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Happy New Year 2018

Every December I reflect on the past year and plan for the new year. January 1st is an exciting day for me because it’s a chance to start fresh. 2017 certainly was full of mixed blessings. I grieved because my Dad passed away in late 2016, I was far too busy (I have a job plus two family members who need a lot of my time and care), lost momentum with the blog and did not achieve all my writing goals. Being activist in the conservation community, I was also sorely aware of the many political and environmental challenges we face. Natural disasters made all my challenges...
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Gardening for Bees

Every year I plant food for the bees; without their cheerful buzzing and little bee moves all over the garden I’d feel at a loss. Like a garden without birds or butterflies, a garden without bees has a big hole in its heart. This bright yellow beauty is called a, “Yellow-faced Bumblebee (Bombus vosnesenskii)” and is native to the west coast of North America. Here you can see her peering at me as I take a close-up while she’s busily gathering pollen from a Toyon (Heteromeles Arbutifolia) blossom in my backyard habitat. I know we need bees to pollinate and that’s an...
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A Story of Three Survivors

The Blue Starflower Upon seeing some Borage (Borago officinalis) seedlings on a common path, in one of the community gardens I am a member of, I decided to take one to plant in my other garden.  It’s an annual that readily self-seeds but has a carrot-like tap root making it difficult to transplant.  I managed to successfully dig one up, plant it in a gallon container and take it home.  After about two weeks it looked strong enough to withstand being transplanted into the Herb and Flower bed. Tucked into an open space between the Russian Sage and a mass of California...
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Rare Seed Hunter Joseph Simcox and More ...

A few years ago, at the San Francisco Landscape Show, I visited a booth staged by an ethnobotanist named Joseph Simcox. www.explorewithjoseph.com  After talking with him for just a few minutes, I was struck with how unique this man is.  Joseph is a modern-day explorer who travels all over the world hunting for rare food producing plants and their seeds!  I pondered over all the varieties of beans he had on display, finally selecting the ones I wanted.  Joseph sold me a dozen beans of two varieties and he did not know their specific botanical names. He also had his book,...
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Planting Historic Seeds

Planting History About five years ago while perusing one of my favorite seed catalogs, “The Whole Seed Catalog – from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds”, a black bean named, “Cherokee Trail of Tears”, caught my eye.  I’d been wanting to grow dry beans for a few years and since I grow more heirlooms than hybrids this was a meaningful choice for several reasons.  First, I like to cook black beans because of how nutritious and delicious they are and secondly, I was intrigued with their history. Trail of Tears “Nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i” is the Cherokee name for the Trail of Tears...
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Some of the Flowers Blooming in My Garde...

  English Lavender or True Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), native to the Mediterranean is a favorite of just about every pollinator in my garden.   Sticky Monkey Flower (Diplacus aurantiacus) is a perennial that likes some shade and is a California native shrub.  I have it growing in a container and the hummingbirds sip the flowers every day while in bloom.   Verbena is in the family Verbenaceae and there are about 250 different kinds.  There is a California native Verbena also.  I have red and purple verbenas that butterflies and hummingbirds like in...
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Towering White Flowers and a Flashback t...

Driving through a neighborhood in the town of Benicia en route to a poetry reading at Roseanne’s European Delights a stand of white flowers at about eight feet tall caught my eye.  “Of course,” I chuckled to myself with greedy horticultural glee, “Matilja Poppies!”  And without further ado, turned around.  On closer inspection, there behind the impressive shrub of rare (not categorized as rare, just rarely seen) giant poppies rested a Volkswagen Van, reminiscent of my hippy days as a youth in the Bay Area. Naturally compelled to capture the scene with my handy iPhone...
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Arctostaphylos densiflora “Howard ...

This is a row of Arctostaphylos densiflora “Howard McMinn” in full bloom.  Manzanitas attract bees, moths, butterflies, hummingbirds and many other forms of wildlife and insects.  They provide food, cover and places-to-raise-the-young in the wildlife habitat. Dr. Howard McMinn selected this variety from native stands of “Arctostaphylos densiflora” in Sonoma County in 1952 and distributed by the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation in 1955.  Manzanitas can bloom as early as December through February making them a valuable source of food in winter.  Berries follow. Manzanitas...