From the monthly archives:

July 2009

Mid-Summer Pruning

by Lorraine on July 27, 2009

I received the newsletter from the Theodore Payne Foundation last week and avidly read through it.   I love getting this news letter, it’s right up there with receiving Sunset magazine and fulfills my “happiness” quotient among other things.

Checking out the topics on what should be done in a garden this time of the year, I was a bit surprised to read that Salvias should be trimmed about one-third down or at least deadhead the spent flowers.   I thought that they shouldn’t be pruned until this fall or winter, but I went ahead and did it anyway since Lily Singer with who is with the Foundation, definitely knows more than I do.

They are now in their summer attire, looking a bit brown and withdrawn from the rest of the garden.   I know that this is simply their method of coping with the summer and it’s heat, so I’m not worried in the least about their conditions.   But they do look rather sad in their appearance and I wish they look a bit prettier but my next Spring they will be blooming once again.

One of my Everetts Choice Fuchsias inexplicatively died which annoys me but it’s to be unexpected when you’re gardening.   Things happen, plants die and others thrive…most of the time it’s all a mystery and you don’t cry over it,  just resign yourself to these unplanned events.

I really didn’t like how ugly the Seaside daisies were looking near the tree to the right side of the garden, so I pulled them out.   I’ve been gradually removing them because they tend to overtake the other plants deprive them of enough space to grow plus I’m not really very fond of them anyway, although they do have cute white flowers on them.

I trimmed the Penstemons, Blue-Eyed Grass and the Desert 4 o’clock ( the stinky plant I wrote about before) and a few other things as well.   The garden is looking a bit more open and there are some bare areas where I’ve removed some plants but I do have some ideas as to what I want to do in those areas this fall but at this time I’m just leaving things as they are.

I love being in the garden and even though it was quite hot yesterday, there is a distinct feeling of satisfaction, knowing that I spent my time there and not sitting in front of a television, looking at mindless drivel or eating some delicious goodie that isn’t good for my health.   It’s best to be outside, use your body, enjoy the sun, the smells of the garden and of course the birds!

Not to sound biased about television but most of it is junk, unless of course, it’s HGTV, Planet Green or Ugly Betty!!


Theodore Payne Native Garden Class

by Lorraine on July 22, 2009

I had previously mentioned there were a number of interesting classes coming up that were being offered by the Theodore Payne Foundation and native plant nursery.   I have attended a number of the classes and I’ve enjoyed everyone of them, learned something new each time and met people who love native plants and are eager to learn more about them.

I would really like to be able to attend the one that is going to be taking place on July 25th. with Barbara Eisenstein but I already have something else going on that day and will have to miss it.   I know that it will be offered again and next time around, hopefully I can go to it and learn more about how to take care of my garden.

She will be discussing the basics of how to maintain a garden and the class will be limited to 12 people, so if you want to attend, I would suggest that you immediately call T.P. and register and plan on spending some time after the class has ended, going through the nursery as there is a lot to see.

Theodore Payne Foundation for Native Plants 818-768-1802

Barbara also loves native grasses and is quite the expert on them and she has a blog which is mentioned in my “blogroll” (WildSuburbia) if you’d like to visit her site.   I know nothing about grasses other than I enjoy the way that they look but sadly, most of them have been destroyed due to development as is the case for many native species.

But I do have some Nodding needlegrass (Nassella lepida) in my garden and I love it’s appearance.   Very delicate, tall and it sways with lovely movements whenever there’s a soft breeze.   When it was done growing and starting to turn brown, I cut it back to the ground and created bundles of it for drying, thinking that I would use them for an arrangement, which I ultimately did!


Dried Nodding needlegrass

Dried Nodding needlegrass

The result is a beautiful display of golden-yellow grasses that I have in my kitchen.  They are so beautiful to look at and bring me pleasure each time that I do and bring a bit of nature inside my home.

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Summertime and it’s Hot!

by Lorraine on July 19, 2009

The other day when I wrote here, I said the I felt that summer had offically arrived.   Well, that was prior to today.   Now I know that it has arrived.   It’s  unbearably hot, so hot that nothing is moving at all.   It’s as though life has stopped and won’t be revived until its cooler.

Now I know that there are other areas that are a lot hotter than Simi Valley, such as the Kalahari Desert or Death Valley here in California, but none the less, it’s extremely hot.  Unless of course, you are at the beach where I was, yesterday…..

I’m not going to even think about doing anything in the garden, other than to check it over this evening and see if I should put additional water on any of the plants.   But again, I repeat here, they are adapted to this kind of toasty weather but you still need to check on their condition and how well they’re doing when the weather is this hot.

Also there is the issue of Rattlesnakes becoming a visitor in the garden on these kinds of days.   When it’s very hot, they will seek out shady areas during the hottest time of the day and also any areas that have some water.   Such as the ceramic dish that  has  water in it and is underneath  an India Mallow making it very convenient for a snake to curl up in for a cool dip.

I’m not going to be sticking my hands under any bushes any time soon and irritate a snake with my intrusion.   Just leave them alone….

One of these days I should buy a “snake picker-upper”,  so that I can move them out of my yard and over to the canyon at the end of my street.  I don’t believe in killing them, they keep the rodents in check and have a purpose in our environment just like all the other critters do.

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It’s Summer in the Garden

by Lorraine on July 17, 2009

As of today, I would say that officially it is now summer.  It’s extremely hot, over 90 and there’s barely a breath of air.   Even the lizards are avoiding running along the rocks in the dry stream bed.   When lizards lounge around in the shady spots, you know that it’s darn hot!

I watered the garden a couple of days ago in preparation for the heat and even in the last couple of days, I threw a few buckets of water on some plants that looked like they needed an additional drink.   One of the Penstemons was dried out around its edges and turning brown and I new I’d better get some water before it was too late and  died.

I mentioned in a previous post, that it’s very important to keep checking up on the condition of a native plant garden.   Sure, the point is to cut back on water use, but that doesn’t mean “no” water especially in the first 2-3 years.   If you don’t give native plants any water after you’ve put them in, they will die just like any other plant.   And then all of your efforts, time and money to change your landscape will be wasted, so pay attention or regret it later on.

Eventually as a garden becomes established, the plants will require less water but until that time, watering a couple of times a month will be necessary depending on where your live and the type of plants that you have.  

The Monkey Flowers are done blooming, turning brown and don’t add much in the way of glamour to the garden anymore but they are doing what they do, naturally.   They may not look too good but they are just conserving themselves to get through the summer. and will be blooming once again in the Spring.

Ditto with the Sages.   I have two that are still blooming but one of the Whirly Blues has begin to drop it’s leaves on the ground and is looking skimpy and dried out.   But again, an adaptation to the heat of summer, this is what they are supposed to do and watering them  now may cause root rot, ultimately killing the plant.

I had trimmed back the Needlegrass several weeks ago and I hung it in bunches to be dried and used for arrangements later on.   I’m very glad that I did because now I have the most stunning display of golden long stemmed branches in a beautiful cranberry colored container in my kitchen.  Hopefully it will last for some time and this winter when I look at it, it will remind me of summer.

Since I trimmed them, I noticed that they are starting to sprout some new stems, so maybe I will have them growing once again in the garden.   I loved they way they looked then, as they swayed back and forth in the breeze and they added a very lovely, tranquil element to the garden.

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Desert 4 O’Clock

by Lorraine on July 14, 2009

This is the smelliest plant I’ve ever come across.   A few months ago, I noticed that whenever I stepped outside the front door into the garden, there was the overwhelming odor like cat pee.   Yuck!   You know how nasty that can smell.

I was trying to figure out where it was coming from and I noticed that in the evening it was particularly bad, awful, atrocious!   It would come wafting through the open window into my den where I’d be reading or watching the television and making it very challenging to ignore.

Yes, I know.   Close the window, right?

It smelled so much like cat piss, I figured that some Tom cat was exploring around in my garden and spraying it, claiming his territory.  Outdoor cats don’t usually last long around here because of the coyotes and I had seen a large, male Siamese cruising the neighborhood and then he’d disappear for a while.   I wondered if he was the culprit!

I was wrong.   I finally figured it out.   It was a plant directly underneath the window and just to the right of the front door.   So innocent looking and yet soooooooo lethal.

Desert 4 O’Clock or Mirabilis multiflora.   A rather attractive, low growing bush with white, delicate flowers on it.   So demure, delicate looking and with a huge punch of (What should I call it?) stink!

Looking Innocent

Looking Innocent

I went to the Cal Flora site to read up on it a bit and I’m not entirely sure, that this plant isn’t something else.   All the photos on the site for Desert 4 O’clock had lavender colored flowers.   My plant as white ones as you can see.

But whatever it is, it’s smelly.   Sure, I could take it out if it irritates me that much but I actually like the look of it and it’s gray-silvery color, so I’m leaving it in place and adapting to it’s odor.

The garden is looking less colorful and several of the plants have stopped blooming now that we are in the midst of summer.   But here is a photo of some sage with Chico just on the other side of it, surveying his territory, always on the lookout for lizards.

Sage/Salvia & Chico

Sage/Salvia & Chico

And keeping his eye out for that big Siamese Tom cat.   Chico’s very sensitive and will bolt for the door at the slightest scary thing.   Biscuit is even more nervous when it comes to the “unknown”.   I call him the Don Knotts of the feline world.

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