Monday, September 27, 2010

I've Caught Fall-Fever

 Many folks don't realize that us Californians have the advantage of two "Springs."  The conventional one that begins in March and the California Spring which begins when the rains come.  Manzanitas, Silk Tassel trees, Gooseberries and Currants begin blooming as soon as December and leaves begin to emerge after the sleepy late Summer heat has left us.  What does that mean for the significant others of garden geeks?  Well, they end up hearing all about the plants that will be planted, have to nod encouragingly at clusters of pots with spindly green things stuck in them (those are plants, honey!), and are left to their own devices when the plant sales come 'round. 

 Saturday found us at such a plant sale- the East Bay Wilds "everything must go, bring the truck" plant sale.  Lisa who I'm sure you're already aware of and Karen, my effervescent green-thumbed friend and I hopped into the Idora-mobile and headed out into the yonder of plant wonderment. 

Amorpha californica
 Poor Pete, running from end to end to help out his energetic and numerous clientele, hovered long enough to recommend a Pickeringia.  My response?  Okay!  And so it went.  The ladies scored some gorgeous pots and we filled the truck with armfuls of little green treasures. 

My haul includes:

the aforementioned Pickeringia, which through my obsessive Googling I have found attracts hummingbirds with its bright pink flowers.  It has a very fragile root system, which probably doesn't bode well for the number of times I've knocked the darn pot over.

Rhododendron occidentale

Rhododendron occidentale:  yes, California has a native Rhodie!  Not only that, but it's scented and has flowers colored like buttered popcorn.  Think I'll try this one in a pot.

Amorpha californica var. napensis or False Indigo:  a rare to the trade plant that attracts Bumble bees and hosts the California native insect, the Dog-Face Butterfly.  Cool!  Like the Pickeringia, it's in the pea family.

Dendromecon or Bush Poppy:  I think this is rigida and not hartfordii, but can't be sure.  What I do know is that the yellow poppy-shaped blooms pop against the blue-green foliage and will contrast nicely with...

Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman':  I'm aiming to get some Ceanothus Silk Moths in the back garden, not to mention a fast screen for privacy from the neighbors.  Oh, and it has lavender flowers that are lightly scented, bringing bees of all kinds from miles around?  Yes, please!

Penstemon centranthifolius or Scarlet Bugler:  Oh crap, I wish I had gotten more of these.  The perfect shot of red before the California Fuchsias appear and a natural hummingbird feeder. 

an unknown Dudleya:  my favorite kind, pictured up top.  What can I say, it's an addiction.  Perhaps he'll find himself in one of the terracotta tubes I've got sticking out of the garden.

Big 'ol mystery Wasp on a Cornus at the nursery

We capped the day with some Robb-made lemonade, with Lisa sending Karen and I home cradling jars of backyard honey.  As soon as the weather cools, I'll be in squirrel mode- digging around, planting and transplanting my Autumn away.  Thanks Pete of East Bay Wilds, for spreading that happy malady- Fall-Fever!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Field Tripping Through Google Images: Veggie Edition

I'm preparing myself for the Winter veggie season and by preparing I mean obsess over my Seed Savers book and dream of having a neat, orderly set of plantings (really this time!  I mean it!)  I keep picturing a little knot garden, but I would substitute boxwood for lettuces or radishes as the delineating boundries and filling the remaining spaces with squares of perky Carrots, Golden Chard and sweet little leaves of Mache, not to mention a bevy of cutting annuals such as red poppies (last photo), Baby Blue Eyes and Collinsia heterophylla.

My favorite method of instant inspiration these days involves sticking a phrase in the Google and clicking on images to see what comes up.  Many times I get quite relevant images, such as this one from the Better Homes and Gardens site:

And sometimes I go careening afield, to wonderfully unexpected places.  This morning, I landed onto to find my next "brilliant" installation against the fence of my triangular vegetable bed.

I picture getting two or three of these to grow the diminutive Mache or maybe even some Nasturtium 'Empress of India' to trail down the sides.  Can you just imagine all the possibilities?!  With a shoe rack of all things!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Breath of Fresh... Fog

Saturday presented a magical day in the garden; a fine and unexpected mist gradually descended on the leaves, on me, on the sidewalk of which a fresh rain scent refracted back in thanks.  I'm not the first to note (by "note" I mean complain bitterly) the erratic weather patterns of this year (I found it oddly fitting to tear out the last of the still-blooming sweet peas on the first of September), but I must say that this shot of beachy fog created a wonderland.

Drops of jewels clung to unfurling leaves, grateful for a little moisture, while inconspicuous spider webs became encrusted with bling.

The gray foliage, if you can call it foliage, of the Lessingia filanginifolia 'Silver Carpet' became magnified with contrast, carrying its browned globes triumphantly above white stems.

The stone mulch in a blink of an eye lost its chalky cast to a glimmery sheen.  The Dudleya threw its arms upward in celebration.

While still not fully recovered from its Clarkia party, the garden steams ahead with contrasting colors- whites, grays, greens, blacks/purples and reds.  This moment in the mist, fussing and exploring I could stand back and revel in the process.  When worry, regret and dissatisfaction over this small square of land overcome me, it is this kind of moment I am so grateful for.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Field Trip: MLK Regional Shoreline

 Can you imagine taking yourself next door to the airport to look for some peace and quiet?  Well, per Lisa's recommendation I did.  Improbably situated, the MLK Regional Shoreline ringing the San Leandro Bay is the eye of the storm, surrounded by the Oakland Airport, industrial complexes, and Downtown Oakland.  Take a stroll up the ramp of the Observation Tower above and look out over Arrowhead Marsh with binoculars and a bird ID book in hand.   Calm...

I loved the long dock the best, though.  The seemingly endless journey to the end of the dock and middle of the marsh can be a treasure hunt for sharp eyes.  Birds rustling around in the grasses below with piles of mussel and clam shells peeking through the mud.  At high tide you can spot gigantic rays fluttering their way to a meal.  At low tide the birds easily outnumber the tiny handful of human park patrons.  I love that the birds aren't what I'd see in my landlocked backyard only a few miles away.  Look up and the Oakland skyline looks downright romantic.   

I can't wait to go again and sit for awhile, taking in the quiet solitude as the world (and the rampant ground squirrels) scurry frantically around me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Philosophy of Bees

Just when I thought I was soo cool and knew all about the little visitors in my garden, this little green bee popped up and turned me into a gaping novice.  Oh.  My.  Stars!  A Metallic Green Sweat Bee!  In my garden!  Frantic snapping of photos insued, hence the blurry photo below.  Note also the white insect egg cases in the flower pom-pom in the background of the photo above.

Can you believe the color combo that Nature so effortlessly arranged?!  The pink Eriogonum and green Agapostemon was a good call.  It brings up the old philosophical question, "If a Green Sweat Bee lands on an Eriogonum and no one is around to take a photo, is the bee totally awesome?"

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Confession

Blog, I have to tell you something.  I...  I've been cheating on you.  It's true.  My unquenchable desires to create a park in my neighborhood have driven me to start a blog for the Idora Park community and I just haven't been able to spend as much time with you as I'd like. 
I'll make this work!  I can have two blogs at once!  Just don't be hurt, okay?

Friends of Idora Park

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Snowy Flowers to Cool Late Season Summers

For those folks who have spent the last couple of days cursing the sun and its hot, hot rays, this post I dedicate to you.  To temper the heat, cool your jets with these white blooming natives.  Feel that icy chill as you witness the massive snowball otherwise known as Eriogonum giganteum 'St. Catherine's Lace'.  Growing to 10 feet wide in one year (from a 5 gallon container, but still!), this beauty covers herself with layers of snowflakes for the longer months of the summer. 


If you manage not to cut all the flowers for arrangements (looks so pretty with roses), the blooms age gradually to a pinkish rust.  Despite the aging flowers, the bees continue their frantic visits.

Can't even deal with being in the sun?  This shady lady will give you the shivers.  Walk towards the Clematis ligusticifolia in bloom and the sweet scent hits about 10 feet away.  Standing next to it, the fragrance is intoxicating.  Oh, heavenly!

The sweet little flowers have a magical look close up- as if they'll spin in circles and fly away!  Stand back, and you're in for a breathtaking view.  Take a snip of one and keep it by the bed in a small vase.  Sigh.  Inhale the scent.  Repeat.  I'd love a mixologist to design a cocktail based on this flower.

So for all you foggy folks out there hiding out until our Summer (finally, Summer!) retreats into cooler Autumn days, I hope I've offered a little solace for a blazing afternoon.