Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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October Garden Pictures

I'm three days late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I suppose that's still a significant improvement over recent months. I still have a garden! I haven't had much time to get out in it lately, but when I do get out in it, this California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray') is my favorite plant lately. California fuchsias are typically low-growing plants, sometimes only a few inches tall, but there's significant variation in height among the different cultivars. Even so, they're rarely said to grow much more than two feet tall. The 'Carman's Gray' cultivar is not advertised as being any exception to this; most websites describe it as growing about two feet tall. Well, this plant was labeled 'Carman's Gray' when I bought it a year ago, but if its stems are pulled out straight, some of them are taller than I am. (No, I am not actually under two feet tall. I am 5'5".) It is a strange and unexpected experience to find a plant blooming at eye level that isn't supposed to grow above knee level. I have no idea what inspired my plant to grow so tall (there's really nothing unusual about the conditions here, and other California fuchsia cultivars nearby are growing at their usual expected heights), but I'm extremely pleased with it. Nothing makes a gardener seem so impressive as plants that grow to three times their normal height.

The California fuchsia cultivar that is said to be the tallest is 'Catalina,' which is said to grow usually about four feet tall but occasionally up to five feet tall. Perhaps my plant was mislabeled and is really a 'Catalina'? I've never purchased a plant labeled as 'Catalina,' but if I see one in the future I'll check for a resemblance.

me with Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)

Here is the giant California fuchsia without me in the picture.

Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)

And here it is from a different angle.

Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia) with Eriogonum fasciculatum (Eastern Mojave buckwheat)

I planted an Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) underneath it that helps hold it a bit more upright. The white flowers of the buckwheat mix pleasingly with the red flowers of the Califoria fuchsia.

Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia) with Eriogonum fasciculatum (Eastern Mojave buckwheat)

For contrast, here's a different cultivar of California fuchsia (Epilobium canum 'Sierra Salmon') that's about one foot tall. This one is named for the fact that the flowers are not bright red like those of most California fuchsias. They're a fairly dark salmon pink, however, not a stark contrast with red.

Epilobium canum 'Sierra Salmon' (California fuchsia)

In September, at the last possible moment when the weather was still hot enough to kill exposed Bermuda grass roots, I dug out a little strip of lawn to install a new garden bed. This was far less lawn removal than I achieved in either of the previous two summers, but I had so extremely little free time this summer that it's a wonder I managed to achieve this much. I want to remove the concrete strip that marks the previous border of the bed, but I couldn't resist planting the new bed, which will make it more difficult to remove the old border. We'll see whether I get around to removing it or not.

new flowerbed, September 2014

If you follow my property line in the picture above from the front yard to the back yard, you'll find this display of grasses on the backyard side. The pink one is pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris), which is native to the American south and as far north as New York and Illinois, but not here in California. It grows fine here when planted, though, and it's so pretty that I couldn't resist planting it. The similarly fluffy but more yellowish grass in the distance is a California native, alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides), and the green grass on the right with spikier, not-so-fluffy seed stalks is California native deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens).

Muhlenbergia capillaris (pink muhly grass), Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton), Muhlenbergia rigens (deergrass)

Fall around here is mostly about grasses, California fuchsias, buckwheats, and the aster family. I've covered the first three now, so it's time for the last one. My California goldenrod (Solidago californica) has been blooming profusely for months and is still producing new flower stalks.

Solidago californica (California goldenrod)

And there's an elegant tarweed (Madia elegans) hidden among the display of large grasses, also blooming continuously for months.

Madia elegans (elegant tarweed)

On the other side of the house, in the food garden, is my sunflower (Helianthus argophyllus 'Japanese Silverleaf'). Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be producing any sunflower seeds to justify being located in the food garden. The old flowers just sort of disintegrate, leaving nothing behind that looks like any sunflower seed I've ever seen.

Helianthus argophyllus 'Japanese Silverleaf' (silverleaf sunflower)

Oh, well . . . at least it's pretty.

Helianthus argophyllus 'Japanese Silverleaf' (silverleaf sunflower)

And there isn't much else in the food garden that's especially pretty right now, so it's nice to have this. (My sweet potato plants are growing taller by the day, though; the vine you can see in the background is sweet potatoes.)

Helianthus argophyllus 'Japanese Silverleaf' (silverleaf sunflower)

I was surprised to find my hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) blooming this month. It didn't bloom for very long, but here are the flowers.

Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage)

And at my front door, the Sierra mint (Pycnanthemum californicum) is about done producing flowers but still looks pretty good. Above it, stuck to my office window with suction cups, is a tiny bird feeder I recently bought, as part of my recent obsession with birds, inspired mostly by my discovery of the FeederWatch program, which I signed up to participate in this winter. It takes a frustratingly long time, however, for the birds to notice my feeders. This feeder has been up for three weeks now, and no birds seem to have discovered it yet.

Pycnanthemum californicum (Sierra mint) at front door

Most of my bird feeders are in the back yard. This is the newest one of all, only up for about a week. It's a suet feeder. Suet is a mix of grains and beef kidney fat for insect-eating birds.

suet bird feeder

In this picture you can kind of see all three of my backyard bird feeders. The suet feeder is in the distance, a little above the window of the neighbors' house. The blue feeder is filled with safflower seeds, and the yellow feeder is filled with nyjer thistle seeds. Unfortunately, nobody is eating any of them! I chose these types of seeds specifically because house sparrows don't like them, because house sparrows are an invasive species that I don't want to feed. However, the native birds that are supposed to like these seeds have yet to show up. I did have lesser goldfinches eating nyjer thistle seeds a couple of months ago, but the feeder stood empty for a while before I refilled it, and the goldfinches haven't rediscovered it since then.

bird feeders

As for actual birds, the majority of the ones I'm seeing lately are here for my flowers rather than my feeders. I have quite a lot of hummingbirds! And not a single hummingbird feeder. I attract them with California fuchsias instead, which are better for them anyway, because real flower nectar is healthier than sugar water. This is a female Anna's hummingbird (Calypte anna) perched on a branch, waiting for me to go away so she can go back to drinking from the California fuchsias.

Calypte anna (Anna's hummingbird)

And here is the same female Anna's hummingbird on the same branch, from a slightly different angle. Almost every time I go near the California fuchsias, I see hummingbirds. A few days ago I was weeding near a California fuchsia in the back yard and suddenly heard a loud whirring noise. I turned my head and found a male Anna's hummingbird hovering about a foot from my head. He continued to hover there for a minute or so, apparently trying to figure out how to make me go away so he could get at the California fuchsia. Eventually he decided I was too big for him to take on, so he wandered off to wait in a nearby tree until I went away.

Calypte anna (Anna's hummingbird)

I photographed this bird in a next-door neighbor's tree recently and identified it as a Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). So, it's a native bird that actually belongs here. Hooray! Now, why isn't it at my feeders? It isn't supposed to like safflower or nyjer seeds, but it is supposed to like suet. I have suet for it! It's also supposed to like fruit, peanut hearts, and hulled sunflower seeds, but I don't have any of those for it, unless perhaps it wants to pick some unripe oranges off my orange tree.

Mimus polyglottos (Northern mockingbird)

And here's one other wildlife species I found in my yard recently: a Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). It was somewhat injured; there's a bloody gash at it's neck. I hope Boston didn't do that to it. Probably not; she probably would have killed it if she'd caught it at all. This is the first lizard I've seen inmy yard in Marysville, so it was nice to see it. I grew up in Sacramento seeing lizards all the time, not so much toads or snakes, but here it's been mostly toads and the occasional snake, with no lizards until now.

Sceloporus occidentalis (Western fence lizard)

My not-so-wild animal in the back yard has been enjoying the new hiding places formed by the drooping branches of the pecan tree. Every January, I trim the branches up above the height of my head, but every fall, the new crop of pecans weighs down the new growth until most of the branches touch the ground. I have to wait for the pecans to finish ripening before I can prune the tree again.

Boston under the pecan tree

My hands are stained from handling the pecans, as usual for me in the fall. These stains happened right through gardening gloves. Since then I've bought some waterproof gardening gloves that are allowing my stains to fade . . . provided that I wear them consistently. Sometimes gloves get in the way, and I really want to be able to feel my fingers. So I'm sure this won't be the last pecan stain on my hands.

pecan stains on my hands

My indoor not-so-wild animal hasn't been paying much attention to the birds outside. She's too domesticated to bother hunting birds; she prefers to hunt cat toys. Or just sleep all day.



That's all for this month. I hope you enjoyed the flower show!

Epilobium canum 'Carman's Gray' (California fuchsia)
Tags: native plants, photographs
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