Gardena Willows snowfall

These photos are from Jim Osborne, taken recently of a nearby riparian restoration area. He writes, " Willow down so thick it looks like snowfall at the Gardena Willows."

The following was the best composed photo and it clicks opens to a larger size than the other.

In related news, this news brief from the Daily Breeze was sent to me recently by Margaret.

Group will restore Willows Wetland area

The Gardena City Council approved a contract Tuesday that allows a nonprofit group to restore the Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve. The group entered negotiations with the city last year with hopes of turning the 13.6-acre nature preserve into an educational space. Friends of the Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve plans to build a nature center and landscape the area with native plants. The contract allows the group daily access to the park, which is adjacent Arthur Lee Johnson Memorial Park at 1200 W. 170th Street. Group members said the contract will allow them to apply for grant funding to rehabilitate the preserve. For information, visit www.GardenaWillows.org.


Return of Alfa Romeo?

I've owned a number of Alfa Romeos over the years (none recently, though). I'm always excited to read about the possible return of Alfa to the US market. After all, they make great Christmas tree haulers.

More recent Alfa Romeo news: Motor Authority Alfa Romeo news bites.

One Pot update

Previous updates can be found by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.

These photos were taken on 27 April, 2008.

Linanthus ciliatus (now known as Leptosiphon ciliatus). This is doing great. Seed was from TPF and was my own little adjunct to the One Pot project.

Douglas' Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). There's some small blooms getting ready to come out that were more apparent a couple days after this photo was taken. It's looking a bit stressed though - perhaps I've overwatered. A quick Google search suggests that I ought to have high expectations for the flower - it seems to be fairly showy and long lived. Perhaps a good addition to next year's front meadow.

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa). After this photo was taken I started harvesting the seeds for next year. Some have already distributed themselves around the yard by wind. I've placed others in good homes.

Not shown:

Miniature Lupine (Lupinus bicolor) - Almost inconsequentially small and a poor germinator

Globe Gilia (Gilia capitata) - never germinated, but I have plenty in the front yard. Perhaps it really requires full sun.

Miner's Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)- Oversown in Gilia pot, never germinated. I've had bad luck all around with this seed. My peat pots with it never germinated either.

Flowers around the garden

I feel that not posting pictures while my home internet is unavailable would leave me with an insurmountable backlog. So here they are, brought in by sneaker net for your viewing pleasure.

The very first Matilija Poppy flower. This plant is doing well in my yard, despite the fact that my soil is heavier than ideal. Last year I thought it was touch and go, but that must have been due to the dry winter. These flowers can be large - easily palm sized.
This is a seaside daisy (native) of some sort.
Globe Gilia.

This looks like a yarrow of some sort. The yellow flower is early - the rest of the plant will be covered in a week or so. It doesn't show well here, but it's a bright sulfur yellow. In front is Blue Eyed Grass. It's not actually a grass at all - it's in the Iris family.

Clarkia near the new trellis.


Weekend update

Saturday before the birthday dinner I attended my son's school music program. Of course I'm tremendously proud of him since he just picked up the trumpet a couple months ago. He's not a featured soloist yet, but he's having a good time.

The program was outside in the full heat of the day (the kids sat in direct sun between 11 and 1) against a stucco wall (lots of reflected sun) and I had to wonder why schools are designed the way they are: no trees on the playground, not even small ones that will one day come to maturity. No shade structures except over an outdoor lunch area, very little play equipment, a newly installed field that isn't watered, no eaves on the building to provide passive cooling and shelter from rain. Windows that don't open. And we wonder why schools all have to have air conditioning? My guess is that all these design restrictions are based on liability and cost of construction. How sad.

Sunday I spent the day working on my front yard trellis on Sunday and I have to say that it looks very good now. Although I had completed the project some time ago, it wasn't really up to my standards. I used some guidance from a home improvement magazine to add curved cross bracing and fixed a little out of square problem that was irritating in the extreme. I also added the top pieces.

The trellis adds a structure around an exposed window on which I will grow some grape vines to provide summer shade (Roger's Red are currently planted and climbing well). In the winter they drop their leaves, so I'll have less shade then. Maybe the schools will add something similar after they've had a few years to regret their current design choices. On the other hand, I added this only 54 years after the house was built and 8 years after I bought it. The previous incarnation of the trellis can be seen here.

In the foreground are some of the fading Clarkia (pink and purple, though the white may be one too). Behind that is a purple-flowered Mexican sage, then a native sage (blue). Behind the citrus at the far left is the very first Matilija poppy flower, just barely visible. More on that later.

Shafaa Halal restaurant

I've canceled my internet service at home, so updates may be slow and pictures will be difficult to post.

Last Saturday we went to Shafaa Halal restaurant for my birthday dinner. I'm 41 now. I don't have any strong feelings about being in the 5th decade of my life, so there's no wisdom or angst that I feel I need to impart.

The birthday invitation:

Saturday afternoon you are invited to Chez Brent for some light snacks and optional mild legal stimulants.

At 5:40 we'll be departing to eat Turkish food at

Shafaa Halal Foods
12211 Hawthorne Blvd.
Hawthorne, CA 90250
(310) 675-3400

Dress is casual. Food will be an experiment (non fatal, most likely, as we are taking only a shallow dive into the murky waters of LA dining).

I was told that Shafaa means healing in Turkish, perhaps implying mental and health benefits to the restaurant. That wasn't far off the mark: service was gracious, decor was nice, and the food was delicious. There were few other patrons, but the owner reports that he has a large lunch crowd, but downtown Hawthorne probably doesn't draw much of a crowd at night. There was a Muslim community center adjacent to the restaurant which had a full parking lot - perhaps there's more patrons after services.

We ended up with a couple platters of saffron rice, salad, and assorted kabobs (shrimp, beef, ground lamb, chicken) and a rotisserie chicken plus assorted appetizers. We supplemented with an additional large plate of stuffed grape leaves. No alcohol is served at the restaurant, so many of us had a refreshing mango juice or mint tea instead.

The food was excellent overall. Even our pickiest eater liked it. Hits: ground lamb kabobs, rotisserie chicken, saffron rice. Nits: slightly overcooked chicken kabob.

We'll then retire again to Chez Brent where we'll enjoy sugary delights and more mild legal stimulants. Candles may or may not be featured on top of some sort of notional and symbolic, yet still delicious, cake.

Regrets only.

My mother made a delicious desert with whipped lemon curd layered with fresh fruit. I called it California Trifle, but it has a real name. I opened presents and then we ended up talking until midnight.

My brother and sister in law have a house renovation also, so we always catch up on the latest progress and trade tips. My sister has recently been giving strong decision making advice (basically spend less time dithering - make a decision and move forward) but I like to keep my options open. Fortunately, my brother and I managed to work out some house design details that allow me to proceed with surety on the kitchen, knowing that I'm not boxing myself out of different options later.


Directory of salvage yards

My old posting about salvage yards of Southern California still attracts a lot of attention. Today I found buildingreuse.org which has a directory feature. This sort of thing was hard to find when I first compiled my list.

Many of the directory listings appear to be recycling services, but there's some salvage yards in there too.Publish Post

Added 7 May: See also The Reuse People


Ricky's back

I heard what sounded like a dog and cat fight last night, long after everyone should have been in bed, so I went out the front door and clapped loudly. That's usually the sign for whatever animals have wandered into the yard to skedaddle. They didn't.

I stood around listening and the sounds weren't quite so clearly those of a dog or a cat. Pretty soon a Ricky the raccoon tumbled out of the Italian Cypress and started walking towards me oblivious to the fact that I was standing there. He finally caught sight of me and hightailed it away and around the corner.

We've seen him before. Although I didn't get any pictures this time, there's a related and funny set of pictures over at the Weed Whacking Wenches blog.


Native S. CA Plants for Small Sites/Places

A design lecture focussed on small garden sites by Connie Vadheim. This could be useful for me.

Native S. CA Plants for Small Sites/Places

“Out of the Wilds and into Your Garden” Series

Thursday, May 8th – 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Arthur Johnson Memorial Park
Community Room
1200 W. 170th St
Gardena, CA


Presented by the Friends of Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve, Inc.


Weekend doings

We were at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire on Sunday where we laughed our butts off at Mooney, Broon, and Mooney and Broon. We cheered for our knight at the joust, and I made it up on stage yet again at the Bold and Stupid Men show. We had a great time. Jon was there, but he didn't have any frogs.

My son has returned very enthusiastic about costuming himself as a thief disguised as a beggar with all sorts of hidden weapons and guild tattoos.

We missed the Poxy Boggards this year, since we were with a 9 year old.


Kitchen wall teardown milestones

This is the second of two major projects that I want to accomplish this summer. This blog entry expands upon an item in my To Do list.

Last updated: 21 April 2008

I previously painted the varnished crap plywood doors and shelves on my 1950's era kitchen, added new drawer pulls, and attempted some crown molding trim, but precious little else has been done. I even have original 1950s countertop tile (yellow and green, and not in a good way). With the exception of the French doors that I Warren and I put in last summer, there's been no actual improvements to the kitchen. And it needs them.

This project takes down a load bearing wall to open up the floor plan. Kitchen layout plans are shown here, but still need to be finalized.

  • Partially plumb gas. I think I'll need to use an open stud bay in the S wall as a chase to come down from attic. Recess the connection point into the wall.
  • Replumb connected gas in garage since I still need to use it.
  • Partially run new electrical, using old exterior doorway in S wall as chase to come down from attic. Required circuit runs in the S wall are for:
    • range
    • microwave
    • fridge
    • wall outlets
    • under-cabinet lights (switched - where?)
    • switched circuit for can lighting in ceiling (where are switches?)
    • vent
    • 220V for electric range (future expansion?) or for countertop inductive cooker.
  • Partially run new water line, using old doorway as chase for 1/2" line to fridge. Use open stud bay that I run the gas in as a chase for the spigot and pot filler. Recess the attach points in the wall. Use new water line for:
    • Fridge
    • Range top pot filler (Maybe - ah what luxury)
    • Outdoor spigot - hot and cold would be nice.
  • Create space in rest of house to store stuff from kitchen while demo is underway
  • Move existing shelving unit to newly created open space in house
  • Finalize kitchen plan, including
    • switch locations
    • outlet locations
    • exact range location (important for vent)
  • Complete partial plumbing, gas, and electricity to designated places in wall using finalized plan. Existing gas must stay in place for range until it is moved. Electricity can be disconnected in interior wall and extension cord used temporarily for fridge and range.
  • Install range hood in new location on S wall
  • Move range to new and final location on S wall. Disconnect gas line in interior wall.
  • Move fridge to temporary safe location
  • Remove electricity from interior wall.
  • Place glue lam conveniently near interior wall.
  • Build temporary support wall on either side of interior wall. Staple on plastic sheet to protect house from dust.
  • Demolish wall. Replace with glue lam.
  • Rough clean
  • Remove temporary support walls and plastic sheet
  • Clean some more
  • Repair wall where plumbing, electrical, and gas now run.
  • Install new cabinets on S wall.

Open questions:
  • What about the kitchen floor? Renew at this time?
  • Neighbor with similar modification indicates permit from City is not a burden. Understand permitting process.

To purchase:
  • range vent
  • cabinets for S side of kitchen
  • glue lam

Raven's manzanita

One of the world's rarest plants grows in the Presidio. Plans are under way to save it — and ax thousands of trees in the process.

...The mythical endangered plant you'd hack through the jungle to behold in a Hollywood adventure film would be a 12-foot tiger-striped behemoth with orchid-like flowers as wide as dinner plates and tureen-sized pitchers capable of digesting large rodents.

Raven's manzanita, however, stands roughly shoulder-high to a Barbie doll. Past battles with a fungal pathogen have left it with several unsightly brown patches. Just inches off the ground, its dime-sized, round leaves ripple in the constant Pacific wind while its delicate, pearl-white flowers dangle like inverted wine glasses. Its gnarled red branches are no thicker than pick-up sticks. It's not what you would call ... majestic. When viewed from afar, it's rather unremarkable — except for the fact that it's the last of its kind....

Read the full article in the Chronicle

chuck b. at My Back 40 (feet) and MMW from Two Gardens had it second and first, respectively.


Payne Foundation garden tour

April 12th was a sailing day with Warren and April 13th I went on the Payne Foundation garden tour. I've made 8 or so blog posts since then because I've been trying to codify the lessons that I learned on the tour. My goal was to refine my nascent design sensibilities while visiting houses similar in scale to mine. So the Beverly Hills and Brentwood properties are off the list today, as is Quail Hollow; suburban lots approximately 50 x 100 are on the list.

Three types of sedge make a mowable lawn. I saw this last year and it had just been planted. It's filled in nicely since then and been recently mown, so it's hard to tell the difference between sedges.

Of course, Festuca Rubra makes a lawn too:

Don't forget specimen plants. This Palo Verde shrub is not native, but it fits in.

Here, different Mimulus subspecies provide flower contrast while maintaining foliage continuity.

The painted wall makes the flowers pop.

Repetition or "call and response". Juncus repeats here:
Red foliage on natal plum (? not a native, so far as I know) repeats and provides continuity. Robust plastic bender board is a favorite of mine, used here a couple inches above the gravel path to contain and to make a bed within the border.

Repetition or massing - maybe they bridge together at some point:

Native grassses were widely used. Festuca Californica
More Festuca Californica next to a neighbor's non-native property. The grasses were popular garden plants, not represented here in proportion to how many there were.
Grasses to the right and left. Poppies infill. Both sides of the sidewalk are used.

What on earth are these Ceanothus "Ray Hartmann" and Cercis Occidentalis doing in such a narrow side yard?

Ah, now we can see what they're doing. This garden theme was repeated throughout the property.
I guess the lesson is "Don't be afraid to groom / prune / modify /train your plants." This sunflower? (name forgotten at the moment) and adjacent Ceanothus have been pruned pretty aggressively.

All these houses garden the parkway / parking strip / street side plant area. I should too.

Side yard of mystery, nicely punctuated a red exclamation point. The sound of water draws you forward:

Here's where the water sound comes from, at the top of the landing just visible above.

I visited a larger and wilder garden in Topanga as my last stop:

Rest point at the end of a busy day:


Grilled lamb kebabs with cumin and cinnamon

I made this once before with strict adherence to the proportions and though I thought it delicious, I also thought that I could have taken it up a notch. This time I eyeballed the proportions and made sure they were generous. Overall, quite tasty, but I should have had more cinnamon.

This is from epicurious, originally from Bon Appetit in July of 2000.

grilled lamb kebabs with cumin and cinnamon

Servings: Makes 6 servings.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 3 1/2-pound sirloin half leg of lamb, bone removed, fat trimmed, meat cut into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch pieces
6 12-inch metal skewers

Whisk all marinade ingredients together. Coat lamb well with mixture. Let marinate in fridge for 24H, tossing once as you head out the door in the morning.

Prepare barbecue (medium heat) or preheat broiler. Thread lamb pieces onto skewers, dividing equally (about 5 pieces per skewer). Grill or broil lamb to desired doneness, turning occasionally, about 6 minutes for medium-rare.

From epicurious.com

Bedroom French door planning

Adding French doors to my bedroom is one of two major projects that I want to accomplish this summer. This blog entry expands upon an item in my To Do list.

I'll update this blog entry as I have more thoughts and information

05 Aug - Now scheduled to happen this coming weekend
08 May - added caution about moving electrical
29 April - added pictures
24 April - measured window and it's 60" wide. Exactly as much as I need. I'd be more comfortable if it were slightly oversize.

Warren and I previously added French doors to the kitchen which open to the back yard. This planned second set of French doors will also open into the back yard and replace a sliding window that doesn't meet current fire codes for emergency egress. I envision a little patio area that's a sort of separate outdoor room just outside the doors and maybe a nearby tree (Western Redbud?) for shade. I will also need to regrade at least part of my back yard and tie in whatever I end up using as patio material with a path down the side yard, so there's some garden planning that naturally goes along with this project.

Major Milestones
  • Determine if doors will fit in window opening exactly - looks about the right size.Windows are exactly 60" wide - same as French doors. I'm uncertain if the 2 30" wide doors plus 2 3/4" door frames will fit under existing header. Better measurements have convinced me that the doors will fit in that spot without modification.
  • Clear out space elsewhere in the house for temporary storage
  • Clear out bedroom along the wall where I need to workMostly done 5 Aug
  • Take before picturesJuli took some
  • Prepare door framing stock with edge treatment consistent with house. Varnish oak threshold and threshold plank so it's ready to go
  • Prime door framing stock (6 sides) so it's ready to go.
  • Provision myself with plastic sheets and pieces of 1x2 wood to make a protective wall within the room to keep dust from spreading
  • Erect protective plastic sheet - not needed until I demo the interior wall
  • Kill electricity to outlet in wall below window. This will kill most outlets in the house, so make sure I have sufficient extension cords to run from garage.Proved this concept on 7 Aug when I demoed the exterior portion.
  • Cut and demolish wall - Underway Thursday eve, 7 Aug
  • Assess if a new header is required.
    • Each door is 30" wide. I determined last time that a 4x8 header would be required but there's an existing header in place that's already lasted 50+ years.
    • Dry rot or termites might force a new header
  • Prehang doors
  • Install new electrical
    • interior switch for exterior light
    • exterior outlet
    • exterior light
  • Install doors, door stop, new knob and bolt hardware
  • Install threshold
  • Repair stucco
  • Repair plaster

Construction materials needed:
plastic sheet
electrical supplies - check my inventory
1x2s for dust shield
2x4s # tbd have two 10'. Should be fine w/what I already have.
4x8 header (tbd, depending upon what's already there) I'll go with what's there.
6 brass hingesPurchased a while ago
Door knob and deadbolt
oak thresholdPurchased from Seers Lumber
oak plank to build up threshold
1x8 (or x10 or x12 to rip down) clear pine planks for door framing. Purchased x6 but I'll go back and get x8 pieces because it's the right thing to do rather than to be a little undersized with x6.
door stop material
brass screws of various sizes
Order bug screen for doors

Here's a before picture, taken on 27 April 2008.

Here's a digitally altered "after" picture. I've added a notional window to the left of the French doors by copying and pasting a couple panes of the doors. The window will add symmetry, bring light to the end of a hallway, and provide screened ventilation from the bedroom. That's on my long term To Do list, so it won't be part of this activity.

Garden Rant response

I asked a slightly humorous (well, to me anyway) question over on Garden Rant the other day, and got this thoughtful and considered response. :-)

My original comment and question was in response to a post about working moms who blog. Garden Rant has four (female) contributors who have varying amounts of time to dedicate to it.

I hadn't noticed disparity in post frequency between the four of you. Perhaps that's because you're all quite good.

However, I do have to let you know that I'm feeling a little left out.

What about the working dads who garden and blog about it? Are we in short supply?

Truthfully, I was a little surprised that the Austin pictures mostly featured women, so maybe there's precedent for only talking about single
[oops, I meant working, but single only compounds the issue] moms. But you've got to wonder: Don't more guys garden? Or do they relegate themselves to narrowly specialized segments of gardening? "Flowers? You've got to be kidding! I'm a MAN. I only grow giant pumpkins, ornamental poison oak, and stinging nettles."


Kumquat marmalade

I've made this in previous years, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, but I haven't given up on it. Usually my failures have had to do with making too much at once - the cooking process takes significantly longer in those cases which gives more opportunity to ruin a perfectly simple recipe.

However, after last week's mostly successful experience with the Meyer Lemon marmalade this recipe (originally a photocopy of a handwritten recipe from one of my Farmers' Market vendors) became much clearer. So instead of slavishly following the recipe I made up my own. See what a little experience and success will do?

Take two baskets (the size that strawberries come in) of washed and de-stemmed kumquats (the tart variety), sliced with the mandolin attachment of the food processor and place in a glass bowl. Add water to just cover. Ignore the seeds. Let sit at room temperature overnight.

Place in non-reactive pot and keep at a slow boil for about 30 minutes to reduce volume by about 25% while occasionally spooning scum off the top. You'll need to get as many of the small seeds as possible.

After about 30 minutes, measure volume in cups or estimate carefully. Add no more than 3/4 C of sugar per one cup of boiled kumquat mixture. (The original recipe called for 1 C sugar per cup of kumquat mixture, but that has been too sweet for me every time I've made the recipe. Even the 3/4 C : 1C ratio I used the other night proved to be almost too sweet for me.) Taste the marmalade and if too sweet then you can add half a very finely chopped Meyer Lemon (smaller pieces will cook faster) and/or some lemon juice.

Incidentally, the Meyer Lemon that I picked for duty last night was much more fragrant than last week's lemons from the same tree. I think that the couple days of hot weather really ripened the fruit and brought out the flavors. I have to remember that in coastal California things tend to ripen several weeks later than elsewhere in Ca.

Boil slowly, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking while continuing to spoon the scum and seeds off the top. Place a plate in the fridge, and cook the marmalade until a blob of the hot liquid turns to your desired jam-like consistency when placed on the plate.

Preserve in the usual manner or just ladle out into clean glass jars and keep refrigerated.

Coffaro wine order placed!

I made my annual order from David Coffaro winery today. Dave has his "Crazy Back to the Futures Program" which I've participated in for the past five years or so. Futures sales of wine are called that because you purchase the wine before it is made. For example, the 2003 Estate Zinfandel that I purchased (and have happily consumed) I would have ordered and paid for in spring of 2003. In fall of 2003 it would have been harvested, and in summer of 2004 it would have been bottled, and finally it would have been shipped to me in winter of 2004.

The cost savings allows me to drink wines that I enjoy for $15 - $17 per bottle that will sell at retail for $26 - $32. Dave likes not having to maintain a high balance on his credit line, and the risk of a poor vintage is shared by us both, but mitigated by Dave's blending skills and pride of ownership.

Dave also keeps a winemaker's diary which is an interesting read.

Front yard meadow - the list

If you click on the little "meadow" link at the bottom of this post you'll get quite a few blog posts that only partly relate to building a California meadow from your turf lawn. That's because I sometimes glom several topics together on one blog post and the meadow part of the post is minor or incidental or just didn't take more than a paragraph to write up. So, if you don't want to wade through the minutia of a California meadow and prefer to get an idea of the big picture then the short list of most important links is below, working backwards chronologically.

The wildflowers had died and been cleared out (keeping up with the neighbors again) and some yarrow carpeted the meadow area of my front yard - almost like turf grass, provided you were far enough away:


Here's a good time lapse photo history:

This one has the seed mixture and my preparation methods:


Let them drink soda

Setting aside the real problems of rising food prices, here's a perplexing quote from a recent article on the topic.

"I was talking to people who make $9 an hour, talking about how they might save $5 a week," said Kathleen DiChiara, president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey. "They really felt they couldn't. That was before. Now, they have to."

For some, that means adding an extra cup of water to their soup, watering down their milk, or giving their children soda because it's cheaper than milk, DiChiara said.

Is there some reason that someone in dire financial straits can't drink water instead of soda? It's healthier. I drink a lot of tap water, and so far as I know it's the same tap water at my faucet as everywhere else nearby.


Garden bloom contrasts; seeds planted

My Olallieberry plants have had a sudden bloom.

Looks like a bumper crop is on the way.

Meanwhile, my Western Redbud (Cercis Occidentalis) has exactly ONE SMALL red bud. Apparently they bud out more profusely as they get more mature.

Seeds planted in peat pots today: Koval's Giant pumpkins, Lumina pumkins (a white variety), Strawberry red popping corn, Bright Lights multi-colored chard, Allsweet watermelon, Charantais melon.


Not too late for tomatoes in LA

Maybe it's not too late for tomatoes. Robert Smaus, now a monthly garden writer for the LA Times, writes April is the Time to Plant Tomatoes, Citrus, and Summer Flowers

It's warm enough in most areas to plant the so-called main crop tomatoes -- all the heirlooms, 'Big Boys' and beefsteaks. Close to the beach, May is a better month, unless you plant a variety that can take cooler weather such as 'Early Girl' or 'Stupice,' a Czech heirloom. When choosing any variety, look for the letters VFN, which indicate verticillium and fusarium wilt and nematode resistance, if you've had problems in the past.

I think he's talking about nursery starts, so according to him I'll be right on time (May) for planting tomatoes in my coastal garden: Early Girl and Celebrity are in, the heirlooms will be ready next month! I feel relieved not to be violating conventional wisdom.

LA Times on invasive plants

Thursday's LA Times has an article on invasive plants in the Home and Garden section.

According to the article, a four year effort by Sustainable Conservation has resulted in the Plant Right organization, which matches botanists, gardeners, and a region sensitivity to encourage nurseries and big box stores to do the right thing. The bad news is that it relies on good will and chiding to get the nursery trade to go along.

"...hummingbird sage is a beautiful native that would grow in cool wet areas, especially in Solstice Canyon. Instead, those areas are full of periwinkle and nasturtiums. [invasive garden escapees]

"In Solstice Canyon, we're trying to reintroduce steelhead trout. They need a native plant community to generate the insects to feed the trout. Instead, right now they have periwinkle and nasturtiums."

Brigham's eyes do not light up at the sight of fountain grass fluttering in the breeze along our roads. "It offers wildlife none of the forage of the native sunflowers that it displaces," she says. "What's more, it's not particularly good at stabilizing slopes."

...regional solutions are crucial. Although ice plants are destructive in a coastal dune setting, they're a water-wise and fire-resistant ground cover for inland gardens. So a surgical approach to targeting the offenders was needed.

Nicholas Staddon, director of new plant introductions for Monrovia Growers, agrees. Monrovia was one of the first backers of PlantRight, and although his company still grows and sells invasives, he says, it's working hard and in earnest to keep them off store shelves in sensitive areas. Give nurseries terms they can work with and they'll buy in, adds Terri Kempton, PlantRight manager for Sustainable Conservation.

Now the group is focusing on big-box stores. Lowe's confirms that it is beginning the exhaustive and complicated process of inventorying its stock, pulling offending plants and retraining its growers.

Skeptics need only point out the nasturtium seeds for sale in just about every garden center in Southern California, and PlantRight can seem toothless and wishful. Still, a start is a start, and as a start, PlantRight is exceptionally well organized. A newly revamped website, www.plantright.org, allows gardeners to click on their region and look for local solutions.

The beauty of having botanists and skilled gardeners behind the effort is that consumers are not in for a scolding. For every "don't," there are two or more "do's." Giant reed is discouraged, but clumping bamboo and New Zealand flax are recommended. Fountain grass is discouraged, but blue oat grass, deer grass and sedges are offered as alternatives.

Diversity modeled for Madagascar, how about California?

The Science and Nature section of BBC News has an article on applying diversity measures to Madagascar habitat. This relates to the central thesis of the Tallamy book which I wrote about here and here.

I think there are many similarities in between Madagascar and California. The California Floristic Province is essentially an island, like Madagascar. Biodiversity is particularly high (at a guess, animal biodiversity seems higher in Madagascar, and plant diversity higher in California).

"Because it is the fourth largest island in the world, it's got a lot of major ecosystems within it - it has desert areas, rainforests, high mountains, lowlands and it also has incredible marine resources as well.

"There has also been a lot of diversification within the island of the plants and animals, so it's not only a place where many species are unique, it is also a place that is very rich in biodiversity.

"The real problem is knowing what areas to protect."

Widening the web

In 2003, the president of Madagascar announced plans to triple the size of the network of protected areas in an attempt to conserve the nation's flora and fauna, many of which were under threat from human developments.

In an effort to help the government decide what areas to protect, the international team of researchers gathered existing data from Madagascan scientists on more than 2,300 species.
"Once we had accumulated all this data, we put it all into something we called an optimisation analysis. It looks for the best solution to try to protect all of these different species.

"When you have more than 2,300 species you really need a computer to figure it out; what we were looking for was 10% of the country that could include all of those species."

But the analysis went a step further, Professor Kremen added: "It is one thing to include a species in a protected area, it is another thing to think about whether that species would have enough habitat included and a large enough population to survive in the future.

"Our computer software allows us to find a solution that not only includes all of these species, but includes as much as possible of the habitats that they need."


One Pot update

Tidy Tips are doing well.

Douglas' Meadowfoam (Limnanthes) is doing OK too.

The Miniature Lupine is a bit of an academic exercise, but now that I understand its role I'll stop having expectations of grandeur. It really is small, and seed germination was sparse. Perhaps I can scatter seed in my vegetable garden next year and use it as a cover crop. For that matter, I could do that everywhere. Las Pilitas has this to say about the Miniature Lupine

A fuzzy little lupine with gray leaves and blue flowers. Useful in revegetation mixes as I've seen it growing on some bad sites. Source: western San Luis Obispo County, California, Godd 9, February 22, 1997. coastal sage scrub. This small annual, is adaptable to a variety of soils, but conditions are best with full sun, open areas, no additional water. small annual, not noticed but very useful in California ecosystems to add nitrogen to the soil so that other plants in the community can benefit.

This is my own little One Pot experiment using Linanthus (Phlox). So far, so good.

I gave up on the Gilia since I never had a single sprout. I overplanted with Claytonia perfoliata (Miner's lettuce) but it might have been too late in the season for good growth. Alternatively, I watered to hard again and buried the seed too deeply. No picture for this.


From seeds, growing

Here's a picture of some Sun Gold tomatoes that are sprouting up. I often use a paper egg crate to start seeds. This year I had the obvious innovation of placing it in a broiling pan with water in the bottom. This lets me not fret about keeping it watered during the day. The whole thing goes out on the patio in the sun, and rests overnight under a (dim) fluorescent light. Sometimes I feel that I have to chase the sun around the house, so in the late afternoon I'll move the seeds from the back patio to the front porch. Or not. It depends on how motivated I am.

This year I'm plenty motivated since the pickings of starts at the nursery were unexpectedly slim not to mention that the Sun Golds I grew last year from a nursery start were not as tasty as those I grew the year previous from this seed. Add to that the fact that I feel I'm late with the whole planting thing and I get an overall sense that I ought to be doing SOMETHING! This is worst after I've planted seed but before it's sprouted: Is it dud seed? It'll be too late to plant if I wait for little sprouts to show up. Maybe I ought to buy a backup plant or two at the nursery? No, no. This is all part of a plan whereby I take advantage of my tardiness to plant early bearing nursery starts in order to phase my harvest over a longer period of time - give it time to work.

And it did.


Weekend update

I made steady recovery from the mother of all colds this weekend. Saturday was the farmers' market and a visit to the local outpost of Penzey's Spices, then mowing the grass which has gone to seed and so desperately needed to be mowed last weekend when I was flat on my back ill. When I think of all those little unmown seeds heads broadcasting their progeny to my garden beds I get a little irritated. Unfortunately I was so sick that I was winded after pulling one bolted cauliflower, so I decided that the seeds could wait. Before the big mow event on Saturday, I noticed that the birds which now visit my yard do seem to like the longer grass, which they use as cover when foraging on the ground. I'll probably have some native grasses next year, which I will allow to grow.

Sunday the big activity was more pruning on the Brazilian Pepper. I pruned from the neighbor's yard over the back fence. One of his dogs is named Nasty but it's a little dog, so how nasty could it be? It certainly is loud. I wouldn't put my cat in the nasty category, but he's certainly dirty. A large fraction of the dirt on my floors I am convinced comes from him. Here he is after a dust bath.

I think that I managed to do justice to the tree, mostly by following the usual tree pruning rules, my intuition, and trying to reveal the character of the limb I'm pruning. Here I'm cutting out water sprouts, the stub ends of previous poorly pruned branches, and little crappy branchlets that have no hope of being a positive contribution.
View from the neighbor's yard towards mine. I try to use the tree to screen the tops of his storage. I worked mostly above the storage units today. A problematic straight limb ends in the uncut branches at the right in this picture. Next weekend, perhaps.

There are challenges both philosophical and pragmatic remaining:

Philosophical: I still must prune a long straight limb with no character whatsoever terminating in a tangle with the phone and cable wires. The branch is useful because of the visual balance it brings, but I'll be considering its singular merit quite closely since it has so little else to recommend it.

Pragmatic: I have to prune the part of the tree that hangs over the yard of the neighbor who doesn't speak to me. It's not even a passive sort of not speaking, it's quite an active thing for him. It could get ugly.

Long, problematic, straight, branch is at left heading up at 45 degree angle in this view from my back yard. Neighbor's storage units are visible here.

Other tasks accomplished: Dug soil amendments into the garden. Got my first sprouts from seed of Green Zebra and Sun Gold tomatoes. Lovage, Italian parsley, and Miner's lettuce are also among the seeds that I'm trying to start, but no signs of them yet. Planted nursery starts of Celebrity and Early Girl tomatoes and some gifted boysenberry plants.

Douglas Iris is blooming.

Even considering the laundry, vacuuming, dish washing, marketing, cooking, visits from parents, quality time with Juli, etc. that happened this weekend, I'd have to say I didn't get much done.

Meyer lemon marmalade

I made this recipe for Meyer lemon marmalade from epicurious.com. The lemons are off of my salad citrus (four varieties grafted on one). I ended up using somewhat less sugar and yielding about 4.75 half pint jars. The stuff I was tasting as it was cooking was frighteningly bitter at one point. Then it cooked some more and the bitter moderated. When it says thinly slice, I don't think it means 1/4 inch rinds. Go smaller next time.

6 Meyer lemons (1 1/2 lb)
4 cups water
4 cups sugar

Special equipment:
Kitchen string
6 (1/2-pint) Mason-type jars, sterilized
Halve lemons crosswise and remove seeds. Tie seeds in a cheesecloth bag. Quarter each lemon half and thinly slice. Combine with bag of seeds and water in a 5-quart nonreactive heavy pot and let mixture stand, covered, at room temperature 24 hours.

Bring lemon mixture to a boil over moderate heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until reduced to 4 cups, about 45 minutes. Stir in sugar and boil over moderate heat, stirring occasionally and skimming off any foam, until a teaspoon of mixture dropped on a cold plate gels, about 15 minutes.

Ladle hot marmalade into jars, filling to within ‰ inch of top. Wipe rims with dampened cloth and seal jars with lids.

Put jars in a water-bath canner or on a rack set in a deep pot. Add enough hot water to cover jars by 1 inch and bring to a boil. Boil jars, covered, 5 minutes and transfer with tongs to a rack. Cool jars completely.

Cooks' note:
• Marmalade keeps, stored in a cool, dark place, up to 1 year.


"...plants in yards have an ecological job to do, regardless of whether they are invasive or not."

...People have bought into the idea that aliens are undesirable only because of their invasiveness. If you say it is not invasive, then (they reason) there is no reason not to plant it. How many talks have we attended where big names stand up there and tell the audience exactly that. And that, of course, generates all the arguments about whether a plant is invasive, or maybe it's just a little invasive, etc. We are still a long way from convincing people that the plants in their yards have an ecological job to do, regardless of whether they are invasive or not.

Doug Tallamy as quoted in an email correspondence on the Invasive Notes Blog.

This captures the essence of the book I recently read and wrote about here quite well.

Oak masting in the news

chuck b. mentions oak masting and provides the link to a Sac Bee article on masting (focusing on the Valley Oak, their locally native species.)

From the article:

Folsom city arborist Ken Menzer said the origins of the ample acorn crop stretch back to 2006.

"That spring was really wet, and because of that, in the fall the trees put out lots of buds for flowers," Menzer said. "Then, in 2007, we had a really dry spring, which is perfect for pollination. So in the fall of 2007 we had lots of acorns that were viable."
As for all those tiny trees sprouting in your lawn, it's too late to save them if you don't want to let them grow in place. Oak trees grow long taproots right away, making them hard to move.

"Right now, I hate to tell you, just mow them over," said Ray Tretheway, executive director of the Sacramento Tree Foundation. "When an oak seedling sprouts up, and the first two leaves come out, that taproot is already two feet into the ground. You can't dig them up and transplant them at all."

Of course the real mystery about masting is why it's synchronized across the entire oak habitat and across oak species. An earlier post right here pointed the finger at research that supports a critical window of spring time temperatures as a signal, and as you'll recall, spring 2007 (the end of 2006 winter) had several weeks of unseasonable cold.

0.02" of rain last night; season total = 13.67"

Just a sprinkling of 0.02" chez moi last night.

We're well above normal rainfall for the year, (normal at the end of April is about 7") but we didn't get our usual rain in March.

Half the time, statistically speaking, we get between 0.5" and 3" of rain in March, so to not have any to speak of is a bit out of the ordinary. April brings us 0" to ~5" half the time, so there's a statistically favorable chance of at least one more storm before summer.


Rap Canterbury Tales

The Canterbury Tales were a favorite from High School English Lit.

Here they are, updated for the current day. They fit well into the world of rap and poetry slam where the traditions of verbal sparring and competition parallel the story telling competition of Chaucer's characters.

Baba manages to stay close to the original intent of Chaucer's stories, and his rhymes are often quite clever. I like the humor of updating Middle English via rap, but because the underlying stories remain intact, these also are compelling listing on their own.

Chaucer probably would have approved.


Rap Canterbury Tales