Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Blanket of Flowers

There are not many truly red flowers in my garden apart from the poppies. However, a few years ago I found the red flowering Gaillardia and brought three of them home. This is gaillardia x grandiflora "Burgundy", or more commonly known as Blanket Flower.

There is a good variety of blanket flowers available. I tried a few of them only to find out that they are very short lived - at least in my garden. A yellow variety "Sunrise sunset" has completely disappeared in one location, but does pretty well in another part in my garden. But this red one has been performing really well and is a real stunner. Last year I bought two more which to my surprise produced longer stalks which is simply lovely.

Bees love them.

They do well both in humid and dry conditions, but generally do not need much water once established. It seems to be the perfect choice for my low water garden.

They start as small flowers with tiny petals that eventually open to the stunning flower you see in the top picture.

They keep for quite a while, feeding bees and other nectar loving insects. But their beauty is not over when eventually the flowers fade and the petals fall. On the contrary. They develop a big round seed head that is quite spectacular on its own.

I am planning to plant some more of these gaillardias in a different part of the garden and see how they do there. Gardening involves so much trial and error, but it's always exciting.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Precious Waters

Tuesday was my last day at work before the summer break. The last couple weeks had been very hectic and busy as they usually are at the end of the school year. But now the seniors have graduated, the other students left for their summer weeks off and we used the final two days to tidy up the library and get the textbook room in order for the beginning of the next school year. Then our break started.

It's a weird feeling to wake up in the morning knowing that you don't have to go to work for several weeks. It didn't take me long to seize the opportunity and walk around my beloved lake. I just wanted to walk enjoying the scenery and decided to leave the camera at home. Of course I saw way to many things I wanted to photograph, but fortunately I still had my phone with me. These pictures were all taken with my LG G4 over the course of two mornings.

There is a paved path that travels around the entire lake, but I usually stick to the horse trails. For obvious reasons they are not paved, well maintained and usually less crowded.

One of my favorite parts is the Fisherman's Trail that leads right next to the lake. The blackberry bushes were overgrowing almost everything. These plants are very invasive and unfortunately crowd out the native plants, even though the rangers do their best to control them. The lake is mostly hidden behind the high plants, but the sound of many birds is present all the time. To the left is a slope with many trees, some of which display beautiful bark color or an interesting shape.

I know the spots where I have seen black-crowned night herons in the past. I always stop by there, and sure enough there was a juvenile black-crowned night heron fishing for his breakfast.

On the other side of the lake I saw an adult one - maybe his momma?

Sometimes I walk up the slope to the huge water tanks near the paved path. The shadows of the trees on the tanks drew me in that morning. I love the shape of all these trees.

Turning back to the lake this view always captivates me.

I met Canada Geese with their young ones on the slope - I was quite surprised not to see them at the lake but in this dry environment. They were busy nibbling the seeds on the grasses.

Look, who I met here! S/he came out on the trail from the side, surprising me. Lucky for me I was still about 30 feet away and I made sure to keep a respectful distance. S/he eventually decided to disappear in the tall grasses up the slope and I could proceed unharmed.

Along the trails by the lake there is always a lot of beautiful vegetation in those places where the blackberry bushes haven't overtaken. Gorgeous thistles, seedpods of salsifies, Queen Anne's Lace and something I couldn't identify.

Then I decided to leave the path by the lake and follow the horse trail up the hill. There's no one there except for the rabbits and snakes.

The views are gorgeous and always remind me why I love living here. All the fresh spring green is gone by now - we haven't had rain for weeks - but I also like the "golden" look. It's so typical for California in the summer.

It was here that I discovered this beautiful dragonfly.

The trail then leads into the forest and it seems you're entering an entirely different world.

This tree was still standing the last time I walked along this trail. Change is ongoing. The fungi on the trees looks interesting and is constantly growing.

There are more wildflowers to find, especially those that like some shade. We're almost at the end of our trail. To the left you can climb up into Annadel State Park (it is much steeper than it looks), to the right you get back to the lake.

Or you can stop at this picnic area next to some old Redwoods. Take a rest, write in your journal, listen to the birds and do some push-ups (that's what I do).

Taking the path back to the lake I end up at the Children's Memorial Grove right at the lake. A few years ago together with some friends we put in a tile for Katie here.

Back in the parking lot I noticed that the California Buckeye is in full bloom. I love these trees!

It was a beautiful morning at the lake and I plan to come back as often as I can during my summer break. This place feeds my soul and every time I'm here I feel like my entire body relaxes and my thoughts are going in a positive direction. Often I don't think anything, just take in the nature around me, listen to the birds and watch the herons. It's time just for me and a precious gift.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

An Image and Its Story - May 2018

Oh May - so many photos of flowers and plants in my garden. Every time I was out there I discovered something new that I had to take a photo of. It's a wonderful month in the garden.

And of course it's the time of the poppy. Not the California Poppy but the Papaver.

There was a time when I had an abundance of Papaver poppies in my garden. In fact, there were so many that they were smothering other flowers, taking away light and water. It had reached a point where I said "Enough" and pulled out the poppies as soon as they were gone. As a result I'm having less poppies in my garden this spring. These, however, do the "poppy thing" and pop with their brilliant red.

They always remind me of Germany. They are flowering a little bit later in the year than here in California due to a much harsher climate. But when they do it's breath taking. Fields and fields of green (grass), red (poppies) and blue (bachelor's buttons or cornflower) with the red playing the dominant role. I've loved them when I was a child and I still do. It's something I miss here - but then we have the fields of orange poppies in the spring which are stunning as well. They just don't carry all the memories the red poppies do.

Even the name is beautiful. We call this flower "Klatschmohn" for which I can't offer you an adequate translation. The dictionary says "poppy" which of course is correct, but it doesn't completely reflect this special name. It's just another one of those German words that are impossible to translate.

This particular poppy in the photo showed its beauty one morning when I did my first round of the day through the garden. A completely new flower, just having escaped its green shell/skin, not yet opened to the light. It will not take long until the bees will discover this new kid on the block and buzz around it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

How Green was My Valley

No, this is not a post about a family of Welsh coal miners, but about a hike we did in April in one of our regional parks, Sonoma Valley.

Sonoma Valley Regional Park was smack in the middle of the October fires - this was the Nuns Fire - and almost completely burned. It was closed for weeks and weeks after the fire and only opened at the end of 2017. When we went there in April we were prepared to see a lot of damage, but we were in for quite a wonderful surprise - a green valley.

While there were scorched tree stumps and burned tree bark, the fresh green color of the vegetation was what really struck. Nature was recovering for sure! The park looked healthy even though it was quite clear that an inferno had taken place only six months before.

People came out in crowds to enjoy this beautiful gem between Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

As expected there was wildflower galore - and this was only the beginning of it.

We first walked through the valley - an easy stroll - but we decided to go up into the forest for our way back, a much more hilly and strenuous hike.

And as you can see, the forest didn't look too good. A lot of the madrones and manzanitas were charred, but the good news is that they didn't die and will probably recover. When we got closer it was amazing to look at the bark of the trees.

The fire was not able to destroy these beautiful trees. It is breathtaking to witness how nature heals itself and how fast it springs back to life. While it will take a while until the entire park will have recovered completely, it is so encouraging to see how everything comes back to life. Just a little stumble along the way...

Not so much for us humans, though. There were still burnt down sites that hadn't been cleaned up, even six months after the fire. Over and over again we are shown the dimension of this disaster.

It's so much easier and encouraging to look at nature.

But despite the earthquakes, wildfires and following landslides I love where I live. I don't think I'd like to live anywhere else right now.