Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Estivation or Summer Dormancy, aka the Fifth Season

Muhlenbergia rigens (Deergrass) glowing in the sun, September 13, 2010
In Judith Larner Lowry's The Landscaping Ideas of Jays she discusses the "fifth season"
or "quiet time".  She suggests this time "can be a time of planning strategy for fall.
Those of us who are fortunate to live in Sonoma County are inhabiting part of what is referred to as the Mediterranean Biome which is composed, as many of you are aware, of California/Baja California, Chile, the Mediterranean Basin, Australia and South Africa.  This unique portion of Earth's land mass composes only 2.2%, yet contains 20% of the world's vascular plants. 
provided this information and more about our place to which many of us have been transplanted.  
This estivating or Summer dormant Ribes speciosum
(Fushsia-flowerrd gooseberry) looks like a brown dead bramble.
Often, driving about or even BE-ing Rooted in place, we see an agricultural region since many before us as well as many of us presently have brought/bring plants and their childhood experiences of plants with us from other places.  These experiences bring us comfort . . . having a green lawn or a blooming, fragrant cottage garden midSummer.  Or we visit someplace and fall in love, so to speak, with a plant that flourishes there.  Oh, I have had that experience myself, most recently in the early 1990's.  At the time I was spending a week or so every month in Santa Barbara, "learning to laugh at what's not funny in my life" with Dr. Annette Goodheart as my laughing coach.  You can check out for more information if you so wish, although she is no longer in Santa Barbara, but an expatriate in Mexico.

Back to plants.  I fell in love with the trumpet vines growing it seemed every where in the city with Spanish architecture.  Over the course of a few months, I bought from nurseries there these trumpet vines in every color available and proceeded to plant them here at MuRefuge.  Now for you savvy individuals, you're saying, "West Sonoma County's climate is nothing like Santa Barbara's."
True!  AND only one of these vines survived, struggling to do so, dying back with each cold, rainy season.  This plant no longer lives here.  I found it a new home, yet even in a warmer Sonoma County location, it did not thrive.

Single blossom Tuberose (Polianthes tuberosa)
A few of my memory plants, I'll call them because when I look at them, and smell their fragrance, I am transported to another time and place, and usually to a cherished person in my life.  Like this single blossom tuberose which came from my Grandmother Howard's place in Southwestern Iowa.  She was such a "good" person, someone whose qualities I would like to incorporate more of into my BE-ing

Bear Claw Acacia with tiny
green leaves & flowers

And the Bear Claw Acacia, grown from seeds gathered in the Sonoran Desert, that has toughed out many uprooting, replanting, uprooting, replanting.  Each Summer when it gets hot enough it presents me with fuzzy little blooms that transport me back to my hikes in both the Catalina Mountains and the Chiricahua Mountains.  Unfortunately my maternal Grandma Haynes's jade plant did not fare as well as the previous two plants.  This glorious 3' tall and wide plant succumbed to death after being buried in 3 feet of snow during an unusual Winter storm while I lived in San Antonio, Texas.

As you have read in earlier blog entries here, I have lived in many places diverse from one another.  I recall a memory from living in Tucson, an area a half a mile high in the Sonoran Desert, that in the 1950's and even into the the 1970's, was known as a healthy place to live for those experiencing lung difficulties.  Earlier in the 20th century the area boosted some of the best TB sanitariums in the country.  Many people, most Midwesterners, with respiratory problems moved to the Tucson area for relief of symptoms, alas, bringing with them plants they loved.  Can you hear the next words?  Yup!  Bermuda grass flourished, releasing pollens into the previously pristine air.  By the 1980's, when I lived there, the city government banned Bermuda grass and other such plants that produce repirataory allergens.
Grindelia stricta or Salt Marsh Gumplant with bud and open flower
So perhaps you, like me, could entertain shifting your/my perspective about "place" i.e. Sonoma County which is a part of this "most inhabitable place we love to live," 2.2% of the Earth's land. We can make a difference by considering the natural cycle. BE-ing Rooted: a practice of essential living embodies examining our "baggage", plant attachments included. Planting plants native to here, wherever "here" is for each of us, not only is about the enjoyment of the plant(s) but of the entire ecological system of which the plant is only one part. Wingeds, 4 leggeds, mammals, insects, birds, beneficial and predatory, all evolve with their food source. As we introduce plants from outside our home region, not only does the plant itself struggle but all the other inhabitants as well.
Scrophularia californica (Bee Plant, Figwort) with raindrops
We are fortunate to have great resources for gathering local plants onto our place.  For me, living just North of the Petaluma Wind Gap, Mostly Natives Nursery   in Tomales most closely matches the microclimate here at MuRefuge.  For those of you who live in the hotter spots of Sonoma County there's California Flora Nursery in Fulton.  

And if you are so inclined to start your natives from seed, you can check out Larner Seeds  in Bolinas.  The owner, Judith Larner Lowry, also has her own blog.

The second Saturday of each October Milo Baker, the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society, has its annual native plant sale at the Veteran's Building in Santa Rosa across from the the Fair Grounds.  A suggestion, arrive early if you want to choose from a vast array which quickly dwindles!

For those of you who live further South, one of the largest and oldest native plant nurseries in California is located in the hills above Woodside.
Perhaps you have already visited this nursery, founded in 1955 by Gerda Isenberg? 
Volunteer sunflower on our septic mound . . . see the pollinator?
This time of the year my garden looks dead, as a number of people who have visited share.  I use to catch my breath, feel the fear and rush out with the garden hose to water.  Now, even thought the catch of the breath and wave of fear enters my awareness, I take a deep breath and remember that I live in the unique and small amount of land mass know as Mediterraean Biome where the plants rest, go dormant this time of the year.  I further remind myself that the plants do not need me "to rescue thirsty, dying plants".  The plants are simply resting as each of us are meant to do with the sympathetic nervous system (activity) cycling with the parasympathetic nervous system (rest).

I was reminded of the effect of my watering hose on plants of the ecologic niche here, when I recently visited Mostly Natives Nursery reading a sign on a Bay Area native plant which stated that water will provide many blooms in the summer but shortens the life of the plant from many years to 2 or 3 years.

I encourage each of you to share, in the comment section below, your experience with natives and your attention to the whole of garden ecology.
And anyone interested in viewing a huge project reflecting this process, visit the "upper reach of the Laguna de Santa Rosa that runs through Cotati and a small section of Rohnert Park" being restored by Cotati Creek Critters with the help of many volunteers over the past 12 years.  You can contact Jenny Blaker or Wade Belew through .

Cathie & Rose soaking in the healing of MuRefuge
This picture obviously was not taken during the Fifith Season
since the Clarkia and Red Fescue are in spectacular bloom.
Resting seems like a valuable practice no matter
the season.


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