Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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I invented a new weeding technique this week. All winter I've been pulling annual bluegrass and trying to leave it roots-up on the ground to serve as mulch, but the pulled clumps often seem to go right on growing, with just the amount of dirt in their uprooted clods. Worse, the weight of the dirt makes the roots heavier than the tops, such that the pulled clods sometimes manage to right themselves and essentially replant themselves. So this week I stopped using them as mulch, and instead piled them all atop each other and spread a thin layer of mud on top to make berms. Then I planted my newest batch of plants in these berms, to keep their roots up above the flood zone and thereby hopefully prevent them from drowning.

The ground is completely sopping wet out there, both because of the huge rainstorms we had all through February and because our next-door neighbors apparently accidentally left a hose running in their back yard for days and days on end. And the first rule of gardening in clay soil is that one must never, ever dig when the soil is wet, because this compacts the microscopic clay particles and makes the drainage worse than ever. But I completely disregarded this rule, because I had plants to put in the ground and I really wanted to get on with it. We'll see whether I end up paying for this later. So far I think it's worked just fine, because the pockets of air in the bluegrass seem to have oxygenated the thin layer of clay on top, turning the clay in my berms a distinctly redder tint than the clay in the rest of the yard, and making me think that the plants on the berms will have much better drainage than they otherwise would have. But again, we'll see.

Here's one of my new plants on a muddy bluegrass berm: hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea). It's native to the coast from the Bay Area southward, and should develop hot pink flowers if it survives long enough. Isn't the mud disgusting, though? You can't imagine how badly Boston manages to cover herself in mud when the yard is like this.

This one is my favorite plant in my entire garden: silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons). It's native right here - it can often be seen next to local highways - and should cover itself with purple flowers soon. I bought two in January; one died within a week or two, while this one has doubled in size in no time at all. I bought another one in March and planted it this week, to replace the dead one. If they both live, I might be tempted to buy more and fill the whole yard with them.

The next picture shows three plants: a mariposa lily (Calochortus superbus) wedged between the two rocks, a soap lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) at bottom left, and a sickly California golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica) to the right. I planted the mariposa lily in January and the soap lily in March; I grew the golden poppy from seed, but some combination of annual bluegrass and flooding has just about killed it. All three are native right here. They should bloom in weird colors, white, and orange, respectively.

I also bought a new blue flax (Linum lewisii), though I didn't get a good picture of it. It's native slightly east of here, at just over 1000 feet above sea level. (We're in the Sacramento Valley, very close to sea level.) It should grow blue flowers if I can make it happy.

This next plant is Fort Miller fairyfan (Clarkia williamsonii), a pink- and purple-flowering annual that sprouted from seed I scattered last fall.

Meanwhile, I've been growing these red larkspur (Delphinium cardinale) in a pot - and in many other pots as well. This week, I finally transplanted one pot into the front porch flower bed. They're native on the coast from the Bay Area south. If I get lucky, someday they'll be five feet tall and covered with red flowers.

Meanwhile, I have a few completely non-native plants, too. I didn't plant any potatoes this year, but a few returned from last year.

And I have no idea where this carrot volunteered from, but I've been allowing it to grow, and it's been happily growing. It might even be the native carrot, but it could also be an escaped European carrot from a grocery store. Eventually I'll pull it up and eat it, and if it's orange I'll conclude that it spread from someone's vegetable garden; if it's some other color I might venture a guess that it's native. Not that I'd know for sure; I'm just playing the odds, because I don't know how to tell the difference really.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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