The grass is greener on the other side?

An article in the LA Times talks about turf scientists' quest for non-thirsty green lawns.

In a parched experimental plot at the edge of UC Riverside, several dozen mounds of grass poke out of the powdery soil.

These plants have the soft, narrow leaf blades and dark-green hue that would make them a welcome addition to any American lawn. Most important, they lack the feature that threatens to doom today's turf -- an unsustainable thirst for water.

With mandatory watering restrictions turning grass brown from California to Florida to Massachusetts, a small but dedicated cadre of turf scientists is on a mission to engineer a drought-proof superlawn.

They are acutely aware of the technical challenges. Millions of years of evolution have failed to devise a turf that thrives in dry, hot summers and cool, damp winters, and trying to one-up Mother Nature certainly is an exercise in horticultural hubris.

read more at the LA Times.

Of course University of California already has a low water turf grass named UC Verde. When I last looked at it, it seemed more targeted at the Southwest, than Coastal California, but a Google search last night showed that there are many more prominent providers of it now than 1+ years ago. It is a variety of Buffalo Grass, native to North America, but not to California. Shirley Bovshow, S. California "garden personality" has a test plot of UC Verde and several blog posts about it:

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 1

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 2

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 3

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 4

More from the LA Times article:
Most Californians plant tall fescue varieties, such as Marathon, in their yards. They are the most water-efficient of the cool-season grasses, but that still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Simply switching to warm-season varieties would reduce water needs by 20%, Baird said. However, these species go dormant in the winter, and even during their active months they never reach the deep green hues of their cool-season cousins.

"We could go a long ways in terms of our drought if more people used those grasses," he said. "But the color issue is the major limiting factor."

I suppose they could always plant it on the other side of the street.

TR Trading Company

Here's a place I learned about today that carries used furniture. I am told that it's higher end stuff that's cleared out of hotels and offices.

The web site appears to have mostly office furniture, but I saw some really nice chairs and a small better-built coffee table that came from there. Of course they have book shelves, and it might be nice to replace my particle board book shelves with something nicer.

TR Trading Company


House Doctor

(with reference to fall planting season below...)

Not that home improvement issues have gone away. Some day when I have a nanosecond of time I'll blog in detail about my travails this summer on the home improvement front. It's liveable, but I'm cooking with a single plate, spoon, fork, and jackknife (somehow the chefs knives are not locatable :( ).

The good news is that Kevin is back on the job. Hurray!

Electrical has stalled this last week, but I did make forward progress in the bathroom with an actual working lavatory sink.

I also made contact with a guy by the name of Pjlevo "Phlee" Hudshon who has the House Doctor business. He's a licensed contractor who lives locally and does home repair. I had him over to talk about flooring, but it turns out that his flyer says that he does Tile, Baths, Drywall, Flooring, Kitchens, Electrical, Patios & Decks, Termite repairs, room additions, and Fence replacement. 310-433-9076.

Phlee thought that his labor charges would be about $1000 to install a floating floor on the approximately 400 square feet that I want to redo. The floor itself he thought could range from $2 to $5 per square foot when purchased at discount. If I go the replacement route I need a floating floor with foam underlayment.

Phlee recommended that I look at Old Masters (Rodeo and Arlington), a flooring outlet warehouse near the 110 fwy at 190th and Vermont, Lumber Liquidators, Moldings Unlimited at near Vermont and Lomita for moldings, Habitat for Humanity for glass tile on the back splash, HD Contractors Supply on Airdrome and Main near Habitat. He also recommended Los Vegas if I were to replace the kitchen cabinet doors.

Fall California native plant sales

With fall upon us, my mind is turning away from home improvements and back to gardening. My membership at the Payne Foundation is all paid and I'm ready to go plant shopping. Throwing fuel on the fire, Connie Vadheim just emailed that following list of plant sales. I'm delirious with anticipation.

Fall Native Plant Sales – 2009

South Bay Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 10/3/09 - 9:00-4:00 p.m.
South Coast Botanic Garden
26300 Crenshaw Blvd. , Palos Verdes Penninsula


LA/Santa Monica Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat & Sun 10/3 & 4, - 10am-4pm
Sepulveda Garden Center, Encino
16633 Magnolia Blvd
(east of Hayvenhurst on north side of street)


Theodore Payne Foundation
Sat. & Sun. Oct. 9th &10th (members only) and 16th & 17th, 2009 – 8:30-4:30 10459 Tuxford Street, Sun Valley, CA 91352

Fullerton Arboretum Native Plant Sale

Sat. & Sun 10/10 & 10/11/09 - 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
1900 Associated Road, Fullerton, CA 92831


UC Riverside Botanic Garden Fall Sale

Saturday, October 17, 2009 from 12 to 5 pm
Sunday, October 18, 2009 from 9 am to 3 pm
On UCR Campus


El Dorado Nature Center

Saturday, October 24 9:30 am – 2 pm
7550 E. Spring St., Long Beach CA 90815

For more information call (562) 570-1745; http://www.longbeach.gov/naturecenter/family_n_special_events.asp

Fall Native Plant Sales – 2009 – cont.

Orange Co. Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 10/24/09 – 9:00-4:00
Tree of Life Nursery
33201 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capestrano


Madrona Marsh Nature Center/Project SOUND

Sat. 11/7/09 - noon to 1:30
Small sale featuring most South Bay native plants

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Sat, 11/ 7/09 - 11am – 4pm, ; Sun, November 8, 9am – 2pm
1500 N. College Avenue, Claremont, CA 91711


San Gabriel Mountains Chapter – CA Native Plant Society

Sat. 11/24/09 – 9:00-2:00 p.m.
Eaton Canyon Nature Center, 1750 Altadena Drive, Pasadena, CA



Blogs I'm reading

I've been enjoying On the public record blog. It reads like an op-ed in the local paper, but larded with links to actual facts and figures. Topics seem to revolve around water public policy and natural resources stewardship with occasional jabs thrown mostly at the right, so if that floats your boat you might want to browse it.


Gottlieb garden

An LA Times article by Emily Green, The Dry Garden: A visit with Susan Gottlieb and a landscape that sings with color, scent and birds led me to the Gotleib garden web site. Susan Gottlieb is on the Payne Foundation native garden tour, but I have not been to see her garden in person.

CSA in North Redondo Beach

See BadMom's complete blog post about it here.

She writes in part, I've started the Madison School CSA blog for all things related to the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. Visit there to learn the latest news about the program. Beginning September 24, Tanaka Farms will deliver every Thursday to Neighborhood Grinds.

I participated in the CSA last year and over the summer and had some great produce in my fridge as a result.


You say Zauschneria I say Epilobium

There's a nice article on California fuschias over at the SF Chronicle.

It seems more botanical than most general interest newspaper articles.

California fuchsias are not true fuchsias, although they are also members of the evening primrose family. The name Zauschneria (named after a Professor Zauschner of Prague) is used in older books for a handful of California species with trumpet-shaped red flowers and green to furry gray foliage.

The Munz and Keck book "California Flora," published in 1959, recognized Z. cana from the Central and Southern California coasts, septentrionale from Humboldt and Mendocino counties, garrettii from the Mojave Desert and californica from much of the rest of the state.

Then in 1976, Peter Raven, renowned conservation advocate and evening primrose specialist, proposed combining Zauschneria with the fireweeds and willow-herbs in the larger genus Epilobium. Although the plants don't look much alike, Raven found similarities in their hairy seed coats and other features.

Botanists have generally accepted the change, although some are still cranky about it. Despite that snarl of consonants in the middle of "zauschneria," we were used to it.

Somewhere along the way, californica and garrettii merged into cana, and the species' genders changed to conform with the new genus. That leaves Epilobium canum and E. septentrionale as the last California fuchsias standing.

Read the whole thing at link.


Huntington Beach native plants

I was previously unaware of the Shipley Nature Center. A friend referred me to it today on email.

Shipley Nature Center is an 18-acre natural area located in Huntington Beach, California. Situated within Huntington Central Park, the nature center is not only a sanctuary for the local wildlife, but it is also a haven for the residents and visitors of Orange County.

Our hours of operation are Monday-Saturday from 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM. We invite you to visit us and experience the beauty of nature.



Our forgotten landscape: California prairie

Here's an interesting take on California's grasslands, which appear to not be quite so grassy as the name would lead you to believe. Since I live one block from a street named "Prairie" and have seen historic photos of the nearby prairie, this has particular interest to me.

This is copied in its entirety from the Daily Democrat. The author refers us to www.tuleyome.org for additional information, so I'll be browsing around there looking for some more interesting articles.

Our forgotten landscape: California prairie
Created: 09/06/2009 02:30:42 AM PDT

John Muir, California's greatest naturalist, taught America and the world to love and preserve nature rather than use it up. Muir arrived in San Francisco in the spring of 1868 and walked south through the Coast Range.

At Pacheco Pass he descended to the then unplowed Central Valley. He found "one ... bed of [flowers], so marvelously rich that, in walking... 400 miles, your foot would press a hundred flowers at every step. "Here it is not as in our great western prairie, flowers sprinkled in grass, but grass in the flowers."

Muir was the first to well describe the pristine Great Valley's flowers but from early Spanish explorers to G. C. Merrifield in 1851 to the great California botanist Willis Lynn Jepson in 1925 others have told of once vast flower prairies in California's valleys. Many such accounts are compiled in Professor Richard Minnich's recent UC Press book California's Fading Wildflowers.

Muir often elegantly described the rapid loss of California's unique flower prairies, but they are far from all gone. Each spring the valley much as Muir saw it is present at Yolo County's Glide Tule Ranch as well as many other places.

Why then do many call places like the Tule Ranch "grasslands" when those seeing them first report few if any native grasses? Therein lies a tale.

Taxonomic botany straightforwardly describes (in Latin) new plants wherever they're found, but more theoretical plant ecology started in eastern colleges and then moved west to
California. But the east is not like California. Its forests stretch continuously from Florida to Quebec except where people cleared them. Farther west in the drier Great Plains grassland is similarly nearly continuous from Mexico to Saskatchewan. But in California it's just a few steps from dark redwood forests to open prairies and Napa County has greater vegetational diversity than most eastern states.

There's a simple reason for this difference. In the east it rains when it's warm and plants grow fast, but in California it doesn't. Rain here falls when it's too cold to grow so it's stored until temperatures rise. Consequently soil where it's stored determines vegetation much more in California than in the east.

Water and air deeply penetrate sandy and rocky soils where plants with deep roots like shrubs and trees can reach them. Clay soils, in contrast, favor the shallower roots of herbs because they keep water near surfaces and exclude air.

Since water carries clay farther than sand and rocks, California valleys usually have more clay and thus prairie vegetation, but places streams carry sand and gravel into valleys like along Yolo County's Buckeye Creek have trees even where water is scarce.

Eastern plant ecologists used to continuous vegetation in absence of disturbance expected it also in California. Minnesota's W. S. Cooper thought this was chaparral and claimed it once covered the Central Valley. More influential was Frederick Clements of Nebraska's theory it was covered with a bunchgrass now called purple needlegrass. Clements made and believed grand theories.

In 1997 Jason Hamilton showed Clements' bunchgrass theory came from expectations about California derived from his Nebraska experience. Evidence for it was minimal and came from atypical valley places like Jepson Prairie, where moist sea breezes bring many coastal plants inland, and Fresno, where Kings Canyon glacial outwash carried much sand to the valley floor.

Clements and followers like L. Burcham and H. Heady popularized a legend that the Great Valley was a bunchgrass sea wiped out by grazing and drought in the 1860's and replaced by non-native annual grasses.

The legend's ultimate popularization came with calling the valley "grassland" in Munz & Keck's A California Flora, the source for plant identification from 1959 to 1993 before the new Jepson Manual replaced it.

Why not the legend? It's false for one thing. Muir, Merrifield and others in early California vouch for that. Secondly, so-called "native grass restoration," planting coast and foothill needlegrass in valleys where it's not native, wastes much time and money.

Cattle ranches mostly well use and protect prairies, but when sold for development planners almost universally call their vegetation "non-native grassland," which ignores native wildflowers (forbs) and privileges weeds. Consequently California Prairie, the name Burcham used clear back in 1957, was the only major California plant community systematically excluded from general plan conservation elements until recently.

Since calling prairie "non-native grassland" made it defenseless by emphasizing its weeds rather than its native forbs, it became the ideal place for planners to direct sprawl. It is as if riparian areas were called "Giant reed-saltcedar thickets." To protect something it must be named. That name is California Prairie.

-- Dr. Glen Holstein is a member of the Board of Directors of Tuleyome, as well as the Chapter Botanist for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Prior Tuleyome Tales are available at www.tuleyome.org



From the Public Eye blog comes a link to an interesting blog featuring local fauna: http://www.cougarmagic.com/

For the prurient-minded, "Cougarmagic has nothing whatsoever to do with dressing like a skank, having big hair, a fake tan, and trying to pick up 20 year old men in bars."