Nestled into the Northern end of the Sonoma Coast, Salt Point State Park is showcase of unique geology and stunning native plants. On a winding trail above bluffs of Franciscan melange and wind and salt pocked rock outcrops, are beautiful showcases of Buckwheats, native Plantains, and icy colored silver-blue California Poppies. Each bend in the trail reveals a new treat, from plains of false Dandelion to Dudleyas clinging to the jutting boulders in host of vertical gardens. While the coastal walk is the main draw this time of year, there a multiple areas to be explored, with the Pigmy Forrest, open grassland and Rhododendron Preserve offering nice hikes on the other side of highway.
Pick an early weekend morning to head-up the coast and beat the traffic on Hwy 1 and you won’t be disappointed. See more photos in our Facebook gallery of our recent trip.
Angelica, with blooms similar to Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
Native Plantain growing out small pockets of sand and rock
Sea thrift, with its dry papery blooms
Large swaths of false Dandelion
Sensational Buckwheats draping over the rocks
A ragged arch
Beautfiul yellow Poppies
Wild other-worldly rock outcrops
Ferns under Redwoods and Firs
A moss covered stump
We use a lot of ornamental grasses in our landscapes. They fit very well in a number of design styles and are fairly low maintenance and low water use. We typically prefer evergreen grasses for their year round appeal, but even those grasses that don’t go deciduous can benefit from a pruning (haircut) every year or two. This article from the Sonoma County Master Gardeners gives a good overview on pruning some common grasses.
Some of our Favorite Grasses
Evergreen: Blue Fescue, Deer Grass, Evergreen Miscanthus, Autumn Moor Grass, Berkeley Sedge
Deciduous: Purple Fountain Grass, Little Bunny Fountain Grass, Miscanthus
Grass-like: New Zealand Flax: Yellow Wave, Jack Spratt, and Tom Thumb among other more compact grass like varieties
The Chronicle had an article today about the continued virulence of Sudden Oak Death in the Bay Area’s Oak Woodlands. In Marin, 53% of samples taken tested positive for the pathogen, a spike attributed to high rainfall the past couple years that helps SOD spread.
“We found that the number of positives were double and in some cases triple what they were last year,” said Matteo Garbelotto, the UC Berkeley forest pathologist who organizes the annual surveys. “We were surprised. That was a big jump.”
The findings are part of a major effort over the past four years to involve citizens in the battle against the mysterious pathogen, which has killed hundreds of thousands of oak trees from Big Sur to southern Oregon.
There are dire predictions of mass die offs of Coast and Black Oaks around the state. The Chronicle article suggests the following prevention measures:
– Remove bay trees near oaks; this increases the survival rate of oaks tenfold.
– Use phosphonate spray, which has proved to be effective against the disease.
– Avoid doing large-scale projects such as grading, soil removal or tree pruning in infected areas during the rainy season.
Another good preventative measure is to not plant host plants, such as Rhodys and Camellias in and around sensitive Oak areas.
As temperatures are going to get cold this week, there are a couple of easy steps you can take to help protect young or frost tender plants. If plants show frost damage you can spray Cloudcover, a polymer that provides 3-5 degrees of additional frost protection by forming a barrier on the leaves to help protect plants. Another good technique to help protect plants like citrus is to cover with sheets, or a frost blanket like this one from DuPont.
Image from Dupont Website
There was an interesting book review in the Financial Times today about a common plant and iconic fruit, the apple. The Story of the Apple, by a pair of botanists, Oxford’s Barrie Juniper and the University of Washington’s David Mabberley, chronicles their search through cultural, historical, and DNA evidence to trace the apple’s origins. Their best evidence points to the forests of Kazakhstan. This is removed from the biblical areas of the middle east and fertile crescent, where temperatures do not get cold enough to help apples properly germinate. It is fascinating to ponder the rich past of such a commonly cultivated plant and leads to curiosity about the sources of other plants we take for granted.
As with any planting, location can be a key factor to the plant’s success. As I was walking by an office building today, I noticed a stand of Redwoods planted within feet of an office building’s foundation. The trees themselves looked great, and helped to screen the building, but functionally it was clear the trees were misplaced. Half of the tree had to be pruned against the building, leaving them misshapen. Large scale trees may work well in confined spaces when young, but as they grow taller and as their root systems grow more pronounced they can cause significant problems. We have seen this time and again on projects where tree roots are disturbing foundations, and sewer or utility lines.
Practically it makes sense to think about what the tree is being planted to do (screen, provide shade, visual presence etc.) and to take into account its mature size and the needed buffer distance to help prevent problems. Selecting the wrong tree for a particular application can be just as bad. Just ask those with high rooted Birch trees planted in lawns or Liquid Ambar trees planted along sidewalks.
I posted an entry a while back about a restoration planting that we had done for a personal project in the Sacramento Valley. On a recent site visit it is interesting to see how the native plants are progressing. Surprisingly, most are doing quite well, and continued survival rates are good so far. One major impact has been the grasses and weeds that have grown in the last month. This combined with lower than normal rainfall has taken its toll.
One interesting specimine was a California Black Walnut sapling that was dead above ground. When pulled up, there was still living material at the top of the tap root, which had grown a few inches in the past few months.
Pictured: Foxtail, Rye Grass and Other Grasses and Weeds Compete for Moisture and Often Crowd Out Native Plantings.
There has been quite a show this spring as fruit trees and other blooming trees are really blooming this year. This may have something to do with a fairly mild winter and not a lot of late winter rain. On a trip up I-5 the almonds and other fruit trees where ablaze with blooms.
A Beautiful Saucer Magnolia in Bloom
Taken in Larkspur, which seems to have great magnolias
A spectacular tree just leafing out
We are finishing up on a project in Sonoma and putting in a large sod lawn. No matter how many projects we do, it is always amazing the impact of a sod lawn. Clients almost always react once the sod is installed- this turf is a dwarf tall fescue, bluegrass blend.
Currently we are working on a personal project to upgrade vegetation for stream corridors and create hedgerows for wildlife on a site in the Sacramento Valley. The installation consisted of Cottonwood, Buckeye, and Black Walnut trees, with Toyon and Creeping Rye grass planted as well. Taking a look at the site again recently after the cold winter weather, most of the plants are doing quite well. Retention on plantings of this type is typically pretty poor- most of the plants are not irrigated, and they are being planted from liner containers (just sprouted from cuttings).
While it is nice to see that the plantings have done well, with a 80-90% retention rate, the real test will be when the summer comes and the plants are exposed to 100+ degree temperatures without water. Fortunately, the plants were all chosen because they are native to the area and have adapted to such extremes of heat and cold. All the deciduous trees fared better than the Toyon, which was quite small and in some cases was frozen back in areas where it had less protection.
A California Buckeye (Aesculus californica) just leafing out
A dead Buckeye with Brown stem
A live Buckeye with green layer under bark. The scratch test is a simple way to test the condition of most plants.
We are spoiled here in the Bay Area with a great climate that allows us to plant a wide range of plantings. These range from sub-tropicals, to more temperate plants and even bulbs. Occasionally however, temperatures will drop down below freezing, killing borderline plants. Frequent casualties are Bougainvillea, Lantana, Heathers and soft stem perennials. When it gets down into the low 20′s other plants such as Eucalyptus can also be in danger. This is just a part of dealing with climate changes from season to season. On plantings that grow quickly the best solution is just to replant after a freeze. For other specialized plants or plants that aren’t must haves, better to replant with something more hardy. Sunset garden book is the best resources for finding your plant zone in California. Keep in mind that micro-climates such as cold sinks and other phenomenon can make certain areas colder or warmer.
There was an interesting article in the latest Sierra Club Yodeler newsletter for Marin on planting native plants in winter time. Planting in late fall or early winter helps plants get established and ready for spring growth. New plants can also take advantage of winter rains.
Native Plant Nursery Listings:
Marin Chapter California Native Plant Society
Yerba Buena Chapter Nursery/Plant Listing