Category Archives: California

Sun Signs

This year I have been happy with our June Gloom here in Southern California. It is a sign of cooler weather when we have gray cloudy skies, when the climate conditions cause the moist cool air from the ocean to come inland and keep temperatures down. It results in cloudy days but it is better than the very hot days we will be getting in July and August. But just when I was celebrating the coolness along comes a heat wave expected to last at least until early next week. TGFAC! (Thank God For Air Conditioning). I am hunkered down inside like a refrigerated hermit.

I have ventured out a few times and wanted to share some photos of clear blue sunny Southern California skies.

“Blue skies smilin’ at me

Nothing but blue skies do I see…”


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda G Hill. The prompt word for today is “sign.”  Featured image of Sun with cloud by kropekk_pl on Pixabay.com

 

The Swallows Return

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night……will keep the swallows from returning to the Mission San Juan Capistrano on St. Joseph’s Day every year. Turns out while I wasn’t looking the swallows stopped their historic annual return in 2003. It can’t be blamed on the California weather or global warming. The swallows stopped coming when construction was going on at the Mission. The swallows did not return for over a decade. Now with the concerted efforts of the Mission staff, an ornithologist, recorded bird calls, and the building of a temporary nesting wall, the swallows are returning to Capistrano this year. So whether or not you think my post about the annual migration of our swallows is hot, I think it’s pretty cool.

 


Post inspired from today’s LA Times Article ‘Familiar Sights Returning to O.C.‘ about the swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Featured image of San Juan Capistrano Mission by Ken Lund via Flickr. Image of Cliff Swallow by Don Debold.

Unofficial motto of the US Postal Service, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” inscription on James Farley Post Office in New York City.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda G Hill. The prompt words for today are “weather/whether.”

Mystery Tree

“To be astonished is one of the surest ways of not growing old too quickly.”                  -Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette

PIA21270 Martian Dust Devil via JPL

Martian Dust Devil Action Gale Crater, Sol 1597

Isn’t that a great Gif from NASA? There is wind on Mars. It is wonderful that we have the technology to capture images from another planet.

Speaking of technology, my new App has been working pretty well up until now. I take a photo of the plant/bush/tree that I want to identify and the App sends me several images of different plants/bushes/trees to see if there is a match. If I do not see a match, I can ask The Horticulturist. I then submit 3 photos of the mystery plant and The Horticulturist will get back to me within 24 hours with an answer. This was all going swimmingly until the App couldn’t identify one of my bush/trees.

Mystery Tree

Mystery Tree

I need to trim some of the branches off the bottom of this tree.  I do remember being told in the past it is a Manzanita. I have been researching, and it matches better with a Toyon or Christmas Berry or California Holly. This would make it a native of California, drought tolerant, and good for bees and birds. It gets red berries in winter. The birds and squirrels like to eat the berries. It is quite comical to see the squirrels hanging upside down off the branches munching on the berries.  After researching a lot some more, I think I have found it, Eureka!  It is not a Manzanita, it is not a Toyon or Christmas Berry, it is a Firethorn or Pyracantha.  The App probably had a hard time identifying it because it has not flowered yet, although it has some little buds, and no berries yet. I was so focused on the leaves and buds that I did not notice it does have some thorns on the branches. Some of thorns are hidden behind the leaves and they are very sharp. It was hard to capture a clear image of the thorns but I included a few below. I noticed that it is getting a couple of pretty white flowers up on a higher branch, and there is this cotton-y stuff scattered around some of the branches. It is not a native of California but it is hardy and drought tolerant.

I found out about the cotton-y stuff on a few branches, and it is good it is few and far between because it is a sign of the woolly apple aphid. The aphids usually do not become a major problem thanks to natural predators like some wasps, lady bugs, syrphid flies or hover flies, earwigs, and lace wings. I saw some flying wasp-y looking insects around the tree this morning and hope they are after the aphids. And I have noticed lots of earwigs in our yard. I have to keep watch for aphid mummies, which is what happens when the wasps attack the aphids. Between those spiky thorns and the aphid mummies this is getting a little scary.  But I am liking earwigs more.


One Liner Wednesday is hosted by Linda G Hill. It is a nice way to meet up with other bloggers. Click on the link to check out her site.

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My Near Perfect Urban Trees

Continuing my research on my backyard flora, I have identified two more trees. They are the biggest trees on our property and against a back wall. I used my App again and couldn’t find a match. I did ask The Horticulturist but you have to wait for 24 hours to get the answer. But I was able to find them online. They are common trees in LA, drought tolerant, evergreen, conifers, and don’t cause problems with their roots. They are called Afrocarpus falcatus or Fern Pines. ( I find they are also referred to as Afrocarpus gracilior).  Cal Poly San Luis Obispo says the names are synonymous. They are originally from Africa.  Some other names are African Fern Pine and Yellowwood. Robin Rivet a horticulturist in the San Diego Horticultural Society (Oct. 2012, No. 217, pg. 5) called them “near perfect for urban landscapes.” Very reassuring. Thank you, Robin. Can’t get any better than that. Cal Poly states that my Fern Pines can grow 12-36 in./year, up to 50-65 ft. tall, and live more than 150 years. I can just see these two trees being the last things standing on our property.


Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda G Hill. My featured image is of a ‘Ring-necked dove in an African Fern Pine’ in Maui by Forrest and Kim Starr on Flickr. We get doves in our yard and in our Fern Pine Trees. It is hard to get a photo because the minute we go outside they usually fly off. Ours are Mourning Doves.

Mourning Dove

Mourning Dove via US Fish and Wildlife Service

In My Garden-Volunteers

” I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.”- Martha Smith

Volunteer-“In gardening and agronomic terminology, a volunteer is a plant that grows on its own, rather than being deliberately planted by a farmer or gardener. Volunteers often grow from seeds that float in on the wind, are dropped by birds, or are inadvertently mixed into compost.” (Wikipedia)

I have a couple of plants in my garden that are popping up without any help or encouragement from me. We did plant one of them but it is popping up in other spots. I have identified it as Sedum rubrotinctum aka Jelly Bean or Pork and Beans plants. Here are some photos of mine:

I think there were more that I pulled up when they were babies because I thought they were some kind of weed.  Another plant (tree) that grows like a weed are Palm trees. If you have a Palm tree anywhere nearby you will find little Palm tree seedlings popping up like weeds all over your yard. And you have to be vigilant in pulling them out or pretty soon you will have a tree where you may not want one. We ended up with a huge Palm tree against our wall, from a volunteer like that, and another one in our front yard.

This is what they look like if you catch them early:

Palm Tree Seedlings

As I was surveying the plants in my backyard,  I came across this hiding under some other bushes against one wall:

We will have to dig it up or end up with a much bigger tree in the near future.

In a recent post I mentioned there was clover growing in my garden, which also is a volunteer. I was thinking a neighbor may have some clover in their garden and the seeds spread to mine. Well, while researching the type of “clover” it might be, I discovered it is not clover but something called “Yellow wood sorrel” or Oxalis stricta. It grows wild so it is a volunteer. In small amounts it can be edible and medicinal. It is sour tasting and  a thirst quencher if you chew a bit of it.  The leaves close up in bright sun. I noticed some of the “clover” leaves were doing that too.  I like the look of it but I don’t necessarily want it to take over the backyard, but it is pretty and has a pretty name ‘wood sorrel.’ I am going to have to look for a different ground cover to fill in the bare spots. I took some photos of the sorrel this morning. You can see some of the leaves partially closed. The yellow flowers are closed this morning. We had rain yesterday and the sun is not so bright right now, a little cloudy today.

Some good news is that we planted our Lime tree.

And the Sage plants are doing well and really blooming:


Featured Image of Sedum r. by Frank Vincentz via Wikipedia.  One Liner Wednesday is hosted by Linda G Hill.

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In My Garden-Magical Things

“The universe is full of  magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”                – Eden Phillpotts

I noticed something on the top of one of our cactus plants and on closer inspection I saw these bright pink protuberances:

I think I mentioned before that we did not save the tags for most of our plants and this makes it hard to identify them later.  However I have been doing a bit of research and believe I have identified a couple more of the cacti/succulents. The image above is of Cleistocactus hyalacanthus.

One of the other succulents in the front yard has a large light green flowering stalk growing out of it right now. I identified this plant as Kalanchoe luciae aka Paddle Kalanchoe, Paddle plant, Desert Cabbage, Flapjacks, and Red Pancakes ( named for the shape and color of the leaves):

I have been reading up on the Kalanchoe and I can grow many more plants from the mother plant. Here, in the image below, are some of the baby plants that can be harvested and repotted. Can you see them tucked into the bottom of the leaves?

While researching some images of kolanchoe I found ( an image by Nova on Wikipedia) of one of my backyard succulents is called Kolanchoe tormentosa:

Kalanchoe tormentosa

We have been converting our front and backyards to drought tolerant landscapes. The front yard has a low flow drip sprinkler system. Happy to have something that is low maintenance with our rock ground cover, pavers and drought tolerant plants.


One Liner Wednesday is hosted by Linda G Hill. Featured image Cleistocactus in flower by Leonora Enking on Flickr. I hope my cleistocactus flowers will open up like that. 🙂