Cup half full?

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Last January we held our second Martin Luther King Service Day Planting Party in the Arroyo Seco-South Pasadena Woodland and Wildlife Park. Students from local schools, scouts, other volunteers, and a cadre of Occidental College students met at the park and planted nearly three hundred natives.

People have asked me how many survived. I have not counted but I do walk the park checking each and every one of them. Following a long summer of heat and drought here’s the scoop on how the park looks and whether the planting was a “success.”

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Central mound area with gray-leafed young white sage (Salvia apiana). The upright green plants are  horseweed (Erigeron canadensis), a native perennial that often appears in disturbed areas. Since they are native we only remove them when they are crowding other native plants. 

The nature park does not have a functioning irrigation system. When it was created back in 2004 irrigation was installed, but it did not take long for it to fall into disrepair. Other than the wasted money and effort, this does not really bother me because it is a nature park and it should not require supplemental irrigation. However, it does make it harder to keep new plantings alive.

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Lovely coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) always looks beautiful. Horseweed in the foreground is a good habitat
plant since birds eat it seeds and perch on its stems.

Following the January 2012 planting I dragged hoses down into to park, taking water from a spigot on a water fountain on the road above. This took every hose I own, and the set up and clean up was tiring and time-consuming. Mid-winter was dry last year so we watered. Once spring arrived, the plants were on their own.   The last time I watered was – I can’t find my field notebook so I am guessing here – late February.

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I’m always surprised at how many people use the nature park. Today I met quite of few people walking, jogging,
horseback riding, and just enjoying the park. 

The park is a rather tough places for young, new transplants. Not only do they not get regular supplemental water while they are getting established, the soil conditions are not the best. The park was built on a heavily disturbed site. Soil was mounded, compacted, scraped, and piled with trash and mulch. Weeds ruled the land, bullying out all but the largest and toughest natives. Gophers, squirrels, and rabbits roam above and below ground searching for yummy tender plants to chomp.

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It truly amazes me that this white sage has done so well with so little help. I have no doubt its seeds will produce
young’uns that will be right at home.

Enough excuses and back to the question at hand, how are things doing? Not bad, not bad at all. Yes, there have been  losses. Can’t say how many but many. Some might look at this and say the glass is half empty – many plants died. For me, though, it is not even that the glass is half full; given these conditions, it is impressive that there is any water in the glass at all.

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This toyon is doing just fine though we lost quite a few others. 
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I have trouble growing these in my garden but here is a showy penstemon that is happy as can be.
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This monkeyflower may not look very good but it is doing what it should be doing at this time of year –
sleeping. If nothing eats or steps on it it should be just fine once the rains come.
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This monkeyflower looks better than the one above. It must be getting more water, probably from the recent rains.
The flow of water below the surface can often be inferred from the way things are growing above.
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 One of the unlucky monkeyflowers – it is probably a goner. Its roots may have been munched, or maybe it is
in a spot that is just too dry. 
Coastal sage scrub is coming back.
Coastal sage scrub is coming back.
Coastal sage scrub
More lovely coastal sage scrub with volunteer Southern California walnut (right).
Coastal sage scrub
And more coastal sage scrub with rust-colored, dried flowers of California buckwheat.
Baccharis pilularis, Muhlenbergia rigens, Quercus agrifolia, Salix lasiandra, Eriogonum fasciculatum.
Center of park. Aren’t the clouds over the mountains beautiful.
Alkali dropseed in bloom
Alkali dropseed is a perennial grass that grows during the summer if it gets some moisture. The
unusual, recent rains helped green up this grass.
Epilobium canum (or cultivar).
And blooming away, in spite of the heat and drought, is this California fuchsia.
We planted quite a few more of these this year but few have survived. 
Acmispon glaber (formerly Lotus scoparius)
I was surprised to see this little deerweed in bloom – must have been the rain.
Datura wrightii
Thought the Jimson weed (datura) would have been dormant by now. Again,
I think the rain had an effect on these plants.