Recent rains total 4.81" so far

Today it's a bit wet out - we'll see if we get additional measurable moisture.

Recent rains have brought us a lot of water, particularly compared to last year's drought.  In my backyard with its recently removed spa and concrete decking plus addition of replacement soil, the back yard is a mud pit.  However, it seems to infiltrate rain water reasonably well due to the sandy nature of the soil.  Still, I don't want to walk on it, since I'll track mud everywhere.  Note to self: Move the rain gauge closer to the house to avoid the mud trek and improve my data hygiene on the weather station.

This year, with one previous storm in October dropping 0.9" and the storms noted below we now have 4.81".  Last water-year I measured 4.24" total, for the entire season.

11/22 0.5" rain. (This is a bit of a guess.  The rain gauge in the yard read 5.5"!  Oops - I guess I got a little wild with the hose or someone is punking me.  My weather station read-out was unplugged since forever and it didn't have battery backup, so it was useless.  Batteries now installed!) My report of 0.5" comes from a couple nearby weather stations.

11/29/18 1.31" (I didn't collect the number until several days after the event, and at that time I booked 1.30".  Evaporation seems to be minimal, however, since the newly revived weather station on the roof reported 1.31")

12/7/2018 3.0" on the rain gauge.


Comment on LA Times article "Deadly California fires prompt bold thinking about prevention: Shelters, strict zoning, buyouts"

Comment on the LA Times, "Deadly California fires prompt bold thinking about prevention: Shelters, strict zoning, buyouts"

The answer isn't one thing, but rather all of the above, and the article does a pretty good job of highlighting actions that the state could take: Suggesting we rethink and update our approach to urban planning and fire-hardening of structures as well as location and siting of structures. There are plenty of contributors that don't receive mention: There's the now well-known idea that we are grappling with a legacy of lands management that have made our forests susceptible to recurring high-intensity fires. Also not mentioned are invasive grasses that contribute to fuel loading and spread of fire. Nor is air pollution noted, which can increase the growth of invasive and fire-prone plant species through dry-fall of nitrogen-containing pollutants from the air. But those aren't really the point of the article, either.

What we can address is local (state wide) standards. The recurring cost of lives and property lost that is otherwise avoidable will make such an effort worth while, despite higher up-front costs. We shouldn't just rebuild without thought. After all, isnt't a definition of insanity doing the same thing again and again while expecting a different outcome?

However, as the article notes, state flow-down of minimum standards for emergency egress, materials, design, and land use is bound to come up against fierce opposition from local planning advocates. That's a natural reaction, but the smarter thing to do is to change our approach in the face of new information.


Purchase from TPF

I took advantage of some sale plants and the tax was about covered by my member discount, so I was out the door for $118.26

Carey pansa flat of 50 plugs $72
Asclepias fascicularis 4" 2 for $9
Bouteloua gracillis 4" 5 for $22.50
Allium unifolium 4" 3 for $4.50


Summer purchases and plantings from TPF and Annie's Annuals

We made some native plant purchases on 7/21/18 at the Theodore Payne Foundation (and had to hold them on the shady side of the house for several weeks due to hot weather) and I made some additional purchases at Annie's Annuals on 8/16/18 (arrived 8/21).

Corethrogyne filanginifolia - Silver carpet sand aster. I noted this good looking ground cover in use at several nearby properties when on the 2018 Payne Foundation garden tour. It worked best as sidewalk or pathway edging. Formerly known as Lessingia filaginifolia 'Silver Carpet' and still maintained under that name on TPF web site (and presumably others). We purchased two 1 gal. containers for $9 each.

I was particularly pleased to work with Juli on a native grass experiment.  We went "bigish" with 50 plugs of Carex pansa to test as a turf substitute and see how it does. I saw C. pansa on the Payne Foundation tour at nearby Mother Nature's backyard in Gardena where it is used for a lawn-like meadow effect and although TPF didn't recommend it based on my description of our locale (USDA Zone 11a, sandy soil, full sun) I think the climate is similar enough to Gardena that it's worth a shot.  If it doesn't work out on our pathway, we can move what remains to another location.   

Both the Corethrogyne and Carex were planted out in late August (perhaps 8/22).  Summer planting isn't ideal, but I used the practice of filling the planting holes with water, allowing it to drain, and then planting.  Subsequent watering has been by soaker hose for deep watering and shower-end hose sprayer in between the deep waterings.  Despite the adverse time of year for planting, the Carex seems to be establishing, with new growth showing just a week or two later and the Corethrogyne hasn't shown signs of early death.  Both are aided by the cooler and foggy mornings we've had between late August and now (early Sept).  Happily, the same weather is forecast for the next 10 days. 

Second thoughts: Based on the information I found later (noted below) we might have been better off with Carex praegracillis, since the implication is that C. praegracillis is better adapted to low moisure. TPF web site contradicts the message I took from the Greenlee quote and says that C. praegracillis requires moist soil. Our soil is sandy, and not particularly moist unless irrigated.

About Carex pansa John Greenlee says, "This creeping evergreen native western American sedge is perhaps the best and most widely used ground cover grass to use a lawn substitute and for meadow making. California meadow sedge is not a true grass, but rather a close cousin and member of the Cyperaceae family. It has dark green glossy foliage on slowly creeping stems that form a lawn-like colony, with far less mowing than any conventional lawn. It is our go-to grass for natural lawns and meadows. Originally found in nature from Baja to British Colombia, much of its natural habitat no longer exists. Usually found in the coastal strand, in prairies, and colonies near water, usually in moist sandy soils. In nature it follows riparian corridors from the beach inland until it integrates and is replaced by its nearly identical cousin Carex praegracilis."

Annie's Annuals sent the following items, which arrived on 8/21 packed tightly into a durable shipping box while I was away on travel.

Item ID Product Name Quantity Unit Price Total
2983 Aquilegia eximia "Serpentine Columbine" 2  @ $10.95
3993 Polystichum munitum "Western Sword Fern" 1 @ $8.95
906 Salvia apiana "White Sage" 1 @ $9.95

Again, the plants went into storage on the shady side of the house, and there the story might have ended except that last night I was reminded that they were there.  Except for the Salvia, they were all in fine fettle, since I had watered them from time to time between episodes of forgetfulness.  I don't know if the Salvia suffered a little trauma to its tallest stalk or it was in the early stages of a fungal episode, but I quickly planted the little guy in some sandy soil on a slope where it will get abundant sun.  I've lost these plants before, and I might lose this one.  The others will need to wait until later in the week.  I have them planned for pots, until a garden location inspires me.


Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf

Juli and I went to see Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf.  I was aware of his garden design philosophy prior to seeing the movie and Juli was not.  The picture below shows him in one of his gardens and captures the essence of his design philosphy.  Simplistically stated, he gardens for year-round interest and therefore pays close attention to form and out-of-bloom-season performance of the plants he uses. 
This is something that native plant gardeners have to cultivate within themselves too: both an awareness of out-of-season look and an appreciation for it.


Bug house has new occupants

The filled holes are about 1/8” in diameter. Note that the worst house in the neighborhood with the big crack has been avoided. 

Solitary bees or wasps may be the occupants. 


0.1" rain; 4.25" total for the season

4/19/2018 0.1" rain (gauge)
0.11" weather station

The rain gauge and the weather station seem to be synced back up again.  Perhaps it really was the power outage that threw the station off.

In any case, we are up to 4.25" for the season and it looks like that's about it.  This isn't an all-time low rainfall, but it's definitely on the lower end of the scale.


Purchases from Matilija Nursery

Back in mid december I made the following purchases from Matilija Nursery.  I hadn't been before, and I had a good time talking with the owner, Bob.  He was particularly impressed that I made the longish drive from home.  I managed to combine it with a trip to the Payne Foundation and a tasty rib lunch, so it wasn't too much of a chore for me.

Heuchera maxima (Island coral bells) - 5x 1gal for the front yard next to the driveway.
Iris 'Wilder Than Ever' - 5x 1gal also for the front yard next to the driveway.  I have a swath of 'Canyon Snow' and a swath of these now.  I hope that's a good plan - I was trying for something more orderly than random irises.  It doesn't look like they will bloom this year, but they do seem healthy. Planting out waited a month or so on the Bob's recommendation because the Iris weren't quite well-rooted enough when I purchased them.  Now, as I write in April, they seem to all made it past the crucial first month or so despite major garden soil excavations from the local skunks or possums (looking for grubs).

Monardella odoratissima (Mountain monardella) - 1x 5gal. This is A wonderfully strong and wild-smelling mint.  According to CalFlora there are two observations in Los Angeles County; one is identified as M. glauca, one as M. odoratissima.  There are three subspecies: Monardella odoratissima ssp. glauca, Monardella odoratissima ssp. odoratissima, Monardella odoratissima ssp. pallida.  I'm not sure which one this is.  Come by some time and take a smell - it's marvelous.  I have it atop a sandy berm in my back yard near a path so that passersby can reach out and get the smell on their hands.

Sisyrinchium bellum (Blue-eyed grass) - 4x1gal. There are a number of selections of this plant in teh plant trade - often cute dwarf varieties. I've fallen for their cuteness many times.  However, I've also had consistent bad luck with the cute ones lasting in my garden.  I think they require more water and shade than I can give.  I have had good luck with the regular species, so these augment some existing plants.  I had one volunteer this year as well, so perhaps with a critical mass of S. bellum I will have a self-sustaining colony. 


0.70" of rain; 4.15" total this season

Late March storms are bringing us up in rainfall and the weather station needs some fixin'. 

The weather station clearly wasn't making reasonable measurements in this storm, so I'm going back to the future and using the rain gauge measurements.  I will have to climb up and wash out the weather station - its performance suggests that it could be plugged. 

Previously I had 3.45" measured with rain gauge, and with this late March storm we now have 4.15".

As I write (~2 weeks after this March rain) we have a 10-20% chance of rain this weekend, so perhaps I will be able to add some more to the season.

 0.10" from rain gauge
 0.00 from weather station

 0.50" from rain gauge
 0.09" from weather station - power failure issue?

 0.10" on rain gauge


Rainfall total 3.45", but it could be 3.359". This is a two watch problem.

I have a weather station now, mounted up on the roof, with a wireless remote readout down in the comfort of the home.  It was a gift from Juli - Thanks hon!  I'm in the midst of figuring out how it's calibrated against my tried and true rain gauge. 

Here's the three first trials, broken down by storm:

Weather station 3/10: 0.39" + 3/11 (thus far) 0.18" = 0.57"
Rain gauge 0.69"

Weather station 3/14: 0.21" + 3/15: 0.12 = 0.33"
Rain gauge 3/16 0.3" (upon return from trip, so perhaps evaporation explains the difference)

Weather station 3/17: 0.009"
Rain gauge 3/17: 0.01"

That 3/10 storm didn't have close agreement, which was weird given the much closer tracking of the following two.  I checked for operator error a couple times, but without any mistakes found and I don't recall an errant jet of water from the hose.

This puts my backyard rainfall at 3.359" (weather station) of 3.45" (rain gauge) which brings to mind a favorite saying of mine, "Only the man with two watches doesn't know what time it is."


Arrived from Annie’s today

Houston and Juli gave me a gift card to Annie's Annuals a while back and today arrived...

1 Coreopsis gigantea (to bring to 3 the number in my garden). These look like Dr. Seuss daisys - they have such a loopy appearance in bloom. 

2 Deschampsia caespitosa (Tufted Hair Grass) because I want to see how it does and learn a bit about native grasses.  Usually I research the crap out of the plants I desire before purchase, but I see with a backward lens that this grass probably requires more water than I will willingly supply and that Calflora doesn't have any observations locally.  What is doing well is Nasella pulchra, which has naturalized on my hillside below the Ceanothus.  I do note that in an otherwise near-grassless yard that the dogs like to munch D. caespitosa.  Note: an alternate spelling is cespitosa

3 Eriophyllum confertiflorum - yellow yarrow, though it's not really a yarrow.

I got them all planted out last weekend, so I'm feeling good.

Brent - via iPhone


0.36" rain; 2.45" season total

2/27/18  0.1" (PM)
3/3/18 0.33"
3/4/18 0.02"

The state is breathing a sign of relief with this latest storm which brought high snowfalls (for a single storm) to the Sierra.  Still, we are far under average.


Rain 0.20"; rainfall total 2.09"

I recorded 1.78" of rain since January.  This makes 2.09" of rain.  That's not a lot of rain, though it's more than I remembered before I tallied up my notes today. 

We are lucky to have more on the way later this week according to recent weather reports.

1-9-2018 1.0"
1-9-2019 0.45"
1-13-2018 0.02"
2/13/2018 0.10"
2/14/2018 0.01"
2/27/2018 0.20"