June 28, 2015

We plan, God laughs

Calliandra 'Sierra Starr.' 

Summer vacation got off to an odd start. There was/is a massive wildfire in the mountains. My tiresome cough became more tiresome. Plumbers turned the water off and spent two days on the roof of my house, looking for a faulty pipe. The Cactus and Succulent Society of America held its biennial conference a stone's throw away, and I missed the whole thing. 

On the other hand, IT IS RAINING on the fire right now. Rain! Last weekend I went to Reuben's Open Garden and had a terrific time. I have new meds for the cough. The plumbing issue is fixed (crosses fingers), and I have a garden to tend and nurseries to visit all summer long, and the Inter-City Show and Sale is only six weeks away. The dogs are happy to have me around. The cabin is still there. There are books to read and hikes to take and plants to repot and a Leap Second to celebrate this week, and over a month of summer vacation left. Life is fine.

Some shots from the last, thoroughly disorganized month or so: 

Calliandra 'Sierra Starr' again. Lovely pale branches, and wonderful flowers. A hummingbird magnet.

I hit the sale at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden — should have been there earlier in the day, but still found plants and pots to bring home.

Made a run up to the cabin to get things ready for my sister's summer visit. Stopped at the dam to take a photo before heading down the hill.

Waiting to be potted up: Trichocereus grandiflorus, top left; barberry hybrid from RSABG in the middle; Baja Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia hastata) on the right; my favorite salvia, S. pachyphylla, in the middle; and Echeveria 'Roundleaf' at the bottom.

Wish this were my place, but no... it's the Armstrong Garden Center down the street from Rancho Santa Ana. Succulents looking much better this year, and a better selection. All with neonicotinoid labels, unfortunately. That's an Agave ovatifolia north of center. I was tempted! Should really experiment with the 'cram-it' approach at home...

My Palo Verde (Parkinsonia aculeata) bloomed! Love the flowers. The smaller Palo Verde is also growing, um, fast (I hate to say "like a weed," but they are crazy common in these parts). In a year or two they should provide some nice filtered shade for my frying pan of a patio.

Blooming Yucca rostrata at Cherry Valley Nursery, a fave stop.

Epic fail :~(  I raised three little parryi pups from tiny nubs and they were doing so well... Damp May, hazy June, and then the Death Star (™Pam Penick) returned with heat and light at full blaze,  and after half a day of that, all three pups were fried. I might be able to save one, but I'm afraid the others are goners. Must build some arbors and create some shade.

And then, a little miracle! This Fouquieria splendens was leafless and dying: waterlogged roots, a pot with the wrong kind of soil, awful drainage. Last month I uprooted it, discovered the damage, and called Rob Roy MacGregor to see what, if anything, could be done. As you can see, the ocotillo bounced back (and is fully leafed out now, and sending out new shoots). Thanks, Rob! (Now I need a really big pot.)

Echeveria subsessilis (possibly 'Lime').

Clouds over the hills west of home. This country is green in winter, hot and dry and burned brown in summer, and I love it.

Not clouds. Took this photo near Sand Canyon Road, looking east at smoke from the Lake Fire. That pyramid-shaped mountain on the left is Mt. San Bernardino. Nearly 50 square miles of forest have burned. Hope it rains the rest of the week.

I love this NOID agave from the Granite Hill Nursery. Seeing what it might look like in a clay pot...

Goldflame Honeysuckle (Lonicera x heckrottii 'Goldflame'). Aw, I just love this one. Hope it isn't in too sunny a spot. Another hummingbird magnet.

Grevillea 'Long John' just keeps blooming away. The hummingbirds love this one, too.

And now to attack that pile of magazines next to the armchair. Spitting rain outside now — chance of thunderstorms the rest of the week. Hope a gentle rain falls on the Lake Fire area all week long. 

June 20, 2015

Lake Fire


Four years ago at about this time (almost midnight) I was driving back to Big Bear Lake after a night spent owling near Fish Creek, in the San Gorgonio Wilderness area of the San Bernardino National Forest. My fellow birders and I were hoping to see (or hear, more likely) a Flammulated Owl. That's a grown one in the photo above. So small! After prowling the forest roads for a while, we finally heard our owl calling in the old-growth conifers at Mission Springs. It was pitch dark — a wonderful night.

This owling trip has been on my mind the last couple days, because the whole area — the meadow I photographed on the drive in; the forest we traveled through; Aspen Grove trailhead (Violet-green Swallows, Dusky Flycatcher, Green-tailed Towhee...); Fish Creek (Western Tanager, White-headed Woodpecker, Mountain Chickadees, Common Poorwill...); Mission Springs, where we finally heard the little Flamm — all of it is on fire, burned, burning, gone up in smoke, gone up in flames. The Lake Fire ("Incident Description: Moderate Rate Of Spread With Active Torching And Crown Fire Runs") was 16,000 acres in size at last count, and just 15% contained. 

I have a cabin in the San Bernardino National Forest, and fires like this scare the crap out of me. I hope firefighters will stay safe. I hope cabins don't burn. My heart aches for the nestlings too young to fly, the mule deer fawns, the bear cubs. There is no good time for a forest fire, but a big fire at this time of year seems especially cruel. I hope as many of the forest dwellers as possible make it through safely.  

Wildhorse Creek and Wildhorse Meadows to the north, Hell For Sure Canyon to the south. We are not in New England. Aspen Grove, Fish Creek, and Mission Springs, where we heard the little owl, have all burned. Here's the InciWeb link again, and #LakeFire on Twitter.

May 18, 2015

Random: weather, garden, Gates sale

In the garden: Agave potatorum verschaffeltii with Lotus hybrid Parrot's Beak.

Unusual weather for May: foggy, cool, black skies this afternoon and misting a bit. More rain expected later this week! I'll take it. Down to the low 50s F this evening, humidity 92%. El NiƱo on the horizon? Maybe. I'm holding good thoughts — though for the most part my thoughts these days are caught up in the usual May/June maelstrom of students, school activities, finals, and other year-end concerns, oy.

Some photos:

More rain! The Gates Cactus & Succulent Society Annual Show and Sale was May 15-16 . It rained the first day. I drove over after work and spent a quick hour plant shopping. For super coverage of the show on Saturday, see Reuben's post over at Rancho Reubidoux.)

Agave horrida at the sale.

These were just a few of many tables, and many shoppers, at the sale. In the white tent, judges were making their final decisions...

Love these little guys. Someday, maybe...

My haul. A new type of Agave titanota, there in the middle. And at lower left in the small box, my find o' the day: Agave x arizonica, a beautiful hybrid between A. chrysantha × A. toumeyana v. bella.

Senecio radicans near and far.

Filling up. The pot in the background holds [you'll have to trust me on this] a new Rosa banksiae 'Lutea.'

Parrot's Beak.

Opuntia azurea.

Why I teach, reason the infinity. Reptile Whisperer C rescued this lovely alligator lizard from the Boys PE locker room — we turned her loose in the orange grove next door. I'm the bring-to person for lizards, snakes, spiders, frog skeletons, photos of dead birds... all the interesting stuff :~)

April 26, 2015

Rainy, beautiful weekend

Must buy more pots! Story of my life. Agave gypsophila (with two pups not shown) and Aloe elgonica (five pups in the box) resting up before repotting.

It was a perfectly beautiful Sunday, after an overcast Saturday and a stormy Saturday night. Everything bright and glittering, dozens of hummingbirds, blue sky, white cloudlets. At some point I remembered that the Huntington Spring Plant Sale was this weekend, and it's a measure of just how perfect the day was, that I thought, "Oh, darn! Eh, whatever." Such a nice day.

There are two Giant Swallowtail chrysalides in the plastic box -- one is hanging on the side closest to the camera. Wake up, little dudes, it's spring!

Above the retaining wall. Most of the rocks in this photo have been in the family for the better part of a century. What can I say — we like rocks.

There were four of them at the feeder when I picked up the camera. Wasn't fast enough to get all of them, darn it. Major hummingbird activity this morning.

And finally, a video of my dog helping in the garden. No, really — he helps. Who's a good boy? You are, Jasper, yes, you!! Here's Jaspie helping his flu/cold/bronchitis-stricken human clean up her act, with cameo appearances by Smoky and Lulu. Good dogs all.

April 9, 2015

Extra strength

From strength to extra strength, California. Terra cotta pipe is from Stephen Penn.

Turns out that industrial salvage may be what transforms a ragtag collection of potted succulents into a garden. Who knew? Anyhow, what a blast I had last Friday over at Stephen Penn's Art Garden. (Huge thanks to Reuben of Rancho Reubidoux for encouraging me to visit.) Stephen, Raul and the crew were busy preparing to move the Vintage Garden-Industrial-Architectural Salvage operation to a new home, but Stephen spent over an hour showing me around and uncovering all sorts of rusty treasures. He was incredibly generous with his time and his collection, and I can't wait to go back. (The new location is closer to me, yay! I'll post more details as I get them.)

I brought home a truckload of wonderful things, including some fabulous rocks, industrial tools, some pipes, a cart, a metal box to put on the cart, some sturdy blue metal shelves, a manhole cover, a surveyor's marker (I think), and a few smaller items for DIY projects. I'm still figuring out what to do with everything. 

Stephen added this black iron pipe thing to the stack o' purchases before I left. I put it on an old plant stand, and now it makes me think of a dressmaker's form from the 1800s:

In other news, I located my old Canon point-and-shoot. Don't adjust your screens — the blurry photo below was the first non-iPhone shot I've taken in over a year :~/

(How do I work this thing again?)

OK, that's a little better. Aloe erinacea, from the UCR sale.

"Hey, you!"

"Yeah, you. You talkin' to me?" Hummingbirds are feistier than ever.

Opuntia (santa-rita?), new growth.

Agave titanota. I love titanotas, and this may be my favorite of the eight or ten here.

Aloe suprafoliata at dusk and out of focus, but oh, that blue. Plant was acquired as a rescue by my local cactus and succulent club.

Finally, I am now a member of the 35% siblinghood. Conserve every drop of water you can, people, and pray/hope/meditate/hold good thoughts for rain. I'll get by all right with my rock lawn and my backyard that is nine-tenths patio, but when I look at photos of Hoov B's garden I could weep. Read this post, and the comments, over at Piece of Eden, for more on the drought and the mandate to cut water use. I thought of Tom Stoppard's play when I read the comments. Et in Arcadia ego: "Even in Arcadia, there am I."