Monday, December 29, 2008

In the Bleak Mid-winter

Taken outside today in my garden -Lilac, Nicotiana glutinosa, Salvia elegans, S. purpurea, and a manzanita (Arctostaphylos nummularia). Just a small sampling of blooms!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yuletide blossomings

I'm still in the midst of my Mid-Winter revelries but thought I should make a quick post. Some of the Autumn-blooming Salvias have finally taken a rest from blooming but the Winter bloomers are just getting fully into their flowering thing. Some are still forming a spike, but others like Salvia purpurea have already opened their little blossoms to the cool days. And I am pleased to report that some of my native wildflower seedlings were just transplanted and at least one appears to be growing. I even got into holiday decorating by cutting some flowers to adorn my bathroom for our Yule-tide guests - I cut some of the lilac that's blooming right now and added some heliotrope, stock (Matthiola), and greenery. I think it appears quite festive! Happy Winter Holidays to all!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Rain and Frost!

The last week or so has been rainy and cold! The temperature dropped below freezing on a couple of nights and the daytime highs didn't get above 50 degrees F. I was even able to see from the garden snow on Mt. Diablo and on the ridges of Las Trampas! All my little tender tropicals were cozily tucked in the greenhouse so I was free to enjoy the cold. Of course all of the native plants were fine - even the seedlings - and everything was nicely drenched with rain. Despite this cold Prunus mume "Matsubara" has started to bloom and the lilac bush on the side of the house has several clusters of flowers and even some new leaves. I'm very excited by the fragrance of the Prunus flowers - spicy, with a hint of floral sweetness! Speaking of scent, the white heliotrope next to my door is still blooming strongly, greeting me in the morning with a lush vanilla scent. And though the blooms are white, some are faintly blushed with lavender. Later (still mastering that whole camera thing) I'll get up pictures of some of the many blooms that are present right now.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Autumn Splendor and Mystery Senecio

Here's the pictures! The interior of my new greenhouse, Anthuriums in the tropical greenhouse at the U.C. Botanical Garden, the Asian flora section of the Garden, and if anyone knows which species of Senecio this is at the top - let me know!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


Well I finally got a greenhouse! Now my tender little tropicals can safely shelter from the cold and dry winds. It's not huge - only about 24 square feet - but it's big enough to walk into and should accommodate quite a few plants.
And today I made my last foray of the year to Annie's. I was there primarily to grab some native annuals before it's too late. Now John and I had bought along a friend of ours who has a minor case of plant obsession (compared to my severe form) and she and I went examining the pots and plantings around the nursery perimeter. Suddenly we were struck by the presence of a magnificently tall plant with brilliantly reddish/magenta-esque flowers. It was soon clear that it was a specimen of Cantua buxifolia. I had always known that at some point I would end up with one of these plants - I just didn't know when. But as I stared up at the flowers glowing under the sun, just after the fog had cleared, I knew this was the moment. So I ended up making my way over to grab one (after some confusion wherein we realized that we had lost our wagon somewhere in the midst of 2 1/2 acres of plants - we remembered eventually where it was and found it.) After this plant adventure we made our way to the U.C. Botanical Garden in the lovely Berkeley Hills. We enjoyed the tropical atmosphere of the fern greenhouse until an odd noise that may've been a frog and was moving from place to place convinced my friend we should exit the greenhouse. From there we walked to the Asian area of the garden, which was incandescent with Fall color. The seasonal hues ringed the pond on Strawberry Creek and continued up the hill. A particularly spectacular highlight was a pink-blooming Luculia that saturated a pathway with fragrance - sweet yet floral. Then I was lured to the plant deck by a Modiolastrum lateritium (another Mallow!) with salmon flowers and a Senecio (mis-labeled S. mandraliscae - I think it's still a Senecio, but then again I'm not entirely sure) After these two purchases our party made its' way back to the parking lot. By this point I was overstimulated by all the plants and downing elderberry coughdrops for my dry throat (from talking about plants all day while recovering from a cold)!
I hope to post some photographs from this exciting escapade tommorrow!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Montanoa abloom!

It's been some time since I last posted and in that time much has bloomed, grown and dropped Autumn leaves. The Montanoa grandiflora (which has topped out at about six feet in its' first season) has started to bloom. Unfortunately in order to sniff the lovely chocolate/vanilla fragrance I have to get up on a steep slope and twist myself and the plant around into some rather unnatural directions. I'm hoping that a closer branch will soon bloom, thereby solving the contortional problems. The Mesoamerican Salvias are in an impossible to describe frenzy of bloom. Purples, pink, and reds everywhere! The Salvia involucrata in particular is sprawling all over, sending out the unique rosebud inflorescenses in every direction! Of course there's a lot more but I can't recall everything right now, and it's dark now so looking outside won't help. Though I certainly shouldn't forget the natives! I'm trying to grow some wildflowers from last year's seeds (Layia platglossa, a Collinsia, and Clarkia) we'll see how it pans out. And my lovely Summer-dormant Polypodium ferns have renewed with the rain, sending out their green fiddleheads. Also awakened are a Calochortus, a couple Delphiniums, and a Dodacatheon I forgot was there! It's nice to see everything growing, I'm just waiting for more rain. Amongst the non-Natives my little Mandrakes (Mandragora officinarum) and Asphodel (Asphodelus albus) were also dormant during Summer but have sent out leaves and are growing strongly. These needed not just the rain but the cooler weather to really get started! Well, I'll try to get pictures up later (I've already forgotten how to get pictures off the camera - I knew this would happen)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tale of an Abutilon

It took awhile to get this post on, as Mom had to show me how to get the pictures off of the digital camera. It seems like a suspiciously simple process but will no doubt confuse me when I go to do it myself. But the whole point is that I wanted to introduce this Abutilon to my faithful readers. These plants are commonly known as flowering maples and are in the Mallow family (Malvaceae). As those of you closest to me will know I have been having a lot of Mallow related botanical experiences in the past year or so and this is one of them. This plant, Abutilon striatum, had been on my wish list at Annie's for some time. Therefore one can imagine my excitement when I found a flat of these little plants there before they had even been listed as available on-line! So I picked out a little 4 inch pot containing a plant that was about 7 inches tall and planted it in a large pot. This was in mid-July and the plant has grown about one foot per month since then. Huge, brilliantly green palmate leaves began to unfold one after the other - smooth and delightful leaves! And about three weeks ago it began to bloom - spectacular, as you can see! Of course the whole time it was growing I worried - the Summer sun would hit the plant in the morning and it would wilt (I started shading it with the shed door), I was afraid it wouldn't bloom in the pot, and worried I wouldn't like the flowers. But my fears were unfounded and once it roots settled in it stopped wilting. It now gets only about an hour or two of sun per day on the uppermost portion of the plant, the rest is entirely in the shade and it seems happy. So there it is - an exciting tale of a very satisfactory plant adventure!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Raindrops on Salvia Flowers

I'm enjoying the rain right now as a series of showers are moving through. It's a pretty warm rain - temperatures are in the 60s F range. And I'm also in the midst of a frenzy of Salvia blooming! As of this morning there are at least 13 different species in bloom. And that's not counting all the ones with flower spikes that should be blooming in the next week or so. I've had a lot of hummingbird activity (as you might imagine.) Of course there's a lot of other happy bloomers out there outside of the Lamiaceae. Abutilon palmeri and A. striatum (more on this one next post), Eccremocarpus scaber, Cuphea, Jasmine, and Datura are just a few examples. All in all the garden right now is a happy one, growing moist with Fall rains as I type! In other garden news I once again made a foray to Annie's. I mostly just picked up a few cool-season annuals, but I did make a new acquisition with which I had been previously unfamiliar. It's Moussonia elegans, a fuzzy little Gesneriad from Central America. It looks like a hummingbird drawer, since the picture showed tubular orangeish flowers. I'm hoping mine will soon bloom, as there was one there with some buds just on the verge of opening. So that's the news, as I happily watch a big dark gray cloud move toward me!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Well, we decided to come back. It's very different back here at home with all the people and traffic. But it's nice to have conveniently located stores. Though we miss all the fields and farming. Anyway we visited two missions, the Pinnacles, and the Big Sur region coast. At the San Antonio mission there were Trichostema lanceolatum plants in bloom - a lovely aromatic native with pale blue flowers. From the mission grounds one has an impressive view of Sta'yokale - a peak sacred to the Salinan people. At the Pinnacles it was all buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.) and hummingbird fuchsia (Epilobium sp.) with their Autumnal flower hues bedecking the tumult of igneous boulders. Here we briefly explored the caves (I saw a bat) and spent some quality time sitting under and upon some very large rocks. At the mission dedicated to Our Lady of Solitude (Soledad) we paused in the quiet little chapel and enjoyed the shade under the corridor. There are a lot of vineyards in Monterey County and they looked lovely with Autumn color just beginning to creep into the vines, which were heavy with their harvest of grapes. Our return trip was quite an adventure with the very windy roads and the Chalk Fire doing its fire thing. But this stretch of the California coast is fantasticly scenic and the hummingbird fuchsia here was radiant against the cliffs. I also glimpsed a late-blooming lupine! We also stopped to make our way down a steep trail to Jade Cove. Despite the name the cobble beaches and cliffs seemed to be mostly of serpentine - but it doesn't matter because I just love shiny green stones! There was a lot of seaweed and it was quite refreshing. So hopefully you can match the pictures to locale based on my descriptions!

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Excursion!

This is just a brief post to inform my faithful readers that I won't be posting for a few days. John and I are going on an exciting honeymoon excursion! Our destination is rural Monterey County - Salinas Valley and environs. When we return I will no doubt have much garden/plant adventuring to relate. I will also, of course, have pictures! Await them excitedly!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


The first rain of the season just came last night! The last rain we had was at about the middle of May, and it was very light. And of course the previous rainy season was a drought year. We may have another dry year but for now I'm just happy to see everything all wet and shiny! Oh the joy of the lovely-smelling damp soil! Summer's dusty leaves are rain-washed and glowing! I'd write more but I really need to go back outside and smell the rain again!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Plant Sale! - a tale of botanical excitement

Well I just finished attending the U.C. Botanical Garden's Fall plant sale - what an adventure! My faithful followers will recall that in April I posted an account of the Spring sale. This differed in some respects, one being time of year (hence the "Fall" vs. "Spring" titles), and another being time of day - evening for Spring, morning for Fall. We of course arrived for the Member's Preview Sale which began at 9am. An hour before the opening of the gate we took our place in line behind the already gathering grouping of fellow plant-hungry people! The noise level and excitement grew steadily as the crowd consumed cup after cup of free (and quite good) coffee. Remember what I said about the wine at the last sale? As it turns out I was correct and when the sale began people were excitedly lugging about their green treasures with caffeine-fueled energy. I ended up with a rather modest 10 plants, but a couple of these were a bit pricey - Michelia yunnanensis and Paeonia delavayi var. lutea. Anyway there were oodles of lovely Salvias, medicinal Chinese shrubs, pokey Cacti, and California natives, just to mention a few. After grabbing my Hoya kerrii I looked around at the houseplants and saw corpse flowers were being sold! I was tempted, but decided to wait until my greenhouse is set up. I left John at the grass section while I went back and forth gathering more green-leaved photosynthetic delights. At last we paid and made our way outward. I felt a bit overwhelmed at all the commotion of people out there - bringing plants, dropping them off, picking them up, being helped out, wagons and trucks and people crossing the street. But it all worked out and our plants with kind assistance were soon safely in the car and we were on our way! It was a lot of fun, and I now have some quite appealing specimens which I will soon be situating in their new home. But it also wore me out a bit - friends and family know how major (and minor, actually) plant related events can over-stimulate me! And this is only the beginning - Fall has arrived, which means it's time to plant! Further exploits of the upcoming native plant sale and nursery visits will be available here!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Autumn Blooms

Here's a picture of some of my present garden flowers - Cuphea "Starfire" and Epilobium septrionale. I also included a picture from our latest trip to the Chihuly exhibit that I thought matched the Autumnal theme. It reminds me of falling leaves, as well as of cup fungi. Autumn is my favorite time of year, as the transition from dryness to the rain occurs. All the Winter-dormant plants going dormant while the Summer-dormant ones are ready to emerge and the nights getting colder. It's a transformational, invigorating season! And lots of Mexican Salvias go into bloom at this time as well the California native hummingbird fuchsias (Epilobium sp.) Those migrating hummingbirds need to be fed! Anyway I'm presently just enjoying all the floral excitement and beginnings of Autumn leaf color. The UC Berkeley Botanical Garden's Fall plant sale is coming up - this should be the big one. And I'm also anticipating the East Bay CNPS sale and a burgeoning of Native lovelies as the local nurseries stock up for Fall planting! So much excitement! I'll try to keep posting as I begin my usual round of Autumnal activities and observances. The Equinox is only a couple of days away!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Cool and be-fogged

The long week of heat has ended! In one of those typical mercurial Bay Area shifts of weather the winds changed direction and the fog came in dropping the temperature by about 45 degrees in under 24 hours. It's actually been cool for a few days now, but I'm still celebrating. I think I actually did a little dance when the fog first appeared. A lot of my exotic plants were a bit put out by the very low humidity, but I just misted them with a spray bottle. This worked on the plants from the lowland tropics but others, like my Brugmansia sanguinea, just did not like the excessive heat (neither did I) But the natives out front were another story. Even though I just planted them about two weeks ago and they were being seared with 100F sun they didn't even wilt! A hummingbird fuchsia (Epilobium sp.), Salvia clevelandii, Eriogonum fasciculatum, Grindelia platyphylla, and Penstemon palmeri were the sturdy denizens that withstood those harsh sunbeams. Which of course is just one of many reasons to plant native! But a lot of the non-natives are pretty well adapted also. What really suffered were container plants! I'm just glad we only have a few spells of really hot weather per year!
At any rate the garden is looking quite lovely right now with hummingbird beckoning blooms all about and the first autumnal hues coloring the leaves. The tawny bunchgrasses move in the breeze and the ravens fly overhead.
In other plant news - my latest acquisition was Cuphea "Starfire" from the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden. Like most Cupheas the flowers provide much excitement! Pictures soon!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Shiny Glass Objects

I recently went to the Chihuly exhibit at the DeYoung museum. And although this may not seem plant-related it actually is (as are most things with me when you get down to it) According to the signs one of the artist's influences was his mother's flower garden and I was impressed by the botanical-esque dynamism of the sculptures. Furthering my enjoyment of this exhibit was also my strong attraction to shiny green objects. I have included some of my favorite examples in the accompanying photos. There have been several botanical gardens that featured his artwork, where it nestled amongst the plants. And in another part of the museum I found flowering trees in a mural from Teotihuacan (again, photo included.) I think I actually recognize some of these, but I'm not sure.
It's been hot the last day or two, so I've been staying inside. But I did get my pre-dawn watering in for those that needed it. The Salvia involucrata just began to bloom and the Madia elegans is still going strong! And last week I snuck off to Annie's for a quick plant grab and procured a Brugmansia sanguinea. It was incredibly robust for a plant in a 4 inch pot (or for any size pot, really) with three little branches coming off and oodles of solanaceous leaves. I transplanted up to 1 gallon pot till I find a suitable larger pot. I also got some other exciting little plants, including some Penstemons!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Before and after

Here's the garden pictures - these were taken (hopefully from more or less the same vantage point) in October of 2007 and then again last week. I would think it's self-evident which is "before" and which is "after" but if you get stuck just give yourself some time, maybe have a cup of tea while you're trying to figure it out. It'll come to you, eventually.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Nectar Seekers

Well, after a nice spell of cool fogginess the heat is beginning again. At least the Plumerias look happy. I'm my usual heat-wilted self. At any rate there is a lot flowering and I had several hummingbird visits today. The little flying creatures visited about 8 different Salvias, some oregano, a hummingbird fuchsia, a sunflower, and I think I saw it grab a gnat out of the air. I've never seen a hummingbird go after a sunflower before but the little bird spent quite a bit of time with the flowers - maybe it was plucking off insects? Not sure, but the little sucker was busy. I think two different ones visited - a male and female Anna's, possibly. But it was a hard to get a good id because of the angle of light, despite the fact that they were within a foot away from me! I could see the pollen dusting the little feathered heads and the pollen on the beak - very exciting! In other news my moonflowers are in the ground and still growing. I hope this signals a new chapter in my Ipomoea luck! I also repotted a couple of epiphyllums today and did my usual sniffing of native Salvia leaves, and reading of books while sitting in the garden. The next post promises much excitement - before and after photos of the garden! Just as soon as Mom downloads the pictures!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bonus plants!

I thought in this post that I would address the issue of bonus plants. These are the little seedling plants that pop up in the nursery pot along with the intended plant being sold. Sometimes the extra plant is just an invasive weedy type you'd rather be rid of, but occasionally they are not. I recently came across a particularly nice example at the Regional Parks Botanical Garden - a fully grown orange-flowered Mimulus cardinalis along with a fully grown Salvia sonomensis (the intended plant)! A fellow plant purchaser there had found a pot with about 4 or 5 extra little natives popping up! These little bonuses are one of those small yet wondrous joys in life. I also came across a tiny yellow flowered Calceolaria in an Agastache rupestris from Annie's - both exquisite plants! I think nurseries should encourage these free-seeding lovelies - I was ambivalent about buying the Agastache until I saw that mysterious extra plant peeping over the edge of the pot. It wasn't even blooming yet, and I didn't identify until I had it at home and in flower. I try to do my own part in this - at work I stick all the fallen Tradescantia pieces into other houseplants. These often root on their own, but I ensure success by tucking the stem snugly under the soil.
In addition to these exciting blooms another truly eventful floral happening began a few days ago - my Mirabilis longiflora bloomed for the first time! These flowers start to open at about 5:50 pm and in about 40 minutes they're completely open. They are fragrant - a sweet nocturnal scent, with faint floral notes. I'm also guessing they're moth-pollinated, due to the very long floral tube that I suspect only a moth's tongue could plumb the depths of! I will try to get a picture up soon. There's also a second wave of Salvia blooms beginning - the hummingbirds are zipping with delight at the bounty of nectar!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sinister blossom of fragrant delights...

Here I've included some pictures of the ever-lovely and sinister Datura! This is the "Double Lavender" one which I picked up at Annie's. The fragrance was quite nice as well! This Datura is particularly nice when the flowers are in bud - all you see is a long tube of deep purple-black which looks as if it were ready to cast some sort of mysterious midnight spell (which it actually is, sort of)
Also on the subject of fragrance - Madia elegans is in bloom! I sited this one on the top of my little bunchgrass and wildflower slope quite a while ago. It's nice to have yellow flowers there again now that the tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa) have gone to seed - lovely straw of faded brown that rests over a hoard of dry seeds that await rain. But back to the Madia - the fragrance was surprising and difficult to describe. It was very unlike other floral scents I've so far sampled. The best description I've been able to come up with is - pineapple, with a lemony hint, overlaying a rich myrrh aroma with hints of labdanum. This is the scent in the morning, but as the day progresses it changes, taking on somewhat unpleasant, more astringent notes. This is a wonderful flower, and I'm hoping to see some reseeding! Other fragrant happenings - super-rich wonderful vanilla aroma from white heliotrope (Heliotropium aborescens "Alba"), delicate yet deeply layered florals from Clarkia brewerii, honey-bright scent from Buddlleia "Sungold", and of course all those many Salvia leaves with their varied perfumes! Which is another piece of news - I'm up to 50 different Salvia species and hybrids! In fact, it's 52 if you count the clary sage and chia which are hopefully on their way to reseeding (they're presently in flower) This moment has been a long time coming and I'm very excited to look out the window and see that bevy of varied foliar and floral forms under the sun and fog. So excited that I'm going out to look at them now!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Plants to plant...

Well, I once again got myself into mischief at Annie's. And I mail-ordered a bunch of plants. And I bought a Buddleia "Sungold". So I'm overflowing with an abundance of plant material again. I was going to put the "Sungold" Butterfly Bush in the ground but there's a possibility (how strong I'm not sure) that it could naturalize. So in the interest of the integrity of my nearby open space it will stay in a pot where I will conscientously snip away flowers before they go to seed. Some other acquisitional highlights are - an Iochroma coccinea! this genus is pretty new to me, but I do enjoy nightshades, and it should attract hummingbirds; a spectacular morning glory (see accompanying photo); and a Holodiscus discolor (Creambush) for my hill. I'm planting this Holodiscus right behind my wild rose - I envision frothy blossoms cascading above fragrant little Rosa californica blooms! But I sort of doubt it will happen this year (both plants are only about a foot tall) but then again one never does know.
In other news - I finally succeeded in succesful Ipomoea alba germination! I think it probably was damping off as a previous comment mentioned, because I forgot to water the newly planted seeds for a couple of warm days and the top layer of soil dried out. So when I went outside to check on them (another factor in their favor - they were outside) the first seed had popped out and the seed coat just slid off on its own! Further more, the cotyledons were enormous! I ended up with three happy little seedlings to festoon my garden with!
Right now my Delphinium cardinale plant is blooming. Now I've previously grown the usual garden Delphiniums with mixed results, and I really love the flowers. When they come in at work I admire all the different varieties and the flowers seem to be all sorts of variations and combinations of blues, purple-lavenders, and white. This Delphinium is much the same, but the colors are orange, red, and yellow! It's native to Southern California, and one source I looked at suggested it might range as far north as this county. I did see a blue native Delphinium once in the wild. It was at Sunol Regional Wilderness and it was quite spectacular!
So that's all for now - back to my many bags of potting soil!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hot and Smoky

It's been some time since my last posting, I think because of the excitement of my birthday followed by the trauma of the heat. And of course the air is full of smoke from all these fires - everything has a faint yellow-orange cast of light. The native plants are of course adapted to cope with all this and the exceptional heat and warm nights has encouraged my plumeria to put out a burst of fresh growth. Since the 30th of June was the day of my birth John and I celebrated by visiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden (on the 1st of July) Their Montanoas were quite impressive. My M. grandiflora only gets to be about 15 ft, and is presently grown to about 5ft. But there were some Montanoas there that must of been about 30ft! I think they were mostly M. hexagona. And there were plenty of fuchsias and Salvias there in the Meso-american Cloud Forest section. I've included two pictures of this area, including an Abutilon close up. I'm presently lusting after this quite lovely Abutilon with its striking Malvaceaous (is that a word?) flowers and soft leaves. I believe the little placard said it was from Guatemala. There was also an extensive California section with a very cute quail family including some fluffy little baby quails. After a long, meandering walk and failed attempt at the Conversatory of Flowers (line too long) we returned via Highway 1, thereby avoiding the horrendousness of cross-town traffic. As lovely as the Garden is, I don't like big, noisy cities and was relieved to see the big, noisy ocean. The ocean smells much better that the city. So we made our way Half Moon Bay -ward and on the way I saw some really nice orange monkey flower (Diplacus aurantiacus) blooms and poofy sprays of creambush flowers (Holodiscus discolor).
So I guess that's about all for now. When it cools off I'll be able to go out into my garden and give a full report. Already early this morning I saw scarlet delphiniums open to the smoky light and Madia elegans on the verge sending its lovely yellow-ness outward - More petals to come!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Raccoon Trammelled Trauma

Last night a band of marauding raccoons came through and wreaked massive damage on a small corner of my garden! I found dozens of pots overturned and plants dug up. They seem to have been digging for earthworms. But most of the plants were ok, though quite a few of them lost a lot of growth - my Malaysian ginger and Tacca are down to little green stubs! But I believe they will have sufficient powers of recovery and pull through. This just goes to show that I need a greenhouse for these plants! (plans are in the works...)
On a much more positive note I have made yet another Annie's visit and all sorts of botanical goodies are now awaiting their place in my garden! With my help Mom picked out some pink flowers and I put them in a pot for her. I'm particularly charmed by a little mallow called Sidalcea hendersonii. Delicate little pink mallow-esque flowers! And for me I finally found a Mimulus (Diplacus) aurantiacus! I'm hoping to combine it with a silver-leaf lupine and some coyote brush. The combination of monkey flower and coyote brush is all over the neighboring hills here. I also seem to remember a lupine-monkeyflower combination on Wildcat Peak.
So despite my raccoon trauma, I think my garden and I will be fine!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Osmanthus at last (et alia)!

After nearly a year or more of searching I finally managed to get an Osmanthus fragrans! This isn't usually a hard to find plant, but everytime I went to a nursery they saw me coming and hid them all. At least this was the unavoidable conclusion I reached because I've made several trips to local, well-stocked nurseries and nary a leaf of O. fragrans was to be seen! But my months of waiting for this fragrant-flowered lovely reached a dazzling conclusion yesterday. We were winding our way coastward and made our requisite Half Moon Bay Nursery stop. I had the idea after I'd been there a while of looking for the shrub. So I was moving back through the alphabetized rows (sometimes I get a little forgetful about the sequence) when I stopped to admire a particularly fetching cluster of elders. I sniffed their flower clusters and noticed nearby a glossy-leaved shrub sporting a flush of fresh, red tinted growth under the sun - Osmanthus fragrans! So I made John go get a big wagon and made some other lovely botanical purchases, such as Calamintha and Lemongrass. This nursery, by the way, is a fabulous place to visit. It's big, and full of plants - including some unusual stuff - and the prices are very reasonable. It sort of winds around and you can get pleasantly led off in various directions. A wonderful plant experience in a lovely coastal, creekside setting.
After this excitement we went to the Pillar Point harbor and then further south where we scrambled around on rocks, watching purple crabs scuttle about as the tide went out. We saw a few seals cavorting in the water and even a dead sea lion that somehow had ended up on the beach - a part of the great marine cycle of things. Included in this post is a picture from the beach. Also included are a combination of Salvia guarantica and Grindelia and a pink Clarkia.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hot Days...

The last few days have been rather hot and windy. The heat makes me absolutely miserable. But despite my misery I've identified some problem pots that are drying out too quickly - tomorrow morning I'll be potting up to (hopefully) eliminate this trend! Even with drought-adapted plants new plantings can be tough to keep up with. However my new water-thrifty irrigation system has helped a lot. This high-tech, intricate system consists of a garden hose which splits off to four little tiny hoses which I move around to water my various shrubs (see, I was being funny about the high-tech part). But this eliminates the running around with one hose thing (especially difficult in the areas the hose didn't reach) and gives my shrubs their infrequent but deep watering recommended by all those fancy garden books with the nice pictures.
And today I procured some very exciting new plants. A trip to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery yielded up Salvia "Paula Flynn", Stachys ciliata "Royal Robe", Salvia officinalis "Purpurascens", and Ocimum sanctum. This last one, known as "Holy Basil" apparently has some very deep human significance and associations in Indian religion. It's a very nice, lightly hairy basil and I look forward to gardening with it. The others except for the third Salvia are also new to me. Their intense flower color is striking - deep purple blue and deep purple maroon, respectively - and seem sure to be hummingbird favorites. Tomorrow is for planting, and watering at dawn!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Rooted Bounty

It's been awhile since I last posted - I have been busy, however! Many plants to plant and I'm happy to say many cuttings to pot up. My cuttings of Penstemon azureus, Monardella macrantha, Salvia sagittata, and Blue Diamond Impatiens have all rooted! I was so heartened by this that I took several more cuttings yesterday to thus propagate more plants. Most of these cuttings are for my own garden use, but I may gift those around me with the Impatiens.
Right now my garden is sporting a bevy of Salvia blooms - Salvia macellaria, S. "Dancing Dolls", S. jamensis "Sierra San Antonio", and S. greggii "California Sunset" are all blooming right next to each other. This is quite a floral display - the bi-colored little flowers all in shades of orange, yellow, pink and purple from pastel shades to brighter tones. And not far away Salvia chiapensis and S. serpyllifolia bear solid bright magenta and purple flowers. It's certainly turns the heads and wings of passing hummingbirds! And after all those beak-tempting lovelies Salvia discolor, S. "Waverly", and S. melissodora beckon! Happily, most of these Salvias are even drought-tolerant. I'll try to put some picture up in future posts of all this garden excitement.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Epiphyllum + Botanic Forays

Well the latest news from my garden is that my epiphyllum is blooming. I took this plant from my Great Grandmother's home after she passed away about 4 years ago. It bore three leaves, including the very long one and seemed healthy, if a bit dusty and neglected. Anyway I repotted it and the cactus responded with a flush of new green leaves. And this year it finally bloomed! Above are included some pictures.
The other plant event was a trip yesterday to both the U.C. Botanical Garden and the Regional Parks Botanical Garden. It was almost too much excitement! I sniffed the Yerba Santa flowers in bloom, saw a huge Calochortus patch, tarried amongst tropical ferns, and admired exotic orchids. But I was rather distressed to discover that the Regional Parks Garden had trimmed the bay trees in the creekside area down to the ground. The shady bench where I used to enjoy sitting is now in the sun. I dislike sitting in the sun. Why were these trees cut back so severely? Maybe there was a concern that they would fall across the trail. But that's part of walking in a forested area. I mean I think you'd notice if a bay tree started to fall. Besides, crossing the road from the parking lot to the garden entrance is much more perilous. Perhaps they had a legitimate reason, but I doubt they'll convince me of that. Despite this discovery John and I had a very enjoyable day. There's nothing like a cool day when the buckeye and elder are both in bloom. I purchased a Penstemon barbatus and a cactus from San Luis Potosi at the Garden Shop. I've also included pictures of a fascinating orchid from Oaxaca. I believe it was a species of Stanhopea. Not pictured but equally spectacular was Laelia purpurata from Brazil.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Further foliage

I've been busy since my last post - 2 trips to Annie's and one to the Watershed Nursery in the Berkeley Hills! I'd never been to the Watershed Nursery before - it turned out to be very nice: small, but well-stocked with friendly staff and a beautiful woodland setting shaded by oaks and redwoods. It's primarily restoration oriented with plants from local populations. I got native blackberries and honeysuckle for my north facing slope along with many other plants. At Annie's I filled up with native annuals and some new excitement - a red-flowered Brunfelsia! Of course there was much more - shrubs and various perennials. Green leaves spilling over the edges in all shades of verdure! I have to work for the next two days, but I'll soon be in a major planting frenzy!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Green Drought

Well EBMUD (our local water procurer) has instituted mandatory water use restrictions, seeing as how we're experiencing a drought year. Of course water is a scarce resource here and there's oodles more people than you can provide for so we should have been conserving all along (as was I). But my garden is already on a low water use schedule so I'm not too worried. My drought-tolerant plants will keep their leafiness very well, or just go summer-dormant. I bet all those lawn people now wish they'd listened to me. But the thing is that most lawns around are actually not planted with thirsty grasses, nevertheless they are watered on a daily basis. I just don't understand the whole lawn mentality to begin with. Just keep in mind that the geological record shows that California is capable of extremely severe droughts - droughts that could be more devastating than a major earthquake.
But on a cheerier note we made a whirlwind trip northward to Annie's and returned with a bevy of green-ness. Some highlights were a California native snapdragon, an apricot colored cosmos, milkweed, Salvia wagneriana and S. mellifera, Gilia capitata, and Luculia intermedia. I'm little nervous about the Luculia - it's apparently not terribly easy to grow. But I was of course tempted by the description - fragrant - so I'm giving Luculia a try! As usual Annie's was overflowing with all sorts of floral excitement - next time I should bring a camera! - and the chickens are always fun to listen to. The native wildflowers were overflowing with happy bees and butterflies were flitting about as well. It's a hot day, but we still spent quite a bit of time admiring everything. We would've stayed longer, but the longer we stayed the more plants I kept buying. We left while there was still lunch money to spare.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Pox Upon Me

It seems that I've become afflicted with chicken pox. Having a pox makes me feel very contagious. I'm just glad it's not smallpox. Anyway, I don't feel all that bad, but I don't feel great either so I haven't been able to go outside to work as much. But before the pox struck me down completely I took some cuttings for my garden, including Salvia sagittata and Penstemon azureus. I have also to report that my attempts at moonflower (Ipomoea alba) germination have not been terribly successful. Out of about 6 seeds one germinated and it's not doing too well. My problem is that the cotyledons poke out of the soil but are stuck together in what's left of the seed coat. I've tried to just leave the seed remnants on there to let the plant shed them off naturally, but that never happens, the seedling just rots away, as it does when I try to pull the remnants off myself. If anyone has any ideas or suggestions about this please let me know. This whole thing is becoming disheartening! I expected to have these vines eagerly clambering about by now, preparing to bloom! But on a positive note I have several vigorously growing Datura seedlings right now and and several little Salvias of various parentages.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

And more...

So the plant sale extravaganza continues - last night John and I attended the "Member's Only Preview" of the UC Botanical Garden's Spring Plant Sale. This exclusive event (open only to members, hence the name) was very exciting. They checked our cards in line, and even stamped our hands!
Anyway, there were a whole lot of plants there and this was a very botanically-knowledgeable crowd of people. People rushed toward the rarities of their choice, wagons tumbling merrily alongside, waiting to be filled with leafy delights! There was a generous selection of foodstuffs and free glasses of wine - a good choice, since I don't think serving caffeine to this crowd would've been wise So I rushed with my plant-hungry cohorts and procured a Hibiscus schizopetalus, three Hoya species, some Canary Islands endemics for sharing (cuttings!), some CA natives, and a handful of others.
As it turns out I have planted over 30 plants just in the last few days. My garden is overflowing with growth and I hope to be posting photos as soon as I can, but lately my daylight hours from sunrise to sunset have been spent in planting! This is not the most optimal time for native plantings so I'm rushing to get it done before it becomes even less optimal. But it will soon be time for other things - more Datura and late poppies!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Plant Sale Mania!

I thought I'd put up a quick post as I'm presently between plant sales - the Regional Parks Botanical Garden sale was on Saturday and the UC Botanical Garden Member's Preview is coming up tomorrow! The sale on Saturday was pretty exciting. Uncle Steven and Kiko met us at the sale and got some native grasses and other green goodies for their garden. We ended up with so many plants we had to get a wheelbarrow, and people were coming over to admire our exceptional horticultural taste! One uncovers heretofore hidden facets of others' personalities at an event such as a plant sale. For instance, I discovered that Uncle Steven doesn't like milkweeds - even showy ones! I'm not sure why he holds this view but nonetheless I did get a showy milkweed for my garden. And much to my unbounded excitement, at long last - Euonymus occidentalis! The Western Wahoo! (or Western Burning Bush) I first encountered this plant at Purisima Creek Redwoods and was quite taken by it's small maroon flowers and lovely green-ness. I've already planted thirteen of my new plants - further research is needed to site the rest. Another plant I'm quite excited about is Solidago californica (Goldenrod). I planted this Summer to Fall blooming yellow flower near my De la Mina Verbena. I saw this Solidago at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden a couple of years ago and was much impressed by it. Well, time to gear up for tomorrow evening - pictures later!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blackberry Prickles

As you may or may not know there is botanically speaking a difference between thorns, prickles, spines, etc. Blackberries have prickles, and yesterday one entered my finger as I was attempting to weed. Let me describe the whole story: As it happens there is a rather difficult to access slope on the north-facing side of the house. It has the unfortunate distinction of hosting calla lily, Vinca major, Hedera canariensis, and Himalayan blackberry. The vinca and ivy are the unwelcome intruders from my neighbors misguided attempt at ground cover. For those of you not familiar with this area vinca and ivy will swamp a nice little diverse, native woodland or riparian area until all the wonderful little habitat-producing ferns, roses, and others are killed - replacing it with non-wildlife friendly monoculture. Seeing as how I'm trying to plant a happy little woodland understory there I went weeding. So there I was, thinking about putting in native blackberry and more ferns, Smilacina, and other foresty things as I weeded. The problem is that I had previously cut back blackberry and left the dead cane there in my brush-pile. This was a bad idea because when I went to pull up a piece of ivy a prickle poked me. It seemed pretty minor at the time - albeit painful. There really wasn't any blood, nothing was lodged in there. So I went about my merry way. But the pain kept getting more and more intense. And then, much to my horror, I realized that the prickled finger was swollen! Now all sorts of horrendous soil-borne pathogens in my bloodstream scenarios went through my head. I won't bore you with all the details. But a day later my finger is still swollen and extremely painful. In fact my entire right arm hurts. My poor digit's range of motion is limited and it's amazing how much a right-handed person uses their right index finger. So there's the story. Since the swollen finger is not much to look at here's some pictures from yet another Botanical Garden foray - Ceanothus, Paeonia, and Cattleya!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Floral Splendor

A new planting, and a sampling of blossom!

Spring Green

It's been awhile since I last posted. All the unfurling leaves have kept me busy! I recently made yet another foray to Annie's in Richmond. There I procured all manner of exciting green things! One of the fun things about going there is finding plants not yet listed on their website. The whole experience of it feels mysterious and privileged. I've had a few plants that I found this way, such as Trachelospermum asiaticum and my Calycanthus chinensis. On this last trip it was Riocreuxia torulosa. Now the only drawback is that sometimes information on these is difficult to find! So far all I've been able to find out about the Riocreuxia is that it's a vine native to South Africa that grows in full sun with fragrant flowers. If anyone out there has more information let me know or I'll just have to wildly experiment with it on my own! Of course I also picked up my usual bevy of lovely California natives - a lupine, or two; a Malacothrix, or Snake's Head; an elegant fescue and some other photosynthetic delights. Right now my garden is overflowing with native wildflowers! It's a sight to see! And almost all the Winter-deciduous plants have leaves - oh, the tender first growth of Spring!
And of course my seeds - I did succeed in getting some of the Ipomoea to germinate and transplanted "Glacier Star" and "Milky Way" morning glories into the ground a few days ago. I'm still waiting for the moonflower to send out some true leaves - the cotyledons are looking a little raggedy. The scarlet runner beans I planted next to my corn are germinating and I also added a sunflower and a cempaxuchitl (a marigold) to the corn area. I'm going to try some amaranth there as well!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More plants!

Last Friday I made a trip to Annie's Annuals in Richmond! This is one of the most fabulous nurseries around - visit the link on my page if you haven't already! Anyway I mostly stocked up on extras of things I already have, but I did get a few new things - Oenothera pallida, Madia elegans, and Layia glandulosa. Layia glandulosa is an annual with foliage that has a sweet almost pineapple-ly scent. I got two of these and put one in the back where I can lean down and sniff without making a spectacle of myself in front of the traffic and dog-walkers in our front yard. This was my Mom's first trip and she got herself a fuchsia and some other flowers for her deck. The spirit of Eostre is hopping through my garden with abandon as the Equinox nears! More leaves unfurling and bouquets full of Nemophila, Tidy-tips, Gilia tricolor, and California poppy everywhere. Exciting photos to come!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Botanical foray

John and I used our brand-new U.C. Botanical Garden membership yesterday - free admission! Here's a few photographic impressions. Look carefully at the pink Cistus flowers for a busy bee!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Leaves, petals, sepals...

As I've mentioned previously, things are leafing out. The rate at which this is happening is amazingly fast! Each day seems to bring more and more green leaves, seemingly unfurled overnight. Bare branches are lit with green flame. And flowers! Native wildflowers overflowing the bounds of their beds with petals open to the sun and to pollinators in wanton abandon! Dawn finds me wandering my garden touching the leaves as the rising sun touches them... This is Spring in California! A transient season, because Summer will scorch and halt this abundance but for now it is here - luxurious and green. Today I walked through the oak and bay woodland near my home and found this same Springing. New leaves of oak, male flowers still in bud and the deep maroon Trillium in the sylvan shade. Ecstatic tumblings of leaves in my garden and the hills, and the flowers everywhere.
Later I'll try posting some pictures to convey these sentiments.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Growth Springing

This is a picture of my Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) leafing out. Though leaf-out is always a wonderful and ecstatic event this one holds special significance! I bought this Ribes in a 4" pot at a CNPS sale about 4 or 5 years ago. I put it in the ground in my old garden and promptly forgot about it until one year when it suddenly sprung up by about 5 feet and produced a profusion of lovely yellow blossoms followed by orange then red berries (tasty ones!) When we went to move this shrub was about 8 feet tall and though my intention was to take cuttings I had second thoughts. I just couldn't leave behind this wondrous tall growth! So I resolved to dig it up and take as much of the root as possible. But when I was digging disaster struck: the root broke off, leaving only 10 inches of root. 10 inches of root to 8 feet of shrub - not an encouraging ratio! Furthermore, at the time it had to be dug up it was not yet fully dormant. But I persevered and planted this shrub against a wall near my fountain. So you can imagine my delight when Spring-green leaves festooned the previously bare branches! It gives me hope that the other still dormant cuttings and transplants I took will flourish. This posting also includes a picture of my hummingbird-thrilling Showy Gooseberry (Ribes speciosum). I saw a hummingbird feeding from its brilliantly red flowers today!

Friday, February 29, 2008


Lately I've been thinking about an often neglected dimension of plants - the tactile dimension. I've always been attracted to tactilely interesting plants - plants that feel good! One of my first experiences was with the velvety inflorescences of a Salvia leucantha in my aunt and uncle's garden. But leaves have been on my mind recently with so many Winter-dormant plants leafing out and today I went around my garden touching as many leaves as I could easily reach. I was surprised to find out how many of them I'd never really spent a lot of time touching. Even ones that I'd been initially attracted to for leaf texture, such as Soft Snapdragon (Antirrhinum molle) and Superstition Mallow (Abutilon palmeri), I hadn't been touching as often as I should. Anyway I had a lot of fun, rediscovering old favorites and new. Touching a leaf is a more engaging experience than touching fabrics or fibers (as pleasurable as that can be) because a leaf on a plant is alive. The leaf is an organic structure that is in motion, involved in respiring, photosynthesizing, etc. all underneath your hand. Maybe the reason the tactile component of plants is often not mentioned is because most people don't walk around their gardens touching and sniffing their plants. But I think those of us who do would highly recommend it to those who don't!

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Yesterday I planted some Morning Glory (Ipomoea nil and I. tricolor) and Moonflower (I. alba) seeds. I previously had very poor results with the Moonflowers. Very few germinated and those that did succumbed to some unknown seedling-killing ailment. But I think what I did wrong was over-soaking them. With their tough seed coats nicking and soaking them in warm water overnight is recommended. I took "overnight" to be from sometime in the evening to sometime in the morning, not from exactly when you go to bed to when you wake up which apparently what was meant because the seed packet (which I hadn't seen before) said 8 hours. So I soaked them for 7 hours (just to be safe) and planted them and the Morning Glories, which I had soaked with them. I'm starting them indoors for now, since the nights are still pretty chilly - there was low 0f 39F last night! I'd post a picture, but there really isn't much to see yet - just some pots with soil in them. I also planted some Aconitum columbianum seeds outside. This is the third time I've tried these since October of 07 and none have yet germinated. But they still might, since one month stratification is recommended I assume they take cold and a fair amount of time to pop out their little cotyledons. They might just be waiting for warmer and longer days! But I did manage to have a couple of Paeonia californica seeds germinate. I've got bunches of other little seeds and seedlings going right now - in my previous place I didn't have room to do all this seed planting so I'm quite excited!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Some flowers...

Here's a few pictures of some of what's presently blooming in my garden, the bench from which I can see Mt. Diablo and the needlework piece I'm presently stitching called The Convent's Herbal Garden designed by Chatelaine. It's a large piece full of plants!