Monday, August 30, 2010
Last October, Country Mouse delighted us all with a post about the first rains. "Today dawned pure and clean and lovely," she said, and I remember thinking to myself: "Ah, first rains, maybe that's the best time in the garden. The fresh green, the clear air, crisp fall air."
But then, not too long after the first rains, the garden is greening and the bird baths are starting to get crowded with all the migratory birds stopping for a rest or staying for winter vacation. And soon, the different Arctostaphylos species start to bloom. Here an especially attractive photo posted by Country Mouse in January.
But those first blossoms are only the beginning of the sequence of spring-bloomers. It starts with the checkerbloom, which really keeps going all winter.
In February, the different species of Ribes open their beautiful blossoms, attracting the first of the pollinators on warm days.
The big show begins in April and May, in time for the garden tour. We all know Carol at May Dreams Gardens dreams all year of May, her most favorite time in the garden. And it really is amazing to see the abundance of beautiful annuals such as Gilia...
...and California poppies...
Not to forget the different bulbs such as the Triteleia and Calochortus. And the monkey flowers and ceanothus, and...
But just when I'm sure this is my favorite season, June and July come. It get warmer, the lizards are everywhere, and the clarkias knock themselves out with amazing displays of color.
Maybe that's my favorite time? Well, but then just a few weeks later, the garden becomes more peaceful, and I can lie in my hammock on warm Sundays, while only a few spots of color liven up the symphony of greens, grays, and golds.
And now, we've almost come full circle. Yes, the first rains are still at least a month away. But the days have gotten shorter, the light has changed, and the California fuchsia is blooming, luring small crowds of hummingbirds into the garden.
As I sit with a cup of tea, thinking of the bulbs to buy this fall, and a few additions and replacements to the garden, I realize I just don't know. Maybe this is my favorite time, the promise of rain and the vision of the spring garden. Or maybe I really like all the seasons, and feel so fortunate to enjoy the different flowers and garden visitors throughout the year.
How about you?
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Of course, I was thrilled to be back in the garden after a 5 week absence. The Stipa gigantea (giant feather grass) was beautiful as a focal point. The Ceanothus (wild lilac) was much greener than the year before, and the Eriogonum and Agapanthus were blooming happily.
Mr. Mouse had diligently watered the plants in the containers according to the schedule I had prepared, and the ferns and other plants were looking lush.
But I was just a little worried when I saw the Gardenia. Why did it have so many yellow leaves?
So, the day after my return, I walked up to the irrigation controller to up the time a little bit (imagine ominous music in the background as I walk toward the controller).
I was dismayed to find that a blank screen stared back at me. I checked the GFI, and could not bring it back to life. Finally, Mr. Mouse and I found that the fuse had been flipped or blown by the contractors who are currently doing our deep energy remodel (see Mr. Mouse's blog, Net Zero Life, for a blow by blow account of the decision making, the progress, and what we learn).
After we'd flipped the fuse, the controller came back online. I reset the date -- the controller told me the fuse had blown July 29, so the garden had not been watered for over 3 weeks. I then ran each station for an hour while taking a closer look around the garden to assess the damage.
This Western Sword Fern is clearly on the brink.
And the redwood habitat is a little crispy around the edges.
But a little further into the shade, the redwood sorrel, ferns, and wild ginger actually look just fine.
And even the Rhododendron, in part shade, survived the surprising drought quite well.
In the sunnier parts of the garden, the California native Coyote brush looks great with a Sedum, and some California Fuchsia, though the Japanese maple on the left is crispy around the edges.
And this Festuca Californica is actually suprisingly green in part shade.
Meanwhile, the Epilobium (California Fuchsia) is a constant source of fighting amongst the hummingbirds, and a nice shot of color in the late summer garden.
So, what did I learn from this? Maybe two things: First, it does appear that watering less frequently and more deeply works. I tend to be very nervous about watering only once a week, yet the plants did just fine. I'm planning to reprogram the controller to water less frequently (though the same amount).
And second: If you go away from the garden for a stretch, ask your garden sitter to check the controller is on (and hope for a cool summer if catastrophe strikes).
Friday, August 27, 2010
Oh wow! Seeds sprouting already! I sowed these on Sunday and Thursday I noticed the Clarkias are already germinating! Some look like they should have been opened to the light a couple days ago. I have now followed Marjorie Schmidt's advice and raised the glass (well, polycarbonate) covering a few inches and removed the newspaper, just for those that are sprouting. The rest have yet to show.
I have to confess that when I planted all these different seeds on Sunday I misremembered the guidelines for annuals. You're supposed to sow them in late October! But we'll see what happens. I did save some seeds for a later sowing, after I discovered my mistake. These are local wild clarkias and I am VERY excited!
I'm used to these things being Very Difficult - so maybe I make things difficult for myself. For example, I spent a day pounding on ceanothus nutlets to get the seeds out for stratification and hopefully germination - Curbstone Valley Farm commented that their ceanothus seeds pop all over their deck! I should just have waited till late August.
And then - we had such a hot couple of days, 105 in the shade, though we're back to cool drizzly fog in the mornings and I love it. I think the burst of heat made everything pop. Including the madrone bark!
Sure enough - the Ceanothus thyrsiflorus has cast its seeds to the ground in myriads of shiny black balls.
I collected a nice handful from the roadside to stratify along with the others, and we'll see if there's a difference in the results.
I love experiments!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Yes, it was great to spend time in Boulder. We had a real summer, I enjoyed the many bike paths (filled the gas tank once in 6 weeks), and I learned a lot. But in the back of my mind, I was homesick for my garden. It was just a little too long.
So I was delighted to find that the miserably cool weather here in California -- the coldest summer in 39 years -- has left the garden looking green and happy. The California Fuchsia was blooming when I arrived, and even the Agapanthus (shown in the first photo) still looks pretty good.
The wine barrel is a little overgrown -- Eriogonum fasciulatum does seem to find this the perfect spot. But the water lilies are doing well and were blooming almost daily. This despite a vicious attach by a racoon (or two, or three), who broke the solar fountain spout and tried to get at the lily bulbs and the goldfish. Fortunately, the pot was too heavy and the fish were too cautious. Mr Mouse covered the barrel with a plywood circle secured with shock cords every night, and even the day after this photo was taken, a new blossom opened up.
The back garden was a symphony in gray and green, with the bright orange dots of the poppies (still closed when the picture was taken) and the inviting red trumpets of the California Fuchsia sprinkled throughout.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I have two shoeboxes filled with envelopes of seeds and fruits that I haven't yet cleaned. Today I cleaned and sowed some of them:
Heuchera micrantha, Alum root
Eriophyllum confertiflorum, Golden yarrow
Aquilegia formosa, Western Columbine (fruits and seeds shown above)
Rubus parviflorus, Thimbleberry
Clarkia amoena, Farewell to spring (maybe - some kind of clarkia that grows locally through June - July)
It may not be exactly the right time, but this year is so different from ordinary years, I thought I'd just have a bash anyway.
I checked my Seed Propagation of Native California Plants, by Dara Emery, and none of the above need special treatment.
I checked my Growing California Native Plants, by Marjorie G. Schmidt, who recommended putting the containers of seeds in something that you can water from below, then covering the top with glass and newspaper till the seeds germinate, then removing the newspaper and raising the glass, protecting the seeds from afternoon sun, till they are ready to transplant.
So I took two seed trays and sandwiched a sheet of plastic between them, and filled them with three inch pots. Then I repeated that procedure:
I was lazy about the mix - it should have been a nice fine mix but I used the last batch I had made up, which contains great boulders (compared to the seeds) of perlite. Oh well, they will have to be tough. It's about 1/3 perlite, 1/3 vermiculite and 1/3 peat, with too much osmocote fertilizer. I hope they all like their rich diet.
I sprinkled the seeds thinly in the pots, and covered them lightly with sifted peat. A little deeper for the iris which have chunky seeds, nice and hard and ready. The clarkia seeds were also nice and ripe, and the thimbleberry required only an hour of soaking then some smooshing in a sieve to get the seeds separated from the fruit. I was very happy with the quality of the seeds. The heuchera seeds are like sand, so tiny, and black.
I didn't have glass for a covering but Wood Rat found some bits of polycarbonate.
Here's the final result:
I weighed the newspaper down with sundry objects de ne pas art. I might find strips of wood that would be better. It's in a shady spot right now but I might move it where it'll get more indirect bright light.
Good luck little seeds!
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Two weekends ago, another hike in the Mountains near Boulder to Lake Isabelle. By now, the wildflowers were past their peak, but still plentiful. I was glad the ranger had told me to turn a left at the bridge and hike around the left side of Long Lake (above) where views like this delighted the hiker.
And there was so much more.
Cinquefoil, pretty in the morning light.
And masses of late sunflowers along the path.
And along the creek.
Slowly the landscape changed as I climbed higher; above, Castilleja with a patch of snow in the background.
And here from close up (they were more orange, the camera sometimes lies).
The views more and more spectacular, the last pines, then rocks and snow.
A waterfall, strong with the last of the melting snow.
At the same time, exposed areas on western slopes were dry, but even here, tiny succulents found a foothold.
And small thistles somehow surviving in this harsh environment.
I returned in the early afternoon, wildflowers still stunning even if the light was more harsh at this altitude.
But in half-shade, treasures such as this mushroom could still be found. I was sad to leave the mountain, but happy to have seen such beauty (and to leave my much-coveted parking spot to someone else).