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. 

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.