Saturday, December 19, 2009

Tis the Season to Migrate One and All

This time of year in Southern California many of us make a sort of seasonal migration which often entails an arduous slog through local jungles of traffic on our way out to family, friends or places of procurement.

Then there is the migratory patterns of birds such as the Bar-tailed Godwits who have the longest known non-stop flight of any migrant, flying 11,000 km from Alaska to their New Zealand non-breeding areas. Prior to migration, 55 percent of their bodyweight is stored fat to fuel this uninterrupted journey.

Okay once again it feels like nature has trumped and taught - here are these amazing birds putting forth what seems an annual fantastical effort of airborne grace which require neither fossil fuels nor the latest gps technology or a bank account to arrive on time and in the place they need to be looking quite unstressed. Even the polliwog park paparazzi (ppp) has not fazed them.

Here are a pair of celebrity Widgeon's, a well-known Northern Shoveler, avid birder Dennis giving Mimi tips and a few more shots of the now infamous Cedar Waxwings. Photos by Julie Gonella, ppp.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at Julie's

This year the long-awaited rains arrived the morning of the annual MBBG Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast so we gratefully accepted the venue change from the garden to Julie's cozy house down by the pier.

It was so nice to see everyone together and all agreed this year's presents were super. Thanks to Julie the volunteers now have white t-shirts with a ladybug tag on the front and the MBBG yellow flower logo on the back along with a nifty hose nozzle and seed packets.

I have to mention here that the buffet was exceptional with a mouth-watering frittata ala Charlotte, Julie's cheesy quiche and the papaya balls and yogurt with granola being my favorite.

Besides partying the real purpose of the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast was to let all our MBBG volunteers know just how much they are loved and that without them we would not have a garden. So thanks again to all the garden volunteers - you are incredible. Note: If you did not make the breakfast please make sure to stop by the garden on any Friday and pick up your presents and get properly thanked!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cedar Waxwings for the Holidays

This December, the migratory Cedar Waxwings (bombycilla cedrorum) arrived at the garden just as the Toyon aka Christmas Berry shrub was bursting with red berries. The berries are one of their favorite treats - they aren't dummies.

Local birder extraordinaire and owner of Wildbirds Unlimited, Bob Shanman, says they also eat the unripe berries and get a bit tipsy. We aren't certain if they were intoxicated but did get a shot of them imbibing at the garden's local watering hole. Click on the photo to view larger version. Photo by Julie Gonella.

Want to hang with BIRDS of a feather in the South Bay?

Then don't miss out on Sunday Morning Birds Walks at Polliwog Park with Bob Shanman, details:

Sunday Morning Bird Walks at Polliwog Park
-- > All but the 3rd Sunday morning if each month @ 8am

Meet Bob on the corner of Manhattan Beach Blvd and Redondo Ave. @ 8:00 ---anyone is welcome. Binoculars and walking shoes are recommended.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Say Goodbye to the Chain Link Fence

This past month we tore out the old chainlink fence along the northside of the garden and replaced it with a beautiful split rail design. (See featured photo to the right top of blog). If you haven't been by lately come on over and see what a difference it makes!
Many thanks to Jim Catella for the design and installation, Ann Barklow and Julie Gonella for making it happen, Mike Garcia and his guys from Enviroscape for making the site ready and detailing the area so beautifully and to the guys in MB Parks and Rec for removing the old fence and hauling it away. Well done!
Photo by Julie Gonella

Friday, November 13, 2009

California Native Plant Lovers

You have fallen in love with California native plants - go ahead and admit it. You became a member of MBBG and cannot go back to your previous unfulfilled life of water-sucking pest-ridden tropicals. You volunteer on Fridays at the garden - but it's not enough. You need more.

A few ideas:

- Check out the events on the local South Coast Calif. Native Plant Societies Calendar Page
- Sign up for a Tree of Life Nursery Workshop (plant nursery is open!)
- Visit the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (plant nursery is open Weds-Sun)
- Visit the Theodore Payne Foundation (plant nursery is open Tues-Sat)
- Visit the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (plant nursery open daily)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tree Trimming Class at the Garden

Tree Trimming Guidelines Class
Nov. 14, 10-11 am

Greg Monfette, Certified Arborist

Join certified Arborist, Greg Monfette, and take a walk through the trees in Polliwog Park and the Botanical Garden to learn about tree care. You will learn how to recognize a hazardous tree limb or tree; best pruning practices; and what you need to know about the City’s tree ordinance.

For complete information, please go to the MBBG Homepage

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Murdering Your Lawn Class was Killer

Ann Barklow and Mimi Andersen of Garden Magic report that the MBBG class they taught on how to kill your lawn was a great success. After a review on the basics of murdering your lawn, the 30+ person class followed Ann and Mimi on a five minute hike over to see the Simmons native garden they designed last Fall. Questions were non-stop. Handouts of the plant names were provided which helped alot. Meredith Grenier from the Daily Breeze was there and will have an article about the class and the Simmon's garden in two weeks on Saturday the 10th so look for it. Photo by Mimi Andersen

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Classes at the Garden

Fun Free and Educational - Fall Class are Here!!

Getting Rid of Your Water-Guzzling Lawn
Sept. 26, 10-11 am
Mimi Andersen & Ann Barklow, Garden Magic Company

Water Saving Irrigation Technology
Oct. 3, 10-11 am
Mike Garcia, instructor, Enviroscape

How to Compost in the Garden
Oct. 10, 10-11 am
Lisa Ryder, City Authorized Instructor

Gardening with Natives
Oct. 17, 10-11 am
Tony Baker, instructor, Natural Landscapes

Attracting and Feeding Wild Birds
Oct. 24, 10-11 am
Bob Shanman, Wild Birds Unlimited

Reiki in the Garden
Oct. 31, 10-11 am
Sheri Hein, Certified Instructor

Tree Trimming Guidelines
Nov. 14, 10-11 am
Greg Monfette, Certified Arborist

Success with Succulents
Nov. 21, 10-11 am
Patrick Moore, Local Succulent Expert

Check out the MBBG Homepage for complete details and class descriptions.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summertime in the Garden: Part Two - August

  1. Full of juice or sap; juicy.
  2. Botany. Having thick, fleshy, water-storing leaves or stems.
  3. Highly interesting or enjoyable; delectable: a succulent bit of gossip.
n. Botany
A succulent plant, such as a sedum or cactus.

[Latin succulentus, from succus, juice.]

The new delectable succulent garden on the South hillside is getting alot of juicy attention, especially from the Friday regulars. Our happiness in finally getting succulents represented at the garden is now doubled by seeing so many people interested in keeping them alive.

Whether it was maternal instincts or the need to weed, the regulars made their way over to the baby succulents this August like butter on mashed potatoes. They watering, weeded and pampered the area - determined to make sure the things grow up well. This author feels real proud about that; kinda like a grandparent or something. Speaking of babies, Linda showed up with a bunch of giant Foxtail agave (Agave attenuata) cuttings. Just the perfect big accents we needed. Luckily for us, Jim showed up at the perfect time to help plant them - so we didn't have to hang off the side of the hill ourselves. Photo of Dudlea pulverulenta by Mimi Andersen.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Summertime in the Garden: Part One - July

Our volunteers aren't the least bit daunted by holidays or heat-waves. Much to the maintenance directors delight, they keep arriving; young and old, experienced and newbie. And we are glad for that.

On the Friday before the 4th of July, Gretchen and longtime member Jane along with Mira Costa student volunteer Selena, labeled and stuffed all the envelopes for the newsletter. Linda cleaned all the interpretive signs and helped Julie put in some new plant ids. Marilyn watered every new plant (a big job). Garen raked the paths.

The hot days bring out the fragrance of the native sages. A huge grasshopper the size of a hummingbird was the day's highlight along with the blooms of the Heartleaved Penstemon (Keckiella cordifolia) Photo by Julie Gonella.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sunset Magazine: Lose the Lawn

Julie sent in a link to this great article in Sunset magazine about getting rid of your lawn. If that isn't enough to convince you read Tree of Life's Kill your Lawn webpage. We are planning our own Get Rid of the Lawn class for our Fall Series - so stay tuned!

MBBG is on the Map

Like Spring Hummingbirds on Red Gooseberry the garden attracts talent at the right time. We've been eyeing the property just South of the garden along the lower path that runs from the lower entrance through Polliwog Park out to Manhattan Beach Blvd. for an extension to the garden - but we really wanted a good aerial map to show the garden and the new area combined. Enter Chad Flynn, volunteer cartographer, map maker and spatial analysis guru. We are not sure exactly what he really does or what that means but we are so glad for his talent and our wonderful new map! Thanks Chad!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Insects: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Class

Insects: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
May 9, 10-11 am
Gretchen Renshaw-Zwissler, UCLA Instructor
Are you a little squeamish about bugs in your garden, squishing or spraying everything in sight? You may be eliminating insects that turn into beautiful butterflies, or food that could attract colorful birds to your garden. Learn how to identify the good ones and what can be done about the bad ones in an eco-friendly manner. Find out what those ugly ones have to offer and what their purpose is in nature. To have a specific insect identified, bring it to class in a sealed plastic bag.
Meet at the Garden amphitheater, located in Polliwog Park on Peck Ave. just north of Manhattan Beach Blvd.
Photo of Digger Wasp by Julie Gonella

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Garden Goes Viral

Thanks to the folks at we have our own promo. video hosted by our our very own Gretchen Renshaw.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Poppies Appear in the Sage Meadow

Without a care, this month the annual orange California Poppies marched right through the purple perennial Bees Bliss Sages. With a color combo so stunning one can forgive the arrogance of the poppies and the reticent nature of the sages. The ever-silver Canyon Prince Giant Rye Grass agrees.

The Formula:
7 ea - Bee's Bliss Sage (Salvia 'Bee's Bliss) planted 4-5' apart
1-2 ea - Seed Packet of California Poppies sprinkled starting in Nov. or w/ the rains
3 ea - Canyon Prince Giant Rye Grass (Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince') planted 4-5' apart

Photo by Julie Gonella

Friday, March 27, 2009

Volunteers are Gold

With over 12 volunteers this past Friday, the garden was bustling like a Sonoran bumble bee in a California Poppy. They planted new grasses by the stream. They laid down tons of mulch. They weeded the wildflower area. We love our volunteers!

Volunteers Juan, Lee and Celeste pictured planting grasses. Photo by Julie Gonella.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hunting for Native Plants

We know you. You are a South Bay plant geek on the lookout for the best local places to buy California native plants. That is why you are reading this post. Where are they you ask? You already know that Armstrong's used to carry some but the search there this month was fruitless. You know that Annie's in MB used to have some but they are gone. You know unless you are a landscaper you can't get them at Kobata's in Gardena anymore. You know that International Gardens in El Segundo sometimes has some - but will they have a Catalina Ironwood Tree or that Manzanita you read about in Sunset Magazine? You missed the native plant sales at Theodore Payne and The South Coast Botanic Garden. You are tempted to go to Home Depot but you know the only thing there is Red Fountain Grass - and you know it's invasive and not a native. Bite the bullet. You have to drive out of town. Get your list together, fill up the tank and make an adventure of it. What could be better?

Tree of Life Nursery
33201 Ortega Highway
P.O. Box 635
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92693

949-728-0685 call for retail hours

Las Pilitas Nursery

8331 Nelson Way,

Escondido, CA 92026

760-749-5930 call for retail hours

El Nativo Growers


Plants may be ordered via e-mail @ and then picked up in Azusa, CA


Theodore Payne Foundation
10459 Tuxford Street

Sun Valley, CA 91352

818-768-1802 call for days & hours

Friday, February 27, 2009

Gardeners, Gooseberries and Goldfinches

A typical Spring Friday at the garden brings out new volunteers, new plants and new birds. As Julie writes in a recent email:
"Another FAB day! No trash left behind or vandalism of any kind, and the water feature looked terrific. Gretchen and I had talked about planting yet another variety of manzanita (recommended as easiest to grow by Tree Of Life Nursery) up near the west entrance, so those are now in. Among the about 10 volunteers, Marilyn helped plant a new kind of Gooseberry in Kathy C's area. There were oodles of birds...shown are some Lesser Goldfinches at one of the feeders."
Thanks Julie!
Photo by Julie Gonella

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Saga of the Path

This February brought much needed rain to the garden. We are all pretty happy about that. As many of you know, along with showers we once again lost alot of our decomposed granite path. We are not so happy about that. This has been an issue for a number of years now with much lively discussion and debate ongoing on the board and amongst the volunteers about what a final solution might be. We have researched a number of ideas, and seen a few of the newer permeable paving surfaces but have yet to find something we like that has a natural feel, is permeable and is cost-effective. The old-timers here say that the consensus always ends up with most of us liking the DG during most of the year until it rains - and then we discuss it all over again. Well we have to have something to debate!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Beach Reporter

We are pleased to announce that as of Spring '09 the MBBG will be contributing to a regular article in our local South Bay Paper, The Beach Reporter. We plan on tackling issues such as the new City water ordinance and how to kill your lawn. We will also be writing about some of our favorite plants. Have a topic suggestion? Let us know!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tree Pruning Demo

Along with the Manhattan Canopy Tree Committee, VOICE and the City of Manhattan Beach, we plan to sponsor several tree pruning demonstrations this year. Enviroscape's Mike Garcia and Arborists Ann Barklow from Garden Magic Company and Greg Monfette will be on hand to answer questions. The first demo. is January 24th at the garden from 9:00 - 12:00.

Get the MCTC's handout here (pdf)