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, 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!

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns