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The First Day of Fall

by Lorraine on September 23, 2012

My life has been a bit upturned the last couple of months because I managed to fracture my right foot when I was just finishing up my workout at the gym.   I ended up wearing one of those big, clunky orthopedic boots which was not exactly conducive to walking in my garden and allowing me to  spend any time in it this past summer.

I am finally out of it but still limited on doing things such as hiking or conditioning walking and I have been told not to do any repetitive movements on my foot until the fracture is completely healed, which at this point it, isn’t.

But with the arrival of Fall, I know that soon I will need to be doing a lot of cleanup and maintenance in the garden.  When it comes to using California native plants and in my case those of the chaparral-sage community, there isn’t much to be done during the summer months because most of the plants shut down for the season and become semi-dormant.

With the arrival of Fall  and then winter,  that is the signal to get busy in the garden.  The plants are waking up and getting prepared to grow and that means it’s important to groom, trim, prune the plants that need a “spa day” and of course it’s the best time to do planting.  Plus I have a number of projects in mind this season and am only waiting for the weather to be cooler before I get involved in them.

Although it is quite hot here today, about 102 degrees which is typical for Fall in Southern California.   I know that I will be removing more plants in the next few months but I will need some help when I do.   I can’t do any digging with my right foot to remove the plants I want to take out.   So I will be hiring my P/T garderner, Nelson to do the heavy work.

It  is approaching the 5th. year when I decided to remove my lawn and put in it’s place, native plants and I’m finding it difficult to believe that it flew by so quickly.   But since that time, there has been more discussions, books and articles about creating landscapes based upon using less water, no fertilizers or pesticides and becoming sustainable.

And not to forget, the joy of drawing wild birds and butterflies into a new “wild” space.   Especially the humming birds…..

I’m happy that I have done my part and I certainly have learned a great deal about using natives for landscaping.  And yet, the adventure continues as I learn more about this unique method of landscaping.   And I’m already thinking about the changes I will be making to the garden in the next few months.



Birds in a Chaparral Garden

by Lorraine on December 19, 2011

One of the many pleasures of having a native plant garden, is the amount of wildlife it attracts to it.   Not only does it provide habitat for the many birds and butterflies but it also provides food and nesting sites as well for birds that live in the area and those that may be migrating through on their way to other areas.

It has been four years since I completed the installation of my garden in my front yard, after removing the lawn that was nothing more than ugly Bermuda grass with various sorts of weeds.   I hated it, it was boring, took too much water and lacked anything attractive about it and I made the decision to turn it into a chaparral garden, primarily made up of plants from the Coastal Sage Scrub community.

There has never been one moment of regret, I don’t miss the “grass” ( If you could call a variation of weeds, “grass”) at all and the best part is my water bill is incredibly low and I have a beautiful garden filled color, scent and wildlife.


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…..


Chaparral Plants

by Lorraine on August 26, 2011

Here in southern California, just in from the coastline, we are in the Chaparral plant community.   It extends from San Diego in the south end of the state up to parts of northern California and into the low hills as you enter the Sierra Nevada mountains.   And it also includes the northern end of Mexico and into southwestern Oregon as well but I’m mainly referring to California’s plant community.

It’s a large community of plants that covers approximately 7 million acres in California and that also includes my garden.   Although it is so small that it certainly wouldn’t show up on any native plant guides and you couldn’t find it using Google Earth but it is mainly made of of chaparral plants that I love.

I have several different varieties of Salvias, such as Whirly Blue, Bees Bliss, salvia mellifera and others.   And then there are some Eriogonums otherwise known as Buckwheat which there are more than 125 species in the state but I happen to have some that are low growing variety called Saffron or Eriogonum crocatum that has beautiful soft, gray leaves and brilliant yellow flowers that gradually turn to a “chocolate” brown shade as they dry out.

This post is getting to be a bit too long, so I will share more about what plants I’m using in my garden a bit later on.

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