March 19, 2017

Season's Greetings

The Calliandra hybrid 'Sierra Starr' went from bare to blazing overnight. 
Click photos to embiggen.

I'm so glad it's spring. You all know what winter was like, and there are no words for how grateful we Californians are for the rain and snow. However. When the weather gets wet and cold (lowest this winter here was around 26 F), I need to protect some plants. And then I need to un-protect them when the sun comes out. Dozens are moved under the patio roof, and another dozen or so are moved inside. This is what my yard looks like, all frost cloth and plastic sheeting and upside down nursery pots, off and on and off and on, from November until early March:

Ferocactus kindergartners under there somewhere. 

Precipitation shots. These guys were on their own:

Agave x leopoldii

Mason Valley Cholla, Pink Teddy Bear Cholla
Cylindropuntia fosbergii

Opuntia basilaris hybrid 'Baby Rita.' 'Baby Rita' is standing up straight now. Some opuntias stage a swoon in cold weather.

"Opuntia sp. 'Old Mexico' appears to be a spineless selection of Opuntia gomei, a native just barely to the southernmost coast of Texas and more abundantly down into Tamaulipas. The cultivar name comes from Helen Wynans, a cactus dealer in Brownsville in the 1970's and 80's," says Mountain States Wholesale Nursery. 'Old Mexico' is a favorite of mine - this one was started from a cutting gifted to me at Riverside's legendary, now closed, much missed Mexican Hat Cactus Nursery. 

Lovely Aloe microstigma bloomed for me last year, but not this time around. I've given away all but a handful of aloes - they hate the winter here, and burn in the summer.

I thought the cold, wet weather would never end, and then, overnight, everything started to wake up. The foothills began to turn green - greener than they've been for years. I drove up to El Dorado Ranch Park for a morning hike with a view. (It was 33 F before the sun came over the ridge.) El Dorado Ranch is a beautiful open space preserve a few miles away off Oak Glen Road, with miles of hiking trails through the foothill chaparral. I still fantasize about having a little ranchito (horses, chickens, a donkey...) in a setting like this:

Friend Gerhard Bock stopped by on his way to Palm Springs, and we checked out the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center and Granite Hill Nursery. Visit Gerhard's blog for great photos of Jurupa. I snapped a favorite - this is Ferocactus pilosus, the Mexican Fire Barrel:

On the way back to my place we stopped to visit Rob Roy MacGregor, a Riverside plantsman whose greenhouses are just... well, look at this beautiful specimen:  

Agave victoriae-reginae 'White Rhino'

Have to add a couple photos from other road trips. The ridiculous and the sublime:

Pottery Barn's display of plastic succulents, oy.

The most fiery Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' I've ever seen, at a business off the 10 freeway in Yucaipa. Incredible winter stress color. I need to ask for a cutting (though I'm afraid the plant would freeze and die at my elevation).

The Meyer lemon tree lost most of its winter fruit to the cold and wet, but the tree itself is green, thriving, and ready to explode with blooms. Yesterday I heard my first-of-season bee. The tree will be roaring with them soon. I managed to salvage this trio:

The mission fig and the pomegranates are leafing out:

Agastache mexicana 'Red Fortune' is seen here leaning on a cactus I'm more and more convinced is a saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea). It was unlabeled but sold as a cardón (Pachycereus pringlei). For reference, that's a cardón to its left, much skinnier and actually just an inch shorter than its stouter pot mate. I need to repot that  cardón:

And here we are this morning. Birdsong, yellow Lady Banks (Rosa banksiae 'Lutea') in bloom, coffee at hand, and my good boy ready for his after-breakfast snooze. Oh spring, I love you so:

Outtake, from earlier. (Cat over there? Gotta scratch. Walker incoming! Plan for the afternoon: toss everyone in the truck and visit that good friend with an acre of lawn.) Hope your Sunday and your spring are wonderful!

March 13, 2017

Four Shaw Agaves

Agave shawii at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center.

Plantsman Gerhard Bock of the terrific Succulents and More blog made a dash to SoCal last weekend, and we met over at the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center to check out the plants and the views. We both spent some time admiring two variegated stands of Agave shawii.

Agave shawii is more common in the wild in Baja California than it is here in Alta Cali, where most of the plant's native habitat has been paved over. Here's a distribution map. And here is a page from Calflora comparing shawii's ideal growing conditions to the inland location where I took these photos. Shaw agaves don't like inland heat, and they burn in full sun. At Jurupa, though, conditions (sloping ground, filtered shade) seem to be ideal. The plants Gerhard and I saw last week were beautiful.

 The agave in the next photo had a trunk, and towered over his kinfolk:

The variegation on the plant below was wonderful. Hard to tell from this photo, but most of the plants in the colony seemed to be variegated:

I have a little, variegated shawii of my own, acquired a couple years ago via trade with Riverside succulent expert Rob Roy MacGregor. Hope it looks this good someday! Be sure to check out Gerhard's blog for more terrific photos from Jurupa.

November 12, 2016

Cry, the Beloved Country

Well, there's that: we're not apartheid South Africa. At least not yet, anyway. Rough week!

Good suggestions. Here's Part Two:

A photo posted by vinewinenyc (@vinewinenyc) on

These are suggestions from NYC. I expect there are many other worthy organizations, activist groups, artists, journalists — some local, some California-centric — that could use support: the local library is high on my list.

You might consider joining others in support of indigenous rights, our water, and our climate on November 15.

Feeling paranoid? (And perhaps you should be, all things considered...) This link is for you.

And this, from Chris Clarke:

In case his words get lost in the shuffle, I'll repeat them:

"This morning I saw a little blade of big galleta grass coming up a foot from the rest of the plant. It is such a small thing. It has so little effect on anything. But there are millions of clumps of big galleta grass in the desert. Each one sending out one shoot binds a little soil, sequesters a little carbon. Working together, they heal the earth."

Forward together, friends.

September 21, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Salvage, and rain for ten minutes

How much rain did we get? Enough to wash the dust off the leaves of the orange tree, but not enough to wash the trickle-down mud off the leaves of plants below the orange tree. Used the Dramm wand for that. But it was real rain, and that was good enough. Gorgeous sunset last night, and beautiful cloudy day today.

The dark rock in the middle of this photo has been in the family forever. Pallet is from the feed store, circular saw blade from a local salvage/recycle yard, and hanging pots from a long-ago summer in Guanajuato. The manzanita branch was rescued from a lot clean-up near the cabin in Big Bear. Plants: Opuntia 'Santa Rita' on the left, with stonecrop 'Dragon's Blood'; a little Agave bovicornuta; Aloe erinacea (one of the few survivors of an aloe purge, since I can bring him inside for the winter); a cereus monstrose cultivar, one of six pieces a nice gent gave to me after he'd pruned the parent plants; and an Agave utahensis. Below them: Agave isthmensis on the left; little Opuntia basilaris brachyclada (a California endemic native to the foothills of the San Gabriels and the San Bernardinos); and down in the lower right corner, an Agave 'Sierra Mixteca.' The bougainvillea on the right is called 'Camarillo Fiesta,' just the kind of fantasy-of-Old-California name that would pull me in, but I love it for the pink and peach bracts.

This is the first blog post I've written since I retired. I remember blog-writing as an activity hobbled by time-constraint stress, and suddenly it's calm and restful. Amazing. During my last, busy year at work I bought a tablet, which is great for news and Instagram and falling asleep in an armchair at the end of the day, but unimaginable for blogging, at least for me. I want to get back to this.

I mentioned Instagram: you can see my photos here, or of course via the app. The IG crowd now includes Denise of A Growing Obsession, Loree of Danger GardenPam of DiggingReuben of Rancho Reubidoux, and Gerhard of Succulents and More, to name just a few familiars. It's a good bet that your favorite landscape designers, nurseries, nursery owners, shops, national parks, botanical gardens, potters, bird lovers, photographers, and garden authors are on Instagram, along with many other terrific accounts. Warning: time sink.

The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum, where she writes today about life's fluctuations. Perfect!

May 20, 2016

Not drowning but waving

Everything is crazy busy right now, but in a few weeks I'll be tacking a "re" in front of the just plain "tired," and the pups, the garden, the birds and the blogs will, I hope, be glad to see more of me. I've certainly missed them all. In the meantime, a couple more shots from Instagram.