Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Curse of the Bounteous Harvest

Ewww.... Once a year, this garden is blessed with a plethora of purple plums. And when I say blessed, I mean having the opportunity to pick plum leather off the sidewalk and feel the ultimate squishiness betweeen your fingers. Oh yeah, the sweet smell of fermenting plum goo. It makes me want to call these folks next year when the time comes. What a great idea it is to put our youth to work to harvest it all and feed the elderly!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Plant of the Week: Pale Primrose

In my research I've just discovered that Oenothera pallida is native to the Western United States except for California, but I'm quite smitten with it anyway! Unlike most white primroses, this beauty stays open all day and graces you with a sweet, sweet scent when you lean in to admire its heart-shaped petals. I tried it out because I was under the impression it would flow over the side of the container. Hmmm, perhaps it doesn't get enough sun where it is because it's reaching very tall. A transplant might be in order!

Soil: if it thrives in Utah, I'm going with poor, well-drained soil
Sun: full.
Plant: 4" plants can be put out as spring is coming to a close. Try the seed a month earlier.
Buy it: 4" are available at Annie's. Seeds are sold by these nice folks in Utah
Good for: a whiff of loveliness near the front porch, and late season blooms.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Plant of the Week: Farewell to Spring

Well hello, Clarkia! These guys are just the thing for the last exuberant burst of color before the dry days of summer take over. A native wildflower, clarkias of all kinds are found throughout the state. These came from a seed packet when impatience possessed me in February, but I would prefer to find a variety native to the Oakland area next year.

Soil: You really can't go wrong here. Well, perhaps not sand. Mulch, however will make them happy.
Sun: Part sun to full sun (the ones in the photos are in my southern "scorch" zone)
Height: about 1.5' to 2' tall
Plant: by seed in early spring or by seedling around April
Buy it: Browse the varieties that Annie's has. So many to choose from! Larner's also has an impressive selection of seeds.
Good for: that hot spot in your garden. Also helps for filling in the blank spaces in a young garden.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Find Them Before They Find You

Hmmm, this sounds fun! Spider hunting in the Botanical Garden- I'm sure there's some real doozies crawling around in there. Anyone going to join me? The spider photo above was taken at Bay Worms during a vermicomposting seminar.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Folly for the Garden

Do you see what happens when a girl gets her table saw up and running? Dangerous stuff, indeed. I found some antique sewing machine legs in the basement and combined them with some scrap redwood to create a garden folly.

After reading this comment thread on Garden Bliss, I really wanted to follow Red Studio's advice and paint it a lovely blue-based red. Well, my paint chip color blindness revealed itself again as I sloshed the paint on and realized it was really fuchsia ... oops. When it's on those tiny squares at the store it looks so different! Good thing I still like the color! Hopefully someone else will as well, considering that it's now available to those who are interested...

Here's a detail of where I left part of the salvaged legs unpainted. The patina was just so lovely that I couldn't help myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tapas Treats

We had friends over for wine and tapas the other night and I had to share this easy appetizer. Take a fresh melon from the garden or farmer's market for those of us afflicted with Bay Area humidity/powdery mildew, slice up some prosciutto and thread it all onto a toothpick. Viola! A refreshing summertime nibble.
I can't remember the name of the melon I used here. I like my melons to have French-sounding names that I've never heard of before.

Plant of the Week: Panther Lily

I promise this is the last of the Trinity Alps series. I couldn't help but share this tremendous find on our hike. A plethora of these dainty Lilium pardalinums! They were hovering amongst a small spring and practically glowing in the afternoon sun. Apologies for the sun-drenched photos!

Soil: Well drained, nutrient rich couldn't hurt. Grows near streams.
Sun: Part shade
Height: up to 6' tall!
Plant: In the fall after the flowers have faded
Buy it: Yerba Buena Nursery or various bulb companies
Good for: a feast of the eyes! This plant will do well in a high water situation, so if you can't part with your water-loving non-natives, this would be a great companion.

A top view of the lily and it's reflexed petals. Dare I say sexy?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Case of the Mystery Natives

Here's a little peek into the various plants we ran into on our trip to the Trinity Alps. Although they're quite lovely, I can't see myself being able to find them in nurseries. Usually I'd clamor to introduce myself to their names and locales, but I think this time I'll just relish their beauty. However, I know full well my fellow plant geeks can't resist sharing their know-how, so I invite them to share in the comments!

The little flower above is so sweet- I love how the petals are so separate- almost strawberry-like.

This unusual succulent was found on a north-west facing ravine wall amongst the mosses, reaching out its little succulent arms across the rocks.

I want a dress that looks like this! Such a girly, frilly color!

Cotton candy flowers!

A soft little anemone, resting in the shady spots of the meadows. Enjoy the weekend!

First Harvest!

It's meager, but the promise of too many tomatoes is upon us!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Plant of the Week: Mock Orange

I'm typically a flowery kind of gal, so naturally I lean towards showy annuals and Southern California perennials. Gathering plant lists, I would 'meh' past the Philadelphus lewisii. "It goes deciduous," I thought. "Can't be worth a couple of pretty flowers." Thankfully, the Canyon Creek trail in the Trinity Alps proved me so, so wrong. As the sun cooked the blooms throughout the day, the fragrance made angels sing! Oh, heavenly. I can't wait to find an excuse to use this plant!

Soil: well-drained
Sun: full sun to part shade in the Bay Area
Height: 3' to 8' tall
Plant: in the winter when it goes decidous
Buy it: Hmm, I can't find it among the usual suspects. Bay Natives claims to have a few (I've never purchased from them, just browsed their yummy online catalog!) and Yerba Buena seems to carry them as well. Annie's has some non-native hybrids which are quite tempting.
Good for: camping out next to it from May through July and inhaling its gorgeous scent. Use it as a screen or to "room off" a patio area from the rest of the garden.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Butterflies of Trinity Alps

Wouldn't that make an entertaining reality show? Gobs of butterflies fluttered away last weekend- congregating at the base of a shallow stream bed, flocking the blooming asclepias, flying by your head just to say hello. It felt like being in the Butterfly Pavilion at the Conservatory of Flowers, only for real!

I'm pretty sure this lovely is a California Sister, or Adelpha bredowi. According to my extremely helpful "California Insects" book, the larvae feed on oaks and are found in "the foothills and middle elevations of mountains throughout the state."

Here's an Acmon blue, or Plebejus acmon. How sweet!

I think these are Lorquin's Admirals. Well, I certainly admire them! They were resting in groups at the base of a creek and would flutter about when someone walked by (or attempted to take a photo for that matter!). How does Vanessa cardui do it?!

And now I've saved the best for last. As we left the campsite, I asked the boys, "can we please please puh-lease stop at the asclepias patch on the side of the road?" They actually complied (gladly!) and we came upon a butterfly city! No Monarchs, which is what I expected, but many Western Tiger Swallowtails. They were so big, they looked like beautiful flying monsters of the sky!

Here's what I think is a Common Hairstreak, or Stymon melinus hanging out with a happy beetle. Look at her tails! I can't wait to plant some asclepias of my own so I can stake out all the amazing pollinators with my camera! Anyone have asclepias planting advice? I've never had much luck (despite following the strict 'no summer water' rules)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Likin' the Lichen

Nothing better than starting your Sunday morning with bad puns. Whew! It's been a whirlwind week. First the absence of fog made me rethink my early springtime decision to forgo the irrigation system as I hand watered the yard and then we took a quick trip up to the Trinity Alps! I'll post some delicious photos of that throughout the week, but I'll whet your appetite with this mossy tree trunk, which I think looks remarkably like a larger landscape. A miniature mountain goat playground!