Garden Critters!

One of the best things about creating a garden is all the critters you attract.

I’ve already talked quite a bit about the California quail and their babies visiting the garden.

The other day I found this cool spider hanging out among the bells of Ireland.  Does anyone know what type it is?

This morning I was watering and noticed something big scurrying away out of the corner of my eye.  It appears I had soaked a poor praying mantis.  It climbed up on some Convolvulus to dry off and catch something tasty.

For a while I was lamenting the fact that no hummingbirds were visiting my garden. I’m happy to say they finally found me.  This little guy is often perched on the Cantua buxifolia where he can quickly defend the nearby Nicotiana mutabilis from bees and rival hummingbirds.  Kind of funny that I went out of my way to plant lots of orange and red flowering plants to attract the hummingbirds and their favorite is the pink and white Nicotiana.

So what are your favorite garden critters?  Anything exciting visiting your garden this summer?





July Blooms

Even though I have been really busy I try to take the time to snap a few photos in the garden.  Here are a few of the things that are blooming now.

Epilobium ‘Marin Pink’

I think this Epilobium is sort of insipid. I would have been happier with the standard bright red blooms rather than this pale salmon cultivar. But one of my neighbors loves it.  Maybe in the fall I’ll dig it up and give it to her.

Nothing insipid about Mentzelia lindleyi.  This is another California native annual I grew from seed.  They are doing well despite the fact that I left them in little two inch pots way longer than I should have.

Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’

This plant is grown more for the ornamental seed heads than the flowers.  The blooms are typical pale blue Scabiosa flowers but they very quickly go to seed.  This was very easy to grow but I am not sure I will grow it again.

They are more a novelty plant and aren’t that ornamental in large quantities in the garden.  Maybe a few tucked in here and there would work but I planted about a dozen of them and from a distance it just looks like I have a bunch of dead plants in my garden! And lots of grass coming up.  Please ignore the grass.

Didiscus caeruleus (aka Trachymene caerulea) on the other hand is very ornamental.  It is an Australian annual and is very drought tolerant, and while it was super easy to grow from seed, it did take them about six months to bloom. They are amazing as a cut flower lasting about two weeks in a vase. Does anyone cut flowers from their garden? I almost never do.  Sometimes if something snaps off in the wind I will bring it inside. I love the idea of a cutting garden but in reality I would rather just enjoy them outdoors.  If I bring them inside I’ll just have a mess of flower petals to clean up inside.

They are also available in pink and white but one of the things that makes them so neat is that blue is not a common color in umbellifers.

The red seed heads are ornamental too.

Moluccella laevis is still going strong.

Gaillardia X grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’

I finally finished planting the bed in my fenced backyard. It is mostly Salvias but I have been so happy with the Gaillardia in other parts of my garden I couldn’t resist adding these yellow ones.

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ was a chance hybrid seedling found by an Australian gardener. Maybe a mix of S. buchanii and S. vanhouttei?

Finally the baby quail in the neighborhood are growing up.  A pair of proud parents brought seven little babies around the other day.  They grow so fast! Already out of the tiny walnut stage and growing in their first feathers.

Hopefully I’ll have more time soon to post some new updates. I’ve been taking some photos so that I can post an update about what worked and what didn’t work in the path garden.  Look for it soon(ish)!

Dust Bath

The California quail have discovered my bird feeders and today a group of about ten of them were happily running around the yard.  They seem to have grown fairly used to me as they no longer flee the scene when I go out and quietly walk around the front yard.

As much as they love the seed from the feeder they really love taking dust baths in my new beds.  Particularly under my new Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’.

The female looks like she is trying to hide behind the trunk.  They are super adorable while taking their baths.  They often snuggle up together and just sit there for a while once they have dug themselves a little indentation in the soil.

Ignore the sorry unfinished state of this part of the garden and click on the picture and see if you can find all seven of the quail that are scampering about.

Right after I started planting the shrubs the kikuyu grass started growing back so I’ve sprayed it and am going to wait for it to die back a bit before I finish planting.  In the meantime the quail are pretty happy back here.  I just discovered that I have electricity outside so I would eventually like to get some sort of bubbling fountain so I have running water for the birds.

If only quail ate kikuyu grass.

Beautiful Things

My first two Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’ flowers opened today.  It is a pretty great feeling when something that you grew from seed blooms for the first time.

In other news a pair of quail have taken residence nearby.  I’m pretty sure they are nesting somewhere in the shrubs across the street.  The male often hangs out on my fence.

Look how pretty he is!  I think I’ll invest in a ground feeder for my backyard now that I know they are hanging out here.  There is another little covey of four that hang out in the side yard by the street but they don’t really venture into my front yard like this new pair does.

Of course this also means I will have to put some bird netting over my strawberries sooner rather than later.  Quails can be quite destructive in vegetable gardens.  They are nibbling some of my new perennials in the mediterranean garden but most of them are big enough that they should be able to handle it.


I heard what sounded like a cross between a bird and a dog barking so went outside to have a look around.

Turned out it was some California quail visiting the neighborhood!

This pair went running by and scrounged a bit in the weeds in my side yard.

The “barking” was coming from this male quail who found a high vantage point where he could keep watch. He was calling to several other “watchmen” quail down the block.  I’ve heard this noise in the distance before but didn’t realize it was quail.  I’ve only heard them make a sort of cooing little bloop noise as they run around in the underbrush.

I’m pretty psyched because quail are awesomely cute and also California’s state bird.  The coolest thing about them is when they have their babies the little chicks look like walnuts with feet running along behind their parents.  The mortality rate is pretty high on these guys so they usually lay a dozen or more eggs. I’m glad to have them in the neighborhood and hope to see them some more.

In other news the first of the California poppies I planted opened today.  This color selection is called ‘Moonglow’ and is a nice creamy white.  I stuck with white poppies in the mediterranean bed and oranges and reds in the other beds.

Another lovely little cream-colored native is Platystemon californicus or cream cups.  These have been blooming for a few weeks now and not only are they adorable but they are also fragrant if you get down on the ground and stick your nose right into them.

We had a nice heavy drizzle this morning.  I’m sure a lot of non gardeners and folks with 9-5 weekday jobs are not too happy that the past 3 weekends have been rainy but I’m not complaining. I actually hope we have a late rainy season that continues right through April this year.