August 10, 2015

Summer vacation

At the cabin. Rainy afternoon in the San Bernardino National Forest, and a manzanita in a dart of sunlight.

Speed blogging tonight. Photos from a summer that was lazy and happy and busy all at once.

Metcalf Meadow, up the road.

Salvia pachyphylla at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in Big Bear Lake.  

A work shed on the Big Bear Xeriscape Garden Tour. (The garden was wonderful, too.)

Back home in the foothills.

Aloe karasbergensis.

Agave potatorum var. verschaffeltii.

Pomegranate bloom on a young tree, a volunteer from the school garden.

Objets trouvés.

What I saw last week when I went to buy a new kitchen faucet...

And look what was still there today!

July 28, 2015

Quote for the day / Que te vaya bien, Emily

Runner-up: Elizabeth Barrett Browning. I use GIMP.

Here's the quote in context:

My friend Scott Calhoun, who designs gardens in Tucson and knows about drought, once said to me (quoting someone else, and I’m sorry I’ve forgotten who), “How do you know it’s drought-tolerant if you water it?” 

And here's the source: The No-Water California Garden by Amy Stewart, over on Garden Rant. Amy lives and gardens in Eureka, California, which apparently does not share SoCal's monsoon season. (Hope she waters her trees.)

That last link reminds me that Emily Green, who needs no introduction to SoCal gardeners, is moving to the East Coast. We're not taking the news well.

See some photos of Emily's Altadena garden here. Her blog is here. Her influence is everywhere, though I think she'd protest that most of us (cough*I own a leaf blower*cough) don't seem to have learned a thing. California will miss her.

July 15, 2015

Garden, late afternoon

Before dusk.

"Summer afternoon" is just fine, thanks, but when it comes to the most beautiful words in the English language, "garden" and "early evening" and "dusk" are at the top of my list, right up there with "cabin," "western tanager" "orange grove" and "beagle puppy."

Think how many plant-related names would be on a Most Beautiful Words list. Chaparral. Sweet brier. Sage. Tall grass prairie. Cloud forest.

Speaking of dusk, or near-dusk, one of my favorite times in the garden is when the dreamy golden hour is morphing into the heure bleue and colors are beautiful, and the light is glorious. (A million iPhone shots used up, trying to catch it. In the photo above I'd just turned on the patio light.  West is to the left, and at this time of year the sun sets in an excellent spot.) Everything about the garden seems magical, and the amazing light fills my heart right up.

See the orange square in the background? As if you could miss it. It's a big metal street sign that I picked up for a few bucks at a local salvage yard. It says:


which seemed like a nice thing for the garden, as opposed to, say:


which was also available, in a much smaller size. I have no idea what I am going to do with the giant orange Prepare to Stop. It's leaning against the potting bench at the moment. Prepare to Pot? We'll see.   

July 14, 2015

Heartbreak Hotel

The fledgling.

This poor youngster landed on the cabin deck early last week. Parent birds keep an eye on fledglings like this one for some time after they leave the nest, bringing them food and doing what they can to help keep their offspring safe, but every so often there are extenuating circumstances (Fire Department to the Rescue! Happy ending!) and parents aren't around to help. This very young Red-breasted Sapsucker flew in at about nine in the morning, called for his family, preened a bit, pecked at the post, and looked tired. After a while he tucked his head under a wing and slept for a bit.

How I wish I'd offered him some food and water. But no, I was letting nature take her course [kicks self] and didn't want to frighten the parent birds, if they were nearby. They weren't. After several hours he launched away, fell to the ground, and died. 

I felt as if my heart would break, but a deceased fledgling can sometimes be a tiny bit of a deal, so like a good citizen scientist I placed the little guy's mortal remains in a baggie and put the baggie in a paper bag in the freezer. He'll go to legendary bird man Gene Cardiff at the San Bernardino County Museum. Mary Freeman, field trip leader for L.A. Audubon, was at the cabin on Saturday and wanted to take the fledgling to Kimball Garrett at the L.A. County Museum of Natural History, but I said no.  He's going to Gene. The fledgling will "play a vital role in advancing scientific knowledge," as the Smithsonian says. And his tag will always have my name on it, which is maybe the closest thing to immortality a provincial birder can hope for.

Side note: museum collections are awesome. They give me hope for humanity.

Local museums are usually happy to take bodies of wild critters of interest, provided said bodies are in good condition and have been frozen since the critter died. In other words, no mangled remains of something that has been lying on the road for a few days, ick. Unless it's an Archaeopteryx. Use common sense.

And finally, this was a new yard bird for me at the cabin. Such a sad way to add to the yard bird list, but at least it wasn't as bad as watching your life Mountain Quail being killed by a rattlesnake :~(

Here's a grown Red-breasted SapSucker, photographed by terrific local birder Tom Benson. I tell myself that the little one's spirit is having a great time flying around bird heaven.

Red-breasted Sapsucker

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 Agave 'Mateo' (hybrid, possibly between A. bracteosa and A. lophantha) from the Granite Hill Nursery. Big thanks to Hoov B in comments for the ID! 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.