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Archive for May, 2009

Sedum Spathulifolium

Sedum spathulifolium

Sedum spathulifolium

Our Sedum spathulifolium (stonecrop) has started blooming. I like the flower buds better than the flowers, which are a bit too mustardy for my taste.

Sedum spathulifolium

Sedum spathulifolium

In our garden we have it in containers. I keep accidentally knocking off little pieces of it, which I then put in potting soil to root and make new plants. I now have six little sedums in thimble pots and stubbies, a couple of which are preparing to bloom. We planted spathulifolium in a couple of gardens last year, but we tend to reserve for extreme sites where it takes a while to establish and spread, so the plants aren’t really photo worthy yet.

Sedum spathulifolium

Sedum spathulifolium

The Fleming garden has the best planting of it that I’ve seen, cascading down the slope between the rocks. It can be hard to get plants to survive, let alone thrive, on a slope that steep, but the spathulifolium clearly likes the extreme exposure; easy to see why it’s one of the main California natives that appears on green roof plant lists, like the one for the Academy of Sciences Building. I have several more photos from the Fleming garden below. I wish I’d been there when the light had been more amenable to photos, but I don’t see a way to fix that, other than to wait for our own slope-planted plants to spread so I can photograph them at the optimum hours of the day. (more…)

May Blooms – GBBD

arizona flagstone path and border

arizona flagstone path and border

This is the flagstone path and border you see when you come in through our gate. We try to keep it full of blooms year-round, and this month, May, is probably the easiest month to do that. In another month the fog season will start, the heat of the Central Valley will suck moisture from the ocean through the Golden Gate and over our garden like a swamp cooler, but for now all the plants are soaking up the sun.

Monardella macrantha

Monardella macrantha

Our Monardella macrantha just started up, flashing the victory sign.

California poppy and Blessed Calendula

California poppy and Calendula

The poppy is Mahogany Red, pretty variable in how much red the flowers show. I like the ones where I’m not quite sure if it’s a cultivar.

Penstemon heterophyllus and Triteleia Starlight

Penstemon heterophyllus and Triteleia Starlight

I think the penstemon is “Blue Bedder,” but it might be “Blue Springs.”

purple breadseed poppy

purple breadseed poppy

A breadseed poppy that was too tall to fit into the frame.

Salvia chamaedrys and Phormium ad nauseum

Salvia chamaedryoides and Phormium ad nauseum

The salvia actually has some blooms on it but it works better as a foliage combo with the phormium. Most of the other plants in that bed have token blooms, but nothing dramatic; maybe they’re waiting for the poppies and calendulas to quiet down. Thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardens for hosting Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. Click thru for links to lots of other gardens in bloom.

Some more bloomers from our outer garden are below. (more…)

Seed Grown Sidalcea Malviflora

Sidalcea malviflora, checkerbloom

Sidalcea malviflora, checkerbloom

Our Sidalcea malviflora (checkerbloom), grown from seed, surprised us when the different plants put out different shades of flowers. They’re just about done blooming for the year. We don’t water them, so they’ll go dormant and disappear at some point and then come back with the rains.

Poppies Will Put Them to Sleep

purple breadseed poppy

purple breadseed poppy

Our first breadseed poppies have opened, second generation descendants of “Lauren’s Grape.” Their size is always a little shocking when the first one goes, it’s not exactly a subtle flower. Personally, I will always think of papaver poppies as the weapon of choice for the most easily vanquished villain in movie history, the Wicked Witch of the West. The ones in the movie look like Flanders poppies, P. rhoeas, but the witch seems to be referring to the latin name of the breadseed poppies, P. somniferum when she talks about going to sleep. I guess it’s not as cinematic to romp through fields of five foot tall P. somniferum, so the art department substituted in the shorter Flanders ones.

Purple Breadseed Poppy

purple breadseed poppy

Youtube has a version of the original and one of the Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz mash up, The Dark Side of the Rainbow. The poppy scene starts around 4:10 on the Dark Side version. I wish I could conjure up fields of blooming plants as easily as the witch does.

Skunk Season

skunk on the porch

skunk on the porch

Our skunk season started last week. At least one of them has been digging in the garden every night, and then one came up onto our porch during a rainstorm this weekend. This seems to happens each spring, coinciding, I think, with the time when their young are born. Judging from past years, we’ll see a lot of digging for the next few weeks, tapering a bit through the summer, then a lot more digging around late summer or early fall when the young skunks discover the garden. Project Wildlife has an info page with tips on living with skunks, but it doesn’t really mention gardens. From what I can tell, we do nothing to discourage or encourage the skunks, which pretty much sums up our attitude. They dig holes in the garden, but they’re cute, so it balances. It’s hard to dislike an animal that waddles when it walks.

Project Wildlife claims that “an estimated 70 percent of a skunk’s diet consists of insects considered harmful to humans,” so some of the digging is for a good cause. Things they eat include insects, earthworms, and slugs in our garden, plus lizards, rodents, birdseed, kitchen waste, and petfood elsewhere if they can find it. Established plants are not hurt by the digging and the parts of the garden that don’t get watered are almost completely ignored. The skunks seem to particularly like soft, recently dug, recently watered soil, which basically describes whatever spot I have just planted something, so I lose some transplants when I add them into the vegi garden; though if I check every morning, I can often replant the dug up plants without them being noticeably affected. So far this year, I haven’t lost anything, knock on wood.

Does anyone else get skunk damage? The skunks don’t directly target plants, so I’d never really thought of them as a possible garden pest. It took us a little while to figure out who was doing all the digging.

Below, I put a skunk portrait from around dusk yesterday and another photo of a hole dug through the woolly thyme planted in our patio. The skunks casually waddle away when we approach to photograph them, so we mostly get photos of the bushy tail and striped back. I’d like a photo of one threatening me with its tail raised, but so far I haven’t mustered the nerve and poor judgement to initiate that encounter. I actually like the smell when they spray next door, but I have a feeling I’ll feel differently if it pulls the trigger in our yard.

— Note — In case that was said with excessive bravado, let me say I don’t recommend anyone causing a skunk to raise it’s tail at you. I’ve had it happen twice in my life, though not here in our yard, most memorably when a motion sensor light clicked on to reveal a skunk about three feet in front of me and just about to move past the bluff stage. That moment got my heart racing as much as the time I accidentally touched a death adder. 

Though after three years of living with skunks in our yard fifty to a hundred nights a year, I can say that they have no intention of spraying and very little fear of me. That’s partly based on their absolute confidence in the effectiveness of the raised tail, that anything that can dissuade a hungry mountain lion should be sufficient to dissuade me. Like most animals, they prefer to bluff rather than fight, so leave them alone, and they will leave you alone, too. The one candidate likely to get sprayed is your dog, so if you have a dog, don’t have a dog door. You don’t want the dog able to come inside immediately afterward. At least one neighbor has learned that lesson the hard way.

— Note #2 — Just after posting the previous note, while I was potting up veggie starts, the skunk came into the yard and scratched around in the bamboo twenty feet away from me for about ten minutes and then wandered off. This was at around six o’clock, the third time this week that we’ve seen it in the daylight, and it’s definitely not rabid, just active and not particularly shy. I’m not sure what it was eating.

— Note #3 — The skunks have been particularly bad this year. We’ve realized that family with 7 young skunks is living under the neighbor’s porch. We’ve put rags soaked in ammonia around the garden to dissuade them digging. It has been somewhat effective. I did get a photo of one of the young with a tail raised, threatening me, though the photo is a bit blurry, no doubt from my shaking hands and submissive attitude towards the skunk.

Are you talking to me?

Are you talking to me?

(more…)

California Peony

Paeonia californica, California peony

Paeonia californica, California peony

The California peony is blooming at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden at Tilden in Berkeley. I’d never seen one blooming before. To quote Las Pilitas, “You need perfect drainage, a very green thumb, and luck with this one.”

Paeonia californica, California peony

Paeonia californica, California peony

Deborah Small’s Ethnobotany Blog has a beautiful photo of one growing wild.

— Addendum —

California Peony going dormant

California Peony going dormant

A photo of the peony going dormant in early July.

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