Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's time for another Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and my garden is going strong . . . or at least it was, last time it was above water level so I could see it. This is how it looks today. Just call me the Underwater Gardener.

I'm not even going to be picky and ask for dry land to garden on. At this point, I'd be very happy to settle for just having land to garden on.

But even so, I have tons of flowers blooming! I've been saving up my photographs all month for this post.

Let's do this garden tour properly, by entering the garden at the entrance. This is the first thing you see when you enter the back yard from the patio: arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) and California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica), with a few baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) tucked in underneath, so tiny that they're barely visible in the photo.

I'm really crazy about the arroyo lupine. I'm sort of crazy about all lupines, really, but I don't tend to expect the annual ones to be quite this spectacular. It's tremendously easy to grow, too - I only had a few seeds, which I just dropped casually on the ground outside, and these gorgeous plants sprouted!

Here are the same plants from the opposite direction.The plant just around the corner is another poppy (not blooming yet), and barely visible after the poppy are some goldfields (Lasthenia californica) blooming.

I don't have any good photos of the goldfields in that particular location, but this photo of the goldfields in the front yard (at the corner between the driveway and the street), along with another California poppy, will do to give you the idea. Goldfields aren't much to look at individually, but they produce so many flowers that they frequently color entire fields yellow as far as the eye can see - which is how they got their name. (And yes, that's clear plastic litter that I just noticed in the photo. The litter we get from people walking on the sidewalk is really terrible.)

Continuing along the house in the back yard, the next thing beyond the goldfields is a clump of what I think is sky lupine (Lupinus nanus). This sprouted from seeds I collected growing wild on the levee near our house. The flowers are unbelievably tiny, though, and really don't produce much of a spike, at least in my yard and on the levee. This confuses me, because I've previously photographed sky lupine in the wild that looked far more impressive. This may be some other kind of lupine, or it may just grow differently here. None of the lupine species I'm aware of are normally shown in photographs with quite so few flowers as the ones in my yard and on the levee. Oh well, at least the seeds were free.

For size comparison, here's one of those lupine flowers next to a poppy.

The next blooming plant along the house is sand-dune wallflower (Erysimum capitatum), with baby blue eyes artfully arranged around its base. A wall seems like a very appropriate place to grow a wallflower, don't you think? But a sand dune my yard is definitely not! I commend the sand-dune wallflower on it's willingness to cheerfully make do on heavy clay. I was a bit surprised by its color, though. I've previously photographed sand-dune wallflower in the wild, and the wild ones I saw were considerably more orange than the one in my yard.

And doesn't the arrangement of baby blue eyes around the base of the wallflower look brilliantly planned? But it wasn't planned at all. Both plants just happened to sprout there after I scattered seeds of them all over the yard. (I scattered a whole lot more wallflower seeds than baby blue eyes seeds, though, and ended up with a whole lot more baby blue eyes than wallflowers. So seed-scattering is probably not the best method for growing wallflowers.)

At this point you may start noticing plants mysteriously disappearing and reappearing my photos. This is because I'm using photos taken over the entire past month, rather than photos just taken today. It's too wet out there to be taking photos today anyway.

So this photo was taken at the next point along the house, at the end of March. I can tell it was the end of March because the poppies had just barely started blooming, and the Chinese houses hadn't started at all yet, so the blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) was more prominently visible than it is now. Blue-eyed grass flowers are quite tiny compared to the others, but they do add a nice extra detail when mixed in among larger flowers.

A week or so later, the Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) started blooming. They were small at first . . .

. . . then larger . . .

. . . then everywhere. I would like to improve upon the common name for them, though. James at Lost in the Landscape recently blogged about culturally insensitive plant names, and this plant came to mind for me as one whose name is somewhat questionable. The plant is called that because the structure of the flower spike resembles the architecture of many traditional Chinese buildings. This is a fine and creative comparison, but isn't there a more specific name for the style of architecture being referred to than just "Chinese"? The name seems to imply that every house in China is built with this architectural style, which seems unlikely. Please, someone tell me the name of the architectural style!

See that tiny, pale flower at the far bottom edge of the photo above, slightly right of center? That's my first bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor). It's hard to photograph, because my camera always has trouble with very pale and very tiny things, and these flowers are both. But here's a slightly better picture of it from this evening. The petals are mostly white but with a lavender tinge around the edges, and the flowers have recessed yellow centers.

And here's a slightly longer shot of the portion of the border I've shown you so far. This was taken a week or so ago, when the Chinese houses were just starting to bloom. There are more flowers now, but it actually looks worse now, because some of the poppies are starting to flop over horizontally from too much water (they always do that in my yard) and their weight is squishing all the other plants beneath them. Also, although the flowers of the Chinese houses are gorgeous, the foliage of the Chinese houses has quite a few brown edges.

This one is also from a week or so ago. Lots of poppies already, and none of them flopping over yet.

By now we're at approximately the spot along the house where the garden hose hangs. This is the corner we're heading to next. Boston would appreciate it if you paused to pet her along the way.

Directly under the garden hose is the largest patch of baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii).

The tallest plants along the house, and the ones comprising most of the foliage bulk, are elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata). Those are the ones with the red midline veins in some of their leaves in the photo above. The photo below shows their flowers. They're mostly not in bloom yet, and in fact quite a few of them are dying off before they ever bloom at all. After every rainstorm, I find four or five more lying on the ground; excess water seems to deprive them of the ability to stand upright. But they don't wilt right away, so I just pick them up off the ground and put them in a vase on our fireplace mantel. The very first clarkia that bloomed was actually one of the ones in the vase, and I didn't think it even had buds yet at the time I put it in the vase! The ones shown below are the first and so far only clarkia flowers to bloom out in the yard.

Now we're facing toward the garden hose from near the fence. The yellow flowers are California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus). In the background are baby blue eyes and Chinese houses. The sky lupine in front of the rock has some almost microscopic blue flowers on it. The large green buds you may notice to the right of the buttercups are hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula) which hasn't yet bloomed. On the other side of the rock, you can see the red stems of elegant clarkia. The more yellow-green leaves poking through the clarkia, almost completely swallowed up by it, are a young snowbell shrub (Styrax redivivus).

Behind that big clump of clarkia and snowbell in the picture above, we find the scene below. The yellow and white flower is tidy tips (Layia platyglossa). The very first of the tidy tips that I noticed blooming was completely wilted and dead-looking except for the flower stalk, so I thought the whole batch of them was going to be rather a disappointment. I no longer think that. I find more blooming every day, and most of them look perfectly healthy. Also, there must be about 25 buds on every plant! These are relatively large flowers, too, so it's starting to become quite a show.

To the left are more Chinese houses; to the right are more baby blue eyes. Also, see the two large, sort of heart-shaped leaves in the lower right corner, with serrated edges? That's a pumpkin. I dumped the seeds from our Halloween math-o-lantern into the compost bin last fall and wondered whether we'd get pumpkins growing as a result. The answer is yes! I've seen two pumpkin seedlings sprouting so far. I have no idea whether they'll survive or produce pumpkins, but I intend to let them grow and find out.

This is a review of what you've seen so far, and a preview of what comes next: the star of the show.

The star of the show for the past month has definitely been the golden currant. It was not quite at peak yet for last month's Bloom Day, and it's definitely past its peak now, but I'm posting pictures from its peak - the fourth week of March, when the poppies were just beginning to bloom. Boston posed in front of it to cover up the bare dirt areas and improve the illusion that my garden is a proper garden after all, not an underwater garden in which my non-aquatic plants are all struggling to survive.

This is another strategy for covering up the bare dirt areas where nothing survived because the ground was underwater all winter. I have no actual desire to sit in those chairs (because sitting outside with skin like mine is just begging for sunburn), but they do a nice job of making the bare spot look intentional. The only problem is that if I leave them there when it rains, I end up with an underwater seating area that looks quite decidedly unintentional, and also very muddy chairs afterward.

Anyway, the golden currant has been amazing. Can I just recommend one more time that you should grow this plant if you live practically anywhere in the United States or Canada? It's not actually native in my county, but it's absolutely thriving in one of the toughest spots in the whole yard. It's beautiful year-round, and it produces fruit for you to eat. What more could you possibly want?

The bees like it, too.

As I said, it's definitely past its peak now . . . so its thousands of flowers are rapidly transforming themselves into thousands of currants. By next month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, they should be ripe and ready to eat. Anyone have a currant recipe to recommend?

Next to the golden currant is a blue elderberry that's already about seven feet tall, even though I only planted it last July. The elderberry has produced a single cluster of flower buds, which means that a cluster of elderberries to eat is on the way!

Now let's look at the middle of the yard, which is looking quite a bit less sparse now than it was in that late March picture with the chairs. I asked Boston to pose with it just before the most recent rainstorm. However, when I asked her to smile for the camera, which she's normally more than willing to do, she informed me that the visual atmosphere created by the gray and foreboding sky demanded a more serious facial expression from her. I tried to explain to her that the sky wasn't even going to be visible in the photograph anyway, but she accused me of trying to make her compromise her artistic integrity.

After the storm was over, I tried asking Ganymede to pose instead. He wouldn't smile either, although he did wag his tail so much that it ended up as a blur.

Anyway, the stuff in the middle of the yard is pretty much the same species that I've already shown you along the house. The plants grow more densely along the house, for many reasons: I mounded the dirt higher there to improve the drainage, the dogs don't trample the plants quite as much within a few inches of the house, and the heat and reflected sunlight from the house probably makes the plants there think we're a little closer to summer. The elegant clarkia, in particular, don't seem to survive except right along the house; I think they need better drainage than the other species do. But the middle of the yard has its fair share of baby blue eyes, Chinese houses, California poppies, California buttercups, and tidy tips blooming. And here are the very first buds of my foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs').

This concludes our tour of the back yard. But a quick tour of the front yard remains! Here is the bed I installed by our front door. My coral bells (Heuchera maxima) are blooming with huge flower spikes, and the tiny red bush monkeyflower (Mimulus puniceus) that I put in to replace last year's, which died over the summer, is blooming with little red flowers next to the rock. Susan's yellow snapdragon is blooming behind the larger coral bells plant.

Here is a closeup of one of the flower spikes from the coral bells. The green plant in the background is garlic, planted on a whim from some I'd bought at the grocery store.

Here is a closeup of the monkeyflower. I hope this one survives the summer. I have another one in the back yard that did survive the summer, but for some reason that one hasn't bloomed yet this spring.

This is California oniongrass (Melica californica), which I started from seeds in some pots on the balcony of my old apartment. I brought the pots with me when I moved in with Susan, and transplanted the grass into the ground. Now it's producing seeds of its own!

This is blue flax (Linum lewisii) and scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua). I have quite a few blue flax plants in the back yard - two left over from last spring, and several more that I started from seed in pots over the winter. But only this one in the front yard, which I purchased from a nursery over the winter, is actually blooming. I guess it sort of does make sense to spend money on buying plants from nurseries that I can grow from seed for free?

I have some baby blue eyes in the front yard too, but also a cousin of baby blue eyes: five spot (Nemophila maculata).

I'm hoping that my Sonoma sage (Salvia sonomensis) will someday take over a large portion of the bed along the front sidewalk. So far it hasn't spread any, but at least it's blooming!

I bought two golden prettyface (Triteleia ixioides) over the winter and put one in the front yard, one in the back yard. They bloomed at the same time, but the petals on the one in the back yard looked sort of insect-eaten, so I focused on photographing the one in the front yard (shown below) instead. However, shortly after I took this photograph, I found the entire flower stalk from this one broken off and lying wilted on the ground. So now the one in the back yard is the only one still blooming.

And here's the very last bloom for April Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! It's Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter.' Still tiny at the moment, but what gorgeous electric blue flowers!

Boston says to come visit again next month, when we expect this bush mallow to start blooming.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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