Tom’s Garden

Growing by the Bay

Author: xensen Page 2 of 23

House finch (Carpodocus mexicanus)

house-finch (P5132028)

Originally native to the arid southwest of North America, the resourceful house finch (Carpodocus mexicanus), is now found in every U.S. state. After nesting, the finches gather into sizable flocks — ours are particularly fond of hanging out in the Pineapple guava (Feijoa). They are attractive little birds with a pleasing sort of bebop jazzy song (performed by the male). You can listen to it at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Gruss an Aachen rose (P5132015)

Grüss an Aachen Rose

This has been a good year so far for the Grüss an Aachen rose.


Aloe flower

After many years, our aloe has started to flower. I would have said it was an aloe vera, but according to SFGate, those flowers are yellow.

The plant has got rather large, and it is in a large clay pot, I think 16 inches in diameter. Here’s a picture that was taken earlier this year.




A bit of the garden

part of bed 1 and table

Scrub Jay on persimmon tree.

Scrub Jay on persimmon tree.

Monarch butterfly on native asclepias (milkweed) plant .

Monarch butterfly on native asclepias (milkweed) plant .

Ferry Point, Richmond.

Ferry Point, Richmond

Ferry landing at Ferry Point, Richmond.

Ferry landing at Ferry Point, Richmond.

In recent decades Richmond has been aggressively developing its waterfront. Brickyard Cove, near Ferry Point, was once the location of a brick-making plant that used materials quarried from the nearby hillside. It is now an enclave of luxury homes and condominiums, along with a lively marina housing the Richmond Yacht Club, all set cheek to jowl with the industrial warehouses and tanks lining the city’s nearby deepwater harbor.

Ferry Landing framing San Francisco skyline.

Ferry Landing framing a glimpse of the San Francisco skyline.

Yet vestiges of the old waterfront remain, for now. One is Ferry Point, where the skeleton of an old ferry terminal remains, alongside a fishing pier maintained by the East Bay Regional Park District as part of the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline. The pier was opened to the public in 2002.

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Stipa arundinacea (New Zealand Wind Grass)

Stipa arundinacea.

Stipa arundinacea.

Stipa arundinacea.

Stipa arundinacea.

Stipa arundinacea is one of my favorite nonnative landscape plants for our area. I like its copper coloration, its fountainlike shape, its toughess, its low maintenance, and the way its graceful stalks sway in the breeze. Not fussy about soil, light, or water, and drought and deer tolerant, it grows to about three feet all around. It’s said to self-sow, but my mine have not shown much sign of that.  The one shown above is growing in a fairly small container, and I’m planning to up pot it. The green bit on the left of that photo is dietes, the purple in the background is rosemary. Right is detail of another specimen, which has been growing in the ground in the front garden for several years and still looks great.

Point Pinole pier.

Point Pinole

Point Pinole meadow and woods

This is a test of making a post sticky for a tag. At the moment this is only a test. Soon I will elaborate this tag.

Point Pinole pier and toyon bush.

Point Pinole pier with toyon bush in foreground.


A dashing new visitor to the garden.

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and Red Rock Island.

Red Rock Island

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and Red Rock Island.

Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. The little island to the left of the bridge is Red Rock Island, the only privately owned island in the bay. It marks the meeting of San Francisco, Marin and Contra Costa counties. It’s for sale and can be yours for just $5 million (marked down from $12 million). It has no water, but plenty of manganese ore, if that’s your thing.

View from study.

View from study.

The small north garden has become a favorite bird habitat. The spiky foreground plants are asparagus ferns. The orange flowers are Iochroma coccinea, beloved of hummingbirds, and perching birds also favor the plant. The ground cover is probably oxalis, which I should remove before it takes over. The yellow grass is Stipa arundinacea, which is reliably attractive in our area. Against the fence on the right is Victorian Box (Pittosporum undalatum), which the birds planted.

Brugmansia, detail.
Brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldi' (Angel's Trumpet).

Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’ (Angel’s Trumpet).

White-Crowned Sparrows.

White-Crowned Sparrows

White-Crowned Sparrows.

White-Crowned Sparrows.

Senecio talinoides, detail.
Senecio talinoides.

Senecio talinoides.


The brugmansia is flowering heavily this year.

White-Crowned Sparrow.
White-Crowned Sparrow.

White-Crowned Sparrow.

This little guy — a White-Crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys gambelii), if I’m not mistaken — appears to think he’s tough. All the birds love the iochroma.

Actually, his alert expression is a characteristic of these birds, at least during their migratory season. Researchers — here’s one link — hope to figure how they have been able to stay alert with reduced sleep, hoping the findings might have human applications.

White-Crowned Sparrow.

White-Crowned Sparrow.


Citrus Burst Rose

Citrus Burst rose

It might be just a few days after the solstice, but a few brave flowers are still giving their all on the Citrus Burst rose.

Senecio talenoides

Senecio talinoides.

White Pelicans

white pelicans

The white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) are back at Lafayette Reservoir. Unfortunately, I only had my cell phone, and I’ll need to go back with a better camera. (I’ll update this post then.)

The white pelicans are large birds, with wingspans of as much as nine feet. From a distance they look like swans, until you see their beaks. They are social and, unlike the more common brown pelicans, they are surface feeders, not divers.

Where do these birds go in the summer?

I noticed at our local library a series of mysteries by Edith Maxwell featuring an organic gardener who solves crimes. Books in the series all have titles like Farmed and DangerousMurder Most Fowl, and Mulch Ado about Murder. In the spirit of authorial solidarity, I hearby offer Ms. Maxwell some further titles for her consideration:

  • Compost Mortem
  • The Berried Copse
  • Too Cloche for Comfort
  • The Deadheading
  • Shears Terror
  • The Bone Meal
  • Tilth Death Us Part
  • The Cold Frame
  • The Cutting
  • Loves Lies Bleeding
  • The Haulm before the Storm
  • A Rake’s Progress
  • The Scion’s Graft
  • Roots of Evil

Feel free to add your own contributions.

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