Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Scent Of A Rain

When I started rose-pruning yesterday morning the sky was overcast, the air arid, and the temperature high.  As I chopped the temperature dropped.  A strong wind began to push the trees around.  Raindrops began to fall. 
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I continued pruning, because I felt sure if I put my clippers down  and went indoors, the rain would stop.  After starting work in dry heat, the cool rain felt heavenly.  
They like it rainy, too:
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I did the Tamoras and 'Prospero' out front.  They take a lot of time because Tamora is endlessly twiggy and prickly.  It's like pruning barbed wire macrame.   
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The outdoor air always smells marvelous after a soft rain.  Two MIT scientists think they have determined why that is.  
"Using high-speed cameras, the researchers observed that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, it traps tiny air bubbles at the point of contact. As in a glass of champagne, the bubbles then shoot upward, ultimately bursting from the drop in a fizz of aerosols."
The fizz propels microscopic particles and microbes into the air, creating that distinctive scent of rain.  
Ah, the aroma!  Is that a fizz of aerosols or wet dog? 
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I continued until I was nearly as wet as the koi, to encourage the rain to continue.  A few more roses closer to completion.
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While I worked on the 'Tamora's yesterday,  I could just make out Mrs. Hummer in her nest, looking very very bored.  This morning, something was different.  She was going back and forth, back and forth to the nest.  Ohhh!   I risked a look into the nest--sort of.  I had to climb a ladder and hold my camera high above my head with one hand and stretch and hope something was in focus when I clicked the shutter.  The nest is too high for the ladder to reach.  Yes, crappy photo, but I dare not disturb baby hummingbirds for the sake of a photo.  
Put the tip of your forefinger and the tip of your thumb together to form an "o".  That circle is how big the nest is.  Unless you have big hands, then it is smaller. 
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Do you see the two babies?  I put arrows pointing to their beaks.
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More amazing, even, than the scent of rain.  
 

 
 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Howling


I'm sitting looking out the window watching the wind bend the cypress in half.  A few birds are trying to fly, but they are being whipped around and cannot control their direction.  Pots are crashing and hanging baskets are swinging and thumping against the house.  A howler of a wind.  

Mrs. Hummer continues stoic on her nest, which is, at least, on the most protected side of the house.  
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Garden work is cancelled for the day.
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The first flower on Magnolia stellata opened Friday.  I bought the little tree/shrub late last spring at 70% off--one of those moments where the plant clearly howls for help, and you answer in spite of yourself.  M. stellata is not common around here.  The flower is probably torn off by the wind by now, but Friday as it opened and I photographed it, the sweet Magnolia perfume brushed my nostrils in what was surely a "thank you" for saving it from the landfill. 
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Friday, January 23, 2015

A Dasylirion In A Hurry

The Dasylirion flower is developing swiftly.
Oh my!
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It already dwarfs Aloe marlothii's candelabra.
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While I was pondering the front slope, taking a break from another marathon pruning day,  I caught a female Lesser Goldfinch(?) Orange Crowned Warbler (thanks to Luisa for the ID) on Aloe ferox.  She or He appeared to be drinking nectar, as I saw the little throat pulsing and the little tongue licking at the flowers. 
When Aloes speak, Orange Crowned Warblers Goldfinches listen:
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I'm making good rose pruning progress.  I worked at keeping most all the roses at a reasonable size this past year.  The result:  it's still a long slog, but the amount of clippings is much more manageable.  I'm not stuck waiting for room in the green waste bins this year.  Overall, easier.  
Today's pruning bouquet:
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Tiny Things, Seed and Weed.



There are plenty of seedlings in the garden this year, thanks to our recent rainfall.  For the past three years we've had few volunteer seedlings, and almost no weeds (there is a bright side to drought).  Seeds intentionally planted mostly shriveled up in the relentless dry heat.  This winter's rainfall changed that. 

I'm trying sweet onion seedlings this year.  A local nursery offers them, claims they are easy and that the crop is sweet.   Okay, we'll see.
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The onions will make an odd contrast to their winter companion in the veggie patch,  ornamental sweet peas, which are growing very well this cooler, moister winter.  Flowers in a few weeks. 
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After seeing wonderful performance from Hummannia fumarifolia (Mexican Tulip Poppy), I tossed seeds of it everywhere.  The seeds seem to require steady moisture to germinate--in those spots that have stayed moist through the too-long intervals between rainstorms, seedlings are appearing.  In the drier spots, not. 

Of course, if you are serious about seed germination, a seam in concrete is the best place.  Heat and moisture.  Hummannia seedling at the right,  the weedy invasive invader Brazilian Pepper, Schinus terebinthifolius at lower left.

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Dandelion, California poppy, Salvia discolor.
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In the weed department, four years after I removed the last Cercis tree, Cercis seedlings continue to sprout. 

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Plenty of milkweed seedlings for the Monarchs, though the rabbits are mowing them down.  Bad bunnies.
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The rabbits also mow the dandelions, though I wish they would finish the job.
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A few lavenders emerge here and there, but they are never as nicely shaped as the selections, so they get pulled once they get about a foot tall--in the meantime, I enjoy the scent.  
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A Gazillion seedlings of Scarlet Pimpernel weed, Anagallis arvensis.  Last year we went to a local tour garden and this was being grown as a cherished "native wildflower".  Ooooohhkaaay.  It was taking over.  It's trying to take over here, too. 
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Burclover, Medicago polymorpha.  I remember the round spiked seeds sticking to my socks when I was a kid playing on the lawn.  I've resented burclover ever since. 
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Some sort of mallow.  Malva parviflora, maybe.  Gets huge, like 6' tall if you let it.  I won't let it.  The orange Carex reseeds just a bit--that's one of last years seedlings that I placed on the slope. Not a weed, it's a gem. 
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Speaking of last years seedlings,  the Agave seedlings are still tiny, but the Aloe capitata seeds are growing very well, and most of them look fairly capitata-like.  Blooms are years away.  
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New Aloe seedlings this year:  I'm trying the seeds I got from Aloe deltoideodonta, which is in an isolated location, so I thought I might get pure seed, rather than a hybrid.  Seeds from this:
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 I am curious to see if any of the seedlings will have the marvelous green and white striping of the original.  Maybe?  Too soon to tell here, too. 
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And as to other tiny things, Mrs. Hummer, still on her nest.  More tiny things to come. 
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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Early Morning Whim

Long shadows.

Empty streets.
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Silent paths.
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Cold light.
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Until the sun tipped her chalice
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to pour forth gold.
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Pink And Blue For Foliage Follow Up



Pink and blue(ish) foliage on Kalanchoe luciae.

Pink stems and blue foliage (with pink tips) on Oscularia deltoides.
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The same--pink stems and blue foliage (with pink tips) on a Lecadendron.
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Stems not visible on this Dudleya, but again, blue foliage with pink tips.  Seems to be a trend here this January. 
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Aloe 'Blue Elf'
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Aloe peglarae
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All sorts of pink and blue in the garden, but the foliage wonder of this January are the local hills.  They are a color we have not seen for several years because of the drought, a color far more amazing than pink and blue:  green!
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While in the garden, I got a bit better camera angle on Mrs. Hummer, while staying farther away.  Note how her nest is placed:  under the overhang of the balcony for some rain protection, but close enough to the edge so that sunlight can keep the eggs warm while she dashes off for nectar.  Due to their frenetic metabolism, hummingbirds must feed at least once an hour.
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For more January foliage, visit Digging. 
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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bloom Day January 2015

In January, Aloes are the stars.  

Still quite a few roses--I'm cutting back the roses so the house is full of flowers.
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The problem with reblooming Hydrangeas is that they rebloom far longer than you want them to--long after their leaves are brown or yellow.  Looks rather dreadful.
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The first Clematis flower of 2015--rather early.  
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I finally got a photo of the hummingbird on her nest.  Of course backside out, but there she is.  I'm avoiding the area as much as possible so as not to disturb her.
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Aloe ferox and marlothii
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Aloe cameronii
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Aloe striata.  If you look closely at the center of the plant, you may see another flower stalk beginning to emerge.
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The recent good rains have brought forth nectar-rich flowers from Metrosideros 'Spring Fire'.  Good for Mrs. Hummer.
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A lone, perfect Camellia--no nectar there, but it's so beautiful.  For the past several years hot winter weather browned and shiveled most all the Camellia japonica flowers.  In rainy years, botrytis ruins them.  This one perfect flower, unmarred, is therefore quite a treat.
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And this is the big surprise of the month.  Can you see it?
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I circled it.  
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The Dasylirion longissimum is going to have its very first bloom late this spring!  I purchased it as a two gallon size about ten years ago.  It has probably taken its time to bloom because of the drought.  The flower stalk on this plant is enormous--it can be nine feet tall (2.75 M).  As we saw at the Huntington last year, bees adore Dasylirion flowers, so the entire population of the local hive may be here in a few months drinking up the nectar and rolling ecstatically in pollen.  It will possibly be May's Bloom Day star.  Speaking of May dreams,  please visit May Dreams for more beautiful blooms.  Happy Bloom Day!
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