Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Last year I felt that my garden peaked in May, but you couldn't tell it from my June Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post, because so many of the photos in the June post were actually from the latter half of May. This year I sort of feel that my garden peaked in April, but you won't be able to tell it from this post, because so many of the photos in it are from the latter half of April.

Also, one could reasonably argue that my garden is actually peaking in May again this year. Certainly some of the plants in it are peaking in May. The California poppies, which largely accounted for the entire garden's peak last year, are peaking in May again. The mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), which make arguably the strongest visual impression in the garden this spring, is also peaking in May. But the rainstorms at the end of April caused many of my plants to fall over into horizontal positions (notably the arroyo lupine I was so pleased with at the entrance to the back yard) or 45-degree angles (notably the mountain garland - so even though it has far more flowers on it in May than it had in April, I kind of liked it better in April because it was upright back then).

Anyway, my garden is actually still looking at least pretty near its best right now, despite the loss of uprightness. The huge mass of pink flowers in the photo below is the mountain garland. The yellow flowers in front of it are the sand-dune wallflower (Erysimum capitatum). The orange flowers in front of that are of course California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and the yellow flowers to the right of those are tidy tips (Layia platyglossa). The huge gangly gray plant behind the tidy tips, with a few barely visible pink flowers on it, is Fremont's bush mallow (Malacothamnus fremontii), and the fuzzy green plant behind and to the left of the bush mallow is black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), grown from seeds given to me for Christmas by Susan's sister Wendy.

Let's start with some direct comparisons. I gave you a link above to last month's photo of the arroyo lupine at the entrance to the back yard. Here it is this month, still blooming but now horizontal. (If you look closely, you can see its pale green stem just below and parallel to the edge of the house.) I recently planted a deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in front of it, so there will still be something alive here in late summer and fall. I have rather mixed feelings about deergrasses. I don't really much like the way their huge flower spikes look, but this particular spot is subject to so much dog-trampling that not much else would survive here.

Some things are looking better than last month, though. The sand-dune wallflower (Erysimum capitatum) was pretty last month, but has far more flowers this month.

And the tiny bud on the blue elderberry (Sambucus mexicana) last month has turned into a giant ball of cream-colored flowers this month. Actually several giant balls of cream-colored flowers, but the others are too high above my head for me to be able to photograph them well. This one is conveniently at eye level. Remember, this plant still isn't even a year old yet! I only planted it at the end of last July.

The star of the show this month has of course been the mountain garland. Here is is at the end of April, still upright.

And here it is now, falling over but lighting up the whole yard with its flowers. Hmm, perhaps I should get over being disappointed that it's no longer upright.

You can certainly see how it earned its common name. It does look exactly like garlands. It comes in an unexpectedly wide variety of shades, from reddish purple to white and all the pinkish shades in between, and the cut flowers last quite a while in a vase.

I was very surprised to see that some of its flowers were plain white.

Some of my Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla) are also plain white.

The Chinese pagodas are more commonly purple and white, as shown here with California poppies.

The tidy tips (Layia platyglossa) really did peak at the end of April. There's a small patch of them just coming into bloom now, but there were more of them blooming a few weeks ago, when I took this photo.

They're rather nice flowers. I'm not generally a big fan of yellow daisy flowers, but the white tips help, and they're larger than the average wildflower - almost as big as the California poppies.

The globe gilia (Gilia capitata) are at their peak this month (seen here with the mountain garland).

So are the bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor).

The foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') is still on its way up - though it would be bigger and better already if the dogs would stop trampling on it and breaking off huge stems all covered with flowers. It's shown here with globe gilia and tidy tips.

Here it is again, with the same plants plus California poppies.

The California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus) peaked in early April and have only a few flowers left now. They're the tiny yellow flowers in the picture below. The larger yellow flower is hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula), which has not yet reached its peak. It takes its name from the hairs on its leaves and the fact that it produces rather odd-looking, spiky buds that gradually open to reveal a shiny white gum-like substance, as seen here. The gum-like substance then gradually disappears, and the yellow petals start to poke through and open up. (And yes, that's more mountain garland twining around among these plants.)

And one of the less noticed flowers, springbank clover (Trifolium wormskioldii) has started blooming this month. It's shown here with half-open yellow tidy tips and the fern-like foliage of yarrow. The yarrow hasn't yet started blooming at all. I have high hopes for the clover to eventually become a major part of the groundcover in the wetter part of the yard, due to how it positively thrived while underwater this winter. However, it hasn't yet demonstrated whether it can handle the summer drought. We'll find out in the next few months. (I do water my plants in the summer, but not nearly as much as a lot of them would prefer, considering that they'll probably get no rain at all between now and September.)

Certainly the little wildflower meadow I installed along our front sidewalk has been at its peak this month. The flowers you can see in this photo include goldfields(Lasthenia californica), mountain garland, Chinese pagodas, arroyo lupine, and a little spot or two of blue toward the upper left that is blue flax (Linum lewisii).

This is a closer shot of the corner between our driveway and the front sidewalk and street. It shows goldfields, arroyo lupine, Chinese pagodas, and a California poppy.

Other flowers currently blooming in the front yard include scarlet mallow, red and orange monkeyflowers, and coral bells, but I have no new pictures of those.

I ended last month's entry by predicting that this month, the Fremont's bush mallow would be blooming. It's only just started blooming in the past few days, so it's not as spectacular yet as I had hoped, but it's getting there.

It's a really beautiful plant. Unfortunately it's grown so fast that the stepping stone path I just installed a few months ago is already unusable because the mallow has grown across the entire width of the path. But that was poor planning on my part, so I don't blame the plant for it.

The mallow is sort of the centerpiece of the part of the garden that looks best right now.

Because no, unfortunately, not all parts of the garden look so good. This tends to happen when most of your yard is under six inches of standing water all winter and then receives no rainfall at all every summer.

And I think I'm going to need to build some sort of rudimentary bridge over the drainage ditch, probably placed over that dirt divider to hide it. (I can't dig through that spot because there's a pipe in the way, hidden by the mound of dirt.) It's kind of awkward placement, but if it works, the stepping-stone path can be moved to the right side of the drainage ditch after the bridge. Though the whole concept of the path is still rather confused, because I haven't exactly figured out where the path is supposed to be leading.

(And have I mentioned how many hundred times I've mulched this yard, and how frustrating it is that the mulch all just vanishes under the mud and muck with every new rainstorm?)

Oh well. In the meantime, I'm just enjoying this month's mountain garland display.

And the display of other wildflowers in the narrow band of yard next to the house, where the drainage is good enough for the land to be habitable.

And at least I can remind myself that it could be worse! In May of last year, the yard was being eaten alive by Bermuda grass. Over the course of last summer, I dug out all of that low-growing green stuff, and re-dug it over and over until every fragment of its roots was gone, because every fragment of root grew right back into a whole new plant. This spring I've only had to dig out four or five Bermuda grass seedlings from the middle of the yard, plus trim back the stuff creeping in under the fences from the neighbors' yards. Definitely a huge improvement.
Tags: native plants, photographs
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