Ceanothus across the Atlantic

It's December and the Ceanothus is in bloom. Well, at least in Mougins, France. Juli pointed this out to me.

The plant breeders of Europe have hybridized the Ceanothus and it's anyone's guess what the parentage of this plant is. Guesses anyone?

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Yerba Buena mildew problem

My Yerba Buena plant seems to have a mildew problem. It's in a pot that doesn't get direct sun this time of year.

I sprayed it with a jet of water from the hose and that washed a good amount of it off.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Impressive grapes

This tall, vine-covered fence is located near the entrance to the Gardena Willows. I suspect that the vines are Vitis 'Roger's Red'.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Rain 0.23"; Season total 2.05"

1 Dec 2012 0.03"
3 Dec 2012 0.20"

2.05" total rainfall thus far.

Don't set your expectations for either a wet or dry winter based on this data, however.  There is a 50% probability of rainfall between 0.16" and 3.71" at this time of year.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Rain 1.30"; season total 1.82"

The storm that blew through Thursday and Friday left 1.30" in my back yard, bringing the season's total to 1.82".  This was a nice rainfall - never so heavy that it couldn't soak in wherever it fell.

30 Nov 2012 1.30"


Oleander Aphids - Aphis nerii

One of my native plant list serves has had these yellow aphids as a topic of discussion.  They are non-native and are presumed to have arrived with the oleander that is omnipresent in S. California.  They also like milkweed (Asclepias), which is what they are see on here.  I also have Oleander in the yard, but it was surprising how quickly these guys arrived and spread on the milkweed.  It was so fast that I thought for certain that I'd brought the plant home with an unseen infestation.


Crocus sativus - Saffron Crocus

I grew Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) at my other house and managed one meal from the collected stigma (the culinary term is thread) of the several bulbs that I planted. I blogged about it here and here.  The scent was incredible, but I think that I didn't manage the saffron threads very well because the cooked flavor was faint. Or perhaps I didn't have enough.  C. sativus is a mediterranean plant, so it's compatible with low water gardens and a prime choice for those that want to grow an exotic and expensive seasoning.

Besides kitchen uses, saffron has been used in folk medicine for centuries and more recently leaves and threads have been evaluated as anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory agents, with findings that the threads are pharmacologically active.

In late October of this year  I planted 70 Crocus sativus bulbs.  To spare you many pictures of freshly planted bulbs, I'll let you search Google for pictures of soil instead.

Fast forward to mid November, and we have action! The bulbs are poking their first leaves out of the planters in several areas. At Juli's house, where I planted a few days earlier, the signs of growth were slightly earlier, just as one would expect.


A trip to the "Pot Depot"

I continue to like Pottery Manufacturing and Distribution, which I call the "Pot Depot". (Tour it here on YouTube.)   Since I was there last they have increased their outdoor space by adding additional shelving units.

They also have an indoor space, which I did not photograph.  Give them a try.  Their prices seem reasonable (though I thought them a touch higher during a recent visit) and Tuesdays are 10% off for seniors. 


rain 0.2"; season total 0.52"

With the last several rains I'm up to 0.52" for the season. 9-Nov 0.2 16-Nov 0.07 17-Nov 0.2 The 9-Nov rain didn't really bring up any weeds, but the latest one did.


Ship tracks and climate

Ship tracks are the exhaust plumes of large ships, which can have significant impact on weather patterns, particularly in areas near large ports such as Los Angeles / Long Beach. An interesting blog post written by a friend summarizes their effects on local weather.

Ship Tracks and our changing weather


Allium uniforlium from seed

I've got a bulb fascination this year.  Other people are going crazy for bulbs too.  Country Mouse has discussed bulbs recently.

I'm purchasing a number of bulbs, but I thought I'd first try to make use of the stock I have on hand.  I have some Allium unifolium (wild onion, Pink Meadow Onion, One-leaf Onion) seed from a couple plants at my previous house.  They must be two years old (Normally I'd put the date that I harvested the seed, but for some reason I didn't.  Why do I think I'll remember this stuff?) and there's not a lot after separating the chaff from the seed.  I'm a crummy seed saver, often putting whole seed heads in bags until I need them  These looked OK, despite the less than optimum treatment.


Night time at home

I'll regret not having that Giant Bird of Paradise to frame my shots, but that's the only reason I'll regret not having it. This was an iPhone shot., my camera of choice lately.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Signs of fall in the California native garden

Whats all this hear about California not having seasons?  Ususally I just change the subject when an unenlightened person tells me that there's no seasons in California.  This time I thought I'd get some evidence, so Juli and I took a stroll in the Madrona Marsh demonstration garden to find out more.

Muhlenbergia rigens california deer grass

Muhlenbergia rigens (California Deer Grass) with stalks awaving.  Sycamore trees dropping their leaves.  Nope.  That can't be a sign of fall - the sky is too blue.


And then there were five

Note to self: next year harvest earlier.

There must have been 20 giant pomegranates but all that are left are these five. Must be possums or perhaps birds.


Digging for pepper

I'm not planting Begonias in the shade and I'm not putting in a fresh crop of Impatiens by the front door -   that's a decidedly minor subset of the gardening universe.  I'm talking about real gardening - shirt soaked through with sweat, swinging an axe and shovel for hours, sore muscles, correcting another's huge plant mistake, foundation for the future type of work. This is dirt in your shoes, dust in your nose, and blisters on your hands. This is archetypal man's work: atavistic and primal, physical and concrete, but with a time frame where even those of short attention span can see progress.  Your forefathers cleared forests with this type of work.  This is the kind of work that makes even American lagers taste good. 
Brazilian Pepper Tree stump removal
I'm digging out a large Brazilian Pepper, and it feels like victory.


Your garden friend, the axe

Like the Ginsu Knife, the axe has a variety of uses. I like it best as a burly garden tool: bashing through errant roots and eliminating small stumps with a minimum of brute exertion. I've been somewhat successful at the latter recently: Trees that were cut off at the ground will resprout if you let them, but a bit of quick axe work and a small squirt of herbicide decreases the likelihood of resprouting without requiring you to remove the roots and disturb the soil.

This is the largest stump that I photographed, but you can easily go larger with this technique. There is an upper limit on size, however.  Keys are for scale.  This stump was also drilled to let me apply a stump decomposition enhancer.

I'll bring the axe down a few times in one direction, then switch to about 90 degrees from the initial direction. Towards the end of the axe work, grab your handy spray bottle of herbicide and spray into the split wood. Don't over do it. Sometimes it helps to spray while the axe is still lodged in the stump since many splits tend to close up once the axe is removed.  If you are resolute that you don't want to use herbicide, then don't - it's really a belt and suspenders approach.  Splitting stumps exposes enough surface area that they tend to do very poorly in terms of resprouting, even without the herbicide.

For goodness sake, learn how to swing an axe properly, keep your toes safely out of the way, and keep the axe sharp with a mill bastard file.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


It's Global Warming, Stupid

It's Global Warming, Stupid is the title of a November 01, 2012, article by Paul M. Barrett in Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Barrett cites a sea change in the attitudes of the American mainstream of thought about the veracity of global climate change, and uses Super Storm / Hurricane Sandy as an example of its impacts, though with appropriate caveats on the differences between weather and climate.   He also cites authorities other than the usual scientists, since a vocal minority of Americans seem to believe that mendacious scientists have a political axe to grind when it comes to believing that cause and effect are related:

 ...forget the scientists ostensibly devoted to advancing knowledge and saving lives. Listen instead to corporate insurers committed to compiling statistics for profit. On Oct. 17 the giant German reinsurance company Munich Re issued a prescient report titled Severe Weather in North America. Globally, the rate of extreme weather events is rising, and “nowhere in the world is the rising number of natural catastrophes more evident than in North America.

 Barrett's article is in line with other polls that show the same trend.  Meanwhile, we scientists have been waiting for the rest of the U.S. to catch up. 

If we ever want to do something about climate change, it will be a large undertaking.  For a science and engineering approach to the large problem of our energy future try the Do the Math blog.


Camissonia slaughter

I've killed more plants.
dead Cammissonia cheiranthifolia "Beach Primrose"
Two of the three Cammissonia cheiranthifolia "Beach Primrose" that I purchased from Annies Annuals croaked unexpectedly and ended up looking like the picture above. I may have kept them overwatered and drowned them or perhaps they were poorly stored in my too shady side yard. When they started to look limp I tried simply moving them to brighter shade, but most of them didn't make it.  Fortunately,


October garden retrospective

This is one of the things I like about my house. I took the photo with the HDR setting on my iPhone just before sunrise. The Giant Bird of Paradise (large leaf upper left)  will be a thing of the past when I get around to it.  For now, it's nice framing that continues the fiction of subtropical Southern California. 



Coppicing Agapanthus

Saul Jaramillo takes care of the nuts and bolts of my yard and last year he showed me a technique to renew Agapanthus.  I was skeptical, but it worked like a charm.  It's a simple cut-to-the-ground-and-let-it-regrow technique.  Since I have so much Agapanthus I've had to learn to live with them and make them look their best.  I'm gradually replacing them, but I can't foresee a time when I have none, so here's a photo of three plants at various stages of renewal.


'Roger's Red' and other 'new' plants

I finally made it over to the Payne Foundation for some bread and butter / meat and potatoes types of native plants.  Plant prices haven't stood still at any nursery I've been to recently, so I was happy to get the 15% members discount.

I picked up Vitis 'Roger's Red' ($8.00 in 1 gal).  I had previously purchased what I thought was one of these in a 4" pot at the local Ca. native plant sale, and I spoke to the grower at that time but I think he said something odd: That he'd grown the plant from seed.  Vitis 'Roger's Red' is an F1 hybrid of Vitis Califonica and Vitis vinifera.  F1 hybrids don't usually grow true from seed, instead assuming characteristics of one or the other of their parents, so they are usually grown from cuttings.  As I looked into it further, I decided that I didn't want to take a chance on the seed-grown specimen not being true to expectations so I purchased a "second" 'Roger's Red' and planted it last weekend.

I purchased three Iris 'Canyon Snow' ($10 in 1 gal.) and probably need two more to create the start of a drift of Iris that will begin to replace the Agapanthus near the driveway.  This area is visible from the street and I'm trying to plant it with natives that have good public appeal.  'Canyon Snow' is a hybrid and San Marcos Growers has this to day about it, "Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris that was introduced into the nursery trade by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. It was hybridized by the late Dara Emery, who in 1979 received the prestigious Mitchell Award from the American Iris Society for this beautiful hybrid Iris. In spring emerge the large flowers, which are white with bright yellow central markings on each petal. Iris 'Canyon Snow' is also noted for its vigor and bright glossy green foliage. As with other Pacific Coast Hybrid Iris, plant in a light acidic soil in full sun (coastal only), light shade, morning or late afternoon shade and water sparingly in coastal areas and more regularly inland."

Arctostaphylos 'Lester Rowntree'.  ($10 in 1 gal) This is for my hillside planting Tree of Life Nursery writes, "Lester Rowntree Manzanita was originally collected and named for the enthusiastic California plantswoman of the 1950’s and was introduced by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in 1982. It is thought to be a hybrid between two central coast species, Arctostaphylos obispoensis and Arctostaphylos pararoensis."  I've started reading Hardy Californians, by Lester Rowntree, and it's been an interesting read so far.  She definitely marched to the beat of her own drum.

Ceanothus 'Frosty Blue'.  ($8 in 1 gal) Another per plan for the hillside planting, which is detailed in another blog post.

Fremontodendron 'California Glory'.  ($14 in 1 gal) California Flora Nursery writes, "One of the Golden State's numerous native shrubs is the Flannel Bush, an inelegantly named shrub notable for at least three reasons: 1) strong yellow flowers; 2) lengthy bloom season; 3) horribly irritating hairs. The first two reasons sufficiently outweigh its drawback, supposing that gardeners plant it in the right location --ideally, where it is seen but not handled. Your neighbor's garden, for example." This was my  third purchase of the day for the hillside planting, and it's almost going in the neighbor's yard.

 "The generic name Fremontodendron dates from 1893. Before then, the genus was called Fremontia (1851), because it had been discovered in 1846 by John Charles Frémont (1813 - 1890), a celebrated soldier, general, politician, explorer and natural historian. Alas, Fremontia the name, however, had already been used in 1843, and so Fremontodendron (Fremont's tree) had to be substituted to be legal."http://www.arthurleej.com/p-o-m-Feb10.html

Chlorogalum pomeridianum (soap plant) and Calochortus venustus (Butterfly Mariposa Lily).

I also purchased some really superior plant tags the kind that are soft metal that you write on with a ball point pen, using the pen to indent your script rather than for its ink. 


Hillside planting plan

My back hillside is a mess, but hopefully it will be getting better.  The house and former pool deck look out over a city lights view that I could see and envision when I first looked at the house.  In fact, it was a deciding factor in the purchase of this house.

Here's a recent pre-dawn photo from my phone camera, through a window, and looking east.

Unfortunately, the former owners let their California Pepper tree run amok and its root, sprouts, and progeny infiltrated the hillside along with volunteer ash trees (another on the Do-Not-Plant-in-California list), a series of overgrown Oleanders, a volunteer palm tree or two, and more junk plants.

Last year around this time, full of enthusiasm and wanting to boldly check spread of the pepper tree and replace it with appropriately-sized natives, I made a series of mistakes which led to accidentally pruning (to the ground) across the property line, which runs at an odd diagonal angle up the back slope.  It looked terrible at first (but grew back just like I said it would).  Unfortunately, the neighbor seemed to think that this was an opportunity for profit and ended up with a settlement from my homeowner's insurance and I ended up with an eyesore fence on the property line that I protested, but was forced to accept.

So last year's planting plans came to a disappointing and grinding halt as I waited for the situation to resolve. I was depressed to have made the amateur mistakes of over enthusiasm that led to total garden work stoppage.  One thing I did do right, however, was to call Ric Dykzeul, a local garden designer.  He came over and assessed the hill and made some recommendations based on my stated willingness to actively manage the resprouting pepper, oleander, etc. as well as some overall recommendations for the back yard (which is mostly concrete, having been a pool deck before the pool was filled in).

Here's a plan that he sketched up for half of the back hill that I am slavishly following, mostly. North is up.  My house is to the west and the edge of the concrete patio is the dashed line.  The hillside descends steeply from the dashed line to the east and the plan ends at the property line fence, indicated by lines+X's. The remaining half of the back yard slope is much narrower and we didn't know what form the fence would take, so we didn't plan for that area.



Alien versus native

In the near corner, looking fleshy and pale green is iceplant (the alien, brought in to "stabilize" sand dunes it often does more harm than good).  In the far corner, looking a cheerful yellow is Isocoma menziesii (Menzies' goldenbush)

I camped at Pt Mugu Beach State Park this last weekend. It was a rare opportunity to camp right on the sand, 10' from the high water mark. The weekend was full of photos, but this was the only plant photo that I took. ID of Goldenbush is based on a Claflora search - this particular example seems more prostrate than online descriptions state, perhaps due to competition from the iceplant.  


An order from Annies

Disappointed to miss the Theodore Payne Foundation sale on the weekend of the 12th and 13th, I took advantage of Annie's Annuals 25% off sale and placed an order with them, with a ship-by date of the 16th.  Mostly I was thinking of planting in the back yard, which has a lot of bright sun and a lot of ground to cover.  I used Annie's successfully last year and thought it was reasonable value.  The sale price of 25% off covered California State sales tax and shipping, plus a bit more.  Here's my purchase list with nice links to Annie's web site for each of the items.

Item# Product Name Quantity Unit Price Total
1 Camissonia cheiranthifolia "Beach Primrose" 3 $6.95 $20.85
2 Cirsium occidentale "Cobweb Thistle" 3 $8.95 $26.85
3 Dudleya lanceolata "Lanceleaf Live-Forever" 3 $8.95 $26.85
4 Eriogonum grande rubescens "Red Buckwheat" 1 $8.95 $8.95
5 Erysimum capitatum ssp. capitatum "Western Wallflower" 3 $6.95 $20.85
6 Lonicera hispidula "California Honeysuckle" 1 $8.95 $8.95
7 Solidago californica "California Goldenrod" 2 $7.95 $15.90

These are prices for 4" pots, which seems to be the majority of Annie's stock.

Last year I grew (poorly, due to my own planting practices and bad timing) the Cirsium occidentale.  It still looked impressive.  So I've ordered three more.

I've grown this particular Eriogonum before, but it wasn't as red as Annie's photo.  Maybe I just had the species and not the rubescens variety.

The others I haven't grown before so it will be a nice new learning experience. 


Inexplicable Ficus love affair

We Southern Californians seem to have a love affair with the Ficus benjamina tree despite their dubious merits, their inappropriate size for most yards, their poor wildlife value, little attention to their care and placement, and their invasive roots.  Although these are nice trees when confined to pots indoors, they are more often than not considered free range trees or become feral when the pot is moved outside and the tap root finds its way out the bottom of the pot.  Even blog mill E-How thinks that they are excellent indoors, but does not claim any outdoor uses.

Is that an alien spacecraft landing in North Redondo?  Nope, but the tree is just about as big as the 1950's era house that it eclipses.  In other words, too big.

Rain 0.02"; 0.02" season total

Not a whole lot of rain at my house on Oct 11 - just enough to wet the ground and keep my newly installed plants happy.  Last year I noted the first rain on 5 Oct, though in a greater amount - well over 1".  We all know how that season turned out.


Obelisk or tree?

Here's another prime example of what not to do.

What is that, a giant bowling pin?

Weekend plant sale at Grow Native

Juli and I wandered up to the Grow Native Nursery in West L.A. for their Autumn Garden Party last Saturday. We took a seat at the periphery of a lecture and I was pleased to immediately recognize the lecturer, Barbara Eisenstein, of the Weeding Wild Suburbia blog. I read her blog often for its insightful commentary and I'm pleased to report that her lecture was good humored, engaging, and informative. Even Juli, not even close to my level of native plant fanaticism, got interested. Later, I introduced myself to Barbara, not having previously met her in person, and she told me that she recognized me. What a nice bit of serendipity to have run into her!

I went with the intention of purchasing only a replacement for the dead Giant Chain Fern in the more-sunny-than-I-expected pot by the front door, but I ended up with much more. Of course.
I found three Ribes aureum var. gracillimum (Golden Currant) which I planted along the fence on the south side of the driveway on 5' centers. They will soften the fence (one of those horrible unrelentingly manufactured-looking vinyl fences) and provide foliage in counterpoint to the Cercis occidentalis (Western Red Bud) that I planted earlier this year in front of them.

Cercis + Ribes is a well-known plant combination that I used at my previous house. It's a bit odd that despite the fact that my landscape plans are orthogonal to most of the other houses in my neighborhood, that I'm a bit dissatisfied simply because Ribes + Cercis is a relatively commonplace combination among native plant gardens. I find myself yearning for the next least common thing. I guess I enjoy being a bit different. Still, it's the front yard, so in terms of being a public example for native plants it will work admirably. Following the guideline that repetition is a fundamental and attractive garden design practice, I may add several more.

I was happy to purchase Vaccinium ovatum (California Huckleberry). I haven't tried this before and it's somewhat rare in the trade. I'll plant three underneath the fruit trees in the side yard and try to mulch with pine needles.

I found two Rhamnus californica ssp californica (California Coffeeberry) from my long term shopping list. These go on the back hill.

Also scratching my itch for something new was Lepechinia fragrans (Fragrant Pitcher Sage), which I have not grown before, and which is native to the Channel Islands and LA County. Palos Verdes is often considered to be the most coastal of the Channel Islands given similarities in climate and soils. The helpful staff at Grow Native pointed me to it for the pot by the front door. Apparently it can take a variety of lighting and soil conditions, which makes it good for the front door pot where the Giant Chain Fern was.

In winter there's little direct light, but in summer it sees a few hours of intense direct sun every day. I bought a second one for somewhere else in the garden.


Quaking Aspen - home sweet home

I like the Quaking Aspens (Populus tremuloides) that are planted at Lair of the Bear. The forest is managed and I believe that they are part of the approved trees that can be planted. The bugs love them too. I found two types of bug houses that I was able to photograph adequately in June of this year.
The multi-leaf rolled houses must take some time to build. 

Much simpler is this single-leaf roll.  You get two for the price of one leaf here.


Two years at Cleo's Bath

2011 was a banner year for water in California and in June of that year I took a hike in the Sierra up to a little place called Cleo's Bath. The water was ice cold, having just melted from snow not too many miles up stream.
It also wasn't safe to swim in since it was running too rapidly. I waded in at a shore just down stream and my feet quickly went numb. In 2012 I returned to the same spot at the same time and saw this:
That's the same tree in the foreground. You can see that flow is greatly reduced in 2012. That day we didn't mind too much because it led to great fun:


Wyethia fields forever

I've always had an affinity for Wyethia species, perhaps because they seem so unobtainable in the trade. Wyethia or Mule's Ears comes in a number of different flavors and these ones appear to be Wyethia mollis or Wooly Mule's Ears, seen on a hike in the Sierra near Pinecrest on June 18th, 2012. Unfortunately, I've never managed to see a whole field in bloom before in person, but I think the texture and leaf hues are interesting in their own right.

 Holy mules ears, Batman:


Seed inventory

How do others store and organize their seeds? I keep mine in stored in this wooden tool carrier:

Everything from fava beans to Datura is stored together, mostly in paper bags but also (frequently enough that it bothers me) in plastic bags. I'm not likely to change my system. I'm a seed saver as well as a purchaser znd I'm reasonably attentive to labeling type, date, and origin of seeds I collect.

Now is the perfect time to go through the collection of native plant seeds and figure out how many more I need to get this year.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


With a rubble wall

I had popular songs from the 80s running through my head the other day, one of which I thought apropos of my wall building activities. You mean it's "rebel yell" not "rubble wall"? Ah well, I always preferred his earlier efforts.

I've had a much slower start than I wanted on gardening projects at the new house. I've been there 13 months and I got stymied pretty much at month 2 in an incident that I may go into later.  There's been some benefit to this, however. Since I've been living with the garden in an unremediated state I've had ample opportunity to prioritize and let the best ideas percolate to the top of my brain while dropping the overly ambitious, too costly, unfocused, or otherwise flawed ideas. Here's the first significant garden project that has percolated to the top through its urgency due to the coming winter rains and its conceptual simplicity - being less grandiose and more practical than, for example, replacing my front lawn.

There is a drainage problem in my side yard where several fruit trees are planted. This is a south-facing yard, but with the fence and neighbor's house providing shade, it's not unbearably bright and there seems to be ample reflected light for vegetables as well as the usual native plant suspects. However, the existing fruit trees aren't doing as well as one might hope, in part due to the fact that they are planted a slope between the neighbor's house and mine and you can't irrigate them, particularly with the existing shrub sprayers, without instantly getting abundant run off.

Here's what it looked like when I first moved in.  My house is at left and we're looking through the front gate to the back gate. There's three types of citrus (one of which produced last year - yummy mandarins, but none produced this year), peach (no eatable production, though raccoons or possums got a few), apricot (no production, ever), and pomegranate (the best producer and very tasty too).
Note the dry-stacked bricks actually set onto on the pathway. Don't do this.  The previous owner must have put them there in a vain attempt to retain water and soil soil that runs down the hill.  Copious agapanthus is a landscaping hallmark of the previous owner, somewhat reduced today and destined for great reduction.

Compounding the water issues are that the neighbor's paved side yard can only drain to my property, a small pitch of my roof drains to this same side yard onto the concrete walkway (visible at the far end of the path in the above photo), and that same paved walkway has been raised by roots which makes water pond against the side of my house. None of these are good, but the solution is straightforward: terrace the hill area and install a retaining wall to decrease the slope and allow water to percolate in. Widen the walk area to include space for soil drainage, break out and re-set the concrete to slope it away from my house, and direct roof drainage onto pervious surfaces where it will seep in.  Simple, right?

I needed to get started by removing the ineffective irrigation lines placed along the bottom of the slope where I will soon install a wooden retaining wall.  I was always in fear of breaking off the sprayers with a casual misstep as I worked in the yard or even walked in the dark down the path.  Plus, spraying up the hill with these old style shrub sprinklers was always such a pain and the run off was so copious that I never did it for fear of the waste. There's inexpensive shrub sprinkler retrofits available now that use much less water and apply it much more evenly.   I decided the irrigation could go at the top of the hill and I'd irrigate downward, salvaging and reusing the old irrigation with upgraded sprinkler heads -  I tried a Toro Matched Precipitation Rate (MPR) sprinkler head, which seems like one of the smarter new designs.  MP Rotator seems to be the Cadillac of new designs.  Oh, along the way I discovered not one but two defunct galvanized irrigation lines that I felt I needed to rip out.  Since they ran the length of the side yard, there's a lot of galvanized to recycle.

I pulled out the PVC line, made some minor repairs, rerouted the incoming water line, and buried it in a shallow grave^H^H^H^H^Htrench near the top of the slope. I don't know if this was a bad choice or not, but I decided that for ease of future repair or replacement the shallow trench could be covered by the rock rubble that I would use for the narrow top tier of my terrace.  I find rock aplenty on this property whenever I dig. Below, the shallow trench and rock rubble poised to make my retaining wall.

Natives can go out of harm's way and mostly out of the irrigation on the narrow upper tier.  With a rubble wall like this I was going for a look that was rustic and of this place, since this type of rock (Catalina Schist) is commonly found in my area and is widely used as building materials.

There's not much to it, when its all installed (below).

Next step: Build a redwood retaining wall at the bottom of the slope and figure out something to do with the bricks (there's not enough to build a retaining wall).  As a last resort, they are easy to give away on Craigslist.


Return of Fall!

We've had a long heat wave, but all signs are that it will break soon, and just in time for fall, my favorite season.  Fall officially starts on Sept 22 this year, the date of the autumnal equinox when there are 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.  However, today while driving over the top of Palos Verdes I encountered dense fog, to the point that I turned on the fog lights, slowed down, and made sure I was in my proper lane and had made the correct turns. 

Wikipedia says that "According to United States tradition, autumn runs from the day after Labor Day (i.e. the Tuesday following the first Monday of September) through Thanksgiving (i.e. the fourth Thursday in November), after which the holiday season that demarcates the unofficial beginning of winter begins." But I say that fall arrives when you can feel it in the air and see it in the plants. A look at the long term weather forecast shows higher than normal temperatures even at the 10-day mark, but now I can feel the beginnings of fall and it felt great!

Heat wave casualty

My mimulus (mimuli?) is doing what it should be doing - looking brown, but with a core of green. Barbara wrote something similar about a mimulus in the South Pasadena Nature Park, though hers is browner since it's both hotter and drier over there.  I killed one a while back that was in a pot, but these are in planters and I'm watching them carefully so as not to apply too much water.  I've applied a bit of water this summer, but I think we're in the home stretch and I'll be very sparing until the weather is much cooler.  If I were more dedicated I'd pull off the browned flowers, since that appears to be about half the total brown.   I have high hopes that they will look great this spring.
What looks like a near certain casualty is a Giant Chain Fern (now renamed Giant Chain Burn) that I planted in a pot near the front door.  I thought it would be more shielded from the sun than it was.  It ended up with several hours of bright direct and reflected light.  Too much.  The Yerba Buena in the same container is doing comparatively well, however.  I'll need to propagate some of that around the yard and find an upright grower to replace the GCF.


Summer snooze coming to an end

There's been an excess of hot weather here that has now mercifully come to a close.  My garden has suffered, since I've been focused elsewhere.  I'm regretting the slowdown, but for some years now I've felt that like a many California native plants I only come awake in the fall.  The blog has suffered too - I found two nearly month old comments that I felt shamed for not noticing before.  I thought I was using Google's smart comment filtering and that most would be approved automatically.  Apparently not.

The end of summer is always presaged by a regular event: Fall plant sales! An onslaught of advertisements arrive in my inbox for California native plant sales.  First in this year was High Country Gardens, which told me that I needed to buy my seed ASAP for fall planting.  Then one from The Payne Foundation - I didn't read it closely, but it might have been their regular monthly emailing.  Annies Annuals hit my inbox too - again a monthly mailing I think.  I like looking at their garden beauty shots.  Tree of Life nursery, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, and my local native plant group all have sales coming up.  I recommend all of them, but I won't be able to go to more than a few, so I'll pick and choose carefully.

From Connie Vadheim Roth came the most informative of the emails - a list of local sales dates, carefully compiled with links.  She has posted the same information at Mother Nature's Backyard blog, but it's not immediately obvious where to click.  Click here for the Fall Plant Sale list on MNBB. I've replicated the list below, mostly so that I can look at it.


Glow worms!

I spent a delightful week in the local mountains leading a generally well-behaved group of Scouts at Camp Tahquitz.  One of the Scouts noticed a spot of light near the trail as we hiked back from a campfire in the dark (ah, the virtues of hiking in the dark!).  It turns out that they are glow worms (a beetle), most likely California Pink Glowworms (Microphotus angustus)!  I was so pleased to find this cousin of the firefly that I hadn't even dreamed of, and right in our back yard.

A little bit of online searching turned up many better photographs than mine as well as more authoritative information.  It's hard to believe that that the food habits of this creature are still unknown: What an opportunity for a budding biologist.  What I recall from the reading I did is that the glowing ones are actually mature females.  The males fly about and don't glow, even though they are still called glow worms.


Stylomecon redux

Long ago I posted about Wind Poppies (Stylonecon genus) and how I would update my reader on how they had done in the garden. Finally, the answer you have been waiting for is, pretty well.

Here's one in the foreground with newly planted mimulus and California poppy (coastal variety, which I recommend whole heartedly over the inland variety) in the background.

Stylomecon in pots seemed to fare better, but I have only small number statistics. I think it due to the tailored drainage and water that I could give them in pots.

They seem to need quite well drained soil, so I'd guess that most garden beds are too moist. The flowers are prolific and bright, however they attach to the ground with a fragile tap root that can easily break.

I liked this plant and collected seeds for next year. Hopefully I can get it together and turn my California bland garden into a California grand garden.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone