Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Views of August (Town Mouse)

When I recently posted photos of the garden, my good friend J. who lives in Florida and sees the garden rarely remarked that she didn't remember the plants in the photo. "Oh, I have a blog," I thought. "Surely I have photos of the same areas during other seasons." Guess what, I had interesting opinion posts, fascinating posts about Yosemite and Tassajara. I had Garden Blogger's Bloom Day posts with striking close-ups of plants - but where was the garden?

To remedy the problem, I've decided on a new project. Every first of the month, I'll post the same views of the gardens, and will briefly highlight the plants that star that month. Click the images to actually see something. Maybe we can even make it a meme, I'll add a Mr. Linky widget next time.

Above we have the front garden view. The star, in the front, is Eriogonum arborescens, one of the native buckwheats. The low-growing plant with the greyish leaves is Salvia leucophylla 'Pt Sal Spreader', and the bright green low-growing plant is a coyote brush ('Twin Peaks II').

Moving in a little closer, we can see Epilobium canum (California fuchsia), enlivening the front garden with hummingbirds. And to the left of the table, Eriogonum fasciculatum, the local narrow-leaf buckwheat. Considering I pretty much don't water the front at all, that's not a bad display.

In the back, the early morning sunroom view shows the second crop of California poppies, blossoms still closed, and Salvia clevlandii 'Alan Chickering' in the back, almost ready for pruning. Here's a close-up of the poppies, with some just-finished lavender blossoms and the dried seedhead of a hummingbird sage.

The view of the hammock is a little more lively. Festuca Californica, the native grass, harmonizes pleasantly with the Epilobium (California fuchsia) I planted here. And behind that, the last purple blossoms of Monardella villosa (Coyote mint).

Here's a close up. It's clear why hummingbirds like this plant...

Turning a little more, we have a view of the little bridge where the junco nested in the spring. Right now, not too much is going on though the greyish mound of the California fuchsia promises an impressive crop of blossoms in a few weeks.

In the very right, the soap plant has just finished blooming; I showed some photos of that right after July 4th, here's a repeat of just one.

And in the background, the stars of the summer garden, my Agapanthus. Ms. Country Mouse and I do not agree about this plant. I love it and would find my summer garden without it quite boring, while she has completely eradicated it from her garden. Sometimes beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Finally, a wide view of the side garden. Here we have Eriogonum grande rubescens, another buckwheat, the South African succulents, and a few more Eriogonum arborescens. In the background, through the gate, are the peach trees. I'm just eating the last of the peaches and they were delicious.

That's the tour for today. You're invited to post your own August view, or wait until September to join. I'm  already looking forward to Ms. Country Mouse's views and I'm curious what we'll see over the next year.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Advance Notice: Pool Conversion Progress

We had a meeting with Paul Kephart of Rana Creek yesterday about converting our chemical pool to a natural pool, and I wrote up a detailed post about it this morning. But I included some brainstorming sketches Paul did, and want to get his permission before posting them (or not).

Suffice to say: it was a great meeting and we are moving forward - one step at a time.

Paul did say we could use all local indigenous natives in the pool regeneration zone! That has gotten me totally jazzed!

more anon...

I'm off to continue ripping weeds out of the chaparral zone before they set seed.

In the meanwhile if you're looking for an actual post - do check out Town Mouse's last one.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Bones of the Garden in Summer-Dry Climates

On a recent hike, I clearly saw that summer has truly arrived. It wasn't even all that hot, but I found myself walking on a carpet of red and yellow Madrone leaves. A little further on, the beautiful view included stands of California buckeye (on the right in the photo), which had gone summer dormant.

"You've got to love brown," is supposedly a motto of the true Californa gardener. But I beg to differ. For me, a mix of (not very much) brown and (mostly) colors is essential in the garden. Gardens are meant to rest the eye, to delight the visitor, and dead-looking twigs just don't do it for me.

Summer is the best time to consider the design choices that were made in a garden. Summer shows off the bones of the garden; it's a great time to decide what to remove or replant in the fall.

Sure, many plants go summer dormant in the Town Mouse garden. My own Madrone skillfully ditched all the diseased leaves it had from an unusually wet winter.

On the sages and Lepichina fragans (pitcher sage) the large green leaves turn yellow and drop, and the smaller, hairier, greyer leaves appear.

Here's a close-up. I always think this is very cool. Wish I could shed the holiday pounds as easily as these plants shed their leaves...

Taking a wider view, I'm starting to have some questions. Clearly, planting the two Salvia mellifera 'Shirley's Creeper' along the walkway to the house and planting a monkeyflower in the middle wasn't a smart choice. Sure, it looked great in spring. But all three go summer dormant and it's just a sea of sickly-looking plants as you walk to the front door.

I'm thinking some Artemesias might be good choices to replace the Salvias. I have Artemesia pycnocephala 'David's Choice' in the back garden, and it looks pretty good year round. Some annuals might be a good choice for the spaces in between. I already have some bulbs in the space, adding Gilia and possibly Madia for summer might work.

A wider view toward the small sitting area reveals another brown spot.

For the most part, this arrangement of plants works. I like the Eriogonum fasciculatum, the locally native narrow-leaf buckwheat, showing off delicate white flowers (behind the chair). Bright green Baccharis pilularis (Coyote brush) in the foreground works well with the grayish leaves of Saliva apiana (white sage) in the background to the right. Wooly bluecurl, to the left of the white sage, is past its prime but the seedheads add some visual interest. To the left of that, we have another monkey flower and it stands out against the different shades of green. This is unfortunate because I really like that plant in that spot. I might try to plant Mimulus 'Eleonor', which seems to take afternoon sun better than most monkey flowers (for a great overview, see this Wild Suburbia post). 

The view down the dry streambed is pleasing, even in summer. 

Festuca californica looks great with minimal water, and another Salvia apiana and Wooly bluecurl look good in the background. I'm especially pleased that the Epilobium is blooming much more profusely than last year, inviting hummingbirds from all over the neighborhood.

The back garden looks quite beautiful stripped to the bones, with different shades of green and grey and different shapes of leaves and grasses providing visual interest. I did a post of photos of the garden just recently and won't repeat myself.

I did not show the back garden dry stream bed closer to the redwoods, but even here the grasses and iris are holding their own against the ceanothus, which is going semi-dormant and has quite a few yellow leaves. Mmmm, maybe I'll add something gray for next year....

But for now, I'll leave the garden alone. This is the time to rest, to observe, and to plan. Then, when fall comes, I'll have my shopping list ready!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Leopard Lily in Full Bloom

How wonderful are these leopard lily blooms? And quite large, about an inch and a half or two inches - I'd have to go back and look again, because they are looming very large in my memory!

Pardalinum means "spotted like a leopard."

Here is a whole plant. Leaves are in whorls.

I could not believe my eyes when I spotted these leopard lilies (Lilium pardalinum) growing right beside the single-track road that runs along a small creek not far from our home.

Like everything else, I believe they are blooming late this year. They bloom June to July - but I believe early July is more common here. I have heard of them growing locally, but never seen one up until now.

You can buy them for your garden, from Yerba Buena nursery, Las Pilitas, and maybe other native plant nurseries too. Native to the Pacific coast, they like light shade (they appreciate a bit of sun), regular water (streamside is their native habitat), and rich soil that drains well. They will slowly colonize an area. Protect from gophers. Or you can plant in large, deep containers. They go dormant in late summer, disappearing totally.

I am totally going to take some seeds (no more than 10%) and try to grow this - if I can get them going then I'll keep propagating by bulbs. I read that they are among the easiest of native bulbs to grow. Here's advice from a page on
" Increase using bulb scales or offsets or seed. Sow outdoors in summer for germination the following spring. Seedlings take 4-5 years to flower; bulb divisions take 2 years. In early spring, divide the 1/2 in. scales and entire bulblets from mature bulb."
Oh yes, I've taken careful note where they are, you betcha, between which mile markers, and next to which rotting fungus-filled snag - and I'm looking forward to seeing their lovely fruiting bodies by and by!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Genuine Root Guard/Gopher Basket

At a recent garden fair in Scotts Valley, I was shopping at the Native Revival nursery stall, and I couldn't resist buying some packets of "The Genuine Root Guard/Gopher Basket."

It's a product from a small company, it seems, like one of my favorite gardener's accoutrements: The Gardener's Hollow Leg. Don't you just love it when someone actually follows through on their "get rich quick" idea and actually make and sells the product? -- Even if it doesn't actually make them rich ;-) .

The Genuine Root Guard/Gopher Basket web site and product name do not indicate a thriving marketing department, but that's fine with me.

Anyway, these gopher baskets, or socks rather (or - insert your protection analogy here), are made from a fine stainless steel mesh.

You roll one onto a plant like a sock before popping it in the ground (having first loosened up the root ball and any encircling roots).

Other premade gopher baskets are made of galvanized steel, and they are hard to shape, for a small person like me anyway. And I hate cutting and scrunching home made baskets out of that rip-you-up hardware "cloth." (Cloth - ha! Now there's a misnomer!)

Full price for The Genuine Root Guard/Gopher Basket is two bucks for a gallon-pot-sized basket. Anything the price of a good cup of coffee tends to loosen the purse strings, and besides, they were on special at the fair - it was just too tempting!

Stainless steel corrodes less quickly than galvanized steel in the ground - but the "The Genuine Root Guard/Gopher Basket" is made of a fine mesh - so, does that make a difference to their longevity? Does anybody know?

Well, if not, I'll let you know in 10 or 15 years, when this row of deer grass plants (Muhlenbergia rigens), which I put there to look pretty and also to shade the lower area of the greenhouse, will be ready for replacement....

BTW I'm glad to say that so far these babies are abhorred by deer and rabbits alike! So maybe they didn't need gopher baskets either. There is a larger specimen to the right that Town Mouse gave me, and which is growing just fine without one.

Well, you just never know and it's better to be safe than sorry. Ya, being sorry is no fun at all, and all gardeners know what that feels like!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How Come I Don't Remember These Plants?

 When I prepared a post with some pictures of the garden recently, I sent the link to a few friends.  Everyone enjoyed the tour, but one of my friends was surprised. She had visited the garden in April and in November, and remembered a completely different garden. "How come I don't remember these plants?" she asked. And I replied:"Actually, I have over 100 different plants in my garden. Depending on the season, a plant might be in full bloom, completely dormant, or something in between."

The first photo shows a close-up of the California poppies, as viewed from the sunroom, in late April. The second photo shows a view in the other direction, looking toward the sunroom, in early April. In that photo, you can also see the Salvia clevlandii on the left, and the large green leaves of Salvia spatacea (hummingbird sage) in the background.

In June, the picture has changed again. Here is Salvia clevlandii in the morning light, at the end of the mound viewed from the sunroom (the large leaves in the background belong to a small Loquat tree).

And here is the Salvia spatacea (hummingbird sage) viewed from the sunroom, with lavender to the left and the butterfly weed in full bloom in the background. Stipa gigantea frames that picture.

The story of the side garden is quite similar. Here's the photo I showed, with Eriogonum grande rubescense and Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga 'Flavida' (Finger aloe). 

But in April, the same area is fairly bare, with the Australian tea tree along the fence just starting to show its beautiful pink blossoms, and the native checkerbloom putting on a show near the Christmas fountain.

Here's a close-up.

 And a month later, mid-May, the Clarkia amoena, a beautiful California native annual, completely covers that same area as the checkerbloom starts going summer dormant.

So, what am I trying to say? It's complicated. In more traditional 4 season climates, the succession of plants probably makes more sense than in my garden, where different plants are dormant in different seasons. And because I don't water much, most plants bloom for a limited time only, then die off and reseed, go semi-dormant by dropping their rainy season leaves, or go dormant altogether. The fun part is that there's a surprise in the garden every day. The fireworks of the soap plant.

Or the stunning display of the butterfly weed (Asclepias speciosa).

Many of the plants have a fairly short bloom time, maybe only a few weeks. But with over 100 different species of plants in my garden, there's always a new discovery.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Keying the Clarkia -- and late GBBD for July

Keying the Clarkia

I have not been sure what kind of Clarkia it is that grows locally, and which I have propagated for garden use. Town Mouse thought maybe C. purpurea, and Claire of nearby Curbstone Valley thought C. rubicunda.

So, I got out my hardbound copy of The Jepson Manual to let my fingers do the leg work. I was amazed and delighted that it took a lot less time than I thought - maybe 15 minutes - not bad for a rank amateur. However today I realize, my Clarkia has one key attribute of C. purpurea:
sepals staying fused in 2's or all coming free.
You can see the sepals staying fused in 2s in the opening picture. Here is another picture that might be helpful - showing an immature fruit, and a kind of bashed flower, with some petals removed:

3 hours later... I'm still not sure... Dang!

As you may know, with a dichotomous key, you identify a plant by making a series of binary (dichotomous) choices - it's always one thing or another. You jump to the choice that matches the plant you're trying to ID, then again within that section, choose one thing or another, always based on some observable trait. Which works if you can clearly observe the trait!

These keys don't come out of nowhere. Someone has to write them. In this case, the someone was Harlan Lewis, who died in 2008, just short of his 90th birthday. He is closely associated with the Clarkia genus, and he worked on this with his wife Margaret at UCLA. I find it interesting to know about the California botanists and the history of botany in this state, and maybe you do too. You can read an In Memoriam article about Professor Lewis and his work here.

So - here's how it went on my first go. Options I chose are shown in bold (I provide a mini key to the terms after the entry).

1. Fr 2-3 mm, nut-like, indehiscent, 1-2 seeded
1' Fr > 5 mm, not nut-like, dehiscent, many-seeded

2. Petal blade lobed above
2' Petal blade not or inconspicuously lobed above

11. Petal claw 2-lobed or -toothed, not entire
11' Petal claw +/-0 or entire

20. Infl axis in bud recurved at tip, in fl +/- straight; buds pendent
20' Infl axis in bud gen +/- straight; buds erect or reflexed

35. Fl buds reflexed
35' Fl buds erect

43. Ovary, immature fr 4-grooved
43' ovary, immature fr 8-grooved

The ovary grooves would be different if it was C. purpurea: the ovary would have to be 8-grooved. But the example I found looks like 4 grooved to me!

44. Petals with a +/- red spot or zone at base
44' petals with a red spot or marks near middle

45. Petals 10-13 mm; stigma beyond anthers ; Clarkia rubicunda!
45' Petals 5-13 mm; stigma not beyond anthers

and here's the entry:
C. rubicunda (Lindley) Harlan Lewis & M. Lewis. ST: decumbent to erect, < 1.5 m, puberulent. LF: petiole < 1 cm; blade 1–4 cm, lanceolate to elliptic. INFL: open or dense; axis in bud straight; buds erect. FL: hypanthium 4–10 mm; sepals staying fused in 4s; corolla bowl-shaped, petals 10–30 mm, obovate to fan-shaped, rosy-pink to lavender, ± red spot or zone at base; stamens 8, anthers alike; ovary 4-grooved, cylindric, stigma exserted beyond anthers. n=7. Openings in woodland, forest, chaparral near coast; < 500 m. CCo, SnFrB.
(Here's a link to Clarkia Rubicunda in Jepson on line.)

BUT: "sepals staying fused in 4s" - mine are separated or in pairs!

For Purpurea the trail goes like this, starting from the point where the trail diverges:

43. Ovary, immature fr 4-grooved
43' ovary, immature fr 8-grooved
(I have to take this on trust - mine do NOT look 8-grooved.!)

47. Stigma not beyond anthers; petals gen 5-15 mm
47' Stigma gen beyond anthers; petals 10-60 mm

51. Ovary, immature fr fusiform, grooves 8, 4 deeper (C. amoena ssp. whitneyi)
51' Ovary, immature fr gen +/- cylindric, grooves 8, equal (??)

52. Petals +/- without a red or purple spot
52' Petals gen with a red or purple spot

53. Petals dark reddish purple [oh-oh - I'm in trouble! color differentiation...!]
53' Petals pink or lavender to purple or purplish red, below often cream or lighter

55. Infl open; If linear to narrow -lanceolate -- C. speciosa ssp. immaculata [not native here]
55' Infl dense; If wide-lanceolate to elliptic or ovate -- C. purpurea ssp. purpurea

Unfortunately I don't know what "Infl open" and "Infl dense" mean, visually. But C. immaculata doesn't grow around here - so I can ignore that choice right off!

All I can say right now is that if it's C. rubicunda, then how come the sepals are separate or in pairs instead of fused?

But if it's C. purpurea, how come the ovary seems to have 4 grooves instead of 8?

Or am I looking for the ovary in all the wrong places? Sigh. My only conclusion is: I need a teacher!

Glossary of Terms

For those interested in knowing the meaning of the botanical terms used in the key or the entry, here's a list or most of them, using the glossary found in Jepson:
  • dehiscent: Splitting open at maturity to relese contents. Said especially of fruit or anthers.
  • claw: Stalk-like base of some free sepals or petals
  • reflexed: Abruptly bent or curved downward
  • stigma: The part of a pistil on which pollen is normally depositied, generally terminal and elevated above the ovary on a style, generally sticky or hairy, sometimes lobed.
  • pistil: Female reproductive structure of a flower (there's a lot more but that's enough!)
  • style: Stalk-like portion that connects ovary to stigma in many pistils.
  • anther: Pollen forming portion of a stamen.
  • stamen: Male reproductive structure of a flower (there's a lot more but that's enough!)
  • puberulent: having hairs visible only when magnified.
  • hypanthium: Structure derived from the fused lower portions of sepals, petals, and stamens and from which these parts seem to arise, the whole generally in the shape of a tube, cup, or plate.
  • sepals: Individual member of the calyx, whether fused or not, generally green.
  • calyx: Collective term for sepals; outermost or lowermost whorl of flower parts, generally green, and enclosing remainder of flower in bud.
  • corolla: Collective term for petals; whorl of flower parts immediately inside or above calyx, often large and brightly colored.
  • obovate: egg-shaped, widest above the middle. (Not given - you have to figure this one out. ob- means "inversion of shape - e.g., lanceolate and oblanceolate leaf blades are widest below and above the middle, respectively." Therefore I deduce the definition I gave from ovate, "egg-shaped in two dimensions, widest below the middle."
Jepson uses lots of abbreviations, for example:
ST: stem
LF: leaf
INFL: inflorescence
FL: flower
FR: fruit
The book is already huge, so I can understand their need for economy. But it does force you to learn their codes. Practice makes this easy I'm sure. I should make myself do one keying exercise a week! Next one will be the mystery lupine!

One subsection tells you where the plant grows. In the case of C. Rubicunda, for example, it's not so widely spread:
CCo, SnFrB.
  • CCo is Central Coast
  • SnFrB is San Francisco Bay Area

Horticultural Information in Jepson
Maybe of most interest to gardeners is the very useful, if compressed, horticultural information section in Jepson, which is preceded by a tiny flower icon. For C. rubicunda it contains the following:
SUN,DRYorIRR:7-9, 14-17, 22-24; CVS
Jepson's guide to the abbreviations tells you the following:
  • SUN: Does best in +- full sun
  • DRY: Intolerant of frequent summer water
  • IRR: Requires moderate summer watering (irrigation)
  • CVS: Cultivars are available in the trade.
The numbers refer to Western Garden Book zones. Zones that are especially appropriate are indicated by bold-face numbers.
  • 7-9: Great valley and Surrounding Low Mountains
  • 14: Ocean-influenced northern and Central California
  • 15-17: Coastal Climates of Northern and Central California [this is me! - Zone 16]
  • 22-24: Coastal Climates of Southwestern California.
So that is our schoolwork over, not entirely satisfactorily, and our understanding suitably enriched and confused.

One thing it does not talk about is deer, and whatever this Clarkia is, I've found the deer quite like nibbling the flowers, unfortunately.

Now we get to look at some pictures of flowers in my garden this month and rest our brains!

GBBD Pictures

Mostly for my benefit, so I can look at the blooms year-over-year, I'm putting a bunch of pics below. Forgive me for not annotating them. I'm anxious to get out in the garden and finish planting Hummingbird Hill! If you want to know about any, leave a comment and I'll give the info in response.