Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Spring is here! Spring is finally here! Every single other California garden blogger that I know of had clear signs of spring on last month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but I'm farther north than any of them, so I had no spring yet. Now I have spring!

The first of the baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) in our back yard opened on February 19. However, it only lasted a few days before the dogs trampled on it and broke the flower off. The next one opened around the end of February, also in the back yard, but that one was only an inch tall - the width of the flower was equal to the height and width of the entire plant - so it also only lasted a few days before a huge rainstorm submerged it entirely underwater and washed all the petals away. It wasn't until March 9 that we had multiple spring-blooming flowers open at once - a whole bunch of baby blue eyes and some arroyo lupine along the front sidewalk, and a few more baby blue eyes in the back yard. They all opened over the course of that morning, and now spring has really gotten started, with a continuous supply of flowers that should last for months.

Here are a flower and a bud of the baby blue eyes in the front yard, poking through the leaves of the arroyo lupine.

There are two spikes of arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) blooming in the front yard now. I have some of this species in the back yard also, but the backyard lupines haven't started blooming. Here is the bigger of the front yard spikes. Jess at Hey Natives has a freakishly huge perennial lupine that appears to be a mutant individual of this normally annual species.

The mix of blues, purples, and whites on these flowers is incredible, and the flower spikes just keep getting bigger as more of the tiny white flowers toward the tip of the spike mature and turn blue.

Here is another shot of the baby blue eyes next to the front sidewalk, this time with the flowers fully open.

Also in the front sidewalk garden, the creeping sage (Salvia sonomensis), which produced just one flower spike last spring, has already produced four of them this spring. Some are still in bud, but here are two with the flowers open.

I have a very weak sense of smell; Susan tells me that she can tell when dinner is done cooking by waiting until she can smell it, but I hardly ever smell anything cooking unless it's burned to a crisp and smells like charcoal. Gardening books and websites frequently frustrate me with statements claiming that I can learn to identify certain families of plants (the mustard family, for example) by smelling them, or simply informing me that various species I've grown for years smell really good, when I've never noticed that they have any scent. There are very, very few plants that I've noticed any scent to - in fact, of the plants I have in our yard, I think this sage may be the only one! But the sage scent is strong enough that I can even smell it accidentally. It's nice to have at least one plant I can smell.

That completes the blue segment of Bloom Day. The next color segment consists of only one plant, but I sure am delighted by it. This Western redbud tree Cercis occidentalis) was the first plant I ever planted. Actually it was one of the first two plants I ever planted, but the other was a Douglas iris that I later re-transplanted and killed. The redbud alone survives. It produced its first buds last fall, which confused me, since it's supposed to be a spring-blooming plant. But only three or four flowers actually opened in the fall; the rest of the buds hung on all winter and are finally opening now. So this is the plant's first major bloom. Most of the flowers still haven't even opened yet, which means that the tree is going to get even more spectacular when they do.

Here is a closeup of the redbud.

And an even closer closeup. You can see that just the first couple of flowers have opened. (And no, I don't know what that bug is in the upper left corner. Can anyone identify it for me?)

Redbud silhouetted against fence.

Redbud silhouetted against compost bin (with baby blue eyes at base of bin).

This brings us to the yellow segment of Bloom Day, and also brings us to the real star of the show. Even though I personally am enthralled by the redbud, because it's the first plant I planted and is blooming for the first time, anyone who didn't know that history would surely be most drawn to the golden currant (Ribes aureum), which is either at or rapidly approaching peak bloom right now. (It's about a week ahead of the schedule it followed last year.) My pictures of it are truly inadequate to convey its grandeur. They're all at least a couple of days old, and right now, this plant is becoming more spectacular with every passing day.

The picture below is about a week old and doesn't even come close to showing how covered with yellow flowers the plant is today. But I'm working 50 hours per week, so it just hasn't been easy to find any spare moments to take new photographs. Also, I like the way this photograph shows that the yard was severely underwater last week (for reference as to the depth of the water, there's a stepping-stone in the lower right corner that is barely visible through the muck) and that the golden currant is planted directly in the muck. It's an amazingly tolerant plant; it's never complained at all about either floods or drought.

The low-growing plants surrounding it, with no flowers visible, include California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense), hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula), seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis), some cuttings of arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis), and in the lower left corner, a goldfield (Lasthenia californica) with a tiny yellow bud beginning to open.

Here is a closeup of the golden currant.

In other news of yellow, the goldfields (Lasthenia californica) in the back yard are starting to bloom. Only two have opened so far. There are some in the front yard also, but none of those have opened yet.

And one of the buttercups (Ranunculus californicus) is about to bloom. I had two of this species last spring. One seems to have died over the winter. The other one came back, and apparently reseeded, because an additional plant came up next to it. I also bought a third plant this year. Only the one I just bought has produced a bud.

Here is another plant I just bought, also producing buds. This is an annual species that I've never tried to grow before: ribbed fringepod (Thysanocarpus radians).

You can't quite tell yet, but when these buds open, they'll be yellow. This is hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula). I think I actually like its spiky buds more than I like its fully opened flowers.

That's about it for blooms today. There are some flowers I didn't photograph (blue witch nightshade, scarlet mallow, and woodland strawberry) and some buds I didn't photograph (tidy tips and Oregon sunshine), but I've certainly covered the majority of the show. Here's one last curiosity for you! I purchased the plant below at a California Native Plant Society sale last fall. It was labeled as pink honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). Pink honeysuckle should have, as one might guess from the name, pink flowers. It took me a while to realize that these pale yellow things the plant started producing at the end of its stems over the winter were, in fact, flowers. And they're gone now - the plant bloomed from December to February and has now stopped blooming. I don't think this is the species it was labeled as being. It seems more like southern honeysuckle (Lonicera subspicata), although really neither of these species ought to bloom from December to February.

I bought a second plant later last fall that was also labeled as pink honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). I bought this one from Annie's Annuals, and I think this one really is pink honeysuckle. It hasn't bloomed yet, so I can't verify the color of its flowers, but it seems much more viney and less shrubby than the other honeysuckle, which makes me all the more certain that the other one is not pink honeysuckle. I like the genuine pink honeysuckle much better than the mystery honeysuckle.

In addition to the flowers, I've discovered some exciting new seedlings this month. I'm hoping the seedling below is Hooker's evening-primrose (Oenothera elata ssp. hookeri), which I scattered a ton of seeds of. Can anybody verify or contradict this for me?

This seems to be fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) re-emerging from the ground after the winter.

For February Bloom Day, I showed you the osoberry (Oemleria cerasiformis) just beginning to leaf out. It's a lot leafier now! I took this photo of it during a rainstorm.

Not everything has started leafing out yet, though. The red-twig dogwood in the back yard and a second golden currant in the side yard have just barely started leafing out. The buttonbush and the ocean spray haven't started at all. Which brings me to the tale of my major garden activity this month: spring cleaning! Notice any shrubs missing in the picture below?

It had been clear for quite a while that the coffeeberry, which used to be at the middle right in the photo above, was never going to be happy in a yard as wet as this one - nor would it really have fit properly in its space if it had been happy enough to grow to full size. I had also realized last fall when I bought the ocean spray, which used to be at the middle left in the photo above, that the ideal spot for the ocean spray was right where the coffeeberry already was. The main thing that stopped me from removing the coffeeberry last fall and putting the ocean spray in its place was my concern for the checker mallow (Sidalcea malviflora) that was planted directly at the foot of the coffeeberry.

Well, the coffeeberry spent the winter looking more and more unhappy. Finally, at the end of February, I decided to just yank on its trunk and see whether I could pull it right up without any digging at all - which would, I figured, avoid disturbing the checker mallow. As it turned out, I couldn't just pull up the coffeeberry with my bare hands - but I was able to budge it enough that I went to put on gardening gloves and tried again that way. Eventually I pulled it out, bringing minimal roots and no dirt with it, which should have been very helpful for preserving the checker mallow.

I then much more carefully dug up the ocean spray and transplanted it to about two feet away from where the coffeeberry had been. I would have put it exactly where the coffeeberry had been, except that I was still trying to avoid disturbing the checker mallow.

Well, the checker mallow seems to have died anyway. It vanished a week or so after the transplant. The ocean spray will probably be fine, though I won't know for sure until it gets around to leafing out.

The spot where the ocean spray used to be is now quite bare. I want to obtain a new bush mallow and plant it there. This might be foolish of me, since I previously had a bush mallow in almost the exact same spot, and it died. However, it survived all the winter flood problems, only to die last August. Last August, our neighbors were emptying their above-ground pool into our yard once a week. This year they no longer have a pool, so if the bush mallow just can't handle summer water, it probably wouldn't get any anymore. Also, after it died I noticed that a substantial amount of mulch and debris had piled up against its crown, which I suspect had a lot to do with its demise. So I want to get a new one and be more careful to keep its crown unburied.

Anyway, on with the spring garden cleaning! A year or so ago, I planted Baltic rush (Juncus balticus) on the left side of the garden hose and common rush (Juncus effusus) on the right side of it. Both had spread out considerably since then. Both turned out to be slightly pointier than would be ideal for a plant that I have to reach through when turning the hose on and off. Both (but especially the Baltic rush) turned significantly brown over the winter, which looked ugly. Then the common rush advanced into a clump of the much smaller poverty rush (Juncus tenuis) and killed it in no time at all. It also started advancing toward numerous other tiny, vulnerable plants. Then I discovered that the Baltic rush had completely surrounded a globe gilia seedling and was closing in for the kill.

Here are the rushes, marching rapidly out into the yard to take over.

I decided I've had enough. The rushes must go! If I don't get rid of them now, I'll soon have a yard full of nothing but rushes!

I haven't finished digging them out yet. I started on it, and learned that they have gigantic rhizomes, as big around as my finger and longer than my legs. I think it might take a while to fully remove them.

My Santa Barbara sedge has been spreading into and threatening other plants in a very similar way, and I've found that it has similarly huge rhizomes. I think that one might need to go also. There's really only one grasslike plant that I like enough to be willing to let it take over half the yard if it wants to, and that's clustered field sedge (Carex praegracilis). It's so much prettier than the Santa Barbara sedge - denser, shorter, softer, fluffier, brighter green. And this month it's in bloom! Here are the clustered field sedge flowers.

This concludes this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. Here is one last photo, taken today, with the golden currant at the very peak of its bloom (look how much yellower it is than in those earlier pictures!) and ripped-out rushes lying on the ground where the ocean spray used to be.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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