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, December 29, 2012

Living with the Monarchs in Winter~

Just two days later, it was a different scene.  I walked through the same grove of trees on my way to the Dunes.  The 9AM sun was out, the sky was blue.. and orange.. dotted with orange wings flying above me and around me.  Wonderful!  I looked up into the tree.  The first morning light was hitting this group of monarchs as they “nested” together, wings closed.  They had picked a good spot to get the first warm sun of the day.  One by one, as they opened their wings, the nest became more colorful, their wings filling with warmth.  And I reflected how wonderful it was to LIVE with the Monarchs.. not just stop & visit and be amazed and go away again.  But, to spend time with them “in my backyard” so I could truly observe them.

Friday, December 21, 2012

This Magical Season

                          Christmas Tree on Wheels, Photo by Kathy Vilim 

On the Winter Solstice,

It’s the Winter Holidays, that Magical Season when we celebrate the wonder and beauty of Nature, the  balance of life on earth: between plants & animals, people & trees… It is also a time for reflection, as the days grow shorter & cooler and we spend more time looking out the window at the landscape of our gardens. I reflect that we have taken so much from this planet; isn’t Christmastime a perfect time to give back to wildlife?
Read entire post.

To all my readers, I wish you a very special Christmas Holiday Season this year~ Thanks for reading~ native gardener

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Time to Be Thankful at the Ocean

             Seagulls on Pismo Beach, CA Photo by Kathy Vilim

It is Thanksgiving and time to be thankful. While I have much to be thankful for every year, this year I turn my thoughts to the special experience I enjoyed this year of spending time on the Central Coast of the long Golden State of California.  Getting to know the world of Ocean Dunes and its wildlife was wonderful. (Read more about the Dunes at http://www.beautifulwildlifegarden.com/oceano-land-of-dunes.html )

This Thanksgiving hope you find much to be thankful for right outside your door.  It's there waiting for you~  Kathy 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

West Coast Monarchs are Over Wintering Happily

Monarchs Over-Wintering Now in Pismo Beach, CA Photo by Kathy Vilim (click to enlarge & enjoy)

As I write this, Hurricane Sandy has made life very perilous for many hundreds of Monarchs on the eastern seaboard. They are supposed to be long gone on their way to Mexico to over-winter.  Why are they still around? Read: Hurricane Sandy Hits by Carole Brown.

Yet, here on the West Coast, oblivious to the perils their eastern cousins face, Monarchs are happily overwintering right now. I just visited two sites where there is protected habitat for them, and they are here in full force, swooping and gliding, gold-orange wings against blue sky.

I viewed them through a telescope at the Monarch Grove in Pismo Beach. The telescopes were great because my neck was getting sore from looking up into the giant Eucalyptus trees.  The Eucalyptus are their favorites, and I was glad this grove of trees was spared so that the Monarchs could return here year after year.

Hope you enjoyed my monarch picture (Click to enlarge).  For more on the Western Monarchs, see my post from last November: Monarchs of the West via BeautifulWildlifeGardens.com.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Shimmering Waters of California

            Marsh in Fawnskin, San Bernardino Mtns, Photo by Kathy Vilim

It’s coming up on the 4 o’clock hour, and the sunlight falls soft and golden on the meadow.  I walk through the long grass here, admiring how it has formed natural sways, left to its own devices. Tiny wildflowers pop thru the grass. I get down on hands & knees to admire them.  I am [continue reading at beautifulwildlifegarden.com]

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Autumn, Time for Moving On

             Anna's Hummingbird, Topanga, CA, Photo by Kathy Vilim

Yesterday I was enjoying the peace of my garden space, watching as hummingbirds fought over the feeder, buzzing past my ears, so loud and so quick.  I got out my camera and took pictures of my hummingbird friends.  They are the best part of my Topanga garden and have given me so many happy moments. But now, I am getting the house ready for travelling. I am starting my trip around the State of California, and I am excited at the prospect of seeing new places with different plants and trees, waking up to different bird sounds in the morning, and different smells in the air.
On my journey, there will be infinite possibilities for new stories to write and tales to tell.  But it is bittersweet: for all I will be gaining, I will be missing my garden... (read more at Beautiful Wildlife Garden)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where To Go To See Native Plants in California?

               Matilija Poppies (Romneya coulteri) Photo by KathyVilim


Are you interested in planting native plants in your garden, yard, or on your hillside?  How to decide which plants are right for you? First, you may want to see what the plants will look like when they are established.  A small plant in a nursery pot can give you the wrong impression. 

Most Southern California natives have extensive root systems, which help them to find water in our rain-starved soil.  It is usually a good idea to space the plants 3 ft apart, when you would like to plant them a lot closer.  But they will grow in and overtake each other, when they grow up.

Some natives go well paired together. Your hillside might be sunny, and Buckwheat & Sages could grow there. Or, your area may have lots of oak trees, and you would instead want a shade lover, like Vinca minor.

One great way to view established groupings of native plants is to visit Botanical Gardens. There the plants are labeled, and you can write down the names of those that interest you. You can do further research from there. Most gardens have a bookstore and helpful plant-loving staff. You can take your list to your local nursery when you go plant shopping. Some of the botanic gardens have plant sales, too. And you might be able to purchase your plants right there.

There are many botanic gardens in California, but not all are native plant gardens. So, I have compiled a list of some botanic gardens in California that have a wide diversity of natives in their settings. I hope you will find this list useful.



  • Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

1212 Mission Canyon Rd., Santa Barbara, CA 93105 Tel: 805/682-4726 E-mail: breed@sbbg.org / Web: www.sbbg.org Dedicated to the study, display, and preservation of California's native plants. Garden Growers Nursery sells native plants and plants from other Mediterranean-climate regions. Open year-round, with two annual sales in April and October. Garden Shop carries selection of gardening and botanical books.

  • Descanso Gardens 

1418 Descanso Drive, La Canada, Flintridge, CA Tel: 818-949-4200www.descanso.org

  • University of California – Berkeley Botanical Garden 

    200 Centennial Drive, #5045, Berkeley, CA 94720 Tel: (510) 643-2755 

    Web: www.botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu

  • Leaning Pine Arboretum - San Luis Obispo

Horticulture and Crop Science Department
California Polytechnic State University 1 Grand Ave., Bldg. 48, San Luis Obispo, Ca 93407 Tel: 805.756.2888
Visit their Californian garden E-mail: cwassenb@calpoly.edu / Web: http://www.leaningpinearboretum.calpoly.edu/index.htm

  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

1500 No. College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711 Tel: 909-625-8767Grow Native Nursery of Claremont also sells native plants. Nursery is free.

Grow Native Nursery in Claremont offer special sales, advice from expert staff and a stunning selection of fresh, vibrant native California plants. Proceeds support Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden programs.

Specialize in growing Manzanitas.Web: rsabg.org

  • Mary DeDecker Native Plant Garden - Sierras

Eastern California Museum

155 N. Grant St., Independence, CA 93526, Tel: 760-878-0258



Created through volunteer efforts of the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), the objective of this garden is to showcase the rich flora of eastern California. And serves as a lasting tribute to the Owens Valley’s own distinguished botanist Mary DeDecker.

  • The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens – Catalina Island

Catalina Island Conservancy
P.O. Box 2739 Avalon, CA 90704 Tel: (310) 510-2595, Adults $5, Kids Free

Getting There
The Memorial and Gardens are one and a half miles up Avalon Canyon Road. The walk is pleasant, passing the Golf Course, the town's ballpark, and the Hermit Gulch campground.
The Memorial Garden is particularly concerned with the six Catalina endemics - plants, which grow naturally only on Catalina Island. The Wrigley Memorial Garden Foundation maintains a special interest in the preservation of all Catalina endemics, including the rare Catalina Ironwood.

There are so many gardens in California! You can check with your local chapter of the California Native Plant Society for more gardens in your area. I hope you will find them as inspiring as I do!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Rerouting the Rain

 (photo by Karen Gideon)

BEFORE MAN BEGAN constructing buildings and paving roads and parking lots, when rain fell on the earth it percolated down through layers of sand and soil and eventually entered the water table below the surface. When rain falls on solid buildings and paved surfaces, it runs around them often causing serious erosion. In modern cities, this runoff water is collected in storm drains which route the runoff to the nearest body of water.(cont reading at Marin Independent)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

California's White Sage of the Chaparral

White Sage (Salvia apiana) is found in the Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub areas of California. Though the Santa Monica Mountains boast at least six species of Native Salvia (some of which are not found anywhere outside of California), the White Sage is becoming harder to find.  In part, this is due to the interest in White Sage Smudge Sticks from all over the country.  Poachers are not so kind to our local stands, sometimes stripping whole hillsides of the plants, roots and all.  I made Marcie promise not to reveal the secret location of the wild White Sage I had shown her. Her next smudge stick will have to come from her very own plants, which are available at our local native plant nurseries.. “Shh… let’s keep your secret quiet.  The Hummingbirds will thank you.”  Continue Reading..

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monticello Says Goodbye to its Long Time Gardener

                                             Photo by Patricia Lyons

For the past 34 years, Peter Hatch lovingly tended Thomas Jefferson's Monticello with its 1000 ft terraced vegetable garden. Thomas Jefferson retired there to enjoy gardening some two centuries ago.  Now, after restoring the vegetable gardens to their original form, Monticello's caretaker is retiring, too. Peter Hatch has written a book about his meticulous restoration of  Thomas Jefferson's Revolutionary Gardens "A Rich Spot on Earth." It gives us a glimpse into what Jefferson may have been like at retirement age: “His interest in gardening arose from a truly wide-eyed curiosity about the natural world,” Hatch said. “Even at the age of 83, he was playing this self-described role of being an old man, but a young gardener.” continue reading

Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Easter from Topanga

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

Sunday, March 25, 2012

In the News: Theodore Payne's Native Plant Tour is Coming Up

Every year I look forward to this Springtime weekend event in Los Angeles.  The Tour is always so well planned. On one day most of the homes on the tour are on the Westside, while the other day covers homes in the San Fernando Valley. I never see everything, but instead look at the list & on-line photos to see which gardens are a MUST SEE for me. 

If you have never been on the tour and you love native plants, you really need to go. It is a wonderful way to get ideas for planning your own native plant garden. Docents are on-hand to answer questions about what you are seeing and sometime the garden owners themselves.

I remember one year enjoying a Westside Garden where there were more hummingbirds than I'd ever seen in one place!  They kept dive bombing my head while I toured the hillside garden.

How do you decide what to plant? One of the hardest things about native plant gardening is getting to see the plants not in a plastic pot but living & thriving in the ground and in a garden.  You can see what the plants look like when they are mature, and what plants they like to live next to.

All the info you need is here: Theodore Payne's Native Plant Tour 
See you there!  April 14 & 15 - Tickets Available Now

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In the News: Celebrating 109th Birthday of the National Wildlife Refuge System

Ducks take off at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Photo: Steve Hillebrand
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:
The birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System on March 14, 1903, ensured that our children and our children’s children will inherit an America that still has natural spaces and the wild creatures.
President Teddy Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge on Florida’s Pelican Island to protect wild birds from bounty hunters. Today, the Refuge System’s 556 national wildlife refuges and 38 wetland management districts make up the nation’s premier network of public lands, providing vital habitat for thousands of animal and plant species. Read the story..

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In the News: Daylight Savings Inventor Was an Entomologist

Did you know the man who invented Daylight Savings was Entomologist? He was frustrated when dusk came and "interfered with his evening bug-collecting rounds." He wanted to have more daylight in the summer afternoons to catch bugs! He didn't care about winter because he didn't catch bugs then anyway! 

(Excerpt from Joe Satran, Huffington Post) There's now broad agreement among historians that the true mastermind of daylight saving time was George Vernon Hudson (1867-1946), a specialist in insect biology (entomology) who left England for New Zealand in 1881. In 1895, when he first presented the idea to the Royal Society of New Zealand, he was mocked. Other members of the society deemed the proposal confusing and unnecessary. But attitudes changed, and he lived to see his brainchild adopted by many nations -- including, in 1927, his own. Read more... 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Milkweed for the Love of Monarchs

                   Narrow Leafed Milkweed Asclepias fascicularis, 
                      Visited by American Lady Butterfly
                     photo courtesy of LasPilitas Nursery

If you are growing Milkweed, you are doing it for the Love of Monarchs. When purchasing Milkweed plants through a mail order catalog, it is important to check which species of Milkweed you are purchasing, making sure it is native to your area.

The West Coast Monarchs, while the same species of butterfly as the East Coast Monarchs, require a different species of Milkweed for their host plant. The plant must produce a toxin the Monarchs evolved with, otherwise they will be left defenseless against predators.

The availability of milkweed is very important for the Monarchs return journey north in the spring. The female will seek it out to lay her eggs where her caterpillars will be safe. On the West Coast this return migration takes place as early as February.

The native Milkweed we have in Santa Monica Mountains is Narrow Leafed Milkweed Asclepias fascicularis. In fact, this species is found from Southeast Washington and adjacent Idaho through California, Oregon, Baja California and west into Nevada, throughout the ‘Pacific Flyway’.

For those of you who are wondering, I live in Topanga Canyon, California.  It is one of a number of canyons in the Santa Monica Mountains which run up and down the Pacific Coast.  We have many overwintering sites nearby for the Western Monarchs, as well as a Monarch Waystation.

Excerpt from "Monarchs of the West." at BeautifulWildlifeGardens.com~ where you can read more of my posts every other Thursday.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stand Up and Be Counted

  It was a cool, misty morning and I was up a bit earlier than usual taking my morning walk with my dog.  A “click, click, whir” caught my attention from far up above.  I knew it to be the sound of Anna’s Hummingbirds  (Calypte anna).   I looked for them and discovered they… [Continue Reading]

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns

Wildflowers, Santa Monica Mtns