Redwood understory, Redwood Grove planting

I have a lot of gardening to catch you up with. If I spent the hours on my mother's pocket handkerchief garden that I have on our property of late, it would have edging of finest Belgian lace. But my actual garden areas are more like a patchwork of ragged gunnysacks.

It's been WEEDING WEEDING AND MORE WEEDING, and PLANTING EVERY GOSHDARN POTTED THING from the propagation efforts this past year or two.

After the entrance garden makeover, I turned to my collection of shade and wetland plants and I turned my eye on The Redwood Grove, the patch of redwoods behind the guest cottage.  It's really just a little cut-off part of the redwood forest that extends far down the north valley beyond our property - and to the south, past our chaparral slope.

The view to the south from our home - redwoods predominate. The distant hills are on the other side of Monterey Bay -
Yes, I love my home and its wonderful views and never cease to appreciate them.

With the exception of protected old growth giants, all the redwoods in our region were clear cut, starting in 1840s and continuing well into the 20th century. Redwoods grow first up, then slowly thicken for about another five hundred years or more.

An old-growth giant redwood in Henry Cowell SP
 So our second growth trees are very tall and mostly very skinny.

This little grove is fringed with a sparse but interesting selection of wild natives - creeping snowberry, melic grass, wild rose, hazel, and yerba buena. I've tried adding to the mixture, using nearby natives that grow in similar situations, thimbleberry (Rubus parviflorus) and sea foam (Holodiscus discolor) but I couldn't keep up with the watering needed to get them established. Just one sea foam bush has held its own. I can't wait for it to bloom this year, for the first time.

So — I will plant only near hose bibs this time!

Redwoods in our state parks have a rich understory.

Wild redwood habitat - in a riparian part of Henry Cowell SP. Five fingered fern, alum root, redwood sorrel, etc.

More understory. Sword fern and redwood sorrel with maybe some
thimbleberry or could be alum root or fringe cups.

Why is there absolutely no understory in my Redwood Grove, or in the redwoods nearby spilling down the north valley?

Where's the understory?

I expect it's because we are on a ridgetop, and it's just too dry. Farther down the valley the sponge effect keeps the soil wetter for a long time.

The chosen spot for the "starter garden"
As Benjamin Vogt said in a recent post, The Ethics of Native Plant Gardening:
I look at my garden and see a novel ecosystem, as many places on Earth are – places altered in large or small measure by our actions. 
This grove is going to be a novel ecosystem, with the redwood habitat plants I add. I hope, to create a more delightful space for humans to sit and walk in. And native critters to thrive in.

Here are a few redwood habitat plants that I have in pots, gathered locally or grown from seed:
  • Wild ginger - Asarum caudatum
  • Western Columbine - Dicentra formosa
  • Alum root - Heuchera micrantha
  • Redwood sorrel - Oxalis oregana
  • Western Coltsfoot - Petasites frigidus
  • Feathery false lily of the valley - Maianthemum stellata
  • Fernald's iris - Iris fernaldii

The chosen spot with "starter garden" mostly in place! 
Here are some redwood habitat plants I've seen wild locally that I have not yet grown/gathered - but hope to (con permiso):
  • Giant chainsaw fern - Woodwardia fimbriata
  • Sword fern - Polystichum minimum
  • Five-fingered fern - Adiantum aleuticum
  • Western wake robin - Trillium ovatum
  • Woodland madia - Madia madiodes
  • Hooker's fairy bells -  Prosartes hookeri (formerly Disporum hookeri)
  • Western azalea - Rhododendron occidentale
Oh how I would love to grow western azalea!

I would also like to add huckleberry - Vaccinium ovatum. It grows in nearby parks, but I haven't seen it in our neighborhood.

The starter garden with improvised deer deterrent!

There are of course more plants in the redwood habitat but these are good to be getting on with.

When I removed some of the redwood duff to plant in, I found it wasn't really all that thick -  the damp rotted under duff was permeated with thin roots - could only be redwood roots. I pried them apart to find the harder dark earth below, and snuggled the plants in as well as I could.

This morning there was fog for the first time in weeks - and I felt glad for the redwoods which surely have been looking stressed this dry winter.

Upper portions of some of the Redwood Grove trees - looking sparse on top and generally dry.

Petasites frigidus, western coltsfoot

Miracles! new sprouts from the Iris fernaldii!

Feathery false lily of the valley - Maianthemum stellatum, seems to be surviving!

If we were not going to the SF Flower and Garden show tomorrow and will have lots to post about for sure, I'd save this story for another post -

Recently while walking the dog to the other end of our road, I had to rub my eyes - what was I seeing??

What is all that lush green stuff - can't be anything good right?

Then all at once I saw a host - of feathery false lily of the valley!

And some resprouting nasty weed - eupatory. I pulled them and (con permiso)
dug up a few patches of the feathery false lily of the valley to take home

Really this is a wonderful cluster of madrone trunks!

And I planted the FFLV (It takes so long to type out feathery false lily of the valley!) in the Starter Garden in the grove and also here and there...

Planted some FFLV in a shady nook of the pool garden

And while gathering, saw a fabulous alligator lizard!

Rat and I are going to take a walk down the north valley beyond our property line some day soon, and see what's going on down there. I don't go on my own. To be frank, I'm a little afraid. It's the dark forest of fairy tales. But we'll protect each other, and live to tell our tale.