Friday, March 29, 2013

Purple Reign in the Garden

Purple domination in the front yard, mid-March 2013
One of these days I will detail the process of how the front yard native garden came to be, but in the meantime, I'd like to share some images of the early Spring highlights. The manzanitas and chaparral currant have finished flowering and  passed the torch to the wild lilac, verbena, and wildly blooming CA scorpionweed (Phacelia californica). Dark blues and shades of purple rule here in late March, but help is on the way. The monkeyflowers (Mimulus) should soon provide shades of orange, and golden aster (Heterotheca 'San Bruno Mountain'), sulfur buckwheat (Eriogonum 'Shasta Sulphur'), golden yarrow (Eriophyllum confertiflorum), and spreading gum plant (Grindelia stricta) should pitch in with plenty of yellows. Most everything is looking healthy, with the exception of the hybrid sage (Salvia 'Winifred Gillman') which has fallen prey to insect infestation and may need to be removed. Now showing in the front yard:

Ceanothus 'Centennial' cascading over rock wall
Ceanothus 'Centennial' cascading over the rock wall

The ever-popular Lilac Verbena 'De La Mina' (Verbena lilacina) grows in the parkway strip

Aptly named California scorpionweed (Phacelia californica) is a bee magnet

Sedum spathulifolium purpureum
At home nestled amongst rocks is this stonecrop (Sedum spathulifolium purpureum)

Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans)

Friday, March 22, 2013

San Mateo Arboretum Society

Poppies brighten the sign to the Central Park's 9th Ave entrance
Just a few blocks from our house in San Mateo sits Central Park, a vast green oasis with a little something for everyone: a renowned Japanese Tea Garden for those seeking tranquility; a beautifully manicured rose garden for the flower fanatics (you know who you are!);  a softball field and tennis court for the jocks; a playground for the kiddies; and the ancient Kohl Pump House for the history buffs among us who would like a glimpse at what late 19th century Central San Mateo looked like.

Rose Garden (sans roses)

On a leisurely stroll through the park one morning last year, I discovered a greenhouse next to the pump house with elderly women busily potting and watering plants. It seemed like an efficient and harmonious operation, and there were hundreds of plants neatly organized on tables . I inquired about native plants and a nice lady showed me to a small table with fifteen or so natives happily basking in the sun. For sale were sedum, penstemons, native roses, hummingbird sage, beach strawberry and sea thrift to name a few. They were reasonably priced at $5/gallon and $3/4" size. Contrast this with Yerba Buena Nursery that charges at least $13 for gallon plants.

There is a native table at the greenhouse selling plants such as beach strawberry, penstemons and sages

The volunteer seemed to feed off my enthusiasm for native plants and decided to take me on a tour of the native plantings around Central Park. There is one partly sunny bed located near the Tea Garden that contains a random assortment of buckwheats (Eriogonum), ground cover manzanita (Arctostaphylos), monkeyflowers (Mimulus), seaside daisy (Erigeron), dune tansy (Tanacetum), and a robust  canyon sunflower (Venegasia).  The plants had only recently been planted and there was some evidence of trampled vegetation, which was difficult to see.

Venegasia Carpesioides - Canyon sunflower

Red-Flowered Mimulus - monkeyflower

The next stop on our tour was a small bed surrounding an entrance sign to the park. This arrangement featured CA poppies (Eschscholzia), lilac verbena (Verbena), sages (Salvia), matilija poppy (Romneya), and a very cool sundial.

One of two native plant beds in the park. Clearly there is room to expand 

After my tour, I vowed to help expand the native plant table at the greenhouse. Thus far I have donated one round of cuttings but I need to do more. The San Mateo Arboretum Society is a very worthy cause that helps maintain the grounds around the pump house and hosts various garden classes and workshops. In the future I hope to dedicate more time in the greenhouse. If you get a chance, check out their website:


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

UC Botanical Garden visit

Entrance to the California section of the UC Botanic Garden

My wife and I recently visited the UC Botanical garden in the Berkeley hills above campus. Located in close proximity to the Regional Parks Botanical garden, the UC garden features one of the best California native plant displays in the Bay Area. The manzanita (Arctostaphylos) and California lilac (Ceanothus) collections are particularly impressive, as is the seven acre redwood grove located across the street from the garden entrance.  Other personal highlights in the UC garden include fine coastal and Channel Islands sections and a large beautiful Oak Knoll. Our garden in San Mateo, which features many coastal plants and a dedicated Channels Islands section,  was heavily influenced by the plant collections seen at the Regional Parks and UC gardens.

New growth on the giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea), one of the most distinctive Channel Islands' plants 

On this sunny February day, we were treated to fine displays of flowering manzanita, California lilac, currants and gooseberries (Ribes), and silk tassels (Garrya elliptica) among others. Here are a few of my favorite photographs:

A sprawling ceanothus underneath the oak knoll

A beautiful mature Central Coast manzanita in the chaparral section of the gardens

A winding hillside path flanked by manzanita, ceanothus and hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea)

Unlike the Regional Parks garden, the UC botanical charges admission ($7) and parking fees (~$3) and contains collections from all over the world including South America, Asia and South Africa. There is a also an interesting herb garden/medicinal plant area and a fine (if small) plant shop with some nice, reasonably priced natives. I got my rare San Bruno mountain manzanita (A. imbricata) here. Despite the fees and hassle of navigating through the chaos of Berkeley to get there, I highly recommend a visit to the UC botanical garden.

Up close and personal with a flowering coastal silk tassel (Garrya elliptic)