Is It Autumn Yet? Please?

We had a few days of cooler weather--low 80s.  It was wonderful.  Now the heat is coming back.  Grrr.  So the wait to garden continues.  In the meantime...snake sighting on the front slope.

Chaparral Whipsnake aka Striped Racer aka Masticophis lateralis
 I hope you understand why I didn't get a closer shot.  This is a non-venomous species, but they can deliver a vicious bite.'s a snake.  Aiiieeeeeee!
Too late in hitting the shutter button.  There were six other male Lesser Goldfinches on the urn, arrayed evenly along the edge, like candied citrus slices on a lemon meringue pie.  Only one left when the shutter clicked.  I see the occasional house finch, towhee, scrub jay, or hummingbird at the urn, but mostly its mobbed by male Lesser Goldfinches.  What's with that?  They are attracted to the nearby Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird'?  Nah...
 Is this a juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird?  These are not good, I have read.  There's never a hawk when you need one.  Or maybe it is a female House Finch, of which there are nearly as many as Lesser Gold Finches.  Happier thought. 
 Agave reflection
 Is it Autumn yet?  The Aloe suzannae has done unexpectedly well, perhaps because we had a warm dry winter.  The miserably hot summer seemed to do it no harm.  I need to trim 'Yellow Bird' away from it so it gets enough sun. 
Also involved with 'Yellow Bird' is a Cercis occidentalis seedling that I did not pull in time.  I'm still pulling out seedlings six years after I got rid of the Cercis.  Once the seedlings get more than about six inches tall they are impossible to pull and must be dug out.  One hid in 'Yellow Bird' and now it's five feet tall.  Rather than disturb the Leucospermum roots I tried carefully sponging a few of the Cercis leaves with glyphosate.  It may have worked--the Cercis leaves have all died and the stems has turned black. 
The torment that keeps on tormenting
 I moved the Drimia aka Urginea maritima to the front slope a few years ago.  The first year post-move the bulbs appeared to have died.  The next winter they sprouted a weak spindly leaf or two.  The winter after that, a full set of big healthy leaves.  Now finally a flower stem again.  A plant that is in no hurry.  The bulb can live for many decades.  
 Completely astonished to see this lily blooming amidst Dahlias.  I planted a cheapo big box bulb a couple of years ago and it never appeared.  Now here it is.  Happy surprise.  It is not their climate, but I love them. 
 Some Boophone distichas go dormant in the winter and some don't.  This is one of the don'ts.  Pretty little thing.  Summer is its normal growing season.  A friend gave it to me;  her son had extras.  He might have grown them from seed.  Boophone has no problem with heat. 
 The first Protea 'Mini King' has actually grown a little more inches.  It also has two flowers forming.  Now in afternoon shade due to the growth of the oak tree, the foliage looks much better.  It got a tiny sprinkle of soil sulfur this spring. 
Summer is our Winter.  Is it Autumn yet?  I miss being Out There. 


  1. I share your aversion to snakes. I am so happy that there are very few here in Washington. I am not familiar with the cowbird. Why is he bad? He is pretty.

    1. A great advantage of Washington!

      Well as Lisa pointed out later, could be House Finch not Cowbird, which would be better. Cowbirds are a type of parasite. They lay eggs in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. :(

  2. After 2 very warm but not quite miserable days, we're socked in again this morning and it actually feels cold at 66F. I hope you're getting a touch of the marine layer too. It's been cooler here than was forecast so I'm hoping September will be more like August than July.

    As to the snake, I caught one (on my phone's camera) earlier this week, sitting atop an expanse of Aeonium 'Kiwi' enjoying the sun. I couldn't ID it but, as it looks exactly like the one in your photo, I think you've done that for me. I didn't know about its bite so it didn't alarm me. I came back several minutes later with my good camera but it was nowhere to be found, which somehow was more disconcerting than seeing it out in the open.

    1. Heat is easing, easing, ain't it wonderful?

      Careful with your snake visitor! It must be their time of the year to roam looking for baby lizards. I prefer the lizards.

  3. Your snake looks a lot like our Garter Snake. I think it is a good sign that you have a snake in your garden. Healthy garden = healthy wildlife. What a nice surprise the Lily is. I really like the looks of the Boophone. I like the wrinkly leaves. That cowbird looks more like a House Finch to me. It is to be in the 90's here all week. Bah...I am hopeful for some cooler weather too. Cheers.

    1. I think maybe you are right on the House Finch, a female or immature one instead of the males which have red touches. Yay! Thanks!

      I like the lizards better than snakes. Less intimidating.

    2. I, too, have spent some time on this bird. Personally I have a difficult time distinguishing immature cowbirds from female and immature house finches. I found this page read it and see what you think.

    3. Thanks for that link, Jane. Very informative. All I can say for sure is that I see house finches around the urn fountain and in and out of the oak tree, but no cowbirds, so maybe it's a house finch female or juvenile. I usually find at least one old house finch nest when I prune the roses in winter. Kind of happy to know that bird ids can confound even the experts at times. My brother in law who was an ornithologist for the US Forest Service calls them LBBs--little brown birds. Hard to tell them apart.

  4. I think you got plenty close to that snake! Where I grew up (in the hills above Spokane, Wa) we had rattlesnakes, and it was not uncommon to come across them. So for a great deal of my life seeing a snake caused an automatic "possible death!" response. Of course part of this was because my parents made sure we kids were plenty afraid and stayed away from them. It's only years later that I realized they weren't all out to get me. Here's hoping you've got gardening weather on the way!

    1. Umm, you mean they are all not out to get us? There are rattlers in the area here, though thankfully have not spotted one in the garden. I think it's okay remaining plenty afraid when it comes to snakes. No sticking bare hands under shrubs without visual assurance of snake-freeness, etc.

      Almost cool enough, happy, happy!


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