Sep 29, 2010

Universe to Me: Life is Good

I keep a list on the front page of this blog of every bird species I've spotted in (not near) my yard, since I consider it one of the truest joys in life to be favored with the company of avian friends. I haven't had the opportunity to update the list in a while, but I'm logging on to do so now. I am jobless at present, and while in some ways the freedom to find a new way of making a living is exciting, some days I can't help feeling a little weighed down by the fear of having to trade in the house for a cardboard box under the freeway. (The cats love cardboard boxes, so at least there's that.)  Well, today was one of those days and I was feeling pretty gloomy.  I dragged myself out to the porch to see what bills and bad news the mail would bring. As I opened the door I heard a rustling in the azalea. Wondering what kind of snake it would be this time (the hot weather seems to bring the serpentine friends down from the hills  in greater numbers), imagine my surprise when instead I saw the very bird I've most pined to host.  I've long had a soft spot 10 miles wide for the California quail, and I've always said, only a little jokingly, that my life would be complete if they ever visited the yard.

My life is indeed complete and the abundance of the universe knows no bounds.  The quail hen dashed out from under the azalea and gamboled under the half-leafless chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) for several minutes while I stood frozen on the porch. Then I snuck back inside and grabbed the camera. Dang, no card!  Found the card (whew), shoved it in the camera, ran to the window, and she was still there, under the Ribes, blending expertly with the tan, dried-out hummingbird sage. (People say hummingbird sage looks great all year if you water it weekly, but I just can't bring myself to use the water--the sage will come back with the rain in due time.)  

I took the best pictures I was able given the limitations of the window, and I was too scared to risk opening the door again, lest the betassled beauty fly away. I was just about to dash to the upstairs window to see if I could see any more (I was concerned not seeing her husband, since they seem to always be seen in pairs if not groups), when Mrs. Quail decided to take flight. As she did I saw at least three others lift off from the corner area of the yard.

I know some people are lucky enough to have regular quail visits, but while I do see and hear them in the surrounding hills, our house doesn't quite back up right to the hills, and the street has always seemed a bit of an asphalt Rubicon that I feared the sweet quail would never cross. But now they have.

Once they were gone and I finished mopping up my tears of gratitude, I went out to the shed and got a millet-heavy birdseed mix to spread generously around the whole yard. A humble invitation for the loveliest of creatures to return.  I hope they do. Oh, I hope they do.  I have Ceanothus, Baccharis, wild roses and Atriplex (common name: quail bush!), all shrubs quail are said to favor. So please make yourselves at home, my good, good friends. 

P.S. Not to slam the snakes. I'm lucky to have reptilian visitors too. I'm going to add a list of reptile sightings in the yard. It'll be shorter than the bird list, but aint it great living in the suburbs? 

Sep 27, 2010

Coloring Summer Part 2

Here are some more of the plants that bloomed for me in August and September. It is my theory that using groupings of these plants, and those in part 1 of this post, could obliterate the vicious rumor that California gardens have no color in summer. When fall planting time rolls around in a few weeks, I plan to increase the yard's inventory of these plants, and can't wait see how things look next August and September.

Solidago californica:

Madia elegans:

Heterotheca sessiliflora (admittedly, more spent blooms than fresh, but the fresh blooms do persistently keep appearing--they're out there even today, late September and 100 degrees):

Not a terrific picture here, I apologize, but I should mention Grindelia stricta var. platyphylla, which is a great-performing plant. Now, I had written a post a year or so ago about what a nemesis on the premises Grindelia turned out to be in my yard, but it is my belief that the monstrous, yard-taking-over plant was actually mislabeled at the nursery; luckily, I had already gotten a couple properly-labeled specimens from another nursery. I couldn't really go out there and say "Will the real G. stricta var. platyphylla please stand up," because the real plant stays quite low, whereas it was the impostor Grindelia that stood up and towered over everything. It's all gone now, but the real player remains, well-behaved and pleasingly late-flowering.

A little aside on Grindelia: another very lovely and well-behaved species is G. hirsutula, which is one of the first things to bloom for me in the spring.  Right now, the two I have are looking more than a little dormant, so I am worried that they may be actually, er, dead...time will tell. I hope they revive because they are an early-spring highlight.   But I digress. Back to the late summer blooms:

Our old friend Eschscholzia californica.  I don't know how or why, but it does come back for a fall encore, whether it gets any water or not:

Linanthus grandiflora. This guy, too, is an annual, but I'll be danged if it doesn't bloom all summer. I definitely need more of it next year.

These next two don't count as summer blooms, exactly, because the blooms have dried completely, but I leave them on and still think they are cool-looking.

Eriogonum umbullatum:

Gnaphalium californicum:

And finally, I seem to have failed to get photographic documentation of this, but the Sisyrinchiums, both bellum (blue-eyed) and californicum (yellow-eyed), actually bloomed nicely in a couple places right through summer. It was, however, dependent on water--in both instances, they were near birdbaths that I empty and refill regularly. Still, goes to show that they can be all-summer bloomers if coaxed. Probably true of quite a few plants that otherwise take a nap for the latter half of summer.

Sep 7, 2010

Coloring summer

Sorry I've been off line for a while. I was working on quite a lengthy post, which I was just deciding to divide into two parts, detailing the many plants that have flowered in the yard over this last month. But I'm afraid I made a silly and catastrophic error and deleted the whole thing. Yes. I can't quite see reconstructing it all, so I'm just going to re-paste in the pictures, along with names, which I am not going to spell-check, so this'll be a little test for me. Sorry about the lack of descriptive text. The gist of my post was going to be that, contrary to popular myth, a lot of California natives do bloom late in the summer, and if one were to mass these plants together (which I have not done as yet), then one could have quite a colorful, myth-busting yard.  Please let me know if you would like more info on any of the plants; I can certainly provide it, but not just at the moment, and I don't want to delay posting another day longer. Ahh, blogging.

Epilobium canum

Monardella macrantha 'Marian Sampson'

Satureja mimuloides

Achillea millefolium (really a spring bloomer but late in my yard for some reason)

Salvia 'Pozo Blue' hybrid

Aster chilensis (its name has changed but I haven't learned the new one yet)

Eriogonum fasciculatum

Eriogonum nudum

Eriogonum grande rubescens (very recent photo)

Eriogonum grande rubescens (a month ago)

Eriogonum grande rubescens planted with Monardella villosa

I guess I will do this in two posts.  There are plenty more. The next post will feature the more yellow and white end of the summer bloom spectrum.