Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

monarch, day 6

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I think I see the green beginning to shift a little. Perhaps our butterfly friend’s change to orange is beginning? Or I’m imagining things…

monarch pupa: day 6




















Looking quite a bit different from Days 1 and 2. Four more days to go!


monarch, days 4 + 5

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Our butterfly friend is looking fairly unchanged from day 4…

monarch pupa: day 4




















to day 5…

monarch pupa: day 5




















But I imagine there’s a lot happening in there. As it turns out, the pupa is clear and the color you see is the green butterfly on the inside. As she gets closer to “done,” the color will change to the bright monarch orange we know and love.

Only five more days to go!

Day 3


monarch, day 3

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

monarch butterfly pupa: day 3




















Days 1 and 2.

another creature sighting!

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

We discovered a new garden guest yesterday…

monarch butterfly caterpillar: day 1




















Can you believe it?! A monarch butterfly caterpillar just beginning its transformation into a butterfly! In fact, it must have just climbed into place because it only takes a matter of hours for the pupa to form.

This morning, she had already reached the chrysalis stage…

monarch butterfly chrysalis: day 2




















I’m so excited that the kiddo gets to watch this happen. We just don’t get this Wild Kingdom kind of experience often in the city. So happy we planted our Asclepias tuberose (native butterfly weed or milkweed), as it’s the host plant for monarch eggs and larva.

Will endeavor to post a photo every day for the 10-day metamorphosis. Great visuals here, by the way, if you’re eager to see what’s going to take place.

just spotted!

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

It’s been almost exactly eight weeks since John’s praying mantis egg case dispensed the tiniest little creatures into his car. Since then, I haven’t come across any of the babies I managed to capture and release into our yard.

Until this morning…

praying mantis eight weeks later




















He’s between 3 and 4″ long. So happy to see you, little guy! I hope your siblings are somewhere nearby.

here there be dragonfly

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

Found this fella on the grass unable to fly and gently set him in the veggie garden (away from the cat) hoping he might recuperate. The next morning he was dragonfried, poor guy.

Impressive 5″ wingspan. You should biggify his picture and appreciate him…













Sadly, his bright blue eyes and vivid turquoise stripes have already begun to fade. As is the way with all things beautiful, I suppose.

the front hill, revealed

Friday, June 15th, 2012

So. The front hill. Yes, it’s finally planted! Shall I whisk you back in time before I show you how it looks now?

When we moved in, the yard looked like this (biggify to see the full ugly)…

the hill when we moved in, complete with massive pile of crappy stone












Since then, the stone was hauled away — you can see the freshly built retaining wall now along the driveway…

stone taken away












The messy oak tree out front was removed and replaced with three Japanese cedars last fall…

oak tree remains in may 2011




















And the tenacious 3′ tall weeds…

weeds weeds weeds




















Yeah, I dug those up. Then last December, the front walkway was put in…

destruction in december












walkway done in december 11




















Once that was done, I added a truckload of soil…

added soil












…  and sculpted the hill to my liking, creating a series of flat strips to slow the runoff. Just me and a shovel.

And once that was done, I added Curlex erosion control blanket (like we did on the other hill) to hold the slope. You can probably spot the flattish areas if you biggify…

erosion control added in december 11












During the winter, I made plant choices plants for this dry, south-facing hillside. I went with mostly Mediterranean and hardy, xeric, native plants that wouldn’t mind the rocky, sandy soil, wind and summer heat —  grasses and perennials that will grow up into a bee/butterfly/hummingbird meadow. The closer to the house, the tighter, more regimented the layout. The farther away, the looser, more organic the layout.

In March, I started shoving the shrubs I’ve been saving into the ground. Then the boxes of plants for the front hill started arriving from various online sources…


live plants begin arriving!




















Shiva stopped by in April to help lay out the Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)…

shiva helps lay out the 85 nassella tenuissima in april












After that, I became the Mad Planter, popping plants in the ground at every opportunity. Then Shiva and Natasha came and helped with the final push…

shiva and natasha help out in may




















Thank goodness because if they hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have finished until July. I’m guesstimating but there are probably around 400 plants in. I should do a final count.

Although this is about as anti-climatic as a Mad Men end-of-season episode, here’s the not-so-big reveal (again, you might want to biggify):

front hill, view 1












front hill, view 2












Except for a few holdovers from pots, the plants are all tiny and won’t look like much the first year. If they grow in like my meadow out back, next summer you’ll see a huge difference.

In the meantime, have a closer look at a few bright spots…

festuca glauca ‘elijah blue’ and caesalpinia gilliesii (yellow bird of paradise) next to the front steps



















origanum ‘aureum’, helictotrichon sempervirens ‘sapphire’ (blue oat grass) and thymus pseudolanuginosus (wooly thyme)



















rhus typhina ‘bailtiger’ (tiger eyes sumac)



















Origanum rotundifolium ‘kent beauty’ (ornamental oregano) just beginning to bloom



















thymus x citriodorus (lemon thyme)



















the first callirhoe involucrata (purple poppy mallow) bloom




















For those who care, below is a list of what you’ll find on my front hillside. For  visuals, pop up my Pinterest plant menu page…


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ (Blue Grama)

Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’ (Blue Fescue)

Helictotrichon sempervirens ‘Sapphire’ (Blue Oat Grass)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ (Switch Grass)

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘The Blues’ (Little Bluestem)

Sporobolis heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


Origanum vulgare ‘Aureum’ (Golden Oregano)

Origanum rotundifolium ‘Kent Beauty’ (Ornamental Oregano)

Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Prostratus’ (Creeping Rosemary)

Rubus pentalobus (Creeping Raspberry)

Thymus × citriodorus (Lemon Thyme)

Thymus lanuginosus (Wooly Thyme)


Agastache ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

Amorpha canescens (Leadplant)

Amsonia hubrechtii (Threadleaf Bluestar)

Callirhoe involcrata (Purple Poppy Mallow)

Eryngium yuccafolium (Rattlesnake Master)

Gaura lindheimeri ‘Whirling Butterflies’

Geum trillium (Prairie Smoke)

Lavendula x intermedia ‘Grosso’

Petalostemon Purpureum (Purple Prairie Clover)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Alcalde’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Arp’ (Cold Hardy Rosemary)

Salvia pachyphylla ‘Blue Flame’ (Giant Purple Sage)

Verbascum nigrum ‘Album’ (Mullein)

Verbena bonariensis (Tall Verbena)



Baptisea lacteal (False White Indigo)

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’ (Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush)

Caesalpinia gilliesii (Yellow Bird of Paradise)

Comptonia peregrina (Sweetfern) — to echo the sweetfern we used on the other hillside

Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ (Fragrant Sumac)

Rhus typina ‘Bailtiger’ (Tiger Eye Sumac)



Cornus florida (American Dogwood) — the one and only thing original to the hillside!

Cryptomeria japonica ‘Yoshino’ (Japanese Cedar)

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’ (Japanese Black Pine)


Succulents, Yucca and such

Euphorbia niciana x nicaeensis ‘Blue Haze’ (Cushion Spurge)

Euphorbia myrsinites (Donkeytail Spurge)

Euphorbia characias ssp. wulfenii ‘Shorty’ (Cushion Spurge)

Hesperaloe parviflora (False Red Yucca)

Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Orostachys iwarenge  (Chinese Dunce Cap)


gah: sakonnet garden

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

I just finished planting my front hill (which I will share soon) and was feeling pretty good about the progress of my garden… that is, until Shiva and I visited Sakonnet Garden in Little Compton, RI. This amazing private garden was open to the public as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program.

My garden now looks extremely young and inadequate. Here’s why (rollover pics for words and such)…

step through the garden gate



















trimmed up high bush blueberries and ferns


















wow, that’s a really tall box hedge



















take a peek through the hedge



















colonnade of redwoods and asarum (wild ginger)



















go on, touch it



















turn around and look out the opening you just stepped through



















bench being devoured by a massive hedge




















You’ll want to biggify this one…

petasites and rhododendrons circle the pond










this arisaema ringens (cobra lily) is huge!



















sculpture in the garden


















clematis climbing a wall of hedge



















whoa, a crazy fastigiate maple



















did i mention that maple is really, REALLY tall?



















an archway leads to yet another garden room



















this one’s for Johnny: foxglove, monkey puzzle tree, hosta and, um, stuff



















closeup of a curved stone wall



















ooh, magnolia macrophylla (bigleaf magnolia)! tons of them here



















colorful red-leafed banana



















gorgeous Red Mughal Pavilion from Dehli



















a shot of gold weaves through the canopy



















Ganesha danced a little jig for us



















podophyllum spotty dotty... great name, amazing leaves



















the bigleaf magnolias really make this garden feel tropical



















Another one worth biggifying…

looks like something out of a glossy magazine, doesn’t it?











i just love these



















a grassy path past the hydrangeas leads us on



















a freshly stacked log wall frames the archway



















this garden room is all about screaming yellow foliage, like cotinus ‘golden spirit’ and hakonechloa ‘all gold’



















what do you suppose is through that passage?



















weeping black beech arches over the black border



















i don’t know what this is but i love the leaves



















now leaving the garden rooms



















meadow of grasses, wild flag and fern











a closeup of iris setosa, (wild flag), just for Shiva







































Maybe someday, 35 years from now, my garden will look like that. Heh. Yeah, right.

plant me happy: native wisteria

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Do you love the smell of basil as much as I do? Then you might like this:

my wisteria amethyst falls




















Nope, not a basil.

This is Wisteria ‘Amethyst Falls,’ a native form that doesn’t smell anywhere as sweet as its overly aggressive Asian relatives. That doesn’t stop the bees, though. Oh no. They’ve been psyched about this vine since the first blooms appeared in its very first year. I planted it at the end of our veggie garden… that was 2 years ago.

Did I mention it blooms almost nonstop? Crazy, right?

wisteria amethyst falls bloom




















That was something I never expected. Instead of blooming just once in the spring like most wisterias, Amethyst Falls blooms for me off and on throughout the summer and even into the fall. Who knew?

Yes, it climbs, but I don’t have room for that so I just let it tumble over the wall. For a plant I had my doubts about in the beginning, I must say I am thrilled with it now.

what’s new, pray tell?

Monday, May 14th, 2012

I suggest you click this image so that you can see it slightly biggified…

praying mantis babies




















On Saturday, I went to the Casey Farm sale and met up with my friend John, who somehow lost a praying mantis egg case in his Honda. With the warm temps, they hatched, of course. DOH! So we chased them around the car with containers. Managed to wrangle 15 to 20 to bring back to the rancho.

Hopefully a few will survive to help rid the garden of aphids, moths and whatnot. Welcome to the family, mantid kids!

In the meantime, I’m busy planting my veggie haul…

my haul of veggies