Monday, February 21, 2011

The Olives are Cured! and Some Cal Native Garden Themes

Woohoo! We did a taste test of the olives we water cured from the very first harvest of our Mission, Manzanillo & Arbequina olives, and they are actually edible! There's just a slightly bitter aftertaste, but I guess that's not unexpected when you water cure according to U.C. Davis' olive curing guide . I'm really jazzed because we had absolutely no clue what we were doing when we embarked on this olive curing adventure. I think I'll use these to make tapenade, Greek salad, or marinated in herbs & olive oil for an antipasto. 

The details on how we harvested, cured & brined these guys, are on my food blog: 

2/20/11 Manzanillo & Mission Olives in the jar on the left, Arbequinas on the right.

Onto gardening matters. The weather here in SoCal is totally schizo. We had some 80F temps and no rain in Jan-Feb, but now it's all rainy & frosty. I give up.

2/17/11 Frosty bark mulch.

2/17/11 As close to "snow" as we'll get here. 


As for Cal native garden themes, I never had any in mind. But when the house was first built we had this swath of graded area that needed to be revegetated. Mind you, we had lived in a 900 sf townhouse for 15 years before moving to this 5-acre property, so the landscaping task was really, really daunting. Anyhoo, we've preserved about 3 acres of the native chaparral, and 4 1/2 years later and on a modest budget, here's some of the stuff I've planted that survived our DG soil & inclement climate:

2/19/11 'Dark Star' Ceanothus, Winnifred Gilman Sage, Allen Chickering Sage, Cedros Island Verbena 'De La Mina' (Verbena lilacina), 'White Cloud' Chitalpa (Chitalpa tashkentensis), along the driveway.

2/19/11 'Harmony' & 'Sunset' Manzanitas along the gravel pathway at the front entry, with Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis) planted in between.

2/19/11 Another shot of the front entry pathway with Paradise Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis) in view.

2/19/11 Lef to right: Sargent's Cypress (Cupressus sargentii), Mediterranean rockroses (Cistus spp.), Mountain Haze Ceanothus, Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), 'Anacapa Pink' Island Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia) taking over the Zen arbor, Catalina Cherry (Prunus lyonii) and Island Alum Root (Heuchera maxima) in the circular raised bed, 'Dana Point' Buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum).

2/19/11 Left to right: Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana), Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), 'Snow Flurry' Ceanothus (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus) in full bloom, Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosis), Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis), Konocti Manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita ssp. elegans), Woolly Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum), 'Route 66' California Fuchsia, 'Ghostly Red' California Fuchsia, Prickly Phlox (Leptodactylon californicum), St. Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum), Red-skinned Onion (Allium haematochiton), Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum). 

2/19/11 Along the fenceline: Chaparral Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus), Wolfberry/Baja Desert Thorn (Lycium brevipes), Desert Wild Grape (Vitis girdiana), Nevin's Barberry (Mahonia nevinii). Thorny & rangy - maybe that'll keep potential intruders at bay (I'm pretty sociable, but ya just never know who's coming up your driveway out here in the boonies). 

2/19/11 Manzanitas do indeed produce 'little apples.' Santa Cruz Manzanita (Arctostaphylos andersonii).

2/19/11 Rainbow Manzanita (Arctostaphylos rainbowensis).

2/19/11 I made some cuttings of our native monkeyflowers (Diplacus aurantiacus) last year. They're still small, but are starting to fill out and bloom. 

2/18/11 Hoary-Leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius) in full bloom all along Clinton Keith Road. You'd never know they were there any other time of the year!

2/14/11 Gil's photo of an Anna's Hummingbird (Calypte anna) perched on  a stem of the China Rose, Rosa mutabilis.

2/20/11 Bewick's Wren (Thryomanes bewickii). Heard the tell-tale buzzy-trilly call early this morning and managed to get a shot of this guy through the window.

2/20/11 A Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) doing calisthenics on the Chaparral Bushmallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus).

2/20/11 Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus).


  1. lucky you to have olive trees you can harvest and then turn into yummy food! how cool is that? love your natives. impressed you started those monkeyflowers from cuttings! love the bird pics! did you do the great bird count this weekend?

  2. I'm so impressed you managed to have the olives work out! And yes, I agree about the weather, but I'm so thrilled about having gotten some more rain that I don't complain. We were so far behind rain-wise it was quite worriesome. Now we're at 9 inches, which is more than half of normal.

  3. I'm impressed by both the olives and that you grew the monkeyflower from cuttings. Great pics and so good to see all those cal natives.

  4. It all looks so exotic here to me in the snowy upper midwest... the plants, the birds, everything. Even the olives which I absolutely love.

  5. Another olive thrill over here. And I love the landscaping, and that some is still wild.

  6. Laguna Dirt, the olive experiment was disconcerting since this was our first harvest. But now that we've tried it, it won't be as daunting the next time around. We didn't make the bird count, but would love to join one next year (esp. the X-mas bird count at Elsinore).

    Town Mouse, hopefully we'll catch up on the rain with this latest storm. I heard that it'll be an "arctic" blast coming down by way of Seattle. We're supposed to get some heavy rains here tonight in SoCal with snow levels dropping down to record levels (1,000-500 ft) by tomorrow evening!! Looking forward to some of that rare white stuff!

    Brad & Design Elements - thanks for stopping by! Cal natives are so beautiful and versatile that I love using them in our landscape.

    troutbirder, I'm actually enamored of many alpine/cold-adapted species and wish they could grow in our more or less mediterranean climate. But alas, it is not to be!

    altadenahiker, it's kind of a funny afterthought, but when hubby and I first tasted our olives, we felt some trepidation, as if we were embarking on a gastronomic version of Russian roulette: Is it even edible, botulism anyone? Well, at least they tasted decent, and 5 days later we're still here...

  7. Very cool to see the native birds enjoying the native plants! I'm really impressed with the work you've devoted to making your landscaping have such a nice Southern Californian feel. And curing olives--wow! I think about all the dropped olives I've seen in my life, and how cool it would be to cure my own from even some of the fruit that would otherwise just go to waste.

  8. It is a joy to visit your world . . . seeing so many lively native textures, forms, colors and birds! We are under so much snow and it will still be here for at least another month. It is what it is, but since I am not able to fly away, it is fun to click away into a paradise such as yours. Your garden has a wonderful feeling. What a sweet hummer shot! It must be great to be able to grow your own olives!

  9. James, I hate to see anything go to waste, especially in the garden, so I'm just glad our first batch of olives came out ok. Next time around, I think we'll try salt curing, too. Life's an adventure, no?

    Hi Carol, thanks for visiting! I really enjoyed the amazing photos on your log, btw. For a Southern California girl like myself, a snow-covered winter wonderland looks like paradise to me, since we rarely get snow except up in the higher elevations.

  10. Hi!
    How did you propagate from cuttings when you got those great monkeyflower bushes "cuttings of our native monkeyflowers (Diplacus aurantiacus)"
    I want to do the same thing with those on my property,
    Thanks! Adrienne

    1. Hi Adrienne - I usually take cuttings from new growth (about 4")in late winter/early spring, before they start to bloom. I strip the ends of any leaves and dip each stem into a bit of rooting hormone (not mandatory, but I think it helps to stimulate root growth). I plant the cuttings in plastic pots filled with a well-draining medium such as a cactus potting mix or equal parts of potting soil, perlite and horticultural sand. The planting medium should be watered daily, or at least kept moist for the next 6-8 weeks. My success rate with monkeyflower cuttings is about 50-60%, so I always take quite a few. They should be rooted and ready to plant in about 3-4 months, but I usually won't put them in the ground until the cooler months of fall or winter. Hope that helps!

      Happy gardening,