I'd actually been feeling pretty good about the garden lately. Most of it is far from beautiful, but more and more of it is at least starting to look recognizably like a garden. I was going to show you the photograph below and exclaim with pride that finally, at long last, there were hardly any weeds visible at all.
Except . . . see all that stuff along the house that looks like a tall grass? I had thought that was something I planted, but I realized while writing this post that it's a weed, yellow nutsedge (Carex esculentus). It's not just along the house, either; a whole lot of the green clumps you see in the middle are the same stuff. It's native, but allelopathic - meaning that it might chemically kill my other plants - and it's almost impossible to remove, because it resprouts from "nuts" left behind in the soil after you pull it. Most herbicides are also incapable of killing the nuts. I did identify some yellow nutsedge in the yard last summer, and sprayed it with herbicide, and it turned brown and looked dead, so I thought that took care of the problem. But it resprouted, and I failed to recognize it as the same stuff until now. I will have to try to dig it out, and I will undoubtedly fail. It tends to establish itself in areas with poor drainage, which out yard has certainly suffered from plenty of - but it doesn't go away, even if the drainage improves.
I also have a few other volunteers I haven't been able to identify yet.
And I have some potted seedlings whose identities I'm not sure of either. This one has to be from seeds I planted, because it's sprouted in many different pots and nowhere else. But the seeds must have been mislabeled, because it doesn't even vaguely resemble anything whose seeds I intended to buy. What in the world is it? Can anyone tell me?
I'm hoping this one is my native coyote mint (Monardella villosa), because if it isn't, I don't know what it is and I don't know where my coyote mint went.
I have some interesting new volunteer species sprouting that I can identify, too, including three more native volunteer species. This is fringed willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum) when it first sprouted in late March. (Actually, two of them sprouted, on opposite sides of the yard, but Boston dug one of them up and hid it from me. Oh well.) It's a somewhat weedy native, but it will produce nice pink flowers, and I'm really very happy to have it.
And this (on the left) is the exact same plant now - less than one month later. It's growing incredibly fast! On the right is my grapevine (Vitis californica), which has just leafed out for the spring. (And underneath them are weeds. Icky weeds I can't seem to kill.)
This is my second native volunteer species, common bedstraw (Galium aparine). The entire plant is very sticky and unpleasant to touch. It's nowhere near as welcome as the fringed willowherb, and I'd pull it if it grew in my main gardening area. But it's only growing in the front yard, in my drainage ditch (as shown) and in what's left of the lawn (which has almost entirely transformed into a weed patch, due to the fact that we never water it ever). So I don't mind it growing there; we'd have worse things growing there if this weren't there.
And this is a volunteer pine tree seedling - probably the native grey pine (Pinus sabiniana), judging by the color. I need to move it somewhere else; it's currently growing one foot from the house, in the gravel under the front garden hose.
Oh, and my volunteer carrot has died - I think the dogs dug it up. Oh well.
A baby strawberry is sprouting, presumably the offspring of my adult native wood strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandra'). They can reproduce by seed (in which case the baby wouldn't belong to the cultivar 'Golden Alexandra') or by underground runners (in which case it would). It's sprouting about six feet from the parent, which seems surprisingly far for underground runners to have traveled from a plant I just planted last November, but who knows?
My native valley sedge (Carex barbarae) is definitely spreading by underground runners, because it hasn't flowered or produced any seeds yet. But its babies are only sprouting about four inches away from the parent. (In the photo, to the lower left of the main clump, you can see some blades sprouting from a different center than the others.) I'm considering transplanting the new clump farther away, to help the sedge cover more space in a shorter time. According to the Internet, this species is easily divided and survives transplants very well. However, the sedge had already produced one small offshoot clump in its pot before I bought it, and I attempted to divide that clump from the parent when I first planted it. I was unable to divide it, because the roots were so tightly intertwined. This could have been only because the two clumps had been crowded into a pot together, but I've been hesitant to try again with the latest clump after the failure with the first one.
I bought a native milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) last November, after it had already lost its leaves for the winter, so it just looked like a couple of bare greenish twigs. It's begun leafing out now, so I can finally get some idea of what it's going to look like. I haven't taken any pictures of it yet, though.
Last week I attended a class in Sacramento called "How to Get a Job with the State." On my way back home, I stopped at Windmill Nursery in Carmichael - the suburb of Sacramento that I grew up in - and bought three plants. One was a clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis). It's about six inches tall and won't get much taller. Some people plant entire lawns of this, and then they never have to mow it.
Another was a half-native grass (Festuca idahoensis x ovina-glauca 'Siskiyou Blue'). This is a three-way hybrid in which sheep fescue (native to other parts of the United States, but not to California) was crossed with blue fescue (native to Europe) and the result was then crossed with Idaho fescue (native to California, as well as to Idaho). It should grow to be about two feet tall and two feet wide. I'm a bit concerned about how to keep it alive, though; apparently it doesn't like heat and also doesn't like shade, and since we get very hot summers here, the only way to protect it from extremely severe heat here is to put it in the shade. I put it in part shade near the front door. The bit of wilted-looking green grass to the right of it is California melic (Melica californica), which I've been growing from seed from Theodore Payne, in pots. What you see is my first effort to transplant one of the clumps from a pot into the ground. I'm not sure yet whether it's going to survive or not.
You don't get to see the third plant I bought from Windmill Nursery yet, because it has flowers on it, so I'm saving it for Bloom Day. But I have other new plants to show you! Last fall, back when I still had a job and didn't yet live here, I ordered some plants online from a website called Pantry Garden Herbs. I didn't realize until later that the small print said the plants wouldn't be delivered until April. I wondered whether the order would even go through, because they also didn't charge my credit card until April, and my billing address changed during that time. But it did go through, and the plants finally arrived. None of the plants I ordered from Pantry Garden Herbs are native; they're all Mediterranean herbs. Here's oregano (Origanum laevigatum 'Hopley's'), planted next to a California golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica).
Here's rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Spice Island').
And thyme (Thymus herba-barona 'Caraway'). This is supposed to spread rapidly, so I put it in a place where I very much hope it does.
This is another thyme (Thymus serpyllum 'Minus'). This one is prettier but doesn't grow as fast or taste as good (supposedly; I haven't tasted either of them so far).
This is lavender (Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence'), with icky nutsedge in the background.
I also bought catmint (Nepeta x faassenii 'Walker's Low'). I broke off a leaf for Stardust before I planted it. She was delighted.
And I mail-ordered two native plants last month from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply. One was mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus betuloides). I hadn't expected the red tinge on its leaves, which has only increased since I planted it - now pretty much the entire plant is red, with little or no green left. It seems healthy enough, just a different color than I had expected. It's an odd and interesting plant.
The other was pink flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum). It arrived looking like what you see here, about six inches tall, obviously pruned on one side to fit into the package, but covered with pinkish buds. They were foliage buds, not flower buds; after a week, they began to open into leaves. The following week, however, I was out weeding in the garden and stepped backward, then heard an ominous cracking noise. I had stepped on my pink flowering currant, snapping the trunk off an inch above ground level. I can only hope it recovers and grows back.