DryStoneGarden

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Posts Tagged ‘manzanita’

Manzanitas

This warm weather and lack of rain has me a little unsettled. I remember some winters like this when I was growing up, but that was before my gardening days and I don’t remember how it affected the plants. I guess I’ll be finding out. In the meantime, I’ve stopped at Tilden several times this winter to check out how the manzanitas are responding to this lack of a winter. I thought I could look at past photos to see if the different varieties are acting any different this year, but I couldn’t figure out anything conclusive. I think I’ve seen bigger bloom clusters in other years and I think they started blooming a couple of weeks late this year, but I couldn’t say for sure. In any case, they’re looking good right now in the heart of manzanita season.

The one in the photo below, Arctostaphylos montana-regis, has one of the best tree trunks I’ve ever seen. This little cluster of trees is probably my favorite spot in my favorite garden.

The next thing to keep an eye on is when everything deciduous wakes up. A few things in the garden had buds, but nothing had broken into leaf yet.

The UC Plant Sale

Along with Tilden, the UC Botanical Garden has the other big plant sale in the East Bay. UC does the sale in two parts, with the sale Saturday but a members-only preview Friday evening. The preview is in many ways the main event. Anita and I got memberships this year, so we got to go for the first time. Pretty cool event, with some unusual things for sale, weird indoor plants and carnivorous plants and funky caudiciform plants I’d heard of. I realized how much I’ve just been shopping in the mediterranean and native sections of the nurseries lately.

I wandered around for a while in the native section after checking out the sale. There were fewer things blooming than I expected — irises, thimbleberry, the white form of meadowfoam, a western azalea were the highlights — but everything looked really fresh and green. The native section is always bigger and less like a garden than I’m expecting, more like the landscape of a hiking trail. The oaks are especially nice. Some photos are below. (more…)

Pinnacles

Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument

Machete Ridge, Pinnacles National Monument

Strange winter, eh? We thought for sure we’d be skiing this month, but it has been hiking and climbing weather instead. Last weekend we went to Pinnacles National Monument. We had been there once before about ten years ago but only made it as far as the parking lot before it started raining and we had to go somewhere else to climb. (Pinnacles is famous for being crumbly, especially when wet, and you don’t want to break off the a key hold and transform a classic climb into something harder.) The rock is volcanic breccia, lava mixed with chunks of other rock picked up during the eruption. It’s originally from a volcano 180 miles south, and slowly moved north along the San Andreas fault to its present location. Even with the rock dry, I found it hard to feel confident that the chunks of conglomerate sticking out of the cliff were going to hold my weight. Though, of course, everything held. We did several short climbs, but mostly we checked out the scenery, the crags, the manzanitas (A. glauca) in bloom, the talus caves (tunnels beneath massive boulders piled in the narrow gorges, very cool), and for one moment several condors drifting over head (a good page on ID’ing them here, a couple of nice photos here). I’ve now seen both Andean and California condors. Not sure if that has caché in the birding world but it makes me happy.

Ridge above Bear Gulch

Tiburcios X

Before?

Some of the rock and manzanita pairings reminded me of things we’ve tried to do in some of our naturalistic plantings, except of course on a much bigger scale. Rocks and manzanita go so perfectly together, as classic as any traditional companion planting.

After?

The Ignorables, Bear Gulch

And a patch of shooting stars (Dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. patulum per Katie at NatureID) was my first wildflower sighting of the year.

Shooting Stars, Dodecatheon sp.

February Bloom Day

Arctostaphylos Louis Edmunds

Arctostaphylos Louis Edmunds

I’ve haven’t posted about the garden since we got back, but it has been doing well. Pretty damp, despite the sun this weekend. Almost every plant is happy about all the moisture, though not too many have started to bloom. Most are still in foliage mode; a number of them have a few stray flowers and others are budding up, but not too many are in full bloom. One of our manzanitas, Arctostaphylos ‘Louis Edmunds,’ is pretty much the one plant at peak bloom. It’s a good one, though, maybe my favorite manzanita.

Colombine New Growth

Columbine New Growth

Not a flower, but the new growth on the columbines has an almost floral look. The various shades of green in the garden look very lush after my month down in the desert.

Iris reticulata Clairette with Beach Strawberry

Iris reticulata Clairette with Beach Strawberry foliage

The first of the bulbs are going.

Trumpet Daffodil?

Our First Daffodil of the Year

Hellebore Buds

Hellebore Buds

The first of the hellebore buds opened this weekend.

Hellebore Hybrid

Hellebore Opened

Aloe

Aloe

The most dramatic plant right now is not actually ours. Our neighbor’s aloe, right on the property line, has been blooming since before we left for Baja. The rest of her yard is juniper and ivy, but I’m jealous of the aloe. This time of year, I always tell myself I should plant more aloes.

A list of our other blooming plants (all of them actually in our yard) is below the fold. My thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardens for hosting bloom day. Click over to her site to see what other garden bloggers have blooming this month. (more…)

Mr. Manzanita’s Favorite Manzanita

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise flowers

Flowers of Paradise

Happy Solstice! (9:47 AM for Berkeley, CA.) Here is the last of my photos from the botanic garden, a collection of manzanita photos. I tried to estimate how many of the manzanita varieties in the garden were blooming, and decided about one fifth or one quarter. If I were Mr. Manzanita I would declare that manzanita season has begun.

Paradise with Moss Rock

Paradise with Moss Rocks

But, sadly, I am not Mr. Manzanita. That name belongs to one of the staff at Tilden who, rather tongue in cheek-ly, wears a sign with that title during the plant sale every spring and answers all the questions about all the different manzanitas for sale. I had a question, ‘Which one is the best?’ Well, manzanitas cover quite a range, from ground covers to trees, all with their own subtle merits and attributes, and you generally need to know the site conditions before you can choose the right manzanita, so it’s rather ridiculous to ask someone to just pick one and say, ‘This is the best one.’ But I asked Mr. Manzanita to do that, to choose his favorite, all-purpose, reliable, not-too-fussy-about-soil, not-too-fussy-about-water, interesting, consistently beautiful, generic-recommendation manzanita. And he humored me and made a choice, choosing ‘Paradise,’ an A. pajaroensis selection introduced by, not too surprisingly, the botanic garden at Tilden.

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

There are several different specimens in the garden, all in bloom now, generally growing to about shoulder height, wider than tall, with an interesting zigzag branching pattern. Brad at RootedinCalifornia has photos of the bronzy-red new growth they get in the spring, almost like floral bracts. On the strength of Mr. Manzanita’s recommendation, I sold it to him while I was volunteering at the sale last year, and so far he seems satisfied. Whew.

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise Trunk

Arctostaphylos pajaroensis Paradise

Cactus Jungle has a photo of the berries and calls it a favorite, and Las Pilitas is bullish on it, too. More manzanita photos are below. (more…)

Tilden in December

Aspens with California Poppy

Aspens with California Poppy

Aspens in the Bay Area? Somewhat in keeping with snow on Mt. Diablo, not really the popular image of our area, but there they are. According to Sunset, P. tremuloides ‘generally performs poorly or grows slowly in lowlands; usually short lived in warmer climates.” The ones at the Tilden botanic garden seem to be doing well, though it’s true they aren’t large and did probably grow slowly. They were definitely one of the most beautiful things in the garden when I stopped off on my way home the other day. We get asked about aspens sometimes and have always advised people to plant birches instead, but clearly aspens can work, so maybe we need to modify that advice. The bot garden is in a cool micro-climate (small valley surrounded by hills) and there was ice on the lawn and on a few of the plants, so that might be helping these aspens. Next year I need to remember to stop off and see their fall color. This has been a good year for fall color in the Bay Area, so they were probably beautiful.

Redtwig Dogwoods with Aspens

Sunset also says aspens make a ‘good background tree for native shrubs and wildflowers.’ Indeed. I like how the redtwig dogwood and the aspens are both somewhat see-through, and how the colors are so strongly contrasting even as the upright forms are so similar. We’ve planted redtwigs against a light-colored wall a few times, and last week we planted a yellowtwig dogwood against a brick chimney. The line of aspens is just as architectural and works just as well for a backdrop.

Redtwig Dogwoods and Aspens

Redtwig Dogwoods and Aspens

Manzanita with Manzanita Backdrop

Specimen Manzanita with Manzanita Backdrop

One of my reasons for stopping at Tilden was to look at native plants in the winter and see what was blooming in December (Answer: not much, a few late blooms amongst the deadheads on some buckwheat and erigeron species, two raggedy grindelias still blooming, a few stray off-season blooms, and about one fifth or one quarter of the manzanita species.). We talk to a lot of people who think natives only look good for about half of the year and sometimes I find myself believing that a bit, too, so it was good to walk around and see which plantings looked good and which ones would look ratty to that percentage of the population out there who are skeptical of natives. A lot of the garden and a lot of the plants were looking really beautiful, even though it was a gray day right after a cold storm. The rainforest section was looking great (though it was too dark under the canopy to take photos) but I don’t think there’s much debate about how great the woodland natives can look. Probably the biggest problem for northern California natives is just that many people don’t think of them as California natives, instead mentally classifying them as Washington/Oregon natives.

California Fuchsia Planting

California Fuchsia Planting

I think that when many people say they don’t like natives, they have a mental image of California fuchsia in winter, and when other people say they love natives, they have an image of Cal fuchsia in summer. This is a successful planting to my eyes, but this look seems like an example of what makes some people hostile to natives, a wild-looking plant in a rather wild-looking planting. It also seems to reflect the established popular image of a ‘native planting,’ even though natives can be used in so many other ways and to create so many different looks. I’ll try to return and take a photo from this same spot when the Cal fuchsias are blooming, because they are really pretty in bloom.

Coastal Bluff Planting

Coastal Bluff Planting

The buckwheats, another species not known to shine in the winter, looked good in some plantings and not so good in others. The Coastal Bluff section has a strong design, so the prominent buckwheat in the planting also looked fine and the planting would still look fine even if the buckwheat were replaced with a dying-back Cal fuchsia.

Cold Frame at Tilden

Cold Frame at Tilden

Hello Dudleya

Hello Dudleya

The desert section had some cold-frames out in the southern California desert sections. There’s no question about Agave shawii looking good in the winter. They’re really a Baja native that had a few populations on our side of the border, but those populations have been displaced and now might only exist as revegetation plantings. San Marcos Growers says they’re growing it, so it might start showing up in nurseries more often. Apparently, it’s really slow from seed.

Agave shawii

Agave shawii

Agave shawii

Agave shawii

a lovely thicket

Ninebark Thicket

The ninebark thicket (Physocarpus capitatus) reminds me of a crustacean, either a limpet or maybe a barnacle. I doubt this is going to inspire many people to plant ninebarks or shear them into a limpet shape, but it’s actually being used pretty well here, an effective way to make a certain type of habitat plant look intentional and not too wild. And I bet the birds love it. It looks better than the Salvia leucophylla, which is generally considered more garden worthy but was looking just as deciduous and thickety as the ninebark. In fairness, the S. leucophylla is planted in a tough spot, up against a bridge on a steep slope leading down into a creek.

Salvia leucophylla, Purple Sage

Salvia leucophylla, Purple Sage

Sugarbush, Rhus ovata

Sugarbush, Rhus ovata

I just planted Rhus ovata (Sugarbush, an evergreen sumac) for the first time, three of them at my parents’ house. The Watershed Nursery has had a supply recently, one of the first times I’ve seen them available. ( — edit — my bad, I realized that I planted the other evergreen sumac, Rhus integrifolia.) Hopefully the ones I planted will look as good as they do here. I like the flower buds as much as I like their little white flowers. This one here looks ready to do a huge bloom in February or March, that time of year when even the native skeptics agree that California natives look beautiful.

Sugarbush, Rhus ovata

Sugarbush, Rhus ovata

Update — And here is a March photo of that ninebark thicket in leaf. Still not the most ornamental plant in the garden, but not too bad.