July 19, 2020

I was out only for a few hours early this morning, clearing grass from the back slope.  Marginally lower temperatures are due the next few days.  The grass came up easily and in handfuls for the most part.  The work on that slope is another fire prevention measure – keeping the dry grass down, even twenty-five feet to thirty feet from the house.  I showered the ice plant border with supplemental water, with specific attention to the ten foot stretch that does not appear to collect water. 

I found lemon drop marigolds at Lowe’s to replace the dahlia that could not bear the summer heat.  I will see if they can thrive in the container.  The soil was moist but not wet when I dug in the new marigolds.  The lamium seedlings below the container still struggle, even though the irrigation water seeping down the hill at that spot sustains a large variety of weeds.  The special variety ceanothus, the tripot container and the Contained Camellia all received supplemental water, courtesy of the rain barrel in the Triangle Garden.

July 18, 2020

John Lewis died last night at the age of 80.  He was only 23 when he organized the March on Washington and only 25 when he faced off the Alabama troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

I was out early because temperatures of 99 or 100 are expected by midday.  I dug out the grass and other volunteers below the back yard retaining wall, heading west from the Citrus Box about fifteen feet. The roots were deeply imbedded – so much for my theory that the border bed plants would absorb the irrigation water and keep the runoff from the slope below.  As I dug up the grass and weeds, I shook out the excess soil back onto the bed.  I applied Roundup to whatever was left on the warning track.  And as always I weeded the border bed to help the plants get established, a constant chore.

I uncovered three self-seeded sun flowers just below the retaining wall.  Jerry loved sunflowers and scattered seeds with abandon.  Even through MJ was not sure whether these sunflowers are intentional or just volunteers, I left them to honor Jerry’s memory.


For an added bonus, I found one more lemon on the back side of the tree.

July 17, 2020

Remembering Ben this morning, I had a text from Karen who visited the cemetery with Zippy.

I am back from a few days in Oakland.  The East Bay Nursery was good to me –

a replacement huechera, from the California Natives section, with a green leaf and scarlet spikes,

a replacement osteopernum in a cinnamon orange color, and

a sedum for a ground cover to replace the campanula.  Specifically a sedum spurium “tricolor”.  Eventually I hope to find out what the three colors are.

I tucked in all the new plants yesterday evening with Plant Starter, and added more water this morning with a generous layer of mulch.

I now find three lemons on the tree, like Amahl and the night visitors.  The deep red crape myrtle has come out in its summer glory.  The records show that it is the last of the three to bloom, sheltered by the house roof.  Time-released crape myrtles recall time-released camellias in the winter.

July 13, 2020

The house temperature was only down to 77 degrees overnight.  Time to decamp to Oakland for a few days.

One last project before I headed out, lifting up one more flagstone and digging out the Bermuda grass trailers underneath it.  I pulled back the grass for a clean edge to the lawn along the flagstones.  I added paver sand where I dug out clumps of Bermuda grass and watered it in.  While I was there, I gave additional water to the section of Jerry’s ice plant that is struggling in the heat.

I cut back excess water on the irrigation feeders to the lily and alyssum in the Triangle Garden.  No need to water the sidewalk.

Pruning back the maida elegans just for the wonderful pineapple scent and to keep it off the crape myrtle First time pruning back Myrtle of the Far East See how she responds to removal of dead blossoms in midseason








July 12, 2020


The latest from the correopsis riot.  The end of June and beginning of July appear to be its time of year, and this year is a stunner as I look out the kitchen door each morning.

Today was a three t-shirt day – number 1, morning work in the yard; number 2, shower and work in the house; number 3, after finishing the mowing in the afternoon. Time to work in the garden is limited in the morning. I dug out the aptenia patch one more time, laid down Preen mulch and watered it in.  At least the mulch will give me a fighting chance against the grass with fibrous roots, Bermuda grass and other volunteers.

I mowed the lawn at midday and was heartened to see the grass thickening at the downward edge of the back lawn.  Not all of it crab grass and Bermuda grass either.


July 11, 2020

Cows bellowed all night and into the morning.  The valley below the house is a bowl that creates an almost perfect acoustic; the sound could come from anywhere. I looked out at sunset and early this morning and did not see anything on the property.  This morning Mike called the tenants to let them know that a flock of ten buzzards were circling around the cow pasture.

I have spent two days digging out the last ten feet of ice plant, mostly overgrown by weeds and grass. I found only a few seedlings still surviving at the far end of the ice plant border, nearest the Citrus Box.

The venerable blue penstemon having finished its latest blooming season, I pruned back its spent shoots and older growth underneath.  I hacked back the purple lantana again.  I need to work on my pruning style so that every plant does not end up looking like a box.  I pruned a little off the top of Grandmother Camellia hoping to encourage more horizontal growth than vertical.

Temperature forecast is 105 degrees for today. I started work late this morning, and the indoor and outdoor temperatures reached equilibrium before 9.00. By then it was too warm to work.  While having my Cream of Wheat for breakfast I watched a red headed bird peck at the driveway.   I will need to find it the Guide.

Late in the afternoon I applied Preen on the newly cleared section of the ice plant border and watered it in.  I laid in four bags of Preen Mulch from Lowe’s yesterday, and spread it over a broad area just below the new retaining wall at the back yard edge.  As always, I picked up extra pavers and two concrete blocks to sink the well water pipe running across the pond.



July 8, 2020

This morning I repaired a severed artery spewing irrigation water under Grandmother Camellia, and replaced the bubbler with a compression drip.

Maida elegans gave me a spectacular show as I weeded the aptenia patch.  Strangely enough, the yellow daisy flowers blooms close up in the middle of the day.

I pruned back front garden butterfly bushes, relying on my information that they can take a substantial amount of pruning.  The yellow and black butterfly on the butterfly bushes was a nice ironic and artistic touch.  The raspberry fizz butterfly bush in the back border garden continues to bloom.

For a break I sit in the summer house and twine the sweet pea up the supports up to the covering.  Little by little, still waiting for the pink blooms.


July 7, 2020

Lucky Seven day.  The house temperature was down below 70 degrees this morning, but only one day of relief is forecast.

I pruned back the cherry red salvia in the front slope garden, taking off about a third of plant.  The goal is graceful limited sprawl and new ingrowth.  The wonderful fragrance is a nice addition to the morning rounds.

The sweet pea and new unidentified South African succulent are thriving on the mezzanine level.  The irrigation feeder to the neighboring bottle brush seems to provide a fair amount of water.

The dahlia is suffering from the heat.  Probably not an appropriate plant for the San Joaquin Valley, even in a container.  The deep purple calibrachoa on the other hand is delightfully spilling over its container, and the special variety of ceanothus is coming along steadily.  I tried deep watering the dahlia for the past two days and removing dead growth and will how it responds.  The succulent garden also received supplemental water and is fulfilling its promise.

July 6, 2020

I pruned back the licorice plant today, as it is just past its blooming season.  The plant fills the mezzanine level nicely, and then some.  The oleanders are just starting to bloom front and back.  Grandmother oleander has responded magnificently to an almost bare bones pruning last winter.

I added an irrigation feeder to the mirror plant in the back corner garden and checked the water flow.  The feeder to the ice plant was choked off, and I opened it to generate more of a drip.

Mike and I launched the boat out onto the pond in the evening, and the cool air was delightful.  I was Gilligan  The purpose of the excursion was to measure the depth of the pond, about eleven feet at midwater.  Judging by the water line on the dock piers, the water level  is five to six feet below normal.  We will continue to monitor it through the summer.  Fortunately, the inlet up to Verna Falls still has water.

We discussed plans to sink the line for the well water that runs across the pond, onto the bank then up the hill. I will look for concrete blocks the next time I am at Lowe’s.

I can spend a few minutes outside at midday, giving the shrub daisy and Saint John’s Wort a trim.  I am reluctant to cut back the Saint John’s Wort much and it is in high blooming season. The red flag grass appears to be taking hold.

July 5, 2020

I am back at the ranch after four days in Oakland.  The marrow survived my ten days away and appears to be settling in nicely.  I continue to make progress taking down the large climbing rose that topped twelve feet over the garage.

I came back to find the large crape myrtle blooming, and the correopsis as a sprawling, blooming riot.  I will let it go for what will likely be a short blooming season based on past experience.

Hooray!  The lemon tree shows a few blossom and one fruit.  This may be the first bearing year in my retirement.

The yellow and black butterfly on the purple lantana was a nice touch.  The hummingbirds have found the butterfly bushes at the top of the front slope garden.

I spent two hours digging out weeds and uncovering another ten feet of ice plant.  I applied Preen mulch afterwards and watered it in.  Stepping back, the sight of  approximately thirty feet of well tended and mulched ice plant was deeply gratifying.  It promises to survive the dry season with weekly watering.

Cooler temperatures are expected the next few days.  Amador County has recorded a surge in COVID-19 cases – 8 cases through June now increased to 31.