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.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Top 5 Favorite Posts from 2011

Well, friends, I feel happy: 2011 was a good year for sharing my posts.  I have always enjoyed writing, but this year I was able to get a lot more stories out there for you to enjoy.  It has been a fun process. I especially like hearing your feedback, your thoughts, and I love discovering like-minded friends.  My passion is about nature in balance, native plants & wildlife, and of course the Santa Monica Mountains where I live.

Now as the year comes to a close, I pause to reflect on the year's observations and take a look back on my readers' top 5 favorite posts. Enjoy! More to come in 2012!

1) On the First Day of Christmas

2) Wildlife Encounters in the Fog

3) Anna's Hummingbirds

4) Autumn Leaves

5) Observation in the Wildlife Garden

Note: I am thankful for the opportunity to bring more stories & wildlife observations to you through the Beautiful Wildlife Gardens website in 2012.  You can read more of my wildlife gardening posts at www.BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com every other Thursday~ Happy New Year, wildlife lovers.

Friday, December 16, 2011

On the First Day of Christmas, my Wildlife Garden Gave to Me..

                          Black Hooded Parakeet, Nandayus nenday,
                          Topanga Canyon, CA, Photo by Kathy Vilim

 A flash of green caught my eye, bright green!  Mourning doves rose up with a sudden clatter and flew off..  I had a visitor, two visitors in fact.  And they were not ordinary guests..

On the 1st day of Christmas I received a wonderful surprise gift: 2 green parrots, a male and female, arrived on my deck railing!  They were so colorful, it was obvious they were not normal visitors.  No brown birds were these.  They even intimidated my cat when she came to investigate. Sociable and curious about me, the male was more assertive, while his partner slipped away .. continue reading..

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Anna's Hummingbirds, the Hummingbirds of Winter

Manzanita, (Arctostaphylos_pungens) Photo Courtesy of Las Pilitas Nursery

“Why not stay on with us and be jolly?”  Ratty, Wind in the Willows

Ah, the late afternoon sun in the native garden, how it warms my face.  I wait for my friends, the hummingbirds.  I hear them clicking in the trees and know that they will be here soon.  Yellow leaves litter the ground.  It is that time of year when most birds have plans for a southern vacation.  Indeed, many of them have gone already.  And it is sad for us: we will miss them Why can’t they stay and see what fun we have right here?  Why must they go?

Luckily, my hummingbird friends are staying ALL winter. ... continue reading

Friday, December 2, 2011

In the News: Go Wild! Native Plant Sale

Join the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains (RCDSMM) at our annual Go Wild! Native Plant Sale, Saturday, December 10, 9 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

Thanks to Matilija Nursery for providing the majority of the plants, enlightened shoppers with a wise eye towards conserving water and restoring the environment, can browse and buy while out of doors.

Buyers can pre-order specific plants by sending a list of plants with numbers to: malibucreekwatershed@gmail.com, with the words “Go Wild Order” in the subject heading. Plants must be picked up by noon on the day of the event or they will be sold to other deserving persons.

The California Department of State Parks has provided space for the event at the Topanga Ranch Motel, 18711 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, California 90265.

The RCDSMM thanks the California Native Plant Society, Malibu City and Green Garden Group for ongoing support and advice.

For more information: (818) 597-8627; rcdsmm.org.

(as reported in the Topanga Messenger)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Her First Autumn Leaf

It was crisp and clear the day after the rains.  Golden leaves of the Sycamores rustled in front of  blue sky, the sun glinting through them.  Everywhere around me sandy soil was soaking in rain.  I set out for a walk up the street with my old dog.  A neighbor friend was walking too, pushing her 5 mo old baby girl in a baby carriage.  So, we walked together.

Passing under the Cottonwoods, I realized Baby had a great view of the sky and the tops of the tall trees from where she sat.  Yesterday's winds had blown down a lot of yellow leaves and left them piled on the roadside.  I picked one up and held it out to her.  She took it from me with her tiny pink fingers and thanked me with a warm smile.  Her mother was afraid she would put it in her mouth.  I had a feeling that she would not.  No, she held it while we walked, her other hand feeling its texture.  It was like no texture she had ever felt.  Similar to the pages of a book?  Perhaps.  But this was a new touch sensation.  This was Baby's First Autumn, and I felt a sense of joy at the thought that I had given her her First Autumn Leaf.. a gift of Nature.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Friend or Foe in the Canyon? #gardenwalk

                                 Topanga Canyon, California

Friend or Foe? Is this vine-like plant eating the Sumac or is it harmless? Growing strong still in November sun~

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

West Coast Monarchs

Cruising at 1000 ft.. searching for “that tree”.. ascending to a height where land could only be a dark blur.. Orange-gold wings against blue sky..    

Every October I think about the Monarch migration to Mexico from the East Coast.  And I wonder: where do the West Coast Monarchs go? Continue reading here..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

As Autumn Leaves Fly

The owls call out to each other, their voices low and solemn in the predawn darkness.  The coffee pot gurgles reassuringly.  I hear the light footsteps of coyote in my garden.  My head is full of thoughts of butterflies, Monarchs migrating, golden wings against a blue California sky. And Autumn leaves, the yellow of Cottonwoods...

I found myself disappointed yesterday as I walked past a tall stand of Cottonwoods.  They didn't have much color.  They seemed to have gone from green to brown without the glorious color of other years.  But, just then a breeze came and rustled the tall branches way up high.  Dozens of leaves were sent flying downward, above my head, swirling, gliding, laughing "What fun!"  I couldn't help but smile and stop to watch them.

And, at that moment, it didn't matter about their color.  They held in their flight the magic of all the other times I'd watched Autumn leaves fall.  For that moment... it was all Autumns.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In the News: Huntington Library to Archive & Exhibit Al Martinez' Work

Martinez will be only the third L.A. Times person ever to have his works collected by the Huntington. The other two are editorial cartoonist Paul Conrad, a three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, and columnist Jack Smith. Conrad died last year and Jack Smith in 1996. 

Since leaving the Times in 2009, Martinez has written two columns a week for the L.A. Daily News that appear on Mondays and Fridays. In addition, he is working on his thirteenth book, freelances for various magazines and conducts the Topanga Writers Workshop, which he created three years ago. (continue reading)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yearning to Burn

 Manzanita (Arctostaphylos glandulosa) Topanga, CA, Photo by Kathy Vilim

I am Manzanita, a chaparral bush in Southern California.  I can sense that fire is coming.. I have lived here without fire for over 30 years.  I yearn to burn and make new growth! Smoke is in the air.. Soon fire beetles will flock to me from far away to mate on my branches as the flames heat them … [Continue Reading]

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pitter Patter.. First Rain for Topanga this Season

I woke at 4:30AM to the sound of wind chimes, low and compelling, singing out in perfect harmonic tones, in a song the wind was writing as it went.. I heard an owl hoot and then a baby owl, with only 2 notes in his call.  Then, I didn't hear them anymore.  I felt warmth fill me as I realized all 4 of my pets (2 black cats & 2 dogs) were sleeping in the bedroom with me.  The wind chimes continued; the song had turned to low notes when I heard the unmistakable patter of what could only be .. rain! Rain, tapping on the roof.  Rain, pitter patter against my wooden house. I took a deep breath, smelling the moisture through the open window.  The wind began to pick up; the song became more vigorous. 

One cat decided to leave us, jumping off the bed and running to the living room door.  She meowed relentlessly until hubby gave in and let her out on the deck.. in the pouring rain.. in the blackness! When she did not come right back, I wrapped myself in my pink robe and went out to try to call her, very aware there are coyotes out there and that she would not be able to escape to the roof in this rain!  Luckily, she came back, all wet and done exploring.  I think she must have felt like I did:  so excited with the first rain we've had since June, that she just had to go investigate.

I will be out there as soon as it is light, with my dog and my yellow umbrella.  But for now, I am enjoying the pitter patter of rain on my wooden house.  It is as if I am in a wooden box afloat, separate and safe from the elements, with my warm cup of coffee and the warm light from the bedside lamp.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Don't Miss the Fall Festival & Plant Sale at Theodore Payne Nursery

 If you are in LA County, you will want to put this one on your Calendar.  

October 7&8 - Members Days (not a member? come & join)
October 14 & 15 - Open to the Public

I love this place to shop for Native Plants and Wildflower Seeds! 
Always knowledgeable staff on hand to answer questions. 

10459 tuxford st, sun valley, ca 91352
818 768-1802 | theodorepayne.org

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In the News: Backbone Trail may soon be linked..

A popular hiking trail that crosses through a trio of state parks and boasts panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean is inching closer to completion, thanks to a recent land acquisition.

It's taken more than two decades to forge, clear and maintain the Backbone Trail, which stretches from Will Rogers State Historic Park near Brentwood to Point Mugu in Ventura County. It will be 65 miles long when complete.

With the recent acquisition, only two private pieces of land - roughly 1.4 miles - stand in the way of having an unbroken trail. Mountain bikers and horse riders also use the trails in various spots.

"We are so close to completion," Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Superintendent Woody Smeck said   continue reading...

Monday, September 19, 2011

Washer Woman & the Rattler Snake

    Young Southern Pacific Rattlesnake,  photo courtesy 
    of Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

Well, it figures. Just as I was bounding out the door to throw a load of delicates into my outdoor washing machine, I happen to look down. There, looking up at me from the other side of the glass door was Rattler! With his tongue out all slitherin-like!  He was looking into the house, and the door was just slightly ajar, enough so that he could slither right in if he liked. My guess is he was thinking about it!

It's funny, most Rattlers are more brown, whereas this one was black, but still the unmistakable diamond markings.  I did what any Washer Woman would do:  I got hubby and handed him a broom!  He started to sweep it on out of there, which caused Rattler to start up hissing loudly. (If you ever hear a sound like water running, when there is water nowhere about, it's Rattler.)  Of course, he was as scared as I was.  Hubby held him off while I got the delicates going.  We shooed him down the hill, but who knows when he will come back.  We saw this same Rattler just the other day, in a standoff with Cat!

As if Washer Woman hasn't got her work cut out already.. I really did want to get you a photo, really..

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Wildlife Encounter in the Fog

photo by Kathy Vilim

On this morning, the fog has come in from the Ocean, making Topanga Canyon a soft palette of pastel greens, golden brown & blue.. I walk quietly, listening to the sounds around me with my dog.  I feel like someone is behind me, so I turn.... continue reading

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

In the News: Lost Manzanita Found in San Francisco


UPDATE—9/7/11: Endangered Status Proposed for SF’s Miracle Manzanita

UPDATE—6/14/11: Lawsuit Filed to Protect Franciscan Manzanita

                            (from the Wild Equity Institute)

A San Francisco resident recently got an astounding view while driving the Golden Gate Bridge—the first sighting of San Francisco’s namesake manzanita in nearly seventy years.
Dr. Daniel Gluesenkamp, Director of Habitat Restoration for Audubon Canyon Ranch, was driving home from speaking at a climate change conference when his attention focused on an unusual-looking plant. A few days later he revisited the site and discovered the first living specimen of the Franciscan or San Francisco manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) seen in the wild in nearly seven decades. continue reading..

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In the News: Lessons of the Meadow

From Lancaster, PA, Marylou Barton wants to teach children to care about their community. All of it.

"All community members ... including bugs and native plants," Barton said as she strolled along the north side of the Manheim Township Public Library with 3-year-old grandson Gabriel Sheaffer

It is there that the new Discovery Meadow will officially open Saturday, Sept. 10, at 595 Granite Drive.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

In the News: Boulder's Taste of Tomato ~Heirlooms

On Sept. 10, O'Meara and the Brawners, along with the Camera, will offer Taste of Tomato, an heirloom tomato tasting that will give lovers of the love apple the opportunity to indulge their passion in a three-hour event, admission for which is ... a handful of the participant's own homegrown tomatoes. (Those who don't have black brandywines or sungolds on the vine can pay $3 for admission.) The idea is not only to taste some great tomatoes, but to share knowledge. What grows best in Colorado difficult climate and unfriendly soils? A panel will judge the best-tasting tomato variety. ... continue reading

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

CA Event: Native Plant Presentations San Luis Obispo Botanic Gardens

From the Santa Maria Times:

The San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden will host a pair of presentations on native plants in September, one geared toward indulging your senses and the other about attracting wildlife.
 On Sept. 10, Carol Bornstein, acclaimed author and horticultural expert from Santa Barbara, will give a presentation titled “Indulge Your Senses in the Native Garden.”
Then, on Sept. 11, Penny (Wilson) Nyunt of Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita, will reveal “How to Attract Wildlife with California Natives.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

Native Plants to Paint Your Garden Blue

Gardeners all agree: it’s not easy to find blue flowers, least of all on native plants. Enter: Ceanothus! This wonderful plant has over 60 different species in California alone, with every color blue ranging from white, to pale blue, to china blue, to violet. It is this exciting choice of blue flower colors that draws gardeners to this genuscontinue reading

Saturday, August 27, 2011

In the News: Native Plants Deserve a Spot in Our Landscape

I came across this story in the news in Indianapolis, where so many folks are attending #GWA11 this weekend. It is so heart-warming to see yet another person taking up the spade for native plants after reading Doug Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home". Thought you'd enjoy.. read Indy Star article here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the News: Poop is Golden in North Hollywood

It seems gardeners everywhere are turning to Poop to make their gardens grow, esp vegetable gardens. So Poop is in demand! Rabbits, chickens, horse poop, all are like gold to the gardener. I wanted to share this local news story about a community/school garden and how they're growin' .. continue reading..

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Topanga is a Special Place

Topanga is a special place.  It is a respite from urban life.. but not just for people.  The Santa Monica Mountains are a place where animals and native plants can thrive in the ecosystem they were made for.  The mountains support an entire community that goes from basic organisms in the soil, to a variety of insects (some of which are 'specialists' that are attracted to only certain native plants), to birds, reptiles, bats, and larger animals like the Coyote.

                                   Cactus Wren Nest on Pear Cactus Leaf

This community is made more clearly special when you look at it from afar, when you step back, or even check out Satellite Images on Google.  There you will find the green of the Santa Monica Mountains surrounded by urban sprawl.

It is a delicate balance that maintains this community.  As development progresses, animals and plants are pushed back or erased altogether.  Fortunately, zoning ordinances have kept development to a minimum, and most of us that choose to live here know it is a special place.

People need a respite from urban life... not just a park filled with green turf and a few non-native trees.  People need to spend time in nature's communities.. to observe wildlife, to watch baby birds be born, to see what plants butterflies feed on.. We as humans are part of nature.  It is not us or them.  We are all one.  We don't even know how much we need the  natural world, until we spend time in it. Then we realize..

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Washer Woman, Washer Woman Won't You Put Out the Wash?

White towels hang neatly in rows. They catch the breezes and flutter gently.  The sunrise lights them with an orange glow…

I never was much of a laundry lover... (some folks take so much enjoyment in it)…  that is, until I started doing laundry outdoors in Topanga Canyon! 

My little wooden house came with an outdoor water hook up, not an indoor one.  So, I bought a washer/dryer and set it up.  It wasn’t long, maybe a year or two, before the dryer broke, likely from being outside in all kinds of weather.. including rain.  No matter: I had a clothesline!  That is much more fun anyway.  No need to replace a dryer, just to have it break again, I thought. 

Now, I take my time hanging up the clothes, pausing to feel the sun on my face, or take a glance at a new rose bloom.  My sheets smell like the Canyon, not like some generic perfume smell.  How neat is that?  Now doing laundry is a welcome excuse to spend just that extra bit of time outdoors and drag me away from the computer.

When my mom came out for a visit, the first time, I said she could use my washer if she needed to.  Say no more:  Mom was hooked.  Suddenly, she had to wash her & my dad’s suitcase-size load of clothes seemingly every other day! 

Next, my sister got jealous and during a remodel jumped at the chance to move her W&D outdoors, too!  Now here is a woman that has always looked forward to washing clothes for her family.  Still, she hasn’t moved up that one more step to ditching the dryer altogether.  I can appreciate that.. it IS a hassle in winter trying to plan laundry loads between rainstorms!

Using the clothesline instead of a dryer: what a great way to conserve electricity.  I use the sun instead; we have plenty of it after all in Southern California.  In case you wondered about the laundry water run-off, not to worry, my green, eco-minded friends.  I can use the gray water on fruit trees with no negative impact on the native plants.  (Of course, you have to use organic soap to make this work out.)  So, my laundry does not interfere with any of the natural ebb & flow of life in the Canyon for either the plants or the critters who share my yard with me.

Okay, so there is a down side to outdoor laundry in Topanga Canyon... Here come the Santa Ana winds and then, where are my socks? Blown all amongst the cactus and succulents on the hillside.  Okay, who is going to go down there & collect them?

I walk between the rows of white towels, and they make me smile.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Today the Firemen Came and Visited my Garden..

Today the firemen came and visited my garden.  The two of them were sitting together on my garden bench, enjoying the dappled shade that the big Pine tree makes, and no doubt marveling at the tangle of Iceplant at their feet.  They chose to write their inspection notes from this spot, rather than going back to their truck.  I have to say, it was a bit strange to see the dark blue uniforms on my garden bench. 

It's July and time for brush clearance inspection in Topanga Canyon.  Of course, I passed.. I always do.  As usual, the firemen were mostly concerned with clearance around the perimeter of the house, so in case of a fire they can get in there to put it out.  Some folks in Topanga think you have to scalp your hillside yard of every living thing for 100-200 ft from the house.  THIS IS NOT TRUE.  In fact, a good thinning of bushes and low tree branches is much more effective at stopping a fire than removing everything.

"What's happened to your house numbers?" one of the firemen asked me.  "They must have come loose.  I promise I'll take care of that," I replied.  He reminded me how important house numbers are to the firemen: in the event they get called out to fight a fire they have to know the correct address.

Well, a wonderful breeze has picked up on this warm July day and strewn more leaves onto the deck from the Walnut trees.  So, off I go to sweep them all up.  Another pile of 'brush' is born!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making Honey with California Native Flowers

                  Phacelia grandifloria, Topanga Canyon, Photo by Kathy Vilim

We’re making honey out here in Southern California. How do we do it? Well, beekeepers are taking advantage of some of nature’s finest resources: flowering native plants! Luckily, the hillsides are covered with blooming natives in the coastal mountains from Santa Barbara down to Baja, including here in Topanga Canyon, home to Topanga Quality Honey.

Many California plants have nectar that is delicious to the honeybee. Beekeepers take their bees to a meadow where wildflowers such as largeflower phacelia (above) are blooming in the spring. When those blossoms fade, they move to a hillside of white sage or buckwheat (below), which bloom into fall.

      California Buckwheat, Topanga, Photo by Kathy Vilim

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) has an abundance of flowers—creamy white, tinged with pink. As they mature, the flowers turn to a rust color. "Viewing wild hillsides covered with the coppery seed heads of California buckwheat is a uniquely Western experience," wrote Carol Bornstein, co-author of California Native Plants for the Garden. The honey made from this plant is sought for its dark, full-bodied flavor as well as its nutritional value."—Kathy Vilim of Topanga Canyon, California

The above post was written in June, 2010 for the National Wildlife Federation's "Gold Medal Favorites" feature. Thank you, Kelly Senser, for the opportunity to share my photos of plants for pollinators. 

For full NWF article: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Gardening/Archives/2010/Native-Plants-for-Pollinators.aspx

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Monkeyflowers for Memorial Day

As a preface to my readers who do not live in Topanga, we are in a fire area. As such, we are under restrictions to cut back grasses & growth that might endanger homes in the event of a wildfire. That is what I refer to as "brush clearance".

Just the other day, when I was taking my usual walk past a meadow of undisturbed wildflowers & native bushes, I delighted in seeing my friend, a young Sycamore, who I had first encountered when he was a sapling less than 12" high, many years ago.  He was growing so close to the road, I had feared some overly-zealous brush clearance crew might get him.  But no, he is still there. YAY!  This year, he is big enough to cast a nice shadow.  And taking advantage of this shade, was a Sticky Monkeyflower bush Mimulus aurantiacus.  How smart of it to position itself here.  With this bit of shade, it will bloom long into Summer, when his cousins have stopped blooming.  This is good.. good for the bees that pollinate the Sticky Monkeyflowers.  And, we all know how much we need to keep the bees happy.

Sticky Monkeyflower, Mimulus aurantiacus, photo by Kathy Vilim

So, I was delighted:  Monkeyflowers for Memorial Day!  And a whole hillside of other wildflowers blooming behind him, as well.  I took pictures.  It was a perfect day of blue skies, white "catpaw" clouds, and gentle breezes.

But the difference a day makes: when I walked up the road a few days later, there was the crew with their noisy gas-guzzling weed whackers, clearing dry grass. They were so "efficient" that they took down ALL the wildflowers on the hillside, including the Monkeyflowers!  Oh sadness.  The Sycamore's Monkeyflower would NOT outlive his cousins, and last long into the Summer, even though he had picked a perfect spot.  Why are all the wildflowers cut, before they even get a chance to finish blooming and giving their pollen to the bees?

Now, this does not have to be.  Grass can be cut without killing native plants and flowers.  You can have your crew go AROUND the plants you wish to save, oh my Topanga friends.  Many of you already know this.  But some of you who are perhaps new to the Canyon may not be sure how to clear brush, or find a good crew, or perhaps are more worried about timely compliance with County Ordinances.  I have been in Topanga for a long time, and I have been known to go out and "tag" native plants in my yard with ribbons so the crew would leave them be.  That way the wildflowers & blooming natives could complete their natural cycle with the pollinators.

Or, you can just wait a couple weeks.  When the yellow daisies (Bush Sunflowers, Encelia californica) go to seed, then you know the soil has lost moisture and the grass is dry. Then it is time to cut the grass.  This usually happens about now, during the month of June. (Though the daisies go to seed annually, and will survive a mowing, it is not so with all flowering natives, and they should be permitted to remain.)

I have been known to play "Johnny Appleseed" and collect seeds from the daisies that would have fallen onto the unfriendly roadway pavement and relocate them to a more hospitable spot.. like my yard!

Native plants are an important part of the Canyon's Ecosystem. Their blooms attract specific insects which pollinate their flowers or feed off them, and are eaten then by birds. It is important when you live in a place like the Santa Monica Mountains to take on the work of being a good steward. Keep Topanga thriving!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Nature At My Doorstep

                   Wild Mustard, Topanga Canyon, California by Kathy Vilim

A hawk glides silently overhead, above the top of a Eucalyptus tree.  Below, the Canyon is bejeweled with splashes of yellow wildflowers.  The wind is high and the wind chimes sing.  "Bringing Nature Home" by Douglas Tallamy sits on my garden reading bench, and I reflect how lucky I am that I don't have to bring nature home here in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Nature is already at my doorstep.  All I have to do is "get out of the way," let Nature alone, let things grow wild, and watch the story unfold.

One of the most important things for me is keeping chemicals out of the garden.  I never use pesticides.  Instead of chemical fertilizers, I compost.  I purposely did not put in a water-needy lawn.  Instead, I created a small garden next to the house for my Roses, Iris and Herbs.  They get the water that the lawn would have taken.. actually they take less.  The rest of my water goes to the Citrus trees and vegetable garden.

As a result of being pesticide free and letting nature be, I can delight in seeing Quail walk through my vegetable beds, in hearing the endless chatter of new baby wrens that have nested in my utility box (somehow!), and in watching the squirrels chase each other up and down the trees.


Monday, April 25, 2011

Matilija Poppies, I Owe You So Much

                  Matilija Poppies (Romneya coulteri), Topanga Canyon, CA 
                                                              Photo by Kathy Vilim

I first saw Matilija (ma-tila-huh) Poppies on a trip to Catalina Island many years ago.  I was visiting the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens (Catalina Island Conservancy, Avalon, CA) and there they were:  So elegant, tall and wild, their petals like crepe paper. They stood together, a big stand of them, swaying with the breeze at easily 5ft in height!

Sometime later, I ended up at a plant sale at Theodore Payne Foundation.  I don’t know why I was looking at native plants.  Perhaps I wanted plants that could handle my hillside without much care, something drought tolerant.  My hillside gets so much wind & sun and grows wild with native shrubbery & cactus. Or, perhaps I was drawn to search for Matilija... 
Read more.. at BeautifulWildlifeGarden

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Easter from Topanga Canyon

Penguins on Quail Egg (left)  Ukrainian Easter Egg- Pysanky (right)

Easter is here: time for me to enjoy these hand painted treasures. Thought I should share them with you.

The Pysanky is an ancient form of Ukrainian folk art. Sometimes the eggs are decorated in lines & geometric designs in which the colors have meanings.  Other times eggs are painted with pictures such as animals, birds, or in the case of the one above: plants.  The eggs are painted using a wax-resistant method or batik.  It requires the use of a special tool called a kistka which is used to design in the wax. Artists are still making the Pysankys today. I have tried my hand and can tell you it is quite an intricate process, involving many layers of wax.

The Quail egg hand-painted with a trio of penguins is another folksy expression of egg art by an artist who exclusively paints animals. Visiting her tiny shop (It is amazing how many eggs you can get into a tiny place) , you are treated to every size egg, from quail to ostrich, painted with any number of animal portraits. She will even custom paint an animal portrait just for you from a photograph, if you like.  

Thanks for enjoying my treasures. Hope you will have a wonderful weekend!

For more on the Pysankys, visit the Ukrainian Museum

Topanga at Springtime

Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum), Topanga, CA, Photo by Kathy Vilim
The sweet, delicate fragrance of Jasmine drifts through the open window from across the street .. heady, overpowering, delicious.. intoxicating. Stronger for some reason in this pre-dawn darkness.  My cat purrs huskily atop my cocooned body as we both drink it in.

Springtime in Topanga Canyon. This is the time of year to enjoy the scent of Jasmine: while the grass is long & green & wild, and the hillsides are full of wildflowers.  And it is just this one kind of Jasmine, Pink Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) wildly growing over fences with reckless abandon that surpasses all others.

The delicate Jasmine blooms will not last when Summer's heat is upon us.  So, this is the time to enjoy their heady fragrance in Southern California.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

March: Mountain Lilacs in the Canyon

                                                Ceanothus oliganthus, by Kathy Vilim

What does my world look like today? Well, Topanga Canyon is very green.. St. Patty's Day Green, in fact.  Yet for much of the country, still dealing with the last snows, that is hard to embrace.  Besides the green grasses growing everywhere, there are Mountain Lilacs blooming (Ceanothus oliganthus), pale blue or white blooms that cover the hillsides, imparting an undulating softness.  I photograph them, hoping I do them justice.

A coyote barks into the night. There have been lots of them lately.  This morning I was delighted to see a deer in my back yard!  She jumped effortlessly over my picnic table on her way down the path from my house.  A rare sight when you are a few miles from Los Angeles.  I wanted to leave water out for her.. but wouldn't that be an ambush with coyotes in town?  It is hard to know sometimes how to help wildlife.  I decided to let nature decide that one.

A toad croaks.. crickets.. butterflies appear.. all sure signs of Spring! The Sycamore trees and the Walnut trees both putting out new fresh green soft leaves.. Even in Topanga where the Seasons pass with the blink of the eye, there are gentle signs of Spring.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I woke up this morning remembering the blue flowers of the prairie from my days as a young girl in the Midwest. I was just a free spirit with my hair hanging long.  How I hated to see the bulldozers come and uproot the meadow!  It made me cry.  They'd stop work and leave their gold-colored bulldozers sitting there in the middle of a field of devastation.  Trees, bushes, grasses in front of it.. dirt and more dirt behind.

They are busy making something where there is nothing.. from their point of view.  Making houses and sidewalks where there is nothing.. nothing but prairie that is.. prairies teaming with life! I looked on.. story continues..story continues ..

Observation in the Wildlife Garden

       Quail Crossing, Topanga, California, Photo by Kathy Vilim

It is morning in Topanga, California.  I go out to my garden, coffee mug in hand.  As I push the wooden screen door open, I am welcomed by the sound of dozens of wings flapping all at once!  A flock of California Quail has taken flight, startled by my arrival.  Wonderful!

I sit and reflect on when I first moved here, when my garden was new.  I had watched the Quail families travel along a path in the back of the garden.. story continues

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ah.. Santa Ana Winds

Ah.. Santa Ana winds.. hear them rustling the tall tree tops... I listen to the click of hummingbirds as they whir and fight over the feeder, diving from the tree branches.

Now sitting there, clicking, waiting their turn, the males are unwilling to share, and would rather wait, LOL.  I have 2 hummingbirds at the feeder now.. both are female.

Two male hummers chase each other away, up in the sky, wasting valuable calories, while a female sits here happily, smugly, feeling full.

Ah.. Southern California.. these are the wondrous moments.  The wind picks up my hair, the breeze is warm, the hummingbirds click from the branches nearby, but hidden from view.  Plenty of fine pink tea roses are blooming for me. Agave seeds are ready, waiting, begging to be collected..

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns