Friday, November 27, 2009

Blooms du jour and perchance some rain...

There's a 30% chance of rain forcast for late tonight. I'm not optimistic, but please, please let this be more than passing mist that evaporates before it ever hits the ground.

Been trimming & deadheading the salvias and penstemons as the fall season winds down. Amazed by some of the stuff that's still blooming.


10/24/09 Chaparral Mallow (Malocothamnus fasciculatus). Native on the property.

11/27/09 Most Beautiful Jewel Flower (Streptanthus albidus peramoena).

11/27/09 Creeping Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).

11/27/09 'Jack' Monkeyflower (Mimulus cultivar).

11/27/09 Canyon Sunflower (Venegasia carpesioides).

11/27/09 Wallace's Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans).

11/27/09 'De La Mina' Cedros Island Verbena (Verbena lilacina). Not a California native per se, but a selection from Cedros Island off the west coast of Baja California. Often included in native plant sales because its native habitat is part of the California Floristic Province. I really, really love this plant. So low maintenance, very drought tolerant, and blooms almost year round except during the coldest periods of winter.


11/27/09 'Acapulco Rose' Mexican Giant Hyssop (Agastache mexicana).

11/27/09 Baja Fairyduster (Calliandra californica).
Hummingbirds attack each other with gusto over these blossoms.

11/27/09 Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans).

11/27/09 'Stampede Lavender' Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

11/27/09 'Lipstick' Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

11/27/09 'Hot Lips' Salvia (Salvia microphylla).

11/27/09 'Navajo' Bright Red Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).

11/27/09 'Gentle Giant', a stunning Hybrid Tea rose, with soft pale pink petals tinged on the edges by a slightly darker mauve.

11/27/09 'Techno Blue' Lobelia (Lobelia erinus). So reminiscent of Downingias!

11/27/09 'Mutabilis' China Rose (Rosa chinensis). Wow, what an extremely floriferous rose, with every gorgeous, willowy-petaled blossom exhibiting a slightly different hue.

The Genesis of a Pond, or The Myth of Sisyphus

This is the story of a dream pond turned nightmare - a pond which I still love despite a glaring, monumental defect in its construction. I'm sure ours is not an unfamiliar story to those who have had a similarly bad experience working with unlicensed contractors. So, it is with resigned resignation that I put forth the following pictorial expose of the genesis of said pond.  





7/2/08 Fixing the original mistake (or not)


 10/17/08 Lesser Goldfinch at top of falls

3/30/09 Mallard Ducks



In a nutshell, the original contractor we hired to build the pond seemed quite knowledgable and capable in the beginning, and quoted us a very reasonable price for a rather sizable pond. He said he was going to use the native rock from our site to line the pond perimeter and he also had the brilliant idea to put build a "bridge" over the water, requiring the installation of 6 concrete footings in the pond to support the large stone slabs that would form the "walkway" over the water.

Not being experts at pond construction, little did we realize that when Mark (the ersatz "contractor) cut holes into the flexible liner to accommodate those footings, he had irrevocably compromised the integrity of the liner. The end result was that our pond has been leaking ever since anywhere from 6-12" per day. Not that we didn't notice or complain initially, but Mark, that incredible jerk, refused to return our phone calls after he had unsuccessfully tried to fix the leak a couple times. He knew he had screwed up big time on this job and decided to skip out on us altogether. 

Then in July we hired Glen (electrician who wired our house and self-professed Koi pond expert) to fix the leak, and he spent several weeks and no small amount of moolah ostensibly repairing the problem, while also building up the waterfall a couple tiers to give it more dramatic effect. In terms of repairing the leak, Glen replaced the liner with something more heavy duty but left the footings in place. He did add extra concrete around the footings to "seal" the areas where the liner had been cut around them. My gut instinct told me that the footings had to go or the pond would continue leaking  - but I had deferred to Glen's expert opinion on this matter. Sure enough, after Glen completed the repair, the water level continued to drop, unabated, by several inches every day. Glen's response? Nah - don't worry, it's just "evaporation", which will happen with a pond of that size. Are you kidding me? The drudgery of having to refill the pond every day because of an "evaporation" problem seemed beyond ludicrous. Who the hell would put in a 3,000+ gallon water feature in their landscape just for the sheer pleasure of having to add water to it on a daily basis?  So Gilbert told him no, we didn't think the leak was fixed and could he just please take out all the footings. Well, it was clear at that point that Glen was not a happy camper - sure he could take the footings out, but he was going to have to charge us more moolah to do so.

That was the last straw. Felt like we had been had twice and throwing money with reckless abandon down a bottomless pit. So, we just said no - no more repairs - and put a temporary cease and desist on this neverending nightmare.

To this day, the pond continues to bleed H20 at the same rate, but on the bright side, that water is irrigating the pondside plantings I have installed. And, thank goodness, our water bill has not been adversely affected. For now, we'll just keep on refilling and enjoying the multitude of birdies and other critters that like to bathe, drink, swim and/or otherwise congregate in and around this Sisyphusean watering hole.

Moral of the story is, it's worth the extra money to hire a licensed contractor to do pond construction. That's what we plan to do down the line when we have the budget and energy to tackle this baby once again.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Native Plant Sale & Book Signing by Marvin Trotter at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve

Made my annual trek to the Fall native plant sale at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve this past Saturday.

Only picked up 3 plants (versus my usual dozen) this time around, since we didn't get there until after noon, and I'm sure the best selections had been gotten earlier in the day. So my bounty consisted of Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis), and Mahonia 'Golden Abundance.'

My main objective, however, was to go the book signing by Mrs. Marvin Trotter at the Plateau's visitor center. Her newly published book "Plants of the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve" is certainly long overdue - I've been waiting for years for someone to catalog all the plants on the reserve in book form, and it's finally happened! On the cover is the endemic Santa Rosa Plateau Basalt Brodiaea (Brodiaea santarosae) recently discovered by Tom Chester, Kay Madore and Wayne Armstrong.

I had a chance to talk briefly with Mrs. Trotter as we were waiting for the ink to dry on her inscription in the book I had just purchased. Such a wonderful lady, only 84 years young, and with an impeccable sense of humor. With a twinkle in her eye, she told me that she had to use a black felt-tipped marker for the book signings so she could see what she was writing, and also chatted about her vegetable garden and citrus trees on her Wildomar property.

Mrs. Marvin Trotter showing some of the photographs taken for her new book (photo by Bill Wechter, staff photographer for the North County Times)

Mrs. Marvin Trotter at her Wildomar home, with the Canon Rebel 35mm camera she used to take many of the photos for her new book (photo by Bill Wechter, staff photographer for the North County Times).

This book, which she started with her husband (who subsequently passed away) back in 2004, was clearly a labor of love and a culmination of her many years of photographing the plants in this area. Wow, a woman after my own heart! Gilbert and I had been visiting and (I) photographing plants on the reserve since 1997. In fact, we relocated from LA County all the way out to La Cresta primarily because of its proximity to the Santa Rosa Plateau. And, we're still commuting every day to LA & Orange Counties to work. It's all about lovin' where you live. Mrs. Trotter, you are a true inspiration!

Marvin Trotter was featured in an article published on November 14, 2009 in The Californian: "Local woman publishes book on plants: Work catalogs more than 600 Santa Rosa Plateau species" (source of the above photos).

All proceeds from the book sales (cost is $40 and 100% tax deductible) will go to the Santa Rosa Plateau Foundation, supporting educational programs for elementary school children at the reserve. For more info, check out the Foundation's website at