From the monthly archives:

November 2011

A Comment on How to Put in Native Plants

by Lorraine on November 19, 2011

I love it when someone such as Barbara Eisenstein who is very experienced and an expert in the use of native plants (Especially the grasses), comments on something in my blog.   She has provided some excellent information that I want to share with others.

Plus, now I don’t have to write anything….which is sometimes a challenge for me.   Thanks Barbara!   And she also has a wonderful blog as well….

“Hi Lorraine. Thank you for this! A couple of thoughts about your recommendations on planting. I find it better to dig the hole no deeper than the distance from the crown of the plant (it should be where the top of the soil is) to the bottom of the pot. If you make it deeper the plant tends to sink a bit as the loosened soil compresses and then it is too low.

Second, I usually loosen the potting soil and sometimes even try to remove it if it has a lot of organic particles in it. If you leave a very organic potting soil in the planting hole, over time the organics decompose leaving air pockets in the hole. In fact I am right now experimenting with washing off a lot of the potting soil unless the plant has very sensitive and/or brittle roots (like bush poppy, Dendromecon; flannel bush, Fremontodendron; and a few others).

I am a bit nervous about using “water probes” to check for moisture. Not sure if you were suggesting them in your post. The water probes are battery operated probes that register moisture on a dial or display. I have had several reports from people who used them that they break easily giving inaccurate readings. I like to actually gently dig into the soil without damaging the plant’s roots, to check to see if it is moist. Sometimes I use a soil probe (not a water probe), to extract a cylinder of soil.

And finally, the concern with walking on, or digging in, very wet soil is that it compacts the soil. It may break plant roots, but more importantly it can compact the soil so natural pores in the soil collapse. It takes a long time for soil to reestablish a good structure if it has been heavily compacted, so it is best to not garden when the soil is very wet. If you must, some people put down planks of wood to walk on so their weight is distributed.

Wow! Bet this is way more than you wanted to see from me. Anyway, there is always discussion among gardeners about the best practices. The one about removing soil from the roots is probably one that is greatly debated. If washing or shaking off potting soil damages the root hairs, then it can be a bad idea. It probably depends on the plant type, but I would love to hear from others who do it one way or the other.”


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Okay, You’ve Bought Your Plants… Now What?

by Lorraine on November 13, 2011

Assuming that the new native plant enthusiast has research their choices and based upon the findings, have selected their first plants for their native garden then the next step is to get them into the ground.  Keep in mind, that you do not amend the soil and don’t add any fertilizer either.  Native plants don’t need anything but dirt, so don’t feel that that is necessary to add fertilizer because it’s not.   Plus you save money!  No more fertilizing!

Per Barbara Eisenstein’s presentation at Theodore Payne Foundation, here is what she had to say to “How to Keep “um Going”.   And of course the following is from my attempts at note taking.

1.   Make sure that you know how large your plant will grow out to.   When you are planting, keep most of them 3-4 feet apart.   Give ‘um room.

2.  Dig your hole a little bit deeper than the root ball and about 2X as wide.   Fill with water and let’r drain.   This may take some time depending upon your soil type.

3.  Gently remove the plant from the nursery container and lower into the hole, keep the top of the root ball “JUST” above the hole.  Do not shake or mess around with the roots.  Leave them alone…no “touchy”.

4.  Water throughly and spread some mulch around the plant but keep it away from the crown of the plant.   Otherwise you could invite in some pathogens and end up killing it.

5.  Be aware of weather conditions.   Windy?  Hot? Pouring rain or maybe not enough rain?   Don’t ignore your plants.  Check with a plant/water probe and see if they need watering.   And don’t be stepping near them after a heavy rain, as you could be crushing the roots.  Be careful.

It’s my understanding that it’s all about getting your plants to survive their first year and winter allows them the opportunity to become established and be prepared for the following summer when things are a bit more challenging for them due to the heat.

Then the next obvious question is about “watering”.  More on that in the next post.






Learning About How to Keep Native plants Alive

by Lorraine on November 11, 2011

If someone has decided to make the switchover to using native plants in their landscape, this is the time of year to do it because the weather is now cooling down, we’re past the hot summer months and all of the horticultural gardens that specialize in native plants are having garden sales.   It’s enough to make you go crazy over the huge selection but once you have reined yourself in, picked out your plants ( I hope you’ve done some research), it’s time to put them in the ground.

But what’s next?   How do you keep them alive and thriving?  How often do you water?   What about gophers?   Whadda ya’ do?  Leave ‘um alone?

I recently attended a class at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants that we being conducted by Barbara Eisenstein.   Barbara comes with a great deal of experience and at one time she was on the staff with Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens in Claremont and she continues to be very involved in promoting sustainability, habitat  and the use of native plants for home gardens.   She is particularly fond of native grasses which there are many and she is an expert when it comes to using them in landscapes.

Anyway, so I went to her class for some tips and she not only provided a terrific list of “beginner” plants but went through the basic steps of what to do when you bring your new plants home.

Of course, it begins with digging a hole, filling it with water and putting the plant in it after the water has drained out.   But, there really is more, it’s not quite that simple but in a way…it is very simple.   But you have to do it correctly to increase the chances of that plant’s “happiness” in it’s new location.   After all, you’ve pulled it out from a container that it was enjoying and then shoved it into foreign territory.

How would you feel if you were treated like that?

And on that note, I will end this post here, cuz what I am going to share about the necessary steps to success will take up too much space and whoever reads this may not be in the mood to get through to the end & I can see that I already have been too verbose!

More thrills and information to follow  in the next couple of days…..


California and Santa Ana Winds

by Lorraine on November 3, 2011

Every Autumn in southern California we have a very “windy” event, otherwise known as the Santa Ana winds.   In many parts of the world communities  have their own terrible, driving winds which are unique to their particular area and we are no exception and upon their arrival the damage and  havoc that can ensue by winds which sometimes have gusts up to 70 miles per hour!

These winds develop out of the higher deserts located northeast of the Los Angeles basin and funnel though the canyon passes with a verocity that can be deadly and quite often cause brush fires.   Last fall we were quite fortunate, in that the Santa Ana season was quite mild and we didn’t experience the insanity of constant blowing winds and it was a relief to me, since I hate them….

On Tuesday we started to develop a mild Santa Ana and by Wednesday they were ferocious.   Downed trees everywhere, tons of debris and everyone is on edge, as it makes you quite uneasy with the worry of brush fires.

Whew!   They ended last night, there were no fires that I know of and other than experiencing a lot of sneezing due to allergies, there’s a mess in my garden.   I JUST swept it up and cleaned it out the other day and now everything is smothered in fallen leaves and small branches.   Even my little Certified Wildlife Habitat sign from The National Wildlife Federation got blown over.

But I’m relieved that there was no damage this time around and the worst I have to deal with is cleaning up all the leaves and small branches that came off my neighbors Ash tree and my three Liquid Amber’s.

However, this can change quickly and we are only just beginning the season for, what some people call, “Devil Winds” and I’ve got my fingers crossed that this year, will be one like last fall.   Very, little wind and very little worry.

Just dried and cracked skin.   I need lots of good, creamy lotion.