Saturday, April 17, 2010

Spring Break in the Desert - Day 3

The Kid is now at the age where children are required to sit in displays of spring wildflowers and be photographed. And since I don't have easy access to the Texas Bluebonnets anymore - it used to be so convenient when I was growing up: put on a dress, pile in the car, head down Hwy 360, pull the car to the side of the highway, jump out and snap a few photos, and then carry on with the rest of the day. Unfortunately in the Bay Area there are no good massive wildflower displays. The first Spring the Kid was around I even resorted to photographing him in a field of Oxalis pes-caprae (an invasive weed here in CA that has cheery yellow flowers) the horticulturalist in me feeling very guilty and ridiculous the whole time. I've never understood why CA can't have colorful banks of poppies along the highway in the spring, the way Texas has Bluebonnets. So we had to head out and find some poppies. Not that that was hard to convince me to do. And even though J and I are both Texans and I consider the Kid a Texan by blood, he was born here in California so I guess poppies are appropriate. Someday we'll manage to get to Texas when the Bluebonnets are blooming. I can't imagine the Kid would be able to grow up properly without a photo of him sitting in that sea of blue.

We headed out for the day and began passing fields of Lasthenia californica. I was oohing and ahhing.

lasthenia and snow

And then we got here:


Actually, we knew it was going to be good when we were still quite far away. It must have been at least 20 miles earlier when we could see a florescent orange splash on the hillsides like a beacon. OK, I'm going to quit talking now.

orange sea
orange and gray are nice
poppy field
why one hill and not the other?
poppy trail
poppy view
caution orange

I also really like the Visitor's Center at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. So cool how it is built into the hillside.

visitors center

And it wasn't just orange out there. The Phacelias added a nice purple contrast.

phacelia and poppies

And really the poppies were at their prettiest when set off with the Lasthenia californica. This area also had Lupinus bicolor and Castilleja exserta mixed in.

wildflower mix

And the Lasthenia smelled so good too! The view was fantastic but the smell was divine near the Lasthenia. The air was heady with honey fragrance. I hated to get back in the car. Oddly, I didn't smell it earlier in the day when I stopped to photograph the Lasthenia. It must release its fragrance as it warms. So yummy!

lasthenia hills

And Mission Accomplished:

mission accomplished

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring Break in the Desert - Day 2

Day 1 we drove down to Big Bear. Now Day 2 we drive on further south to Joshua Tree National Park. And lets just start off with yes, I broke one of the cardinal sins of photography and photographed in the middle of the day and in glaring, bright desert light no less. Yes, the photos lack any subtle color. Oh well. Family vacations aren't conducive to getting up in the pre-dawn dark so that one can photograph the desert as the light gently illuminates the rugged terrain. Plus, I'd rather sleep in anyway.

rock megalopolis

We recently went to Rock City on Mount Diablo. Well, if that was Rock City, Joshua Tree National Park is Rock Megalopolis. And again it was an irresistible playscape for the Kid. A playscape with uneven surfaces, steep drops and lots of sharp poky things to fall into! Great!

desert junglegymtunnelsyucca schindigerabeavertail cactus

There were (of course) plenty of Joshue trees, Yucca brevifolia as well as Nolina parryi.

yucca brevifolia sundailyucca brevifolia flowersnolina parryi budnolina parryi skeleton

And while viewing the landscape from afar, I couldn't see much variety in the plants, but there were many interesting things to stumble upon once you were out in it. Lotus rigidus on wiry stems; some kind of Lomatium with delicious black buds; Echinocereus triglochidiatus, a plant we've had in a pot for several years at Annie's, putting up with our Richmond weather; and Castilleja angustifolia, such a lovely red skeletal plant.

lotus rigiduslomatiumechinocereus triglochidiatuscastilleja angustifolia

But all the rocks make for great habitats if one can deal with the harsh conditions.

cliff and tree

This cactus astounded me. Where exactly do the roots go?

horse crippler

And this fatty-bo-batty enjoying his sunny front porch. He was about a foot long and not scared at all of the Kid's intense and animated inspection. He was out of arm's reach but quite close.


There were many of these cocoons of writhing fuzzy blue and brown caterpillars. I really wanted to know what they would become but I forgot to ask the ranger when we were at the visitor's center. Lots of charming little Eriogonums; lovely twisted trees; and some kind of pretty, russet-colored parasitic mistletoe.

cocoonsunknown eriogonumcorkscrew pinemistletoe

My favorite wildflower was Amsonia tomentosa. I smelled it before I saw it. The sweet heliotrope-like fragrance was very strong. Interestingly, A. tomentosa has two varieties -one gray leaved, one green. I saw both growing within 50 feet of each other, kind of odd. Both smelled great. I liked the gray foliage more but the green one had larger flower clusters.

amsonia tomentosa greyamsonia tomentosa green

We checked out Barker Dam. The amount of water was quite impressive and odd looking against the dry rock hills. Hard to imagine there is even that much water in the park to capture.

desert lake

water plants

The dam was very handmade looking. Below the dam was an oval structure that I couldn't figure out what it was used for. But I like the way it looked in the landscape.

barker dambelow the dam

Around the corner we checked out some petroglyphs. I was surprised at how bright they were until we read a sign that said a vandal had repainted over the petroglyphs I guess in their attempt to make them "better". How do people get dumb ideas like that in their heads?


On the way out we passed a regionally appropriate landscaped front yard that I thought was pretty cute. Love the wheelbarrow and the hay bale benches.

appropriate landscaping

I was surprised to see that some people still have lawn even out in the desert. I really think California should pass a law banning lawns from the desert. Although, I guess someone could make the case that lawns should therefore be banned in all of California. And I'm afraid I would be guilty of lawn ownership (albeit a tiny lawn) if that were the case.

Foliage Follow Up April

Foliage Follow Up at Pam's!
The best foliage I have in the garden now is still my Stipa arundinacea, Athanasia pinnata, Phlomis aurea combo. Looks good year round.

firey stipa

I have Impatiens balfouri that comes up every year in a corner of a bed. Actually they come up everywhere but I weed them back so they stay in the corner. They've come up extra thick and robust this year. I suppose I should clear them away from the Euphorbia before it gets swallowed.

euphorbia engulfed by impatiens

Geranium harveyi is a plant that I used a lot when I was going through my silver and yellow foliage phase. The Stipa/Athanasia/Phlomis group was a part of that too. I planted Geranium harveyi at the base of Phormium 'Yellow Wave' along with Sedum 'Angelina' and Dianella 'Cassa Blue'. Sounds like a color combo to set your teeth on edge but it turned out pretty nice. Geranium harveyi is super tough, pretty drought tolerant. Gets a bit leggy though.

bejewelled geranium harveyi

Agave attenuata-what can I say? Foliage extraordinaire.

agave attenuata

And Geranium maderense is better known for its bloom but I quite enjoy the large dissected leaves throughout the year. I planted 3 of the G. maderense 'White' last year and I was hoping they would bloom this Spring but it looks like I'll have to admire the leaves for another year.

geranium maderense leaves

And now back to Spring Break! Day 2 in Joshua Tree tomorrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Garden Bloom Day - April

I'm pausing my Spring Break in the Desert for Bloom Day and Foliage Follow Up. I'll continue with Day 2 and 3 of Spring Break in a couple of days.

I recently noticed my Pistache chinensis trees blooming funny little tufts of flowers on the ends of the branches before the new leaves emerge. Kind of cool close up.

Pistache chinensis

Every Aristea I've gotten to know has its own special qualities. Aristea major has lovely large flowers. Aristea ecklonii is a gentian-flowered workhorse for dry shade but Aristea inaequalis has stolen my heart. It has clouds of blue flowers for much of the year and even before it blooms the foliage is a beautiful blue-gray. And it is so tough and maintenance free - totally fine with my dry parking strip. The blue flowers look great with the chartreuse flowers of my Euphorbia characias 'Dwarf' that also populates that area.

the best aristea

Heuchera maxima is such a lovely plant in my garden this time of the year. Another one that is super tough and hardly needs any summer water. I was hoping to get a better photograph of it for Annie's but I've realized it is truly impossible to photograph. It always just looks like a bunch of blurry white dots. Grr. The close-up turned out pretty interesting but that is hardly indicative of the grace it contributes to the garden.

impossible to photograph Heuchera maxima

Heuchera maxima up close and personal

And it is still poppy season in my garden. Can't resist photographing an opening poppy bud. And the Kid can't resist prying open the buds. Here he is hard at work.

poppy macaron

working diligentlypeelingopeningpapaver rhoeas

The Trichodesma scottii is still blooming in my garden. It is so graceful. Some flower clusters are developing seed which are just as interesting.


now the fruit

Gen II of my Nasturtium 'Evelyn' are coming up in my garden. Have to remember to not put all the flowers in my salad but let some go to seed so I can have generation 3 next year.

nasturtium evelyn generation 2

My Saturn Peaches are just beginning to pop the dried flowers off. Such fuzzy little nutlets right now.

from flower to fruit

I'm not a really big rose person and I just popped this White Lady Bank's rose in out of desperation when my lovely Passiflora alata 'Ruby Glow' completely froze one year. But I'm really becoming a fan of climbing roses. They are so romantic looking. And what garden couldn't use a touch of romance?

one of my few roses

My Eryngium eburnum is not blooming very much this year. It's getting pretty old. May be losing steam. Too bad, it's another no-maintenance parking strip toughy.

eryngium eburnum

Weeds! Ugg, so many I need to pull. Maybe I should get off the computer and go out there and do some weeding.


And my Puya caerulea is going to bloom this year. The flower is more foliage than anything else at this stage.

flower or foliage?

See you at Foliage Follow Up tomorrow.