Thimble berry awakes

When I purchased this plant at the Payne Foundation, they had the foresight to anticipate questions about its health. A prominent sign next to the brown nubs sticking put of the pot said, "dormant" so that no one was confused. It's showing first leaves now in a part shade area beneath the pomegranate tree.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


April 15th Payne Foundation Garden Tour

Juli and I had an unexpected schedule change that let us go on the Payne Foundation Garden Tour last Sunday. The Payne Foundation has made an effort to cluster the geographically dispersed (across the Greater LA area) gardens: Saturday's tour was more inland and Sunday's more coastal. Despite the clustering, getting from one garden to the next is still a bit of a chore and next year I may try the Mar Vista Garden Green Garden Showcase which appears walkable, at least in parts, though not expressly focused on native plants.

I tried to target the older, more established gardens on Sunday's tour, since I wanted a sense of how a native garden can mature. We stopped at a homeowner designed garden in Torrance first. There were a few things that I liked.

I liked the Carex Pansa lawn in the shade of  this Chinese Elm.  Foreground are flower stalks of  Heuchera (Coral Bells) 'Wendy', which proved to be the most popular Heuchera selection that I saw all day.  In fact, I can only remember one or two other selections.  Next year: Heuchera 'Wendy' backlash!
The other thing that our first stop had to inspire my native plant interests were these two Lavatera 'Purissima' (Purissima Tree Mallow) that were in pots.  They had a bonsai sort of look that I found appealing.  It seems that Lavatera 'Black Heart', a smaller hybrid, might also be good in a pot like this.

The Torrance house had plentiful use of non-native but water-conserving plants such as those shown below that I thought a striking combination.  Not that it wasn't delightful, but I had hoped to see more natives.

A stop later in the day showed good use of this Gilia tricolor. We liked its look here and at several other locations on the tour.

But again, the landscape combined native and non-native plants and I wished for more natives.  I'm so demanding! Here we can see a rather sprawling lavender cluster at the right of the path and bright green leaves of a jasmine all along the sidewalk.
Another house had a front yard in attractive, but studied disarray that contrasted with its smaller and rather architectural back yard, shown below. I liked the back yard better, but I think that was because the front yard's plants were not mature yet.  The owner changes up the short lived perennials frequently and one older Manzanita anchors the otherwise transient collection. In the back, I think the Palo Verde tree (I assume it's Cercidium floridum) was just the right choice to link the courtyard between the two buildings. In front I overheard the owner talking about using weed block fabric under his DG mulch. At a couple other houses I heard similar comments about using weed block fabric. There's a prevailing feeling I've had from the greater native plant community that "real native gardeners don't use weed block" and I believe it to be true, mostly because of my experience with some that a previous owner installed at my old house. How odd to hear its virtues extolled multiple times on this tour..

My favorite houses were located inland in a designated historical district that I was previously unaware of called Oxford Square near Crenshaw and Olympic.  I didn't take pictures of the most peaceful garden, but I did take photos of the most striking garden.  This garden comprised two houses side by side (same owner, one under renovation to become a rental with the main house planning to take a big chunk of the rental's back yard.  It'll be an even more wonderfuller yard when complete.)  The owner has landscaped the main house garden in what he described as "California Apocalyptica" - a term I could find nowhere else, but it's said to be what you might get when people disappear and only industrial and technological remnants remain among the returning natives (provided the weedy grasses and shit plants don't overwhelm and someone with well-developed garden sensibilities takes care of the place).  Pictures below are of this garden.

What I liked most about this garden was the way that plants intermingled with each other and with the garden structure, particularly in front where most of the industrial ephemera is sited.


Rain 0.99" in the last week; 8.46" total

Almost an inch of rain last week with season total approaching 9" in my back yard this season would seem like nearly normal rainfall if one were merely counting inches.  (A quick Google says not quite - my zip code has 15" on average).  However, we historically get our rain mostly in February, but this February was uncommonly dry. Getting rain out of cycle like this does put the late winter and spring flower bloom a bit off.

The LA Times was writing about the delayed wildflower bloom back in March (A dry season is expected for wildflowers in Southern California).  I think that wildflowers won't do much "catching up" either - the days are now too warm and long for the seeds that failed to start growing in January and February to start.

0.42" 10 April (0.25" at the San Pedro annex)
0.57" 13 April

0.99" total in the last week

Apparently I speculated in error above.

Recent rains are encouraging dormant poppies at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to come out and show off their colors. Fiddleneck (Amsinckia sp.), goldfields (Lasthenia gracilis), Mojave suncups (Camissonia sp.), and forget-me-nots (Cryptantha sp.) are starting to bloom here and there. Grape soda lupines (Lupinus excubitus) are still putting on a nice show too. The best hiking route at this time is going up the Tehachapi Vista Point trail and back along the South Poppy Loop Trail. Just over the crest at the top, a nice patch of poppies can be seen on the south-facing slope. Another good spot to visit is Kitanemuk Vista Point, where a lovely patch of purple lacy phacelia (Phacelia sp.) can be seen.

and more according to The Payne Foundation wildflower report.

- Posted at great expense from my iPhone


Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase

Ellen sent me a link reminding me of the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase on April 21st. On my calendar this event is often overshadowed by the Payne Foundation Garden Tour, however, I've heard good reports from the Mar Vista tour and much of it looks to be walkable from site to site, an advantage over the Payne Foundation tour.

The Mar Vista Community Council invites you to participate in the FREE fourth annual Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase - a citywide Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 21st, 2012 from 10 am to 4pm. See the gardens on the tour hereWe have 50 NEW gardens this year! Use the  labels on the side bar to preview the gardens by areas of special interest.

  Regardless of whether you go or not, the tour web sites have an abundance of inspiring pictures, so I recommed you check them out.



My experiment with Annies Annuals has borne fruit, err flowers.  Recall that I ordered six Stylomecon heterophylla from Annies, that five arrived intact, and a replacement sixth was sped on its way to me after a quick phone call to Annies.  They all made it into various pots or garden sites and here's the first of them blooming in Juli's garden.

They seem to flower reasonably prolifically. That's one surviving plant of two that I planted in Juli's front rose garden and you can see 8 or so flowers with another 8 or more on the way.. The other Sytlomencon planted nearby died of unknown causes, but I suspect that the soil doesn't drain nearly well enough in this garden. All of the potted plants in well-draining soil are doing quite well so far.

Roots gone bad

Check out this neat self-girdling feature that I uncovered in two of three old Eugenia plants that I took out today.

Above is a photo of one of the former Eugenia hedge/shrub/small tree/bad topiary  (installed by a previous owner) that I had flush cut with the ground in an uncontrolled spasm of bad tree and shrub removal back in November.  It was then covered with 12" of mulch.  Unfortunately, they were crown sprouting and the stumps would have been located nearly right where I want to put my three brand new Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud trees).  So out they came.

This is what plants look like that have spent too much time in a container prior to planting.  The roots circle the inside of the container and unless teased out straight prior to planting, they won't automatically straighten after planting.  Avoid plants who's roots obviously circle their container: They will continue to grow in circles which contributes to poor plant health and even death, if the roots effectively girdle one another.


Last chance native planting

March 31 wasn't really the last chance to plant natives California plants in my garden, but The Payne Foundation's Poppy Day coincided with a rare free weekend and a growing realization that I had lost the battle to plant in the favorable fall to winter time frame, so I went with a determined will and a very specific shopping list: Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbud tree, 3 needed) and Vitus 'Roger's Red' (Roger's Red grape, 1 needed).  I felt that these two would be sufficiently commonplace that there would be scads available and I certainly didn't want to bite off more than I could chew.  Not so much.  Vitus Roger's Red is available much more commonly in fall; only a couple were available that day, and they were reportedly scooped up by a savvy someone who arrived as the gates opened, two hours before I arrived.  However, Cercis was available and I picked up 3 1 gal plants per plan.  Along the way, I picked up a 1 gal Adiantum capillus-veneris 'Banksianum' (Maidenhair fern), 3 1 gal Artemisia californica 'Canyon Grey' (A low growing California Sagebrush selection), 3 1 gal Iris 'Pacific Coast Hybrid' for Juli's yard. Why not? After all, they were on offer at 15% off for Foundation members. How's that old expression go? Don't buy more natives than you can easily plant in weekend?

Leaving the Payne Foundation with my unintentional bounty, I decided to try my Roger's Red luck at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's West LA outpost, the Grow Native Nursery. I found something unexpectedly red when I got there, but it wasn't Roger's Red. It was Tomato Mania, selling tens of different and healthy-looking 4" tomato starts. Holy Ketchup, Batman. I ended up with 5 4" tomato plants as well as three more Heuchera maxima (Island Coral Bells) to complement the ones flourishing in my north side yard already. I also swooped down on three each 4" Eschscholzia californica maritima (Coastal California Poppy - a more robust plant than the inland variety and most easily distinguished by the flower's color variation as opposed to the solid orange of the inland variety) and on three Mimulus (Monkeyflower) 'Eleanor' hybrids. And why not, since members got a 10% discount? Still no Roger's Red, however, except some poor looking 5 gal specimens at the absurd price of $32. I had to pass on the whole Roger's Red concept until fall. This was completely in line with my tight spending control and philosophy of not biting off more than I could chew.

Since I'd planned only to purchase three plants, I hadn't come prepared with a covered bin to place the plants in and they all ended up in the small cab of my truck to avoid wind buffeting and the hockey puck effect if placed loose in the bed.

I spent the rest of the day planting, but I didn't get all the natives installed. With warming weather, I'm facing a deadline to get them in the ground and the increased chance of early mortality if they don't make it gracefully into and through summer. Fortunately, Wednesday and Saturday have showers in the forecast - that's my signal to bring on the water on those days even if we don't get lots of rain.

Here's some planting that I did get done.

After, alternating poppies and Mimulus:
Mimulus 'Eleanor'. I wish all my phone camera shots of flowers turned out this good.
Thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) also managed to make it into my car and was planted in a likely spot on the south side of my house in partial shade. I'm hoping for a truly wild tasting berry, but I'm not sure if my growing conditions are optimum or if it will produce well. We'll see. Hopefully I will be biting on more than I can chew with this plant.