Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice is one of my favorite days of the entire year.  Surprised?  Well, it's not so much the actual "day" as it is what the day represents.  From this point forward the days will begin to be longer and longer--spring is just around the corner.  Well maybe that's a slight overstatement, but it always helps to dream.  I looked around the garden today and reminded myself that even in winter, there are some sturdy plants which are growing.  Others have retreated to their subterranean winter home.  As a bonus there are even a few blossoms (pansies).  This winter I have many of my small tender perennials snugly tucked into a small greenhouse on the patio; the larger ones have taken residence in the garage.  On warm, sunny days I raise the garage door so that they can bask in the sun's rays.  On cue my Christmas cactus (although protected indoors) is producing beautiful fuchsia blooms, and the fennel is spreading its feathery wings in defiance of the cold.  The multiple varieties of kale also enjoy the chill.  One of my surprises is the Ornamental Catmint which is still beautifully green as is the Mexican Hat.  Even the Pipevine continues to grow alongside the Japanese Holly Fern and other hardy ferns.  The Sorrel and Arugula also enjoy the frosty evenings.  So welcome Winter Solstice! 

the bashful Pansy brings color and joy to my day
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Artemisia

Fennel

Frilly Kale

Tassel Fern

Pansy

Holly Fern

Kale

Christmas Cactus
Pipevine
Sorrel

Friday, October 28, 2011

THE LAST FLOWERS OF SUMMER

Candlestick Tree Seedpod
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Purple Datura Seedpod

Angelique Clematis Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Red Yucca Seedpod

Swan Milkweed Seedpod

Mexican Sunflower Seeds

Mallow Seedpod

Antelope Horns Milkweed Seedpod

Poppy Seedpod

Dill Seeds

After a blistering summer that extended well into September, we are now facing the threat of an early frost--that dreaded time for gardeners.  First the hummingbirds left, then the Monarch butterflies, and now my pretty flowers are about to succumb to “Jack Frost.”  Well, that means it’s time to harvest seeds or pull out the catalogs and begin planning for next year.  Seeds and seedpods are amazing structures.  They demonstrate an astonishing ability to perpetuate the species.  Moreover, they have an incredible beauty all their own.  The flowers may be going away, but they’ve left a marvelous reminder--their seeds.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sedums: Love the One You're With

Emerging Sedum Rosettes
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 Sedum Rosettes Expanding
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Ask me to name my favorite plant, and I may not always give you the same answer.  Actually the season has a great influence on my choice.  It’s a little like the Stephen Stills song “Love the One You’re With.”  In early spring, one of the very first signs of life is the dainty sedum rosette that pokes its way through the chilly soil.   At that season there are very few signs of life, and suddenly there it is—my old friend coming around for another visit—the sedum.  The sedum rosette slowly extends into a rather nondescript stalk and leaves.  All summer it stares down the sun, needing very little water.  Then when the calendar turns to autumn, the sedum begins to develop a flower bud.  It grows and grows and finally flourishes a flashy smile.  Its sweet nectar is beguiling to all sorts of pollinators, and when other flowers are fading, the sedum is fresh and showy.  So what's my favorite plant in autumn?  "Love the One You're With."  Sedum is always a loyal friend and worth a place of honor in your xeric garden.   

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

SWEET ANTICIPATION

Plumeria Flower Stalk Emerging
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Growing


Up to Nine Inches


Remember that ballad from Carly Simon -- “Anticipation?”  That’s exactly the feeling generated by my beautiful Plumeria.  A Hawaiian native, the Plumeria really, really doesn’t like winter.  They much prefer sunny life on the beach with cool breezes gently ruffling their leaves.  Nevertheless the Plumeria is a good sport if given a little TLC.  Mine was a “pass-along” cutting from three years ago.  It looked like a giant brown asparagus.  I carefully followed instructions for rooting this lifeless-looking specimen, and just when I had almost given up all hope, it began to show signs of life.  During the summer it sends out beautiful  large leaves that always drop in the winter, even with protection in the house.  Every spring the process begins anew.  Plumeria love the heat and even the morning sun, and they produce delicately perfumed blossoms which are used to make the leis in Hawaii.  The flower stalk is a teaser, however.  Remember Carly’s “keeping me waiting.”  The Plumeria keeps you waiting and grows ever so slowly until finally it begins to explode with beautiful, fragrant flowers.  No wonder this beautiful flower represents the Hawaiian symbol of “aloha” and affection.   Oh sweet anticipation!
First Bloom

Worth the Wait

Saturday, September 24, 2011

THE MONARCHS ARE COMING!

video
Monarchs nectaring on Frostweed in my garden
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The weather is moderating, the leaves are beginning to change colors, and THE MONARCHS HAVE STARTED THEIR FALL MIGRATION.  Hopefully you have nectar plants for these flying wonders.  In my garden they are feasting on Lantana, Tithonia, Frostweed, and others.  They also like the nectar from the Milkweed flowers; however, they are unlikely to deposit any eggs there.  All their energy is needed for the long flight to the mountains in Mexico where they overwinter.  The Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains travel to Mexico, while those west of the Rockies have a southern California roosting area.  This migration and overwintering effort is extraordinary.  While the usual lifespan of a butterfly is about two weeks, the lifespan of this migratory group is well over six months.  They are bigger, stronger, and even brighter.  Eventually I hope to visit the fascinating Oyamel fir forests in Mexico to witness this wonder firsthand!  In the meantime, I will revel in the fact that THE MONARCHS ARE COMING!
Monarch nectaring on Tithonia
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Monarch nectaring on Bog Sage
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Monarch nectaring on Bog Sage
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Monarch nectaring on American Basket Flower
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Monarch nectaring on Frostweed
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Monarch nectaring on "Silver Frost" Buddleia 
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Sunday, September 18, 2011

THE TWEETING WILL FALL SILENT

Ah, sweet artificial nectar!
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Wonder what flavor this is.
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Hmm, it's really quite tasty.
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Okay buddy, don't even think about it!
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I can see all those guys from here.
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It's going to be quite a flight!
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I know that just any day my garden will fall suddenly quiet when my tiny twittering visitors return to their other home.   Since early spring I have enjoyed the constant buzz and chatter among three tiny hummingbirds.  Hummers arrive every spring and provide great joy for several months.  Then in August they start “bulking up” for their long journey south.  Of course they also expend lots of energy in their territorial guarding of favorite blooms and feeders.  They have multiple expressions.  Sometimes it seems as if the twittering is exclaiming “hey, here I am; look at me.”  Other times it may be “get away from that feeder NOW, it’s mine.”  Their aggressive flight and reckless maneuvers amaze and sometimes frighten those in their path.  It’s been fun, but I know soon the garden will again be silent.