Monday, June 28, 2010

Summertime Experienced Indoors

Perusing the flower stand at the farmer's market yesterday, the weather was just too perfect to confine myself to just one handful of blooms.  The Delphinium I knew would open its winged buds throughout the week, but the sunny Coreopsis with their chocolate-stained faces could not be left behind either.  They weren't exactly compatible for a bouquet because their size and airiness seemed too similar to provide contrast, but I plotted my plan of attack on the walk home.  As I approached the house I giggled as I stumbled on the obvious solution.  Silly me!  I had forgotten about the flower stand in my own front garden!  A few pink Clarkias and it suddenly came together as a wild, Summertime prairie bouquet.     

Friday, June 25, 2010

Scenes From a Lingering Garden

This promises to be quite amazing and perhaps even a little magical.  A very rare opportunity to see this incredible garden in the middle of downtown Oakland.  Do you know there was a 3.5 acre private garden in Oakland?  I sure didn't! 
Here's a preview video of what you might expect.  Love the cuckoos!  The following was emailed to me by my friend Hugh Livingston, who is responsible for this wonderful craziness:
A 58-channel composition for a beautiful rooftop garden floating above downtown Oakland. Composed and produced by Livingston Sound with Brendan Aanes and Andrea Williams.

One day only, 5-8pm, Sunday June 27 2010. Admission $5.

What is a teatro di verdura and what does it sound like? Will the giant gong survive being mounted in the pond? Tomato cages as speakers, as well as birdcages, bowls from Smart & Final, acrylic pyramids, and of course, cymbals. The pine-lute pavilion (shokin-tei), the garden of questionable clockwork, the garden of frozen delights, and 3 vintage hand-cranked phonographs playing 78RPM recordings of 1940s birds.

Live performances by Kyle Bruckmann, Shayna Dunkelman, Matt Ingalls, Gretchen Jude (oboe, percussion, clarinet, koto). Field of Gongs by Matthew Goodheart.

Wines by eno wines and Ehrenberg Cellars, of Alameda. Light catering by Valerie Jackson Events and La Farine.

Remember these details to find the garden: it is not visible from the street, but is on the roof of the parking garage, which will be closed for the weekend. The entrance to the elevator that takes you to the roof is on Webster St between 20th and 21st, just between the 24 Hour Fitness and the CVS. More here:

Funding from the City of Oakland, American Composers Forum, Open Circle Foundation.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Backyard Archaeology: One Dime

Planting a Ceanothus 'Tassajara Blue' in my wonderful neighbor's back garden, a small object turned up in the soil.  I had been finding all sorts of things the past few days, mostly bits of glass and terracotta.  This however...  ONE DIME.  Why, yes you are!  It looked so old that it seemed fake, so I instantly turned it over to find a date.  1901! 

I had been carrying on a phone conversation with my immensely talented friend Hugh, who instantly procured values via the magic of the internet.  A dime could have purchased a beer in 1901 at an Idora Park concession.  Well, today it remains likely I could still buy a beer with this dime- the going rate for a worn 1901 dime minted in Philadelphia as this one was is $2.  Maybe a Pabst at happy hour with no tip.

Either way, I'm thrilled to live out my Indiana Jones fantasies and find all sorts of "treasures" left behind.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Plant of the Week: Farewell To Spring

Around February, my garden came under attack from little sprouts of Clarkia amoena.  Soon enough, a jungle of massive Clarkia plants created a new topography, towering over the Eriogonum grande rubescens, hiding the Dudleya hassei flowers and hey, wasn't there a Manzanita somewhere over there? 

The almost neon flowers stun passersby, except the new populations of bees busily darting about with pollen crumbs smattered all over them!  The flower color varies, but most commonly pink with magenta-brushed petals sets the stage.  Salmon in the first photo and white with bursts of pink blush add variety.

Thankfully, Clarkia amoena is an annual, which means they'll grace us with their presence for late Spring, early Summer and then fade away.  Besides using the fabulous dried seed heads in unusual floral arrangements, I had hoped that leaving them standing in the garden would also feed some local birds.  Obviously they weren't interested, judging by the number of plants I now have.  Oh well, more for me!

Many different Clarkias can be found throughout California and serve as a new wave of color after the Poppies and Lupines say their goodbyes for the season.  The Pink Ribbons Clarkia can be especially festive!.

Sun:  Full sun to part shade
Soil:  I guess anything in between the extremes, but I've successfully had plants grow out of adobe-like clay
Plant:  Sow seeds in the Autumn.  It might be too late to find plants, but try Annie's.  Put this one on your must-have list for next year!
Buy it:  I'll gladly give seeds to anyone who wants them!  I'll be up to my ears this year!  Larner's also has some lovely Clarkia seeds of many different varieties.
Good for:  Causing a riot in the garden!  Filling in space when plants are young, continuing the show when the Poppies have faded, pink gardens, bee and butterfly gardens.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Exclusive! Insect Paparazzi


I've been obsessed with the air traffic among the garden lately.  Check out the detail of the wings on this honeybee making a mess of himself in the Clarkia pollen!

The Carpenter bees have finally begun to collect pollen, too as they prepare their nurseries.  The exciting find of today, however...  the first Dragonfly sighting in my garden- ever!  (Yes, I realize I'm becoming a fanatic.)

It landed on my Dudleya hassei and even stayed long enough for me to dash inside to get the camera.  I think it's a Pastel Skimmer, or Sympetrum corruptum.  Those orange stripes are so fashionable!

Last and most certainly least, a Green Bottle Fly.  Not exactly what I'd like to attract to my garden, but I really do love the green metallic color, like the gas tank on a motorcycle.  What insects have you come across this season?

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Butterflies Have Arrived!

First butterfly picture of the season!  A spunky little Acmon Blue impatiently flitting about the Eriogonum grande rubescens (San Miguel Island Buckwheat).  This little one can be hard to spot since they typically measure a measly one inch across or so, but their restlessness can help if you look for movement among the flowers.  This leads you, however to make you look pretty crazy, crouching on the sidewalk with camera in hand cursing the darn thing to just stay still for a minute

The other sides of the wings look just as lovely, leopard spotted all over. May it be the first of many this summer!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Plant of the Week: Matilija Poppy

Here she is, the Queen of the garden!  Besides having a Latin name that is easier to pronounce than her common one, Romneya coulteri reigns up to ten or twelve feet above her subjects.  Her sumptuous flowers span an unthinkable 8 inches across at times and the crepe-like petals create a soft dream across the landscape.  Never mind that she can be invasive in sandy, over-watered soils....  she's the Queen, she's conquering more territory! 

It's flowers like this that make me imagine I'm a little Bumble Bee, shimmying my way through those tentacles of sunshiney pollen.  As for the orgins of the name Matilija, I can't verify the myriad of Native American myths and legends found through the magic Google, but what seems to remain constant is that its orgins lie in the Chumash tribe.

Sun: Full sun to part shade
Soil:  Infrequently watered clay seems best to keep her from pillaging other parts of the garden
Plant:  In Autumn, Winter or early Spring before she flowers.  Propagation can be challenging at best (click here for an adventurous lesson in that)
Buy it:  Hmmm, all my usual suspects don't show it in stock.  Bay Natives might have it and East Bay Wilds does have it.  Yay!  Bloom time and planting time don't usually go together, so perhaps try to wait until September or so if you can!
Good for:  Slopes, cottage gardens, wild and unkempt gardens, making your neighbors totally jealous, stopping traffic, bee gardens, mixing with Agaves or Yucca whipplei for a contemporary pairing, the forgotten sunny corner in the yard.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It's Bloomed! It's... Orange?!

I had a breathless discovery this morning- the Corralitos hybrid lily bloomed!  The label claimed it was a cross between Lilium pitkinense, L. kelloggi, and L. pardalinum and would be a shade between pink and crimson.  Hence my confusion here.  Where did the orange come from?!  Regardless, I'm ecstatic that this little "orange sheep" has decided to join my riot of pink Clarkias and it does look pretty fabulous with the Malocothamnus foliage in the background. 

Just look at all that tasty pollen!  I wonder who will come to visit- the female Carpenter bees perhaps?

I love the reflexed petals- so racy!   While I don't mind this strange color detour in my own garden, I'm trying to go over in my mind all the other gardens I've put this in, as I became pretty obsessed when they were available at the wholesale nursery.  Perhaps they'll bloom truer to form in my clients' gardens!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Spring Forward!

 I heart artichokes!

I thought I'd start out the week with some happy blurts of color to chase away the Summer fog!  Enjoy!

Olive-Route Press' welcoming display

A handful of flowery confetti sprinkled throughout the garden

Tomato teepees keep Tulip poppies company.  Wow!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Field Trip: The Fragrant Path of the Diablo Foothills

Using the holiday weekend to finally paint the kitchen (it looks great!), I realized on Sunday that we hadn't been outside to enjoy the best weather we've had in quite some time.  Everybody in the car!  We're going out!  Impulsively, I grabbed a handful of maps taken from the local regional parks and settled on Castle Rock & Diablo Foothills in Walnut Creek/Pleasant Hill.  Arriving around 5 pm, the crowds had already packed up their picnic baskets and left the park for us to explore.  While a welcoming committee of yellow Calochortus, Brodaiea and Owl Clover lit up the sides of the trail, the bowers of flowering Buckeyes (Aesculus californica) captivated my eyes and nose. 

Sweet yet not syrupy, girlish and not fruity, the scent of a Buckeye blossom will levitate the senses and cause a furious pollen-mustache removal.  We passed by hundreds of these trees, yet every time I couldn't help but stop and relive its fragrance.  Thus began our smell tour of the Diablo Foothills.  We ascended the Shell Ridge Trail along a ballet troupe of yellow butterflies and my first sighting of Clarkia unguiculata in the wild. 

Sambucus mexicana sweetened our way- I had no idea the scent could be so lovely when I had first spotted it growing along the Delta.  Country Mouse highlighted this plant recently in an enlightening post here.   Nothing like seeing a plant in person to make you want one... Now!

To contrast with the heavenly fragrances, Salvia mellifera sunned its leaves on the hillsides with late afternoon sun, sending its musk down the path in fleeting clouds.  While most of the flowering had already finished, gobs of happy Monkeyflowers shone orange and continued the bloom along side them.

Farther along, the persistent buzzing of an insect construction zone led us to investigate.  Bunches of Adenostoma hosted a myriad of bees, from honey to hover, to bumble.  What is it about silently watching bees buzzing frantically that makes me feel so relaxed?  Ok, I want an Adenostoma now, too.  Not to mention another opportunity to explore this park further throughout the seasons.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mysteries of the Insect World

It's larva season!  And with it comes the potential of a new hobby that I sooo don't need.  Darn.  I'd love to know what these little guys plan on becoming, but after perusing all of's caterpillar images I'm still clueless.  Are these even caterpillars?  The striped fellow above sat on a plum leaf, surrounded by bits of webbing.

This one chilled out on a hybridized Columbine.  His orange head (eyes?) contrast so nicely with his pinstripes!

Grub?  Caterpillar?  Larvae?  Hmmm.  Found in all the ivy I was trying to remove this weekend, so not sure if I like the company he keeps.

Anyone able to steer me in the right direction?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sketchbook: Mariposa Lily Seed Pods

Phew!  So much to blog, so little time!  I'll start out the week with some really fabulous Calochortus seedpods (these things just keep getting better and better!  For blooms, click this).  I was so taken by them, I had to do a little sketch and splash it over with wild colors.  The discovery of water color pens- fun!

I should probably add:  my work is copyrighted, so using my images without permission is just not nice and downright illegal!  Ok, back to the regularly scheduled program!