Welcome to my Garden Blog
Gardens: touched by loving hands. Cultivated, nurtured. Drinking in those landscapes is wonderful, as well.
In my garden one enjoys some of both. Generally unpruned & wild, my plants reshape the garden as they grow.
Always there are animal creatures to join in the fun.
I look forward to sharing some of my experiences with you as they unfold.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Just yesterday I was remarking what a glorious Autumn-like day it was. It was almost 70dgs as I looked up into the branches of a Sycamore tree, not quite bare yet, at the golden leaves against the clear blue sky. The sun was shining down on them, lighting them up.
I walked my dog to the Meadow and took pictures of him lying in the new green clover. I delighted at the fragrant white narcissus blooming in the field. How many years have I come to this spot to drink in their fragrance?
The narcissus were planted at one time long ago by someone who used to live here. I imagine her.. she used to look out at the Meadow from her window at all the oak trees. And she planted an elm tree and eucalyptus trees, probably to shade her house from Summer heat. Now, these trees are all very tall, maybe 100 yrs old, and surround the Meadow, protecting it. The land was recently given to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy so that everyone could enjoy it .. a sort of neighborhood park :-)
Now today, the drying out is over. The rain is back.We had already gotten 13" in 3 days last week. And of course, it's always the little things: Forgot to bring in the clothes from the clothesline that were washed over the sunny weekend. I listen now to the gentle wind chimes in the predawn hours, knowing the clothes are hanging there, getting wetter & wetter. As light begins to come to the sky, the call of the owls is fading away..
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Ah, Autumn in Southern California: Golden leaves, blue skies. I watched leaves fly from the walnut trees.. twirling in a long dance before finally ending up on the deck below me. A spectacular Thursday afternoon.
Thinking back on that Thursday, the squirrels had been acting up, chasing each other up and down tree branches, barking excitedly at each other. They even threw a giant hard green pine cone down at the house, which landed with a thud too close to my window. Did they know it was going to rain? Did they know way before we did? Were they happily awaiting the change in the weather, all smug because they were prepared?
Bodhi, the Garden Peacock, did something different on Thursday too. I saw him up on the hillside, thick with pine needles beneath a pine tree. Not his usual tree. What was he doing there? Was he planning for a drier spot because he knew the rain was coming?
It rained all night last night and this morning. The yellow walnut leaves that had so delighted me on Thursday, were now flat & slick on the deck. Some of the leaves were plastered against the French patio doors, looking as if they were pressed under glass. I did not see Bodhi in his usual tree. Did he spend the night in a drier spot? Still waiting for him to show up so I can ask him.
So, to my question: do animals smell the rain coming and make plans? I think so!
Saturday, November 6, 2010
California pepper trees (Schinus molle) are not native to California, but still I so love them. Their drooping branches add a soft grace to the side of a road, or to a meadow. They remind me of the Weeping Willows in the Midwest, with branches hanging down low next to a pond. The California Pepper trees are my Willows: Common, unassuming, providing a wonderful place to sit in the Summer and get shade, as well as lots of red peppercorns in Fall. And yes, if you scratch them, they smell like pepper. The berries are sometimes sold as "pink peppercorns".
California pepper trees are perfectly acclimated to the drought conditions of the Santa Monica Mountains. They are so widely naturalized in the Canyons, it is easy to assume that they are natives. Despite their common name "California pepper," they are actually native to the Peruvian Andes. In a garden, the trees are versatile: you can leave them wild & unpruned, or you can prune them up to suit your tastes. The California pepper is evergreen, and keeps its bright green color all year long.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
This is my corner, where I can remember all of the other Autumns, all connected by yellow leaves, like messengers with stories to tell. I recall trips to forests in Chicagoland like Starved Rock, trips to woods in the California Mtns (San Bernadino Mtns & June Lake), walking on trails under yellow canopies, taking photographs and enjoying deep silence. I recall my brother's wedding, the family posing for wedding pictures in an Autumn-colored meadow outside a small chapel on a glorious October day. And, I recall being a little girl, watching my parents raking up leaves in our big back yard, so I could jump in the pile and scatter them, laughing with my sister, before we eventually burned them. Though I loved to watch the fire, I would never think of burning them now. Now I let them pile up all around, as long as they are still yellow they make me smile.
Each leaf is a messenger connecting me to the other Autumns.. yellow leaves and the stories they hold.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Last night, we were starting a Sherlock Holmes movie (the one with Robert Downey, Jr.) when, over the din of the fan, I heard a new sound: the pitter patter of .. raindrops. I could scarcely believe it! After the wave of record heat we have had, it was so welcome. I jumped up and went outside. Slowly the gentle drops began to build, hitting my arms & head. I put on my sunhat, grabbed my camera and looked up at the sky to the West. Large clouds covered most of it, and I took some nice pictures of them. Back to the movie. Then Thunder! The sky turns orange in the East. And more rain. For an hour we had lightening, thunder and rain. Sweet smelling rain. My dog smelled it too, tail wagging, he wanted to go outside. My cat went to his window to watch the scene from there. I was glad I had brought in the laundry from the clothesline.
Okay, so if you are reading this from another part of the country, you are probably giggling. But it is a big deal to get moisture in Southern California, especially in the Summer. You would think this means I will get out of watering today. But you'd be wrong. The rain barely scratched the surface of the soil. At least it smelled good and dusted cobwebs off the leaves of the bushes.
It has been way TOO HOT here ever since the Autumn Equinox. I was enjoying the Harvest Moon on September 23rd. (We won't have another full moon on the Autumn Equinox for 19 years.) The weather was cool, and the Canyon was filled with fog .. lovely, soft, white fog. My thoughts had turned to pumpkins and festivals decorated with hay bales & scarecrows. Then, out of nowhere came the Heat. Suddenly it was 100dgs, Summer again! The vegetable beds had to be covered with shade netting. The pots of spinach & lettuce that I'd started early had to be brought inside.
It was the weekend. All sorts of Autumn festivals had been planned and were taking place around the Southland. Yet, it hardly seemed like Autumn, especially at the beach, where hundreds of thousands of LA residents collected to "beat the heat" and have some fun on the Westside. The height of the Heat came on Monday though, when downtown Los Angeles hit 113dgs breaking a record for the day since record keeping began in 1877. It was so hot, in fact, that the official thermometer broke! So, it might have been even hotter than 113. No one knows for sure.
Slowly things are cooling down some. Beautiful monsoonal clouds cross the sky.. But the pitter patter of raindrops will be welcome in my Topanga garden anytime they want to come back.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Aloe, sweet aloe, you are such a healthful plant, so full of life-giving medicinal nectar. Aloe can alleviate pain from bug bites, help heal cuts, or give your face a soft glow... And so, it is only fitting that my aloe plant should be my mother-in-law's plant. Louise died of cancer just months after I met her, even though she had lived a very healthful life. She ran every day, always ate at the salad bar when she went to restaurants, took her vitamins, and tended her roses in a sunny community garden. She neither drank nor smoked, yet lung cancer claimed her anyway. Louise was a beautiful spirit, her bright blue eyes full of life.. cut too short.
Louise's husband brought us the aloe plant she had been growing outside the front door of her Laguna Beach condo. I accepted it into my Topanga garden readily, happy to have a piece of her garden, one of her plants, here with us. At first, I wasn't sure where I wanted to put it, so I left it out front near my door in its wooden bucket. Weeks passed, okay maybe months, and still it sat. But it looked pretty, so I left it. Until .. one day I realized it was "not to be moved"! The aloe's roots had broken through the bucket's wood bottom and rooted the plant firmly into the soil, just where it was! So it remains many years later. A much larger version of Louise's aloe in a pot.
Every time I walk out my front door and see that aloe, I think of Louise. I feel her presence reminding me to stay healthy, and keep her son healthy and happy, too.
(Presently, I am trying to think of a way to transport a cutting of this magnificent plant to my sister-in-law in Portland, without killing it. Any suggestions are welcome.)
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Mid-day, I went down to Venice, happy to get a break from the mid-90s heat in the Canyon. The beach was marvelous: sunny, 80's, with breezes that brought the smell of salty sea to my nose. I was surprised how few people were laying out. Then on my return up PCH, it was a different scene altogether. The highway was snarled, and the beaches were dotted with colorful umbrellas. I enjoyed watching a group of surfers just south of Sunset Blvd... the waves were good there.
Later in the afternoon, back home, I washed sheets and hung them on the clothesline. I saw my black cat (Munchkin) sitting on the stone wall near the outdoor washing machine. What was he staring at so intently? A rattler! I good sized one, too. The rattler had come to investigate a pool of water that escaped near the washer. The canyon is so dry that water attracts all kinds of creatures, not just birds. I picked up the hose and sprayed the snake. That made her retreat back through the jade bushes under the Cypress tree. Likely she has a nest there, as I have seen snakes there in years past. I say "she" as I have decided she is the mommie snake. Happily, no snake has ever entered my rose garden, which they seem to acknowledge as "my space". Although there are a variety of different reactions one might have to seeing a snake, I recognize that they are native wildlife, and that it is important to be able to co-exist. Just have to be alert, especially when watering.
Now it is Sunday morning, and my black cat (Munchkin) is making noise. I thought he wanted to go out, but he simply wanted to alert me that Bodhi the Garden Peacock has arrived on the deck. I love how my pets work together to notify us of their needs. Time to feed Bodhi! Get out the sunflower seeds!
Monday, July 19, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
In Southern California rain is scarce, especially in the hot Summer months. So my thoughts turn to protecting favorite potted plants from too much hot sun and keeping them from drying out. Luckily for me, part of my Topanga Canyon patio enjoys the shade of a large California Oak tree. Every Summer, I move many of my potted plants under its canopy.
Another way I protect my plants is to use Sphagnum Moss as a mulch in the top of my pots. (Canna lilies w/sphagnum moss pic above) The moss works great at keeping moisture in and the soil cool. Plus, it looks pretty! Once I even had a tiny tree frog living in my moss :-)
Summer is time to think about the critters that need water, too. Birds, bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, squirrels.. everybody is thirsty! Birds need to drink and take baths. In Southern California, putting out water for the birds in Summer months is more important than seeds! Pictured above is a small bird bath that I created. I just used a bowl and smooth stones (making it bee friendly). In the center is a Sea Lion sculpture that I got on a trip to Carmel one Summer. My Mother and I had taken a drive up to that lovely town and found this at an outdoor art gallery/garden shop. It was part of a much larger fountain sculpture of an entire sea lion family... all spouting water!
The hummingbird feeder I keep filled, as there is less food for the hummers now that the wildflowers of Spring have stopped blooming. If you have room to plant Cape Honeysuckle, it will bloom all Summer and hummers love it. They also love Bouganvilla and that makes a wonderful privacy screen, as well.
Bees need food and water in the Summer, too. Did you know: they have to fly much greater distances in Summer than in Spring or Autumn to find blooms. One plant you can keep in a pot for them is: Lavender.
Hope your Summer finds you relaxing on your patio with your beautiful Summertime plants and blooms.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
We're making honey out here in Southern California. And how do we do it? Well, beekeepers are taking advantage of some of nature's finest resources: Flowering Native Plants! Many California plants have nectar that is delicious to the honeybee: Buckwheat, Sage, Cactus Flowers and Wildflowers. Beekeepers take their bees to a meadow where Wildflowers are blooming in the Spring, and then when those blossoms are done they move to a hillside of Sage or Buckwheat, which bloom into the Fall.
Luckily, the hillsides are covered with blooming natives in the Coastal Mountains from Santa Barbara down to Baja. including Topanga Canyon, home to Topanga Quality Honey. This diversity makes for a delicious variety of honeys, and makes for some happy local bees, as well.
This drought tolerant native blooms all Summer, even into Fall. It has an abundance of flowers, creamy white, tinged with pink. As they mature, the flowers turn to a rust color. "Viewing hillsides covered with the coppery seedheads of California Buckwheat is a uniquely Western Experience." As expressed in Carol Bornstein's California Native Plants for the Garden. The honey made from this plant is sought after for its dark, full bodied flavor, as well as its high antioxidant and nutritional value.
The bees of the Santa Monica Mountains are lucky to have such an abundant and diverse source of native plants to feed from. And, we are lucky too, as this allows us to enjoy a variety of unique tasting honeys. By adding native plants to your yard or garden, you can help add to the biodiversity in California or the State you live in. As 'top dog' on this planet, the job falls on us to act also as good stewards of all we have inherited.
You can visit a Honey Tasting Room at Bennett Farms, Ventura, CA.
And find out more about the Research they are doing into Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Monday, June 28, 2010
Soon after that, some efficient landowner came and cut down the daisies, the mustards, and all the tall, yellow waving grass in the meadow. It's the annual "weed clearance time". I will miss the cheery yellow faces as June ushers in Summer.
I walk further. The man who owns this property is not as efficient! I enjoy his mustards. I collect his daisy seeds. And I spread them like Johnny Appleseed on my way back home.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Living in the Santa Monica Mountains, I am able to see these flowers every day on walks with my dog, or hikes on the many trails of the California State Parks, even in my own backyard.
Topanga Canyon, situated in the Santa Monica Mountains just outside Los Angeles, is so magical: you can forget you are outside a large urban sprawl. I invite my friends up a lot this time of year to hike. They are always amazed at the flowers they see here that they don't get to see "in town." While annuals like petunias and begonias and such are cheery and colorful, they are no match for the wildflowers, so alive and free!
Matilija Poppies Romneya coulteri with Purple Showy Penstemon Penstemon spectabilis (above), California Buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum (right), Monkey Flowers Mimulus Diplacus aurantiacus (below), Daisies (below), Mustard, Sage, Milkweed, Lupines, CA Poppies .. all cover the hillsides with color in the Spring, delighting us with meadows full of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and of course blooms!
Friday, June 4, 2010
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
This is a serious problem affecting us all across the country. In California, these tiny pollinators are responsible for all the fruit grown: Citrus to Almonds to Strawberries.
Rosemary can take lots of sun and is drought tolerant. I would recommend using soil without vermiculite in your pots. Besides attracting bees, Rosemary will add fragrance to your patio when bruised with your finger. TIP: Rosemary's pale blue flowers partner well with yellow daffodils.
Another herb that will grow well in a container next to your Rosemary pot, is Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas). I have found it attracts Hummingbirds. It is delightful to watch the Hummingbirds hover above the purple blooms. Lavender takes lots of sun, is drought tolerant and adds a welcome scent when crushed.
If you are going to be inviting wildlife to your garden, you will want to leave out water. Even bees get thirsty! Any small bowl can make a fine bee bath. Usually it is best to keep it out of full sun. I have never seen the hummingbirds drink from a bath, but they do so enjoy a shower, especially in the Summer months! I find as soon as I pick up a hose and start to spray, they appear and dance at the very edge of the spray where the shower is fine. A hummingbird feeder is a good idea also, as once they get used to coming to your patio, you won't want to disappoint them.
In addition to those two fragrant herbs, you can attract bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and even some birds with flowers of Native Plants. Your patio might not create much cover for wildlife, but you can act as a feeding station. You will have to check to see which plants are native to your area. In Southern California, you can try the plants at Theodore Payne Foundation or Las Palitas Nursery or Matilja Nursery. In other parts of the country, American Beauties Native Plants can help. More resources and help on attracting wildlife to your garden can be found at the National Wildlife Federation's website.
So you can make a difference with a container garden: you can help save the bees, the butterflies, the hummingbirds and the insects birds rely on. And, you can have fun filling your patio with blooms at the same time! Next time someone asks, "Where have all the bees gone?" You can say "Check the Rosemary pot!"
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Intensely curious, he has to know what I'm doing at all times. Whether I'm working with the vegetables, creating succulent containers or spreading wildflower seeds, Bodhi will make an appearance and give me the thumbs up or down.
What better way to add a splash of color to your garden!
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Agaves (Agavaceae) are abundant in Southern California. Their natural habitat is chaparral below 1500 ft and from San Diego south to Baja California. They are drought tolerant succulents, adapt easily to sandy soil, and take sun & heat. There are different varieties, but most form new rosettes at the base of the plant before they bloom. Over the course of years, a single plant may create a whole family.
I have enjoyed watching my Agave families grow over the many years I have been in my Topanga Canyon home. One of the most exciting times is when a plant becomes "pregnant" and begins to grow a center stalk full of seeds. This happened recently in my garden and I decided to get some pictures of the process for you.
As you can see, the center has begun to open. This was November 11, 2009. This is one Agave in a family, and the only one that is "pregnant".
Okay. Now we have some growing going on! This has taken two weeks (11/24) .
And, just one day later (11/25), you can see how long the center stalk has gotten. Also, if you look closely, you can see it has started to "unravel"!
I check back a couple days later (11/28) happy to see a lot more growth.
This picture was taken 6 days later (12/4/09). Again, you can see how long the stalk has gotten. But another exciting development, too: seed pods have formed.
Finally, January 27th, 2010, Agave gives me flowers. Small tubular white flowers that attract Hummingbirds and Bees.
That is where I have to leave you, as far as photos go. The rest has been captured as Video! I will post a link soon. Hope you have enjoyed watching the Agave's progress as it unfolds. How I wish I was set up for time-lapse photography!
You should know also, that after this amazing journey, with many babies added to the family, the Mother Plant will die. So, I enjoy the wonder of her amazing journey now.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Today is an important day in literary history: it’s Dr. Seuss’s birthday! Celebrate the beloved children’s writer with the National Education Association’s Read Across America. http://www.readacrossamerica.org/
Whether your child enjoys The Lorax or The Cat in the Hat, The Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew, Harry Potter or Huckleberry Finn, all you need is a hat, a cat, and your favorite book. Take some time to read with your young ones today.
More than 45 million children, teens and adults take part in this celebration every year, and NEA members across the country are mobilizing millions of students, parents, VIP readers and leaders to join the nation's largest reading celebration.
Take this day to share the wonder of reading with your loved ones.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Woke to find somebody had tried my organic grapefruit. I know it was Mr. Racoon, though I did not get up early enough to take his picture. The Santa Monica Mtns provide refuge from Urban Living for lots of Wildlife. I never mind sharing my fruit with the Critters of Topanga Canyon. Glad he enjoyed!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Want to add beauty and wildlife value to your yard? Consider planting natives.
“Perfectly suited to the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains, orange bush monkeyflower is a pretty, drought-tolerant native that always makes me smile when I run across it. A shy, unassuming plant with yellow-orange blossoms, it is a magnet for hummingbirds. In Southern California, monkeyflower's most common visitors are Anna’s hummingbirds and Allen’s hummingbirds. Also, it is a forage source for common checkerspot and buckeye butterflies. Monkeyflowers do well planted alongside buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), which brings in bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects to the yard or hillside. Monkeyflowers grow naturally on rocky cliffs, hillsides and borders of chaparral.”—Kathy Vilim of Topanga Canyon, California
Original story at NationalWildlifeFederationMagazine
Saturday, January 30, 2010
I have been a Windbreak, keeping cold winter winds from their House. I have been Shade, keeping the Summer's Heat from their House. I have been Home & Refuge for countless birds and squirrels.
But now, this year, THEY say I must go! THEY want to cut me down with a chainsaw because .. I am not Native. "Rid us of these invasive species," THEY say. They care not for all I have done for them. I cannot run, as I have no legs.
They hear not my VOICE as I try to tell them, "I AM alive! I feel! I have done no harm!" For they cannot hear me. "Speak for the TREES, as they have no tongues..."(Dr. Seuss)