Posts Tagged ‘wildflowers’

After the Deluge

April 6, 2017

This winter we Southern Californians were told to expect a La Niña season, something that usually brings drought conditions. Given that we were in the midst of a historic drought already, we were dreading it. But no …. It rained and rained and rained. And then it rained some more. Truly, the plants thought they had died and gone to heaven!

A few scenes from the garden, to illustrate the lush growth:

My White Sage (Salvia apiana) has grown HUGE and is encroaching on the chair. I have never pruned it, but will probably do so in the fall.

This Aeonium (not sure of the species), which was one of my first plants, and which has labored long in the shadow of the Cleveland Sage and the California Fuchsia that overhung it, has responded to the rain and the absence of the sage by growing gigantic, and, from what I have been reading, this configuration means it is close to flowering, for the first time:

New Plants

When last we spoke, Argentine ants had decimated several of my plants, including my two Cleveland Sages, two Ceanothuses, and my Pitcher Sage. Here’s what the damage looked like:

I reluctantly decided that the two Cleveland Sages would probably never recover to their full glory, and I had them removed. The Pitcher Sage and one of the Ceanothuses had already been removed – when I was not yet aware that it was the ants that had done them in. Because of the gaps left with these huge plants missing, I withdrew from the California Native Plant Society garden tour, in which I had planned on participating this April. I’m hoping to join the tour next year, if the replacement plants have grown back sufficiently.

So I decided to replace the Pitcher Sage with a Lilac Verbena (Verbana lilacina), with which I have had some success. I had a hard time finding another Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans), and anyway I felt it was too big for that spot. Now, the Verbena does also get to a large size, but it grows more slowly. And I love this plant — it flowers so beautifully.

I replaced one of the Cleveland Sages with another one:

And I replaced the other one with a Pozo Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’), which is a hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Purple Sage, but does not get quite as big as the Cleveland Sage (so they say!):

This is on the west side.

Some “hardware” changes: I moved the solar fountain from the west side to the east, as it was being overtaken by the Cleveland Sage (before I knew I was going to remove it!), and also because it was in the shade of the Pacific Wax Myrtles in the afternoon.

Likewise, I moved the potted succulents to the west side, because they were beginning to be overtaken by the Allen Chickering and Winifred Gilman Sages:

If there is one cautionary tale to be taken away from my garden it’s this: be more careful to space your plants carefully! I have continually underestimated the size to which many of these plants will grow, and my garden is actually more crowded than I would like. When you plant them, they are so small, and you want to fill in that space. Have patience! If the literature says they will grow to 4-5 feet, they probably will. Leave enough space!

The potted plants above are now in danger of being overtaken by the Lilac Verbena …. so I will probably have to trim it back next fall!

I also added several plants to the area near the Adirondack chair near where the fountain is now located. The first is a Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), with small yellow flowers which appear near the end of winter, and small fruits (edible, so I hear, though I haven’t experimented yet). I am told it adds nitrogen to the soil, instead of taking it out, and that this is a good thing.

Also new is Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis), behind and to the right of the fountain in the rear:

Coyote Brush will grow huge, and I will cut it back to fit the area. I wanted a green background for the new Saffron Buckwheats (Eriogonum crocatum) that I planted in front of the fountain, aiming to create a mass of them with their beautiful yellow flowers:

Finally, I replaced my Miniature Rose – which was one of the first plants a visitor would see, near the curb, but was not very attractive – with a slightly non-native sage (it’s one of those Mexican immigrants), “Hot Lips” Sage (Salvia gregii ‘Hot Lips’):

When this comes into full bloom, it will be gorgeous!

What’s in Bloom

Coral Bells (Heuchera):

The Bladderpod and some of my Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata):

The Clarkias have been late in blooming this spring – perhaps because of the rain? I don’t have many this year for some reason – possibly because I refreshed my mulch, and perhaps buried some seeds too deep.

The Hot Lips sage has a few blossoms:

The Lupines (Lupinus succulentus) are at their peak:

My Monkeyflowers (Diplacus), planted last fall to partially replace my diseased Asters, are big show-offs:

The Apricot Mallows (Sphaeralcea ambigua) are blooming (they never seem to stop!):

My wildly proliferating Evening Primroses (Oenothera californica) are showing a few blossoms (only in the late afternoon, of course – by morning they are withering away):

My Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) and Farewell to Spring Clarkias (Clarkia amoena) are starting to blossom:

A few blossoms have appeared on my Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana):

And, of course, the ubiquitous and delightful California poppy (Evening primroses in front):

Shortly: Changes and growth in the back yard, and some focus on succulents — which have really loved the rain!

Happy gardening!

 

Middle Spring 2016

March 24, 2016

Home Improvements

I have upgraded my house in several ways since I last posted. The most noticeable improvement is a new garage door:

Mar2016_Garage

(One of the side panels next to the door has already been repainted in a lighter color — the entire wood siding in the front will eventually be this color!)

Note how much the huge Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has grown — it’s almost too big and sprawly, and next fall I will prune it nearly to the ground so it will come back more neatly. But I love the color this plant adds in the front before the sages start blooming. In fact, it continues blooming throughout the summer.

I’ve also added a new vinyl gate, low vinyl fence and block wall on the west side:

Mar2016_GateFence

Note the fuchsias growing in front of the Cleveland sage on the right — the sage having been pruned back quite a bit and looking much tidier! I love the color contrast.

Early March Wildflowers

The first wildflowers started blooming in late February/early March. First to appear were the Lupines (Lupinus succulentus):

Mar2016_FirstLupines1

Mar2016_FirstLupines

Then in short order came the Poppies:

Mar2016_FirstPoppies

Mar2016_FirstWildflowers

And on the west side as well:

Mar2016_WestSide

Note how the Lilac Verbana (Verbena lilacina) has grown. It looked a bit spent last year, with brown stems showing, and I thought I might have to take it out. But for some reason it rebounded and now looks better than it ever has!

Mar2016_LaterWildflowers

Late March:

More wildflowers, such as these Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa):

Mar2016_TidyTips

And Bird’s-Eye Galia (Gilia tricolor):

Mar2016_BirdsEyeGilia

And more Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata) along with the Lupines and Poppies:

Mar2016_Wildflowers

I’ve made a real effort to limit the number of wildflowers this year. The “forest” effect that I had last year did not sit well with me. Limiting them meant pulling many of them — especially Lupines — before they went to seed. The wildflowers are more “scattered” this year, and yet the garden is still full of color.

Here’s a shot that shows just how much my front yard is filling in:

Mar2016_Buddha

The small Buddha is surrounded by Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) right behind it, with Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) behind that and Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans) to its left. On the right of the Buddha is Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum), and further right is the Apricot Mallow. On its left in front of the birdbath is Canyon Gray Artemisia (Artemisia californica ‘Canyon Gray’).

A few days ago the Douglas Iris bloomed briefly:

Mar2016_BuddhaIrises

Mar2016_DouglasIris

Usually we have sequential blooms for several weeks, but I don’t know if we will have any more this year — I don’t see any more buds.

A new plant in front of the Buddha, Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia) is already blooming, even though I only planted it a few weeks ago:

Mar2016_Primrose

My Fragrant Pitcher Sage has grown enormous as I cut back the Cleveland Sage to its right — some of the sage’s branches had lost their leaves. It’s a gorgeous specimen, already in bloom:

Mar2016_PitcherSage

My Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) — on the right — are starting to bloom; much more to come though. Behind them is a mature White Sage (Salvia apiana), and in front some Elegant Clarkias:

Mar2016_Penstemons1

My Coral Bells (Heuchera) are starting to bloom:

Mar2016_ByHouse

Note how the Evergreen Currant (Ribes viburnifolium) on the right has nicely filled in that area!

Mar2016_CoralBells

On the side of the house, my Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) has become a dense patch the way I was hoping:

Mar2016_SideYard

(Behind it is my orange tree, the source of many juicy snacks during the summer!)

A final spring view:

Mar2016_LateMarchSouth

There are also some big changes in the back yard. Next time!

Happy gardening!

 

Real Spring 2015

May 5, 2015

OK … by March we’ve gotten fully into the wildflower season. Forthwith, here are a plethora of images from March and early April, highlighting the annual “invasion of the wildflowers”:

I had a forest of Arroyo Luplines (Lupinus succulentus)

I had a forest of Arroyo Lupines (Lupinus succulentus)

Lupines and the first of the Elegant Clarkias

Lupines and the first of the Elegant Clarkias

I love the Lupines, but my goodness they do take over the garden! I will confine them more for next year.

I love the Lupines, but my goodness they do take over the garden! I will confine them more for next year.

A collection of  Bird's-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

A collection of Bird’s-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Toward the west through a forest of Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata)

Toward the west through a forest of Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata)

A sea of wildflowers (mostly Clarkias) along the path.

A sea of wildflowers (mostly Clarkias — the Lupines had mostly gone to seed by this time) along the path.

Clarkias galore!

Clarkias galore!

Clarkias in front of the Cleveland Sage, which has not bloomed yet.

Clarkias in front of the Cleveland Sage, which has not bloomed yet.

The start of the "Farewell to Spring" wildflower season  (Clarkia amoena)

The start of the “Farewell to Spring” wildflower season (Clarkia amoena)

All in all, I had fewer wildflowers than last season — which was by design. I felt they literally took over the yard last year, so I made a special effort to pull up many of the Clarkias before they went to seed. (I tried to do the same with the Lupines this year, lest they overwhelm the garden next spring.)

In other developments, I added a number of milkweed plants to my collection, which had been somewhat decimated by caterpillar activity last year:

Mar2015_NewMilkweeds

 

In the back yard, the plants I added had grown somewhat, which was encouraging, since I’ve had so much trouble with the back hill. Here’s the overall look of the hill in March:

Mar2015_BackYard

It still doesn’t look like much, but it’s made some progress since last year. Here are the additions from the fall, individually:

I added another Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (bottom) to match the larger one at the top. The larger one is about 3 feet across -- not as big as it's supposed to get, but at least it has survived!

I added another Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (bottom) to match the larger one at the top. The larger one is about 3 feet across — not as big as it’s supposed to get, but at least it has survived!

I also added a second Bee's Bliss sage below the existing one, since the top one has done much better than I expected.

I also added a second Bee’s Bliss sage below the existing one, since the top one has done much better than I expected.

Coast Sunflower  (Encelia californica). This is native to our Orange County area, so I thought it might do well. It has grown and even produced a couple of blossoms.

Coast Sunflower (Encelia californica). This is native to our Orange County area, so I thought it might do well. It has grown and even produced a couple of blossoms.

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) -- another Orange County native. It's growing quite nicely.

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) — another Orange County native. It’s growing quite nicely.

Saint Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) -- a native of the Channel Islands. It should get huge, but it's not quite there yet!

Saint Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) — a native of the Channel Islands. It should get huge, but it’s not quite there yet!

My potted rushes (Juncus textilis), intended to hide the part of the back yard used as a litter box by my cat, are doing quite well:

Mar2015_Rushes

 

Finally, my cactus (Opuntia mocrodasys) has been delivering some pretty blossoms:

Mar2015_CactusBlooms

 

Later spring update coming soon!

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:

Apr2014_BirdsEye1

 

Others were a dark blue:

Apr2014_BirdsEye2

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:

Apr2014_YellowPoppies

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

Apr2014_ChineseHouses

 

My Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) multiplied delightfully:

Apr2014_TidyTips

 

 

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!

Apr2014_SafronBuckwheat

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!

Apr2014_Penstemon1

My west side looks nice, with smatterings of poppies:

Apr2014_Fountain

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:

Apr2014_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:

Apr2014_CoralBells

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.

Apr2014_HummingbirdSages

I like this view of the northeast corner:

Apr2014_NorthEast

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

Apr2014_PitcherSageBefore

Alas, the Santa Anas broke off a central branch:

Apr2014_BrokenBranch1

 

Now there’s a big hole in it:

Apr2014_PitcherSage

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

Apr2014_BrokenBranch2

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?

May2014_ClevelandSageAfter

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’):

May2014_WinGilSage

Gorgeous lady! Here she was in the fall:

Oct2013_Chrysalis3a

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:

May2014_SeasideDaisies

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:

May2014_NewChair1

Looking at it from the path:

May2014_NewChair2

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

Here’s a view from the chair:

May2014_TowardHouse

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!

 

 

Official Spring Update

March 19, 2014

Yay! Spring is officially here, and the garden is abloom — though not yet completely.

First of all, we had our first poppy a couple of weeks ago:

Mar2014_FirstPoppy

Since that time, quite a few more have shown up (and we’re not nearly through):

Mar2014_Poppies1

Mar2014_Poppies2

Here’s an overall view of the east side of the yard with its riot of wildflowers. The purple ones in the foreground are lupines, while most the of the ones in the background are Elegant Clarkias:

Mar2014_SouthEast1

Last fall I created a small mound near the driveway on the west side using some leftover soil, and sowed some wildflower seeds. None of the seeds seemed to be germinating, even while the seeds from last year’s wildflowers were growing like crazy. I assumed I had done something wrong in sowing the seeds, and basically wrote them off.

But a few weeks ago we had our first serious rain of the winter — a deluge (finally!). And a couple of weeks later, some of the seeds started poking out from the soil!

Here’s the mound — it looks barren:

Mar2014_SmallMound

But a closer look reveals the new growth:

Mar2014_Seedlings

Most of these are small at present, at most about 1/2 high.  But today I noticed the first one had bloomed! It’s a Tidy Tip (Layia platyglossa):

Mar2014_TidyTips

Tidy Tips are new for my garden; I haven’t planted them before. It looks like quite a few are forthcoming. There are some other varieties that are also new, but I’ve forgotten what they are and won’t really know until they bloom!

There’s also this plant with yellow flowers among the Clarkias that I haven’t seen before. I don’t know if it’s one of my new wildflowers or a weed:

Mar2014_Unknown

We shall see what it turns into!

And recently, the first Farewell to Spring (Clarkia amoena) wildflower appeared (though we are nowhere near the end of spring!). There’s also a Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla) plant on the left:

Mar2014_FarewellToSpring

Here’s a closer view of some of my Lupines (Lupinus succulentus). These are such awesome annuals!

Mar2014_Wildflowers2

I love this shot of the northeast corner, with its colorful Clarkias and Lupines. There’s a Pozo Blue Sage in there somewhere as well. It’s new as of last fall, so I’m not sure if it will bloom this year or wait until next year.

Mar2014_ColorfulCorner

There have been a few perennials starting to bloom as well. My Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) has a number of blossoms:

Mar2014_SaffronBuckwheat

Alongside it, my Bee’s Bliss sage (Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’) has produced its first blossom:

Mar2014_BeesBliss1

My Coral Bells (Heuchera elegans) have started to bloom:

Mar2014_CoralBells1

Yet to come: the Cleveland Sages! They are typically somewhat “late blooming”. But when they and the Winifred Gilman sages bloom — look out!

In addition, the Foothill Penstemons (Penstemon heterophyllus) that I planted near the succulent bowl, in an attempt to get a healthier plant than what I had in a different location, have made it all worthwhile. Here they are amongst the lupines:

Mar2014_Penstemons

Close up:

Mar2014_Penstemons1

In contrast, here are the Penstemons that are currently growing in the other location, in that northeast corner where I’ve been having so much difficulty:

Mar2014_Penstemons2

Not a bloom to be found! There’s something about that location that is problematic to a number of plants.

My Scarlet Buglers (Penstemon centranthifolius), next to the Foothills, are just starting to bloom, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.

We also had our first Douglas Iris blossom about a week ago (Iris douglasiana):

Mar2014_FirstIris

And since that time there’ve been several more:

Mar2014_Irises1

And my Yankee Point Ceanothus (Ceanothus griseus var. horizaontalis ‘Yankee Point’), behind the Coral Bells, is awash with blossoms:

Mar2014_YankeePt

We also have started the butterfly season! About a week ago I found this caterpillar on one of my milkweeds:

Mar2014_Caterpillar1

I was really surprised, as I hadn’t known I had any caterpillars, and this one was large. It has since absconded for purposes of pupating, and I have no idea where it’s gone! (I think maybe it’s a Malaysian caterpillar …)

But seeing that caterpillar made me realize that I’d better get some more milkweeds, just in case we get the same influx of egg-laying butterflies we had last year. So I bought four new plants (all the Mexican variety, Asclepias curassavica). These pictures show (1) the new Asceplias curassavica milkweeds, and (2) the native milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis, which, upon the advice of my fellow native gardener Debbie, I cut low to encourage denser growth:

Mar2014_Milkweeds3

Mar2014_Milkweeds2

Mar2014_Milkweeds1

I hope that’s enough for the butterflies!

Speaking of butterflies … I got a couple of shots of this visitor (who also laid a few eggs while she was here):

Mar2014_Butterfly1

Mar2014_Butterfly2

Finally, here are a few more views of the yard in its current state.

Mar2014_Grasses

Mar2014_PurpleThreeAwn

Mar2014_NorthEast1

Mar2014_Wildflowers1

Happy gardening until next time!

Early Early Spring Update

February 11, 2014

Well, it may not feel much like spring — high temps here have been in the low 60s — but the plants can sense the lengthening days and the more intense sunlight.  The wildflowers have been sprouting since December, and some are starting to bloom!

Let me make note of the fact that we are in the midst of a historic drought here in California — in the West in general. We’ve probably had all of four days of rain since November, most of it just drizzle. As a result, I’ve continued with my summertime watering regimen throughout the winter — usually, it’s not necessary as soon as the rains “take over”. Not this year. The experts are saying that a drought of this intensity has not been seen in 500 years (using tree ring data)! Needless to say, our agriculture is suffering greatly, and that means the rest of the country will start to feel it pretty soon — so much produce comes from here. Of course, most of our agriculture requires irrigation. There has been a lot of controversy over whether that’s a good idea — should the country be so dependent on farms in a drought-prone area? Nevertheless, agriculture is a huge industry here, and it’s taking a huge hit. Take a moment to spare a thought for our suffering farmers!

But back to more local matters — my garden! Here’s what we’re seeing in the front yard:

Feb2014_East1

As you can see, my Cleveland Sage (on the right) has grown magnificently since being pruned last fall. The plethora of plants at its foot are mostly Elegant Clarkias and other annual wildflowers. One of the Clarkias has produced its first blossoms:

Feb2014_ClarkiaCloseup

The two perrenials I planted in that area in the fall, the low-growing Bee’s Bliss Sage and the Saffron Buckwheat, seem to be doing well and have grown noticeably:

(1) Bee's Bliss Sage (2) Saffron Buckwheat

(1) Bee’s Bliss Sage (2) Saffron Buckwheat

The northeastern area of the yard is showing some growth:

Feb2014_East2

Notable here are:

(1) the mass of vegetation that includes Elegant Clarkias, annual Lupines, and the perrenial Scarlet Bugler and Margarita Bop Penstemons I planted last fall.

(2) the Allen Chickering Sage that I planted in the spring. I’m a little worried about its anemic growth. Plants grow very little in the summer, but I would expect to see a little more winter growth. I’m concerned it may not have become established — time will tell.

(3) the resurgent Canyon Prince Wild Rye in the background. This is a plant that looked ratty and disheveled in the summer, with many brown stems. In the fall, I coppiced it almost to the ground — and look at it now! It looks gorgeous!

Here’s a closer look at that part of the yard:

(1) Canyon Prince Wild Rye (2) Purple Three-Awn Grass

(1) Canyon Prince Wild Rye (2) Purple Three-Awn Grass

Here’s a view of the area near the birdbath:

Feb2014_East3

I trimmed back the Artemisia (in the foreground) last fall, and it looks wonderful! Behind it are the relatively new Buckwheat (the small upright stalks) and the Fragrant Pitcher Sage behind the birdbath, which has grown out magnificently since being pruned in the fall. It’s even got a blossom:

Feb2014_PitcherSage1

Here’s a clearer picture of the Pitcher Sage and the copious Cleveland Sage. Can’t wait until they come to life with blossoms!

Feb2014_CleveSage1

Then there’s the mound, which is filling in gradually (not as quickly as I’d like … but patience, patience!):

Feb2014_Mound1

Note here (1) the California Aster, which I pruned in the fall, and is continuing to spread, just the way I was hoping; (2) the Seaside Daisies, which are growing nicely to fill in their respective niches; and (3) the Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) that I planted in the fall, and which is growing nicely. It’s even got a few blossoms!

Feb2014_BlueEyedGrass

Then there’s the area near the house, consisting of mostly Coral Bells, Evergreen Currant (Ribes viburnifolium), the prostrate Yerba Buena (Satureja douglassii), and a Western Columbine (Aquilegia formosa). A new addition is an Aloe that I transplanted from the area near the Purple Three-Awn grasses — it was being engulfed by them! It’s taking the place of the potted Red Monkeyflower that, alas, did not make it.

Feb2014_Aloe

Here are the three native narrow-leaf milkweeds, Asclepias fascicularis, that I planted in the fall to replace the scarlet milkweeds that the caterpillars had eaten almost to oblivion:

Feb2014_Milkweeds1

I have to say, I am worried about these milkweeds: they seem very fragile! Their stems are weak, and much of each plant is virtually lying on the ground. Will they be able to support a large population of caterpillars? They seem much less robust than the scarlet milkweeds — maybe that’s why most native gardeners have that kind, even though they are not native! I may have to purchase some scarlet milkweeds to “supplement” these native ones. It just seems like a fully mature Monarch caterpillar — even one — would cause one of these narrow-leaf milkweeds to fall over!

It’s worth mentioning that a possible reason we are seeing so many Monarch butterflies in these parts is that the eastern strain of the species, the one that overwinters in Mexico,  is rapidly disappearing! The conjecture is that the increased use of GMO corn and soy crops that are resistant to the Roundup herbicide — and the consequent increase in the use of that herbicide — is wiping out the milkweed plants in the east and midwest. I don’t know if that is the reason we are getting so many Monarchs here, but I’m suspecting that it might be a factor.

Down closer to the street, I’ve added a potted Firesticks plant (Euphorbia tirucalli) to the grouping in front of the Wildlife Habitat sign:

Feb2014_Sign

Alas, it looks like my potted Ribes Malveceum (Chaparral Currant) has expired. I am not having good luck with this species! The one on my rear hill also did not make it.

Feb2014_Ribes

Finally, a quick look at the reliable West Side, which continues to click along with few problems. The Lilac Verbena (Verbena lilacina) has increased its blooming (it never completely stopped), and I have to say it is one of my favorite plants. It started to flop over a bit last summer, so I have propped it up here and there with stakes, and it still looks marvelous. It doesn’t present quite as tidy an appearance as it once did, but to me this only adds to its charm. It gives a somewhat riparian look to the area, along with the Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa) and the native grasses next to it.

Feb2014_West1

The Cleveland sage to the left of the fountain is growing marvelously. I coppiced the California Fuchsia between the fountain and the Cleveland Sage, and it is starting to grow back. This is not normally a prostrate fuchsia, but I find it has become one over the years — every time I prune it back, it grows back lower. For a gardener concerned with design, this is not a bad thing!

That’s it for now — on to spring!