Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's been the best bloomin' year ever! Por que?!

3/31/12 Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus). A riparianish shrub in the rose family with distinctive layered bark and lovely white flowers in the spring. This one's growing under the shade of a sycamore. First time it's flowered since I planted it in 2010.

We had some weird weather here in SoCal this past winter season: a bit of rain in fall, no rain at all from December  to January, cold days followed by hot days followed by cold days followed by hot days, then there were a couple of really good downpours in March & April. What the freakin' frack? Anyhoo, I was bracing myself for a disappointing season in the garden, native and otherwise, but au contraire!! I've never seen so many blooms and so early, too. Most of our fruit trees are laden with flowers and/or fruit, especially the apricots, peaches, nectarines, pluots, Dorsett Golden apple, mulberries, champagne loquat, Arbequina olive, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, avocados, and the wine & table grapes. And, I'm not sure what's up with the natives -  the manzanitas, salvias, and ceanothus have been extremely floriferous this year. So thank you Mutha Nature, even if I don't always quite get ya...

3/31/12 Ceanothus 'Concha.' Like the Ninebark, first time it's flowered since its original planting a couple years ago.

3/16/12 'Sierra Star.' A Calliandra hybrid I bought at the RSABG fall sale last November. What a stunner! Like all Calliandras, super drought tolerant and ever-blooming almost year round.

3/16/12 White Desert Primrose (Oenothera caespitosa) in the desert garden. This super fragrant desert primrose is growing in sandy/gravelly soil, amended with cactus soil mix. Seems like a short-lived perennial, but several little offshoots are appearing next to the mother plant. 

2/27/12 Pink-flowered Currant (Ribes Sanguineum glutinosum). A reliable late winter/early spring bloomer. Likes some shade and moderate water, and is winter deciduous. This one is growing on the shadier side of our house just outside the laundry room. So far, it's not been phased yet by the periodic blasts of warm, Bounce-scented air emanating from the dryer vent.

2/27/12 Beautiful Rockcress (Arabis pulchra gracilis). A rock garden plant that needs good drainage. I'm not sure why I put it in the meadow planter, but it seems to be doing ok so far with the occasional extra H2O.

3/16/12 Woolly Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum). Native to our South Coast ranges. Love the fuzzy purple cuteness of the blooms. Just sayin.' This was one of the first natives (purchased from the nursery at Theodore Payne) I planted on the property in 2006.

3/16/12 'Allen Chickering' Sage (Salvia clevelandii x S. leucophylla). 

3/16/12 Yellow Rockrose (Halymium calycinum). A drought tolerant mediterranean shrub, purchased at the 2010 fall plant sale at U.C. Riverside Botanic Garden. 

3/16/12 Chaparral Mallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus). The blooms look so sweet, but this sprawling bush is now bent over and looking unruly after some strong winds and our recent rain storms.

3/16/12 Nevin's Barberry (Mahonia nevinii). A Southern California endemic, this shrub is state and federally listed. My Nevin's is a bit slow growing - I bought it in Oct. of 2007 at the UCR fall plant sale and it's only grown to about 3' tall. But, it's studded with flowers this year. Go figure.

3/30/12 Sticky Phacelia (Phacelia viscida). A gorgeous Cal native annual. Purchased from Annie's Annuals in Richmond, CA. 

3/30/12 Seep Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus). From seeds sown in November of 2011.

3/16/12 'Blue Springs' Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus).

3/30/12 Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis). Wasn't sure if the Redbuds would bloom this year with our erratic winter temps, but here they are in their full pink splendor.

4/14/12 Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), leafing out.
3/31/12 A foggy day, but the rockroses are in full bloom, along with the San Gabriel Fremontodendron to the left.

4/11/12 Otay Mountain Lotus (Lotus crassifolius var. otayensis). Native to Otay Mountain in San Diego County. Grew this one from seed. Best to  scarify, i.e., loosen or break up, the seed hard seed coat before planting. I do this by soaking the seeds in warmish tap water overnight.

4/11/12 Red-skinned onion (Allium haematochiton). This allium is native to to SoCal, including the Santa Rosa Plateau. Seems to grow well here in our decomposed granite. Red-skinned refers to the covering around the bulbs. 

4/14/12 Left to right: 'Dara's Gold' Fremontia, 'Cynthia Postan' Ceanothus, Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina,' Blanket flower, Interior Goldenbush, Howard McMinn Manzanita.

4/14/12 'Frosty Blue' Ceanothus.

4/14/12 Clockwise from bottom left: Margarita BOP penstemon, Conejo Monkeyflower, Rockroses, 'San Gabriel' Fremontodentron, 'Canyon Prince' Giant Wild Rye (Leymus condensatus).

4/14/12 Sidalcea malviflora 'Palustre.' A garden selection of our native checkerbloom.

4/14/12 Baby Blue Eyes (Nemophila menziesii). One of my fav native annual wildflowers. Sown from seed.

4/12/12 Meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). Sown from seed.

4/14/12 Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla). Another beautiful Cal native wildflower.

4/14/12 'Santa Rosa' Alumroot (Heuchera hirsutissima).

4/14/12 Wallace's Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans). Native to Southern California's coastal mountains. This pitcher sage has done well on the property with good drainage, a little shade and occasional watering. The scent of this plant is to die for if you're a chaparral fanatic, like me.

4/14/12 Canada Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis).

4/14/12 Woolley Bluecurls (Trichostema lanatum), Prickly Phlox (Leptodactylon californicum), and Showy Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis). 

4/14/12 San Diego Sunflower (Viguiera laciniata) and Paradise Manzanitas (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis), with their trademark spring flush of reddish-hued new leaves.

4/14/12 'Mountain Haze' Ceanothus and 'Anacapa Pink' Island Morning Glory (Calystegia macrostegia).

4/14/12 Blue Elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) in full bloom and Desert Wild Grape (Vitis girdiana) along the fence.

And, of course, I can't omit some of our recent avian visitors:

4/8/12 One of our first Hooded Orioles this year. Put out the oriole feeder stat after I saw a couple of them perched precariously on the hummingbird feeders in early April. Ratio of water to sugar for orioles is 1:6. Hummers like it 1:4, and I use that for all the nectar feeders. The orioles aren't complaining.

3/2/12 A covey of California Quail, dining on the bird seed under one of our bird feeders. 

3/30/12 A plucky boy Quail.

3/30/12 Scrub Jay .

3/29/12 Mallards at the pond. I think they're the same pair that flies in every afternoon. I named them Donald & Ivana . Yeah, I know, they're exes in real life, but Donald & Daisy just seemed kinda boring...

3/30/12 Donald & Ivana, strutting their stuff. Donald has a tell-tale feather sticking up from his back - kinda like the human Donald's signature unruly hairdo. 

3/30/12 Ivana, fluffing her feathers. 

And then there's Maybelline. Maybelline is not a bird, but rather a baby bunny that used to regularly visit our back patio from late March up until about a week ago. Why Maybelline? Well, when we first moved out here to La Cresta, we saw a bunny every morning at the corner of Calle Centro and Avenida La Cresta on our way to work, and we named 'her' Mabel. So it seemed natural to dub this little one 'Maybelline.' Of course, my sis just had to ask if we we were planning to name other future visiting bunnies Revlon, Almay and Cover Girl...

I haven't seen Maybelline for about a week now - hope Mountain Bob didn't get her and that she's living the good life with Mabel up in the highlands. 

3/30/12 Maybelline browsing on Spanish Lavender. Yuck.

3/30/12 Maybelline.

4/5/12 Maybelline eating bird seed.


  1. I don't know how much more of your acreage photos I can take viewing anymore. I'm jealous. Just yesterday I was speaking to a friend about gardening in So-Cal and all the present explosion of growth happening at the moment. When the growing season happens here, it won't be into full steam ahead until sometime in May.

    My Swede friend commented, "yeah, it's really bad this year. Have you noticed that all the tree and shrub buds haven't even swelled yet ?"


    Okay, on another note. I use to collect some plants from Idyllwild(my former home prior to Anza) some of the wild currant Rhizomatus roots and planted them on my property on Table Mtn (4500') Anza near a gray water line I had. Of course I already had established some riparian trees of White Alder and one Sycamore. So placement under them was a must. I'm wanting to do a piece on currant and other forest floor plants on my Earth's Internet" page sometime soon as these plants have amazing underground networks which also have the potential for transporting and fascilitating water throughout the grid.

    I also planted one single speciman of 'San Gabriel' Fremontodentron on my propert next to the house and took pictures of it last year when my wife and I came over from Sweden for a visit. The really kool thing is that it has re-seeded itself on the property and newer plants have appeared in the wild landscape. WOW - how exciting was that ?

    Also like the Mallow and Ceanothus. One redbud I planted on the southern edge of my mum's sycamore trees. I also planted a Baja Fairyduster as well and it's doing fantastic in her front yard of El Cajon along with a Cleveland Sage I also planted last year. Got the plants from Tree of Life and others from Las Pilitas. If I can get her to take photos of them I will and post them. All of them I inoculated with mycorrhizae. I've never planted without doing that.

    BTW, the Nevin's Barberry (Mahonia nevinii) can be seen in the wild near your Vail Lake area. If your's blooms this year and you are out in the yard at the right time, could you photograph birds eating the berries ? That would be a great shot.

    Thanks again for the posts here. I'm still envious and jealous. Okay I know, those are bad qualities. *smile*

    BTW, congrats on more rain which blessed you the past couple of days. I heard and read it was a good soaker. And a real lifesaver for being so late in your rainy season.


    1. Kevin, this 'garden' of mine has been a labor of love, and I am just so glad that there are fellow native plant enthusiasts out there like you with whom I can share what I consider my little piece of paradise. We built our home in 2006 and made a point of preserving as much of the native coastal sage scrub/chaparral on the property as possible, which ended up being about 3 acres in the end, give or take. I was overwhelmed by what to do in terms of landscaping with the areas that had been cleared and graded (we had lived in a 900 sf townhouse with a tiny yard for 15 years prior to moving out here), but I knew I wanted to replant with natives and xerics - basically, drought tolerants that would keep the water bill down. I initially consulted a landscape designer specializing in Cal natives but then almost had a coronary when I saw how much he was going to charge us for his services, so decided to give this a go on my own. Six years later and after a ton of trial and error (I won't tell you how many natives I've killed from kindness before finally getting their cultural requirements right), the end results are what you are now seeing in the photos I've been posting. I still have a day job, but gardening is my rest and relaxation.

      I'm very curious about your take on currants and their potential for water transport - I was not aware that they had this capability. Gotta check out your Earth's Internet page for other interesting morsels.

      As for the 'San Gabriel' Fremontodendron, I am astonished by how fast it's grown in the past 5 years. It started out as a 2-footer in a 5-gallon pot but now it's enormous. Hasn't yet reseeded like yours, but keeping my fingers crossed. Do you know the approximate location of Nevin's Barberry near Vail Lake? Would love to scope them out. If we get berries on ours, I'm hoping to get a photo of cedar waxwings imbibing on them. That would be awesome!

      So your property is in Anza. That sounds really familiar. Is it off SR 371? I think we've passed it en route to Hwy. 74 on our way to Idyllwild. In good rain years, we like to head out to the Aguanga area. lots and lots of wildflowers off SR 371, Wilson Valley Road and SR 79:

      We had an inch an a half of rain from this last soaker - the plants are looking mighty happy.


    2. Arleen:
      "I'm very curious about your take on currants and their potential for water transport - I was not aware that they had this capability. Gotta check out your Earth's Internet page for other interesting morsels."

      Here's the link. You may only be aware of my postings on "Timeless Environments" which BTW, I have a link there on my last post of an environmental lifestyles Green website. Check out my post and bookmark their site. There are volumes of kool resources, like the natural pool-pond swimming holes you can create. To me that is the ultimate in Swimming pool.


      Now here is my other web-blog. It mainly deals with the scientific mechanics of how things actually work underground which makes the above ground succeed. I studied and researched for years and have been so amazingly impressed and struck with awe about how sophisticated and complexity of how the natural world is put together. That's why when I plan out a landscape theme, the plants that will go into them, I look at them intelligently as to how they appear out in nature. Will such & such plants do well in this theme ? I think about the underground Internet or grid complex of not only mycorrhizae, but the different root systems which are all connected to each other and work for each others benefit. All plants will be connected to one another through this grid and will actually exchange beneficial alkoloids and other substances the others manufacture and transport through the grid. Some plants do better in association with others from the same community than others. This is why some plants will not do well as a singular speciman plant when grown by itslef. It needs or requires it's natural neighbours as found in nature.

      Anyway, I've tried to take an otherwise technical boring subject and make it fun and interesting. Scientists and researchers generally do a terrible job at communicating and instilling appreciation into the average readers, so I attempt to change that.

      I've got numerous 'Drafts' in the backoffice panel already, but I don't want to overwhelm folks with mountains of information. I'm also just now utilizing the pages over on the side for more technical references and resources for other to use at the personal leisure.


      "Do you know the approximate location of Nevin's Barberry near Vail Lake? Would love to scope them out."

      I believe you would have to go out to Vail Lake itself and rent a boat or maybe walk along it's southern shoreline. The plants will be at the south side of the Lake Vail on the northern slopes of those hills above on that south side. There is also another rare and endangered plant called "Vail Lake Ceanothus - Chlorogalum purpureum" which might also be seen. The scientific name for Nevin's Barberry is confusing as I have seen two listings - Berberis nevinii or Mahonia Nevinii. It's pretty much extinct in most of it's traditional locations like Redlands, LA Basin and other parts of San Diego Co because of development. So Vail Lake is like an island for it. However I remember back on 1998 when they put it on an endangered list, one of the things of concern was the unhealthfull condition of that population at Vail Lake.

    3. Arleen:
      "So your property is in Anza."

      Actually I sold it back in 2002. I now live in Sweden. But on my "Timeless Environment" blogsite and on the "Earth's Internet" blogsite I offer some photos and explanations of what I did there and the plants I experimented with. The folks who own it now were excited
      I could explain some plants they wondered about. Sadly, the previous owner had a tree trimming business owner who took out alot of the landscape trees and shrubs so he had places to park his heavy equipment. As soon as I got over the initial shock(#/%@¤) I accepted it as their right to do with as they so please. Whatever.

      Sorry for being long winded. You blog comments box here warned me I was LOL

      BTW, you may want to go to Las Pilitis or Tree of Life Nurseries and pick up a Mahonia repens which is a low growing Mahonia or Barberry and gets no more than a foot tall and spreads slowly by underground rhizomes. Beautiful bright yellow flowers in spring and purple berries in the fall. Tough liitle plant, but put it under shade where you are for a woodland effect that eventually won't require alot of water if incolutated with an endomycorrhizae.

      Cheers, Kevin

    4. Thanks for all the great feedback, Kevin. And, trust me, I don't mind long-winded at all :) I'm planning on a trip to Las Pilitas in Escondido either this coming weekend or next and will definitely pick up a Mahonia repens, per your suggestion. That's one plant I don't already have and I think it will work very nicely under our sycamores.

    5. I'm leaving for Krakow Poland Thursday with my wife for a week, but I'll try and do a quick article on Mahonia repens. It's a tough little plant if it's got a good location. I'll go for it today.

    6. Okay, my Mahonia repens (Creeping Oregon Grape) post is done. Hope it educates a bit and gives you some ideas and understanding of the plant.

      Cheers, Kevin

    7. Great article, Kevin! I just left a comment on it.

  2. OMG I love all those quail! I have four that come around here. If that many ever show up I may explode from excitement!

    1. Hah! Trust me, I explode from excitement every time they come to the feeder, which is about twice a day now. It never gets old. Cal Quails are awesome!

  3. I forgot to mention your Mexican Elderberry. I haven't looked, but have you any recipes over at the Grub-Files ? When I was a kid we use to see this shrub-like tree everywhere, but now it is pretty much gone from many of it's traditional areas. This was one of the many plants I'd keep a look out for when exploring for Native America village sites. It was always present along with Prickly Pear Cactus and Oaks as a part of their pantry. I believe the native planted many things around their home nieghbourhoods.

    Anyways they are very edible and under appreciated in Southern California. Both wine and Jam amking are great. The wine tastes to me a slight bit on the prune side. But always had some that was made by older experienced hispanics who knew the plant's uses.

    1. Kevin, I don't have any recipes for Mexican Elderberry, but that's because our tree has never produced enough berries for me to make something of them. I'm a fan of ethnobotany though, and there are a couple books (which you may or may not already be familiar with) that I highly recommend: 'Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West' by Gregory L. Tilford, and 'Seaweed, Salmon and Manzanita Cider: A California Indian Feast' by Margaret Dubin and Sara-Larus Tolley. If there's a decent bounty of berries this year on our Mexican Elderberry, I will definitely be making something of them and will post the results on the Grub Files.

  4. Very inspiring show this month, Arleen! Seeing your freemontia makes me want to plant the gallon plant I've been keeping alive for six months, waiting until space opens up. Maybe I can take out the garage and reclaim enough space for one plant.

    I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with my Ribes sanguineum. It's alive, at least, but here where it's fairly coastal-influeced it holds on to its leaves over the winter. That might be the problem--lack of winter. But you're not that much to the north. Dunno. Maybe I need to wait a proper period like you have with some of your plants?

    Re the elderberries, I've had some tea brewed from quite young flowers that was prepared by members of one of our local tribes. It's believed to have healing properties, but only if you use young flowers--long before they're berries. It wasn't a stunning flavor, but it didn't suck, either.

    1. That's hilarious, James! The garage would be a perfect space for a larger fremontia to fit into! My Ribes sanguineum has only finally grown into its own after about two years in the ground - it produced only a meagre half dozen or so blooms in the first couple years, so in your case, it I'll bet yours is still getting acclimated. Tea from young elderberry flowers sounds interesting. Which tribe was this, and do you know how it was made? (just steeped in hot water?) I'm always curious about the culinary uses of native plants - as long as they're edible, I'm game to try!

  5. Wow, you sure have a lot of nice things blooming and it's great to see all the birds, partly a testament to all the flowers no doubt. I've also been thinking that it's turning out to be a good year for flowers. I wonder if the plants might be more stressed later in the year, but for now they seem happy with how the winter has gone.

    1. Ryan, I'm also wondering what we're in store for weather-wise later this year and how our plants will ultimately fare.

  6. This is an impressive post, chock full of great information and pictures! I've seen so many blog posts lamenting the lack of wildflowers this year. I'm impressed your garden is doing so well. I love western redbud and have only seen it going 65 mph on the I-5 heading towards Mt. Shasta. Having pitcher sage is on my dream garden list. Up here, we have Lepechinia calycina. On a warm day, it gives off a wonderful fragrance in the surrounding air. Oh, out of curiosity, when you mentioned buying your property from Theodore Payne, do you mean the foundation?

    1. Hi Katie, it has been a strange but wonderful year for our garden! I think all pitcher sages must have that heady aroma you describe - it's so quintessentially 'chaparral' and I always love purposely brushing by the plant to get a whiff of that wonderful fragrance. Btw, I realized when I reread the caption under the Trichostema photo that it sounds like I bought our property from T. Payne - I meant to say that I bought the plant from the T. Payne nursery - LOL! I've since edited that line so that I won't inadvertently mislead others!

  7. Dear Camissonia,
    Three weeks ago, while browsing for "smart plants" at Home Depot (of all places), I found this beautiful strange looking plant with lovely blue flowers and narrow, fragrant bright green leaves. The pot did not have a label, and I was told that it was a sage that would take sun and require little water. To make the long story short, I planted it in my garden (Davis, California) in full sun, and within two days the leaves dried out and looked like pine needles--brittle and dry, but still green. I realized that the sun must have scorched the plant, so I took it out, put it in a pot, and placed it in the shade. The flowers are, of course, long gone, the needle-like leaves are still on and green, but I know that the plant is not dead because the branches are not brittle, and they are green not brown, where cut. Anyway, I've been looking all over the internet for this plant--trying to find out its name. Today, after checking out images for Clevelend Sage Allen Chickering, I stumbled upon your posting. Now I know that I have Wooly Bluecurls. I don't know if it can survive our hot summers in Davis, but I will do some research. Perhaps I could grow it a pot, in light shade. Your garden is delightful.... Thank you for sharing...

    1. Hi Olivera,
      Thanks very much for visiting my blog! I'm always happy to share my garden stories and photos with fellow gardeners! When you mentioned that you bought this drought tolerant sage with blue flowers & fragrant leaves from Home Depot, I immediately thought that you probably purchased Mexican Sage, which has lovely spires of fuzzy blue-purple flowers during the warmer months, rather than Woolly Blue Curls. The reason is because Woolly Blue Curls do not survive well under regular garden conditions (it's a bit finicky and requires little to no water in the summer) and is usually only available through native plant nurseries. I have several Mexican sages growing in my garden and have learned through trial and error that they must be kept well-watered the first season after you plant them in the ground - otherwise, they will scorch & dry out like yours did. After they are established, then they will be quite drought and heat tolerant. The hummingbirds love this plant! I also deadhead the spent flower spikes regularly for repeat bloom and prune them in early spring to encourage vigorous new growth. Anyways, look for Google images of "Mexican Sage" or Salvia leucantha" online and see if that is the plant you purchased.

      Happy gardening!

  8. Dear Arleen,
    no, it is not Salvia leucantha--I have had that one for several years. I still think it is Wooly Blue Curls. As I said, I have never seen this plant before, and it was the only one at Home Depot (as if the supplier left it among other plants by accident). It looks exactly like the Wooly Blue Curls that I saw yesterday in your blog. In addition, the leaves (almost rosemary-like and with a distinct scent I was unfamiliar with), the flowers (the beautiful deep blue)...and the description of the plant (I have since looked it up and, of course, found a lot of information about it since I now knew the name of the plant) make me feel almost positive that it is Wooly Blue Curls. Yes...I read that it is a very difficult (almost impossible) plant to grow in a garden--one person recommended little or no water, poor soil, no fertilizer...otherwise, it will die. On top of it all, Davis is not a place for it...but, I was thinking...could I grow it in a large fast draining the sun? I would love to have this plant...! Would sandy loam be appropriate (in a large pot or half barrel) Do you have any suggestions? Or should I just forget it...
    I love your blog...thank you for responding. I truly appreciate it.

    1. Dear Olivera,
      In that case, it does indeed sound like you have a Woolly Blue Curls! A rare find at Home Depot (wish they would carry more Cal natives, but they are getting better).

      Do not give up! In general, natives, even the drought tolerant ones, require some regular watering for maybe the first month or so after planting to become established, after which you can just leave them to the elements. Also, plants that are planted in fall-winter seem to have a better survival rate that those planted in the summer. If you have to plant it in the summer, I would suggest growing it in a large pot with well-draining soil (mine was planted in the ground in straight decomposed granite, which is the native soil on our property), perhaps a blend of cactus soil, pea gravel, & horticultural sand. Keep the plant in the sun and watered, but let it dry out between waterings, as too much H2O will kill it. Once the weather starts cooling off in your area (for us it's usually in late Oct.), you can consider installing it in the ground. Continue the watering regimen through the winter season (except when it rains, of course), and if it makes it through to spring, then the plant should be ok and not require any supplemental watering next year. And, yes - no fertilizer for this one!

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!