is gathering flowers for a virtual birthday bouquet. She asked for our favorite flowers. Well heck, here I am in the middle of planning my native garden, no flowers at all at the moment, and she wants me to pick just one? I can’t I tell you, I just can’t.
California has so many beautiful native flowers that it really hard to just pick one to highlight. Consistently though my heart warms when I think of the sturdy yet stunning and dependable Ceanothus, the native California Liliac.
the colors range from deep blue to lilac to white.
What I love about this plant is how I can ignore it and it rewards me with evergreen beauty and beautiful blossoms. Plant it in the fall, water it once a week the first year (in the summer), maybe once a month in the summer the second year, and after that, you can pretty much ignore it. The birds and the bees love it.
The plant, the Ceanothus, and the more well-known Poppy, are the two plants that say California to me.
Happy birthday, Jen!
#1 I am the sort of person that needs to be around plants and flowers and bugs and birds and stuff like that.
At my last house, even though it was a rental, we put in a small native garden. When I would come home from work I would head out the garden just to deadhead flowers or see what new bugs had come by to visit. It was soothing and inspiring.
#2 Sunflowers make me smile.
#4 But sometimes I CAN have them outside.
I have been patient, waiting this first year in the house as we learned what we did and didn’t want in a garden. We’ve done the prep work, ripping out everything in the backyard save one tree and the lawn and the lawn will be gone too. But I missed flowers. The birds were coming to visit. But all we had growing in the yard was a Japanese maple that, while lovely, had no flowers. While the garden I am designing will be filled with many natives that will flower I didn’t want to plant them now because we still have to take up the lawn and the concrete and do some more prep work. So I decided I could have just a few sunflowers out back. I picked up 4 plants in the little 4″ pots but the sunflowers were already over a foot tall. I planted them out back, near the bird bath. They all had flowers about to open. The second day, one flower opened and one of the local hummingbirds came to visit. (Hey, it was the first time I had something new to offer him besides the bugs on the maple tree.) I was thrilled.
The next day I opened the blinds, looked out back hoping to see a little hummer darting around or at least a smiling sunflower face beaming back at me.
Instead I see this.
That would be just a stem of what used to be a sunflower. One of the four flowers were gone. And I don’t mean broken off and sitting in the dirt which was my first thought. I figured a bird or squirrel had landed on them, broken it and that we’d fine the flowers in the dirt. Nope. We looked all over the yard (which, remember, has been stripped of everything but the one tree and the lawn. There’s just dirt.) There was no flower in sight. There were no seeds in the flower yet but we finally decided that a squirrel must have carried them off. There was no other explantion.
Or was there?
The next day when I was at work my husband was working from home. He sent me a text message that said “I know the creature that is eating your sunflowers.”
Of course I had to call him right away to find the answer to our mystery. He said we had lost another flower but that he caught the criminal in the act.
#5 Dogs will eat anything, even entire sunflowers.
Yes, my picky eater dog was the one who calmed ate an entire sunflower and then, went back for more.
Sigh. I still have two left but I don’t know for how long.
Today is Blog Action Day, a single day in which bloggers all over the world post on the same topic. This year the topic is the environment.
I can’t write unless I am comfortable in my environment. Sure, to an extent that means I need a comfy chair and an ergonomic set-up for typing. But to me it means more than that, it means that I have to be happy in my surroundings. Some of that is inside and some of it is outside. I’m an introvert so I get my energy from my time alone. My home is comfortable, cozy, filled with books in just about every room. It’s a good environment for my writer self.
I also love the outdoors and get energy from driving along the backroads in Santa Cruz amongst the redwoods and ferns. It is both soothing and energizing at the same time. In the last house we rented we wanted to try to replicate that same “back to nature” feeling in our yard. We didn’t own the place so there were limits to what we could do. We decided to start small and practice for a time when we had a home of our own. There was a sideyard that used to be used for RV storage – translation: It was dead, not even any weeds growing there and packed down hard as cement. It looked like this:
My husband had majored in enviormental issues (as well as politics and economics) and suggested we look into California Native Plants.
Native plants are, as you might expect, plants that grew in your area long before civilization arrived. They co-evolved with animals, fungi and microbes, to form a complex network of relationships and are the foundation of our native ecosystems, or natural communities. And here’s the thing, a native plant garden is so much easier to take care of than a traditional garden. If you plant the right plants for your area they will improve the soil, send down deep roots that will be able to deal with your natural waterfall (or lack of in my case here in California) and they will encourage the reappearance of native wildlife from bugs to butterflies to birds and more.
There are some plants that are the sole food for native wildlife. In California, our state insect is the Dogface butterfly. Sadly many people will never see one because larvae of the Dogface buttefly feed almost solely on the California Native plant False indigo. This plant is on the endangered species list maintained by the California Native Plant Society.
So with just a little bit of research I was hooked on the idea of taking our barren sideyard and using it as an experimental California Native plant garden. We took a trip to Native Revival in Aptos and spent several weekends digging holes and planting plants. After 3 weeks we ended up with this, already an improvement over the bare, dead dirt.
We didn’t put in a sprinkler system because the idea was to see how the garden would do if we left it to Mother Nature. We followed the nursery’s suggestions to water the holes well when we planted, to water once a week for the first month, and to mulch heavily. Then we mostly left it alone. And one year later, with no extra water, no fertilizer, no supplements at all, we had this:
It’s safe to say that I have been converted to the idea of using Native Plants as much as possible. The yard was always full of wildlife activity even though we lived in the middle of the city, three houses from the freeway. Neighbors with a bird bath told us they had never, in 45 years of living there, seen as many different birds in their yard as they had after we planted our native plants. We left that garden behind earlier this year when we moved but I’d like to think we gave a little back to the environment by improving that patch of bare dirt.
We bought a house this year and a few weeks ago we had everything ripped out of the backyard except for a single tree and the grass. The grass will be going too but not yet. We put up a new fence and are busy working with the Native Plant designer, (Pete at East Bay Wilds) planning our new yard which will be filled as many Native Plants as possible.
Pete can’t promise me a Dogfaced butterfly but he has promised to help me improve my environment which will, in turn, improve my writing.