From the monthly archives:

November 2008

Of Gophers and Merlot

by Lorraine on November 26, 2008

This morning as I was making my way out to the kitchen for coffee, I happened to glance out into the backyard when I noticed a fresh mound of dirt.   Humm, I’m thinking as I’m looking at it.   Is that what I think it is?   And of course, it was.   A gopher had dug a tunnel and where was it?   Right next to three new plants that I had just put in the previous week.

One of my concerns about putting in my garden last year, was protecting it from the marauding, toothy gophers which seem to be plentiful around here.   Those little “I want to munch every plant in sight”, guys along with the rabbits, could have been a big problem for me.   After spending the amount of money that I did on plants, I wasn’t going to take a chance and have any gophers ruin my new Native plant garden.

So I bought several rolls of chicken wire and began to learn a new skill (which I’m sure will be very beneficial to me sometime in the future and look good on my resume) and made “gopher” cages.   Ah,ha….I know what you’re thinking.   No, not to catch them, but to create a cage of sort around the root ball of a plant, thereby making it off limits to the furry little predators.

I spent many hours, cutting, rolling and shaping over 200 of these devices, seeing them in my dreams, saying I’d never do it again.   Although having a full glass of Merlot certainly helped to pass the time and I still did a good job, even if I was feeling a little giddy.

A few weeks ago I picked up some new plants to fill in a couple of areas and at the time, I bought three Salvias, (Allen Chickering) to place in a space that separates my driveway from my neighbors’.   Then I realized that they would be too big for it and decided to plant them in the backyard as I have plenty of room back there.

It’s very bare other that a few fruit trees and some half dead grass and in general, isn’t very appealing.   Eventually I do want to create another garden using Native plants of course but for the time being, only in my dreams.   But the gophers certainly seem to like it and I don’t know why, cuz there’s nothing much to eat there………until now.

I really didn’t want to have to make more of those “d….” cages again, I was so burned out with doing that from last year and I just didn’t want to have to re-experience that phase of my live, again.  So I decided that I’d just go a head and plant them without any protection from the possibility of being munched upon.   And being me, I naively assumed that they would be okay.   A week passed, no problem and then a bit of rain, the soil is now  softer and then “wallah”, new, fresh territory.

To be continued…..


July in the Garden

by Lorraine on November 25, 2008

I’m going to start to post more often and speed through the Summer so that I can finally get caught up to November and December.   Actually, I spent the day in the garden, planting some new items, trying to be ahead of a pending rainstorm.  

I had a flashback to this time last year, when Deena and I were working frantically to complete the garden while it was raining and knowing that Christmas was just around the corner.   We were both leaving town and we were determined to get the garden completely done.   Now onto the Summer post:

It seems as though time is really flying (no kidding) and now we are essentially in the middle of Summer.   It’s much cooler now (thank goodness) and the garden is starting to go through a transition for the Summer.   Many native plants will go into a state of dormancy as they adjust to the hotter temperatures and less rain and it begins to look different.

Of course I will continue to run the water lines about every other week for an hour each time.   Some of the emitters release one gallon of water per hour and the other ones about two gallons.   If I feel that any of the plants are not getting enough water through the drip system, I will apply extra water around the plant but not directly on the root ball.   The idea is, to force the plant’s roots out and away from the root ball and develop into a healthy and stable plant.

I had someone say to me recently, that when it comes to starting a Native plant garden, it’s all about the “Two’s”.   If you still have your plants two days after planting them, you’ve cleared the first hurdle.   Then if they are still doing okay after two weeks have passed, great!   Then as you move along on the time-line, if they are starting to grow and look pretty good after two months, you’re doing very well.

Penstemon spectabulis & Torch Plant

Penstemon spectabulis & Torch Plant

And the after the garden as experienced two full seasons or two years, one may consider their garden to be “established”.   But this doesn’t mean that you can now ignore it.   A garden will evolve and change as one learns what works and what doesn’t, just like in our own lives.

In closing this post, I have a little confession to make.  All of the plants are native to California except for the Torch Plant.   I have five in the garden and I just loved their colors but they are from south Africa.   Okay, okay, I cheated a bit.


Native Garden, Early Summer

by Lorraine on November 24, 2008

I am still trying to get caught up to the present time and I have quite a few entries to post since last June.   I’m thinking that I will need to write something just about everyday, otherwise it’s going to take me forever to get it done.    You will be reading about November ’08 next Summer if I don’t speed up my writing.   And writing is always a challenge for me.   Nothing like being Dyslexic!  So, without further ado, here we go!

June 27Th.

The heat wave finally ended and now we are about 20 degrees cooler.   Wow!  It was the hottest June that I can ever remember, because usually it’s cool and overcast.   I really paid attention to how the garden was responding to this and I did run the irrigation system for an hour per line.   And sometimes I poured buckets of water on the plants that looked like they were dying or really, really stressed from the heat.

I’m hoping that I didn’t over do it on some of the sages, as I noticed that now they have some brownish leaves near their centers.  Rot?   I learned from the Salvia class that you have to be very careful that they don’t get over watered, otherwise they will develop root rot.

Then I noticed some sort of goo that looked like a wad of spit underneath some leaves of the Gum Plant (Grindelia robusta).   I have three in the garden and I’m not too fond of them, I think that they are kinda ugly.   But they do have pretty yellow flowers.

“What the heck is that” (?), I’m asking myself.   Should I be concerned about it?   I turned to my trusty reference book from the Theodore Payne foundation and looked up pests and problems, that like to chew, munch and in general, destroy plants before you know what’s happened and can fend off further attacks.

I found out that it’s the happy “home” of the Spittle Bug, the common name of this invisible creature.  When you look at the “spit” on the point where the leaf is attached to a stem, you can’t see anything.   No bug in sight, but I didn’t want the plant to die, even though I’m not really attracted to it, so I read the methods that could be used to send the little buggers to Spittle Heaven.

The choices were, hose the plants off, use a soapy mixture and spray it on the leaves, etc. or just to leave the plant alone with it’s house guests.   Since this is a natural garden, I don’t want to use any pesticides, so I’ve decided to not do anything and see what happens.

What’s a bit amusing about this plant, is that when it starts to blossom, the center of each flower has a white, sticky, shiny substance in the middle of it that looks a bit weird.   The purpose of this stuff, it to protect it from predators, but apparently not the Spittle Bug!

The bug started showing up on other plants but nothing really happened.  The plants didn’t have any adverse reaction and seemed to manage the invasion with aplomb!  The invaders turned out to be harmless.


It’s Still Hot in the Garden

by Lorraine on November 19, 2008

During the month of June we were cooking in unseasonably high temperatures here in southern California and my new Native plant garden was being tested for it’s ability to survive in such conditions.

The following are my comments during this period of time!

My next door neighbor has a very large Liquid Amber tree in their front yard and usually about 12:30 in the afternoon it begins to cast a shadow over the garden.

When I first put in my garden last Winter and the tree was without any leaves on it, having the sun shine on it all day long was good.   But I was wondering how my garden would do in the Summer if there was too much shade from this tree and if it might create a problem if the plants didn’t get enough sunlight.

Now I’m thinking that it actually protected my plants from too much sun in the worst part of the day.  And what’s interesting, is that a Whirly Blue sage that received more shade than another one, has done much better and continues to bloom.

The Mockingbird fledglings that were in a nest located in my backyard have been on their own for the last several days, squawking and making very noisy, “I’m hungry” sounds.   I kept the Gang of Three inside the house, even though the Mom Cat (Sparkle) was really pestering me to go outside.

Sparkle in the Garden

Sparkle in the Garden

I kept her in because of the birds but also because of the heat.   She certainly didn’t know how hot it was and with her black fur coat, it would be really uncomfortable and more than just a bit warm for a kittycat.



I took off the lids from a couple of trash barrels and filled them with water and I placed them in the backyard for the birds and local squirrels so that they had something to drink while it’s so hot.   I’m sure that this heat wave will be ending soon and then it’s back to cooler weather and gray skies.


Fuchsia or Zauschneria

by Lorraine on November 18, 2008

There were a number of plants that needed some pruning in the garden and I decided that I would spend time in it this past weekend and do a bit of cleaning up.   It’s starting to get close to the time of the year when it will be necessary to prune back the Sages/ Salvias and also the California Sunflowers, ( Asteraceae) and other plants as well.  So I  decided to enjoy the beautiful Fall day and get started on some of these things that needed my attention!

But what really needed to be cut back, were the Fushsia’s.  The Hummingbirds favorite plant and the one that many turf battles were fought over all Summer long.   They were looking very done in.   Other than a few remaining flowers on some of them, the plants were finished for the year and it was time to clean them up.

The pruning instructions  said to cut them back hard, to one or two inches from the base of the plant.   They also said to do this after the first or second year after planting but I felt that I didn’t want to wait another year to do this, because they really looked messy and not very attractive.

I also decided to severely cut back one of the four California Sunflower plants (Encelia californica) and also  one Tarweed plant (Asteraceae Madia elegans) not a favorite of mine next to one of the Canyon Prince Wild Rye grass (Leymus condensatus).

The Canyon Prince is a strikingly beautiful looking grass, with upright stems that have grass seeds on the end of each one.   It’s a great treat for the birds and I really love how this grass looks in my garden.   I’ll probably yank out the Tarweed bush to give the it more space to grow and expand.  

There are a few things still blooming in the garden and one of them is a  Wooly Blue Curl.  As tough as these plants are supposedly to grow, I’ve had great success with them and it’s been quite surprising.

 Here’s a promised photo of one blossom!

Now that I’ve cleaned out the Fuchsias, the front of the garden looks a bit empty, but the new sages will continue to grow and fill in the area and I will throw out some wildflower seed to fill in the empty spaces.   And Poppies are already starting to grow again too, but this time I won’t let them overwhelm any of the other plants like they did this past Spring.

Native Plant Garden in November

Native Plant Garden in November