Friday, January 6, 2012

A Total Lunar Eclipse, Manzanita Mania and did we somehow skip winter?

We started the Fall season with some much-needed rains, brisk temperatures, and even some hurricane-forced Santa Ana winds here in SoCal. But for the past several weeks it's been bone dry, still windy at times, and downright warm.  We went to my parents' house in San Dimas on Christmas day for Chinese hot pot, which had been planned about a month prior because we assumed it would be really, really cold so some nice, steaming hot soup would hit the spot. NOT!!! It was a 75F. Just not the same. Anyhoo, the hot pot was still great, but the warm weather seemed incongruent with the winter holiday season.

I've been taking it real easy after cervical spine surgery, but at least the camera is not off limits (just the heavier stuff, including the vacuum cleaner, mop & pail, so Gil has been forced to take over some of the house cleaning duties - heh, heh!). So here's a wrap up of what's been going on around the grounds for the past month. 

To kick things off, we experienced an unusual phenomenon last month in the form of a total lunar eclipse, which was visible in our area at the crack of dawn on December 10th. I got up around 6am and managed to get a couple of reasonably clear shots before the moon disappeared behind the horizon. The next total lunar eclipse will not happen again until April of 2014. 

12/10/11 View of a reddish-hued moon in a total eclipse from the front side of the house, just after 6am.

12/10/11 Getting lighter outside as the sun rises, but the moon is still visible.

1/5/12 View of wispy clouds at around 7am, outside the kitchen door. 

1/5/11 I never get tired of cloud shots. 

Despite the unseasonably warm weather, many of the manzanitas in the garden have begun to bloom, some quite prolifically, so the hummers and bees are out in force.

1/1/12 'La Panza' or Gray Manzanita (Arctostaphylos silvicola x A. stanfordiana bakeri). This one, which has the silvery-gray foliage of A. silvicola, is growing nicely under the shade of a very large 'San Gabriel' Fremontodendron next to the driveway. 

1/1/12 Paradise Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis). I love the bronzy-red new foliage and the extremely long-lasting blooms of this floriferous manzanita. We have two 4' shrubs growing along a walkway at the front entry of the house. 

1/1/12 Another shot of Paradise Manzanita, in full bloom, along the gravel walkway. 

1/6/12 'Sentinel' Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora selection). 

1/1/12 Island Manzanita (Arctostaphylos insularis). I planted this one in 2008, and it hasn't grown very much (it's just under 3' right now). However, this year it's put forth more blooms than I've ever seen before. Endemic to Santa Cruz Island of the Channel Islands. 

1/1/12 Ghostly Manzanita (Arctostaphylos silvicola). 

1/1/12 A 5 ft. shrub of 'Austin Griffiths' Manzanita (Arctostaphylos manzanita x A. densiflora). 

1/6/12 'Ian Bush' Manzanita (hybrid, A. densiflora x A. pungens?). This one is forming into a nice hedge, about 4' x 4'.

1/1/12 Santa Cruz Manzanita (Arctostaphylos andersonii). This one's still a baby at 2' tall, but starting to produce more blooms. Endemic to the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

1/1/12 Frazier Park Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca). 

1/1/12 'Pacific Mist' Manzanita (a Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden introduction) on the right, and 'Ken Taylor' Manzanita (A. hookeri) on the left, under a young Monterey Cypress. After about 3 years, these two plants are starting to form into nice ground covers over a gentle slope. 

1/1/12 'Dr. Hurd' Manzanita (A. manzanita), next to the pond. 

1/1/12 From left to right: Julian or Cuyamaca Manzanita (A. patula var. platyphylla), Mexican or Pointleaf Manzanita (A. pungens), and Laguna Manzanita (A. glandulosa ssp. adamsii).

1/1/12 Glossyleaf Manzanita (A. nummularia). In the past, I've had no luck planting this manzanita in the ground, so I decided to try potting one after buying a one gallon from the RSABG fall plant sale last November. The species hails from the Ft. Bragg area in Northern California, so needs moderate water and some shade. I potted it in a blend of cactus soil and azalea planting mix and have it in the herb garden, which only gets about 3 hours of direct sunlight this time of year. So far, so good...

And for a few non-manzanita happenings in the garden:

1/1/12 'Ray Hartman' Ceanothus (another Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden intro). I see a lot of flower buds forming on many of the ceanothus plants, but this is the first one in bloom.

12/15/11 Beautiful red berries of a Toyon, aka 'Christmas Berry' (Heteromeles arbutifolia) we have growing next to the herb garden. These are native to the Santa Rosa Plateau. In fact, there are several super showy specimens in full bloom right now off Clinton Keith Road between the Bear Creek Fire Station and the La Cresta turnoff. 

1/1/12 Chaparral Bush Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus). 

1/6/12 Las Pilitas Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), growing under one of the sycamores.

I started a project in the fall of 2010 to create a California native meadow/grassland. It's only 10' x 5' and enclosed by chicken wire to keep the bunnies out, but doing nicely so far. I've got Purple Needlegrass (Nasella pulchra or is it now Stipa pulchra?), which is a native bunchgrass found on the plateau., California Fescue (Festuca californica), Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampia caespitosa), Blue Grama Grass (Bouteloua gracilis), and Clustered Field Sedge (Carex praegracilis) growing here, along with Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum), Padre's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon clevelandii), and seedlings of Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa), Goldfields (Lasthenia californica), Bird's Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor), Farewell-to-Spring (Clarkia bottae), and Owl's Clover (Castilleja exserta). Amazing what you can fit into a small area. I've been watering every couple days, though, to keep the seedlings going because of our recent lack of rain. Hoping for a cool, miniature wildflower show in the spring!

The leafless sycamores next to the driveway lend a nice Fall feel to the grounds, despite the balmy weather. 

And last, but not least, some of our recent avian visitors:

12/13/11 Now that's one cute little Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Dendroica coronata). He was hopping around near the back deck and then ended up on this rodent trap - yikes!!

12/24/11 White Crowned Sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys), under the bird feeder. Mix of both adults and first winter juveniles, which have the chestnut/gray crown strips.

12/11/11 Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) on the birdfeeder, and he wasn't there for the bird seed...

1/4/12 House Wren (Troglodytes aedon) on a Mutabilis China Rose.