Look who decided to rest on a nasturtium leaf

What an unusual sight - this plump little monarch caterpillar was resting on the leaf of a small nasturtium plant growing next to the base of one of the larger milkweed pots. It must have crawled out of one of the milkweed pots, down to the ground and up the nasturtium plant, which is about three inches high. It might have gone there to morph into its current instar which looks like the third or fourth. I plucked the leaf with its stem and tucked it with its caterpillar passenger safely between the thick stalks of a narrow leaf milkweed plant. There are a lot of healthy leaves to eat in this "forest". Hopefully all goes well for this little one.

Anna's hummingbird and the Abutilon shrub

There is a section of the garden beds on the patio where the plants are specifically for our local hummingbirds. The Abutilon "Red Tiger", or "Red Tiger" Flowering Maple is one of them. I planted it last year in the spring as a seedling, and it is now over six feet tall, and constantly in bloom. It seems to be in the perfect spot with well-draining soil, and in part shade. The Anna's hummingbirds visit the blossoms throughout the day, for the nectar and any little insects that may be on the blossoms. The hummingbirds seem to have a routine here. First they visit the Salvia Greggii, next the Cuphea Minnie Mouse shrubs, followed by the Abutilon "Red Tiger", Chiapas Salvia and finally, the Baja

Yellow-faced bumble bee moving pollen

Last weekend while I was checking out the native plants, something suddenly plopped down in front of me. It was this Yellow-Faced Bumble Bee Bombus vosnesenskii. It was cleaning pollen off its face and moving the pollen to its baskets on its legs. I was so happy to see the bee, because after having so many Yellow-Faced Bumble Bees visiting the garden all summer, I haven't seen any since earlier this month. At first it didn't seem like it was moving, so I was afraid all was not well with the bee. But on closer investigation I realized it was resting before moving pollen. This process took at least five to ten minutes. Then the bumble bee crawled a few inches to rest. A wasp, seizing the oppor

Climbing Carolina Aster in bloom

And just like clockwork, the Climbing Carolina Aster Ampelaster carolinianus is starting to bloom again. This nonnative perennial vine starts to bloom in late October through December or January, providing pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. For much of the year the vine can look dead, full of dried brown branches and leaves. But don't prune it! I waited until late summer and then cut only the very dried branches that were completely dead. The plant gradually sprouts new leaves, and eventually dark pink buds start to develop and bloom.

Hermit thrush in the birdbath

Well look who is having a great time in the birdbath, a hermit thrush. It may be the same bird I saw in the morning in our neighbor's camellia tree. I was on the patio this afternoon, looking through a box of dried wildflowers and started to hear soft splashes of water. And there it was, enjoying the fresh filtered water in the clean bath. It's hard to explain the feeling of pure joy I have, when I see birds thoroughly enjoying the little birdbath. These birds show up in our area in the fall through the spring. This is the first hermit thrush I've seen in our garden this fall. They visit from further up north, and in the winter survive on fruit, berries, and worms. They migrate at night and

Still releasing monarchs

What a lovely female monarch. We released her a couple of days ago a few hours after she emerged from her chrysalis. So far we've released 67 monarchs, with an almost equal amount of females and males. Currently one caterpillar is creating its silk pad from the ceiling of one of the mesh cages. And there are six chrysalides remaining. Hopefully they all are healthy. We had to euthanize two chryaslides last week when they started to look strange. One developed strange black lines on it, and didn't look healthy. It possibly had the OE virus. The other was different shades of brown, possibly contained tachinid fly larva in it. We still are vigilant.

As long as there is nectar

Even though a lot of plants are going dormant, we still have bees and butterfly visitors in the garden every day. As long as there are nectar and pollen sources they will come. The indigo spires salvia is still producing blossoms on its spires. Currently it is one of two salvia plants in the front yard that are still blooming. Alas, the other three salvia plants didn't get enough water for the past couple of weeks, so the blossoms dried up. But the plants will revive and will bloom again soon. The two borage plants are still blooming and have frequent bee visitors, like this honey bee. These plants produce nectar every two minutes! There are so many umber skippers all around the garden. I th

Natural sculptures

This weekend we purchased several pumpkins to carve for Halloween. And then I saw these. Doesn't this squash look just like the profile of a swan? I think it's so lovely with the striking contrast of bright yellow and dark green. And this squash looks like the head of a bird, complete with eyeball and curved beak. All the lumps on it make it even more interesting.

Well that didn't take long

When we went to Annies Annuals last weekend to buy "a few plants", I couldn't resist a Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis' China Rose plant. I try to stick with mostly native plants, but this lovely rose plant produces throughout the year blossoms that shift in color from orange to yellow to a magenta red. It is very drought tolerant and attracts bees and butterflies for its pollen. When we purchased the plant there were several buds on it. I transplanted the plant to a larger pot in the garden that same afternoon The next day two of the buds opened. Look who arrived shortly after one of the buds opened, a hover fly (also known as a flower fly). The blossoms have a delicate, subtle and lemony fragra

Gardening is always a learning process

I planted the Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII' as a 4" small seedling in early Spring of last year. As a California native, it would have been a great complement in the front yard to the Ray Hartman ceanothus on the opposite side of the almost all native garden area. The front yard, which faces west, and is on a gentle slope, gets no shade from the hot sun. Although this strain of ribes should have some shade, it does tolerate clay soil and is drought tolerant. It seemed to be beating the odds, growing to 12", optimistically producing some green leaves. I watered it at least twice weekly, but as you can see, it isn't a very happy plant. Meanwhile the Ray Hartman ceanothus, which requires

Hello Painted Lady

This afternoon I was resting after adding grapeseed compost around some of our shrubs in the patio plant beds. And from the corner of my eye I spotted a lovely Painted Lady Vanessa cardui fluttering in the breeze past me and onto a red valerian flowerhead. At first I thought it was a monarch butterfly, but it is seemed too small to be one. What a lovely surprise on this very warm afternoon to finally spot one of these butterflies. There were a few of them that visited the garden, starting in the late Spring, but I hadn't been able to see one up close this year, until today. The butterfly spent a long time on this flowerhead. It visited every single blossom for nectar. The underside of the wi

Many butterflies and bees still around

Now that it's October and it isn't peak blooming season for most plants, it's nice to see that we still have a lot of butterfly and bee visitors. There are still many umber skippers fluttering around the garden, sometimes in groups of five. It's funny how they often land right in front of me. I sometimes wonder if they just are curious. I do try to have a variety of native plants in the garden that will produce blooms and nectar for bees throughout the year. And what a relief it is to see the borage plants still doing well and blooming. Normally their peak bloom period here seems to be late spring through late summer. I purchased a couple of borage plants during the summer. As you can see th

Art with a little help from garden friends

Today I finally had some time to make some solar prints on fabric. We had some bright, sunny afternoon hours, and just some light breezes so the conditions were ideal. Just as I pulled out the first treated piece of fabric onto a board, before I could place any dried plant pieces down, a honey bee landed right on the fabric with a gentle plop. I think it was just as surprised as I was. As it started to crawl on the fabric I said, "No, no, no. You can't be here." Gently, I blew it onto a flower close by. It seemed unconcerned and continued to sip nectar from flowers. A few minutes later as I stood by the fabric with its arrangement of dried leaves and petals, an umber skipper landed on the ba

bees in the bay breeze

For years I have been sharing ideas, gardening tips and recipes  with family, friends and colleagues.

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