Monday, August 12, 2013

More Late Summer Observations

As I mentioned in my last post, late summer is the quiet season in native California gardens. Most of these plants are completely adapted to going without any rain from roughly May to November. But that doesn't mean that nothing is happening. Some plants will be killed by supplement water while others respond by blooming again. It's important to know the difference and treat them accordingly.

For example, Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia) should not be given any surface water in the summer because there are soil pathogens that will be invigorated by the combination of warmth and water, and they will attack the roots of oaks. By contrast, the succulent shown below, Oregon Stonecrop (Sedum oreganum) requires regular summer water. I'm very pleased that this one if flowering right now.

There are lots of Sedum species, many from Mecixo. But this one is native to far northern California and Oregon where summer temperatures are somewhat cooler and there is more fog/dew to keep them hydrated. Another Sedum from NorCal is S. spathulifolium. Mine is a variety called 'Cape Blanco'.

I keep both of these in containers for several reason.  I can give them a bit more water, they don't get hidden underneath taller plants, and their sprawling growth habit makes them spill over the edge of a container in a pleasing way.

Other plants in my garden have virtually constant water - namely the pond and the bog area. The pond has been naturalizing well and now has a good cover of water lilies with periodic blooms.

These water lilies are not native to California, but it has been extremely difficult for me to find native aquatic plants. So the water lilies will stay unless I find something better. One native wetland plant that I just recently discovered is Giant Arrowhead (Sagittaria montevidensis). I has broad, arrowhead-shaped leaves and a lovely white flower with burgundy markings.

Speaking of wetland plants, the bog area is really filling in now. The Stream Orchid and the two mimulus species have gone into dormancy which I assume is typical of them in the wild. The other bog plants are growing large, especially the San Diego Sedge (Carex spissa).

Some of the smaller bog plants are holding their own, particularly the Lobelia Cardinalis which is blooming now. In the photo below the flowers are from the Lobelia but the foliage is an adjacent plant.

In the drier parts of the garden there are still some plants blooming. There is a small Elderberry tree (Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea). I used to have a very large tree but it was becoming problematic in several ways, so I cut it down a few years ago. Now I get sprouts coming up from the stump every Spring. This year I decided to let one of the sprouts get a bit larger. It got big enough to bloom and produce fruit. The berries are popular with a number of birds.

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