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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Life-Friendly Fall Pruning: Remember the Birds

Garden of Dreams near Child Development Center - 11/12/14. 
Some plants are still un-pruned to provide food for the birds.

Late fall and early winter are important pruning times in Southern California gardens.  Many California native plants, particularly those from drier low elevations, are dormant from late summer until the winter rains.  That’s why fall has traditionally been a major pruning season.  To get a better sense of the seasons in S. California gardens see:

If you garden in S. California, you’ve no doubt noticed that different birds visit your garden in fall and winter.   California is an important stop for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway – a giant bird ‘freeway’ in the sky.  Some birds just stop to refuel; others spend the winter in our delightful wild-lands and gardens.  Either way, these birds – along with resident birds and insects – require food in fall and winter.

The past two years have been particularly hard on California wildlife.  Even with decreased water use, our gardens are still wetter and more productive than the drought stressed wild-lands.  That’s why we’ve seen more wildlife than ever in our gardens this year.   A recent visit to the 'Garden of Dreams' on campus demonstrated this dramatically.  There were at least 75 birds, of all sizes and at least 5 species, busily eating in that one little garden!
Goldfinch eating Annual sunflower (Helianthus anuus) seeds


From native pollinators and butterflies to large animals like deer, creatures are desperate for food and water - and so they come to our gardens.  As wild-lands suffer from climatic extremes, our gardens play an increasingly important role in providing food, shelter and water.  In all years – but particularly in years when food is scarce – we need to manage our fall pruning responsibly.  That's why the 'Garden of Dreams', 'Heritage Creek Preserve' and the 'Earth Sciences Garden'  will look a little more raggedy this month.  We're doing it to save the birds!
For more see:  


Monday, November 10, 2014

California wood mint (Stachys bullata) can be seen at Mother Nature's Backyard garden (above) and
at the Garden of Dreams (CSU Dominguez Hills)

One of the plants that’s blooming right now in the Garden of Dreams is the California woodmint, Stachys bullata.  This isn’t its peak season, but the flowers keep our hummingbirds and the few remaining butterflies happy.

California wood mint is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), a large family that includes culinary mints and the Salvias.   Plants in this family often have aromatic foliage and are used for cooking and potpourri.  Within the Mint Family, the wood mints (hedge nettles), genus Stachys, make up one of the larger genera.  Stachys species can be found on most continents and many are used in traditional herbal medicine.

For more on this interesting plant see: