I suppose my most numerous type of flower is the type that my golden currant (Ribes aureum) has been busily covering itself with. It's still not yet quite in full bloom, but it's certainly approaching full bloom. This is really the best plant species anywhere ever: it tolerates a huge range of conditions (including my horrid clay that's underwater for half the year and bone-dry the other half), blooms from December through at least April, and produces delicious currants to eat. It's not even native to the Sacramento Valley but rather to the mountains, yet it's growing just fine for me here in the valley. It's such a perfect plant that I can't understand why it's not planted in every yard in town. Instead it appears to be planted in absolutely no yards in town other than mine, simply because it's a native plant and most nurseries don't sell native plants. This is an example of how most nurseries are run by idiots. If you live almost anywhere in the United States or Canada - specifically, in the areas shown in green on this map - and you have dirt to plant things in, you should own this plant! So go buy one and put it in the ground. You'll thank me later.
The hundreds of tiny white flowers under the golden currant are little Western bittercress (Cardamine oligosperma), a native weed that arrived in my garden as a volunteer in the golden currant's pot from the native plant nursery. I was pretty sure the responsible gardening thing to do was to kill it, but I decided not to, and it has been spreading in a thick mat from the base of the currant for the past year and a half. Apparently the seeds don't carry by wind at all, since it hasn't invaded the rest of the yard. I'm actually becoming more and more fond of it, to the point that I would rather like to encourage it to take over half the yard. It's an annual or biennial that seems to enjoy growing in my seasonal mud puddles, where practically nothing else is willing to grow. It covers the ground with an unbroken, lawn-like carpet of green for most of the year, and stays at the height of a neatly mown lawn without needing to be mowed. And once a year it covers itself in tiny, charming white flowers.
The single yellow flower in the lower right corner of the golden currant picture is a California buttercup (Ranunculus californicus), which I just bought in February. Here's a closeup of it. It started budding during the few days between when I bought it and when I put it in the ground.
In the front yard, my coral bells (Heuchera maxima) are blooming. Or, well, one of them is! The larger one shown in the background here, which I've had for over a year, has lots of buds right now but not flowers yet. I bought the smaller one in the foreground a few months ago, and as you can see, it's now covered with flowers. These plants are native to southern California, and generally I haven't had much luck with plants from there, because most of them need better drainage than I can provide here. But this particular species seems to do great, at least in this bed under the front porch roof, where it doesn't get direct rain. I wish I could plant it under the back patio roof as well, but every time I've tried, the dogs have trampled the poor plants to death. In fact, the only thing I've been able to plant under than back patio roof that the dogs haven't trampled to death is grass. But grass isn't generally the sort of thing that ought to be planted in a spot with no sun and no rain. Could someone please explain that to the dogs for me?
My non-native scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana, sold to me mislabeled as Sphaeralcea munroana, so I got a full refund) is still in bloom in the front yard, but I haven't taken any new pictures of it since last month's.
The most disappointing blooms this month were on the woollyfruit desert-parsley (Lomatium dasycarpum). I bought two of these plants over the winter, and for last month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day they had produced big white clusters of what I took to be flowers. About two weeks later, the white things opened up to reveal tiny yellow things that were the actual flowers, as shown here. Unfortunately, about one more week after that, both plants went limp and died. Simultaneously. And these plants are a species known more for the decorative value of their seeds than for that of their flowers! They didn't even live long enough to produce any seeds! I have no idea why they didn't. Both plants had sickly-looking California poppy seedlings next to them that suddenly perked up and started looking healthy as soon as the woollyfruit desert-parsleys went limp, but I don't know what to make of that either. Were the two species competing for resources, or did the climate just suddenly become more favorable to poppies and less favorable to woollyfruit desert-parsleys? My poppies tend to look sickly because they get too much water, so when they start perking up, this implies that the weather has become drier. But it's hard to believe that the woollyfruit desert-parsleys died of drought when the entire yard is still visibly wet.
But on to happier blooms! My newest bloom is one that showed up just this morning, blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). In the fall of 2008, I scattered seeds of this. I didn't think any of them sprouted, but then in the spring of 2009, I found a tiny plant blooming. Unfortunately, the tiny plant died over the summer - it was probably trampled or weeded to death, because I was doing extensive Bermuda grass removal all around it. So last fall I decided to buy a new adult plant rather than scattering seeds. The plant I bought was many, many times bigger than the one that had died. And today, the plant I bought started blooming on a gigantically tall flower stalk, which it was forced to produce to reach the sunlight through all the other plants that sprouted around it from seed. The red-veined leaves are elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and the other leaves are California golden poppy (Eschscholzia californica).
My sky lupine (Lupinus nanus), grown from seeds I collected on the levee across the street last spring, is also blooming, although I didn't get a good picture of it. We went for a walk on the levee today with the dogs and saw the sky lupines there blooming prolifically as well. In fact, how about if I show you a few blooms from today's walk? No California golden poppies have bloomed in my garden yet this spring (although at least one of them is budding), but we saw some of them blooming wild on the levee.
We also saw a Western redbud tree (Cercis occidentalis) in full bloom. Mine, alas, is not yet old enough to bloom - and probably won't be until after we've moved somewhere else.
Here's a closeup of one branch.
Okay, back in my own yard now. I've shown you all my blooms at least once, but I still have a few more pictures of some of them to share. Here is another picture of the baby blue eyes.
Here's what the garden looks like in a more distant view, with Stardust supervising my gardening efforts from the window. Most of the plants are growing in a narrow band along the house because I mounded the soil higher there, so it's one of the few spots where plants don't always drown. (You can see some mud puddles just below that narrow band, even though this picture was taken on one of the driest days all winter.) The bare stick to the left of the garden hose is my Utah serviceberry (Amelanchier utahensis), still dormant for the winter. The tall green stick behind the deergrass on the far right is my blue elderberry Sambucus mexicana), which hasn't yet regrown many of its leaves either.
I told you the picture above was taken on one of the driest days all winter, so now I'm going to show you one of the wettest days. On the wettest days, I grow pond muck instead of plants. Yes, I was rather disturbed to go outside one day recently and find my flowerbeds no longer merely underwater - as they had been all winter - but under pond muck. Why am I trying to garden in pond muck? Why can't I have a real yard instead of a seasonal lake? All I can do is take comfort in the fact that we don't own this place, and we'll buy a better place whenever I manage to become fully and properly employed again.
Maybe I should plant more of this stuff below: mugwort (Artemisia douglasiana). It's one of the few plants in the yard that's actually enjoyed the winter mud puddles. It seems to be very happy that I planted it at the edge of the drainage ditch. It's not a terribly pretty plant, though; I wouldn't really want an entire yard of it.
But even if most of my plants would drown in most areas of the yard, some things seem to be enjoying my yard plenty. Specifically: bees! I think I've discovered what's been causing the widespread declines in bee populations lately - the bees have all moved to my yard. They're obsessed with the wet mulch.
They seem to especially like the manure-based parts of the mulch. I dumped out some of Stardust's wheat-based clumping kitty litter in this area; you can see a large clump of it at the upper right and a small one at the upper left. The bees are crazy about it.
And over here is where I dumped several bags of composted steer manure. The bees seem to love this too. Count 'em: seven bees in one photograph! I have to step very slowly in these areas, to give the bees time to move out of the way of my feet. Otherwise I'd be stepping on several of them with every step.
I guess that's it for both bloom photos and bee photos for today. I'll leave you with a preview of future bloom days: some elegant clarkia seedlings and an ever-enlarging rosette that I think may be a sand-dune wallflower (Erysimum capitatum).