Posts tagged as:


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.”


{ 1 comment }

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.






Ruthless Trimming and Rainstorms

by Lorraine on July 31, 2011

Okay, so the weather forecast for mid to southern California was for thunder storms, lightening, rain, humidity, drama and flash floods.   None of which happened around here, although I don’t know if these events transpired in other parts of the state.   But the weather turned out to be beautiful with fantastic blue skies, some clouds and lots of humidity.

Sometimes  I can be spontaneous and I got the urge to (well just a little bit), do some trimming in the garden yesterday.   Naturally, being me…this became an event that lasted about three hours as I cut back some of the Salvias, trimmed the Desert Lavender/Hyptis emoryi and knocking myself out for any future events that might require my energy.

I have two Desert Lavender bushes and both of the are up against the house and easily over 8′ and tend to want to become bushy.   So once in a while I have to do some trimming as one of them is right next to my sitting area in the garden and if I didn’t trim it, I’d be sitting in it’s branches.

They are covered in bees, collecting nectar and spreading their good cheer and work and Hummingbirds like them as well.   Although, lately I haven’t seen too many Hummers, since most of the plants are done blooming for the summer with the exception of Everett’s Choice fuchsias.

They do adore them and of course the fiery orange color, seduces the little birds to visit the bar quite often.  They love the fuchias and typically they are swooping in and out of the plants for most of the day.

So I got off my topic here…trimming.   Due to all the rain we had this past winter, the plants went “bonkers’ in their growth and ended up competing for space.   The Whirly Blue salvias, covered some of the Purple Three Awn grasses and a couple of Yarrows, too.   They are know behaving because I cut them back a bit, which should be done beginning this time of the year.

I soaked a Spreading Gum Plan/Grindelia stricta yesterday and yanked it out today because I think it’s ugly.   There’s another one that will be receiving the same fate as well but later on, not today.  I whacked back several Coyote Mints/Mondardella villosa too, as they were looking done in and no longer putting on a show but they sure have a strong, minty fragrance that is almost overwhelming but nice.

August is supposedly one of our hotter months in California and my plants have all but retreated to safety until the first rains of winter.   Then it will start all over again.

But what happened to today’s rain storms, flash floods, lightening and other exciting events?


Native Grasses for Your Garden

by Lorraine on March 24, 2011

I mentioned in an earlier post how much I love the appearance and feel of native grasses and their use in residential landscapes.   The possibilities for garden designs and the varieties of grasses are unlimited and more home owners may want to consider utilizing them in their landscapes to create a different mood in their gardens.

“The American Meadow Garden”  written by John Greenlee discusses in great detail the endless possibilities but I would like to share the excellent article written by Rob Moore with California Native Landscape Design   where he shares his thoughts as well in the following article.

“One of the questions I always ask my clientele during the preliminary design phase is if they like California native bunchgrasses. From a design perspective, bunchgrasses offer a plethora of benefits both aesthetic and functional.  Attributes include contrast, the element of motion, habitat restoration, visual interest, and historical value.

Experts conclude that native grasslands in California are among the most endangered ecosystem in the United States. Due in most part to historical land use and introduced disease, it is estimated that less than 1% of our state’s original grasslands remain. Fortunately, as forward-thinking home and business owners, we can address this issue by including California’s native grasses in our residential and commercial landscapes.

A short list of favorites for the garden include Purple Three-Awn Aristida purpurea, Blue Grama Bouteloua gracilis, California Fescue Festuca californica, Giant Wild Rye Leymus condensates, California Melic Melica californica, Deer Grass Muhlenbergia rigens, and Purple Needlegrass Nassella pulchra (our state grass here in California). Grass-like species such as Sedges Carex spp. are a great addition to a California-friendly, native garden as well.

In their natural environment, native grasses typically occur in groups with bare ground between them where wildflowers grow. Even though some gardeners feel grasses look messy; in consideration of wildlife value, letting things go to seed and having an area that’s ‘messy’ is good for seed-eaters and butterflies.  Alternatively, hand trimming at the appropriate time of year is preferable aesthetically, and an occasional grooming to remove dead leaves and spent flower stalks or a seasonal coppice is perfectly acceptable and will keep them looking tidy.

Most of the aforementioned ornamental grasses will prefer a sunny spot in the landscape and will be tolerant of drought once established, though most species will look better with occasional summer water.

Like many native plants, grasses play an important role in providing cover, nesting materials, and additional food sources for beneficial, garden-friendly wildlife. Coupled with the addition of contrast, the element of motion, habitat restoration, and historical value, I’m confident that you will enjoy the addition of California’s native bunchgrasses to your garden!”

{ 1 comment }

December Garden Chores

by Lorraine on December 14, 2010

For the last few weeks I have been very busy making changes in my garden and I’m just about done with I wanted to do.   Initially I had planned to remove all of the Canyon Prince Rye grasses, two sages and begin trimming many of the plants.

Winter and fall are very busy times if you have a native plant garden because most of the maintainence and planting is done then.   With the recent rains that we’ve had,  my garden has come to life and every day it looks a bit different and requires some attention.

Many of the bulbs are popping up due to a period of time when the temperatures were warmer and oh my gosh…there are a million California Poppy seedlings that have sprouted, even in the cracks of the sidewalk.

The fuschias are done blooming and they will be my next target for pruning within a couple of weeks or so and I do intend to put in a couple of new plants in a place where I just removed a Desert 4 O’clock that was under a window and was too messy.

I divided some Blue Eyed Grass today, as they are now beginning to be very happily established and since there are so many of them, I dug a few up and transplanted them to another location.   I hope they don’t die but do well because they are so beautiful and I love their blue flower.

I moved two Salvia mellifera’s from the garden to the backyard and actually they came up pretty easily.   But again, I don’t know if they will survive but hopefully they will, as I enjoy the smell of them and their beautiful blooms in the spring.

We are expecting some rain this weekend, so that’s why I wanted to get all of this done in time to take advantage of it and the cooler temperatures, too and I feel as though I have managed to complete what I set out to do.

Then there’s the Liquid Amber leaves.   I have four of them in my front yard and I love them but everything is buried in their leaves and I can’t rake them up fast enough before they get deeper.

Whew!   I ‘m tired but satisfied and I love how the garden is looking.   All I need to do, is step outside, step into my garden, inhale its fragrance and sink into it’s tranquility.