Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gulf Fritillary Joins the ZinniaFest

Today's visitor to the zinnias was a Gulf Fritillary. Even if I didn't love the abundance of blooms the California Giants Zinnias keeps pumping out I would plant them again just for the visitors.

More skittish than the Orange Sulfer that visited a few days ago this fritillary was also more colorful.

I'm glad the butterflies have been stoking up on the nectar supplied here...rain and cold are predicted soon. I'm happy to supply some help for them in their quest for the sweet treat.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Orange Sulfer Butterfly

This female Orange Sulfer butterfly spent quite a while feeding on this particular California Giant Zinnia today.

Photos make it much easier to see the proboscis inserted into the actual flowers in the center of the composite bloom.

Here is a quick video...I wish you could more easily see the vigor with which this butterfly was feeding!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garden Blogger Bloom Day October 2012

California Giants zinnias
On the 15th of every month garden bloggers around the world join Carol at May Dreams Gardens for Garden Blogger Bloom Day. Not only is it fun to see what is blooming everywhere else in the world, it is sometimes useful in reminding the gardener to check on what is blooming out back.

Lavandula pinnata buchii

I would have said there was not much going on here aside from some Energizer Bunny plants that just keep on blooming. And while that is pretty much true it is also true that that means there are plenty of blooms to enjoy. Sometimes those almost-constant-bloomers become a bit overlooked after pumping out blooms for a few months. Or, as is the case with lavandula pinnata bucchi, for almost the whole year. Garden Blogger Bloom Day is a great reason to focus and be grateful for those stalwarts yet again.

Cuphea llavea, bat face cuphea

Bat face cuphea will always remind me of Annie/Kathy of The Transplantable Rose who first posted a photo of this  sweet plant some years ago causing me to hunt around and find one for my very own.
Helianthus debilis, Italian White sunflower

This small flowered sunflower is a garden favorite here due to its several month bloom period and ease of cultivation.

Abutilon Pink Parasol

The abutilons are grown with other shrubs to provide support for their somewhat gangly growth.

Miniature rose, unknown

This miniature rose, a gift several years ago, had resumed blooming after a summer respite.
While I didn't find anything overly exciting on my bloom hunt it is still true that, as Carol tells us in quoting Elizabeth Lawrence, " We can have flowers nearly every month of the year".

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Filoli in the Fall

I've been to Filoli in the heat, the rain, the fog. Today was a beautiful, clear, crisp fall day. Every visit has been fun and an occasion to discover something new.

Filoli was built as the country escape for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II. Bourn was a rich gold mine owner and owner of the company that supplied San Francisco's water. The grounds are elegant in some areas, utilitarian in others, and rustic in still others. 

Today Filoli belongs to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is open to the public February through October. The first floor of the house is also open for viewing, something we skipped this time.

I am not a big rose fan but the roses here are enjoying a fall flush of blooms and were quite pretty. 

I wish I had asked someone how long the apple espalier row is...suffice it to say it is many trees and many yards long. It was beautiful today since it was loaded with apples!

The knot garden requires much maintenance and doesn't always look good, especially if it has been recently pruned as it has been several times when I have seen it. This time it was glorious!

We spotted a path we had never been on before which was exciting. A docent told us this area is being developed to allow access to the new daffodil meadow that has been planted. 15,000 daffodils were planted in 2008, 50,000 more in 2010 and even more since then. She encouraged us to return next spring to see the result. At that time all the other daffodils will also be blooming...some of them descendants of bulbs that have multiplied for years and years. 
We also spotted this tree along the path and didn't recognize it. Friends of mine have identified it from this picture as a type of hawthorn...something I hadn't seen before. That is one reason I like to return to Filoli again and again...there is always something new to see!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Gardening in Spite of Kids

The fun and benefits of gardening with kids are well documented. Kids love to garden and getting them involved with growing some of their own food and learning how nature works is a good idea on many levels.

But that being said, there is another side to sharing a garden with kids; the less fun, more frustrating side. When all the leaves get pulled from a plant or even the plant itself is yanked from the ground. When someone tumbles over and flattens emerging seedlings. When balls ricochet off plants, knocking branches off.

Sword ferns provide a buffer for other plants
After 29 years of running a family child care home I have learned a few things. Probably the first thing would be: don't plant anything you would be sad to lose in a danger zone. Don't plant strawberries where little tasters might help themselves before the berries ripen. Don't plant the expensive narcissus where a curious hand can reach to try to pick it, only to pull it from the ground. This isn't to say that you can't have those things, just protect them with something less precious. In my garden I have sword ferns lining many of the planting beds.  When little fingers yank a frond it is an excellent moment to talk about being gentle to plants and I don't have to be sad because I know it can't hurt the ferns. Things like iris or agapanthus which multiply like crazy here are also good choices because there are always plenty left if something happens to a plant or two.

Fences can keep bikes out of the vegetable garden
Short fences along planting beds can help keep kids in bounds without closing off things too much. A little bit taller fence comes in handy in bicycle speed zones that border the sunny spot that is needed for some vegetables.  Raised beds would be another way to keep plants a little bit protected.

Some tempting plants need to be within reach. Scented geraniums and herbs like culinary sage that children can learn to rub gently and sniff, lambs' ears that are so very soft, argyranthemum that bloom all summer. All these sturdy growers offer opportunities for repeated lessons in gentle hands without the danger of killing the plant.

Short fences protect beds while scented geraniums spill over for sensory fun
I am in love with succulents for many reasons but in this context they are great because even if a piece gets picked or knocked off the original plant will be fine and you can easily root the broken piece. Another opportunity for learning! Succulents in pots can be used as buffers around posts that might be dangerous to those speeding bicycles. This is where a nice looking resin pot comes in handy since the possibility of contact is high. Keep those expensive ceramic pots for use elsewhere.

Resin pots are sturdy but provide visual cues for traffic
Gardening in spite of kids is all about having reasonable expectations. You can provide a wonderful environment for learning with just a little effort. Plan ahead, adjust as needed, and keep in mind that kids need to be in gardens. So garden in spite of them!