Jul 282014

by Avis Licht Hummingbird I love watching hummingbirds zoom, dive, drink and zip around my garden. Not only are they beautiful and fanciful, they are an integral part of the health of our gardens.  While researching information on hummingbirds I came across a great article on the Las Pilitas website, which is a source of California Native Plants. “Hummingbirds prefer the native species (commonly Sambucus,Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos) for nesting. They prefer a mixed diet of nectar from multiple sources for their daily diet. I read an article that showed a correlation between nectar (pollen) proteins and hummingbirds’ immune systems. “So, although they can live on bird feeders they probably can not survive on bird feeders (sugar diet) as you’re messing with their immune system and, since there is no pollen in sugar water, their reproductive ability. Basically, the bird feeders are making winos out of proud birds. If they attack you, give them a break, it’s the ‘Twinkie’ syndrome.

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

Hummingbird going for the nectar from Zauschneria californica, the California Fuschia

If you’re tempted to go out and buy a bird feeder for these lovelies, think twice.  I personally feel that it’s more work to keep a feeder full, clean and safe, than planting some easy care flowers like the Zauschneria, above. From the Las Pilitas website: “Just plant, Zauschneria species, California fuchsia everywhere (well maybe not everywhere, but in a lot of places. avis.) in your garden. The California fuchsias can flower from July through December. They flower and flower, trim off the old flowers, and they flower more. They are excellent in rock walls. California fuchsias can tolerate garden water as well as being very drought tolerant. These flowers come in white, pink, and red with gray or green foliage. The vary in with from a couple of inches tall to a couple of feet.”

this is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonia.

This is Salvia greggii, Variety, San Antonio.

The Salvias are easy to grow, have low water requirements and are long blooming. Hummingbirds love them. To find out lots more about their life cycle and plants they enjoy, read this article from Las Pilitas.

the high wire act

Resting is important to hummingbirds as they have such a high metabolism.

Shady resting spot

Shaded branches in nearby trees are perfect for hiding from predators and resting between dive bombs on the flowers.

Vegetable Garden

Zauschneria, edges an inviting path into the edible garden.

Hummingbirds need fresh water, shelter and safe nesting sites in order to thrive, in addition to flowering plants. The greatest diversity of hummingbird species is found in areas where plant life is more diverse, which in turn leads to more diverse insect life – both plants and insects are critical food sources for hummingbirds. As you can see in the photo above, of my garden, diversity is paramount. Trees, vines, shrubs, flowers, annuals, vegetables, are all designed into a small area. A well thought out form is important for the visual enjoyment of the garden. Read this article for design elements in the edible garden.


Resting hummingbird on a tomato cage

Habitat conservation is critical for protecting all hummingbird species. Creating a backyard habitat can nurture local hummingbirds as well as provide a rest stop for migrating hummingbirds, but if those migrants have nowhere safe to go, your efforts could be useless. Supporting conservation programs in tropical regions where hummingbirds are most diverse is critical for preserving these beautiful birds, and many birding organizations such as the American Bird Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy and the National Audubon Society work to preserve habitat in many areas where hummingbirds thrive. By understanding hummingbirds’ habitat needs and knowing what makes a good hummingbird habitat, it is possible not only to enjoy these birds close by, but also to ensure their survival throughout their widespread ranges.

Mar 222014
Douglas Iris

by Avis Licht

Borage in the rain

Borage in the rain

By the date on the calendar it’s Spring – but by weather it might be any of the seasons where you live. In warm weather areas it’s definitely time to start the garden work – from sowing seeds, getting beds ready, fertilizing your flowers and generally getting involved in the excitement of coming out of hibernation.

This is the time to make sure you have good tools that help you in your work. Visit my Store to see what tools I recommend and use myself.


In my garden the wisteria is blooming, the pear, cherry and apple trees are bursting with bloom. The strawberries and blueberries are putting out blossoms like crazy.

Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

I have a lot of flowers in my garden that the bees love to pollinate.  It is important to create  diversity in the garden to encourage beneficial insects, birds, and butterflies to create health and delight in the garden.

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Edible flowers in early Spring bring beauty. Calendula is a powerful plant

Native plants are starting to bloom and are a great addition to all gardens. In California where we are experiencing severe drought conditions, California natives are the perfect solution – they are happy in this climate and can flourish in the most difficult of conditions.

Douglas Iris

This Douglas Iris is native to the California Coast. I love it.

If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can come and learn from me directly Hands ON! in the garden! I love to share my experience. Go to the Events page for all the dates.

You can sign up NOW right here.

May 212013
Edible landscaping

by Avis Licht

Bamboo poles for climbing plants

For a front yard, make sure your structures are ornamental as well as useful.


Edible landscaping has become more popular than I ever thought it would or could. Every day we hear about some new project in cities all over the world. We’re seeing gardens that are both beautiful and have delicious, healthy produce. I mean, it only makes sense.

In Marin County the municipal water district has been encouraging people to conserve water by planting low water use plants as well as food gardens.  In May they have a tour of the best gardens that use principals that they call “Bay Friendly”:  organic, drought resistant, permeable surfaces, habitat friendly for beneficial birds and insects, and lovely to look at.

On the tour last weekend I took some photos from a few of the gardens that incorporated some good edible landscaping ideas.  See if anything inspires you for your garden. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Artichoke, plum, alstroemaria

Raised vegetable box

Raised vegetable boxes define an area and let you put good growing soil into a small area. It’s also easy to maintain.

California native plants

These California native plants look good, are low maintenance, provide flowers and habitat. They go beautifully in an edible landscape.

Native California plants

Another view of the same yard. This shows that the native plants create a small patio area and the vegetables are at the far end of the yard near the fence.

To read more about designing your edible landscape, read this post. 


Be sure to leave a comment or shoot me a question by going to the Ask Avis page.

Container Gardening

This suburban backyard is all raised beds and container plantings. Easy to maintain and very productive.

Chicken coop

This tiny chicken coop in an unused side yard provides fresh eggs for the owners.

Fruit trees in containers

I’ve never seen this many fruit trees in containers. Lots of varieties but also a smaller harvest from the containers. When growing in pots, be sure to give plenty of water and nutrients. It is easier to find the right growing conditions when you can move the pots to the right micro climate. Since they will be dwarf simply by being in pots you can grow more trees in a smaller area.


To find out more about growing in containers read my post on self watering planters.


This huge cauliflower was in a raised planter. You can get huge results when you have the best soil and perfect growing conditions.



tower of strawberries

This tower of strawberry pots is fun to look at and certainly easier to harvest the strawberries.









To find out more about growing strawberries read this post.






Back yard garden

Path, flowers and bird bath highlight the backyard garden. This yard has many fruits and vegetables, yet is entirely enchanting. At least I think so.





The Entry Patio

Entering the garden, you are led by a curving path, under fruit trees, by flowers, herbs and native plants.

Vegetable Garden

I love that this vegetable garden looks like a garden garden. It’s not just utilitarian.


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Mar 192012
Pink flowering currant

by Avis Licht – Native plants in your garden: a very good idea. They are already adapted to your climate and soil, so don’t need a lot of fussing and attention.  In fact, they demand to be left alone.  You will bring in a large diversity of important pollinators and insect controllers naturally. Birds, bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, pollinating insects are all attracted to native plants. The more diversified your garden, the healthier it is. Many people think that native plants aren’t good looking enough for their landscape. Here are some photos I took the last few days, that will show you otherwise.

One of the best sites I’ve found for California native plants is Las Palitis Nursery.  Their website is a treasure trove of information on growing native plants.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn"

The manzanita graces the dry hillsides of California - Arctostaphylos varieties

Manzanitas are great wildlife plants. Providing nectar for butterflieshummingbirds and native insects. Many of the manzanitas regulate their nectar to attract different insects, butterflies and hummingbirds during the day.

Hounds Tongue, Cynoglossum grande

The deep blue flowers of Hounds tongue are one of the first of spring - Cynoglossum officinale

Indian Warrior - Pedicularis densiflora









Indian Warrior was used medicinally as a muscle relaxant .

Pink flowering currant

Native to the Coast Ranges in California all the way north to British Columbia. Ribes sanguineum, Pink or Red flowering currant.

R. sanguineum is one of the all-time superb early-spring-flowering shrubs. It is easy  to grow, you can prune it or not, and the red or pink flowering currant has showy flower clusters. Time of bloom and flower color vary according to cultivar, but figure on anything from creamy white to crimson, beginning in February and sometimes lasting till May. The blue-black fruits are attractive, but are mainly for birds. They’re not poisonous, but they don’t taste good. They bloom at the same time as the California Lilac, Ceanothus, which is light to dark blue.  They make a very attractive couple.

California lilac

This blue Ceanothus blooms at the same time as the Pink flowering currant. They go well together.

California Columbine

These lovelies easily fit into your own garden. Aquilegia formosa, California Columbine.

Don’t forget  about my ebook on the Spring Garden. There are lots of great pointers for starting your Spring Garden.

Spring Garden Table of Contents

Table of Contents - click to enlarge

Here is the information you need to start your Spring garden. Included is information on soil, sites, annuals, perennials, fruits and much more. This is a 20 page guide to get you started on your edible landscape. Forty years of gardening has given me plenty to share. If you have enjoyed my blog, be sure to get my booklet. $10- such a deal!

Spring Garden Made Easy


Shooting star

Early spring you'll see these tiny but beautiful shooting stars - Dodecatheon clevelandii

Oct 042011
Tubers of bearded iris can be planted in Fall or Spring

Bearded Iris are hardy, drought tolerant and beautiful

When planning your edible landscape design, you need to consider that every plant has its Right Place, both aesthetically and for its growing needs and its Right Time for planting. Before planting be sure to find out what are the best conditions for your plant and when is the best time to plant.

Just as you shouldn’t put plants that are shade loving into the sunny side of life, you can assure yourself of healthier plants when you put them into the ground at the right time.

Foxglove, and Ferns in the shade, right plant, right place

Foxglove and Ferns in the shade

With Winter right around the corner it’s time to think about planting deciduous trees and shrubs and bulbs. Fruit trees are best planted in the winter when they have lost all their leaves and are in their dormant growing mode.  Although they won’t look like they’re doing anything at the top, underground they are establishing healthy roots to support the tree when it starts to sprout leaves.

Order and plant your Spring bulbs now.

In the West, it’s time to plant and sow our natives that will grow with the winter rains through the mild weather. Because California has summer drought, the plants here have adapted to winter rains. Consider sowing wild flowers to cover hillsides for beauty and to prevent erosion.

Consider planting Ceanothus, Manzanita, Wild Gooseberries, and California Wax Myrtle, for beauty, ease of maintenance, low water needs and bird habitat. You’re really getting a lot bang for your buck with these plants.

Ground cover Ceanothus

A strong, beautiful California Native plant, Ceanothus griseus

Sep 212011
Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn" (click to enlarge)

California Manzanita shrub (click to enlarge)

In California we have many wonderful native plants that can be used in the garden. In the Edible Landscape, not all plants have to be edible for humans.  But they should be appropriate to the site, soil, moisture conditions and your aesthetic considerations.

The plant in the photo above, is the California Manzanita, Arctostaphylos densiflora. It grows on the dry hillsides of the western states. They range in size from creepers to full size shrubs to small trees. They like well drained soil, and very little water.

The bark is a dark smooth red to purple and

Close up of the bark of the Manzanita

Close up of the bark of the Manzanita

over time looks more beautiful. You can’t say that about too many plants (or humans). The only care I give it, is to prune the dead branches out of the center to expose the bark on the trunk.  This is also a deer resistant plant.

On a steep slope, Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet” makes a great ground cover , and is evergreen, needing very little water or care.

Here’s what those darn deer look like right behind my house.

The deer that love to eat our food

The deer that love to eat our food roaming behind my house


Even in the wild, Manzanita stays looking very good, without care or water.  Look at the photo below.  This plant grows on a dry, sunny hill behind my house in Northern California. We get no summer rains.

You will want to check your local weather zone to see if these plants might work for you. Go to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map

Remember, not all your plants need to produce food for humans in your Edible Landscape.  Plant diversity keeps your garden healthy.

Manzanita in the wild

Manzanita in the wild

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