May 8, 2021

Two years in coming, the first bloom on the matilija poppies. I looked back to May 2019 when they were first planted. Lots of buds now as well.

The crimson and white ostespermums are coming back for a second bloom after pruning. I worked on the lavender ostespermum this morning.

Time of systematic maintenance on the flagstones. I expended four gallons of Roundup – two refills of the container, front, side and back. My hope is to catch the weeds just before the dry season settles in for good. I prefer weeds that are not just dormant but dead to the roots.

I pruned back all three roses and removed the spent blooms. They are all already flourishing this season. The two pink roses appear to have a dusty border effect.

Mike and I tended the back lawn and border irrigation system yesterday. The chart will need to be updated to trace from each valve to the respective sprinklers and drips. Removing algae clogged filters substantially improved water pressure and coverage. I also found and dug out another sprinkler buried in the grass, just in front of the herb garden.

May 6, 2021

I am back at the ranch. Coming across the San Joaquin Valley yesterday afternoon was like hitting a wall. Temperatures into the 90s will abate today. The tile keeps the house cool, and I do not expect to turn on the air conditioning until mid-July.

The Triangle Garden has become the land of tall plants. The native columbine has orange blooms at the end of a forest of tall center stalks. Same bloom in shape, just not columbine white and blue. The brave little columbine is also back, sheltered under the wings of her native sister, with the traditional white bloom.

The native verbena has long slender stalks with the traditional purple-pink cluster blooms at the ends. Just not a ground cover. The flashbulb lotus in the container is beginning to show its orange blooms, like tongues of fire. A candidate for the current most interesting Dr. Seuss plant. The deep crimson petunia with yellow centers will be the Cinderella hit for this year.

I checked the photinia to confirm that it was receiving plentiful water from the drip. I reduced the flow a turn or two, hoping to find a sustainable irrigation level through the next six months.

I cleared the dead leaves and clover around Grandmother Camellia, followed by the usual program of supplemental water, mulch and water on the mulch. No fewer than four irrigation feeders should be sufficient to sustain Grandmother through the upcoming season. I will need to feed all three camellias soon.

May 5, 2020

I gave attention to the Oakland back yard yesterday, trimming back the native irises to the core and digging out the dead growth underneath. The fortnight lilies benefit from this treatment each year, hopefully not a false comparison. I thinned out the traditional irises and removed a third of the root clusters. The plumbago and the marrow are almost outgrowing the garden, and needed to be pruned back significantly. For good measure, I dead headed the bulbine. I removed the Lily of the Nile at the end of its season to leave more room for the day lilies.

The sasanqua camellia is shedding a lot of leaves – perhaps its growth pattern for the summer. It received generous water that will be held in the container.

I will prune the tangerine tree next week. The climbing roses, yellow and pink, are in full blooming mode, right on schedule.

April 30, 2021

Both sunset rockroses in the Front Slope Garden are blooming, as well as the raphiolepis in the Triangle Garden. I may look for a nitrogen rich fertilizer for Raphi who is looking a bit scrawny. The surprise lily that is a surprise every year in the Triangle Garden is sending up its shoots.

The photinia seems to be suffering the Spartacus effect, emerging into the sun when all the overgrown as cut down. I hauled down supplemental water and adjusted the irrigation feeder to a downward slope.

Looking back at last April, I found that what I planned as California native irises were in fact a white satin variety of liberta. The blooms in Saint Francis Plaza are about to be replicated in the Back Border Garden.

Apparently the rain barrel at the Herb Garden has never been drawn off. Today it was full to the brim and may have overflowed in the latest rain. I cleared the downspout of debris, and will use that barrel for watering house plants through the coming dry season.

I pruned back the licorice plant by half. In that process, I uncovered the manifold at the back of the plant along the retaining wall, and reattached a stray irrigation line to the neighboring deep pink geranium. Lack of an irrigation feeder does not seem to have impeded its growth, but I expect a dedicated drip will be welcome in the dry season just beginning this week.

I mowed the lawn. It seems healthy on a three day cycle so far. Just for good measure, I cut the overgrown grass in the Corporation Yard away from the propane tank.

April 29, 2021

A hummingbird found the magenta salvia outside the Breakfast Nook window this morning. I lowered the blinds to preserve the cool interior but left a narrow gap at the bottom looking out into the garden.

The time has come to switch to early morning chores. The sparse ice plant section has nonetheless come up with plentiful cherry red blooms. I brought in supplemental water, weeded out the unnecessary volunteers and laid down more Preen mulch.

The native columbine in the Triangle Garden has come into its own. It has sent tall stalks have out of its center, and I will wait to see how it blooms.

I trimmed back the bottle brush that has settled on across from the roses, mostly for shape – discourage the outlier sprawl and keep the energy of the plant contained.

April 28, 2021

Today is the last moderate day for the next while, with the temperature rising to 90 degrees tomorrow. I spent an early morning hour pulling Bermuda grass out for the aptenia patch and trimming off the dead shoots. The aptenia is much healthier than at this time last year.

I also spent time digging out thistle just below the retaining wall outside the breakfast nook window. I thought fireplace ashes would render the soil infertile, but apparently thistle will root and grow anywhere.

This year’s prize petunia is already blooming – blood red flower with an yellow center. Quite an eye catcher.

The unidentified succulent in the Back Porch Border Garden has long slender shoots with buds taht mature into deep purple-pink buttercup flowers. Some of both at this point of the season. The ivy in that garden trailed out of the pot and has rooted itself into the ground.

The ice plant on the back slope continues to flourish, a combination of cherry red and hot pink. I supplemented water to the sections that were dry and that only recently came back into full sun. Even the sparse areas on the ice plant strip nearer the Citrus Box are at least blooming.

I hauled out the loppers to remove dead branches from the lemon tree, perhaps a little too enthusiastic. The soil in the Citrus Box is moist, and the lime tree has abundant growth again this year.

To my delight the lewisia now has multiple blooms. I weeded that bit of succulent garden in the back.

I pruned back the Saint John’s Wort by half to keep it from encroaching on the Mexican heather and the Martha Washington Geranium in the Large Box. The dianthus is full and thriving, and the transplant can now be called a success. The heucheras is also daily joy with its long tendrils and scarlet blooms. The huecheras in Oakland has black and white polka dot blooms, just for variety.

April 25, 2021

A lone duck meandered down the flagstones outside the breakfast nook this morning, Looking for a flock? a mate? After studying the birds in the flight, it flew down to the pond. A nice addition to my bowl of Cream of Wheat.

I was right to save the grid of flowers in the Circle Garden – the first primrose has appeared! I may need to move the flowering quince or the California native iris that I planted thinking the primrose had died No, just went deeper into the ground. A metaphor for life there.

The second liberta is blooming in the Back Border Garden, a tall slender stalk that shoots off clusters of white blossoms.

Steady rain followed me all the way into Oakland, and heavy downpours through Walnut Creek and into the valley. Probably the last rain of the season.

April 24, 2021

I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon walking through the Consumnes River Preserve. The outer loops are worth the effort, ending in a gentle walk through the forest down along the river edge. This trip was a reconnaissance for the fall when the sandhill cranes are expected to come to the marshlands.

I pulled a four hour shift today with the gas powered and hand held grass trimmer that I borrowed from Mike. He uses titanium line as the only feasible answer to the dense overgrowth around this property and down the hill. He also suggested that mowing more often would allow for less difficulty. I swear that the grass and weeds grew overnight.

I cleared the wilderness border along the tree edge of the Front Slope Garden. In the process I released the photinia from its jungle grass dungeon. I also mowed the entire back slope around the curve of the retaining wall, even if I did not clear all the way down to the Fire Lane. The cleared grass will hopefully give the matilija poppies room to grow and spread seeds. Matilda is showing more buds. I finished the shift by digging out thistle and clearing the view below the gazebo.

The sweet pea is fulfilling its promise by the first ever strawberry pink blooms on the vines climbing up to the roof of the gazebo. The companion jasmine is also in bloom and received supplemental water. The heucheras in the Large Planter Box has a splendid array of shafts of tiny scarlet flowers. I trimmed the suckers off the base of the large crape myrtle to not divert energy from the main branches. The electric pink and cherry red ice plant is in full bloom on the downward back slope.

The weeding project today was around the white lantana in the Back Border Garden. The tricolor sedum has become a daily joy showing signs of ongoing new growth and spread. I trimmed the artemisia again and will need to understand its growth pattern. Perhaps I will try a more drastic pruning next fall.

High winds this afternoon as I worked, with an incoming cold front that promises rain tomorrow.

April 22, 2021

Earth Day today and tonight I watched the documentary on Greta Thunberg: A Year to Change the World. The documentary follows her travels and public appearances over the courts of a year. She is a high school student whose teachers are now world class geologists, hydrologists and economists. Her travels to included the Canadian Rockies to walk on glaciers and understand damage by red bark beetles. She also visited Paradise, California and the documentary included pictures of vehicles attempting to drive out through the flames. When the United Nations transferred the climate change conference to Madrid, Greta and her father made the Atlantic voyage by catamaran. Twenty day crossing complete with film footage of apocalyptic electrical storms on the North Atlantic in November.

April 21, 2021

I pruned back the white and magenta osteospermums as they appear to be at the end of their blooming season, hopefully the first of two or more. I cut off the spent blooms and pulled out the dead growth underneath. For now, the lavender and burnt orange osteospermums can rest.

I replaced the manifold in the Front Slope Garden that had sprung a leak, moving into full water conservation mode. I shortened the feeder to the French lavender and redirected a feeder to the ceanothus. The ceanothus is having a magnificent blooming season this year.

I reduced the irrigation water to the back yard to a three day cycle and the front yard to a two day cycle. A drought season is in the offing for the second year in a row, and the entire state is expecting from severe to extreme to exceptional dry conditions for the next six months. I am beginning to conserve now looking ahead through the season. The front garden is entirely on a drip and will likely survive on a two day cycle. The only thirsty plants are the camellias and the containers that can be managed the directed watering. The last rain for the season is due on Sunday.

The Southern blueberry bush may have already have berries appearing this year. I will need to check what is its usual ripening schedule.

All the matilija poppies are thriving, even the littlest one that is Madeline. Matilda has buds promising fried egg blooms, perhaps this summer.

Mike and I applied kerosene to the burn pile in center field, and it went up magnificently. Also generated intense heat. The leftover plywood and supports from Spots’s old roof did not burn well.

As I came in this evening, I saw two pairs of Canadian geese on the drinking pond for the cows, paddling quietly along.