Thursday, February 23, 2012

Spring in full swing

With spring in full swing it's a pure pleasure to be out in the garden, though I'd be hard pushed to say when its not nice to be out there doing the gardening thang. This comes from a person who even enjoys to weed. When I saw the first sweet-pea blossom of the year, I knew I had to get the camera out and get my blog head on.

California is a confusing place - not least for plants. It's been pleasantly warm lately. Not that drilling heat of summer, but the nurturing, come-out-and-play temperature that can see me pottering about looking for excuses to garden (not that one needs an excuse!) But the lack of rain seemed to keep the native plants from bursting into blossom. And the heat is luring the non-natives to early bloom.

Last week I had my sister, brother-in-law and two nephews to stay. In a panic at the lack of bloom in my garden in mid January, I bought few bedding plants to fill out the containers at the backdoor.

These cheeky violas complement the more functional garden fern lettuce (photo taken after I'd harvested today's dinner) in the neighboring basket.
You can keep planting lettuce through the summer so long as you give it some respite from the hottest sun of the day. Cilantro is a cool season plant and at it's peak right now. In a few weeks (even days at the current temperatures) it will bolt, but until then it's on the daily menu.
The rose bush that I mercilessly pruned back in January has leafed out beautifully. Can't wait to see the blooms.
I must admit to being proud of my garlic. But why so? Garlic grows so easily here and there doesn't seem to be any pest that eats it, so really is it all that much of an accomplishment?
 My new Kiwi vines have burst their buds. Here is Mr Kiwi.
He is growing up and over the arch to meet Mrs Kiwi. Cute, eh? Kiwis need a male plant and a female plant. They are dioecious, which means that each plant has either female reproductive parts or male reproductive parts.
The majority of plants have both male and female parts - usually in the one flower. Like this cherry blossom which quite literally just sprung open today.
I was delighted that the almond (always the first to blossom) had bloomed last week when my sister was here.
The weeping satsuma plum also had one or two pretty flowers to offer.
It's orange season now in California - the trees are dripping with delicious treats! I'm spoiled for eating oranges from the store. I only eat the home grown ones now which means for much of the year I go without. I remember my Dad telling me what a treat oranges were to them as children in post WW2 Belfast. I can see how that would be when such delicacies are hard to get.
 My favorite blossom has to be the nectarine tree.
And how wonderful to stand beneath the plum tree and look up at the blue sky through the blossom. I'd have to wait until May to do this back in Ireland - but it is equally as wonderful - if not more so in the same way as those things which are rare are so much more precious - like the tasty oranges!
Thankfully the native plants are now agreeing that spring has arrived. My dwarf buckeye has leafed out.
The manzanita has popped out a few tiny blossoms, under duress due to lack of rain.
And the cheerful checkerbloom brightens up a corner.
In the pots by the back door one last oriental poppy burst open. They lasted until my sister's visit and promptly died back, popping back up once she'd left!
The show of daffodils is nearly over - they did stick around for my guests to see. Though the kids were more interested in spotting lizards than blooms! They were great at digging up carrots and picking peas though. Practical , my nephews.
The supporting actors in this pot, pink alyssum, beautifully  complement their star - night scented stock.
This container has chives and dill to add a functionality to the dainty violas.
And though small, this exquisitely formed blossom is my pride and joy - rosemary from seed has finally blossomed. And I never realised how beautiful its flowers were.
Last week was wonderful with the family visiting. I will post about the tourist attractions in the South Bay next time. Me - I'm still catching my breath after entertaining a 4 and 6 year old - but I wouldn't have missed it for the world

Byddi Lee

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Obsidian Dome and the June Lake Loop

Here's what the Inyo National Forest Visitor Guide 2011-2012 has to say about the Obsidian Dome.

"Obsidian Dome
The dome is a hill of solid volcanic glass. Take Glass Flow Road (west) off US 395, eleven miles north of Mammoth Lakes. COLLECTING OBSIDIAN OR ROCKS IS STRICTLY PROHIBITED."
And that was all! Of course, the Devils Post Pile got a four page spread.

The Dome was on our way to June Lakes and we decided to have a look. Aren't we glad that we did. It was totally awesome.

Obsidian (or at least this obsidian - my experience is limited to one!) is like a black glassy rock. It looks a little like the a headstone for a grave.

Now imagine an entire mountain made out of this stuff! Here's what it looks like on Google Maps.

It is about a mile long and less than a mile wide, reaching a height of 400m at it's summit.  I enjoyed this USGS site that gives great information about the Obsidian dome and other volcanic features that I've mentioned in the last few posts. (Yes, it even covers the Devils Poop Post Pile!)
The parking lot is right at the foot of the dome, but do get out of your car and walk around. Looking up from below is pretty cool!

Due to the lack of information, we were unaware that a trail to the top even existed. Luckily, we decided to take a walk around the base. We hadn't gone too far when we were called into action for a rescue mission.

Another tourist had quite literally wandered off the beaten track and had gotten stuck on a log which you can just see peeking out from below the front fender/bumper.
The gorgeous chocolate lab, passenger from the stuck car, had to be tied up outside as he threatened to lick to death anyone who got behind the wheel! What a fabulous doggy-smile he has.
My super smart hubby turned off the traction control (or something or other) and we were able to push the car off the log.
From here we spotted a trail that lead up onto the dome. We followed it to the top where we entered a world right out of a Star Trek set!
Waiting for Kirk and Spock to beam down any moment and look down their noses at us warp-less creatures, we had a walk around, thankful we weren't wearing red sweaters!

I'm afraid we turned into total rock geeks.
But who could blame us. These are only two of the hundreds of photos we took.
After we'd explored the top of the dome to our satisfaction, (and wishing we'd brought a picnic) we hurried back to the parking lot, worried in case there may be a queue of cars backed up looking for a place to park. 
Of course, sure wasn't everyone else driving bumper to bumper through Currie Village in Yosemite Valley!

From here, we continued north, bypassed the first turn-off to June Lakes and then turned left on the northern end of the loop working our way south.
Grant Lake was like a mirror where it hadn't yet frozen. This loop is a gorgeous scenic drive that brings you past a smaller ski hill, which had no snow when we were there but is a good alternate day's skiing if you are here when there is snow.

I still found it hard to get used to the idea that there was no snow, yet some lakes were frozen solid.
 This waterfall was half-and-half!
June Lakes is a lovely area any time of the year. A sleepy village in the woods type atmosphere, yet there lurks action and adventure in many forms - camping, hiking, biking, kayaking, climbing to mention a few. I think I could easily fill a week or two in the summer here.

One more travel post to go, (the trip home) then I really ought to get back to the garden...

Last week a fellow Master Gardener complimented me on my blog and told me she loves reading it. Such praise so valuable to me. Thank-you to all my readers for sticking with me!

Byddi Lee