Saturday, August 28, 2010

Featured Plant - California Buckwheat

Painted admiral on California buckwheat at the CA Native Plant Demonstration Garden.
A great addition to the beneficial insect garden is Eriogonum fasciculatum/California buckwheat. This buckwheat is a vigorous butterfly and pollinator plant and very drought tolerant here in Sacramento. At the California Native Plant Demonstration Garden here in Sacramento, they grow in full sun and are located in well-drained soil (will tolerate clay soils, too). They receive only water from the fall and winter rains. We planted them back in 1997 and they are still growing as robustly as ever.

The flowers start opening in spring, are in full bloom by summer, then turn pink, to finally rust-colored in fall. In the winter, it is cut back almost to the ground, and it’s back up to 4 feet tall and wide by the following summer.

My man Bert at Las Pilitas Nursery calls California buckwheat the pillar of the butterfly community. But it is also a key plant for the bee population. In summer, as you pass by the buckwheats, all you can hear is the hum of dozens of European honeybees, native bees, bumblebees, and wasps. In this day of collapsing bee colonies, this is a must-have plant for a healthy and vibrant garden.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Courtyard Chronicles - Well Rooted

It’s done!

Check that out … emptiness. The very appreciated yet poorly located air conditioning condenser has moved around the corner.

Much better. Just need to screen the hoses and wiring now.
But wait – what is that pile of stuff on the ground back there? 

Because I was caffeinated and very eager, I started leveling the old condenser location right after HVAC guy moved it. I began to uncover a few thin roots from the Himalayan birch that grows on the other side of the fence. What I thought was going to be a bit of root clipping has turned into this:

And this:

Crap! Crap!
And there is more. Oh yes, so much, much more. I gave up after 20 minutes of pulling and cutting. Over the last 7 years, the roots have slowly creeped in, creating a fibrous, thick mat throughout the courtyard (Note to landscape architects and designers: specify a root barrier for trees if a yard is going to be on the other side of a fence. Roots want to spread to up to 2 times the canopy width, sometimes more).

Getting these roots out of the courtyard planting areas will keep me busy for a little while, much to the relief of my husband. I was going to move on to the fence extension phase of my courtyard project next week. But with our Governor winning his appeal to start work furloughs again, the cash I thought I was going to have disappeared this month as of last Thursday (silly Governor – that furlough cash would have re-entered the local economy and helped out some small independent contractors and the businesses that they support).

So, no fence extension for now. I’ll just pull up roots for a while and watch the recycled plants grow around the AC condenser.

Hope you like your new home Mr. Condenser
I gave you some plants to keep you company.
Grow, little plants! Grow!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Courtyard of My Discontent

Finally. It’s really going to happen. After living in our house for 7 years, I’m finally going to start putting my courtyard garden together. As a new house, it came with bare, compacted earth, a 3-foot square concrete pad, and a rattling, air conditioner unit. This Saturday, the first phase of the garden design will begin with the arrival of HVAC man and 4 hours of his time to relocate the air conditioner condenser. My days of trying to conjure up courtyard cuteness with bark mulch, rootbound potted plants, and desperately artful hanging of twinky lights will soon be over.

please try not to gaze too long at this sad little arrangement.
the ac unit's new home pre-plant dig
The foxtail asparagus fern (Asparagus meyeri) and the California wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) have been doing great on this north side since they were planted 7 years ago. I have no supplemental water to them since the adjacent turf irrigation provides enough overspray to keep them happy. This shade garden also includes western columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Catalina perfume currant (Ribes vibernifolium) - a fragrant, sprawling evergreen native from the Channel Islands, and heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica 'Compacta').

getting closer ...
pile of plants waiting for their new home
It probably wasn’t the best idea to try and move my shade plants in mid-August, but I have high hopes for their survival.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh look. Another blog.

Well, since you are here, let me introduce to you the beginning of  ‘kinked hose’. This is my first time at blogging, so I hope that my garden and landscape architecture design-related natterings develop into something that is accessible, interesting, and helpful. I’ll even put in pictures for you to look at - some might be very lovely - nifty macro shots of gorgeous flowers, fabulous landscape projects, garden tours - others might show horticulture atrocities or unfortunate failures in landscape designs done by others (or even me!).

Some things I might chat about include: sustainable and water-wise gardening with California natives and other drought tolerant plants, gardening in our Sacramento Valley clay soils, increasing beneficial insects and wildlife in the urban garden, battling invasive weeds, reflections about riparian restoration projects and landscape design in general, the challenges of Homeowners Association landscaping, and my efforts to finally, finally landscape my tiny, bare-earthed courtyard after living in my house for 7 years.

I hope you enjoy the flow.