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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Butterflies fill the San Fernando Valley

These butterflies are all over the Valley right now. You can't look anywhere without seeing 10-15 of them flitting through the air. I haven't seen a hatch like this in years, and then, it was only out in the Palm Springs area.

University of California, Irvine has this page with pictures and more information.

Migration: Painted Lady butterflies are often seen migrating northward through Orange County (and elsewhere in the western United States) in February, March and April. A notable migration occurred in 1973. The butterfly was unbelievably abundant in Orange County on February 18 and 19, 1973 and it continued to fly in great numbers through April. The butterflies were always seen flying north to northwest. Larvae were so common in the city of Orange that in late April the city sprayed a vacant lot literally infested with the larvae. The spraying was in response to complaints by homeowners that the larvae were turning swimming pools black with their bodies, in addition to feeding on numerous ornamentals.

There is lots more information to be found using this Google Search on Painted Lady

As well as this story, Butterflies invading the Valley, from the LA Daily News.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

California native plants used by California butterflies

This is a great resource for California or western states gardeners looking to attract butterflies to their garden. Individual plant species are matched to the larvae and adult butterflies that feed on them. The page also includes many photos of both butterflies and plants.

California native plants used by california butterflies...

This page shows which California butterflies use which California native plants. To get more details on a plant or for ordering information just click on the plant links. Plant sites give growing requirements pictures and prices.( If there is no link on the plant it is because we do not carry it.) To get more detailed information on butterflies and for scientific names, click on the butterfly links. If there is no link on a butterfly it is because they have not bee written yet. Sorry.

(Via del.icio.us/tag/gardening.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Basics of Wildlife Gardening

This link is a nice overview of the considerations that go into creating a garden that is attractive, and sensitive to the needs, of wildlife. Even the most urban lot can attract wildlife -- witness my nightly visits by opossums. Birds are easily attracted, as well. With just a few, simple modifications, you can bring a new depth of life to your backyard paradise.

Native Plants - The Basics of Wildlife Gardening

Weblog: Native Plants

Source: The Basics of Wildlife Gardening

Link: http://nativeplants.blogspot.com/

Wild creatures, like people, have four basic needs: space within which they can find food, water and shelter. The goal of wildlife gardening in an urban or small acreage setting is to provide these needs within the confines of a relatively small area. It’s like developing a Wildlife Field of Dreams: create the habitat and they will come!

(Via PubSub: gardening.)

Garden Pleasures

Oh indeed, the pleasures of other people's gardens. Karen Moline in
NYT Travel Style Magazine sums it up wonderfully. I often find myself more relaxed in other people's gardens, quietly sipping an iced tea with no thoughts of mulch pruning or raking. It is a sad state of affairs that we can become so engrossed with our work that we don't take the time to enjoy what we have.

Let's make a pledge today to let the trees grow, the roses fade and the weeds jump, if only to spend a little time in the garden simply sitting and thinking...or maybe just sitting.

Be well!

(Note: Journalisimo is a wonderful site about fine pens, papers and the joy of using both. Worth a visit all on its own. -- Douglas)

Writing in Other People's Houses

I only knew that the house and grounds felt enchanted. The garden was ablaze with old roses. My many guests and I climbed nearby Templar ruins, stuffed ourselves with cabecou and cherries as fat as Ping-Pong balls and drank vats of plonk while waiting for the nightly parade of sheep in front of the house. The sheepdog yelped and nipped. The shepherd followed his flock -- in his car. Then we watched the bats circle in the endless twilight and agreed that there was nothing more relaxing than sitting in someone else's garden, unfettered by the obligation to deadhead the roses.

(Via Journalisimo | Back to Analog.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Stuff: Fiskars PowerGear Pruner

As I have headed back into the garden recently, I remembered how much I like my Fiskars PowerGear Pruner. These have lasted for a long time with just a little sharpening every now and then. When I do the big rose pruning job at the end of each year, these are the pruners I want in my hand.

The bottom handle rotates as you close your hand and this helps to reduce the odd hand movements and stress that traditional pruners can cause. Even more, this tool allows me to attack much larger stems and branches than I probably should. I have never come close to breaking the blades or breaking them in any other way.

I love it when I find a tool that works. Sometimes I make the common mistake of buying a cheap product instead of something in the middle of the price curve. I am always disappointed when I do that and I have to remind myself that certain products are worth their price, even if you have to pay a little more for them.

You can find more reviews and information via the Amazon link to the right or at Fiskars web site at: http://www.fiskars.com/.

Monday, March 21, 2005

A Guide to Herbaceous Perennial Gardens in the United States and Canada

Looking for gardens to visit across the US? This guide, provided by the Perennial Plant Associations lists information about hundreds of gardens, botanical gardens and more.

A Guide to Herbaceous Perennial Gardens in the United States and Canada

This booklet is based on surveys being conducted in the United States and Canada by the Education Committee of the Perennial Plant Association since 1985. We are pleased to present the 5th edition of “A Guide to Herbaceous Perennial Gardens in the United States and Canada” with many new additions and revisions of gardens in the States and in Canada.

Our objectives are to identify locations of existing demonstration/display gardens accessible to the public where people can learn more about herbaceous perennial plants. We are committed to provide the ultimate consumers, the serious gardeners with the kind of information that leads to successful experiences with herbaceous perennials. We are also committed to our members for promoting the increasing use of herbaceous perennials in both public and private gardens.

Click the link above for more information!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A little work

Not exactly gardening work today, but somewhat related. A quick trip to OSH up the street and I bagged some supplies I needed. The first task was to rebuild the clothesline out back. We get a lot of use out of this nearly year-round, but over the last several years the ash tree anchoring one end of it had grown entirely around the rope holding it. I had been kind in wrapping the rope in an old piece of garden hose to keep it from cutting into the bark, but I didn't watch it closely enough to keep it from be absorbed into the tree. This time I made the anchor point much looser around the tree to allow for much growth.

To re-tension the rope, I un-did my square knots, one of the few knots that allow you to easily unwrap them. I then added a little screw tensioner or turnbuckle to the anchor point so I could tighten it further.

The second job was preparation for keeping the garden outside, where it belongs, as Spring and Summer arrive. The screens in my office windows were here when we bought this house 9 years ago and were falling apart. They didn't fit the windows tightly and their were any number of holes. After about an hour I had turned some generic frames in to relatively decent screens..

It has been misting here all day, even raining at times, but it has been a wonderful day to be in the garden. I set up a table under the patio shed roof just outside the back door, so I was out of the wet, but still in the garden. The squirrels were coming right up to our feet to get the peanuts and bird seed I put under the shelter of the patio roof whenever it rains. They sat their happily munching away as Joe and I used the hacksaw to cut the screen parts. The birds were sining in other parts of the garden,too.

Overall, we have a very productive and yet, relaxing day.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More blooms

Not to make the folks over at Cold Climate Gardening any more jealous, but here are a few more pictures from the garden. The Nasturtiums are going strong, the roses are beginning to pop and our lovely Japanese Maple is putting on its spring finery. I love the red leaves. They will come back again in the Fall, too. If I had a chance to build my own garden from scratch, these maples would certainly be a large part of it.

I couldn't get a good picture, but the Clytostoma Calistagoides vine, Lanatana and some Freesia are also blooming. Of course, by the time most of the colder gardens are just getting started, mine will already be heading into its Summer dormancy and looking more than a little ragged.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Border-ing on Beauty

I came across this beautiful border on my afternoon walk through the neighborhood today. This yard always features some sort of "wild" planting and catches my eye with the changing seasons. It certainly is a change from the typical grass or ivy borders that encompass the rest of the neighborhood.

Click for larger image

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Flowers in a Can

Flowers in a Can

For the gardener who is suddenly "sans jardin", Mousseshop.com sells these Plants in a Can. Simply open, water and set in the sun and your plant starts growing in an attractively decorated container.

(Via Readymade Magazine.)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Sitting and thinking

After finishing all my morning errands I decided to return to the home office, but the blustery wind and warmer weather convinced me I didn't want to sit inside. I pulled up a comfy garden chair, side table and reading material and started re-filling the creative well.

Of course, when you are in your own garden, all the things that need done can catch your eye. After a bit of reading I noticed the Aralia was tipping over in a drunken fashion in the wind. The old growth was top heavy -- and not particularly pretty -- so snip, snip off came the top. Much better. Bushier and greener with the younger, more delicate and serrated edged leaves predominating.

A little more reading and one of our friendlier squirrels came to visit. Despite my close proximity, she (I think) scampered up the small pine tree and settled into the one feeder officially dedicated to the squirrels. Not that they don't invade the other feeders as well, but this one has no impediments to their use. We sat and chatted for a while until a large-ish limb broke off one of the Carrotwood trees (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) and toppled into the back corner, knocking over a decorative lantern with a large, metallic crash. I couldn't leave it lying there, of course, so another quick snip, snip and it was off to the garden bin.

I had little bit of time before my son returned from school (and we had to head out to baseball practice), so the squirrel and I had a few more minutes of quiet contemplation. It seems so silly that I have to remind myself to enjoy the garden, but the pressures of everyday life can simply get in the way sometimes.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes

Suburban Safari by Hannah Holmes

Just finished this book and thought you all might enjoy it. We garden for a variety of reasons...beauty, involving ourselves in nature, environmental concerns or just plain relaxation. Whatever our reason, though, we change the world around us, for better or worse.

In this book, Hannah Holmes takes us to her yard in Portland, Maine as she delves into her garden the way others would research a delicate ecosystem in some remote jungle. We learn about her crows, her squirrels and a host of other fauna that share her property. While Holmes delves into some environmental issues, she always does it with and understanding that there are 2 (or 3 or 4 or 100) effects to every action we choose and sometimes doing good ends up having a bad result down the road. It is a quandary at the level of the Sphinx's riddle to Oedipus.

Still, we garden and, in doing that, attract various forms of wildlife to our yards and gardens.

Suburban Safari is a great read and feels as if you sharing the stories with the author over a nice cup of tea, while Cheeky the chipmunk runs into her lap to steal seeds from a cup.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Grassy Cleanup

This morning we tackled the grass-filled rose bed in the front garden that I posted a few days ago. Thankfully, all the rain we had kept the soil soft and easy to work. My "wiggle-hoe" did a decent job, although there was a lot of pulling and pushing on the bigger clumps of grass. I shouldn't have let the bed go so long without weeding, but I was afraid of trying to work when it was too wet for fear of compacting the soil even worse than usual.

In 2 areas, along the gravel medians of the driveway and the gravel street-side parking area, I am experimenting with simply mowing the grass and see if it will retain any sort of acceptable look. I normally hoe these areas to remove the weeds, but, honestly, it is too much work for too little reward. We'll see how it works as the summer progresses. At least Joe gets a kick out of pushing our old-fashioned reel mower. After mowing an acre of grass every week when I was a kid, I never want to face it again, unless it is from the back of an air-conditioned, tractor-sized mower in a 5 acre (or more) field. (SMILE).

The Taming of the Band-Aid

I came across this web site via Cold Climate Gardening. Watching someone else restore their garden is a great way to learn about your own. Their attention to detail and excellent photos make the site a wonderful visit. I have subscribed to their RSS feed so I can keep up with their challenges and successes.

The Taming of the Band-Aid

This is my attempt at documenting the rather daunting task of returning our 75' X 660' lot to some sort of natural equilibrium. My goal is for our house and our family to exist in a harmonious way with the plants and animals that have been forced to move elsewhere due to poor stewardship on the previous occupants' parts."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Greener Grass

This is what happens when freshly turned soil meets several weeks of steady rain. This part of the front garden was excavated to replace our old sewer line which had succumbed to years of root invasion. Unfortunately, there were obviously a lot of weed and other grass seed in the soil and it seems that every last one has sprouted. Luckily, the soil is also quite friable and the plants come out easily. There is still a lot of work to do, though.

I have a few more troublesome areas like this, but once the rain stops they usually take care of themselves as they don't get any irrigation. I might take a few moments and lay out some newspaper and mulch to kill the grass and prevent the sprouting of more. That seems to have worked well in the past.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Beauty and a little work

Everything is popping around here this week. After a boat-load of rain, the sun has come out and temperatures are starting to warm. All the trees and plants seem to have taken this as a sign to get to work. The roses are sending out new growth. The locust, crape myrtle and Japanese Maple are throwing our new leaves with abandon.

Here are a couple of pictures to give you a feel. I need to take some more pictures tomorrow as today was consumed by my son's 7th Birthday Party in the garden. Many compliments were given to the garden and I feel like I need to tend to it a bit more it make up for my inattention of late.

Yesterday I spent a few minutes hoeing weeds out of the stone strips at the edge of the driveway. The rains cause a great deal of growth there. Of course, if I simply left it there, the coming heat and dry of summer would take care of it on its own. It does give me a small sense of accomplishment yo get something done.

Azaleas outside the front door

A bit of proof that I do get out in the garden...on occassion

Click for larger images

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

How to be a gardener...from the BBC

How to be a gardener

This great, interactive site has some wonderful information on gardening and how to do it. Although the site is focused on the UK, there is a lot of information here for any gardener.

From the web site...

"This online resource, prepared in collaboration with the Royal Horticultural Society, will bring life to your learning. There will be eight modules in all. You can work through them, or simply dip in, itís up to you. The modules cover everything you need to know to give you a great start in gardening."