From the monthly archives:

December 2008

The Garden in Summer

by Lorraine on December 30, 2008

I’m still trying to get caught up with all of the things that I’ve  written about the garden from the beginning of this year and now we are rolling into a new one.   My friend Deena, who helped with designing the garden and choosing the plants, visited me yesterday and she was very thrilled to see  how much the garden has grown and changed since we first installed it in Dec. ’07

She made a few suggestions on pruning and some other ideas for additional plants for the area between my driveway and my neighbors.   Then we looked at the intimating back yard.   But more on that later.   I’m going to write about this past Summer and try to bring this blog up to date since I am so far behind!

June 29th.

The weather is beautiful today and it feels great to be outside!   I did a little dead heading on the California Sunflower plants (Encelia californica) and in general just took a look around in the garden to see how things are doing.   I’ve noticed that the Monkey Flowers (Mimulus) are starting to fade and end their flowering.   They’ve been going strong and have continuously bloomed for several months much to my surprise!   I would say that at this time, they have been a very successful plant in the garden and have found a permanent home with me.

But now the leaves are changing and look a bit yellow and the blossoms are drying out and starting to fall off the plants.   This is a natural process and nitrogen should not be applied to keep them going.   They are preparing themselves for the Summer and they should be just left alone.  I have seen the dried out plants on the local hillsides, so I know that this is normal for them and I shouldn’t be concerned.

Chia (Salvia) and Poppies

Chia (Salvia) and Poppies

The Whirly Blue Salvia is also changing in its appearance and the pretty purple-blue flowers have dried out, only leaving  a bit  of color on each plant and a number of the leaves have fallen to the ground.   The birds are attracted to the seeds that they find and are enjoying the feast  as they fly in and around the garden.

Whirly Blue Sage & CA Sunflower

Whirly Blue Sage & CA Sunflower

I haven’t seen the Quail couple lately but there have been quite a few of Lesser Goldfinch’s in the garden.   They also love the seeds from the Salvias and from the Quail Bush/Salt Bush (Atriplex leniforms brewii).

This is  a lovely bush, with long sweeping branches and smallish gray-silver leaves.   It is considered to be a really great choice for a garden, as it provides habitat for various birds and small animals.   I have four that were planted and they have done very well and  and become quite large, surprising me since they were only in one gallon containers.

The lesson here is to only buy plants in the one gallon size.   Anything bigger doesn’t give you any kind of advantage and if anything, I’ve discovered that the plants that were in 15 gallon pots, are the same size now, as the ones that were in the smaller containers that I started with.


Wildflowers for the Neighborhood

by Lorraine on December 20, 2008

Okay, I did it, I spent the afternoon sowing enough wildflower seed to cover 3,000 sq. feet along a bare area on the street that intersects with the street that I live on.  

I had originally purchased two 1/4 lb. bag of seeds for my backyard and of course, I had too much seed so I decided that I would spread it along an undeveloped dirt area on a street in my neighborhood..  There aren’t any homes one side of the street and it just backs up to the hillside and an arroyo, making it perfect for the flowers.

The package included (Naturally) California Poppy, Globe Gila, Bird’s Eye Gilia, Tidy Tips and Wild Heliotrope.   This is the same mixture that I spread in my backyard a couple of weeks ago and I’m feeling a bit concerned that I’m not seeing any sprouts as of yet.   I sure hope that the seeds start to come up soon.

I gathered up my wheel barrel, a bucket to mix the seeds in with dirt, a shovel and a rake.   No Merlot.   I trundled over to the end of the block and proceeded with my version of Johnny Appleseed.   Since we had just had some rain, the condition of the soil was perfect and very easy to dig and cultivate.

I felt a bit envious that it was so good and very loamy, unlike the heavy stuff that I have in my garden.   But there were a few tough spots and quite a bit of raking to remove some pine needle duff.   One neighbor said he’d help me, but he had other projects going on and other than that, no one really said anything to me.

The seeds were placed on the right side of the street.

The seeds were placed on the right side of the street.

But I did get a few funny looks and I was starting to think of myself as being a bit eccentric and strange, but then, who cares?   The area is going to be stunning next Spring and I know that the entire neighborhood is going to love it.

I’m not a good judge of distance, but I’m guessing that the length of the street where I spread the seeds, is at least 1,000 feet. but I’m not sure.   The photo doesn’t show the entire distance, it’s quite longer than what can be seen here.  And yes, the “blob” in the tree that you see in the picture, is Mistletoe. 

I was really done in by time I completed the job but happy.  And I was thinking what a great workout I had and due to my efforts, I should be entitled to a large serving of Egg Nog with a hefty dose of Capt. Morgan’s Spiced Rum!


Gophers and Chewing Gum

by Lorraine on December 19, 2008

I wanted to follow up on my gopher story and making cages to prevent them from getting to the roots of my plants, with a rather unusual method of getting rid of the little varmints.

Last Summer when I was pursuing the plants at the Theo. Payne Foundation in Sylmar, the topic of gophers came up.   My neighborhood has always had what seemed like an abundance of them plus ground squirrels, probably because I’m right next to the hills.

Frankly, I didn’ care whether or not if they were in my yard, since it wasn’t particularly lovely and certainly wouldn’t be a “featured” garden in Sunset Magazine (A fav of mine).   But once the garden was in, I felt a whole lot differently about the little buggers.

A woman at the nursery told me about using chewing gum to eliminate gophers.   It seems that you take a piece of gum (She suggested Wrigley’s, dunno why), chew it briefly and then place it in the gopher’s hole.

Apparently they will attempt to eat it but unfortunately, it gets stuck (I guess) in their teeth and they can’t swallow it.  The outcome should be pretty obvious, isn’t it?

Wow, seems kinda cruel but I have had other people tell me the same thing.   I’d really rather not do that.   Maybe Sparkle will continue to catch them, that seems more normal and natural.

And yes, it’s still cold here.   The water in the bird bath was frozen this morning.

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Winter Rain

by Lorraine on December 15, 2008

Southern California has the reputation of always being sunny.   But that’s not entirely, true.  We do have Winter here and sometimes it can be very rainy and cold.   Of course, “cold” is different depending on where you live and it certainly would be considered mild  here in California.

We had our first winter storm arrive and it rained steadily all night long.   It’s chilly for us, in the low 50’s and I’ve heard that the snow level might be as at 2500 feet.   That means to me, that the brush clearing that I just did on a trail for the Forest Service last week, is now covered in snow.   Here’s a photo of the area and I’m sure that it doesn’t look like this now!

Upper Sespe Wilderness

Upper Sespe Wilderness

The garden looks awesome and all of the flower seeds that I scattered in it a few weeks ago, are coming up.   The bare areas between some of the plants, now have a little carpet of green sprouts and I’m wondering how it’s going to look next Spring and this rain is just what the garden needed.

I scattered a whole bunch of seeds in the backyard a couple of weeks ago.   This was a lot of work to do but I couldn’t stand how crummy it looked, so I went after it with a hoe and turned almost all of the soil over and hacked my way through the patches of Bermuda lawn, too.



I’m wondering where I got the energy to do this, since the day before I had been doing brush clearing along a trail in the Sespe Wilderness.   But I really wanted to get this done before I missed the winter rains.   It’s not perfect, no landscaping or walkways or other things to make it beautiful but it will certainly look better than it does now.

I’m really looking forward to see what happens in the next few weeks.   With the rain and some sunny days, the backyard should end up looking amazing next year.

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New Bird Arrivals to the Garden

by Lorraine on December 11, 2008

I have been noticing the last few days, that all of a sudden there are quite a few birds in the garden.   The last couple of months I didn’t see too many birds, other than the usual suspects.   The annoying Mockingbirds, numerous Doves and English Sparrows which are plentiful in the neighborhood.

But now every morning the garden is a birdy flurry of chirping individuals of the avian kind.   It’s amazing their sudden arrival and I’m agape at watching them flitting in and out of the bushes, eating seeds and splashing with abandon in the bird bath.

As of this morning, I have seen House Finches, Lesser Goldfinches, Dark-Eyed Juncos and White Crowned Sparrows.  They are flying in and out of the garden, up and down, around the trees and feeding like crazy.   I love to watch their behaviour and antics and they are so distracting, that I don’t want to miss out on anything, so I find myself glued to the windows of my house, looking out into the garden.

I have a bird identification book just for the Los Angeles, Ventura area that allows me to look up the birds that are most commonly or frequently found in the area.   And it’s really very interesting and fun to try to identify the birds that I’m seeing.

The White Crowned Sparrow flies to Southern California from Alaska and Canada where they breed in the Summer.   They arrive in California this time of the year to spend the Winter in our more gentle climate.   Looking at these small birds, its’ hard to imagine such a journey that they undertake but I know that there are many other birds that have much longer migrations.

And the male House Finch, even though they are primarily soft brown in color, have the most amazing florescent copper-orange coloring on their chests and heads.   They absolutely gleam in the sunlight and I can’t get enough of an eyeful to satisfy myself with their iridescencent beauty.

The garden is looking very beautiful right now and with the arrival of my feathery visitors, I feel such happiness.   Regardless of the difficulties that our planet faces and the uncertainly of the future for so many people who are suffering at this time, the garden is a constant.

Having a Native plant garden and seeing the wildlife attracted into it, creates a sense of peace and tranquility and an awareness that all is good and that life continues regardless of our personal situations.

Too may times people defer their happiness, waiting for their circumstances to change.   When they are caught up in this type of thinking, they are actually missing out on life which is quite sad.

Plant a garden any garden, watch it grow, develop and bloom.   And so will you!