Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Requiem for Winter (oh, wait - we just got 11" of rain last week...)

Alas, California has been afflicted by a paucity of rain these past few years. Here in SoCal, the bulk of our precip typically happens between October - March. The current 2013-14 winter season has been the driest to my recollection since I first set foot here in 1983: lots of sunny and unseasonably warm days, and very little rain to speak of. Btw, Christmas just ain't the same when it's a sweltering 80F! If only we could have traded some of our weather with all that cold, frigid, icy stuff pummeling the Plains and Eastern States, then our respective meteorological predicaments would have been miraculously mitigated and, thereby, solved. Not surprisingly, a lot of our grape vines, fruit and deciduous trees were leafing out and flowering about a month before they normally do.

Then, lo and behold - we got hit by a whopper of a wet storm via 'Pineapple Express' last week which dumped a phenomenal 11" of rain in one fell swoop on our grounds from 2/27 to 3/2. The deluge won't cure the water deficit in CA, but at least I won't have to water or turn on our sprinklers for the next week or so.

Here's a recap of my gardening happenings since September of last year. The drought has diminished but not extirpated our winter blooms. 

2/17/14 I think this is a Big-eared Woodrat (Neotoma macrotis) under the dense cover of Scented Geranium shrubs off the back patio. Certainly has big ears! We were trimming the geraniums and uncovered him or her. Woodrats (aka packrats) are native and so much cuter - large eyes and ears and their tails aren't naked but actually covered with fur - than those dastardly Euro-imported house rats. Just sayin!

 2/17/14 Bushit (Psaltriparus minimus).

1/25/14 Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis) and White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) bathing in runoff from the sprinklers in the meadow garden.

9/22/13 Lesser Goldfinches (Carduelis psaltria) bathing on the upper ledge of our pond's waterfall.

9/22/13 Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) on Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii).

1/2/14 Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched on an Engelmann Oak above the fruit orchard.

1/31/14 American Robin (Turdus migrators) on one of the Sycamores off of the driveway.

1/31/14 American Robins. 

2/8/14 Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana).

1/26/14 'Burst Berry' Red Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurauntiacus hybrid). Bought this plant, surprisingly, from Home Depot in Murrieta and it's been a phenomenal non-stop bloomer for the past 6 months! 

Here's a blurb about this hybrid from San Marcos Growers' website: "Mimulus 'Burst Berry' PPAF (Burst Berry Red Monkeyflower) - A small well-branched mounding shrub that grows to 18 to 24 inches tall and wide with dark green glossy leaves and numerous large (for Mimulus) dark red funnel-shaped flowers that have two lips - the top lip is split once and the bottom lip is split twice resulting in five frilly petal lobes and a light orange-yellow colored throat. Flowers are borne nearly year-round in coastal gardens with peak bloom spring into summer. Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil. After plants are established, fertilize and water sparingly. It is hardy to about 20 degrees F. This plant is part of Ball Ornamental Plants Burst Monkeyflower Series based on a breeding program conducted by Scott Trees at Ball Horticulture Company with parentage a combination of commercial and wild collected but primarily the very tough Mimulus auranticacus. These plants, first released in 2013, were all selected for their compact well-branching form and large attractive flowers - this series has the very largest flowers - almost twice the size of other Mimulus that we grow. We are also trialing and may have small quantities to sell of two others in the Burst Series, 'Burst Lemon' and 'Burst Orange' "

1/26/14 Pointleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens). This is one tough and totally beautiful manzanita! I planted five one gallons on the property and all have grown fast and furious with little to no summer water. 

2/15/14 Antelope Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata). 

1/26/14 Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata). I grow these from seed and they are short-lived perennials in my desert garden. They do reseed gently but I have to protect the young'uns from foraging bunnies with chicken wire. 

2/15/14 'Bocarosa' Island Snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa). A 1980 selection/cultivar from the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation of our native Channel Islands species.

12/8/13 Bush Anemone (Carpinteria californica).

2/22/14 Fremont's Bushmallow (Malacothamus fremontii).

2/15/14 Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida). This native will grow up to 6' tall in its element. I bought this as a 1 gallon from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's fall sale in 2012 and planted it in our native DG with drip irrigation. So far, so good! 

1/26/14 Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida).

2/15/14 Bush Poppy (Dendromecon rigida).

1/26/14 California Peony (Paeonia californica). These are native to our property. We have a stand of about dozen of these beauties in the chaparral off the driveway. They are dormant during the summer months, but will usually leaf out and flower around January-February with the advent of winter rains.

1/31/14 'Cape Sebastian' Seaside Daisy (Erigeron glaucus). A selection of our West coast native seaside daisy from Oregon.

1/26/14 Hoary-leaved Ceanothus (Ceanothus crassifolius). This lovely shrub/tree is native to our site. 

1/26/14 Woolly Leaf Mountain Lilac (Ceanothus tomentosus).

1/26/14 'Mrs. Beard' Creeping Sage (Salvia sonomensis).

1/26/14 Chuparosa (Justicia californica).

1/31/14 Chuparosa (Justicia californica).

2/22/14 Cow Parsnip (Heracleum maximum). A member of the carrot family, this one (reseeded from last year's lot) needs lots of water so I have it growing in a planter bed with other water loving compadres (spicebush, lemon lilies, leopard lilies, mountain spiraea, etc., etc.)

2/15/14 'Dara's Gold' Fremontia. 
Intro from Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (F. californicum ssp. decumbens and F. mexicanum) by Dara Emery in 1970. This hybrid (around 3' x 6') is more compact than the average Fremontodendron.

1/26/14 Desert Globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua). 

1/31/14 'El Tigre' Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans). Cultivar.

1/31/14 'El Tiger' Pitcher Sage and Hoffmann's Nightshade (Solanum xanti hoffmannii).

1/26/14 Hairyleaf Ceanothus (Ceanothus oliganthus oliganthus). 

1/26/14 'Harmony' Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora) and 'Sunset' Manzanita (A. pajaroensis x A. hookeri).

1/31/14 'Howard McMinn' Manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora). An extremely floriferous, garden-tolerant manzanita that will take more H2O than the average manzanita. 

1/31/14 Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi).

2/22/14 Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri).

2/15/14 'Las Pilitas' Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea). 
From Las Pilitas' website: 

"A Hummingbird Sage from the Las Pilitas area that was found growing under chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum) on a south-facing slope where there are winter springs and summer heat. Even though the exposure is south-facing this hummingbird sage still wants part shade. The site gets very wet in winter, almost straight red mud,and becomes barbecued bricks in summer. The plant is very low, the lowest hummingbird sage we've seen, with a flower spike appearing on a stem amongst the leaves. Our mother plant has been growing under Ghostly Manzanita for 20 years or more."

1/26/14 'Los Angeles' Big Berry Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca). From Las Pilitas Nursery:

"A Big berry manzanita, Arctostaphylos glauca, from the Santa Monica Mountains. This one was originally in the area of Mullhuland Hwy. and Kanan Rd. near the site of the CNPS plant sale that we used to supply in the 1980's. The manzanita plant in the wild is long gone(too many fires) but we've kept the linage alive for decades in containers and finally in the ground here. Smooth red bark and clean shiny foliage with a yearly prize of white flowers make the plant quite attractive."

1/26/14 Fremont's Bushmallow (Malacothamnus fremontii).

2/15/14 San Luis Obispo Bushmallow (Malacothamnus jonesii). 

1/31/14 Seep Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus).

2/22/14 'Mrs. Beard' Creeping Sage (Salvia sonomensis).

2/15/14 Nevin's Barberry (Mahonia nevinii).

1/26/14 Otay Mountain Ceanothus (Ceanothus otayensis).

2/22/14 Otay Mountain Lotus (Lotus crassifolius var. otayensis). 

12/8/13 Western Desert Beardtongue (Penstemon incertus). Bought this one from Las Pilitas - surprised that it's done so well in our coastal chaparral habitat.

1/26/14 'Popcorn' Ceanothus (Ceanothus maritimus). 

2/15/14 Pink-Flowered Currant (Ribes sanguineum glutinosum). 

1/26/14 Baja Rose (Rosa minutifolia).

2/15/14 'San Gabriel' Flannel Bush (Fremontodendron californicum x F. mexicanum).

2/15/14 Santa Cruz Manzanita (Arctostaphylos andersonii). Dem little apples...

2/22/14 Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius).

1/26/14 'Silver Lining' Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi). 

1/26/14 'Silver Lining' Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi). 

2/22/14 'Sunset' Monkeyflower (from Tree of Life Nursery's Capistrano collection).

2/22/14 'Sunset' Monkeyflower (from Tree of Life Nursery's Capistrano collection).

1/26/14 Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).

2/15/14 Woolly Leaf Ceanothus (Ceanothus tomentosus) and 'Vandenberg' Ceanothus (Ceanothus impressus), a selection by M. Nevin Smith from Vandenberg AFB in Santa Barbara County in 1982.

1/26/14 Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'

2/22/14 Wallace's Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans).

1/26/14 Whiteleaf Manzanita (Arctostaphylos viscida).

1/26/14 Wild Cucumber (Marah macrocarpus). These are native to the property (vining through buckwheat in the chaparral stand).

2/22/14 Wild Heliotrope (Heliotropium currassavicum). Native to our property. Quite prolific in the more watered areas.

2/15/14 Desert Wishbone Bush (Mirabilis bigelovii).

1/26/14 Fremont's/ Desert Thorn Wolfberry (Lycium fremontii).