Intoxicating

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This time of year, when I need a break from whatever I’m doing, I like to wander around the front yard and peer into cactus flowers. There’s always something happening inside – usually what’s happening is a bee, wallowing. They’re always covered in pollen and look as if they’re drunk on nectar.

Happy Bees

It’s 65 degrees and sunny here, and the giant rosemary in the herb garden is humming:

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When I inspected my surviving hive last week, the queen was busy laying eggs – I think the colony will expand quickly now that the fruit trees have started to bloom.

How to Have Big Flowers Off the Pipes

A few days ago I was talking gardening with a friend who is getting ready to start a whole new garden at a new house. She’s leaving an incredibly lush (heavily irrigated) Mediterranean style garden, but expressed concerned about taking on another larger water bill at the new digs. Well, as you’ve probably figured out, I have a bit of a reputation as a water miser zealot around the ‘hood. However, I try not to ram my particular take on life down the throats of my friends (much), so I tried to frame my thoughts on the topic in a helpful (rather than self-righteous) tone. I suggested that when planning the new garden, my friend should really pay close attention to plant selection – that often times there is a more heat and drought tolerant plant that can take the place of a familiar garden favorite. Case in point: one of the favorite big ol’ flowering plants in my front yard  is prickly poppy (yes, I know, I’ve shown you this before):

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While it lacks the lurid colors and early blooms of the Asian poppies, it is no less dramatic. The large 4″ flowers at the end of the tall spiny stalks flutter beautifully in the breeze,  and this Western native grows here with a lot less fuss and no irrigation. While the plants can be a little tricky to get established (they’re tap rooted, so dislike being moved), they thrive on very little water. The two plants I managed to grow from seed in the front yard survive brilliantly on rainfall and the bit of extra runoff they receive from the adjacent sidewalk. This is one of the front yard flowers that inspires the dog walkers and joggers to stop and admire. Oh, and these guys like it too:

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All the Colors

It’s that time of year again, when everything is going all out. There are mad dashes of color everywhere:

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I’m spending as much time as possible outside to enjoy the display. Soon the crispy days will be here. Everything will go into the second season of dormancy, and I, too, will retreat from the burning orb. By the way, I’m not the only one taking advantage – lots of buzzing activity around here.

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Another Year

Yes, it is that time again. Since the beginning  there’s one plant here at Less is More that serves as a touchstone – a reminder of how much growing has happened and an intense eye candy taste of all the good things to come in the way of cactus blooms. Of course it is “carrot top.”

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It’s the first cactus to bloom in my yard, by at least a week usually, so it doesn’t have to share the stage with any of it’s equally gaudy neighbors. This year the Echinocereus coccineus started blooming about 6 days ago, and has been really spectacular, particularly when the low evening light hits the blooms.

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By the way, there’s another succulent that is looking particularly lovely right now:

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The Yucca baccata flowers are so elegant in contrast to the brute force exhibited by the rest of the plant.

Spring Feast

The honeybees have discovered the flowering arugula:

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And the blooming kale:

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Normally I’d be pulling out these plants to make room for tomatoes and beans and squash, but my priorities are a little bit different this year. I think I’ll hold off for a bit and let the honeybees feast.

A New Season

Right on time, it’s the second week of February, and along with the arrival of the first few balmy afternoons, the rosemary is starting to bloom:PKS_7952

The garlic has emerged:PKS_7956

The greens in the cold frames are almost big enough to eat: PKS_7958 PKS_7961

The first round of seedlings are sunbathing out of doors:PKS_7955

And the tomato and pepper seeds are nestled into their own set of soil blocks.

While technically winter is not over for many weeks, and fer sure we’ll have a few more blasts of icy air (and maybe more snow), but in my mind, we have crossed the threshold into Spring, or at least pre-Spring. Time to dig out the pea seeds!

Bird Seed

The sunflowers are starting to bloom. This year I’m growing two kinds: the ornamental Gloriosa Polyheaded in the photos, and the Hopi Dye sunflower that makes large heads of extra-black seeds. I’ve taken to growing the ornamental sunflowers right outside the back bedroom window. When the seeds are ripe, I’ll have the most perfectly comfortable spot from which I can spy on the finches through the window as they feast.