Wildlife in the Garden

You don’t have to do too much to attract wildlife to your garden. Basically if you build it they will come. Certain plant families are have a lot to offer different types of wildlife though. Salvias and any Asteraceae are sure things to attract a wide range of little beasties. Hummingbirds and bees love Salvia nectar and finches enjoy the seeds. Butterflies and bees love plants in the Aster family and once again finches and other birds love the seeds.

Of course bird feeders are helpful too. Bird feeders and seed are pretty expensive though. A nyjer/thistle feeder is probably the most affordable route to go as the seed generally lasts a long time and usually only small finches are attracted to it and can fit on the feeders. Shelled sunflower seeds are an excellent way to attract birds too. I prefer getting the shelled or hulled seeds because the shells make a huge mess in the garden that can prohibit plant growth. Again this makes it more expensive so now I use a cheaper “no mess” mix. I prefer the ones that include things like millet rather than large seeds and nuts.

This male lesser goldfinch is enjoying my Salvia confertiflora. Large flocks come to the feeders but they enjoy my Salvias, Verbena, and Tithonia too.

Female lesser goldfinch hanging out on Verbena bonariensis (could be an American goldfinch. But I think most of my goldfinches are the lesser variety. Hard to tell when they don’t have their breeding plumage).

And another goldfinch rooting around in a Verbena bonariensis looking for seeds. Or perhaps they like the nectar too. I’m not really sure.

I was about to head outside into the garden when I got a bit of a shock. Hawks usually pick a higher vantage point like the top of a tree or telephone pole to survey my yard but this young Cooper’s hawk sat himself down on my fence right near my feeder.

Maybe he was hoping that if he stood perfectly still some yummy little finch would land right next to him. Alas a crow soon did see him waiting here and chased him off. The number one way I notice hawks in my yard is I hear crows and other birds complaining about them. Smaller birds mob large predatory birds when they get too close to their nests. It is a pretty funny thing to watch.

This male Anna’s hummingbird owns my yard. He sits on this Yucca (the tallest thing in my yard) watching for rivals to chase away from his plants. In the next yard another hummingbird watches from a Myoporum and across the street one sits on a tall Cedar. They all sit singing their little hummingbird songs as if daring each other to overstep their bounds.

I finally have monarch caterpillars on my Asclepias curassavica (and some little bright orange Asclepias aphids if you look closely). I purposely planted this food source to entice monarchs into laying their eggs in my yard but I think it was the Tithonia rotundifolia that really lured them in.

Monarch caterpillars go through 5 different molts (called instars) before they form a chrysalis. I think the little one on the left is a 2nd or 3rd instar and the big guy is a 4th or 5th instar. I’ll be keeping an eye on them the next few weeks.

I was thrilled that a big flock of bushtits was hanging out in my garden this afternoon (warning – do not Google bushtit with safe search off). They are the sweetest little birds. I was even happier when I managed to get this picture of one of them on a Fuchsia stem next to some Cuphea ‘Minnie Mouse’. They don’t stay still for very long.

A juvenile white crowned sparrow hanging out on some dried up Tithonia rotundifolia. The Tithonia looks pretty ugly when it starts to die but it is important to leave annuals in the garden as long as you can. The longer you can put up with it looking like crap the more birds you will attract and the more seedlings you will have next season.

In my next garden I’m definitely going to try to grow my fruit bearing shrubs and trees to attract a broader range of birds. A water source, particularly moving water is great for attracting birds too so I will probably get some sort of bubbling fountain. But considering how little life there was in my yard before I started this garden and now it is home to dozens of birds I think I am off to a good start.

Good Morning Hummingbird

I woke up early Saturday morning (well early for me at any rate) and this little fella was just chilling on some Verbena bonariensis outside my kitchen window.

I think it is a male Anna’s hummingbird but if someone has a better ID for me please feel free to share.

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?





Road Trip to Annie’s!

It was time to take a road trip to the Bay Area this weekend so I could stock up on plants from Annie’s Annuals for my garden.  I decided to take the scenic route up Route 1.

I stopped at Ragged Point and took a bunch of pictures of this hummingbird zipping around the Echium candicans.  Even though there are several species of hummingbird in California I always assume they are Anna’s hummingbirds I am seeing because I believe they are the most common year round residents.

They are fast little buggers but I got a couple of decent pictures.  Pretty sure this is the same guy but the red around their throat is only visible when the light hits it from a certain angle.

I pulled over to take a picture of this huge lupin.

Aside from lupins there were Oxalis, Ceanothus, mustard, and California poppies in bloom along the coast.  On my way back I took the interior roads and there were tons of almonds, cherries, and plums in bloom.  It will always be a bit strange to me that fruit trees bloom in the middle of winter here in California instead of in early spring on the east coast.

Since it was a Sunday I didn’t make too many stops because there were a lot of cars on the road and most of the parking lots were full. So I skipped the elephant seals and Nepenthe.  I did stop at the vista point to take a picture of Big Creek Bridge.  It was a beautiful clear winter day.

wooly Indian paintbrush

I believe this is Castilleja foliolosa but I’m not an expert on them.  I do know that they are hemiparasitic (derive some of their sustenance from the roots of other plants) which is why you don’t see them for sale as a garden plant.

So happy!  Every time I drive up the California coast I feel very lucky to be living here.

The waves were insane!  I tried to get a picture of some of the big ones but of course they wouldn’t cooperate.  The huge waves were shy and only came out when I put my camera away.

I spent Sunday night in Berkeley and woke up bright and early Monday morning and headed to Annie’s for a full day of shopping.

I made a beeline for this Athanasia pinnata.  I think it will make a really nice specimen planting in my mediterranean garden so of course I had to have one.

Megan from Far Out Flora (one of my favorite garden blogs) works at Annie’s so I let her know I was coming so I could say hey.

I had a long day ahead of me.  I was there for a total of 5 hours.  Even though I came prepared with a list and Annie’s is very well organized I always end up running around in circles like a fool.  Everyone that congratulated me for being a grown up and not buying that Globularia a few weeks ago can go ahead and revoke my adult status.  Things I didn’t plan on buying were literally leaping into my cart when I wasn’t looking.  To be fair it is a four hour trip so I need to stock up. And there is no other nursery in the world like Annie’s Annuals (and Perennials).  The type of plants they grow are the exact sort of plants that I am in love with.  It was a beautiful overcast day for taking pictures but of course it is February so the display gardens are not at their bloomiest best.  There are always display plants in containers in bloom though so I did take the time to snap a few pictures.

Platystemon californicus – cream cups

Nemophila menziesii ‘Penny Black’

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine and Gilia tricolor 

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

Alonsoa meridionalis ‘Apricot’

I set a new record for amount of the amount of plants I can fit in my VW Golf!  Twelve and a half flats.  That is TWO HUNDRED four inch pots!

I purposely traveled light so I would be able to stuff plants in every available spot. I had added so many extra plants I was afraid I was going to have to balance a few on my head but as it turns out two hundred is pretty much the exact amount of plants that will fit in my car without resorting to heroic measures.

They all made it home with me safe and sound.  I spent all of today placing and planting and I have a lot more planting to do tomorrow.  My spring garden is going to be out of control!  Thanks Annie’s Annuals!


Cool Plant of the Week!

Instead of a cool plant this week you get a cool hummingbird shot.  Hummingbirds are so fast it is all about the luck when taking pictures of them.  At least for me it is.  I was at Montana de Oro the other day and took this shot at just the right moment to capture a dive bomb attack.  Hummingbirds are territorial little beasts!  Too bad about the stupid telephone wires in the background.  Who puts telephone poles at the beach?  Who does that?


Elfin Forest and One Hundred Page View Celebration!

As promised I have pictures of the El Moro Elfin Forest that I visited the other day.  But first I wanted to give a big thank you to everyone who visited yesterday.  For the first time ever I got over a hundred page views in a single day(one hundred and three to be exact).  That may not seem like a lot but my blog sort of stalled last year when I got sick after my England trip and didn’t post any updates for a while.

But now that I have moved and will be more directly involved in my garden designs and am finally able to keep a garden of my own this blog will be seeing  a lot more activity.  So if you are a garden blogger and are reading this spread the word to your viewers and any tips you have to improve my numbers or improve the look of the blog would be appreciated.  And non bloggers please spread the word to your garden loving friends!  Next goal one thousand views a day!

Also feel free to leave comments, questions or corrections on my posts and thanks to everyone who stuck around even when I went through a bit of a posting slump last year.

And now back to the pictures.  So the other day I walked over to the El Moro Elfin Forest Natural Area which is on the north east edge of town bordering the Morro Bay Estuary.  It is only a mile and a half away from my new place and I had been hearing about it for years so I thought I should finally check it out.

Well worth the visit.  The Quercus agrifolia that grow here are stunted due to the environment and instead of fifty feet they range from four to twenty feet tall.  The area is protected now and a boardwalk and trails meander through with amazing views of the bay and surrounding hills and lots of local flora and fauna.

The elfin forest is located southeast of the estuary and the bay.  You can see Morro Rock in the center of the photo.  This whole area is a bird watchers paradise. I need to get some binoculars.

Pale whitish-blue flowered Ceanothus cuneatus is in full bloom now and was swarming with buzzing honey bees.

Between the Ceanothus, sages, and Artemisia the air is wonderfully fragrant.

I have to admit that I only just learned there was such a thing as Paeonia californica last week.  So I was pretty excited to see them growing here.

A few along the trail were even in bud.  I have to remember to go back and try to get pictures of them blooming.

I’m not really a pro at identifying native Salvias but I think this is Salvia mellifera.

I had no problem identifying the Ribes speciosum blooming all over.  Fuchsia flowered gooseberries are a hummingbird favorite and they were buzzing all around the forest fighting over each patch of flowers.

This male Anna’s hummingbird stopped and perched to survey his territory.  No, really. I swear there is a hummingbird there.  Click the photo to enlarge it and press your nose right up against your screen.  I should have brought my better camera.

This is the sort of place that demands panoramic photos.  From certain vantage points you are just surrounded by beautiful sights. This is another picture worth clicking to see the original giant photo.  You can make out several of the “Nine Sisters” ancient volcanic peaks between Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo.  Morro Rock is on the left in the center of the bay, the small black hill bordering the forest is the appropriately named Black Hill, the large hilly area in the center is Cerro Cabrillo, and the really jagged rock formation off toward the right is Hollister Peak. Cool thing about Hollister Peak is that the owners of the land keep it all closed off as private property to preserve it.  While I am sure there are people who would love to climb all over it I kind of love that it is off-limits and hope it stays that way.

In a few spots the old gnarled trunks of the pygmy oaks are exposed along the path.  This lichen covered grove made a nice ghostly display.  If you visit the elfin forest be sure to stay on the marked trails and boardwalk. Aside from the Salvia, bracken ferns, and California blackberry under that grove I am pretty sure I can make out some poison oak.

The oaks are blooming now.  OK, maybe not as impressive as the Ribes, Ceanothus, and Arctostaphylos but still pretty neat.

Even the dead oaks are pretty.  On the right you can see Hollister Peak again.  One of the mos distinct hills in the area and definitely my favorite.  I’ll have to get some better pictures of it some day to share here.

In the center of the forest is the Rose Bowker Grove.  A boardwalk leads you right under the canopy of these pygmy oaks to a seating area where you can admire their twisted trunks.

Almost forgot to mention I saw a bunch of California quail running around in the brush near the entrance.  Well “saw” is a bit generous. I mostly just caught glimpses of them as they scurried about.  But I definitely heard their very distinctive quail noises.  Really just about the cutest birds ever.  Their babies in summer look like little walnuts with feet.  I’m hoping I can figure out a way to attract them to my yard.

I hope you enjoyed this little tour and if you are ever visiting the Central Coast consider a visit to the El Moro Elfin Forest.

Other things I liked about SoCal

The hummingbird garden on my balcony.The street art across from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Los Angeles Arboretum.Peacock at Los Angeles Arboretum.Mountain view from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Blooming nectarine at South Coast Botanical Garden.
Orange Leucospermum hedge blooming in Sunset Park, Santa Monica.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Bounty from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.The Drosanthemum floribundum carpeting this sloped front yard near my old apartment in Santa Monica.The Santa Monica Community Garden on Main Street.
My favorite was the sweet pea guy.Kite Surfers in Malibu!View of the ocean from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Dioscorea elephantipes at California Cactus Center in Pasadena.Charmlee County Regional Park in MalibuView of Malibu and the Pacific from Charmlee County Regional Park.
Amazing arrest I saw.The gardens at the Getty in Brentwood.The view of Los Angeles from the top of Runyon Canyon Park.Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont.Coreopsis gigantea blooming on the cliffs of north Malibu.

Things I liked about SoCal, a set on Flickr.

Here are a few more pictures that didn’t make the cut but were still pretty cool. Click the thumbnails to see a description.