Sunday, June 19, 2011

What's up with the May grays & June gloom? Who cares, cuz it's all about that ginormous gopher snake...

I don't get the weather...while the rest of the country seems to be in meteorological turmoil, we're stuck on cluck in a state of perpetual May grays & June gloom. Not that that's bad - I mean, foggy and overcast is not unusual this time of year, but the cooler than normal temps certainly is. We've had some afternoon clearings the last couple days, but I actually have the portable heater on right now as I'm typing this post - what's up with that? We're supposed to warm up into the 90s next week, but we shall see...

Now, on to the fun stuff. As usual, Hana was on the prowl today for all things four-legged (i.e., squirrels, bunnies, gophers & lizards) and two-legged (i.e., birds), so when she started lunging under the jade tree at the corner of the garage, I thought, well there she goes again after one of those darned lizards. What else would be lurking under that fleshy shrubbage? Anyhoo, not thinking much about it, and after Gil had maneuvered Hana away from the offending area, I grabbed a bag of bird seed to traipse off and refill the bird feeders. Just as I rounded the corner from the garage, however, I very, very abruptly came upon this visage and proceeded to screech out some rather choice 4-letter words:


Instead of a 4" lizard, Hana had flushed out a 4' snake. After my initial freak-out, I realized that there was no tell-tale rattle or triangular head on this guy to signify rattlesnake. In fact, this appeared to be a non-venomous Gopher Snake (exact species TBD), and anything that takes care of our gopher population is, in my book, a keeper! Unfortunately though, it looks like we'll now have to reenroll Hana in rattlesnake aversion training class. She went through the training about 3 years ago and is supposed to be wary of and avoid snakes in general. NOT!!! 

A few more critters around the grounds:

 6/15/11 Baby bunny on the back patio. The rabbit population is nothing short of phenomenal this year. So cute...but we've spent a small fortune buying chicken wire and Cridder Ridder to keep these guys from mowing down our plants.

A very tiny (Deer or Harvest?) mouse in one of the flower beds. 

Now, onto the natives that have been blooming in the garden. The desert plants have, surprisingly, done well despite our overcast spring:

6/12/11 Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa).

6/3/11 Mojave Sandwort (Arenaria macradenia) and Gooseberry-leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossularifolia).

6/10/11 Gooseberry-leaf Globemallow (Sphaeralcea grossularifolia), Tufted Evening Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa ssp. marginata), and 'Blue Flame' Giant Purple Sage (Salvia pachyphylla). 

6/10/11 Palmer's Penstemon (Penstemon palmeri).

6/17/11 Mojave Sage (Salvia mohavensis).

6/3/11 Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri).

6/3/11 'Winnifred Gilman' Cleveland's Sage (Salvia clevelandii).

6/10/11 Antioch Dunes Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides ssp. howellii).

6/10/11 Desert Columbine (Aquilegia shockleyi).

6/3/11 California Brodiaea (Brodiaea californica).

5/27/11 Crown Brodiaea (Brodiaea coronaria).


5/30/11 Rose Snapdragon (Antirrhinum multiflorum). 

5/30/11 Woodland Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), naturalized in the herb garden. The fruits are really, super tiny and tart-sweet in flavor.

5/16/11 Clarkias (C. amoena, C. rubicunda blasdalei, C. purpurea quadrivulnera, C. unguiculata), which have reseeded themselves in this wildflower bed for the past two seasons. 

6/12/11 Botta's Clarkia/Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia bottae). Purchased the seeds from Larner's Seeds last year, and sowed them (along with Tidy Tips, Owl's Clover, and Birds Eye Gilia) in a new area I'm cultivating with native grasses (California Fescue, Purple Needlegrass, Clustered Field Sedge, & Eyebrow grass-Bouteloua gracilis). 

6/17/11 Oak Titmouse. 

6/17/11 Pink Monkeyflower, a cross between Mimulus lewisii and M. cardinalis. Requires regular water, but is much hardier than the straight Lewis's, which hails from higher elevations. 

6/13/11 Pink Monkeyflower.

6/17/11 'Georgie Red' Monkeyflower.

6/12/11  'Sunset' Monkeyflower.

5/30/11 Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus aurantiacus). This one's native to our site. 

5/23/11 'Red & Yellow #1' Monkeyflower.

6/17/11 Western Spiraea (Spiraea douglasii).

6/10/11 Hedge Nettle (Stachys bullata).

6/10/11 California Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia calycina 'Rocky Point').

5/23/11 Jeffrey's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon jeffreyi) growing with Stream Orchid (Epipactus gigantea) in a wine barrel.

5/23/11 Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum - native to the site), White Sage (Salvia apiana) and Cleveland's Sage (Salvia clevelandii) along the fenceline.

5/23/11 Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis).

5/23/11 Eaton's Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii).

6/3/11 Island Pink Yarrow (Achillea millefolium rosea).


  1. Oh, I love a new post from you; it's like finding a great magazine in the mail.

    I think it was very wise of nature to make the rattlesnake so easy to spot. Last year there was a King snake curled up on my front porch. I ran for the camera, not realizing the vibration would send him away.

    The flowers look great and your 5/23 photo Showy penstamon is excellent.

  2. I agree...I love your posts! Seeing even the photo of the snake gave me real chills, even though I know it's not dangerous. I heard once that one of our inborn fears is of snakes, probably part of the fight or flight response!

    All your flowers are lovely! I like the globemallow and the Rose Snapdragon and the penstamons and sages, on and on! the 'Georgie Red' Monkeyflower looks striking against the same color fence.

  3. Are you around today? I'd like to use one of your photos for a patch piece on cal natives. With attribution of course. But I'll understand perfectly if you'd prefer I didn't. Please email me if you get this message -- it would be for a piece that goes up tomorrow.

  4. Great critter shots! We also have seen a lot more bunnies and are just putting wire around things. I like the bunnies. Love the penstemon and weird monkeyflower hybrids!

  5. I haven't seen a gopher snake around here in a while, although I know they're lurking here somewhere. I'm always excited to find one though, although our gophers probably aren't ;) We seem to be busting out in bunnies this year too. No doubt due to the last two spring seasons being quite lush with good rainfall. So far though, they seem content to nibble on things I'm not too bothered about, except the Artemisia. They didn't get the memo that they're not supposed to nibble the Artemisia! As for Winnifred, I must have offended her. I've killed three Winnifred Gilmans in the last 6 months. Her cousin Allan Chickering on the other hand is taking over the universe. Does your Winnifred Gilman demand more water than some of the native sages? For the life of me I can't fathom why she's so unhappy here. Maybe our soils are too sandy.

  6. Karin, I've only seen the tail end of a king snake once before in our compost pile and, like you, ran for hell or high water for the camera. Barely got a fleeting shot. My hubby just kinda grunted some monosyllabic responses when I recounted to him my king snake encounter, but I think he was secretly exhilarated. I think he's jealous cuz I'm the only one who inevitably and invariably stumbles upon or sights snakes on our property. Btw, thanks for including a few of my photos on your patch piece!

    Sue, I'm generally ok with snakes, but the gopher was a rather hefty specimen and it took me a few seconds to realize it wasn't a rattler. So, yes - I believe that Homo sapiens is wired to react to these guys.

    Country Mouse, I too love the bunnies. Such cute little buggers they are, but like you, I've been laying out the chicken/mesh wire in force, like there's no tomorrow, to keep them away from the neverending salad bar otherwise known as my garden :)

    Clare, The only things the bunnies here don't seem to like are the artemisias (as you've noted), lavenders, and salvias. Everything else is apparently fair game. I, too, have killed a few Winnifreds, and have surmised that it was due to under-watering during the first year they were planted. Even after they are established, they seem to do well with deep watering every 3-4 weeks during the dry season (down here, that's from around June-October). I think your sandy soil should be fine, as I've got mine growing in straight decomposed granite.

  7. Your pictures saved the piece. Got 40 or 50 recommends, and I attribute 90% to your penstemon.

  8. That is one cool gopher snake!
    Your garden has the coolest critters and plants. The sage lining your walkway is pretty. It reminds of Lavender. :)

  9. Hi Joe! We are indeed really lucky to have so many cool critters on the property. And now that you mention it, the Winnifred Gilman sage does look lavender-like with its gray-green foliage and deep purple inflorescences!