Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Company is Coming

The Audubon Society's Great Backyard Bird Count is coming Feb. 13-16, 2009
Participation is simple, FUN and educational. Pick a place close by. Like your backyard. Count the highest number of each bird species you see at one time (to avoid erroneous duplicate count of the same bird) and turn in the results on-line. Good at photography? There is a contest. Get all the details by logging onto

My backyard is now officially declared- by me- a Backyard Habitat Redevelopment Area . The goal is to be done with renovations and improvements to my garden one week before the official count. This gives the birdies time to send their advance inspection squads over to check out the accommodations for safety and ambiance.

This is the drill.
1. Water features drained, cleaned and refilled.

2. Substandard housing is being replaced. The house which was invaded by the snake last spring- gone. The Victorian which became ramshackle- replaced with a nifty Droll Yankee Birdhouse decorated with artwork by Majolein Bastin. Right now they are half price at Armstrong's Garden Center.

3. Food stations are being cleaned, repaired and refilled.
4. All major tree and rose pruning will be completed this week. No sprays after March 7. For the comfort of those birds which prefer camping out under the stars to bird condos, apartments and custom units- it is important for the work crews to be gone when the "accommodations" are previewed.

5. Mulch. Bare dirt is a rarity in nature- that is a concept we should strive to copy.

Being a hostess for the birds is just like being a hostess for a Superbowl Party. Do as much as you can ahead of time. Lay out the snacks and enjoy the show!

Top photo is an honorable mention from last year or Broad-billed Hummingbird by Lynne Marsho if Arizona.

Back in the 1990's the City of Diamond Bar was one of the cities slapped by the courts with how it ran its Redevelopment Agency. Our definition of blight was held to be too broad. It isn't enough that the vacancy rate is high and the properties are not generating the income to be properly maintained. For government nerds- the type of person who would consider their backyard as a redevelopment area- you can check out the concerns about vague definition, virtual permanence, improper diversion of resources and eminent domain- you can check out the Nov 17, 2005 preliminary agenda for Senate Local Government Committee
Senate Transportation & Housing Committee
Assembly Housing & Community Development Committee
Assembly Local Government Committee
Assembly Judiciary Committee

The document can be read in its entirety at

Monday, January 26, 2009

Intersection of Faith and Politics

My politics is not my faith. But one facet of individual philosophy cannot be in conflict with another and there be any peace in the soul.

With that in mind, these are the words of invocation for the Diamond Bar Republican Women January, 2009 General Meeting

Almighty God, our Father, We thank you for blessings seen- the majesty of the landscape, the beauty of the natural world, our servers. We thank You for the unseen blessings in this room. For the friendship, inspiration and learning that we will share in.

We thank you to live in a land where it is more abundantly evident than ever that we can aspire to great accomplishment and not be stopped because of the race or gender in which our soul is clothed in.

Those of us who were so fortunate, we thank You especially for having known Grace and Dexter MacBride. Loosing someone as dear as his amazing Grace cannot be easy for Dexter and their family. Grant them peace.
God, we beseech You grant our elected and appointed leaders, in particular our new president, Barack Obama, as Reverend Rick Warren requested he be given in the Inaugural invocation, “ The wisdom to lead us with humility, The courage to lead us with integrity.”
Help us to share, to serve and to seek the common good of all.
Lord, You know that many in this room did not vote for the new President. Grant us the wisdom to thread the needle of inevitable criticism with care, respect and love. Help us give clarity to our words and actions; especially when we practice our duty to debate. Let it be clear that our disagreements are honest, not gamesmanship and not born of ill- will towards our fellow citizens. Lead us to the words which will make clear our difference of opinion is born of our deepest values- the freedom and justice we all cherish. When the criticism is aimed towards us, help us hear what is said and react to the facts, not hurt feelings.
As this is the custom of my faith, I ask this in the name of the one who owns my life, Jesus Christ. Amen
Thank you to Photographer Gene Sasse for permission to use his 3 images in this post.
The finger-like land formation are part of the Tufa Formations in Mono Lake, near Mammoth Mountain, California. The sand dune is near Glamis, where the Algodones Sand Dunes are a popular off-road vehicle recreation area.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ugly Hats and the Women Who Wear Them

If what you want to see is the hat Aretha Franklin by Detroit milliner Luke Song-wore to the inauguration of Barack Obama- link to and view the engineering marvel. Now, with Ms. Franklin's priceless "pipes"- she can sing anything she wants- wearing whatever she wants. Nothing can stunt the beauty of that magnificent voice. Still, I hope that big studded bow-thing on top of her head is not going to catch on.

Don't get me wrong. On a day as cold as it was in Washington D.C. today, I might have smuggled some kind of heater in that head-contraption in an effort to keep warm. It isn't that my taste in hats is haute couture. I favor baseball caps. Wearing one signals my nerve cells to get ready to have a good time. Ditto cowboy hats. Especially the really-tacky red one.

Then there is my garden hat. The one my son Trevor took one look at me in and asked, "You're not going to wear that in public, are you?"

Hammacher Schlemmer sells this similar model. Anyone who gets obsessed with projects out in the garden ought to own one. With a brim and back-flap to cover the neck, it protects hair from the fading power of the sun and prevents sunburned neck. It is a barrier to marauding mosquitoes and could be guaranteed to prevent attracting members of the opposite sex. It's roughly the price of one five-gallon patented rosebush at a better nursery.
So why would a woman who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising LOVE this admittedly ugly hat? Because of the image at the top. Pruning isn't work. It is gathering bouquets. The image of the lovely ballgown full blooms above are from a mature cluster of the David Austin Rose- Tamora. This morning they adorned the garden. Tonight my kitchen counter. Tomorrow, my mother's apartment.

Most of what I've read about Tamora led me to expect she would bloom sporadically after springtime's first flush. However, in this mild climate (today's low was high was 58°F and the high was 76°F) frequent waves of scented blooms until the annual stripping of leaves is more accurate.

My hat was purchased from Blue Hills Nursery in Whittier. Check out their new homepage at . Tamora is listed in their rose index.

The Hammacher Schlemmer homepage can be accessed through

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Garden Blooming Blog Day- January '09

Welcome to the second installation of Garden Blooming Blog Day.
This month is dedicated to the memory of the woman we called the Yellow Rose of Texas, the effervescent Grace MacBride. She was my neighbor, my friend. Grace and her husband, former Diamond Bar City Councilman Dexter MacBride, were living assets to this community, even after failing health forced their move out of state to be with relatives.
A toast to you now "up high"- our ever Amazing Grace. You live on in the hearts of all those you touched with your intelligence and feisty sense of humor.

The rose on the upper right is Sunny Knock Out, the first scented rose in the knock out series.

Tamora Rose is a favorite of Clair Martin, since 1983, the Curator of Rose and Perennial Gardens at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino.
It never went dormant. This weekend a dozen blooms will fill a vase for my mother's enjoyment. Then it can be pruned properly.

Mary Rose, below, is another English lass gracing the front garden. She is a lady who rewards patience. The first few years she was planted, she was a disappointment. Not at all like in the photographs. But as she spread her arms stronger, each year they held out larger trusses. Now, bobbing in the breeze, the pink ruffled skirts resemble dancing fairies in Antebellum gowns.

This pointed red rose bud must reach way high for sunlight to feed its blossoms.

It is next to one of my rare weeping hibiscus 'La France. The hibiscus flowers drape down into the tall rose branches. I'm not sure why- but the hibiscus flowers are a darker shade of pink than they ever have been before. Maybe the orchid fertilizer? This is the latest hibiscus bloom we've had here. It usually usually peeks in August and then dives until late the next summer.

The violets (below) are like miniature bears. They come out of hibernation in warm weather. I never bought these. Not on purpose. They may have hitched a ride with some plant from my mother's garden. They like to hide until the coast is clear. Then- when the rains come- out they pop. The flowers make adorable cookie decorations when they are painted with a sugar-wash and dried.

Don't you love daylilies? They are such responsible plants. They don't require much attention. Sun, shade- they are not into entitlements. Just love them and let them bloom. Begonia 'Richmodensis' adds a tropical flare to sun and part sun locations. She's like a teenager. Just try to hold her back with regular trimming- and she rebels by putting out more than you took off. With adequate water- she's almost always in bloom.

Asclepias Tuberosa- the common butterfly weed. Self sows. A magnet for Monarch butterflies. I would not describe it as invasive- but this is a rebellious little charmer which has a habit of popping up in places like in the middle of a gravel walkway.
Do not plant if you don't like butterflies.

Alstromeria sometimes called the Peruvian lily. Loves the drainage of our hillside location. It made a lovely little pillow to land my head upon in one of my infamous garden falls last year. Glad it liked its sunny spot so when I went head first over the walkway, my face plant wasn't into cactus. This smaller, buttery yellow variety is especially lovely come late spring with the iris pointing up from it.


Cyclamen- aka the last Christmas decoration- will keep going until at least Valentine's Day.
In our mild climate, it is not unusual to have a bed over-summer afew seasons before it bows out of the landscape

The tropical Billbergia came from my mother's patio garden.
The Sunset Western Garden Guide reports it needs regular water- mine hasn't read that chapter. She was thrown in a wheelbarrow to divide about 5 years ago- and there she has bloomed over the edges with almost no care and only the rarest of supplemental watering.

Ahhh- Geranium. No need for a hothouse to overwinter here. Not for the flowering types. Not for the varieties grown for their luscious scented leaves.

Speaking of leaves- The two ficus with variegated leaves were
moved from the side entrance to the back patio, where hummingbirds sometimes climb into the protection of their arms to build little nests. Last year, one baby got so big, it was named Baby Huey before it flew off.

If you can't find the Sunny Knock Out Rose here locally, Great Garden Plants is happy to ship here.

Greenwood Daylily Gardens has GREAT plants developed for California's idosynchratic climate.

Billbergia is often in stock at California Cactus Gardens in Pasadena. Be warned suburban shoppers- parking here is miserable. Plan on parking in the neighborhhood and then walking in the nursery. Awkward- but worth the inconvenience.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday

Remember the Triangle Complex Fire? It torched the borders of Diamond Bar on the scheduled date for The Diamond Bar Community Foundation Gala to the Stars. The premier event of the Diamond Bar Social season had to be rescheduled post-holiday.To this past January 4th. Which just happened to be my 54th birthday.

In keeping with the theme, a play on words suggesting a Red Carpet event, gussied- up guests were greeted by flashing cameras and autograph seekers.

Above: Ling Ling Chang
Left: Front-Chuck and Roseanne Bader with Jody Roberto
Peeking over- Steve Tye

Entertainment and decor were themed to Hollywood heyday. Now Pat Longo and his "big band orchestra" can say they have not only played for the weddings of celebrities such as Kelsey Grammer, Rod Stewart, Michael McDonald and JohnTravolta- they can add to the resume` that they played for Lydia Plunk’s birthday. LOL.
However, in my heart it is the Diamond Bar High School Chamber Orchestra- who spontaneously joined in playing happy birthday to me when friends gathered to toast my birthday that get top entertainment billing in my remembrances. It was nice that five of the talented young people got to stay for dinner.

My husband looked mighty handsome. Even before that glass of wine Kevin Claborn served me.

Our hosts for the evening were two of our favorite people, Matt and Debbie Rezvani. We met when our oldest sons were on the same team in Little League. We have been through graduations, marriages, births and deaths together. In the rowboat of life- there is none better to have in the boat with us than Matt and Debbie. Both are harworking, honest, forthright and generous people.

Because Matt works for an oil company- he is General Manager, West Coast External Affairs for BP America- I have a far better opinion of the industry than I might otherwise have had last summer when prices were so high. . His employer, owner of the ARCO brand, was honored with the 2008 Community Partner Award, for exemplary civic involvement. Which really was the reason for the event.
Matt thanked the DBCF for their service to the community’s needs and for recognizing the corporation’s generosity towards their goals.

I was totally surprised and pleased when , he acknowledged me specifically in a short list of people that provided him with the information his employer desired to have to meet what it believes is its corporate responsibility to a community in which it does business.

Above- The very accomplished Mei Mei Ho Huff with her husband, Senator Bob Huff

Right- The incomparable Martha House
with Mary Ann King aka- Miss Mary Ann of 'Romper' Room fame.

My hairdresser- Sylvia Claborn not only attended, their business, Claborn Hair Studio, filled and decorated a basket for the silent auction. My husband put in the winning bid, helping DBCF exceed its fundraising goal for the evening after expenses.

There was never a question that the original fillet Mignon and chicken dinners were appropriately served to the evacuees who sought shelter during the fires at Diamond Bar High School was the right thing to do. With the complications that come with delaying a large event, funding of planned projects from proceeds of the evening had been in doubt. But it worked out as the community pulled together after the fire

Diamond Bar has won many national accolades as one of the Best Places to Do Business and Best Place to Live. Now thanks to the common sense of the DBCF in distributing the original dinners and the ongoing generosity of the people of Diamond Bar, if there was such a list, we would be in contention for Best Place to serve in a Disaster.

Thank you to Trisha Bowler for the photographs. Sorry- I do not remember the pooch's name
DBCF is Diamond Bar Community Foundation

Just to name 2 of the accolades of my hometown

Money Magazine named Diamond Bar one of the top 10 places to live in United States in 2007
Business Week named Diamond Bar a runner up to Arcadia as a best place to raise kids in California.

Our City of Diamond Bar is also on a very short list of government entities, particularly in California, to actually have a surplus! Way to go City Manager Jim DeStefano.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

LA Times- Gardening is Not Political

"GROW" insisted the graphic typeset, bold as little Disco, the Boston Terrier. The dog is rumored to be training for NASA because of the capability of the dog to instantly lift-off 4 feet straight-up in the air. Or with those sunglasses- maybe a part in Hollywood.

Echoes of Victory is the subtitle below the poster-style image. Taking up all but the right hand column on page 1 of today's Home section and then continuing at length, I was really excited. Until the quote used in the third paragraph.".... It's much more a political question than a gardening question,"

That slant, dear garden editors and writers everywhere, maybe why readers and gardeners have stepped away from newspapers for information on gardening. Why the venue is dying on the vine.

It is true, a person's politics may affect both the horticultural habitat favored and the habits practiced therein.
But for goodness sake- the garden is by definition a sanctuary. It deserves to be respected as a safe haven from politics.

To go into the garden is to refresh and restore the senses. To clear the mind and open the soul. To reconnect with what is more important than politics. With beauty and grace. With the natural world.

Am I wrong?

The entire article can be read at

The photo of Disco is by owner Robyn Greene.

Filling the garden abundantly, with diversity in flower and form is why butterflies and hummingbirds choose to hang around here in the middle of winter. The parsley and cilantro beneath the roses aren't as photogenic- but they certainly link the garden to the joy of eating- something all gardeners enjoy- without need for political intervention.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Gardener's Resolution

"If we don't change, we don't grow. If we don't grow, we are not really living."
—Gail Sheehy

Whether wisely, pointlessly or foolishly, all the time in 2008 has been spent.
Time to tuck the memories of the past into the bed of proper perspective.

Time to get moving on 2009. This year I am investing time, energy and whatever funds I can to make this the Year of the Rose. The bouquet above was given to my mother. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than taking her flowers from my garden. She has dementia- but the sight and scent of flowers extends her ability to feel joy.
My favorite of this year's class of roses graduating from the greenhouse to the market is the enchanting 'Cinco de Mayo'. If I could only buy one rose this year- this 2009 AARS winner is it.
The changes I am making are to be the final evolution of my garden. To take all the experiments of the past decades and pull the vision together in a cohesive whole. It will be my wordless autobiography as a gardener. That could be why I was so drawn to Debra Prinzing's December 30th post where she explained her take on the 7 Habits of the Highly Successful Gardener.
Habit one: Hone Your Powers of Observation.

With each turn of the shovel, my love of gardening has grown. Much of what I have done is intuitive, but as the seasons come and go, each year I come to appreciate the nuance of nature's response to my hand. I grow curious as to why.
According to Google Earth, my little Eden in Diamond Bar is located at Latitude33.59 N and longitude117.49 West. At an elevation of 966 feet above sea level, my garden sits closer to the hilltops than the valley floor. This location is fortunate, as our placement within the geography spares us damage from the worst winds, hottest summer heat and winter frost. Only rarely have we had hail- it has only snowed twice in 30 years- once appropriately- on April Fools Day- neither time was it enough to last more than a few minutes before melting away. The typical city in Florida probably gets more thunder in a week than Diamond Bar will get in a decade. Since 1966- a grand total of two class 11 tornadoes have occurred within 25 miles of here.
Knowing the USDA zone is okay for shipping dates information- however it is pretty useless for planning in this climate. The Sunset climate zone ratings is far more useful. Zone 20 is the zone best used for predicting a plant's success in my garden. However, I find that every time I plant, the micro-climate of that area is slightly changed. Also- sun exposure really varies during the seasons. So the climate zone is a reliable guide- however it isn't the Bible.

These are my biggest challenges- roses like sun- after twenty years of planting trees- shade is a more plentiful commodity- some adjustments need to be considered. The topography- we are situated on a hillside. The street in front is an 11.5% grade. To put that in perspective- the grade on the Cajon Pass is listed as 6%. This means I have great drainage- however, when it comes to maintenance- I am not a mountain goat. We back up to a chaparral- so the challenges and wonderment of living with nature must be dealt with.
The Rose 'Judy Garland' (left) used to be non-stop blooming. But the old girl is slowing down in production, and the older she gets, the more predominant the orange is. So she will be moved to a less prominent place in the garden and be replaced with 'Julia Child'.
This 2006 AARS winner is more English in form, blooms with abandon and has a light licorice scent. Being a shorter bush than my towering Graham Thomas- Julia will be welcomed into the garden where her charm will add romance to the view .

For color- nothing beats Lillian Austen- which captures the Maui sunset in her flowers. I had this brilliant idea to use 2 five foot tree specimens in pots for a focal statement to lead the eye out into the garden without ever intruding in the view.
The practical issue became that the flowers sit a high crown on the bush- which unless we grew 3 foot taller- we couldn't enjoy.
So these were transferred to the ground- where their neon blossoms can be appreciated at eye level.
The pots now hold Weeping 'Renae'- whose flowers will drape into the view shed as they cascade in clusters. If you want a 5 foot tree rose- you better act quickly. Weeks Roses has taken the tall tree roses out of production. Once what is on the market is gone- there are no more sources on the horizon. One Ventura resource is banking on a couple specific species becoming especially valuable. A couple varieties are listed at $250 to $300. Shop around locally- you might get lucky like I did and find what I wanted on close-out for $40.

'Betty Boop' is a continuous bloomer, even in a spot which is more shade than sun. The only draw back-is that it is hard to work up the motivation to cut her back because she is always in bloom.

Debra Prinzing's blog can be linked at

Click your address into Google Earth for specific Longitude, Latitude and elevation information.
Cinco de Mayo, Julia Child and Betty Boop are all creations of Rosarian Tom Carruth for Weeks Roses as well as being AARS winners.
Photograph of 'Julia Child' is from AARS website.
'Renae' is from Grow Quest web catalog.