More Late Summer Bloom for San Francisco

I've been writing about flowers that bloom in my garden in late summer and fall. This time of year is always a challenge, because the summer is dry and so many mediterranean and California native plants bloom earlier in the year. I have the further problem that my garden is in a foggy and cool part of the city, and the backyard goes into shade in fall and winter. This results in outbreaks of powdery mildew diseases and gray mold. So I am writing about plants that resist these diseases.

The photo below is of pineapple sage, Salvia elegans, which provides reliable color, from September into November. The photo was taken on October 15th. November 15th, it was still in bloom. The spot where it is planted is in sun from April until September, then in open shade, so it gets the sun it needs to prepare to bloom.

P sage IMG_6103 copy

This plant attracts hummingbirds and offers a whiff of pineapple to gardeners who brush against it. The edible flowers are attractive in salads, especially in a fruit salad. The leaves have such a tantilizing scent, but unfortunately, do not hold the scent when they have been cooked.

In winter, pneapple sage loses most of its leaves. In spring, I cut back any bare stems, and new, leafy ones grow to replace them.

Another late-blooming flower with tubular red flowers is the California fuchsia. (It used to be called Zauschneria californica, but has had a botanical name change, so it is now to be called Epilobium canuum.) I grow it in a place that gets sun all year, but it could handle winter shade, since it is mostly dormant in winter. You wouldn't want it too near to a pineapple sage plant, in any case, since one small, red tubular flower in a small space is enough.

California fuchsia blooms from July onward into autumn. This year, following our spectacularly mild November, some parts of the plant are still blooming at the end of December. It has no scent, however it does share with pineapple sage that it attracts hummingbirds. It has no scent. The other morning when I went to pick up the paper, a hummer was taking its breakfast in the California fuchsias. 

The main drawback I have found to California fuchsia is that the plant is very brittle. If a cat fight happens in it, or you have to reach through it to get to other plants, the meter reader has to push it aside to read a metor, damage will occur. Pieces will break off and have to be discarded. So be careful where you put it.

After California fuchsia blooms, it looks pretty ratty and you will want to cut it back. Maybe the first year just cut back partway, but  I cut my established plants to near the ground and it comes back fine.

  Zausch September 2010 020 copy

Zausch September 2010 023 copy

For some bright yellow in late summer and autumn, grow goldenrod. There is a native species, Solidago californica, which I think is the one in the photo. These plants are about 3 feet tall and were covered with bees--honeybees, bumble bees, large and small native bees--they were all having a feast.

GR habit IMG_5419 copy

Here is a big bee, probably native, not a bumblebee.

GR big bee IMG_5416 copy

This one was a wee little bee, probably another native. After goldenrod blooms, cut it back partway. It is a semi-evergreen perennial. And, by the way, it is falsely accused of causing hayfever. Apparently it is the ragweed that blooms at the same time as Eastern goldenrod species that is the culprit.

GR sm bee IMG_5417 copy

Coming up: Some flowers for winter color.

There were Two Little Birds--And They Have Flown

IMG_1712 copy
This is a photo from the first day we knew there were two little mourning doves in the hanging basket. Seems they stayed on different sides of the parent bird until this day, when we looked and saw two little eyes and two little beaks. So there have been two all along!

IMG_1717 copy
Things moved really fast after that. This is the next day. Momma and Papa are not in the nest, and babies have grown quite a lot of feathers in preparation for flight.

IMG_1725 copy
The following day, Momma and Papa are sitting together on our back fence. Babies are stil in the nest. Change is a-wing!

The next day, the nest was empty. Only one month from egg to fledging! Fun to watch, but David ran out immediately to water the fern! We didn't fertilize. The birds have been doing that--hopefully not too much!

A Birth in the Nest on Our Porch

IMG_1706 copy
We have had a blessed event in the hanging basket on our back porch. We were hoping for two, since there were two eggs (see recent post) but we only see one mourning dove chick. References say that often only one chick survives, and that seems to be the case here. Still, it sure is cute.Here it is a bit closer.

IMG_1706 copy 2

Go little bird! We are rooting for you. (And glad cats can't access your hanging nursery.)


Mourning Doves Take up Residence

When my husband began to water his large hanging staghorn fern, a bird flew up, protesting loudly! I don't know who was more startled, the human or the bird. It flew to the back fence, where we could see it was a mourning dove.

IMG_1529 copy 72

Investigation showed the nest, with its two white eggs. The pair lays only 2, maybe 2 more later in the summer. The sphagnum moss was practically enough as is, nestwise, but they did bring in a few wisps of dry grass.

IMG_1521 copy

We went upstairs and saw that it took the bird about 15 minutes to work its way back to the nest, flying across the garden to the other fence first, then making the leap, or flight, back. So we have been watching. The basket is wide enough that there is room for the nest and some watering can action without sogging up the nest, if we can do it without scaring the birds too much. They take turns on the nest. My husband noticed them changing today. It took a very long time for the partner to decide it was safe to go to the nest, and then the exchange was very fast. My husband found himself anthropomorphically thinking "Don't they want to get acquainted a bit when changing the guard?"

IMG_1530 copy

I'm afraid we can't tell Mom bird from Dad bird, but bird it is. The eggs hatch in about 2 weeks, and it has been over a week since our discovery, so...  (I'll let you know when it happens.)