Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Waxwings and More

Out of anything bad there is usually a "good". How often have we heard this and still it is true. We have ivy on the side of the house. Now ivy is a "bad plant", nonnative and invasive. Invasive, did I say invasive? Well that is sure true. We got it off the trees last year and now after the rains it is half way up the trunks again. It makes a wonderful hiding place for all those little four footed lifeforms that we don't like to talk about. What could be wonderful about this plant? I will show you some pictures of what can be wonderful about ivy.

The last week we have had flocks of Cedar Waxwings enjoying the ivy berries!!! I have pyricantha planted for them to eat but they would rather have the ivy berries. For anyone that loves these beautiful birds I would say Ivy is a Great plant!!! Two years ago we had a flock of Western and Cassin's Kingbirds, at least 40, eating the ivy. We also have Starlings coming though dining on our specials.

The pictures aren't all that great but I haven't had the camera out when I have been sitting closer to them. They are in the trees next to the house and then they come down and line up for the fountain on the pine or this tree.

They come down, sometimes 15 at a time and take a drink and then go back up into the ivy for more lunch. I must admit the fountains are getting pretty messy with ivy seeds that are running through these wonderful birds!

I was sitting out on the back patio yesterday morning eating breakfast when
the whole flock came down into the trees and fountain. I was only 5 feet away. Of course I had my coffee and not my camera so you will just have to picture it in your head!! It was a quite a sight.

Here are two of them. Click on the pictures to see a little better.

The yard has been very busy the past couple of weeks. Here is a lady goldfinch waiting her turn at one of the feeders.

Mr Goldfinch looking as handsome as he can. There have been lots of babies in the yard. Mainly House Sparrows so far but a few House Finch and one set of Lesser Goldfinch that I have seen. I think the funniest sight is the parents bringing the babies to the feeders and the babies will be sitting in the feeder right in all the food and they are begging to be fed. They catch on pretty fast though.
Other birds that have been here over the past two weeks:

Spotted Towhee
California Towhee
Brown headed Cowbirds
Brewer Blackbirds
Western Kingbird
Cooper's Hawk
House Sparrow
House Finch
Lesser Goldfinch
American Goldfinch
Hooded Oriole
Downy Woodpecker
Nuttall's Woodpecker
Oak Titmouse
American Crow
Scrub Jay
Anna's Hummingbird
Allen Hummingbird
Blackchinned Hummingbird
Blackheaded Grosbeak
Mourning Dove
Ringed Turtle Dove
European Starlings
Turkey Vulture flying over the house.
Redtail Hawk flying over
Mallard Ducks flying over
Think that is all but I might be missing something.
The flowers are bursting out with all the wonderfully warm weather. I replanted the rose garden last fall and it is showing off some beautiful flowers. I was going to make sure I wrote down all the names before the plants grew too much to get to the tags but guess what I didn't do. You will have to do with the pictures without the names!!! Maybe next year.....

This is a minature rose

Jerusalem Sage looking good.

Martha Washington Geranuim flowering and a few more pots of stuff.

Thanks to the Crows we also have some "fun" thing in the fountains. I had to clean one of them the other week as there was something dead in it. I couldn't tell what it was as they had just brought a part of the fur down to eat. I might have been part of skunk that they found. Something like that. Disgusting anyway. They like to bring all their found treasures down to a water source and get it wet before they eat it. If I didn't like the crows so much I would be very, very unhappy!!! I guess it is one more of those good things with the bad. Here is what is normally in the birdbath. Some kind of chicken bone.

I do try and get out in the morning to check out what they have left because if I don't guess who likes to get out there to get something to eat!!! Luckily he can't get into this birdbath but if they drop in on the ground when they are done it can be a problem. They say chicken bones are bad for the dog and I don't want any more Vet bills!!! He hasn't been stung by a bee or anymore foxtails in his eye yet this year so that is good!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Taft Gardens

(click on pictures to enlarge so you can really see them)

On Tuesday I was lucky enough to be able to visit the Taft Gardens in Ojai. The Organic Garden and Herb Society had planned a field trip with the help of one of their past speakers, Mike Tardif of Plant Picasso. He is friends with the owner, John Taft so was able to let us into the grounds.
I had heard about Taft Gardens several months ago from someone who had been there in the past. She sang it's praises so highly I wanted to go so I checked on the Internet for information about it. I was very sad to read that the gardens had been closed to the public. When I got the email telling about the field trip I was So Excited!!!
Well, now that I have been there I will have to tell you it was way better than I even thought it would be. Tuesday was one of those very special days. The weather was perfect, the company was great and the garden was out of this world.

I don't know a lot of the names of these flowers but I will put the up here for the enjoyment of all.

Large patches of these were breathtaking.

When John Taft started these gardens he put in two different types of plants. One from South Africa and one from Australia . There are also California natives. We were told it has one of the largest collections of proteas from South Africa.

This gives a feeling of how peaceful the area is.

The Organic Garden and Herb Society.
Our host and guide, Mike is in the front kneeling down. He had a wealth of information and willingly shared it with us.

This is one of the pavilion facilities that are in the garden. When Mr. Taft started the gardens they went under the name "International Center for Earth Concerns". Mr.Taft said that, for a time, many groups used the land for educational purposes, including Boy Scouts, school groups and organizations such as the Sierra Club. "It was extremely popular with teachers," said Taft. "Over 15,000 kids came from all over the county."
The colors were beautiful.

Art work on the outside of one of the buildings.

If anyone wants to know what I want for Xmas look no further!! What's not to love about this chair!!! I'm sure I could find room for it at Plymouth Gardens!Outside stage area. A little music, a play, some poetry or even that old standby a Wedding! Oh yes, this is nice.

Along a lot of the paths were these dry stone walls.

On the outside of the garden is all the beauty of Southern California hills. That is a Red Tail Hawk flying high.
Statues everywhere, adding grace and charm.

Of course I loved the etched Cranes in the door.

Cactus Garden.

Lizard carved from a large rock. (That could be another Xmas gift!!)

Groomed paths between the flower beds.

John Taft giving us a history of the gardens. I was surprised that most of the plants were started from seed brought over from Africa or Australia. I think he said they did most of the planting starting in 1982. Just over 20 years and it seems like it was there forever. He took time out of his busy schedule to make us comfortable and knowledgeable. You could tell how much he loved the area. He called it "John's Folly" but I don't think it is a folly at all.
He had to close the place because of problems with the neighbors. They didn't want all the people coming up into the area. It didn't help that they had to come across the neighbor's land to get to the gardens!! There were court hearings and so many problems that he had to shut down the gardens. Sometimes it just gets to be too much to deal with.
Leave it to the Garden Club to find the Veggie Garden and get Mr. Taft's kind permission to pick some of the veggies there. Huge cabbages, snap peas, several different kinds lettuce and onions.
Herb Garden

Makes you want to walk forever!!

A little pond with lots of tadpoles.

A perfect day!!