top: fresh Winter growth from native achillea, phacelia and eschscholzia, Glen Park .

above: it's a mystery how this member of the irs family, probably a Homeria, got in my back yard, but I'm glad it did .

above: gentle sisal trusses this Clematis ligusticifolia to a cherry. Duboce Park.


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March 2018

March 11 - End of Winter blooms

We Bay Area gardeners get flowers all year long, mine starts revving up the last days of Winter.

above, left to right: cheery blooms of crassula, kalanchoe and tulbaghia announce that Spring is almost here.

March 1 - flying deer

The daily order of birds arriving in the yard goes roughly like this: hummingbirds, robins, sparrows, jays, chickadees, tits and whatever migrating songbirds happen to be passing through. By mid-day there's not much activity until sundown, when the thrushes scrape around the leaf litter with the last of the light.

I love having birds in the yard, and I suggest everyone keep at least two bird baths in their garden, because robins refuse to share, and they love bathing, especially when they're brooding.

'City birds'- house sparrows, pigeons, starlings, parrots- probably avoid my yard because I don't set out feeders, which is fine by me. But among the mild mannered natives sits one marauder, the White Crowned Sparrow.

above left: a female about to rip out some Miner's Lettuce. above right: a plump male digesting his meal of Tidy Tips.

I wondered why in a planter full of native annuals, the Tidy Tips disappeared. I figured bugs or slugs, and was glad to see White Crowned sparrows eagerly hopping into the planter to chow down on the culprits. But I soon discovered that they were the chirpy perps, and that eagerness ended after they gobbled down the last Layia.

Next they sought out Claytonia perfoliata, better known as Miner's Lettuce, and chomped it down like candy. Have at it, sparrows, and here's hoping you develop a taste for Oxalis pes-caprae!

January 2018

January 14 - curb appeal

Last year, after the landlord painted the Big House, I decided the little Silver Garden needed an upgrade as well. While most of the plants exuded wild abandon, they needed a good frame and something to keep the two and four legged animals out. I also wanted to lower the level of the bed to minimize rain and hose water run-off.

On a nearby client's sidewalk, I set pavers on end and buried them part way for an edge. It worked out well, so I repeated the idea here. As happens with any kind of DIY improvement, once you've solved one issue, others start raising their hands.

above: rustic pavers set on edge act as a barrier for three sides of the bed, and now to address the inside.

Next, I removed any struggling plants, and all the iris, which I would replant after dividing them. Since the new color on the Big House is a slightly warm sage, I strayed a bit with foliage color, introducing some green. I dug out some dirt to sink the level of the bed, and mulched with a thick layer of gravel.

above: a layer of gravel gives the bed a cleaner look and goes well with low water species.

I divided and replanted iris and some other existing plants, and introduced a few new species to fill in gaps. And while I was in a rejuvenating mood, I decided to standardize what I call "the little chimney planters" along the retaining wall. Each one was its own world. To make them look more on-purpose, I dug each one out, salvaged what looked good, and replanted all five chimneys with the same combination of plants.

above: these matching chimneys, each consisting of the same grouping of species, form part of a line that runs the width of the Silver Garden. Their impact will grow as the planters fill in and reveal the other members of the collection.

Dean Ouellette    415-820-1623