From the monthly archives:

October 2008

Native Garden and the Summer

by Lorraine on October 31, 2008

This post is about last June, so hang in there reading it, as I’m catching up to the present.  Gardening with California Native plants has been such a pleasure and everyday I’m observing the garden and looking at it as it develops and grows.

As we head into Summer (it’s now June) and eventually higher temperatures, the garden will be tested to see how well it does.   It will need to have supplementary irrigation but at the same time, I have to be very careful that the plants are not over watered or I can end up killing them due to root rot.

Bart said it’s best to just “eye ball” the plants and see which ones might be struggling with stress and be sure to give any plants that look like they are having any difficulties, extra water.

CA. Native Plants in June

CA. Native Plants in June

Having this new garden is quite a learning experience for me, since native plants are totally different in their requirements to grow and thrive.   But it’s a  lot easier than maintaining a big lawn with big water bills and having to maintain it to keep it green and healthy.

I love my garden and everything about it.   Now it’s just getting through the first Summer.


Native Plants and the Passing of a Woolly Blue Curl

by Lorraine on October 29, 2008

I’ve really been fortunate that I haven’t had too many plants die in the first year since I started my native plant garden.   One of my favorite plants is the Woolly Blue Curl ( trichostma lanatum) and several where planted last winter in the garden.

Apparently they can be a bit touchy and delicate when they are first planted and you  have to be cautious about how they are handled during the process.  But once they start to die, there’s nothing that can be done about it, they just spiral down until they are dead.   Darn!

I just had one die and looking at it this morning I know that I will be pulling it out but at least it bloomed through most of the year and did very well.   Nope!   Believe it or not, I don’t have a picture to show you but they are quite beautiful with long stems covered in rounded, soft, velvety or woolly flowers.

Here’s a picture of Biscuit, doing his impersonation of Count Dracula.   He won’t be wearing a cape as part of his costume or asking for candy but possibly  he will begging for  his favorite cat treat made from tuna! 

Count Catula

Count Catula


Native Plant Garden in October

by Lorraine on October 18, 2008

I woke up earlier this morning that I wanted to, due to the fact that Chico and Biscuit decided that I had been sleeping long enough and that they were hungry.   I deliberately left their food bowl empty overnight and they weren’t too happy about it. So they punished me by pushing open my bedroom door and forcing me awake and in general, being quite rude.

After feeding them and getting a cup of coffee, I wandered out into the garden.   It was a beautiful morning and the sun was just starting to raise upon the horizon, shedding a soft, beautiful light on the low hanging clouds.  I sat down in a chair, inhaled the fresh smell of sage and absorbed the beauty and peace of the morning and my native plant garden.

I’m a 3rd. generation Californian and grew up in the area, so I’m very aware of the subtle changes in our seasons, unlike those who were born elsewhere.   Southern California, in spite of how the rest of the world sees us, isn’t all about beaches, sunny days and no seasons.   We have them and to me they are quite obviousl 

Fall is actually my favorite time of the year because I love all of the vibrant warm colors that you see on the trees.  The air is cooler during the day, the nights chillier and there is a certain warmth and softness to the sunlight that seems to make everything clearer and sharper in appearance.

The garden is now in transition from Summer to Fall and then of course, moving towards Winter.   Most of the plants have stopped blooming, other than the Wooly Blue Curls and soon I will be doing some garden maintenance.  The colors in the garden, are now more gray and green but display various shades of color throughout and look very beautiful.

As I was looking at the garden, I could sense the nuances of Fall, the air was cool, the sky an amazing blue and the softness of the clouds shining in lovely shades of blue, gray, gold, peach and yellow, make me feel so appreciative of my life and glad that I created my garden.


Native Plant Sale

by Lorraine on October 16, 2008

The first two weekends of October, the Theodore Payne Foundation has their annual nursery sale and plant lovers from all over the Los Angeles area attend it, looking for plants for their gardens.  This native plant nursery has been in existence for many years and was founded by a gentleman named Theodore Payne!  Mr. Payne was born in England in 1872 and came to the United States in 1893 and southern California when he was a young man of 21.

Now of course, he needed employment and he was very fortunate to be hired to manage the gardens on the estate of Madame Modjeska’s ranch which was located in Santiago Canyon in Orange county.   It was during this period of time that he was introduced to the native plants in the area and he grew to love them deeply.

His story is lengthy and I won’t go into here but there is a is a biography of his life that can be purchased through the foundation and if you go to their website, there is a brief overview of his life.

Ultimately, he established a nursery at a later date to propagate and grow native plants and to educate the public about the beauty of the plants that surrounded them on the hillsides and within the canyons. Interestingly, even in the early parts of the 20th. century, long before the mad development that occured here after WWII, he was observing the  loss of habitat to development and was quite concerned and wanted to be sure that the various plant communities were saved and protected.  

He would certainly be shocked to see how southern CA has developed since that time and sadly how much of the native habitat has been destroyed and covered up in concrete or by homes and commercial structures.   But due to his foresight, we are fortunate to have his nursery and find plants for our own gardens and hopefully encourage other to do the same in their own yards.

In a rush to leave my house last Saturday, I forgot my camera, as I had planned to take some pictures of the staff and the nursery itself, but…oh well.   Hopefully at a later date, I can add some photos because it’s such a great place to visit.

Just pulling into their small parking area, hearing the crunch of the tires on the gravel, makes me feel good.   Then, you’re out of your car, walking up a slight incline along the gravel and into the nursery itself.

Everything smells so good and it’s just like the best place to be!   They were very busy last Saturday and I noted that they had already sold out a number of plants but there were still many others to chose from.

I picked up a few Margarita POP’s (Penstemon heterophyllus) the sole remaining Canary Frills Monkey Flower (Mumulus), 3 Allen Chickering (Salvia), one Canyon Prince (Leymus condensatus), a new Iris that is blue with purple stripes and is named “Susie Knapp”.  I also included in my stash,  quite a bit of wildflower seed that will cover up to 3,000 sq. ft. (Do you think that I have enough?) and some more bulbs.

I’m planning on spreading the seed in the backyard which is woefully unpresentable.   I’m probably going to do this late next month when (hopefully) we will have some rain.   For the time being, the plants that I purchased will sit happily in their one gallon containers for the same reason.   I just have to keep them watered.

I already have four Canyon Prince’s, but I just love these majestic grasses.   They have a beautiful gray long, stem that is like a sharp blade and then they send out shoots from the top of the plant that are easily 4-5′ tall.   On these shoots are seed stalks and overall, the plant is very striking.   I decided to buy another one   to place in a large, wooden wine barrel along with Salvia because I think it will make a great accent piece.

I think that the two different shades of gray and the contrast in foliage will be beautiful.  But there are additional plants that I still need and I’ll be looking for those sometime next month.


Brush Fires and the Santa Ana Winds

by Lorraine on October 13, 2008

A small fire started yesterday in the north-eastern part of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.  There was concern that over night it might grow as there was a prediction for Santa Ana winds to begin blowing out of the upper deserts into the Los Angeles basin and would cause it to grow.

At four this morning I was awakened by the wind blowing around the house and hearing banging doors.   I shut my window and tried to go back to sleep but I couldn’t.   I was wondering about what was going on with the fire in the San Fernando Valley and thinking about how five years ago, a fire burned through the canyon behind me and then just missed our neighborhood.

Chico and Biscuit were little kitties at the time and I also had my really old cat Tante who was almost 21 years old.  I prepared to evacuate with them and placed them in carriers in the back seat of my car.   Sparkle being feral and wild, wouldn’t allow me to pick her up, so I had to let her outside.   I can still see her running in a panic through the yard as red, flying embers rained down on us.   It was really very frightening.

As it turned out, I didn’t leave and stayed put, with my garden hoses running.   But when you see such big flames, it all feels very futile.  Fortunately we were all spared in the neighborhood but we knew that we had missed a huge bullet.

I had visited the Theodore Payne Foundation’s native plant sale last Sat. and I had intended to take some pictures of the event to put on the blog, but  I forgot my camera.   Their nursery is located in a very narrow canyon near where the fire that started last night is burning at this time.  And I was thinking as I was driving through the area, about what a potentially dangerous place it is and how I wouldn’t want to live there.

Now there is another one that broke out this morning and is burning about 15-20 minutes from here.   It’s on the north side of the San Fernando Valley, about five miles away from the original fire and now burning in  a south-westerly direction towards Simi Valley.

Needless to say, I’m a bit nervous today and I’m hoping that this latest fire will not burn on the north side of Simi Valley where I live.   If it does, that could be very, very bad.

We have lots of smoke and of course wind and all we can do is hope that they can knock these two fires out before tonight.  Because if they don’t, the winds will increase during the night and possibly cause these two fires to become monsters.