Sunday, March 6, 2016

 We had a lot of fun as one of this year's featured gardens:
Updates: The native plant bloom is at least a month early this year compared with earlier ones. However, a few brief rain fronts have rebooted some of the plants. Here is today's example.

We started converting a typical Southern California suburban lawn to a native "habitat" in 1996. We were not popular, particularly with real estate agents selling in the neighborhood. In fact, we came to expect threats from the city regarding our "weeds" every time the house next door was up for sale.

Our current neighbors, Steve and Corie, are also native plant enthusiasts. In fact their house is on the tour this year, too. 

Finally, in 1999 we had to consult a lawyer since the city of Dana Point had threatened to takes us to court to enforce their "lawn laws."

The advice we were given turned out to be excellent. The attorney recommended we hire a landscaper instead of a lawyer, and simply keep the receipt. If the City followed through with their threats, the Judge would find we had in fact created a "work of art." We retained a landscaper recommended by the Tree of Life Nursery, and he did a great job adding rock features, and finally dressing things up. Another recommendation was find some association with a nature society, or club. That led to the placard pictured above which we have mounted on the front wall.

So why had we gone to all this trouble?

There were two core reasons; aesthetic, practical.

The aesthetic reasons were that we preferred a natural environment to the sterile (even toxic) American Lawn. We selected only locally typical plants, with just one or two rarities for fun. Going into our yard is always interesting. On the average day we see a dozen or more insects from butterflies to bees and more. On the average day there are 5 to 10 different plants in bloom. On the average day we see 5, or 6 species of birds. California Golden salamanders, and Western Alligator Lizards are also residents. Neighbor's kids have used our yard for their science projects.

On the practical side, we have not watered, used fertilizers, or pesticides for nearly 20 years. (We think this is a sort of aesthetic as well). We rarely need to do more than the trim back a very exuberant garden. (During the last few years we did take the added step of using buckets in the shower to collect "warm up" water to use in the Native front yard, and in the backyard vegetable garden).

There are a few posts for readers;

Species Lists

These are just for plants and birds. For additional photos from other locations (and by better photographers) see the excellent website maintained by Prof. Peter Brant of UC Irvine, Natural History of Orange County


These are just larger setting photos.

Some Critters

We have tried to create a habitat that will attract and support insects, and vertebrates. Here are a few successes.

Blossoms. These are just samples of a few of the more "showy" flowers we hope you will like.

Species Lists, Front Yard 2016

We are not listing insects, or spiders. We love them too, but there are just too many.


Rumex sp?

Oenothera elata, Hooker's Evening Primrose

Epilobium canum - California fuchsia

Cliff Spurge, Euphorbia misera

Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberry, Ribes speciosum

White Sage, Salvia apiana

Black Sage, Salvia mellifera

California Buckwheat, Eriogonum fasciculatum

Dune Buckwheat, Eriogonum parvifolium

Bush Rue, Cneoridium dumosum

Arroyo Willow, Salix lasiolepis

Western Jimson Weed, Datura wrightii

California Gilia, Gilia achilleifolia

Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium bellum

Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma pulchellum var. pulchellum

Red skinned onion, Allium haematochiton  S. Watson
Miniature Lupine, Lupinus bicolor

Arroyo Lupine, Lupinus succulentus


Western Marsh Cudweed, Gnaphalium palustre

Coyote Brush, Baccharis pilularis

California Sagebrush, Artemisia californica

Bush sunflower, Encelia californica

San Diego Sunflower,
Bahiopsis laciniata

Coast Goldenbush, Isocoma menziesii (Hook. & Arn.) G. Nesom var. vernonioides
(Nutt.) G. Nesom  AKA Palmer's Goldenbush, Ericameria palmeri

Grasses: Poaceae 
Purple Needle Grass, Nassella pulchra (Stipa pulchra) official state grass since 2004


Western Bluebird, Sialia mexicana (Jan. 25, 2017)

Dark-eyed Junco, Junco hyemalis (Jan. 25, 2017)

Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus (Dec. 2016)

Hooded Oriole, Icterus cucullatus (March 16, 2016)

Cedar Waxwing, Bombycilla cedrorum

Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dendroica coronata

Yellow Warbler, Dendroica petechia

Black-throated-Gray Warbler, Dendroica nigrescens

Sharp-shinned Hawk, Accipiter striatus

Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura

Allen's Hummingbird, Selasphorus sasin (nested)

Anna's Hummingbird, Calypte anna (nested)

Downy Woodpecker, Dryobates pubescens (male, female and immature)

American Crow, Corvus brachyhynchus

Lesser Goldfinch, Carduelis psaltria

American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis

Bushtit, Psaltriparus minimus

Wrentit, Chamaea fasciata

Northern Mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos

Black Phoebe, Sayornis nigricans

Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Aimophila ruficeps

White-crowned Sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophyrs

House Finch, Carpodacus mexicanus

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus (Non-native)

European Starling, Sternux vulgarus (Non-native)

Reptiles, and amphibians

California Slender Salamander, Batrachoceps attenuatus (Breeding)

Southern Alligator Lizard, Elgaria multicarinata (Breeding)

Western Fence Lizard, Sceloporus occidentalis (Breeding)

California King Snake, Lampropeltis getula californiae

Some critters

Update Oct. 2016 We have a majority of plants going to seed. One reason we like this time of year are the migrant birds that stop by for a quick lunch. Here is a nice example of some
Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria) feeding on some very dry San Diego Sunflower, and Hooker's Primrose.

26 May, 2016
We just saw today that the yard had recruited a female Western Fence Lizard. She seems pretty hefty so we hope she is gravid. We have not had these in the yard for over 10 years. That is when a young king snake moved in and ate them all.

One goal was to create a place that would attract and support critters. These are a few examples. These sphinx moths are a bit of insect porn. They stayed coupled for over 24 hours. If you only get one chance, make it count. 
She's ready to lay eggs on the Datura.
We have an Arroyo Willow that attracts breeding Mourning Cloak Butterflies
There are sometimes hundreds of caterpillars.
Some arrive pretty beat-up.
Fewer than 1 in a hundred eggs make it to the next season.

About a year old.


Update, Oct. 2016: At the end of a very dry year we have a fairly brown yard. I think we should recognize that there are two important reasons to let this normal event play out naturally. First the maturation and release of seed for many plant species follows a die back, and drying. Then the dropped leaves create an isolating layer which keeps the soil, and critters cool. Lastly, it is also helping to retain moisture in the soil. Here are some photos just before the predicted start of the rainy season. I'll also be posting updates as the rains return (hopefully) and the garden greens up again.

Some very dry Hooker's Primrose. The bit of green there in the R. is Coyote Bush.

A few California Fuchsia still blooming. 

 A very dry Gooseberry

 The first new green leaves on our Gooseberry, October 29, 2016.

These following photos are Spring, 2016.