Milkweed and Monarchs – Finally!

Milkweed and Monarchs – Finally!

Note: See comments below for discussion on native vs tropical milkweeds

We planted a couple milkweed (Asclepius curassavica or tropical) plants three years ago. But – no monarchs or caterpillars. The last six months the milkweed thrived and climbed seven feet up into our magnolia tree, and also spread via seed. Now we have a couple dozen plants out front.

I counted 8, only to check the next day and they were all gone. After all, they look like they were in their 5th instar.

After seeing this guy, I counted 8, only to check the next day and there were none After all, they look like they were in their 5th instar.

One week ago, after a short trip away, I was watering and noticed a huge caterpillar (see right) and then saw more. Yea – finally!

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Favorite Native Plants For Summer Heat

Favorite Native Plants For Summer Heat

Like most California residents, we’ve been watering less, despite the heat and drier soil from little rainfall this year. Here’s a list of what looks best in our Southern California yard this summer. Many of the following are California natives or their hybrids, and since most nurseries don’t carry them, I’ll include where you can purchase them in Southern California. [Read more…]

California Native Plants: Favorites of Two Residents

California Native Plants: Favorites of Two Residents

Fall is the perfect time to be exploring and planning the purchases of California native choices, with lots of plant sales. So I checked in with some friends who over the last couple years have planted California natives – to get feedback on what’s done well for them. [Read more…]

Using low water native grasses for your lawn

Using low water native grasses for your lawn

Blue grama and buffalo grass make a nice combo

Blue grama and buffalo grass make a nice combo

With our drought here in Southern California there is more talk of removing lawns and planting drought tolerant alternatives. We’ve done both – we took out most of our lawn and replaced it with mostly California native plants. (I’ve written a lot about our process – here’s one)

But we’ve also replaced a small remaining section of Kentucky blue grass with a lower water alternative – Blue grama and Buffalograss. It goes dormant in the winter but it takes one-half the water, we rarely mow it, and it looks great most of the year. Here are some photos and more info.

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Favorite California Natives: Flannel Bush (Fremontia)

Favorite California Natives: Flannel Bush (Fremontia)

Flannel bush (Fremontodendron) or fremontia is another favorite California native plant. And with its distaste for summer water once it’s established, fremontia is a perfect solution for the drought times we seem to be going through here in the Southwest. Here is more info about this beautiful native. [Read more…]

Favorite Native Plants: Ceanothus (Wild lilac)

Favorite Native Plants: Ceanothus (Wild lilac)

I realize I haven’t written about ceanothus – commonly called wild lilac, which has been ablaze with its blue blooms lately. So here is another favorite, which has done really well on the two properties where we planted it. It’s short-livedness is a rumor for us, and backed up by ceanothus in the wild living 90 to 100 years. Here are some factoids and photos. [Read more…]

California Native Plants with Summer Color

California Native Plants with Summer Color

Sure, they lower water bills and usher in more wildlife, but I admit it’s much easier to entice folks with the benefits of native plants in spring when the sages (salvias), wild lilacs (ceanothus) and many others are in full bloom. It’s a tougher argument in the hot summer through fall months when most native plants enter their dormant, survival mode.

However, with proper plant selection, you can have a colorful yard with natives during the hot months, at the same time providing important food sources to wildlife. Antonio Sanchez, production manager at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden [Read more…]