April 23, 2019

Today was the warmest day of the year so far – 88 degrees at the high.  It was still a spring warmth rather than a summer warmth, after the land has baked for three or four weeks.  The nights are still seasonably cool.  I have not yet given up on flannel sheets and woolen bed socks.

I weeded along both sides of the rock wall at the bottom of the front slope garden.  The two deep pink geraniums in that part of the garden suddenly appeared from the overgrowth, in all their glory.  I gave supplemental water to the incoming generation of plants and to the camellias as a matter of course.  I was delighted to see new growth on the English lavender (or French Provencal), an addition to the center of the slope garden last fall.

The garden has springtime smells – sage from the salvias of course and a definite but curious smell of mint.  That smell may have come from self-seeded mint or from the invasive species of the month.

The roses are in full leaf and spectacular bloom.  I have fertilizer spikes and will continue feeding them monthly.  The butterfly bushes are now fully established at the top of the front slope garden, so much so that I had to prune the nearest one back.  I am looking for their blooming season this year.

I left an overnight drip on the newly planted bulbine in the back yard.

Full sun – 3.49, Sunset 7.46

April 20, 2019 – Holy Saturday

Mornings are still cool, but temperatures will reach the high eighties next week.  An early breakfast of malt-o-meal and I was on my way to the barn.  Weeding at the circle garden is an ongoing task as I settled in the new plants. I have to investigate the water line, having connected a 25 foot hose and sprinkler so that I do not have to haul a watering can up the hill.

I spent the rest of the morning mulching the far western end of the front slope garden, the section that seems to receive the least water and is most in need of conservation.  The prior application of Roundup did its work. I turned over and scratched out whatever remained, soaked the ground, applied mulch and soaked the mulch.  Ten bags (20 cubic feet) covered the slope from the rockroses down to the lantana. Sorry to see that the barberry is still not blooming.

My Easter Vigil was a day of meditation in the garden.  I am reminded of Saint Thomas, who did not ask to see the face of Jesus, but to see his wounds, to prove that his rabbi was risen from the dead.  Truly a promise of a bodily resurrection, with all our scars and wounds included.  The  meditation of John Dominic Crossan on the the harrowing of hell also remained with me.  Between Good Friday and Easter Sunday Jesus broke open the gates of hell and led out all the lost souls.  His was a personal and a communal resurrection.

Later in the day I found my way down to the Rising Sun Nursery,  An unusual variety of cistus was in stock, with a white flower and a yellow center.  I planted it in the circle garden at the barn on the way in,  I also found ruby and and gold lantana, and planted it in the abandoned gopher cage from a year ago.  Hope springs eternal.

Only a week and the back lawn was a jungle.  The grass is spreading but so is a large amount of crabgrass and the insidious Bermuda grass.  Mowing, raking and edging was enough for the day.

I met a flock of wild turkeys on the roadway, as I went out.  The wild ones are thinner and they can in fact fly.

Brother Francis and Sister Rockrose


Tonight a brilliant full moon lights up my bedroom and the bathroom.  Not surprising.  The full moon in March came a few days before the vernal equinox and pushed the date of Easter into the third week of April.

April 19, 2019 – Good Friday

As is my tradition, I planted today and will plant tomorrow.  In the Oakland yard this morning, I dug out a large bowl planter that was waterlogged repeatedly this past winter.  The local Ace Hardware Garden Center had a new variety of impatiens and a vivid yellow portulaca – a plant I did not know.  Plants that need low to average water should survive in the Oakland garden.

I have visited the East Bay Nursery on Good Friday for many years.  For the circle garden at the barn I found an orange helianthum – I had only seen the yellow before.  I scooped up a deep blue salvia to offset the orange.  Why not throw in a two-gallon rockrose just like the ones that thrive in the front slope garden?  The lower 12 to 18 inch variety with a spread up to three feet or more.  I plan to tuck them into the circle garden tomorrow.

The drive up consumed most of this afternoon. The drive down Jackson Valley Road always warms my heart, particularly at the end of a three and a half hour holiday weekend slog.  There are four new stop signs courtesy of the casino, but the road and the land are otherwise untouched. I arrived at 6.00, in time to throw on my work clothes, give Spots his bread and to check on how everything as growing.  A little supplemental watering, mindful of Del’s lecture from last week.

I planted the bulbine in the back yard, with Quick Start, soil amendment and a 24 hour drip.  The bulbine in the Oakland  has spread about three feet.  The flower is a brassy yellow that travels up a spike as it grows.  I finished the planting at 7.30 and faced west to watch the sunset.  The overcast skies trapped the red and deep yellow when the sun went behind the trees on MJ’s ridge.  Living proof that spring sunsets can be just as spectacular as their winter counterparts.

April 12, 2019

The morning was given over to worship planning for the Holy Week services, the afternoon to chores. I filled the five gallon gas can on the way home and fired up the weed whacker.  The grass in the center strip of the driveway brushes against may low-lying car, which can’t be good when the dry season comes.  I made an effort at clearing the grass from the rock border wall where the front slope garden meets the driveway. Everything grows so fast even without appreciable rain for the past two weeks.  The side yard to the right of garage slab also needs the weed whacker because the tractor will not reach there.

Then my weekly mowing of the back lawn.  Lots of new grass filling in the bare spots and the extension of the lawn to the newly laid stone border.  Some of that growth is crab grass that I dug out.  I will keep at it.

I dumped two buckets of rocks into the area around the trough.  The area is square, the trough is round and the rocks are the answer to the ancient riddle.  Two buckets were not enough.  I scoured the fire lane behind and below the house and found a few washouts that are fertile ground for the rocks that I need, mostly fist-sized.  Another bucket still does not fill the entire area, but it will hold down the last bit of weed block that I laid down. Another day should do it.


April 11, 2019

I started the morning with more weeding on the narrow western end of the front slope garden.  The deep pink geranium and Marguerite daisy at that end are already blooming away.  There is an invasive weed that has a tiny delicate orange flower at this time of year.  I left it for now – eventually I will get tired of it and clear it from the part of the garden.  The camellias are coming to the end of their blooming season, and I pulled the spent flowers.  A few remaining buds give hope for a a lingering goodbye for the season.

Two wild turkeys made their stately progress up the driveway, with a neighborly gobble or two. The wildflowers are still blooming along the far side of the driveway, tiny yellow buttercups joining the blue and white flowers.

I collected two buckets of small stones from the side of the roadway leading up the hill.  My focus was on fist-sized stones that will fill the area around the trough that I expect to have the most traffic.  I found a few larger white quartz stones that I could not resist.  The hill is a great place to gather stones because they are pushed to the sides when the roadway is graded.

The circle garden at the barn needed more weeding, of course.  I added soil amendment and Quick Start and planted the germander.  It should fill that space at three feet wide, and I was glad to read that it responds well to pruning.  I also applied a second dose of Quick Start to the gray rush and lantana from last week.  Intermittent showers are forecast for Monday that will help while I am in Oakland next week.

Helen was in her garden and gave me the nickel tour.  She has a dwarf lime alongside the house by the back porch, and I was glad to see that it is slow-growing.  We discussed pruning the older growth off the bottom of the shrub.  Helen also has grown two beautiful heucheras that seem to thrive in the shade that a tree provides.

By the time I reached Lowe’s the five bags of mulch for $10 special was over.  Plenty of black and red shredded bark remained, but the brown was cleaned out.  I found a pile of split open bags, a clerk taped them up and I took them off their hands at half off.   The brown is advertised to be color fast for a year.  We shall see.



April 10, 2019

Early this morning I cleared the patch of thistle on the slope below the retaining wall, close to fifty square feet.  The thistle and other invasive species were huge but shallow rooted.  So I return to where I started a year ago.  The battle against thistle is tenacious, and I am thankful for small victories.  Hopefully the majilita poppy will take hold and join the fight on that slope.  I applied Roundup to the cleared area for a bonus.

The front irrigation system is now operating once every two days for 20 minutes.  The triangle garden seems to receive water more abundantly than anywhere else.  The verbena is  coming back into bloom, all three colors.  The rhaphiolepis has lots of new growth and promises to bloom soon.  I cultivated the soil around the oleander and camellia in the western end of the upper front garden, watered and applied mulch.

I laid a 24 hour drip on the new dwarf lime tree.  I watered the California fuchsia, aenoium, ice plant and crape myrtle at the east end of the back yard.  No irrigation as yet.  The sprinklers on the lawn overperform, which helps with all the planter boxes but they do not reach to that far end.

Del kindly gave me a master gardener class at the Lone Wolf Dinner this evening.  He told me that the most common problem for gardeners is overwatering.  He suggested laying a pipe down the center of the trough to confirm proper drainage.  The holes that I drilled in the bottom of the trough were small enough to discourage gophers but may inhibit drainage.  Much of the soil in this area is heavy clay.  Containers may collect water if not properly drained.  Plants need air as much as they need water, and drooping plants may signal less water rather than more.  When I plant, I usually add a commercial organic soil amendment to break up the clay.  We also discussed alternatives for staking the cherry tomatoes that I will eventually plant in the trough.  At the end of his lecture Del asked if I could answer a legal question for him.

April 9, 2019

The California irises in the Oakland back yard are having an extraordinary year, like everything else in the plant world.  An abundance of blooms from the large white (Snowy Canyon) iris and the smaller pale butter yellow iris.

Life in Oakland would not be complete without a weekly trip to the Berkeley Hort.  I found a dwarf lime tree that is billed as the best variety for Western gardens.  It prefers soil that is moist but not wet, meaning that it may survive on drip irrigation and occasional supplemental water.  With a projected of height of two to three feet, it promises not to block the sweeping view of the countryside at the edge of the back lawn.

In the Dry Ideas section I found a teucrium (germander), with silver green foliage and blue violet flowers.  Drought tolerant and deer resistant.  I plan to reserve a large slice of the circle garden at the barn for the germander.  Once established, it can grow to six feet tall and three feet wide.  Fortunately, the plant description at the nursery said that it responds well to pruning.

Skies were overcast skies coming into the ranch in the late afternoon.  On the way in I bought six  cubic feet of herb and vegetable soil from the Ione Ace Hardware.  With the blessing of a long afternoon, I had time to plant the dwarf lime.  As my usual practice, I filled the planting with Quick Start fortified water, covered with soil and watered from the top.  Six cubic feet of commercial soil was enough to fill the half of the planter box kept aside for the lime tree and to top off the lemon tree in the other half.  I also applied fortified water to the kiwi aeonium before quitting for the night.