- Author: Tina Saravia
Last time, I wrote about the different flowers starting to bloom in the front yard. I think it has now reached its peak of blooms.
As I was driving home to park my car in the garage. I paused to take this view from my car window.
I've always felt awed and a little envious of people's beautiful front yards, especially the English cottage garden types. In that moment, I felt the same awe sitting in my car. Ten years later, I now have my own enviable (to me, anyway) California spring cottage garden.
Meanwhile, in another corner of the front yard, the asparagus spears are reaching for the sky. I took a quick picture insitu and proceeded to cut them off the ground, before they turn into tall ferny stems. Now, I'll have to figure out how I'll cook them for dinner - roast, steam or stir fry? Whichever way, we will enjoy a satisfying, healthy meal.
Update: I grilled it.
- Author: Brenda Altman
What's the buzz? It's the Ceanothus Café smorgasbord! Bees around my house were happy to see the Ceanothus Café open this spring with quite an abundance of yummy blue lilac flowers. Ceanothus are colorful evergreen California native shrubs. They are drought hardy and can grow almost anywhere. Besides being bee-friendly they are also deer-friendly. Consult your neighborhood nursery if you want to plant this and have deer present.
Here is theCeanothus Café open every day is the spring.
I have two ceanothus species in my front yard a 'Ray Hartman' tree like shrub, and this one pictured above. The bees were visiting this one 10 hours a day. Bees have vision in the blue and ultraviolet part of the color spectrum. Blue and purple colors are especially attractive to bees. At the height of spring there were a dozen bees humming around the plant. The lumbering bumble bees were the easiest to spot. I saw a solid black one and a couple of yellow and black ones daily. Honeybees also zoomed in and out. And still smaller, sweat bees were present. If you want bees in your garden this is the one plant to get.
There are several species of Ceanothus, some are bushy and grow 1' – 2' high and 6' around. Others are bushier and can grow up to 4' high and 6' around. The 'Ray Hartman' species can be pruned to be a small tree. The flowers come in various colors from dark purple, to pale blue some even with pink flowers. Leaves, besides being dark green can also be pale green, or variegated. With the various colors available you can pick the plants that will bring that special color and texture to your yard.
Now that Spring has sprung and done where will the bees go? The (Spanish) lavender lunchroom is now open! Remember the bees are attracted to deep purple color. To attract bees, plant a variety of plants that will bloom throughout the year. Another bee friendly plant is yarrow another California native.
Lavender and yellow euphorbia-more food for the Buzz Crowd!
- Author: Lanie Keystone
Now that most of our Solano County trees are fully leafed out we're all enjoying the beauty, shade and important work they do protecting us and our planet in this time of climate crises. And, of course, trees are one of the most important support systems for our local and migratory birds.
A 2019 research statistic just published by the Arbor Day Foundation, frames just how critical trees are to the global avian community: “The U.S. and Canada have lost nearly one third of their birds since 1970.”
Put another way, that's an unimaginable 2.9 billion birds lost in a blink-of-an-eye moment of 49 years! As dire as this may sound, it's not too late to make a “U-Turn” for our local bird population. Tree planting is the most important way to make a difference. Add in a few other easy steps and we can all begin to help them survive and thrive. While each of these steps is familiar to us, they all bear repeating.
HOW WE CAN HELP BIRDS
- Plant trees with fruit, nuts or seeds that attract birds.
Here are a few examples:
Fruit-Bearing Trees: Cherries, Dogwoods, Plums, Viburnums, Service berries, Apples, Crabapples, Hawthorns, Sumacs,
Nut and Acorn-Bearing Trees: Butternuts, Walnut, Chestnuts, Hazels, Hickories, Oaks
Seed-Bearing Trees: Alders, Birches, Firs, Hemlocks, Maples, Spruces
- Plant trees of varying heights when they reach maturity. This will attract birds with different niches for feeding and nesting.
- Set out a bird bath and keep it filled with fresh water. Do be aware of standing water breeding mosquitoes.
- Hang bird feeders in your yard. Though different birds prefer different seed blends, you can't miss with black oil sunflower seeds—enjoyed by most all varieties.
- In safe locations, retain dead trees. Woodpeckers and other cavity-nesting birds depend on them for nesting and breeding.
So, after going to this little effort—what do we get in return from our fine feathered friends?
HOW BIRDS HELP US
- Birds contribute to our food supply by pollinating more than 5% of all plants grown for human consumption.
- They quietly go about keeping the insect population in check.
According to the Arbor Day Foundation—
A Baltimore oriole can consume 17 hairy caterpillars in a minute; A house wren feeds 500 insects to its young every summer afternoon; and a pair of flickers consider 5,000 ants just a little snack!
- Birds provide the background music for our lives.
- Birds give us never-ending wonder, beauty, joy and a quest for discovery and knowledge.
- Author: Karen Metz
The end of April my husband and I had the opportunity to fly down to Paso Robles in a small airplane, a Cessna 182. We took off from Nut Tree airport and headed out over Travis Air Force Base and the Rio Vista area. I noticed several areas of yellow blooming flowers, and then noticed their proximity to small pools of water. I suspected these were vernal pools. I knew about the pools in the Jepson Prairie Preserve, but I thought we had to be near TravisAFB at this point.
When we got to Paso Robles, I saw beautiful blooming trees along the streets and at the hotel. The cascading magenta-colored blooms were very striking and tropical feeling. This impressive tree is Robinia ‘Purple Robe', a variety of Black Locust. It does well in Sunset Zones 2-24. I also enjoyed the majestic oaks in the town and out in the countryside and even the vineyards.
On the way home I got better photographs of the vernal pools and also enjoyed seeing the windmills near Rio Vista from a different perspective. Once home I went online and was able to confirm that Travis AFB has vernal pools. In an article on the Travis website travis.afb.mil, Merrie Schilter-Lowe from the Public Affairs Office of the 60 Air Mobility Wing interviewed Jaime Marty a member of the Natural Resources team on base in 2016. There are over 800 areas that contain vernal pools, spread over 81 acres of Travis AFB.
A vernal pool is ephemeral. It forms as an area of collected water, usually from our winter rains. Because of an impermeable underlayer in the soil below, the moisture doesn't trickle down, but remains at the surface until it evaporates. The creatures that make their homes there are specialized to adapt to the changing conditions from wet to dry.
Visiting the Jepson Prairie Preserve has always been on my bucket list. It is one of the largest areas for vernal pools. Now that I've seen them from the air, I really want to see them close up. I visited The Solano Land Trust website and learned that the land containing the Jepson Prairie has been bought and protected by the Nature Conservancy. It is managed by the Solano Land Trust, University of California, and the Nature Conservancy. Apparently, there is a self-guided trail in a limited area. There are two-hour docent led tours offered on the weekend at 10:00 March through mid-May. Please see the website to confirm tour dates. If I don't make it this year, then definitely next year.
- Author: Cindy Yee