Friday, April 26, 2013

Pretty in Pink (for Molly R.)

Western Redbud (Cercis Occidentalis) with Spring blooms
A while back I profiled the purple domination taking place in the front yard in early Spring. I would now like to highlight some of the pink-flowered plants occupying both the front and backyards. In the winter, the pink/white flowers of manzanitas and chaparral currants were peaking. In March, the brilliant floral display of the redbud, coral bells, and pink-flowering currants took center stage. Currently, the pinks of checkerbloom, sea thrift, hummingbird sage, and sea daisy are prominent. Later on, in summer and early fall, the pink hues of red-flowered buckwheat, santa cruz island buckwheat,  and island yarrow will dot the landscape.  Some photos, past and present:

Rosy buckwheat (Eriogonum grande rubescens) thriving in the rock wall, July 2012
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium 'Island Pink'), July 2012
Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum 'Dancing Tassels'), January 2013
Pajaro manzanita (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis 'Warren Roberts'), February 2013
Pink-flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Claremont'),  March 2013
Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea), March 2013
Trio of Sea thrift (Armeria maritima) requires daily watering in a pot
Coral bells hybrid (Heuchera 'Canyon Belle'), April 2013
Coral bells hybrid (Heuchera 'Lillian's Pink') will flower from February through Spring provided it has adequate shade

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Road Trip to Southern California

California signage at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
California signage at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

I just recently returned from a five day road trip that took me south down to Los Angeles, then up through Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo. The primary goal of this journey was to visit as many gardens and parks as possible during the peak blooming season. As an added bonus, I was able to spend some quality time with a couple of close friends in LA and SLO. During my action-packed excursion, I visited four native gardens (Cal Poly Leaning Pine Arboretum, Nipomo Native Garden, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic, and Santa Barbara Botanic) and the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and Seal Sanctuary, and hiked to the Hollywood sign in LA and Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo. In non-native news, I also watched the Oakland A's destroy the Anaheim Angels in Anaheim. Other than the A's victory, highlights were definitely the impressive Rancho Santa Ana Botanic and Santa Barbara Botanic gardens. I hope to soon share some photos and information about these native plant sanctuaries in the near future. But first a few random pictures from the trip:

Protected seals on the beach in Carpinteria
Bench under Oak at Nipomo Native Garden
A shady retreat at the Nipomo Native Garden
Manzanita sign at the Nipomo Native Garden
Manzanita mania at the Nipomo Native Garden
Panoramic view of smoggy LA from behind Hollywood sign
Iconic view of LA from above the Hollywood sign
View from Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo looking northeast
View atop Bishop's Peak in San Luis Obispo

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Blooming ceanothus at the base of a Monterey cypress

Point Lobos, located just south of Carmel, is regarded by many as the "crown jewel" of the California state park system. After our recent visit to the park, I can see how one might come to that conclusion, especially on a warm Spring day when everything is bursting with fresh new growth and flowers.  The trails are well defined, relatively flat, and the views are outstanding. We hiked a loop that took us from Whaler's Cove, along the bluff to the Allen Memorial Cypress Grove, and finally to unprotected, wind-swept Sea Lion Point. Don't forget to pack a windbreaker. Some of what we saw along the trail:

Iris (Iris douglasiana) and wood mint (Stachys bullata) a common site in shaded areas along trail
Lots of life on the rocky cliffs of Point Lobos

Old cypress with orange lace lichen
Ceanothus in the foreground with Headland Cove and Sea Lion Point in the distance
The windy bluff trail around Sea Lion Point

The familiar coastal scrub palette that I love so much: sagebrush, coyote brush, lupines, seaside daisy and indian  paintbrush
Looking south down the Big Sur coast

Friday, April 5, 2013

Asilomar Dunes Natural Preserve

Beach entrance to the Asilomar grounds

This past weekend we took a trip down to the Monterey peninsula and stayed at the historic Asilomar Conference Grounds in Pacific Grove, CA. This sprawling complex, now in its 100th year of existence, is probably most famous for its ties to famed Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan. Over the course of fifteen years, she designed sixteen Arts & Crafts style buildings on the Asilomar grounds, including Merrill Hall, pictured below.

Merrill Hall, one of Morgan's creations, home to a women's quilting convention this particular weekend

I didn't really know what to expect from Asilomar. Reviews were lukewarm and there was rain in the forecast for our one day excursion. Upon arrival, I was immediately impressed with the architecture and the native plantings scattered about the grounds. Outside our rustic lodge room were blooming Douglas Iris and a very mature and stately flowering currant.  That night we were treated to the persistent patter of raindrops on the roof as we sat drinking beverages in front of a blazing fire. It was a truly memorable experience.

The next morning, the rain had subsided and we were able to explore the grounds. On our way down to the beach, we passed a native nursery fully stocked with plants in all stages of development.

Asilomar native nursery proudly displaying their arsenal of plants

Information signs near the nursery detailed the massive effort underway to restore the dunes to "pre-European influence."  For years, the dune ecosystem had been devastated by sand mining, logging, grazing, resort development, and human traffic. In 1984, the California State Park service began rehabilitating the dunes by first collecting native seeds, and then establishing a nursery to propagate plants for revegetation purposes. Over the past few decades, invasive plants (e.g. ice plant) have been removed, sand has been shifted and shaped into more natural contours, and an extensive boardwalk has been constructed to give the viewing public a close up look at the revitalized dunes.

Asilomar's winding boardwalk

Beach sagewort, coyote brush and lupines are certainly well represented on the dunes, as are verbenas, sea thrift and poppies.  Here are a few photos from the trail:

Beautiful morning on the coast

Beach sagewort, coyote brush and lupine entwined on the dunes

Looking south toward Pebble Beach

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima) thriving on the coast