Castle Rock State Park – Part I

"Easter at Castle Rock" 28. by Madonovan

This is the first post in a series about the geology of Castle Rock State Park.  It was submitted by a reader named Jonathan.  In this post, he explains why he writes about Castle Rock State Park and where it’s located.  In the next post, Jonathan will discuss the geologic history of the park.

I chose to write about Castle Rock State Park because of its unique rock  formations, including the Park’s namesake, Castle Rock.  These formations are most dramatic near the Park’s main entrance where, in addition to Castle Rock, you can find Castle Rock Falls and Goat Rock. The Park’s attractions are not limited to its geology; its 35 miles of trails for hiking, rock climbing, camping, and spectacular views of the San Lorenzo Valley and Pacific Ocean are also major draws. Moreover, the Park’s close proximity to Stanford and the Greater San Jose Area makes it a regular destination for afternoon visits.

The Park’s most popular hike—a 6-mile loop along the Saratoga Gap Trail and Ridge Trail—pass and climb over the above-mentioned formations as well as numerous other outcroppings. The following review of Castle Rock State Park’s Geology covers 5 general regions of the park (figure 1):

1. Castle Rock and Surrounding Outcroppings

2. Castle Rock Falls and the Falls Overlook

3. Outcroppings along Saratoga Gap Trail

4. Outcroppings along Ridge Trail

5. Goat Rock

Where is Castle Rock State Park:

Castle Rock State Park is sandwiched between CA-35 and CA-9 in Los Gatos, CA; roughly 20 miles south of Stanford University (figure 2).  From Stanford, travel approximately 11.5 mile south on Page Mill Road to CA- 35/Skyline Blvd, and then travel just under 9 miles south on CA-35/Skyline Blvd to the Park’s main entrance, which is on the west side of the road. Many of the Park’s trails and dirt roads are also accessible further north on CA-35 and along CA-9.

Castle Rock State Park is adjacent to several other parks, including—from east to west—Sanborn Skyline Country Park, Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve, Long Ridge Open Space Preserve, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Accordingly, many of Castle Rock’s geologic features are similar to those in nearby parks.

The featured 6-mile loop hike along the Ridge and Saratoga Gap Trails covers the western and central parts of the park (figure 3). The elevation of this region ranges from 2,600 feet to 3,200 feet above sea level.

Fenugreek: Seeds of Increase

Fenugreek leaves (Menthi kura) by g.pullareddy

TheGardenLady has invited people with horticultural interests and expertise to contribute posts to this blog.  The following post  was submitted by Christy Baker, a certified Family Herbalist and Consulting Herbalist.   Christy is currently pursuing a certificate in Horticulture Therapy and a second Master’s in Landscape Architecture.

Fenugreek, triganella foenum-graecum, is also known as “Greek Hay” for its long time uses in the livestock industry. Fenugreek has been widely used to make sub par hay and animal feed more palatable. In spite of it’s usage with livestock, this 2 foot unassuming plant has some marvelous abilities when applied to the human species. Generally the leaves and seeds are used for medicinal and culinary purposes. Baby leaves are used in salads, mature leaves are dried and added to savory dishes and the seeds, well the seeds are so versatile and useful they could have their own aisle in any self respecting grocery store.

Fenugreek Seeds by Susan/The Well-Seasoned...

Native to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Fenugreek is also cultivated in India, Morocco, Egypt, and  England. Assyrians were the first to cultivate this herb in 3000 BC and the Greeks and Romans used it as mouth freshener. Folklore claims that small breasted women would bathe in water infused with Fenugreek seeds in hopes of increasing breast size (no medical findings have been given to support this claim). Fenugreek was widely used to induce childbirth and it was even used as an addition to hair conditioner.

Trigonella foenum-graecum by afuna

Today Fenugreek has been discovered to offer wide and varied medicinal uses aside from increasing breast milk production in lactating women. Fenugreek tea has been noted to reduce fever and menstrual pain; topically it can be made into an ointment and applied to alleviate several different skin ailments such as infections and eczema. Despite its bitter aftertaste, Fenugreek has been noted as an aphrodisiac and been said to increase the male libido. Ground seeds lend a maple flavor to sweets and candies while its powdered form is used as a softening agent in lip balm. Internally it is said to alleviate cough, bronchitis, respiratory issues, and sinus conditions.

Generally the ingestion and topical application of Fenugreek is harmless, however,there are some cautionary notations to accompany its usage. Allergic reactions may include hives, swelling of the throat, lips, tongue, or difficulty breathing. It has been noted that Fenugreek can reduce blood glucose levels, although if taken in conjunction with other medications adverse responses may occur.

An additional benign effect of Fenugreek is that it may turn urine a slightly different color and cause one’s sweat or urine to smell faintly of maple. These side effects are rare and have only been found in extreme cases and most often can be avoided if used responsibly.

For the culinary inclined below you will find a simple recipe using Fenugreek that is said to make an excellent side note or vegetarian main course when paired with rice or couscous. Recipe is courtesy of

Green Bean Curry

Serves 6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 1 onion, sliced

• 1 serrano peppers, thinly sliced

• 1 clove garlic, crushed

• 5 fresh curry leaves

• 1 tablespoon curry powder

• 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

• 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

To Eliminate Bad Insects You Must Attract Good Insects

Lady Bugs by Roger Lynn

TheGardenLady just attended an entomology lecture the other day. Insects are interesting and one has to learn how to deal with them both with indoor and outdoor plants. The safest way to get rid of the bad insect pests is to encourage good insects to your place. These beneficial insects do an amazing job keeping your garden pest free. By using pesticides or insecticides, you know that you will be killing off the good insects with the bad. So unless it is the last resort, you want to avoid poisons. You want to know how to encourage good insects by planting plants that will support the beneficial insects at all stages of their lives.

What are some of the good/beneficial insects? We all know about honey bees, butterflies and Lady bugs but here is a more complete list with photos of other beneficial insects.

Continue reading “To Eliminate Bad Insects You Must Attract Good Insects”

Sculpture for the Garden – 2 Garden Artists: Patrick Dougherty and Simple

stick castle by wolvesatthedoor

As you gaze out at your garden wishing you could have something of interest in it even when it is winter and most of your plants look dead or barren, TheGardenLady would like to suggest thinking about adding sculptural elements to your garden. Sculptural elements could be things you buy or things you create. Since TheGardenLady tries to give ideas that are not expensive, she would like to emphasize the creative side of garden things you might consider trying to make.

First let me describe the work of two garden sculptors. TheGardenLady is so pleased to have met both of these sculptors.

Patrick Dougherty

The first sculptor is Patrick Dougherty, a man who created an art form using saplings from trees. As far as TheGardenLady knows, Patrick Dougherty created this art form. He cuts down loads of saplings and then, with help from the community where his work has been commissioned (I and others had the fun of helping him build one of these sculptures), removes the leaves and starts creating a sculpture doing nothing more than weaving the saplings together.  See here.

Patrick Dougherty builds his creations as ephemeral, something lasting a short time, creations.  He uses no cement, glue or tape or anything to hold the sculpture together. When he finishes weaving the piece he lets nature take its course. And after a few years, if the piece is outdoors, it breaks down and is removed. Only those who were lucky to visit the site of the sculpture get to see it. TheGardenLady first saw one of Dougherty’s piece on the Swarthmore College campus.

At this time of year, you gardeners might have lots of saplings, branches or twigs that you are cutting down. Pick out the ones that will bend and not snap or break. Try creating your own ephemeral garden sculpture. Now don’t expect your creation to match Patrick Dougherty in style, shape, size or interest. But it will be your own work of art for your own garden. It might become an addictive hobby.


The second creative sculptor is a man who calls himself Simple.  Simple creates art for the garden and teaches how to make this art or he will come to your garden and create the art in your garden. His brochure reads, “Who has been Simple-ified?” and tells you his creations are at Longwood Gardens, The American Rock Garden Society, etc. He seems to especially like to work with Grasses to create what he calls a Grass Menagerie. These cats or dogs or tall people or anything your imagination can conjure. If you have grasses in your garden, now that they are brown and have to be cut back, this seems like the perfect time to create your grass sculpture and it seems like a fun thing for families and friends to get together to do. Simple is available from fall to spring to teach his personal craft of Horticultural Garden art. Simple can be reached at (610) 404- 1760. or check out his website.

Simple also offers other garden art design ideas.

If you try either of these art forms, please send photos of you creations so that TheGardenLady and her readers can see them.

Butterflies in Space – Monarch Watch

Did you ever wonder what would happen to butterflies if they were put in conditions with practically no gravity?  Scientists at the University of Kansas and Bioserve Technologies did.  And they learned that when there’s basically no gravity catepillars will turn into butterflies, but butterflies won’t be able to fly well.  Check out these videos.

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve

Untitled by dmalantic
Untitled by dmalantic

Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve, New Hope, PA

Are readers of TheGardenLady looking for lovely gardens to visit or tour? Would you love someone to give you a holiday or birthday present of an IOU promise to take you to a wonderful garden? Or are readers interested in excellent lectures on plants or gardening? Or are the readers just interested in buying plants for their gardens- native plants, that is?

Well, if you are living in the Pennsylvania area or visiting the Pennsylvania area, consider going to a magical place called Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.  Bowman’s Hill is “the premier destination for seeing and learning about the native plants of Pennsylvania. The 134-acre Preserve features more than 800 species of native plants in a naturalistic setting.” You can ask for a list of the wildflowers that are in bloom when you are there. Then you can walk around the preserve and try to find as many of the listed flowers as you can. Or ask if you can get into a docent led tour. The Bowman’s Hill address is New Hope, PA. Their telephone number is 215 862 2924.

Continue reading “Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve”

Lavender-A Purple Panacea


TheGardenLady has invited people with horticultural interests and expertise to contribute posts to this blog.  The following post  was submitted by Christy Baker, a certified Family Herbalist and Consulting Herbalist.   Christy is currently pursuing a certificate in Horticulture Therapy and a second Master’s in Landscape Architecture.

Lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia, is a widely used plant with a long and rich history. Recorded use of the herb goes back 2500 years; first arriving in North America during the 1600s. Regardless of the age and time Lavender is renown worldwide for its medicinal and therapeutic value, at the very least its heavenly refreshing signature scent separates it from the rest.

The Egyptians used it to make perfumes, to scent their baths, and in humidification processes.

Continue reading “Lavender-A Purple Panacea”

Excellent Site for Christmas Tree Information

Christmas Tree HDR by baltus15
Christmas Tree HDR by baltus15

TheGardenLady recently found a site that can help people who have questions about Christmas Trees or just want to have fun with Christmas Tree puzzles. This is a great site that will answer any and all of your questions about Christmas Trees. This site will help dispel myths about Christmas trees; it will tell you what you want to know about keeping the tree alive; best trees to buy; whether the trees are safe or not; and finally how to dispose of Christmas trees in your area after the holiday. Check out The National Christmas Tree Association.

Swarovski Christmas Tree by lionko
Swarovski Christmas Tree by lionko

Eliminating Pests in an Organic Garden

The Pill Bug by dragonseye
The Pill Bug by dragonseye

TheGardenLady received the following question.

I liked your site very much and would like to ask you what do I need to do to eliminate pests in an organic garden? I dont want to use any chemicals since the whole point is to eat what we grow and stay healthy. Do you have any good ideas?

TheGardenLady is pleased to know when readers enjoy the site.

What to do to eliminate pests in an organic garden is an excellent question. The answer is not short because there are many good ideas for keeping organic gardens pest free. Since fall is here, I will begin this answer now but will continue answering your question during the gardening year.

The first thing one should do in the fall is to get your gardens ready for the spring planting. Insects hide and breed in old, sick and dead plant material. So now is the time to clean your garden. Cut back leaves of perennials. After a heavy frost, remove all blackened plants such as zinnias, petunias, marigolds, etc.

Be absolutely sure that you clean diseased material from your garden. Remove and destroy plant stems on any perennials which may have had diseased foliage. Peonies, lilies, roses are some examples of plants that get diseases. Never compost any diseased material. THROW IT OUT! Good sanitation now will result in fewer problems next spring.

It is best to get rid of all the old dead plant material in the fall making it easier to start gardening in the Spring. But to pull out all the dead plants or not to pull out all the dead plants- that is the question. Insects will overwinter in dead plants- good insects as well as bad insects and birds and other wildlife will enjoy some of the plant material. If you are planning a vegetable garden in a certain location, TheGardenLady recommends cleaning out all the dead vegetable plants. However, if you leave some dead Native plants that offer berries and seeds in your flower beds, you might encourage some good insects to overwinter and help feed birds and wildlife in the winter.

Continue reading “Eliminating Pests in an Organic Garden”

Creative and Inexpensive Garden Gifts for Hannukah, Christmas, and Kwanza

be gentle and nurture by janoid
be gentle and nurture by janoid

December is the holiday month with Hannukah, Christmas, Kwanza and numerous other festive gift giving days. In my family, December is also the birthday month for four members. In these hard economic times, TheGardenLady likes to come up with creative but inexpensive gift ideas so as not to break the bank.

You can give IOUs to friends. Make or buy a pretty card- preferably with a flower on it – and offer your friend your services in the friend’s garden. For example, write on the card that you owe your friend one day of weeding time or if your friend is going somewhere, offer to water the flowers – indoors and/or outdoors when your friend is away. Or if your friend is away from the college campus while you will be around, offer to care for any plants.

Or one can propagate plants from your own plants. This is a little late in the year to get started for the plant to really be showy in time for Christmas and is really not the time to propagate outdoor plants; but one can attempt to propagate some simple indoor plants even at this late time of the year. The easiest way of propagating indoor plants is by taking leaf cuttings. Not all plants will propagate by leaf cuttings. Some simple, pretty plants amenable to this type of propagation are coleus, begonias and African violets. Sometimes all that is needed to get a root to form is to just put a stem with leaf cutting in water.

Continue reading “Creative and Inexpensive Garden Gifts for Hannukah, Christmas, and Kwanza”