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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.



“Oh What a Beautiful Morning…..

by Lorraine on February 19, 2012

Oh what a beautiful day…..I’ve got a beautiful feeeeellllinnnng! Everything’s going my wayyyy”….Okay, so I guess who ever is reading this, knows this is my attempt at singing the song from the musical comedy, “Oklahoma”.

And what does it have to do with native plants, gardening, habitat creation and other aspects of life?   At least my life?   Probably nothing other than it is a beautiful morning and as morning gives away to the afternoon, there are implied promises that the day will continue to be inspiring.

It doesn’t take much for me to be happy and I just completed spreading out four bags of mulch which gives my garden a neater look, especially since this year I won’t have the usual display of wildflowers.

And that is because it hasn’t’ rained enough to encourage the seeds to sprout but there will be plenty of California poppies putting on their best colors as they daintily slip off their slender, green overcoats.   And they never disappoint and can be counted on to show up and show off..

I am so far behind on writing regularly here and I do want to share some of the notes that I took while attending a class at the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants…a few months ago conducted by Barbara Eisenstein on the exciting topic of irrigation.

Then there are those times that when I just simply fail when I try to do something such as digging up, dividing and transplanting some of the Douglas Iris’.   Most of them died but failures are to be expected in life and it’s best that we take them with a smile and learn something from them.

Although the ones that I gave to my daughter-in-law are apparently doing just fine.   Or at least that is what she’s telling me.   Maybe she doesn’t want me to know  she killed them, too.

I guess the song from” Oklahoma” is saying that no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, no matter how scared or hopeless you may feel, the sun is always raising somewhere and that includes your heart.

Figueroa Mt.'s Poppies/Santa Barbara County

It’s a beautiful day….




Fickle Weather

by Lorraine on February 16, 2012

It has been a very dry winter this season unlike last winter when it seemed as though we were being rained upon almost all the time.   Everything was so saturated and one storm was  particularly intense as it blew in from the southwest, smashing against the house with high winds.

I remember that I had a problem with water coming in underneath the front door and into the hallway.   Ha, ha…lot’s of fun.   I’m outside in the driving rain, completely covered up in rain gear and attempting to cover up the front door in plastic as everything was whipping around me but all the time I kept thinking how lucky I was that I wasn’t someone that was faced with losing their home in a flood as they were back East at the time.

Then I had a temporary flashback of a particular El Nino year when it seemed the state of California was going to drown and I had a leaky roof.   I would climb up on it  when it was raining  (Not the smartest thing to do) with huge rolls of plastic and attempt to hammer it down and keep the inside of the house free from leaks, all the while making sure I didn’t slide off and get hurt.

(One of my more enjoyable experiences of being a single Mom.   And a “thank you” to my son Ryan who was right along beside me, building  his character.)

But the storm from the previous winter ruined the wooden front door although  somehow my flooring survived the assault and out of this, one of my sons gave me a beautiful new front door a few months ago.

So, I’m digressing here…I think I was talking about the lack of rain we’ve had this year and I have been doing some supplemental watering in the garden.  I’m disappointed that none of the wildflower seeds I had sown a few months ago, have appeared.   But the poppies are plentiful and I noticed this morning that one has a cheery, orange flower bouncing upon itself.

A couple of days ago I purchased four large bags of shredded bark  and this weekend I plan on spreading most of it out in the areas where things are a bit bare.   All I need to do is get them out of the trunk of the car.

Where’s a man when I need one?

As I was saying, the weather has been odd this winter.   I few weeks ago it was hot and that’s when I had a rattlesnake in my sitting area and then yesterday, it became very cold (Something I hate) and it hailed!

So what’s next?   I think most of us are still hoping for more rain, as we certainly need it but in the meanwhile my garden still looks beautiful.   And at the end of the day,  I can enjoy the tranquility and peace it provides to me and know that life is good and each day brings it’s blessings if we are only paying attention.



Okay, So it’s Really February in the Garden

by Lorraine on February 8, 2012

I came across these comments that I obviously wrote last December, when I was seeing a number of different types of birds visiting the garden.   But some how, I got caught up in the busyness of Christmas and the holidays and I forgot to post it.   So better late than “never” even if some of these birds aren’t here now….

Once the garden was done and the plants were in, I began  notice an immediate change of “visitors to my yard, because it was now very attractive to wildlife, whereas before it was boring and didn’t provide cover or food for birds or butterflies. All kinds of different birds began to show up throughout the year along with other interesting critters.

Depending on what was blooming ( And there is always something blooming in my garden), and the time of the year, I always have the opportunity to share it with a variety of birds and butterflies.

It is now December and I am seeing more of the Mourning Doves ( They are a bit stupid, I have to admit), poking around looking for seeds but lately I have been seeing Black Phoebes that in general are in the garden all year long and now White Crowned Sparrows sharing the turf with Lessor House Finches.

And into to this mix are still some Anna Hummingbirds, taking advantage of the nectar from the Everetts Choice fuchsias and their bright red-orange flowers that lure them into their succulent places. Darting in and out of the garden are common finches and the very handsome Dark-Eyed Juncos, which I think are one of my favorite birds.

This is a rather longer post and I hate to bore anyone, unless they truly love watching birds in their garden, but I’m saving the rest of it for the next post.

To be continued…




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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