Interesting map fragment from year 1857

or 1858.  I found it at the Library of Congress while looking around.

It looks like there's only one outflow at San Pedro, whereas more modern maps have the LA river where the Rio San Gabriel is on this map and the San Gabriel River / Coyote Creek flowing into Long Beach, just south.  Poor information? Change in river course?  Human intervention?  Things to ponder.

Rain 0.22"; 9.11" season total - not a real sign of a heavy season

Tuesday's storm brought me 0.22" of rain in my back yard, bringing the season total to 9.11". That amount is just over the 3rd quartile of rain, for this point in the season.

Reposted from a comment I made on another blog:

Let's be clear on the statistical significance of our monthly and season-to-date rainfall figures taking this month as an example. You might think that we've had a lot of rain recently, but I'm here to tell you not so fast.

Data from the last several decades shows that in January we have a 50% probability of receiving between 3/4 and 4 inches of rain (in round numbers.) In terms of cumulative rainfall we have a 50% chance of having between 1 and 9 inches (again, round numbers) at the end of January.

We’re close to the top of that range of cumulative rainfall by my accounting. (I typically measure less rainfall than the official LA weather report).

The point here is that there’s huge variation in “normal” and indeed, there is nothing to suggest yet that we have had or will have an exceptionally high rainfall year. With about a 50-50 chance of being where we are right now, we’re sitting at “typical” in my book.

As an aside, mean rainfall figures (I have mean total seasonal rainfall at 12″ for LA) aren’t really as insightful as median rainfall figures (LA median total rainfall is about 7″). This is because rainfall is not symmetric about the mean. Bad Mom pointed this out to me some time ago, and she is correct.


Greased lightning

I cringed when they got to "girls cream for greased lightning" but either the lyrics were opaque or they had changed them. Phew.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


California native plants for north-facing hillsides

Specifically, coastal, north facing, hillsides.  That's not too specific, is it?  This list is for Juli's native garden so it's not intended to be comprehensive - for example you'll notice that there's no trees on the list since I'm not sure that there's enough space.  The most tree-like is Toyon.  Although I thought I'd have few choices of plant materials, it turns out that there's lots of possibilities.  Since even heavy soil can qualify as well-drained on a hillside, I haven't paid much attention to soil requirements other than trying to avoid those plants that need rocky soils, dune sand, or the like.

There is a lot of overlap between these plants and plants that might grow well under an oak tree.

I've already planted the first 6 on this list:  V. carperiodes in 1 gallon containers and several packets of seeds of the following five annuals which were the contents of the Theodore Payne Foundation "Shady Mixture".

Venegasia carpesiodes (Canyon sunflower), drought tolerant to moderate. to 6'.

Clarkia unguiculata (Elegant Clarkia)

Clarkia amoena (Farewell to Spring)
Collinsia heterphylla (Chinese Houses)
Nemophilia maculata (Five Spot)
Nemophilia mensiesii (Baby Blue Eyes)
Symphoricarpos mollis (Creeping Snowberry), drought tolerant to occasional.  CNPG recommends planting "with woodland strawberry, foothill sedge, and coastal wood fern to create a pleasing woodland" in sites with dry shade.  Snowberry, Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus, has a more erect growth habit and is found on north slopes in large open colonies.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), sun to part shade, drought tolerant to occasional.  large shrub/small tree.
Lepechinia spp. (Pitcher sage), sun to part shade, drought tolerant to occasional,
Dryopteris arguta (Coastal Wood Fern), partial shade to shade, drought tolerant to occasional.

Rhus trilobata (Basket Bush, Skunkbush, Squawbush), drought tolerant to moderate, full sun to part shade, 3-5' high

Rhamnus californica (Coffee Berry), sun to shade, drought tolerant to occasional.   Especially useful in areas where the exposure can change from deep shade to full sun. 'Leatherleaf' grows to 5 ft high - the smallest of the well-known cultivars.

Ribes speciosum (Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry), sun to shade, drought tolerant to occasional, summer dormancy period can be visually mitigated by interplanting with an evergreen species.  Sharp spines.

Mimulus aurantiacus (Sticky Monkey Flower) sun to part shade, drought tolerant to moderate.  Mimulus aurantiacus can bloom almost year round on un-irrigated north-facing hillsides.

Satureja douglasii (Yerba Buena), partial shade to shade, infrequent to moderate

Viola pedunculata (Johnny jump-up), shade to partial sun . Santa Cruz Island habitats: grassy north-facing hillsides, rocky slopes, coastal scrub and grasslands.  TPF says that it "likes some water" but doesn't specify beyond that.

Calochortus albus (Fairy lantern or Globe Lilly), sun to partial shade, drought tolerant to moderate, bulb, Santa Cruz Island habitats: mostly on north-facing slopes in chaparral, coastal scrub, oak woodland and pine forest.

Ranunculus californicus (California Buttercup), sun to partial shade, drought tolerant to occasional.  Summer deciduous.  Avoid summer water.

Lilium humboldtii s. ocellatum (Humboldt's Lily), shade,  Summer dry!  Santa Cruz Island habitats: coastal bluffs, shaded north-facing slopes, creek banks, chaparral, costal scrub, oak woodland and pine forest.

Pholistoma auritum (v. auritum) (Blue Fiesta Flower, Fiesta Flower) is in the Waterleaf family. Santa Cruz Island habitats: canyon bottoms, coastal bluffs, shaded north-facing slopes, grassy hillsides, chaparral, coastal scrub, grasslands and oak woodland.  Claflora states that it grows well on hillsides.

 Fremontodendron californicum (Fremontia, Flannel Bush) sun to partial shade, drought tolerant.  Soil should be well-drained.  Las Pilitas identifies decumbens as a preferred species, while CNPG extolls decumbens hybrids 'El Dorado Gold' as the most garden tolerant (4-6' high and twice as wide) and 'Ken Taylor' for it's graceful cascading growth habit.  It is said to be particularly effective on top of retaining walls.  These plants are also known for their irritating hairs.

Heuchera (Alumroot, Island Alumroot), part shade to shade, occasional to moderate.  CNPG suggests that the best-sited plants will have winter sun and summer shade - for example under deciduous trees.  CNPG also states that Heuchera maxima will grow and flower in dense shade whereas its cutlivars will not.  Las Pilitas favors Heuchera micrantha which has the same site requirements. 

Salvia spathacea (Hummingbird Sage), sun to partial shade , drought tolerant to occasional.

Near seeps or a neighbor's sprinkler these might be more appropriate:

Asarum caudatum (Wild Ginger), partial shade to shade, occasional to regular.

Mimulus cardinalis is a perennial that grows in damp soils in much of the west; it attracts hummingbirds and reseeds freely. Give it full shade in the hottest inland areas; otherwise plant it in sun or shade


California Native Plants for the Garden, Bornstein, Fross, O'Brien. (CNPG)
Theodore Payne Foundation
Las Pilitas Nursery
other less well-known web sites

Rainfall 0.04"; 8.89" season total

Just a little rain last night as the storm finished moving through.  We have gorgeous blue skies now.


Rainfall 0.41"; 8.32" season total

This was supposed to be the big storm of the week but the rainfall as of about 4PM today isn't consistent with that supposition. 


Rainfall 1.51"; 7.91" season total

This was a bigger storm than the last two. Parts of Long Beach and San Pedro reported 1.5" in an hour or so.

We're doing quite well with our local rainfall compared to recent history.  If memory serves we're well above the median rainfall for this time in the season.


Rainfall 0.75"; 6.40" seasonal total

Today's storm brought 3/4 of an inch in my back yard.  It had cleared by mid afternoon and I was home early enough to pull some weeds and plant some garlic.  While digging the garlic I noticed that despite ~2" of rain in the last two days the soil wasn't wet more than 1" down in parts of the garden and lawn.  At first I thought that it was due to being in a sheltered  location, but now I think that the soil was so dry in areas that the water beaded up and flowed off. 

PS: Is it season total or seasonal total?  I see I've been writing seasonal, but maybe that's too stilted and formal sounding.


Rainfall 1.19"; 5.65" seasonal total

The first storn through in this stacked series of storms was good to us on the flat coastal region of the Los Angeles 'burbs: Though heavy at times, the rain took a good 24H to fall giving plenty of time to soak in.

A quick trip to the nearby Dominguez Channel showed that it was running swift and high.


Rain and seeds

I got three packets of Payne Foundation "shade mixture" strewn on the north hillside next to Juli's garage one day before the anticipated flood.

I also planted my two, hard to find, Venegasia carpesiodes - the sunflower that doesn't need sun.

Badmom wrote via email with the word:



In other words, the storm gate is now open. "

I love how many government communications still seemingly use a teletype to internet gateway.

We're in the beginning of the storms now, with rain starting this afternoon and accumulating 0.3 more by the time of this post.

My gutters are freshly recleaned, as are Juli's.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone

San Pedro's 22nd St park

Juli and I visited the 22nd St park yesterday. The park was dedicated by mayor Villaraigosa just a few days ago, so it's an example of current philosophies in park design.

Of course there is a vast expanse of green turf lawn, but it's bordered by a bioswale on the harbor side. The harbor is just a stone's throw away.

The bioswale has jute netting with a flower planting that I don't recognize. Could be a native. The usual weeds have already infiltrated.

At the margins of the park - the hillside at the back, adjacent to the parking lot, and in borders there's native plants. Achillea millefolium (yarrow) in profusion, juncus (I thought it would require more water than it seems it will get), Muhlenbergia rigens (deergrass), and a couple others that I didn't know (see below). Feel free to chime in with the names.

Here's what the part bordering the parking lot looks like. I think I see yarrow, juncus, and bunch grass as ground covers. All in all, the ground covers appear reasonable choices.

However, the shrubs and trees seem odd choices. I don't recognize this shrub, but it looks like a desert plant. Maybe someone in blogland can identify them with authority.

The one below looks like a Palo Verde plant. I hope that someone didn't chose this desert tree for a seaside location because of a coincidence in names with the nearby community of Palos Verdes - I believe that community is called Palos Verdes because it was once surrounded by marshland that grew reeds which had the appearance of green sticks (palos verdes).

There's also what appears to be a Eucalyptus, but which could be yet another American desert plant.

Here's the funnier thing - many of those trees and shrubs are planted in the midst of the turf lawn. I don't know that they will do very well with that amount of water.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


How much shade does that north-facing slope get?

Juli has a back yard area that slopes to the north that she has designated the "native plant zone". I'm in charge of that part. The native plant zone contains the garage (with deep shade around it due to close proximity of a retaining wall and the garage eaves), a partially paved alley, lots of weeds, and ivy from the neighbors. Juli gets the roses and grass in the main part of the yard that is visible from the house.

A tall, roofed, patio structure sits at the top of the native plant zone, completely eliminating any possibility of sun at this time of year. However, it looks like it does get summer sun, as shown in the Google maps satellite image below. (Most good satellite imagery will be around noonish so as to eliminate large shadows. Summer time is least likely to have clouds, so it's not surprising that the image appears to have been taken near noon in summer.) Her's is the house at the center of the image. The patio roof is the bright white horizontal band.  Above it is the garage and sloped hillside that is designated as the native plant zone.

When the angle of the sun in the sky equals the angle from the bottom of the slope to the top of the patio roof, then the sun will be shining at the bottom of the slope.  The time of year that this occurs might influence my plant choices, so let's be a little more rigorous about when we can expect sun to peak over the edge of the patio roof and down the hill. Since the hillside is almost entirely north facing, I don't have too many complications with this calculation - If the slope were NW to SE I might have to think more about morning sun versus afternoon sun. I'll just think about noon time sun and remember that the sun always has a southerly direction our latitude.

Measuring the slope of the hill
There's a couple iPhone apps to measure angles out in the field. I tried one called Sextant that doesn't really do the job very well for me. I should have known better when the blurb read "This shiny new gold sextant would make a pirate proud" I next downloaded a more sophisticated app called Clinometer by Peter Breitling which was free for a short time and immediately after my download popped up at $0.99. Finally, there's a visual clinometer called SlopeView by Sten Kaiser which seems a reasonable choice (also $0.99) which I may try if the previous two don't work out. I'll use one of them to take a field measurement of the angle from the bottom of the hill to the top of the patio.

Once I know the slope of the hill, the question then is at what time of year the sun will get to that angle in the sky.  Here's how I'll figure it out:

Maximum and minimum sun angle
I'll figure the relationship between time of year and angle of the sun using this method: I found the latitude of Juli's house using Google maps*. If the earth had no tilt, then the sun would shine directly down on the equator at 90 degrees and (90 - Juli's latitude) would be the angle of the sun to her house. But, there is a built in tilt of the earth is 23.5 degrees and we can take that into account as follows:

During winter solstice the northern hemisphere is tilted back at an angle from the sun so the sun shines at (90 - latitude - 23.5) degrees.

During summer solstice the northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun so the sun shines at (90 - latitude + 23.5) degrees.

Interpolating linearly between solstices we get:

Date      Sun Angle
1/21/2010 40.99
2/21/2010 48.95
3/21/2010 56.14
4/21/2010 64.10
5/21/2010 71.80
6/21/2010 79.77 Summer solstice
7/21/2010 72.06
8/21/2010 64.10
9/21/2010 56.14
10/21/2010 48.43
11/21/2010 40.47
12/21/2010 32.77 Winter solstice

So, while I have yet to actually measure the angle of the hillside+patio roof, it is reasonable that it's entirely shaded now (when the sun is only at an angle of 40 degrees) since reasonable slopes probably don't exceed 45 to 50 degrees or so. However, in summer, it's a rare north-facing hillside that doesn't get at least a little sun when the sun has a steep sun angle like ~80 degrees. Up next to steep north-facing cliffs or edges of houses it will still be shaded at noon, but little else will be.

I guess this is all obvious stuff, since my major conclusion is that north facing slopes with reasonable angles of repose still get noontime summer sun.  Still, actually knowing a date when it will get sun can help guide plant selection. Of course, I'm ignoring the sun angle at times other than noon - the sun may rise north of east and set north of west in summer, thereby giving morning or evening light on north-facing slopes. However, we all know that morning or evening sun is less intense than noon sun.

Calculating hours of sunlight is a more difficult task. I found an iPhone app called DaylightCal that may suit my needs.  More later when I find out about that app.

*It's buried in the Google Maps URL or link. So if I go to Google map San Pedro, CA and then look closely in the URL or at the embedable link, I'll see a bit of text that looks like ll=33.722696,-118.29117 buried mid way through the address. From that little bit of info I can glean that San Pedro, CA. is at 33.722696 degrees north latitude.


iPhone apps for California flora and fauna

Emily Green has an article over on her blog on some iPhone apps useful for California wildflower and animal identification.

Her pick, and I agree, is the Southern California wildflower iPhone app from Earth Rover Software. There's also a Sierra wildflower app that may come in handy this summer and a Santa Monica Mountains app. Each is $9.99 on iTunes.


Rainfall 0.09"; 4.46" seasonal total

This was so light a rainfall and I was sleeping so hard that when the cat came to the door meowing pitifully at 3:30 AM, I didn't believe it was actually rain. I figured that the cat had thrown in the towel due to heavy fog! Later that morning I had to look at the weather report and go outside to assess the drop size. We had a bit under 0.05" at that point with the remainder falling by noonish, I think.

Gardening with the California natives

Gardening with the California natives is the title of a Jan 11 article in the LA Times by Hector Tobar which features native plant gardener and blogger Barbara Eisenstein, author of the Weeding Wild Suburbia blog and web page and profiles Debs park in Pasadena.

The article is light on information (though it does link to Barbara's blog), but maybe that's not a germane criticism: It could be upbeat soundbites like this that will convince people to try a native plant or two.


Channel island trip

8:30 am Ventura harbor

We landed at Scorpion Canyon anchorage. The island was used for ranching for many years. The national park part of the island recognizes this history. The Nature Conservancy runs the other part of the island, and they may have a different mission.

Revegetation efforts are underway. This island cherry (differentiated from its mainland cousin primarily by smooth-edged leaves versus pointed leaves) was probably planted as part of that effort. The last of the sheep were taken off the island only 5 years ago, so while there is some recovery, it's far from a native plant paradise.

There's an interesting success story concerning the recovery of the island fox and reinstatement of Bald Eagles on the island.

We took a guided hike to a nearby point where we ate a picnic lunch while looking across the channel at the mainland.

A short hike over to Potato Harbor had good scenery.

This is Potato Harbor.

I'm using Camera Genius and Pano apps for my iPhone as of yesterday and they are both quite good.

Here's some of the native plants we saw.

Dudleya and another, smaller, succulent. D. candelabrum is the endemic species. The smaller succulent is unknown to me.

Datura, planted near the rangers' quarters.

Toyon or Christmas Berry.

Coreopsis gigantea. I always thought that the flowers were yellow, but this early blooming one is not, as were his neighbors.

There's many more plants to see on the island. These are just the ones that made it into my iPhone. Peak bloom was clearly off by at least a month in the future for almost everything we saw.

Some interesting holes in a bank. They are shallow, for the most part, and we couldn't decide if they were from modern insects or ancient sea bed creatures.

Goodbye Santa Cruz island.


Wild for Aristida

My front garden has undergone some shifts. I've found that Aristida pupurea is to both my liking and loves my growing conditions, so I've been growing and planting it in profusion. Ranked in lines or rows, the formal component of the line seems to counteract the informality of the grass and gives me something casual but not random looking. I have a more mature staggered row on the left side of the yard, shown below in the foreground. Behind in yellow is Encelia(? a prolific bloomer after a slow start), a citrus, Matilija poppy (just a low, grey green, patch of new growth now), and the trellis where the Vitus californica 'Rogers Red' grows.

Up next to the pavers and brick of the driveway I have infant A. pupurea in a more regimented line. The line might have to be imagined in the photo below. There's some mounds of prostrate Artemisia (California sagebrush), a Cleveland sage, Eriogonum grande (Red Buckwheat, two smaller mounds), Galvezia (Island snapdragon, which bloomed prolifically in its first year, but not extremely well since), and three artichokes up next to the porch in the background here. The artichokes are a pleasing success story after losing one to rot and thinking that they would never grow. They are the picture of health now. The bare spots in the yarrow cover near the sidewalk need a filler. I'm thinking small agave cultivars at the moment.

Here's a close up. Aristeda on the lower left, unidentified wildflower in the upper right (at least I hope it's a wild flower).

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Bargain sport wagon

My friend Marc and I were discussing cars the other day when I expressed interest in acquiring a wagon of some sort to take over for or augment my Ford Ranger, which is a nice truck, but a little inconvenient for passengers.

Knowning my tastes for sporty cars, he suggested a Lexus IS300 SportCross, which was made between 2002 and 2005, and a Mitusubishi Diamante wagon. The Diamante is a bit long in the tooth, since it seems to have been last sold in the
US in 1995, but the Lexus looks like it's a real possibility for a bargain sport wagon.

2010 blog goals

I typically don't make resolutions, but in the spirit of resolutions, here are my goals for the blog and for myself in 2010.

250 blog posts. 250 was a good number in 2008, but I didn't meet it in 2009. I spent some of my 2009 time distratcted by my new iPhone, but I've found a comfortable way to post from the iPhone now and I'm hoping that it will add to the blog productivity.

Blog content: I want to blog more about gardening and keep the other non-gardening posts about where they are now. I will try to add more food and wine to the mix, as I have had a resurgence of interest in wine.

More diverse outdoor activities. I'm thinking hiking, mostly, but I'll continue to be interested in native plant activities. I had this goal in 2009, but visited the gym instead. I think that with the iPhone in hand blogging from the trail has never been easier. Shifting activities in my personal and family life may free up more time for this as well.

Bloom Day participation. Every 15th, garden bloggers participate in bloom day. I haven't seemed to find time near the 15th, but I'll try to this year. I may have to cheat and post the weekend before. This seems like a fun community effort.

Adapt to change. Change is in the wind, so plan to be adaptable and this blog will hopefully reflect that.

Sleep more. 'nuff said.

Happy New Year!

2009 goals in review

One year ago, I set some modest goals for 2009.

I thought that 250 or so blog posts would be appropriate for this year, but by my count I only had 159, which is only 63% of my goal. I also wanted to post more photos (with tags), but I'm not sure that I did. I'll have to take an F on those combined goals. As an excuse, I'll have to say that while I wasn't blogging, progress was being made on many fronts, some of which don't get much blog time. The blog diverged from majority native plant topics, which I hope is only temporary.

I did spend a little blog time on home improvement projects. One of my 2009 goals was to complete the To Do list items, and I mostly did. I'll give myself an A for that goal. I now have a whole new list of To Do items, but they are less ambitious which is progress of a while different kind.

I also wanted to spend more time doing outside activities in 2009 - I believe that I had native plant classes, hikes, or restorations in mind. I also thought I might want to take up dancing again. I had cautioned that didn't have time for these activities, but it turned out that I made time for regular gym visits instead. So while I didn't meet either goal, so I'll take a B for doing something in a related area. The disadvantage of the gym is that it's not really a bloggable activity, whereas my intended activities would have added to my dismal 159 posts.

My final goal was to get more sleep. I think I am making progress on that front, but not as much as I want, so I'll give myself a C.

With and A, a B, an F, and a C my overall grade for 2009 Resolutions is around C+.