Under the huge, leaning Monterey pines, we stumbled over a tangled mat of weedy vines. Juicy snails slumbered under broken clay flowerpots. Agapanthus flower stems stood headless above the tight clumps of strapping leaves; little piles of deer droppings told tattletale nearby. Ancient, treelike camellias grew in the dry shade beneath the pines, blooming red and pink, their double flowers browning with petal blight. This was my big backyard in Oakland Hills (Sunset zone 16) the project I had wanted for so long. I saw a perfect native plant garden in-the-making. My spouse foresaw sunburn, sweat, and big chiropractor bills ahead. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category
Supposedly, hitchhiking is illegal in California; yet, the fall season is filled with hitchhikers. You, your dog or your cat may each become unwitting accomplices in this illicit activity. A late summer or autumn hike through an open meadow, dense riparian growth or even thick chaparral will reveal these travelers looking for an easy ride. Fur filled with burrs, pant-legs covered in clinging seeds, socks painfully filled with foxtails. Fall is the time of harvest, but it is also the time for seeds– often enclosed within fruits– to search for a new destination to flourish and spread their genetic vigor. (more…)
Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a bunchgrass from Africa that is widely planted as an ornamental plant in portions of the United States with warm winters. It is a tough, vigorous plant that will tolerate adverse conditions of heat and drought. It does not appear to suffer from any pests or diseases, and many people appreciate its graceful seed heads produced in profusion over the spring and summer months.
The downside is that in California, Fountain Grass has no natural enemies and readily out-competes other plants. It is invasive, and if you plant it in your yard, you will soon have seedlings of Fountain Grass popping up wherever there is bare soil. It will even grow vigorously in the gaps between sections of concrete and bedrock of natural slopes. Its seeds are carried long distances in the wind, so if your neighbor has it in their yard, it will eventually end up in yours, and the nearby natural areas. If you are in a fire hazard area, it is especially dangerous, as it dries out early in the summer and becomes extremely flammable. (more…)
By Meghan Walla-Murphy
This article is part two in a four part series about seeds. To read the previous article, please click here.
The long languorous days of summer offer an opportunity like no other time of the year. The many day-lit hours present the possibility of intense growth and busy activity while warm sultry temperatures slow us down and beg us to take a siesta. We shed layers of clothes and amplify under the warming glow of the California sunshine. During summer humans are capable of both concentrated production and aimless wandering. We work and play. Our gardens bolt and need tending, but paradoxically we stand back and let the plants do their thing. A juxtaposition of vibrating energy and slow relaxation. (more…)
by Carolyn Longstreth
If you have ever admired a flowering buckwheat as it clung to a coastal cliffside, brightened a mountain slope or filled a sandy wash, you might consider celebrating the genus Eriogonum in your garden. With about 125 species native to California, buckwheats range from large woody shrubs to herbaceous perennials and subshrubs and even annuals. In the wild, buckwheats favor open sunny banks and rocky hillsides; in the garden, they need sun and a well-drained sandy soil.
Buckwheats bloom late in the growing season, offering fresh interest after spring and summer flowers fade. The simple leaves are often grayish green and hairy on the underside; round or flat clusters of small white, pink or yellow flowers appear at the tips of branched or radiating stalks. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators visit the flowers; birds and mammals relish the seeds. The flowers stay on the plant for many weeks, often drying to pleasing tan, cinnamon or dark brown shades. Since the stems are brittle, it’s best not to plant buckwheats where people or dogs will step on them. (more…)
By Meghan Walla-Murphy
(Part one of a four-part series about the physiology and life cycle of seeds) Part 2
As vernal equinox approaches and spring begins to take hold, hillsides, meadows, grasslands, and even gardens transform. Tender, bright green shoots overtake the brown dormancy of winter. New growth reaches for the sun as the days lengthen and temperatures rise. Winter and spring storms converge over California and drop precious and necessary moisture. And yet while our eye is drawn to the green above ground, our attention should be directed below, toward the seeds responsible for the freshness of spring. (more…)
When spoken, the word Artemisia rolls off the tongue with ease. This genus received its mellifluous moniker in honor of Greek Queen Artemisia whose name was in turn inspired by the Greek Goddess Artemis. But when faced with common names such as sagebrush, mugwort, wormwood and sandwort, gardeners may not be inspired to search these plants out in order to add them to their landscapes. However, California Artemisia species can make an ornamental and often aromatic addition to native habitat gardens. (more…)
What’s growing in your garden? It’s December and the miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) has sprung back to life all over my yard! I pulled some out where it was unwanted and thought ‘if only there was a soup I could put this in’. I went online and found a Lettuce Soup by Epicurious. Now I’ve tried the recipe using Miner’s Lettuce and it tastes great! Here you go:
Miner’s Lettuce Gourmet Soup
This soup is a great way to use lettuce in the winter! Any kind of potato and any salad greens, but I’d recommend Miner’s Lettuce!
Yield: Makes 4 servings / Active Time: 25 min / Total Time: 35 min
1 cup chopped onions, scallions, and/or shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup diced (1/3 inch) peeled potato
8 cups coarsely chopped miner’s lettuce (3/4 lb)
3 cups water (more…)