Here it is again, just as good as when we first built it. We pulled out all the overgrown pond plants and repaired the pump that the raccoons messed with and the sound is most relaxing.
We found this nice fellow in the garden on October 13. It's a California whipsnake, Masticophis lateralis lateralis. This is probably a very happy snake as we have so many lizards for it to eat. Luckily they are very shy of us and speedy too.
OK, well we have lots of problems with honey bees, which are dying by the million. So far there is not a lot we can do about that, other than eschew pesticides in our gardens. Look what we spotted in the Dalea bi-color today - a very happy lynx spider dining on an unfortunate honey bee. There are also many species of wild bees and they are very busy pollinators, valuable in the garden and small farms bordering wild lands. We have many in our garden and they too love the Dalea, a heavy bloomer in fall, and a light bloom in spring. It turns out that all that mulching that we do to save water is very detrimental to wild bees who live in small nests in the ground. Apparently the bees cannot find their way to the soil. Native bees need bare ground in which to nest. The natural leaf litter lying under trees and shrubs is not a problem, just the thick layer of wood chips that many of us lay out to stop evaporation.
So we're down to the nub of the matter. If we want to promote native bees we should leave the ground alone, no blowing, mulch around the plants, and leave some bare areas. There is always something that comes up when we think we are doing it right. Of course, native bees like native plants.
Now this is one of my favorite small trees from Australia. It is full of character, unruly but compact, and bursts forth with thousands of pink pompoms in summer. Bees love it. It will grow quite quickly and with virtually no irrigation. I have four growing in sandy soil at the top of a hill but they do very well in that dry location with monthly irrigation. Go to the bluffs in Santa Monica to see some really old melaleucas. They have been pruned well to show their lovely papery trunks. It should be given space as it will often take an unexpected direction and grow up, then sideways. It's a wonderful small tree for a xeriscape garden and looks good with native California plants as well as cactus.
Cycads are dramatic plants and suitable for dry shade and part shade locations. Many can also be grown in full sunshine although they do sometimes get a little burned. This beauty was a tiny baby when I purchased it from Loren Whitelock in Los Angeles many years ago. Loren Whitelock had an extraordinary garden in Eagle Rock and probably the most extensive collection of cycads in the US. Alas, he has passed on and his collection has been transferred to the Huntington Library Gardens in Pasadena
Cycads are among the oldest and most primitive plants on the planet. They are easy to grow and can be grown under live oaks as they require very little water once established. I water mine by hand once a month during the summer and the oaks sheltering canopy protects the cycads from frost and excessive sunshine. Cycads are crowning beautifully this year because last winter was a wet one.
March 26, 2010. I heard that familiar scritchy call and there it was, as usual, in the Grevillea. Orioles love this plant, and Melianthus too, which is not blooming yet.
Grevillea Long John is a big rangy plant, but it can be hedged nicely with quarterly pruning. I like mine to be natural and it is a large shrub or small tree with narrow leaves a bit like pine needles. It blooms almost year round and is popular with hummingbirds too who always nest in it.
These pictures show two plantings under oak trees, the one on the left receives morning sun all year round, whereas the one on the right only gets morning sun in winter when the neighboring sycamore loses its leaves.
The characterful plants on the left never need maintenance and, after a couple of years, will virtually never need water. These are fire safe plants.
Bromeliads and many succulents (shown on the right) do well planted under California live oaks, and because they are drought tolerant and very shallow rooted they do not affect the soil negatively.
Look what we found in the garden today: a praying mantis larvae case. it looks as if the larvae have fled the coop and we will have some nice big mantises stalking around the garden in summertime.
Our mantis population grows every year and we love those quirky looking creatures. They take forever to pounce on their prey! They move so slowly that birds catch them alas, but everyone needs to eat.
According to David Nellis in "Poisonous Plants and Animals of Florida and the Caribbean", Euphorbia tirucalli can infuse the soil around it with poisons in order to repel other plants. It is possible that these poisons are carcinogenic. I have removed several of my specimens and put the others into planters. The sap is very irritating to skin and eyes.
Melianthus major (honey bush) from South Africa is extremely large and not suitable for a small garden. However, if you have space to plant this peanut scented beauty in a semi-shaded area you will please a lot of garden visitors. Orioles love its plentiful nectar. Melianthus major is drought tolerant, but might require monthly water in summer, depending on its geographical location. Cut the stems off to the lowest bud after it fades in early summer. The plant will grow again into an attractive hump until it's time to bloom in spring. Then it will grow its enormous flower spikes.
This plant from South Africa loves heat and sunshine. It grows quickly (but not as fast as its unruly cousin, Tecoma stans) and should be cut back and shaped in fall and after the first spring blooming. Bees love it.
Isn't this gorgeous with its fat spring foliage? It should be planted in full sun and never irrigated. Thankfully, this plant is getting easier to find in general nurseries. All the native plant nurseries stock it.
Look how well the color matches Teucrium fruticans, a completely drought tolerant plant related to rosemary and beloved by bees. They look very good together in a silver garden. Teucrium grows quite large over the years and plenty of space should be allowed between these plants should you use them together.