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I'm three days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I suppose that's still a significant improvement over recent months. I still have a garden! I haven't had much time to get out in it lately, but when I do get out in it, this California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray') is my favorite plant lately. California fuchsias are typically low-growing plants, sometimes only a few inches tall, but there's significant variation in height among the different cultivars. Even so, they're rarely said to grow much more than two feet tall. The 'Carman's Gray' cultivar is not advertised as being any exception to this; most websites describe it as growing about two feet tall. Well, this plant was labeled 'Carman's Gray' when I bought it a year ago, but if its stems are pulled out straight, some of them are taller than I am. (No, I am not actually under two feet tall. I am 5'5".) It is a strange and unexpected experience to find a plant blooming at eye level that isn't supposed to grow above knee level. I have no idea what inspired my plant to grow so tall (there's really nothing unusual about the conditions here, and other California fuchsia cultivars nearby are growing at their usual expected heights), but I'm extremely pleased with it. Nothing makes a gardener seem so impressive as plants that grow to three times their normal height.

The California fuchsia cultivar that is said to be the tallest is 'Catalina,' which is said to grow usually about four feet tall but occasionally up to five feet tall. Perhaps my plant was mislabeled and is really a 'Catalina'? I've never purchased a plant labeled as 'Catalina,' but if I see one in the future I'll check for a resemblance.

me with Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)

More fall garden pictures. )
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Both of the nearest chapters of the California Native Plant Society that have annual fall plant sales are having those sales this weekend! They've never had them on the same weekend before, at least not in the six or so years that I've been attending them. This is going to be a very busy plant-shopping weekend for me.

And I'm still trying to catch up on posting months-old garden photographs. This post will cover July and August. I'll start with two pictures that encapsulate those months for me. This is July: my Sacramento rose-mallow (Hibiscus lasicarpos) plant in full bloom in front of a broad expanse of lawn. I don't have many plants that bloom in July; the last of the spring flowers have withered by mid-June, and the first of the fall flowers don't start opening until August. But the Sacramento rose-mallow is very much a July plant, and it's pretty enough to just about make up for the absence of anything else.

Hibiscus lasiocarpos (Sacramento rose mallow)


This is August. The first of the fall flowers are open - California fuchsia (Epilobium canum × septentrionale 'Bowman's #1') and, if you look closely through the grass, a little clump of yellow from an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) - but the flowers aren't entirely the point anymore; the huge clumping grasses somewhat steal the show. The grasses here are deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the lower right and alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) a bit to the left, in the middle distance.

Epilobium canum x septentrionale 'Bowman's #1' (California fuchsia)

More pictures of my garden in summer. )
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It's absurdly late to be posting these pictures; the garden no longer looks anything like this. Most of the plants pictured here are no longer blooming, some are completely dormant and leafless, and a few are dead, the victims of the same neglect on my part that prevented me from getting around to posting these pictures. What can I say? It's been an extremely stressful summer. I've been working impossibly long hours for many, many months, and nothing else has gone very right either. But I want to catch up on posting my garden pictures, so here are the ones from June. I hardly managed to take any in July because July was so horrible, so I mostly have just August and September left to catch up with.

The plant I got most excited about in June was death camas (Zigadenus fremontii). Its intimidating name comes from the fact that when not in bloom, it closely resembles camas (Camassia quamash), a bulb that the indigenous Nisenan people regularly dug up and ate. Death camas is also a bulb, but if you mistake it for camas and eat it, it can kill you. So if you decide to forage for California native bulb to eat, make sure you don't get any death camas mixed in with your camas.

As long as you don't eat it, death camas is perfectly harmless. I only grow death camas, not regular camas, because regular camas doesn't grow as well in my area as death camas. So there's no danger of me mistaking my death camas for regular camas. And I grow my death camas in a large pot so that Boston can't easily get at it.

Zigadenus fremontii (death camas)

More pictures of long-gone flowers! )
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It's been several months since I last posted garden pictures, and I have rather too many of them saved up to fit them all in one post, so I decided to separate the ones with animals in them and just post those for now. I have quite a few of those right now, because I recently put up a bird feeder. So I have birds!

Passer domesticus (male house sparrows)

Birds! Insects! And more! )
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Yet again, I'm quite a bit late to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Well, despite what it may look like at times, gardening isn't actually my number one priority in life; sometimes things like earning my living have to take precedence.

People in more northern parts of the world may say their farewells to spring next month at the summer solstice, but around here, the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) is at its peak right now. Boston has been enjoying the show in the back yard.

Boston under the pecan tree

And here are lots more pictures of how pretty the garden isn't going to be for very much longer. )
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It's time for March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but the garden doesn't look like any March I've ever seen before. It doesn't look like any month at all that I've ever seen before. For one thing, there've been no baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) at all this year. For another thing, the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is starting to bloom more than a month earlier than usual. I assume the strange garden behavior is due to the drought. Should I be concerned about the survival of baby blue eyes all across the state? Well, at least it's a species that gardeners have collected a lot of seeds from.

The plant I've been most excited about this month is glassy onion (Allium hyalinum). My degree of excitement about plants is generally closely related to how difficult it was for me to obtain and successfully grow the plant. Glassy onion is hard to find for sale. I did find it for sale once when I lived at the duplex, and I planted it in little plastic pots, and some tiny seedlings sprouted, and I transplanted them into the ground . . . whereupon they promptly died, as so many plants did when transplanted into the ground at the duplex where there was no drainage. Well, I finally found it for sale again last fall, and this time I planted it in a large ceramic pot on my patio where I decided to plant most of my native bulbs (and a few native non-bulbs) that can't handle any summer water. The pot keeps them away from the sprinklers, and they all seem happy enough to grow together. This is the first one to bloom.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

Other March flowers! )
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I've been trying a lot of dessert recipes lately. My dinner efforts have subsided (hopefully temporarily) into routine repetition of already familiar recipes, but my desserts have been adventurous. First, a few weeks ago, I tried Claudia Roden's orange almond cake recipe, which is a very strange cake recipe because, first, it does not contain any flour (which means I can serve it to my gluten-free friends!) and second, it does contain two entire oranges . . . including the peels. You're supposed to remove the seeds, but I used homegrown oranges that didn't have any seeds. Also, I substituted homegrown pecans for almonds, so what I made was actually orange pecan cake. It turned out quite well. Grinding the pecans into tiny bits was a lot of work, though. In the future, I should probably just buy pre-ground nuts rather than grinding my own.

orange pecan cake


Next, I followed a recipe called Impossible Pie. The recipe claims that although you just mix all the ingredients together, the "flour will settle to form crust" while the "coconut forms the topping." The different ingredients didn't really look to me like they separated much at all though, nor do they look to me in the pictures online like they separated much for anyone else either. I don't think it deserves to be called either impossible or pie. It turned out to be a perfectly delicious custard, though, and very easy to make.

coconut cream custard


Then yesterday I followed a recipe for Nutella cheesecake, except that as with the orange almond cake recipe, I didn't actually follow it. I substituted a Nutella-equivalent chocolate-almond spread for the chocolate-hazelnut that the recipe called for, and I substituted chopped homegrown pecans for the chopped hazelnuts on top. (I never miss an opportunity to use up some of my pecans.) It turned out extremely well.

nutella cheesecake


I also gardened a bit this weekend. It will be interesting to see what sort of results I get from my garden this spring, considering that I spent all last summer taking obsessively good care of it in anticipation of a backyard wedding, then completely ignored it from late September through late November while dealing with having the wedding called off, managed to pay more attention to it in December when I was starting to feel better again, and then promptly resumed completely ignoring it for the next month and a half due to being diagnosed with breast cancer. And then there's the drought; I provided absolutely no supplemental water, not so much due to eco-consciousness as due to being completely distracted from the garden. Hopefully my two huge 60-year-old trees (pecan and southern magnolia) will forgive me for leaving them to suffer through the drought without help. They seem all right. A few of the smaller plants I put in last summer are dead, but all things considered, the garden is in much better shape (and a lot less hopelessly overrun by weeds) than it easily could be - my December efforts must have helped.

A few of the plants are starting to suspect now that spring is on the way, but they're mostly the non-natives that came with the house. plant pictures! )
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I missed the last two Garden Bloggers' Bloom Days, and I'm already running a bit late for this one, and I'm likely to miss more in the near future, because, well . . . wedding-planning is time-consuming! At least if you're also doing other things with your life that keep you busy as well. But for now, I'm going to try to catch up by posting all my garden pictures from the last three months. We'll start with June. One of the most exciting garden events in June was the continued blooming of my leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum), which began blooming in May. It's native to California and Oregon. I saw this plant in the wild on our Snake Lake camping trip in 2009.

Lilium pardalinum (leopard lily)

June to August )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and the garden has peaked. The wildflower meadow in the side yard that I showed off last month is completely gone now, and I've been digging out the Bermuda grass underneath it. Some plants are still at their peak, and a very small number haven't reached their peak yet, but the majority of them have passed their peak. No matter; I have photos from all throughout the past month, and nearly all the plants have looked great at some point in the past month.

I'll start with some plants that are winding down. The little garden I installed alongside the patio last summer  no longer looks as good as it did when I took this picture. The native annual mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is not entirely dead yet, but there's a lot less of it now than there was in this picture.



Much more! )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and I'm trying hard to keep up with it all. Skipping too many months of Bloom Day posts in a row has caused me to have more trouble remembering plant names than I ever used to. Now that the initial overwhelming period after buying a new house has somewhat subsided, I need to try to stay in practice better.

One of my first gardening activities when we moved in last summer was to dig out the Bermuda grass lawn in the side yard to create a food garden. However, I was only able to finish digging out about two thirds of the area before the weather turned too wintery to facilitate killing Bermuda grass. Upon realizing that I would have to postpone the rest of the digging until next summer, I decided, more or less on the spur of the moment, to toss some native wildflower seeds into the undug area. Not having planned this ahead of time, I'd already used up my seeds of most of the native wildflower species, so I only had seeds of two species left: birds' eye gilyflower (Gilia tricolor) and Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). I tossed them both in the undug area, and for good measure, I also tossed some in the pathway down the middle of the dug area. Having always believed that native wildflower beds needed to be weeded to grow well, I did not anticipate nearly such dramatic results as I got.

The undug area is in the foreground below. The tall plant with pink flowers is a native mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) that somehow got mixed in. The food is planted in the back two thirds, but there's a stripe of meadowfoam down the middle where the path is. Silhouetted against the air conditioner is a lettuce plant that has bolted.



More! )
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It's been many months since I last participated in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I haven't participated regularly since we bought our house, although I did make a token effort to participate in August and October. I took a few pictures in November and thought about participating, but then I got so busy refinishing kitchen cabinets that I didn't have any time for it. In December there was practically nothing blooming. In January there still wasn't much blooming, but I really meant to participate anyway - to start the new year properly. But I got busy with house things again and completely forgot. In February some things started blooming, and I intended more than ever to make sure to participate - but then we went camping during Bloom Day, and when we got back I had camping photographs to post, and by the time that was all over with, it seemed much too late to bother.

So now it's March, and spring is definitely ramping up. This means not only that more plants are blooming, but also that more of the plants blooming are mine - plants that I planted, that is, rather than plants that came with the house. And plants that I planted are always the most important.

This is my first time participating in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day since I got my new camera in December. I had a very hard time figuring out how to take extreme closeups of flowers with my new camera. Unlike my old camera, my new camera doesn't have a macro button. It does have a macro function - there's a macro icon that shows up on the viewscreen - but the extremely short manual that came with the camera did not mention that at all, so it took me a lot of experiementation to discover that there was a macro icon at all, and then it took me a whole lot more experimentation to figure out how to make the macro icon show up when I wanted it to. And then there was this terribly annoying problem that whenever I did succeed in getting the camera to focus properly on something closeup, the camera would display the word "Processing" for several seconds and then reveal that the colors in the photo were unnaturally hypersaturated and unrealistic-looking. This, it turned out, was because my camera was set to apply "artistic effects" to macro images but not to other images. So it took me even more experimentation to figure out how to turn off the "artistic effects."

This picture is one that I took during my period of experimentation, when the "artistic effects" were still on. I later edited the picture on my computer to tone down the "artistic effects" because I didn't think neon colors were really appropriate, artistically speaking. However, some faint traces of the "artistic effects" remain, making the plant pot look a little more glazed than it actually is, and making my gardening clogs look slightly glazed as well. I kind of like the result. The plant in the pot is "baby black eyes" (Nemophila 'Penny Black'), a garden cultivar that looks like a hybrid between two California natives, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). I'm not sure what the cultivar's actual parentage is, however, and I must say that in my garden, it grows much more like baby blue eyes than like five spot - which is to say that it grows very well! Five spot isn't well adapted to the Central Valley, so I usually only get a few flowers from it. Baby blue eyes thrives here, and baby black eyes is also thriving. It has many more flowers on it now than it had when I took this picture.




Many more flowers! )
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Last month I skipped Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I almost skipped it this month too, because none of the plants that are blooming are ones that I planted myself. But then I realized that since I have in fact been doing quite a bit in the garden, it would be nice to document what I've been doing, even in the absence of blooms.



I've been digging and planting. More pictures! Maybe even a bloom. )
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It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and the garden I had a month ago is no more. And I do mean is no more, not just is no longer mine. On August 9 - four days before we were scheduled to officially move out, since we had paid rent through August 13 - our landlady made her son mow the front garden flat to the ground. She didn't give us any advance warning that she was going to do this, but luckily I happened to have already finished digging up one of every plant species that I wanted to keep before she killed all the others.




I'm not sure whether she's done the same thing to the back yard yet, but when Susan did the final walkthrough with her (without me present), the landlady avoided using my name (since she chooses to refer to me only as Susan's "roommate") but demanded of Susan, "When is she going to get all that crap out of the back yard? There was lawn there when you moved in, so there should be lawn there when you move out" - even though (1) there wasn't lawn when Susan moved in, just weedy thistles and occasional straggly patches of Bermuda grass in a predominantly brown, dead yard, and (2) the landlady specifically gave us permission to plant a garden.


Anyway, it's all gone now, or probably soon will be. But there was one exciting final bloom in the back yard before we left: Sacramento rose mallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus), an endangered species with flowers four to five inches in diameter.

Pictures! )
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Here they are - my final "after" pictures of this garden. On this day next month I won't be allowed in here anymore, and all the plants I like best that are small enough to dig up easily will be already dug up and brought over to our new house. These are the last pictures I plan to take of this garden before I disassemble it.



My very last pictures here! )
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This may or may not be the very last Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post I will make about my current garden. We probably won't have moved out a month from now, but if all goes well, we'll officially be homeowners within a day or two of then, and I hope that our house will be all full of boxes in preparation for moving. The garden will probably still be intact, but we'll see how much time I have to take pictures of it.

Here is a picture of what, with any luck, will soon be our house. The inspections are done, and the (excruciatingly stressful) mortgage papers are signed, but we still have to get the appraisal, repair estimates, and repairs done.

house

The weird metal things in the lawn are in the lawns of most of the corner lots in the neighborhood, apparently intended to prevent cars from driving over the lawn. This house is not on a corner lot and is the only non-corner house that has these. However, this house is directly at the end of a street, so I guess the idea was that cars going down that street might just keep driving straight into the house without these metal things to stop them? Anyway, we don't think that's likely to happen, so we plan to remove the weird metal things. They are probably set in concrete, though, so removing them will require digging up quite a bit of lawn, so we'll probably wait a few years until I'm ready to convert the dug-up lawn to a garden bed. In the meantime, I'm not sure how we'll come to terms with them. Turn them into stick-figure animals by adding heads and tails? I'm not sure how the new neighbors would like that, though.

The house is considerably more suburban, both in architectural style and in actual location, than most of the houses we looked at. Its exterior appearance doesn't thrill me as much as that of some other houses we looked at. However, both its interior and its location are far better than anything else we looked at, and its exterior is certainly not bad-looking. I think it has a very "solid" look to it, and the house inspector tells us that it is indeed extremely solidly built, with very high quality wood throughout.

Although the new house is only nine blocks from the horrible place we currently live in, it's unlikely to have any remotely comparable flood problems. In fact, even the houses a few doors away from ours don't seem to have remotely comparable flood problems. We're not sure what the issue is with our particular place. The landlady told us the flood problems are caused by the fact that several neighbors have paved over most of their yards with patios and pool decks, so the water from their yards runs off into ours. However, the landlady told the former tenants in the other half of our duplex that the flood problems are caused by the fact that this duplex was built on top of a cement pad that extends under the entire yard, about ten feet below the soil level. She did not explain why it would have been built on such a thing or why there would have been a cement pad here in the first place. We're not sure whether to believe that story or not, but certainly the drainage does not seem to be as bad in most of town as it is here. In fact, even our current front yard is drastically better drained than the back yard. I think the new house will probably have both a front and a back yard that are pretty much like the current front yard, in terms of drainage. I will probably never again have a yard as thoroughly wetland-like as this one.



Many more garden pictures! )
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Happy May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! Spring is definitely winding down now, but you probably won't be able to tell that from these pictures, since I took most of them two weeks ago, when the garden was still more or less at its peak. As I said last month, this was definitely a banner year for the blue flax. It was a slow year for a lot of native annuals - baby blue eyes, Chinese pagodas, tidy tips, maybe even the two gilia species, a bit. But the blue flax put on a good enough show to make up for the relative absence of the others.



55 more pictures! )
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It's April, and the garden is gorgeous! I'm a little late to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but that's because I have so many pictures to show you. I don't think our front sidewalk garden has ever been prettier.



Click here for more gorgeous pictures of my garden! )
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I finally have enough flowers in the yard again for it to be worth writing a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post. The back yard is currently mostly underwater, but the flowers in the back yard are mostly on the shrubs, so they're still visible above the water line. Here is the golden currant (Ribes aureum) in full glory. It bloomed earlier than usual this year - it's been going strong for nearly a full month now - so I think it's going to begin winding down very soon.



More pretty flowers! )
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I tried to prepare a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day Post, but the only flowers in the yard right now are the scarlet mallow that blooms year-round, a few golden currant flowers that are too tiny for my camera to focus on properly, a giant gumplant bud that's too tiny at the moment for my camera to focus on properly, and some ribbed fringepod buds that are so microscopic that even though my camera miraculously did focus on them properly, they still just look like tiny white dots that don't seem worth showing off. So in lieu of boring you to death with pictures of our yard, I'm going to show you some pictures from my recent walks around the neighborhood instead. I took Boston for a walk to the Yuba River on New Year's Day, and I took her for a walk in the other direction last weekend. Susan and Ganymede stayed home both times, because Susan's foot hasn't fully healed from when she broke it last spring, and I'm not comfortable trying to handle more than one dog at a time.

Now I will show you pictures from both walks.

Pictures! )
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It's Bloom Day again! The challenge of finding plants that are blooming right now is not nearly as difficult as the challenge of finding a few minutes to write about them when I'm still working 60-hour weeks. But here goes.

All the distance shots I have this month are actually from the end of November, because the yard looked better then. At the end of November, the red-twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) had bright red leaves, and the the buttonbush right behind it had bright green leaves. Now they both have no leaves. In fact, the monotony of the fence line is completely uninterrupted, because there's no longer a single plant in the back yard that is more than two feet tall and still has leaves on it. December is really not a good month for gardening in small yards. In a big yard where the fences aren't so oppressively close, a gardener might be able to focus on the plants and appreciate this stage of their life cycle. In a small yard, what little is left of the plants is completely overwhelmed by FENCE FENCE FENCE everywhere you look.




But I do have close-up shots from the past day or two. And yes, there are even some flowers blooming.

Flowers blooming! )
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