Wednesday, February 17, 2016

California Pipevine

From Complete Garden Guide to the Native Perennials of California by Glenn Keator:

"Here is perhaps our most curious native vine. Roots penetrate deeply between rocks on brushy or wooded hillsides; stems wind their way around surrounding vegetation to reach light. Stems are covered with attractive, fuzzy narrowly heart-shaped leaves; flowers are often borne before new leaves appear at the end of winter. These are alway sure to catch attention — they are distinctly pipe-shaped, the sepals with three maroon-purple lobes at the opening to the 'pipe.' The rest of the floral envelope consists of brown and white stripes which surround and hide the stamens and pistil. Insects are fooled into entering the pipe, lose their orientation, and remain trapped until pollination is completed. Pipevine is capable of extending stems several feet in a season, but the new growth and leaves are normally lost in winter, to be replaced the following season. Cuttings and rooted sections are quite easy ways of propagating pipe-vine.

Since pipe-vine is more odd than beautiful, it might be displayed on its own trellis, rock wall, unsightly shrub, or simply up a small tree in the woodland garden. Since the pipe-vine swallowtail butterfly depends upon the leaves as food for its larvae, planting this species will attract these beautiful butterflies."

Louise Hallberg has almost single handedly assured all of us living here in Sonoma County of a plethora of Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies to enjoy. For many years she has led by example by planting and caring for this "curious native vine." We are so fortunate for her setting this example for gardeners who often plant this caterpillar food for the Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly, thus supporting its flourishing numbers when most other butterflies are nearing extinction since their caterpillar food plants are becoming scarcer or disappearing altogether.

The many California Pipevines growing here at MuRefuge are covered with the what I see as beautiful flowers, looking like none of the other early blooming natives perennials. Two Winters ago a start was planted just inside the gate by the garage. This is the primary gate used to enter and exit the fenced area of MuRefuge. So the thought was "wouldn't a California Pipevine be an attraction at this location?" The plant and its dependent butterfly have not disappointed! Caterpillars were abundant last Spring and Summer, and now the entire vine on its trellis is covered with flowers with nary a leaf yet to distract from this eye catching display.

The California Pipevine in full bloom
      The California Pipevine leaves that are the Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillar food.

Pipevine Swallowtail caterpillars in varying sizes munching away at the plant specific food.

The California Pipevine caterpillar

The California Pipevine seedpod

The Pipevine Swallowtail chrysalis

Freshly emerged Pipevine Swallowtail

May we honor diversity, support ecological gardening and

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Mostly Natives Nursery and Other Awesome Sources

A gloriously cheerful Western Columbine flower in bloom to the delight of hummingbirds.
The feel of Spring pervades all of MuRefuge. The rains have stopped and the temperatures are rising well above average which is unsettling for all the BEings
here at MuRefuge. Undaunted I go forward with planting out the native grasses and perennial flowers started in late Fall of last year. The Western Columbines (Aquilegia formosa) have a home in the bed that previously belonged to St. John’s Wort which I grow for herbal medicine making. Since the sun does not shine on this bed all day, as it did before all the bushes and trees have grown, the plants were dug up and moved to a sunny spot. This is a great location for Western Columbines with some shade and some Summer water since this bed abuts the vegetable garden. They now surround the rhubarb plants, thus reaping protection against red spider. Did you know that rhubarb is one of “our oldest garden plants, which Marco Polo found growing in China centuries ago,” says Louise Riotte in her book Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening?
The focus here at MuRefuge is a balanced, ecological "garden." Through experience of planting plants together (aka companion planting) this focus is fostered. Also, fostering balance and well BEing of plants, transplant shock was addressed early on, not only in MuRefuge's evolution but in mine as well. Originally I purchased a variety of cell sizes of Todd planters from Harmony Farm Supply. When this local purveyor no longer carried them, I found Peaceful Valley Farm Supply in Grass Valley carried them. By this time I had honed my seed growing and preferred the 4x8 cell size which I now use exclusively. The original Todd planters purchased are still in use, since with careful handling and care they remain useful.
All seeds here at MuRefuge are started in Todd planters.
Each cell has slanted sides and a hole in the bottom.
The starts literally pop out with roots intact, eliminating transplant shock.
These planters are made of styroform . . . ugh! 
The swale near the duck pond, aka old bathtub, has over the years developed
into a small pond. The process has carried away soil so the recent project is
reestablishing a swale of sorts by using tree logs, dead stalks from the perennial sunflowers, dirt, and California fescue (Festuca californica). This particular native bunch grass is frequently used in restoration projects to halt erosion. To complete this project a trip to Mostly Natives Nursery in Tomales happened just a few days ago just after their Spring opening on February 4.

Not only do Walter and Margaret grow natives and other drought tolerant plants
but they have a wonderful selection of vegetable starts
which are certified organic as is everything they grow and sell.

These starts are some of the most vibrant, healthy starts I have seen for purchase.
Merlin and Shasta having a great romp together at Mostly Natives Nursery.
On Friday afternoons some local musicians gather and share their talents.
One of the musicians is Merlin's owner.
Some of you have asked, "where do you buy your seeds?" This year I deviated from the previously used sources, having a glorious adventure. Last year, having read Carol Deppe’s book The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times, I decided to foray into the seed sources she suggested. I bought seeds adapted to the Pacific Northwest, more specifically to the Oregon’s Willamette Valley, from Adaptive Seeds and Wild Garden Seed, as well as from Carol herself. I am excited to find organic seeds produced in a similar climate to the one here at MuRefuge. I have had such grand success buying and growing native plants from Mostly Natives Nursery, which has a climate similar to MuRefuge's climate, that I thought seeds produced in a similar climate would also thrive here. Both Adaptive Seeds and Wild Garden Seed have outstanding catalogs with a plethora of information about seeds like the short article discussing plant genetic engineering "Prepare to Consider the CRISPR." Reading this particular article, I thought YIKES, then to discharge my dismay could only