• Checking on May projects

    by  • May 27, 2011 • Garden, Projects, Spring • 10 Comments

    Notes on what I am really doing in the garden.

    Mexican Primrose, with fleshy bulb-like root. This must be romoved completely or it will come back.

    Mexican Primrose, with fleshy bulb-like root.

    Mexican Primrose eradication in front beds
    Last Fall I decided to sift the soil of the front beds after the first quick weeding did nothing to get rid of this stubborn pretty. It is pretty at one stage, but dries to tall sticks throughout the planting beds.  So, there I was taking bit by bit, each area and making sure.

    Mexican Primrose coming through root ball of killed plant. Yellowish fleshy root shows at the bottom.

    Mexican Primrose coming through root ball of killed plant. Yellowish fleshy root shows at the bottom.



    I got all the roots, I think, with a sharp trowel. All the plants affected were dug up, shaken out, forbidden roots found and placed in nursery pots in the shade.  The roots have a thick, fleshy root, which is yellowish, rather than red like the stems of this plant. This must be romoved completely or it will come back.

    Fast forward to last month when a second thorough check was done and more stragglers found and dug.

    Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys 'Prostratum'

    Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys 'Prostratum'

    Last weekend, another month later, I put all the plants back, added a few monkey flowers and sages to go with the existing conifers, Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’, (below), Thyme and Snow-in-summer, Cerastrum tomentosum. These last three are some of the most useful Mediteranneans for a California garden.

    Now after a week or so after the replanting I see little sprouts of the primrose still popping up.  Certain plants become invasive in different areas of the country and the world. This primrose may be perfectly desirable to some, in fact I see it all the time in nurseries. When one finds itself too much ‘at home’ it is a real pain to remove completely.

    New Native Meadow

    Blooming now in the meadow are California Poppies, Eschscholzia californica, Bird’s Eye Gilia, Gilia tricolor, Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa, Chinese Houses, Collinsia heterophylla, which I see the deer like! All the tops are nibbled off of them.  While weeding I’ve also noticed gopher holes but no apparent damage, deer hoof prints. I’ve been happy to find natives not sown but growing here in the new weed-free area, Pearly Everlasting, the Indian Rice Grass, Pretty face, Elegant Madia, California Yarrow, Rudbeckia hirta and Valley Tassels. Non natives appearing are Ajuga and Lamb’s ears, which I’ll weed out if necessary.

    Meadow in May, poppies, bird's eye gilia and tidytips mostly. Pacific fescue is blooming

    Meadow in May, poppies, bird's eye gilia and tidytips mostly. Pacific fescue is blooming

    This meadow is becoming such a source of deep pleasure for me in the garden. It’s fun to walk down and see what is new.   The perennials around the edges are growing well, most are native and also new to me.  Even Tractor Man noticed and asked the other day, “Hey, did you throw out some poppy seeds out there?”  So much fun!

    Meadow color
    Meadow color

    One grass is positively ID’d as Pacific Fescue, Vulpia microstachys, and the rest of the grasses in the mix are a mystery so far. Bonnie, at our native plant nursery says the reason the native grasses has been edged out is because the non-native grasses bloom and go to seed before the natives.  Another new native grass identified this Spring is Indian Rice Grass, Achnatherum hymenoides. It flowers with very airy and delicate seed heads, low to the ground, about 4-5 inches. The stems are spiky deep green and appear in a kind of star pattern before the seeds form. The other grasses I am supposed to have are, Purple Needlegrass, Nassella pulchra and California Melic, Melica californica

    Achnatherum hymenoides, Indian Rice Grass

    Achnatherum hymenoides, Indian Rice Grass


    Weeds are huge now, so I’m working on both natural and new meadows, section by section, trying to get most before they go to seed. Very satisfying… and then I water each area to settle the soil and wash off the rocks.

    I’m finding that where one weed is, another will be. They have meetings, apparently. In the natural meadow there was an infestation of filaree, which was removed.  It left lots of bare spots which could have become very dry, but for the rain we’ve had this year.  I’ll add pine needle mulch in those bare spots when it becomes hotter.

    A few white poppies show up

    A few white poppies show up

    Weeds have spines and stickers now; that and oak leaves cause me to wear gloves all the time. The most prolific weeds found are Spreading Hedgeparsley, Torilis arvensis, and Bedstraw, Galium aparine, a CA native and Field madder, Sherardia arvensis, two similar weeds. The seedlings for these can be found in CA Native Seedlings.

    This is the natural meadow, half of it weeded

    This is the natural meadow, half of it weeded of all filiree

    Adventures in weeding

    • Ate a bug.
    • Weeded over an ant hill and kept going.
    • Discovered new natives plants hiding under the weeds! Fun!
    California Tarantula Aphonopelma sp & Maggie

    California Tarantula, Aphonopelma ssp & Maggie

    Adventures in planting

    • In the first shovel full of dirt a tarantula came out…thank heavens, I didn’t hurt him. He lived there for a few days and ran out whenever I watered.
    • Chopped through my irrigation hose accidentally and I wasn’t aware that I had said anything but Tractor Man said I had scared the dog.
    Wildflower 'muffins' growing bigger

    Wildflower 'muffins' growing bigger

    Wildflowers seedling “muffins” planted out in the natural meadow are doing well. They were sown in seed trays on January 1st, this year and planted out April 15th. They’re easily twice the size as when first planted and I’m just hoping that they will reseed and be able to spread. I’m weeding this huge area, may have bit off more than I can chew here, but the results are so satisfying!  Slowly but surely, I guess.

    Dill seed heads

    Dill seed heads on the monster dill

    Harvesting and drying a ton of dill.

    This dill will be spread out on a shallow cardboard box to dry. It will take several weeks to dry completely and then it will be stored in small glass jars.

    Harvested dill, enough for a whole lotta salmon

    Harvested dill, enough for a whole lotta salmon

    A plant correctly ID’d

    What I thought was Wild Onion, Allium crispum, I’ve found to be Twining snake lily, Dichelostemma volubile.  What a cool name. It has a thick very strong stem that winds itself charmingly up through manzanita and deerbrush

    Dichelostemma volubile, Twining Snake Lily

    Dichelostemma volubile, Twining Snake Lily

    Mulching with oak leaves
    I need much mulch.  I don’t have any at the moment, so I’m using oak leaves to further loosen the clay soil when planting. I mix it right in the planting beds with gloves hands or a trowel turning the soft damp soil over on the leaves and after planting use them again as mulch. After five years of doing this, plus using pine chips and needles as additional mulch the beds are easy to weed and the soil is becoming much more friable.  The native soil is a combo of decomposed granite, and clay.  They both have good nutrients but need dried leaf material for growing most plants sucessfully. I make sure the plant itself is in soil and press firmly to prevent air pockets. I’ve been planting Alum root, Heuchera micrantha in shady places near an oak since they need little water.  Is planting over gopher holes a bad idea? May be.


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    10 Responses to Checking on May projects

    1. May 27, 2011 at 10:48 am

      Wow what a lot of activity! Weeds are most on my mind right now. In my weeding efforts I really focus on strips now, swathes, where I weed intensively (well as intensively as I can manage) and try my best to leave the rest alone, for the wildlife to live on – though it takes all the willpower (and laziness!!) I can muster – the ripgut brome has been here a long time. I’ll get over there where it is predominant eventually! This is the Bradley method, basically. And I do notice that where I’ve been meticulous, things are really turning around. But I can’t be meticulous over a slope that’s more than half an acre, maybe an acre, not sure – big anyway, when you’re weeding it inch by inch! Well I wrote about this anyway on the blog. It’s great to share “war stories” this way with a fellow “restorationist!”

      • May 27, 2011 at 2:12 pm

        Thanks, Mouse! It’s been a challenge to identify native and non-native grasses, and I’ve been meaning to email all you who are CA native lovers to compare notes on the ones you all have ID’d. I’m not sure what ripgut brome looks like, but I think we have one called Downy brome?? I like reading yours and City Mouse’s post because we plant the same things and you a bit more. I got a later start! ha!

    2. May 28, 2011 at 4:38 am

      Oh, Maggie! You brave girl…I’d have turned tail and run as fast as I could in the opposite direction!

      Sue, your garden is so breathtakingly beautiful…I know I keep on repeating myself! But each time you take us around it and show us something new, something old, something blue…just seemed appropriate…don’t mind me ;)…I find myself literally gasping, in awe, not only at what beauty you’re sharing with us, but at the amount of blood, sweat, tears, aches, pains, joy, creativity, care, love and attention that you’ve put into it, to turn it into your own, private, park-like estate! You are truly inspiring!!! And I am SO GLAD you are sharing it all with us!!! It’s one of my favourite places to visit 🙂 I try to remind myself when I’m working in my garden and I think it’s a lot of work, of what you’ve done and are continuing to do and improve on in space that makes my garden seem pocket-handkerchiefed sized by comparison. You NEVER mention a gardener other than yourself…do you do it ALL ON YOUR OWN???

      I had cold coffee while working in my garden yesterday and thought of you 😉 AGAIN!!! Now I’ll be able to think of you drinking yours sitting on that bench behind your kitchen garden’s rock beneath the oak…I’ll pretend you don’t have tarantulas as visitors!

    3. May 28, 2011 at 4:50 am

      More from me…sorry! Just can’t shut-up today…I am so in awe of you…and your garden…and just everything…I am wondering how you find time to do anything else? I spend a fair amount of time in my very, very, VERY much smaller garden and plenty of time doing chores inside and cleaning up after and playing with the dogs etc. and some days just find it’s all a little/lot overwhelming keeping up…I battle to fit in time to go shopping (which I hate anyway, so am always ready with plenty of reasons not to go! And thank heavens for internet grocery shopping, which I have on occasion resorted to!)…I rely a lot on my dear husband who, despite his own very busy programme, helps hugely these days with feeding the two of us…when I’m busy, I usually forget about ‘mundane’ stuff like, ‘What’s for dinner…lunch?’ but, believe me, at the end of the day, I’m usually ravenous…and then am so lucky, because my hubby will have thought ahead and got something really tasty prepared! PLEASE TELL ME HOW YOU DO IT, ALL?????

      • May 28, 2011 at 8:34 am

        Thank you so much, Desiree, you are TOO kind. No, that’s not true, you are just fine the way you are. Why don’t you come visit and we can walk around the garden? This *is* a very beautiful part of California and when looking up at the mountain now and then I am reminded again and again why we chose this place to live and *how* fortunate we are to have had everything work out so well. *Your* garden is so beautiful, as well! I love the peaceful serene atmosphere you have created, although I know with all those bouncy dogs it probably gets quite lively there.

        And you would be surprised how little time I spend actually doing hard labor…the hand weeding I really enjoy and do that in the spring, until they go to seed, then I give up for that year. Planting (digging) is strenuous too, but the last year I’ve only been moving plants not planting new ones. At first I planted everything too close! I use a LOT of mulch which I find free in various places. That keeps the weeds down unbelievably well.

        Tractor man, besides his tractoring, does lots, he likes to do the grocery shopping and laundry! And he vacuums while I mop floors. I don’t mind housework and try to keep it limited to the 15 minutes that the coffee takes to brew. 😀

    4. May 29, 2011 at 3:10 am

      So glad to hear you aren’t entirely a super woman and also enjoy the help of your hubby 😉 I really rather like your take on housework…a daily 15 minute rush around sounds just perfect 🙂

      I love being able to join you for a walk around your garden, so please, Sue, just keep these marvellous posts coming!!!

    5. May 13, 2014 at 9:20 am

      I have thoroughly enjoyed your website, although its so extensive that I haven’t visited everything. My husband and I moved to Grass Valley in 2006 and I have a native plant garden on our foothill subdivision lot. It would be nice to have more space, but I have enough to take care of! I was familiar with Coastal Sage Scrub in the San Diego area and have enjoyed learning about foothill and Sierra native plants. I can identify with all the work and learning you have done.

      We are planning a visit to Bass Lake environs next week (the third week in May, 1914). My parents lived at Bass Lake for 25 years, so our family explored much of the backcountry in the summer months. Can you suggest any particular areas I should plan to visit to view wildflowers? (We have 4WD and a GPS.) My mother took wildflower slides, but didn’t note where she photographed them. She was the Bass Lake Fresno Bee correspondent for many years (1960s and 70s). Our trip will be filled with nostalgia, but I hope we are timing it right for some wildflowers too.

      Are you familiar with the Stewart Edward White books? Some of them were written about the Peckinpah Mountain area. Reading them adds to the adventure of living in the Sierra Nevada foothills and taking trips to higher elevations.

      Thanks for sharing your gardening experiences and for your appreciation of the many things you observe.

    6. Sue Langley
      May 13, 2014 at 10:44 am

      Thank you, Darlene! May is wonderful here for wildflowers. All along the ‘Bass Lake Rd, both Rd 274, past the Pines Resort and on the ‘camping side’ Rd 222 are beautiful. Hwy 49 is especially colorful, but in April, and we also view the flowers along the Auberry Rd (also Rd 222) out of North Fork and the road around Pine Flat Lake. It’s a bit late for the big swaths of flowers at our elevation.

      People rave about the Hite Cove hiking trail for wildflowers,…you park off of Hwy 140 at the trading post. I haven’t been there, though, myself.

      Your best bet may be the higher elevations. Look up the Sierra Vista Scenic Loop just northeast from North Fork for wonderful 4WD. You’ll be up in the high country and seeing the flowers that bloomed in the lower elevations last month! We go off the paved highway to Whiskey Falls, if you can find the Whiskey Falls campground n your gps, it will be easy to find.

      If you didn’t read my post on Peckinpah Mountain, please search Peckinpah in the search box….you may enjoy it! I would like to read more of Stewart Edward White…

      Thanks again!

    7. May 13, 2014 at 10:14 pm

      Thank you for your comments, Sue. We are considering the Sierra Vista Scenic Loop since we want to go into the higher country. We may start at the Nelder Grove end, however. I’d like to climb Fresno Dome, and we thought we’d take Beasore Road to Bass Lake. We like the Central Camp Road and the old trestle area, too. I’ve been to Whiskey Falls years ago and my parents showed me what they surmised was the old chimney of White’s cabin.

      You can download some of White’s books from Amazon to read on Kindle. I use the PC version, so I have to read at my computer. If you haven’t already read them, read his timber industry books in this order: The Riverman, The Adventures of Bobby Orde and The Rules of the Game. They start in Michigan, then move to California to your area. Next I suggest reading The Mountain and The Pass, which are stories about the Sierra Nevada.

      Grass Valley is also gold mining country, but we’re at the upper end of Highway 49. I’m a wildflower docent at Bridgeport, which is known for its covered bridge and the Buttermilk Bend Trail along the south Yuba River. The trail is short but it has a variety of wildflowers. Like the Hite Cove trail, our wildflowers at Bridgeport peter out by late May. Apparently the rain came at the right time even in this drought, for we had a pretty good show of flowers. Now we have to go to higher elevations, and I’m still learning the high Sierra flowers.

      I’m looking forward to visiting your area again. By the way, I once planted Mexican Evening Primrose. Such a pretty flower! I wasn’t happy as I spent the next ten years getting rid of it.

      • Sue Langley
        May 14, 2014 at 7:15 am

        Darlene, both of the places you mention will be wonderful to visit. I forgot to mention the Lewis Creek trail which at lower elevation has the peak of flowers in early May. You might keep it on your list and you may like my articles on it. Yes, we love the fact that we can go to the higher elevations and get Spring again!

        I have fallen in love with all the native plants here and for some reason love to identify, photograph and find new ones here on the place and in our travels. One goal for this year is to finally add the photos to the list of ‘found’ wildflowers and shrubs….I have them but must find time to insert each one!
        Ugh! Mexican primrose! Ha! Now I’ll begin my battle to remove the ox-eye daises which yes, I myself, sowed.

        Being a wildflower docent must be a dream! This so called drought here has been fascinating…I have found that some plants actually thrive and bloom more while other fade. Mother Nature in charge as usual. Thanks for the book recommendations!

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