A Fine Summer Morning

Today, we were joined by a father-daughter duo, Patrick and Jane, who drove across the valley to help with summer maintenance tasks in the native garden. On a hot day like this, the shade of trees and shrubs was most welcome while working on tasks like weeding and pruning as well as during the break.

The first order of business was hand weeding the Russian knapweed (Acroptilon repens) from the Fremontodendron bed. This invasive perennial comes up even through thick mulch. We pull as much of the root out as possible.


Before: Russian knapweed in a mulched bed

During break, we observed honey bees and skippers on the California buckwheat, Anna’s hummingbirds over the California fuchsia, and bush tits on the elderberry and toyon. Later, a jackrabbit made its way over the hill into the shade of the pines.

After the mid-morning break, we changed gears and worked on pruning the blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra caerulea). This plant is by nature a large shrub. In a garden setting it can be trained as a small multi-trunked tree, making it easier for humans to approach its base for planting, weeding, or simply enjoying the shade. Using loppers and pruning saws, we removed the lowest branches and the occasional dead branches. When we finished, the tree had a fountain or umbrella shape, narrow at ground level, gradually flaring out above 6′ to form a shade-giving canopy. The pruning also improved visibility through the garden.


Jane & Patrick enjoying the shade of the newly pruned blue elderberry (Sambucus nigra caerulea), standing a weed-free mulched bed

This native garden exists because of volunteers. The volunteers are drawn by the scenic location, fresh air, and wildlife viewing opportunities. The wildlife inhabits this garden because of the food and shelter provided by the native plants. The native plants are here because volunteers put them there and nurtured them during the early years. It is all connected in the nicest way possible. The universe nods in appreciation.

About Arvind Kumar

Native plant gardener in San Jose, CA. I have been growing native plants since 2000 in a tract home lot front and back.
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