and those who had employers couldn't or wouldn't pay them for jury service (including self employed and unemployed).

Surprisingly, the unlimited service pool was the largest by far, the limited service pool smallest, and uncompensated split the difference. I was in the limited pool (my employer has a stated policy of 10 days paid service, though I've heard they will go higher at a judge's request).


$10k kitchen remodel

Kathy at Pardon Our Dust points out the blog for a $10k kitchen remodel. Perhaps I can glean some tips.


Seeds from Theodore Payne arrived on Friday: Dodecatheon clevelandii (sometimes Shooting Star or Padre's Shooting Star), Linum lewisii (blue flax), Clatonia perfoliata (Miners' lettuce). I'm late to plant these this year, but I figure I'll give them a try anyway. One more good series of rain storms will get them off to a sound start.


Visit to Tree of Life Nursery; Sailing

Juli and I visited Tree of Life Nursery on the way to go sailing with Warren, Doris, Ken, and Mylena. I purchased Salvia apiana, another white-leaved Salvia apiana x leucophylla "Desperado" and a few others. I bought the Salvia apiana with the purpose of putting it in front of the front porch in place of the Morea. I actually wanted two, but allowed myself to be talked in the "Desperado" so that I could make the comparison and pick a winner. I figure that I can propagate the one I prefer more from cuttings.

The other purchases are mostly low growing natives that I'll try out as ground covers in the back yard. I looked into the sedges (praegracillus has recently been , but the water requirements all seemed a bit high for me, so acting upon some advice from Nursery Staff, I'll try a low growing Salvia (not "Bees Bliss" - they were out) and two Arctostaphylos. I'm having trouble remembering what I bought. There's no itemized receipt and ToL Nursery has a habit of not putting plant ID in or on the containers. There was a help yourself plant ID stake pile at the register. I guess using those could have addressed this problem.

Sailing was good, though winds were low during this unseasonably warm weather. We saw a small whale about 40' away. He easily outswam us because of the low winds.


Henderson lecture at ECHS

I went to a lecture tonight by Brad and Amy Henderson, who restored the land around their family home in Lawndale to riparian, dune, and coastal scrub habitat as well as adding sustainable food production. They spoke at the Environmental Charter School, recently relocated next door to the "Henderson Habitat" at the former Betsy Ross School. I stumbled across the Henderson lecture announcement on the LA Times green blog, Emerald City, which I hadn't bothered to read until today. I'll have to make a point of browsing it occasionally.

About 10 or 12 people were in attendance. They didn't all look like teachers, but they did all have the rapt focus and high energy of the true believer. I thought it was a little odd at first since my other exposures to native plant folks have been to people with a gardening fixation, which doesn't generally come with the same flavor of Kool Aid. The mood tonight definitely mixed a bit of revival meeting (I felt a few suppressed "Amens!" and "You go, brothers"), some hippy idealism, and political activism in a happy way. The mood was contagious and I left (a little early, unfortunately, since I would have loved to stay and talk) topped off with good vibrations and feeling at karmic peace. ;-)

One of Brad and Amy's most uplifting stories about their habitat was the spontaneous re-appearance of nearly extirpated wildlife. Lawndale is poorly named - there's hardly any green space in town, the houses mostly sit cheek by jowl on perhaps 35' wide lots, and what little yard space there is tends to be bright green Marathon Sod and concrete. Until 1999 or so, many of the medians were covered in Astroturf! Imagine the Henderson's surprise to find a pair of Western Toads (?might have remembered the name incorrectly) had quickly found, inhabited, and reproduced in a pond that they installed. (They even had toad porn video!) Where in that concrete jungle could they have been hiding? Also making an appearance was the rare Acmon blue butterfly, now regularly spotted in their yard, as well as various rare birds that normally wouldn't like such an urban environment as Lawndale. This parallels my experience with increasing amounts of remnant wildlife finding its niche in my yard.

Apparently there's a move afoot at next door ECHS to green the campus, and they were ecstatic to be moving in next to a real green revolutionary. But like ships passing in the night, Brad and Amy had already left for greener pastures and a job with the Forest Service elsewhere. Tonight they happened to be in town on business and were able to make the connection with the school. Their home and the land around it is currently occupied by a tenant, who also was at the lecture. He sounded appreciative to have the opportunity to live in the habitat.

It would be a shame for the City of Lawndale to lose this habitat. Perhaps forward-thinking folks of Lawndale might offer to buy the property as a preserve and historic site if it ever comes up for sale.


More on poppies

An article in Sign On San Diego has a few more tidbits on the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

...researcher Curtis Clark of Cal Poly Pomona has studied California poppies since the mid 1970s. He explains that there are four basic groups of California poppies, each with its own geographical range. Only the inland varieties bloom all at once in massive displays that from a distance might be mistaken for fire. While coastal varieties have equally beautiful flowers...

...Interestingly, the Russians are responsible for the California poppy's botanical name.

In 1815, the ex-Chancellor of Russia sent an expedition in search of a waterway connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Among the explorers were a French nobleman and naturalist named Adelbert von Chammisso, and a German entomologist and surgeon named Johann Fredrich Eschscholtz.

In October 1816, the ship reached San Francisco where Chammisso found poppies still in bloom. He collected specimens, which he later described in the scientific literature and named for his good friend Eschscholtz.

Chammisso "Latinized" Eschscholtz to create the genus name Eschscholzia. He gave the poppies the species name californica for their native land.


All things Scottish at Burns' Night

Juli, my son, and I went to Burns Night celebration hosted by Richard and Maribeth.

The evening featured a dramatic reading of "Ode to a Haggis", Robert Burns' poetic salute to the common Scotsman, a blind scotch tasting, yummy persimmon cake, spotted dick, and other snacks both Scottish and not. I don't think that neeps and tatties were served, though I could be wrong.

Rain 0.8"

0.8" fell in the early morning today. At times the rainfall was heavy. The storm seems to have passed for now, though forecasts call for showers all day. This was very nice storm for us - not so much that we had flooding and mudslides in the burned areas and not so little that the effects will vanish in a couple days.

Native plants class by Connie Vadheim; California poppies;

My son and I attended a 90 minute class taught by Connie Vadheim at the Madrona Marsh. My son brought a book to read but ended up being interested in the class enough to watch the slide show. The class focussed on blue and purple native plants in the garden, particularly some California native annual wildflowers. The focus of the class was on flower color (sometimes in counterpoint to foliage color, but this wasn't the main emphasis). While I don't agree that flower color is of primary importance in the garden - I think foliage and structure have greater importance - it was a good class for me because it started with basic concepts that I don't use routinely (color wheel) and set forth many examples of differing uses of color. After class we toured the adjacent demonstration gardens and Connie pointed out some of the plants she had spoken about during class and answered questions about native plants in general. There were only a few plants in bloom at this time of year. In a month, watch out!

She hadn't planned to speak on California poppies, but since there were quite a few in bloom she seized the opportunity to strongly emphasize that the proper selection for this region is not the completely orange variety, but the maritime / coastal form with an orange center, fading to yellow-orange at the edges. Last year I had both varieties in my yard. This year I have many more plants (but with indeterminate genetic provenance as they are all from last year's self-pollinated seed).

I noted that I had observed that the maritime form (orange to yellow-orange) seemed to hold its petals better in our daily coastal breeze. The orange variety seems to lose them almost as soon as it blooms in my yard. This appeared to be a new observation to her. If so, maybe it's worth doing an experiment - they are probably well suited to do this in her greenhouse at CSUDH.

Different poppy forms might hybridize with each other, so planting the orange form on the coast could do damage to the gene pool of any wild ones that still remain. This issue remains a secondary or tertiary concern for the community of native plant lovers it seems, since the primary issue of public acceptance of a native plant ethos is still a running battle in many communities. Certainly, it's not my primary concern, though I now feel obligated to take a close look at my poppies and root out any that aren't the maritime form before they spread their seeds. Maybe the way to do this is to clip the flowers for indoor display, then at the end of the season rip all the plants out and start over next year.

Judith Larner Lowery of Larner Seeds has written a blog about poppies which has a nice picture of the maritime form. She points out that despite widespread knowledge that all poppies are not the same, that no distinction currently exists between the 70!! different identified subspecies of poppy. The implication is that a distinction previously existed. Interesting.

It has been so interesting to grow our own form on the coast. As a perennial, it behaves quite differently from the annual inland orange form (I am referring to them as "forms" since the subspecies have been eliminated taxonomically, at least for the moment). The tap root can get immense, as long as two feet, and thick as a baseball bat (which we have experimentally used it as).

In dry years, it flourishes, and I used to worry that it was too aggressive, eliminating other wildflowers. Then I observed that in wet years, it was substantially knocked back, because it doesn't like wet feet. Now I just relax, counting on an ebb and flow of the coastal form of the California poppy, so that it is only one element among many in the garden.

A plant that caught my eye in the demonstration garden was a Narrowleaf Willow (likely Salix exigua??). What I liked about it was that the shrubs grew with a bamboo-like structure by underground runners to about 10' maximum height, forming a nice partial screen. The tree is deciduous so leaves were sparse this time of year, but those remaining on its open structure gave it a very spare and Asian feel.

After class there was a very small native plant sale. I spent $10 and bought some tiny seedlings of Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes) and Phaecelia tanacetifolia (Tansey-leaf Phacealia) and a 1 gal Epilobium californica, canum(?) (California Fuschia. Formerly / presently? named Zauschneria which is one example among many of how the dog latin names really aren't so exact and invariant after all.).

My son and I put the Nemophila into the ground at the shade margin under the bottle brush tree in the back yard and the Phaecelia (spelled Phacelia elsewhere in this blog) went into the front yard meadow where it joined a few left over ones that sprouted from last year's seed. The Epilobium went next to the fence / composter in the newly-redefined back yard border region. It joins several companions on the far side of the yard in a design effort focussed on repetition. Adding to the repetition theme was four Blue Eyed Grass seedlings that I'd rescued from certain smothering death in the front yard that also got planted out in the new backyard border area. The planting was timely, since it rained last night and there's nothing like a good soaking rain to get your California natives off to a good start.

We also worked on the back yard border. I've run into some of my construction debris at one end, so we started from the other, making good progress. This was a good choice since you can now stand on my patio and see brick border out of the corner of either eye. The border vanishes behind the debris pile (where it remains to be completed), but the visual impact of the perceived continuity of the border (more design awareness - heh, I'm getting better and better at this stuff) makes a huge difference in how one sees the whole of the back yard.

When I'm done with the border I'll have plenty of brick left over for paths or whatever. I've never liked the brick half-facade on the front of my house, but maybe part of the reason that it isn't convincing is because there aren't enough bricks to make the case that it was more than just cheap and minimal window dressing. Of course the brick facade is cheap and minimal, with an annoying height change, but with a critical mass of brick in both the landscape and house I would bet that there will be a sense of continuity between the two. Furthermore, with more brick in play visually, one might begin to believe that whomever put them there had at least a sincere commitment. Or needed to be committed.

I hope this isn't rationalizing a bad design choice, since I have collected and salvaged many bricks which are stacked in my side yard. I really don't have a more economical choice.