Sunday, March 30, 2008

Wildflower hotline: Urban wildflower tour scheduled

Sunday April 6, 10:30 am

In the California tradition of "going flowering" in the spring, please join us for an urban flora tour through Highland Park, South Pasadena, and San Marino. We will look at places poppies are blooming, and places they were removed. We can gossip about wildflowers and weeds, as we compare the public spaces of these diverse communities.

Starting point:
parking lot of York Boulevard Post Office
5132 York Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90042

The tour should last just over an hour. We'll start out with a bit of walking, so remember to wear comfortable shoes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wildflower hotline: The poppies are talking

The poppies are talking to us. Their petals open wide as the day begins. They curl tightly shut as the day ends. Contrary to what people say, California poppies make great (but delicate) cut flowers, and will continue to open and shut even when indoors. Mark time with the poppies.

Warm weather has brought out more flowers. Most of the South-facing sites planted in Highland Park are now blooming (on the North side of the street). A couple full-sun sites on the South side (North-facing) are blooming as well.

Good spots for urban poppy viewing are the North side of York between 55 and Nolden, and the entrance to South Pasadena Nature Park, just east of the 110. I've been told these poppies will become larger and more floriferous over the years, if they are allowed to remain in place, like the jaw-dropping poppies on the Southbound entrance of the 110 at York, which are growing out of cement cracks.
Not all the sites I tended are blooming. This artists' studio below was one of the first sites prepared and planted. Despite that many seeds germinated, and that it was one of the sites were I spent the most weeding hours, including reseeding and even transplanting from other sites, no poppies grew. I wonder if this local bird can tell us why? He was having a great time pecking at the ground.

As I was checking on the flowers, I met this group of girls, who were making themselves comfortable on this incredibly well manicured landscape in front of Super A. (A landscape which was too well maintained for poppy growth).
I complimented them on making good use of a very nice lawn in a neighborhood where the nearest park is.... Hey, come to think of it, there is no nearby park.

A couple locations in South Pasadena are blooming, though the majority of sites will bloom much later, if they survive at all. Generally, the sun in this area is filtered through the many non-native sycamores lining the street. (Hot and dry York Boulevard, in contrast, is planted with the sparsely canopied native sycamores, which were once an indicator of intermittent water sources, but are now used as an abuse-tolerant street tree.) 

This ivy-covered yard was the very first site planted. This is one of the few instances where there is clear communication between the very kind property owners and their gardener. Though it's in full sun and is well-tended by the gardener, only a few flowers are showing. So far.

The large plot which promised to become my most impressive show of poppies in South Pasadena was mowed in February, due to a communication mishap with the gardener. Will the poppies recover?

When I first sought permission to plant most of these sites, almost half a year ago, countless property owners told me, in the very same words, "Don't worry. No one will weed out the poppy shoots. The gardener is too lazy. He doesn't do a thing!" In fact, in most of these sites, I had to reseed the poppies when the "lazy gardeners" turned out actually to be very  on top of things. It is surprising how common it is to have so little communication between property owners and their "help"-- this happened in both Highland Park and South Pasadena.

This super wonderful property owner arranged the rocks like this just for the poppies.

For an even bigger show, involving California poppies among myriad compatriot California plants, look around the corner on Milan Avenue!

Next time: A report from a local governmental branch, which is gradually morphing into a guerilla community garden; and words from an underground oak woodland.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Wildflower Hotline: Stray blooms

The first stray blooms appeared about ten days ago in Highland Park, appropriately, in a cactus planter outside an artists' studio. This week more locations are showing poppy action--Child's moving company, The Rock Church-- all south facing sites on York Boulevard in Highland Park. 

In the several weeks since the last rains, the weather has warmed up dramatically. Though it's been relatively dry, the poppies have been growing exponentially faster than before. Unfortunately it's not just the poppies growing. Dave Pisley told me today, that in his own garden, weeds have been appearing by the "thousand-fold." Gotta get out and put in some more weeding hours this weekend...