Category Archives: wildflowers

Forest and crabapples with Ivy.

gl-s-crabapples-ivy-9-16At the lower elevations, the northern California forest in September is a dry and dusty place, but it still holds many sights to see and ponder over, if you are lucky enough to be with my daughter Pippin, as I was last week.

I had long hoped to travel the several hours to celebrate little Ivy’s birthday with the family, but business here at home kept me up in the air about my plans until the last minute, when I realized that it would be possible for me to make a quick trip up and back. On my one layover day we three “girls” walked in the woods. We chose to drive to a little park not far away this time, instead of making our outing to the woods right behind their house.

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I’ve written before about how Pippin has always had her senses keenly tuned to the natural world; when I am outdoors with her she stops to notice many details of flora and fauna that I am blindly passing by.

I doubt I would have seen these slugs descending from a tree on their slimy rope, but once I saw them I had to record them with my camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the way their line was attached so firmly and invisibly to the tree…

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Pippin told me that this plant is called Pinedrops, and is similar to Snow Plant in that it lives symbiotically on the fungi that in turn live on tree roots; for most of its life you don’t see it above ground.

 

 

 

 

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While my eyes were probably on my boot tops, Pippin noticed a large wasps’ nest in what she took to be a dogwood in the stage of bearing fruit. I wondered how many wasps might live in that large house.

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped by a fish hatchery where Ivy fed the various species of trout, and I spied a commonplace wild sweet pea that I thought uncommonly healthy and pretty.

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wild sweet peas – Lathyrus

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Back at the house, I took up the challenge I never can resist: trying to photograph the crabapples. They make me wish I were a real photographer, so I could capture how gorgeous they are. At Pippin’s they have two or three varieties, and the Professor shakes the trees from time to time in the fall and winter so the fruit will fall on the lawn and feed the deer.gl-s-p1050555-ivy

 

 

 

 

Pippin is a gardener as well as a naturalist and her dahlias are worth the drive north just to visit them. This trio she had just brought in for the birthday party table.

 

 

I didn’t entirely ignore the grandboys, but because it was Ivy’s birthday I didn’t feel bad focusing on her this time. Given that I have eleven grandsons and “only” three granddaughters, you might understand my feelings for the girls.

This year it was a Dragon Cake she wished for, and her parents were obliging. They added a castle for context. Happy Birthday, Ivy!

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Little corner of my world.

9-13-img_3252Along these lower creekside paths in my neighborhood, maintenance vehicles may drive when they are taking care of things. Recently I had seen one down there that didn’t look very official, an unmarked white SUV, just parked, with no crew around, and I wondered… who? Yesterday I saw it again, driving slowly along, then stopping, then creeping forward, and then at one pause a man got out, and I backtracked so I could talk to him across the channel, as he was lifting away a dead branch.

He said he worked for the water agency, and that as they clean out out the creek beds in preparation for winter, they want to preserve bird nests. He was marking any he found, so they would be spared.

That explains the desecration I saw a couple of weeks ago, seemingly random messes where it looked like elephants had trampled across the streams in places. Now I’m guessing it was humans with some heavy equipment for cutting trees and carrying them off.

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Looks like pennyroyal.
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This old willow tree is a familiar friend.

These watercourses that flow from the hills are natural parts of the geography, but they also carry groundwater from the neighborhoods on either side, so it is a constant labor to preserve the ecology of the stream and keep it open, while not turning it into a mere drainage ditch. Occasionally they have to dredge out silt, and the stream looks momentarily ravaged, but quickly the willows and horsetail grass and myriad shrubs and vines start to fill in again. The egrets and mallards and frogs don’t get lost.

Darkness hangs on later these days, so I start my walks later in the morning. Today men with chain saws were already down in the dry areas of the creek bed as I walked by. One man was carefully grooming the lower parts of a small tree, getting it prepared for such time as fast waters will flow past. Let there not be any branches on which to hang debris and start the clogging-up again.

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Looking down from a bridge.

It’s been such a gift this summer to walk almost daily on these paths so close to my house. Each morning or evening the views are slightly changed, the birds and flowers presenting new events to witness. As the days shorten and the weather becomes a little less friendly, I hope I can still get myself down there often, and keep learning about this small corner of my world.

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I offer a nosegay.

IMG_2687 grass & fennelWhen the first rays of the sun were hitting stalks of grass, I was there by the creek with my camera. You can see wild fennel in the background, yellow-green flower heads forming. When I walk this early, my joints are creaky and my gait a bit crooked, for the first while. So I don’t mind at all when the flowers get my attention and beg me to stop for a closer look.

On my first expeditions along this route (26 years ago when we had just moved to this town) I was pushing Kate in a stroller, with at least a couple of her siblings in our company, and I would tell my children whatever I knew about the plants and flowers along the way, sometimes making up a repetitious ditty to imprint the sound in their minds.

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“This is juniper… and this is another kind of juniper… and here are blackberries!” When I did that last month with the grandchildren, we came home with lots of berry stains for Grandma to deal with. Today I noticed purple and black splotches on the path where fruits had been smashed.

I heard from Joy that Liam has remembered many of the plants that I showed him on our walks last week, and that he pointed out to her rosemary and kangaroo paws.

But now I am walking alone, and I like that very much, too. Right now it’s the Queen Anne’s Lace, daucus carota, that is at its peak.

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A block from home this rose is poking through the fence as though giving itself as a ready-made bouquet. So I “picked it” with my camera and offer it to you, with hopes that your day is sweet.

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Summer whites and lesser colors.

gl 6 chamomilegerman.jpg 6-16I got confused about my chamomile. All I could remember was that one is perennial and the other annual. When I noticed that they are both starting to bloom now, I had to try to figure out which was which again. This is what I’ve found.

<< The annual German or Hungarian chamomile is the taller of the two, to 24″. From what I read it often self-sows, and I hope it will do that in my yard.

German: Chamomilla recutita syn Matricaria chamomilla 

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It’s growing near the red California poppy that I planted from a nursery pot, and whose flowers just opened this week. The white variety of this plant that I put in at the same time bloomed a couple of months ago, much less enthusiastically.

That makes me think about something I read in the Summer book I mentioned last week, a quote from Chesterton, from “A Piece of Chalk,” in which he gives an account of how he reluctantly tore himself away “from the task of doing nothing in particular,” and set off into “the great downs” of England with his brown paper and his brightly colored chalks, all on a summer’s day.

To his dismay he had neglected to bring any white chalk — and he begins to hold forth on how the color white, in art and in morals, is essential:

One of the wise and awful truths which this brown-paper art reveals is this, that white is a colour….a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. When, so to speak, your pencil grows red-hot, it draws roses; when it grows white-hot, it draws stars….Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment; it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.

Perhaps my spindly white wildflowers, just starting out and blooming faintly without any other color around them to contrast with (even their foliage was already faded when the buds opened), do not provide a fitting metaphor to match this principle, but it did seem like a good place to tuck in that quote about something I do believe in.

93e53-yellowcapoppy4-11So far I haven’t sown any seed for the standard orange color of our state flower because I am a little afraid of them taking over. The other colors are not as vigorous, but some of them are really special in their rarity and subtlety, and when I have had one re-seed itself or, more often, go dormant and hidden for the winter only to surprise me the next spring, I am thrilled. This pale yellow one did just that for several years in my old garden, but could not be saved.                                                                                                           >>

The red ones are my first variety that are both rare and bright. I hope they self-sow — but much of the garden is experimental. I’ll see over the next months what likes growing in this environment, and not fuss over the things that aren’t thriving.

Back to the chamomile… Just in case the Germans don’t bear children next year, I planted a perennial type, the Roman or Nobile. It grows half as tall and is sometimes used as a walkable ground cover, or part of an herbal lawn mix.

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<< Roman: Chamaemelum nobile syn Anthemis nobilis

An hour after I took this picture, I strolled past again and noticed that ten more buds had swelled enough to be noticeable. History in the making!

I had a house guest for two nights and a day – we spent a nourishing and relaxing time, even though we did no artwork or gardening or poetry-reading. We did eat and shop and update our family birthday lists. But now I have lots of garden work that needs to be done, before I go to see brand-new Baby Brodie next week. Here’s a yarrow bloom for you to look at while I am out tending to my beds.

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