Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mas Que Nada and a Hodgepodge of Garden Tasks

Gil & I tackled the seemingly formidable slope on the back side of our house today, and managed to trench through the decomposed granite with some modicum of success. This veritable wasteland of black mustard, filaree, and star thistle was starting to get on my nerves, to say the least...but alas, upon our fourth year of residence here in La Cresta, we've finally had the time and inclination to tether this wild and wily segment of the property. Goal is to put in more grape vines, avocados, and any other fruiting tree that suits our microclimate. The first plants we installed here were 'Fuerte' Avocado, 'Stewart' Avocado, 'Ruby' Seedless Grape, and 'Snow Queen' Nectarine. The Avocados are Mexican varieties and fairly cold tolerant (to about 20F), while the 'Snow Queen' nectarine is a self-fruitful, sweet freestone that requires just under 300 chilling hours (good for Southern California). The new plants were amended with good, well-draining garden soil and are being irrigated by drip.

In the meantime, the natives in the garden continue to shine ...

5/16/10 Elegant Clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata). From seed sown over the winter. With sufficient rains, a large stand of these can be always found in the springtime blooming along the fire road en route to the Gabrielino Trail in the Arroyo Seco (San Gabriel Mountains, LA County). 

5/16/10 Wild Hyacinth (Dichelostemma multiflorum).

5/16/10 Desert Columbine (Aquilegia shockleyi). I believe this species has now been reclassified as Aquilegia formosa in the Jepson Manual. But, hey - I'm eternally confused and frustrated by constant taxanomic changes, so in this case, I'm going to simplify my life by sticking with the nursery label.

5/16/10 Acton Encelia (Encelia actonii). A desert Encelia that I've seen around the Salsberry Pass area of Death Valley National Park. This one looked almost dead after our cold, wet winter, but has now sprung back to life. A plant you could kill by watering it in the summer.

5/16/10 'Red Form' Butterfly Mariposa Lily (Calochortus venustus var. sanguineus). From Telos Rare Bulbs (planted last fall).

5/16/10 Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri). Some call it the 'Fried Egg' Flower. This has got to be the largest California native wildflower around, with its crinkly-textured petals spanning around 5 inches across. A tough, tall (up to 8 ft.), drought-tolerant plant, this beauty is not for the faint of heart nor for the short on room. It's a bit prickly and can spread aggressively via underground rhizomes. But if you've got the space, then I highly recommend. It'll have your neighbors turning their heads, in a good way.

5/16/10 Chaparral Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus).

5/16/10 'Hanging Valley' Santa Lucia Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus palmeri).

5/16/10 Wishbone Bush (Mirabilis californica).

5/16/10 'Pink Ribbons' Clarkia (Clarkia concinna).

5/16/10 Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa).

5/16/10 Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa). A member of the Rose family, this desert shrub makes for a beautiful accent in the dry garden. The billowy seed heads are in many ways more showy and attractive than the actual flowers.

5/16/10 'Vicki Romo' White Sage (Salvia apiana x clevelandii).

4/25/10 Stream Orchid (Epipactus gigantea). This one is growing and proliferating in an old wine barrel, along with Seep Monkeflower (Mimulus guttatus) and Jeffrey's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi). Thrives on lots of water.

5/16/10 Narrowleaf Onion (Allium amplectens).

4/25/10 Wood Lupine (Lupinus truncatus). Reseeded from last year.

4/25/10 Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii).

5/16/10 Dwarf Silver Bush Lupine (Lupinus albofrons collinus). Needs good drainage, so I've got it potted in sand and cactus mix.

5/16/10 White Sage (Salvia apiana). The flower spikes are about 5 feet tall!. Bees love it, and so do I...Foggy this morning, hence the hazy backdrop.


  1. Oh, the Desert Columbine is quite nice. I'll have to look into that one. Do rabbits eat it?? The neighborhood Bugs Bunnies seem to plow through whatever I put in.

  2. Great photos of the natives! and you have so many too. Is this the best time of the year for them or does it get too hot for flowering later on in the summer months.

    That certainly is some steep slope you have to work with and with the heat of the sun it must take quite a bit of time to get things cleared and planted and then watered in.

  3. Oh, weedy slopes. I feel your pain (literally, I've been pulling thistles on ours for weeks). I love your photographs of the natives. The Mariposa lily is beautiful, and your white sage looks very happy!

  4. Turling, the answer is YES! If the wascally wabbits in your hood are anything like mine, they will mindlessly consume every vestige of plant material in sight. I've dubbed our cute, but surprisingly aggressive, little conejos the "Cholo Bunnies." That's why my garden sometimes resembles a garrison more than a botanical paradise with the oodles of chicken wire I have caged around all my vulnerable plantings (basically anything that's green and under 3 ft. tall). And the Desert Columbine is growing in a circular flower bed that's (guess what?) surrounded by an eye-catching fence of chicken wire! Just can't win...

  5. Thanks, Rosie. Spring is actually the prime time for many of our natives to be in bloom. By summer, our dry, hot weather will put the brakes on flowering and new growth. I must say, the slope was a challenge to clear. Not helping was the fact that a Turkey Vulture kept circling overhead, probably hoping that one of us would fall down the slope or pass out from heat stroke!

  6. Curbstone, from reading your blog, I know you have first hand experience with the joys and pains of working and maintaining acreage. Planting and discovering native stuff on the property-priceless! Weeding & tilling-not so much...

  7. Beautiful pictures - and beautiful warm climate! The wood lupine I found yesterday in our garden, too. Britta

  8. I love the flowering plants that are native to your area, especially the Mallow. How exciting to have so many new fruit trees....I love nectarines :-)

  9. Hi Britta, thanks for following my blog. I meandered over to your blog "Gardening in High Heels" and really enjoyed your prosaic musings and fetching photos that show you have a touch of the artiste. Look forward to reading more!

  10. Lisa, gang warfare it is, and with me generally on the losing side.

    Noelle, if you give me a choice between nectarines or peaches, I'll always go for the nectarine. Less fuzzy.