GBBD - August: Fire and Fog

The "Lockheed" fire has burned, at latest count, 6,800 acres up near Bonny Doon since August 12. So far only two outbuildings have burned, but a couple thousand people plus their animals have evacuated because of the danger. It's about 20 miles north of us or so (not sure but it's farther away than danger distance anyway). We have the smell of smoke in the thick morning fog, which is now lifting. It's been 62 years since that area burned, and a lot of talk about how that is a typical period to go between fires. I think our area last burned at least that long ago. But the area by the Lockheed testing facility is steep and remote, with lots of knobcone pine - and manzanita. We have manzanita, and also a lot of Monterey pine that was planted about 40 years ago, when the forest service was almost giving them away, and the neighborhood thought it was a good idea to plant them. It wasn't. They are now starting to fall over, and they are very flammable. They are native near here, but don't grow in the wild here.

I haven't been posting lately. Thank goodness T. Mouse has been providing such interesting reading and viewing. She is away from home right now so this post represents our contribution to GBBD this month.

But I've been thinking a lot. Judith Larner Lowry calls this the fifth season in California - neither summer nor fall, but that time when nothing much is happening, a time to think, a time to plan, a time to step back, to enjoy, to contemplate, to rest.

Fire, and restoration, and the effect of gardening on the environment have been uppermost in my thoughts. We have been thinning in the chaparral below the house, and I'm liking how it's shaping up. The manzanitas, with just a little more aesthetic pruning, and with a few low growing plants added here and there will be stunning, but I'm not sure how much we can keep in the "defensible zone."

A tour around the less wild parts my garden reveals to me that I am just not a landscape designer and need help. I have hopes for my development as a propagator and nurseryperson, but landscape design will have to emerge where there are natives to nurture, as there are in many parts of our property. Paths are emerging, nice forms in the remaining shrubs.

In fact, I bag that as a name for a web site - I haven't claimed it yet but will. Patient landscaping that helps the native flora and fauna emerge. I'll let others deal with the aesthetics of creating a garden landscape from a blank canvas, a stretch of empty ground. I just don't have that kind of imagination.

So - what's blooming? Well not a lot. I have one area that is full of stunning blooms. It's a bit hidden behind these coyote brush bushes I trimmed up.

See the little patch of white in the middle above... Here's what it is...

Eriogonum giganteum, Saint Catherine's Lace. It's a tall wonderful eriogonum that is apparently quite deer resistant, and takes no irrigation at all. It isn't a local native - it's from the California Channel Islands. Here's a close up of those lovely umbels:

I'm propagating it for garden use. I like the leaves, they're a bit larger than many native plant leaves, and nicely rounded:

I'm pretty hopeful I can get those babies in the ground this fall, along with the bunch grasses you can also see above. And these California Fuschia (Epilobium canum) - propagated from local indigenous natives -

But I hope the bunnies don't eat them. Look at the miserable condition of this bed in our "entrance garden" that I hoped would be a mass of their red-orange blooms:

Between the gophers gobbling things from below and the bunnies binging on what's left on top, not a lot to look at there. At least the two little Ceanothus bushes are doing well.

Just for comparison with the July GBBD picture, here are the gone-to-seed monkeyflowers, and the seaside daisy and mondardella villosa from the other side of the entrance path:

Elsewhere a few sparks of color. The Keckiella cordifolia, heart-leaved penstemon, is blooming - a nice orangy red bloom:

But be advised - these blooms are on the end of rangy stems. Best for "back of the border" plantings, tying on trellises and so on. They are also not native to this area, so I cound them as an exotic native. And they volunteer, so that isn't good, for me here anyway. Still. Good to have things that bloom in summer, in the California native garden. The above blossom is on a volunteer. Here's the whole thing:

California poppy Eschscholzsia californica, is blooming too. I just have one right now, and it's a volunteer.

I have a few garden flowers blooming of the non-native persuasion, but I'd rather see those blooming in greater profusion in other people's garden bloom day postings, and just share with you what's growing in a California native garden. Over to May Dreams Gardens now to see what's happening in other gardens...


vanessa cardui said…
That eriogonum looks pretty good to me; hard to grow buckwheat in the city garden but I have some smaller ones started so I can hope . . .

Our daughter phoned from Santa Cruz saying the smoke has been bad. Good luck always with wildfires.
Hi there. Love your post, landscapes are always emerging some how. I love that St. Catherine's lace, wonder if it would grow here?

Hope the fire goes out soon. I remember as a kid in SD when the Santa Anas were blowing and there were fires to the east how awful the smoke and ash was. It is no fun to be in the vicinity of a fire, even if you are not immediately at risk. Looks like you are prepared with a proper fire break, though.

Happy bloom day.
Country Mouse said…
Yes, the smoke is pretty bad, not quite so bad at 900 feet as down in town, where we were this afternoon, but bad enough to make my eyes smart a bit. Not a day for being out in the garden. I'm going to study local natives loved by hummingbirds and gather my thoughts for fall planting. Thanks for dropping by!
Too bad about those fires. How awful! Your flowers look beautiful. Thanks for showing them.
Brad B said…
I didn't realize you were so close to the fires. I just did a daytrip around there about 2 or 3 weeks ago before the fires started.

Those coyote brush are the most garden-like coyote brush I've ever seen. Not a small feat.

As for the fifth season, i might agree, but here in the East Bay this is summer. The last few months were what I call fog, and mid-August through September are our hottest months. I've often thought California needed new seasons. The classic four have nothing to do with us. Here they would be Rain, Warm/Green, Fog, Warm/brown, Clear/Chill and then back to Rain.
Country Mouse said…
Hey, Brad - I love your idea for the seasons - made me think about gardeners in different regions and what the seasons are in their experience, too. Off the top of my head, a few thoughts: Spring starts in February and extends through May, then June-July are summer bounty. August - September is rest and fruition time, sometimes extending into October, then October through February is root-growth time. I would like to bring fog into it too but we get fog around here almost any time.
Barbara E said…
Your post reminds me of how it feels when the smoke hangs thick in the air. I know that California has always burned, but the impact of human development makes it a new and different thing (your comment on the Monterey pines is case in point). Your garden and propagation is an inspiration to me. Great to hear from you.