On a More Positive Note: Projects Aplenty

We've been busy around here.

Sheet Mulching the Callas
Talk about invasive! If you live in a Mediterranean climate, I bet calla lilies (Zantedeschia), lovely as they are, and much as I love Georgia O'Keeffe's painting of them, are relentlessly robust and invasive. Rat helped me with this project to clear out a neglected corner of the pool garden -- well, I have to be honest: the entire pool garden is neglected right now. We're going to be replacing this fence, taking the "jog" out of it, so I'm reluctant to do anything long-term here.


In progress:

I'm not really sure what to put here for the short term - max 1 year. Any ideas? It is shady in the morning and late afternoon.

Retrellising the Dutchman's Pipe Vine - Aristolochia californica

I have no before pictures because I was too ashamed. This vine likes to twine round twigs, and I gave it 2X2 wood. It grew. It languished. I was fearful. We took the wire from around a load of boulders that had been delivered a while back, and Rat straightened it out and attached it, while I carefully untangled the vine from the wooden trellis and pruned it back to the main stems. I was amazed how easy it was. Vines do grow in a sort of pattern I guess. Then I tied up the main stems to the wires with green twine,

and held my breath. But lo, it groweth and looketh fine:

Twine, baby twine!

The Little Plants: Using Some, Admiring Others, And Worrying About a Few
I've been using all the singleleaf onion, Allium unifolium, and bee plant, Scrophularia californica. Planting bee plant is like taking coals to Newcastle, as we used to say in the old country! - They are sprouting all over! But it was a good exercise for a beginning propagator and cheered me on when other things were failing.

I put some Allium on the River of Grass (which is doing OK except the buttercups got munched). No pictures as they don't look like anything. I hope they will light up the river with their pink pompoms.

I also planted the rest of the foothill penstemons (Penstemon Heterophyllus), grown from nursery plants that seeded, hoping they aren't permanently stunted, in crevices around the pink stone stairs that lead down into the chaparral slope. And in so doing I disturbed a bold little Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla) in his home. He kept peeking out to see what I was doing. These guys can change color. He was bright green, but they can go brown. Common from British Columbia to Baja California and east to Montana.

Others I tried in a pot, with some tiny Lupinus bicolor that I propagated from local seed and adore, even though they are fairly plentiful hereabouts. Also some bunch grass in there and bee plant. I want to see what it grows like up here, if it gets caterpillars. The others are totally getting munched by the checkerspot butterfly caterpillars.

My cuttings of Holodiscus discolor are doing well, and I need to figure out when to put them in the larger pot.

But my douglas iris, grown from local seed, are starting to look a bit mungy - yellowish. I think they need more food. I'm not sure if they're getting too much light or not enough. I'm going to unpot a few today and have a look at the roots. The one in front is an iris and the ones behind are something else I know not what. And I don't know what the little mushroom is.

Here's a better photo: of the mystery one:

Any ideas? It must be some extras I brought home from the CNPS propagation group.

Last year, I gathered some seed of hairy honeysuckle - Lonicera hispidula - and they are all sprouting! Come on hairy babies, grow big so I can plant you all over the stumps of the old bay tree and give you to neighbors!

Last but not least, my pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) plants, which have been barely keeping themselves alive for a year now, have benefited from this rainy cool weather to leaf out - but what will happen when summer hits! They are in too-sunny a spot I fear.

Postscript: The Greenhouse
It has been raining: the greenhouse has been wet. We can't progress till we get the frame painted. It's dry now so I'm hopeful. Rat does not understand the cultural importance of painting a greenhouse white, but he's just going to have to live with the mystery!


I'm so jealous! You found a Pacific Tree Frog! I hear them here, quite often (almost sounded like one was singing from the gutter above my office) but gosh darn it...have yet to see one here in person.

I was hoping to see the greenhouse, and how it's coming along, but we have all been a bit setback with the soggy weather. Hopefully things will dry out a bit this week.

That's the second Dutchman's pipe I've seen in a week. Did you find that through CNPS? Wouldn't mind trying one here. And as for Lonicera hispidula, perhaps because of some our brush abatement in the orchard, it's popping up everywhere! I'm hoping to move some, but it's good to know I can start it from seed if it doesn't transplant well.
Country Mouse said…
I believe I did get the Aristolochia from a CNPS sale but I forget - it's actually been there for a couple years, but didn't do much at all the first year, while it established roots I guess. I forgot to mention that I made a flat of cuttings out of the trimmings, so if any take I'll be sure to let you know!
I've done mulching like that as well, I call it lasagna gardening. It's funny that calla lilies are invasive there... here they'd be dead come November. Dutchman's pipe does great here, though, it's a lovely native. I also love frogs and spring peepers and chorus frogs have already been heard calling in Ann Arbor!
Town Mouse said…
So glad that Aristolochia californica is doing well on its new support. It's actually the easiest vine I know in terms of retwining. Lonicera will be a different story, I keep breaking them.

So tell me, why does a greenhouse have to be white? I would have picked a nice sage green myself.. Of course my green house would probably be kind of messy if I had one, and I wouldn't want to draw attention to it.
Country Mouse said…
Monica, those callas have been pulled and pulled and pulled - they just don't give up! I hope they will give up now but I hae ma doots. I like your name, lasagna gardening.

Town really, greenhouses just gotta be white! Besides the old doors are already painted white. I do like your idea of sage green, though -- for a potting shed....
I've had two greenhouses over the years and of course they were white! But yes, I suppose the outside could be anything, but the inside has to maximize all the white reflective surfaces. Eat the aesthetics and pamper the plants.

I have callas in places I never planted them. They show up on invasives lists occasionally, especially for moist conditions. Mine seem to both reseed and grow from some deep, evil place, far in the ground.
I'm afraid that your calla lilies are going to think that you just gave them a lovely deep layer of mulch with great light blocking to keep out all the stuff that was competing with them. I use light blocking cardboard and mulch all the time, but there are some things that just don't care whether you do that or not. Around here it is the plantain. But good luck.

Gosh, your propagation is going well. Your mystery plant makes me feel better about my labelling. I have way too many mysteries around here.
Christine said…
I'm so excited for you, I don't know where to begin! You're encouraging me to get out those Scrophularia seeds (late, I know) since they seem so easy.
Also, I think the Irises might have too much water- using the mushroom and yellow foliage as clues. Perhaps repot them in a mix with more lava rock?
Mr. Froggy- what a find! Everything's green these days, even the frogs! Except for the greenhouse, that is. It has to be white! How else would you know it was a greenhouse?