Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Archive for March, 2011

Gone South

We’re off to Belize for a short vacation. We were planning to go to Joshua Tree, but that didn’t sound restful enough; sometimes vacation needs to include a beach. I should have a post or two on the Mayan ruins and the plants when I get back.

Before leaving, I wanted to make note of the deciduous plants in our yard on the same date, March 23, that I did last year. A few plants are earlier this year, somewhat more of them are a little behind, overall the lists are very similar. Last year’s list is here, this year’s is below the fold. (more…)

Baxter Creek Wildflower Area

Beginning of the Wildflower Area

Near our house, along the Ohlone Greenway bike path, there’s a wildflower area tended by volunteers. I’m not sure how long the area has been tended, but it was already established when we moved to Richmond five years ago. It’s a mix of native and non-native wildflowers, kept remarkably well weeded. From March until about June it has a consistent show of flowers and is impressive enough that I sometimes ride the mile or so out of my way to see what’s in bloom. This week I counted about two dozen different annuals blooming or budding. Cal poppies and phlox are the stars at the moment; later in the year there is always a big show of clarkia.

Looking North

Looking South


Baxter Creek

Past the wildflower area, the bike path effectively ends a few hundred yards later when it hits San Pablo Ave. The wildflower area used to be the turnaround point, but now there’s a restoration project just past it that is starting to grow in and be quite nice, too. The restoration project is in Baxter Creek Gateway Park, built in 2006, part of Richmond’s plan for the Richmond Greenway that would continue the bike path across San Pablo Ave and through the city to connect with the Bay Trail. Poor little Baxter Creek comes out of a pipe, gets a few hundred yards of daylight, and then goes back underground to cross San Pablo Ave into the brownfields of central Richmond.

Poor Little Creek

Under Construction

These two photos are from a powerpoint online showing photos and drawings of some of their creek restoration work. I didn’t realize how much earth moving had gone into the restoration project, in contrast to the wildflower area where the work was little more than weeding and seed-scattering. The two projects go well together with the garden/flower appeal of the wildflower area and the ecology/infrastructure goals of the restoration.

After Construction

The city reshaped the bed of the creek to make it more sinuous, using grading and habitat to help slow, filter, and infiltrate the water. Willows are the most obvious plant, but there are also young oaks, maples, buckeyes, coffeeberries, Toyons, monkey flowers, artemisias, yarrow, coyote brush, and probably others.

Baxter Creek Shaded by Willows

Artemisia californica


Even with the wildflowers and restoration work, there is no hiding that it is an urban setting. But I can appreciate the juxtaposition of native plants and corrugated metal, and nothing can undermine the look of a happy monkey flower.

Monkey Flower

March Bloom Day

Miners Lettuce with Geranium Bill Wallis

It’s a wet March bloom day, with the plants looking a bit storm addled. Our first poppy of the year opened on Sunday, but now it’s curled back up, waiting for the sun. The Sisyrinchiums, Geranium ‘Bill Wallis,’ and a few other bloomers are also hunkered down with their petals closed up. A lot of plants have buds and look like they are waiting for the next sunny day to open everything.

Species Tulip, Tulipa saxatilis




Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus

As always, my thanks to Carol at MayDreamsGardensfor hosting bloom day. Click over to see what over a hundred other bloggers have blooming in their gardens today.

I thought this might be early for the ninebark and late for our Hardenbergia, but looking back at last March’s bloom day, the garden seems to be on a remarkably similar schedule. The bloom list for this year is below. (more…)

Elk Mtn. Tumbled Edging with Flowers

Thursday while I was down on the peninsula, I passed near a house where I did a small stone project last fall, so I stopped by to check out the planting that the client did afterwards. Pretty nice, and fun to see someone else’s plant choices. There wasn’t a drawing or anything when I did the project, just a request for an 8″ high wall to give a back drop to a low planting of color, and I didn’t know exactly what would go in afterwards. You can’t see so much of the stonework at the moment, but it will reappear as the plants finish their bloom cycles.

The yard had nice trees and shrubs before, but it’s a lot more interesting now. This photo from when I finished the project was in my 2010 wrap-up post.

Green Fire, an Aldo Leopold Documentary

Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time from Jeannine Richards on Vimeo.

‘A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.’ Aldo Leopold

Last week in Berkeley, there was a showing of Green Fire, a documentary about Aldo Leopold that is making the rounds. The trailer embedded above is a bit slow, but the full length film is engrossing and well worth a viewing. A Sand County Almanac made a big impression on me years ago, but there’s more to Leopold’s story than just that, and the film conveys that same sense of a Leopold as a great conservation thinker. It can’t be overstated how far ahead of his time he was.

Among other highlights, the film has footage of the shack and farm — now a national historic landmark — where he wrote A Sand County Almanac. I remember reading the book, reading about his efforts to rehabilitate the land, and wondering how his conservation efforts there endured after his death. Quite well, apparently, no doubt in part because his children were conservationists too. The photo above is from Wikimedia, this blog has a few more photos of the shack and land, and there’s a slideshow of black and whites at the Aldo Leopold Foundation website for contrast. But you get the best sense of the place by watching the film. The KQED climate blog, reviewing the film, says it will probably be shown on PBS in about a year.

Starting Up

The Garden

I took some photos of the garden on Wednesday during a break in the weather. Something about the light misting rain made everything look like spring had begun. The foliage on the plants was green and happy, and now today, three days later, a number of new plants are in bloom. The first Sisyrinchiums opened, the first of the species Tulips, the first Oxalis cultivar, the first of the Bearded Irises, and the first Cal Poppies on the block opened next door, with ours sending up buds. I was wondering if the warm dry January might have brought an early spring, but looking at a post from last year it seems that the plants are leafing out on a similar schedule, and looking at last year’s March bloom day post I think the bloom times are nearly the same. I’ll be able to compare on bloom day, and I’ll probably do a post later this month when more things have leafed out.

Favas, Parsley, Chard

The veggie garden liked the February weather, the alternating rain and sun, and the abundance of worm juice produced by the rain. The favas were planted earlier this year, and as a result are blooming earlier too.


Our shadiest bed is now devoted to three blueberries and chaotic mix of Yerba Buena with reseeding Miner’s Lettuce, Mache, and Cal Poppies.

Rocoto Pepper

I havent been giving the Rocoto Pepper enough credit for its ornamental value. The peppers have been the most consistently bright thing in the garden all winter. There used to be more of them on the plant, but the last couple of storms have knocked a lot of them to the ground and we’ve been of course harvesting them. The red ones are hot, so we rarely use more than one of them in a single dish. Last winter the plant went mostly deciduous, but this year it didn’t drop any leaves. If it were rising out of a denser planting it would look great.

Rocoto Pepper

New Zealand Tree Fuchsia and Tasmanian Tree Fern

The New Zealand Tree Fuchsia has about a dozen flowers but they have the same green to red coloring as the leaves and you can’t see them unless you’re up close. It had flowers for last months bloom day, but I didn’t notice them.

Ribes sanguineum, Colocasia Black Magic

I like how the Ribes looks with the Colocasia and the bamboo. A lot of the woodland natives look rather tropical when surrounded by all of the bamboo in our garden.

Ninebark Leafing Out

The ninebark leafed out after the Ribes sanguineum ‘White Icicle’ in the shade but before the seed-grown Ribes sanguineum in the sun. The Ribes sanguineum opened its first flower yesterday.

Tulipa saxatilis

And its nice to see the first of the species Tulips opening. They are a week earlier than last year, but I think that’s because they are naturalized this year. Last year was the first time I planted them and they have about doubled in number. Pretty nice.

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