Welcome to my Garden Blog

Nature: wild & untouched. Photographing it, preserving it, taking walks and drinking in the landscapes as they unfold.

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.

Beyond the garden borders, natives from the Santa Monica Mtns await. Oak trees with their shady canopies. Cactus & Sage in the sun.

Always there are animal creatures to join in the fun.

I look forward to sharing some of my experiences with you as they unfold.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Did the squirrel know it was going to rain?

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, the Weeping Willows of Topanga Canyon

I was thinking about my walk yesterday.. the crush of the peppercorns under my feet, the sound they make when you step on them, all dry and crunchy.  It is a welcome sound that I am accustomed to on my daily walks.  It is a sound that is missing after a rain.  I passed under a long branch, green leaves dangling low in my face.  I  moved them aside and noticed the tiniest white flowers. The buzz of bees soon followed as two bees attempted to climb into the flowers. These flowers will, of course, turn into peppercorns.

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.

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns