Archive for May, 2014

Early May Update — Post-Hurricane Edition

May 5, 2014

Well, OK, we didn’t have a hurricane. It just felt like it.

A week or so ago we had some very uncharacteristic “Santa Ana” winds — these are the hot, dry winds that come in mostly from the desert, and drive everyone around here nuts (humidity levels are under 10%). Usually we have them in the fall. And usually they blow maybe 25-30 mph, and go away after a couple of days.

Well, this time we had winds with gusts of over 80 mph, and they blew for four straight days! These winds were fierce. They broke branches off a couple of my plants, and they changed the shape, at least for the duration of the summer, probably, of several of my plants. They caused havoc for a couple of my caterpillars that had the misfortune to emerge from their chrysalises during this period.

But first things first … let’s look at some more of the wildflowers that have emerged since my last post.

I had a profusion of Bird’s-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor) — with two different types of flowers, sometimes on the same plant. Some of them were light blue, almost white:



Others were a dark blue:


Very odd! Maybe that’s why it’s named tricolor? If so, I’m missing the third one!

We also had some less common yellow poppies:


And the Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla) ended up being much more prevalent than last year, as I was hoping. Here’s one:



My Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) multiplied delightfully:




On the perennial side, my Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) bloomed, though the blossoms were not as spectacular as I’ve seen elsewhere. I think maybe its being surrounded by wildflowers was not helping!


The two Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) that I have near my east wall bloomed nicely. I had given up on Royal Penstemons in that location, pulling up a pair of the ratty-looking ones that were there. But I left two that I planted only last year, and they are looking gorgeous. But I fully expect that these will peter out in the next year or two the way the previous ones did. Everything is impermanence. Enjoy it while you can!


My west side looks nice, with smatterings of poppies:


And my “grasses” area is looking wonderful, with the spectacular spring come-back of the prostrate Select Mattole fuchsia (Epilobium septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’). This variety is the most reliable fuchsia I’ve grown. Every fall I cut it back nearly to the ground, and it comes back looking gorgeous. In a couple of months it will start to bloom. I’ve never had any problems with this fuchsia — give it a little water in the summer and prune it heavily when it starts to fade, and it rewards you with years of beauty. I highly recommend it! Here it is in front of the Purple Three-Awn grasses:



(Next to it, on the left, is the Deer Grass that I  pruned severely in the fall. It’s coming back slowly.)

The Coral Bells (Heuchera elegans) are in full bloom:


My Hummingbird sages (Salvia spathacea) on the side of the house are doing well. I plan to plant some more in this location in the fall.


I like this view of the northeast corner:


My Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia fragrans) was looking gorgeous up until last week (it’s to the left of the birdbath):


Alas, the Santa Anas broke off a central branch:



Now there’s a big hole in it:


Bummer! I also lost a branch on my huge Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii):


Though I don’t have a “before” picture, here’s the sage afterwards. The branch used to stick up at the top, giving the plant a pointy look — now it’s a more rounded shape. Maybe it’s better?


This is one huge plant! I would say it’s grown two feet at least since I pruned it last fall! Here it was last fall:

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia 'Bee's Bliss'

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’

It’s the one just to the right of the birdbath. Come to think of it, everything has grown immensely! The Pitcher Sage is hardly visible in this picture (after pruning), and the asters on the mound are about a third the size that they are now!

And look at the Winifred Gilman Sage (Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’):


Gorgeous lady! Here she was in the fall:


It’s when I look at these older pictures that I realize how much my garden is filling in!

My Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) have come into bloom:


I also got a new Adirondack chair. The old one was apt to turn over in the wind and just wasn’t very attractive. Here’s the new one — and note, also, the new table next to it, made from a log of the tree my neighbor cut down:


Looking at it from the path:


That’s an Allen Chickering Sage in front of the Winifred Gilman — blooming for the first time!

Here’s a view from the chair:


Those plants in the center are the California Asters (Aster chilensis ‘Purple Sage’) that have grown so profusely — look at them! They all have dozens of buds and should be blooming soon. I can’t wait!

I have some butterfly news too, but I’ll save that for my next post. Bye for now!