Sunday, August 5, 2012

Thufferin Thuccotash - It's Summer already!

Can't believe it's been 2 months since my last blog posting. Too many garden chores and not enough time. Fire season is also in full, unfortunate swing. The 'Volcano' fire, accidentally sparked by a County weed abatement worker on Tenaja Road, scorched through 355 acres here on the Santa Rosa Plateau and La Cresta on Wednesday August 1st, and is at this hour about 95% contained. Close calls for a number of homes, especially on Valle Vista, but only one was destroyed by the conflagration - still, that's one too many. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Snyders. 

Photos of the fire are on my Facebook page: 

On the gardening front, I've spent the last couple months creating a new veggie garden, herb garden, rose garden, and California Mission-inspired garden on a previously neglected weedy swath of land downslope from our driveway. Last summer, I was really bummed and frustrated by the proliferation of black mustard and yellow star thistle in this area, so decided to spend the extra bucks and have our gardener Bruno and his crew clear the weeds & install a drip irrigation system. There is a method to my madness. I'm not one to draw out my garden plans in detail: I just go with my gut and my haphazard intuition, pray, keep my fingers tightly crossed, and hope that my plantings won't result in an impenetrable black forest a few years down the line that we'll need to machete our way out of. Such is my enthusiasm and giddy abandon for gardening. 

Here's a snapshot of what's been going on in our late spring/summer garden:

5/25/12 Driveway. To the left: Fremontia 'San Gabriel', 'White Cloud' Chitalpa, Blanketflower (Gaillardia), Gaura, Cedros Island Verbena, Winnifred Gilman Sage. 
To the Right: Matilija Poppies, Sycamores, Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) &  assorted Rock Roses.

5/27/12 Gil, huffing & puffing his way up the fruit orchard. 

5/25/12 Southern/San Diego Honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata denudata).

5/25/12 'Blue Flame' Giant Purple Sage (Salvia pachyphylla).

5/25/12 Mojave Sage (Salvia mohavensis).

5/25/12 Winnifred Gilman Sage, 'Tilden Prostrate' Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla), 'Figueroa' Purple Sage (S. leucophylla), 'Alpine' Sage (S. clevelandii), 'Celestial Blue' Sage (S. clevelandii), 'Pozo Blue' Sage (S. clevelandii), Woolley Blue Curls (Trichostema lanata), Golden Yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum) - native to site.

5/25/12 Foreground to back: Sugarbush (Rhus ovata), Paradise Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis), 'Harmony' Manzanita, 'Sunset' Manzanita, Western Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), and Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa), which is doing surprisingly well here in our Sunset Zone 20 something (haven't quite figured it out yet).

5/25/12 Monkeyflowers! Clockwise left to right: Santa Lucia Bush Monkeyflower (Diplacus fasciculatus), Ramona Narrowleaf Southern Monkeyflower (D. aurantiacus australis), Agoura Spunky Monkey (D. longiflorus). 

5/25/12 Western Spiraea (Spiraea douglasii).

5/25/12 Large-Flowered Phacelia (Phacelia grandiflora).

5/25/12 In the butterfly-hummingbird garden: Mullein, Blanketflowers (Gaillardia), Autumn Sages (Salvia greggii), & Canary Island Sage (Salvia canariensis).

6/2/12 Clarkia concinna 'Pink Ribbons.'

6/2/12 Lemon Lily (Lilium parryi). This one needs extra moisture so I have it growing in a planter bed on the north side of the house along with Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis), Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum), and Creambush (Holodiscus discolor). Smells divine!

6/2/12 Matilija Poppies (Romneya coulteri). This bootiful stand of 'Fried Egg' flowers is just off the driveway, where they can spread & multiply to their heart's content, as they surely will.

6/3/12 Fort William Fairyfan (Clarkia williamsonii). Endemic to Northern & Central Sierra foothills. This annual grows well in our wildflower bed. Purchased from Annie's Annuals.

6/3/12 Pismo Clarkia (Clarkia speciosa immaculata). Federally listed as endangered. My fav clarkia. Purchased from Annie's Annuals.

6/2/12 Winnifred Gilman Cleveland's Sage (Salvia clevelandii) along the driveway.

6/19/12 Pink Monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis x M. lewisii). A great cross that seems a tad more drought & heat tolerant than either of its parents.

6/19/12 Felt-Leaf Monardella (Monardella hypoleuca ssp. lanata). This little monardella is growing under the Monterey Cypress.

6/19/12 San Diego/Gander's Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia ganderi). Seems to be doing ok so far in our decomposed granite with a bit of extra water. Native to the Otay Mountain in SD County.

6/19/12 'Burgundy' Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis). 

6/19/12 Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) and Apache Plume (Fallugia paradoxa).

6/19/12 'Desert Museum' Palo Verde, a thornless Parkinsonia hybrid. 

7/7/12 Ok, I know Gil is going to kill me for posting this photo, but it's just so classic. It was a super hot day and, after an exhausting day of extreme gardening, he & Hana were all tuckered out and decided to pass out in synch under the portico. 

7/8/12 Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Tuskarora') & Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) along the fenceline.

7/8/12 'White Morning Cloud' Chitalpa (Chitalpa tashkentensis). A cross between our native Desert Willow Chilopsis linearis & the South Eastern Catalpa bignonioides). We planted four of these along the driveway - drought tolerant with showy flowers in the summer that attract our resident hummers. They're commonly used as street trees here in Murrieta. 

7/8/12 'Imperial Thai Delight' Bougainvillea and 'Orange Bells' Tecoma (Tecoma garrocha) in Hana's dog run. I think they're proliferating cuz of her poopie piles. Just sayin'.

7/8/12 Cleared the weeds along the fenceline next to our neighbor's property to create a new rose/herb/veggie & California Mission-inspired garden. 

7/8/12 Biblical herb garden. New plantings include: Clary Sage, Jerusalem Sage, Dill, Fennel, Pomegranate, Lemongrass, Crown of Thorns, Hyssop, Roman Chamomile, Rose of Sharon, Balm of Gilead, Warley Rockrose, Sage-leaf Rockrose, Egyptian Mint, Syrian Oregano, Rue, Borage, Costmary, Shamouti (Palestine) Orange, and Santa Teresa Femminello Lemon.

7/8/12 Biblical herb garden.

7/8/12 Herb garden.

7/29/12 Charantais melon, a French cantaloupe deemed to be the most flavorful melon in the world (grew these from seeds purchased from Seed Savers Exchange). Lots of flowers, but no fruit yet. I put burlap underneath the plants to keep the area weed free and also to protect any developing fruit from direct contact with the soil. Sunflower seedlings are in the foreground.

7/29/12 Tomatoes (Beam's Yellow Pear, Momotaro, Carmello, Brandywine & Zapotec), tomatillos, peppers (habanero, ancho & jalapeno), corn (Silver Queen & Kandy Corn), and summer squash (zucchini & crookneck).

7/29/12 Thompson Seedless grapes.

7/29/12 Zinfandel grapes.

7/29/12 Cabernet grapes.

7/29/12 Champagne grapes trellised in the kitchen herb garden.

7/29/12 Rio Red Grapefruit. Should be ready to harvest this winter.

7/29/12 Scarlet Robe peaches. On the small side this year, but still very sweet. Planning to make peach sorbet with these guys.

7/29/12 Tarantula Hawk on Rush Milkweed (Asclepias subulata). 

8/5/12 Blair's Wirelettuce (Munzothamnus blairii). Endemic to San Clemente Island. Got this  from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden last year.

8/5/12 How cool is that? A band-tailed pigeon (Columba fasciata) landed on one of our bird feeders today. The white band across the nape is indicative.

6/15/12 California Quail. 

6/3/12 Baby California quails with their parents. So cute!

6/17/12 Great Egret in the pond. Hope it didn't eat all our all fish.

6/10/12 Juvenile White-tailed Kite on the Engelmann Oak above the fruit orchard.


  1. Okay I like all the pics. I see you gave your field hand "Gilberto" the day off.

    On a hot day to you get the scent of the cleveland sage even when off in the distance ?

    Love the baby Quail. Reminds me of my old place. Even when not baring young I had mastered doing the sound of a baby Quail chick which is almost identical to domestic chicks. It use to shake the hens up and they'd come very close to where I was sitting looking for some stray baby which was never real in the first place.

    Another disheartening thing is knowing we can't even growth close to half that fruit and garden vegetables you have there.

    I did try Crenshaw Melon one year and was extremely successful but it was a rare occurrence. They like heat and long growing seasns and the elevations of my house ABOVE already 4000' Anza Valley didn't always cooperate. They are my flavourite for making Melon Margaritas.


    1. Kevin, yes indeed - the air is redolent with the heavenly scent of cleveland sage on a hot day! One of my fav chaparral scents next to that of pitcher sage (Lepechinia fragrans). I didn't realize that baby quails sounded just like baby chickens - kinda like peeping sounds? Must listen to them more carefully next time. Hilarious to see as a whole line of them scurrying behind their parents at breakneck speed from the chaparral stand to our birdfeeders. I love watching quail and so does Gil, but I also suspect he has visions of 'stuffed quail a la orange' whilst checking them out.

      The fruit trees we've planted have generally done well here, but we've had a mango, guava and avocado go kaput from the frost a few winters ago. The tropicals will stand up to occasional frost, but not prolonged freezes. At 4,000', Anza Valley must be prone to chilly winters, but nowhere near as cold as Sweden, eh? Keeping my fingers crossed that the melons will develop fruit - a melon margarita sounds pretty good right about now...

    2. The coldest ever at my house in Anza was 6 degrees below ZERO FAHRENHEIT. Actually I can remember cold worse than here. The problem also with gardening there at times is that even in summer it can chill down not to cold of freezing but enough to stifle certain plants from productivity. Okay hate cool nights. Thet thrive in heat. Same with Crenshaw melons.

      But growth and productivity in Anza still far surpasses here in Sweden. This climate is truly pathetic. Natives thrive and that's about it.

      And yes Quail chicks peep.

  2. I was holding my breath for you during that Volcano fire. It's terrifying how quickly a fire can fare up at this time of year. I'm so glad you're all safe though!

    I love the flowers of the Mojave Sage, I don't think I've seen that around here. I just mentioned in my current post that I've killed three Winnifred Gilman sages in the last two years. I love the plants, their rich blue flowers, and the scent of the leaves, and I originally chose that cultivar to help extend the period of sage blooms in the garden. Winnie is definitely a bit more persnickety in my garden though. Planted as a mass like that though, it's just beautiful, and I'm very envious, it looks perfectly happy in your garden. Pozo Blue and Alan Chickering by comparison do seem to love it here. I'm trying some more Winnifred Gilman, but mostly sticking to Alan and Pozo for now.

    Your fruits and vegetables look delightful. I've never had luck with corn. In the Central Valley we always battled that nasty corn-smut fungus. Yours looks fabulously healthy though!

    1. Thanks, Clare! The firefighters did an amazing job, as always, and only one home in the area was destroyed. Luckily, the family was fully insured and are planning on rebuilding asap. I, too, love the flowers of Mojave sage-they're a uniquely gorgeous hue of sky blue. Just hoping I won't lose this desert species to an extra wet and/or cold winter (heard that El Nino may be in the works this year). Winnie has done well in my garden, but the two Allen Chickerings I planted last year have not thrived and may have gone kaput already. However, I'll leave them alone for now just in case they spark back to life after the onset of our winter rains.

      This is the first year our veggies have turned out so well. There's a relatively flat area next to our neighbor's corral that has really good loamy soil, and we decided to relocate the veggie garden here. What a difference the right location makes! This is also our first year growing corn. We don't have a problem with fungus, but the Silver Queen corn has recently become infested with aphids (and, of course, ants). Luckily we harvested most of the ears before the infestation took. Next time around, we will bait for ants at the same time we plan to sow the seeds. Boy, life is never dull or boring for us gardeners, eh?

  3. Is your extreme gardening slope as steep as it looks in the pictures? That reminds me off sliding down the slope in our Camps Bay garden and cracking a rib as the garden grabbed me! Now we have a gentle slope from the road to the reeds (and the mountain fires are at a distance, not three houses away)

    1. The slope is on the steep side, Diana, and I've actually slipped down it on my bum a couple times before (ahem!). I'd really like to install some rustic steps using railroad ties, but am waiting until winter when the anticipated rains will hopefully soften up the soil enough to make digging & trenching a tad easier.

  4. As usual, so many cool things going on in your garden! As far as your momentary disappearance from blogging, I'd guess you spent a lot of it actually gardening. Actually I'm almost surprised that there are any garden blogs at all in year-round gardening locations.

    Your collection of apricot-colored monkeyflowers looks fascinating. Different species, similar color. I bet they're really cool to look at closely and see how they're different.

    The subject of Salvia pachyphylla has come up in a couple other directions for me lately. Here people have an almost impossible time growing it. Do you do anything special for yours? Is it growing in DG or something that drains as quickly, for example?

    1. James, Salvia pachyphylla is indeed a tricky one to grow here. Of the six I planted in the last few years, I've lost 5 and this one is the only survivor, though luckily thriving. It's growing in straight DG. I think the key is you have to plant them in very well-draining & lean soil, keep them watered initially until established, then only about once a month (deep watering) in the summer. They also don't like really wet & cold winters, which we are subject to here in some years.

  5. Your field hand Gilberto, heh-heh-heh. You know I'll be stealing your Grub File rib recipe again for the weekend. It's so sure-fire.

    1. Awesome, Karin - glad you like the recipe! My sis came over this weekend and we grilled some Jamaican jerk chicken, shrimp & ribeye steaks with chimichurri sauce. Going on that diet now...

  6. Had no idea when I was hunting for a Salvia+red+prostrate that I'd find your site. Absolutely Inspiring! The only trouble with a great blog is that the more I read them, the less I'm out doing. I love your garden results, your photography (especially that kite) and am totally amazed by what you've accomplished in dry desert "soil". Would love to hear about what you amend with, any permaculture practices you recommend, and how you're going to eat all that gorgeous fruit. Wish I lived closer to get to know you. Dont' knock the neighbor's horse piles -after 3 months of drying, it makes great compost Maybe they'd share. From a slightly envious Northern California gardening and designing gal. Just can't understand why SUNSET Western doesn't have that Salvia pachyphyllus! Might it go by any other name?

  7. Hi there,

    I just love your blog...I frequently find myself coming back to your postings via Google Images while searching for nice pictures of CA native plants :). Your gardens and photos are gorgeous and have given me some good ideas—thank you for sharing!

    I know that this is an old post, but I see that you were growing Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' and Salvia 'Celestial Blue'. Can you tell me the differences you see between these two? They seem to have very similar stature and flower there a difference in bloom time/length? Fragrance of foliage? I love the idea of an S. clevelandii S. pachyphylla cross but I have not yet seen Salvia 'Celestial Blue' in person and any feedback would be much appreciated!



    1. Hi Allie!

      Thanks so much for visiting my blog! I'm very glad that you could get some useful ideas from my posts - gives me inspiration to keep on posting! :)

      On first impression, Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' (or 'Winnie,' as I like to call her) does indeed look very similar to 'Celestial Blue.'

      My observations of these two sage varieties on our property are as follows:

      Winnies seem to be larger in stature, with one bush on our property reaching almost 5'H x 5W.' My Celestials tend to be more compact, averaging 3' x 4,' although they are capable of growing larger.

      In terms of flower color, Winnie's blooms are an intense, electric blue-violet but slightly smaller than Celestial's. Celestials have eye-poppingly large (for a sage), deep-blue flowers on reddish-purple bracts.

      Winnies bloom for about a month in late spring/early summer (mine are blooming right now), while Celestials have a longer bloom time over the summer season.

      Both are equally fragrant in foliage, emitting that classic, unmistakable minty, heady "eau de chaparral" aroma that I absolutely love!

      I hope this information is helpful to you.

      In the meantime, I will be posting new pics of the garden over the weekend after a long hiatus. Thanks again for your kind words about my gardens and photos!

      All the best,