Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again, and my garden is putting on the final act of its spring wildflower show: the bright pink clarkias with the all-too-apt common name "farewell-to-spring." There are many more dead brown plants now than there were a month ago (most of the annuals are reaching the ends of their natural lifespans), and even the still-green perennial plants don't seem to be quite as bright and lively a shade of green as they were a month ago. On the other hand, there are more actual flowers in the back yard this month than there were last month. There are fewer flowers in the front yard this month than last month, but as you can see, it's still looking pretty fantastic for now. Just not for much longer.

I have two types of clarkia this year: the locally native mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) that I've grown in previous years and the more widely grown but not locally native farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). The pink flowers you see in this picture are from both of those, while the yellow flowers are from Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum).

Last year my most spectacular show of mountain garland was in the corner of the back yard behind the golden currant. This year I only got two mountain garland plants blooming in the entire back yard, which was quite a disappointment. I think the winter was simply too wet for it in the back yard this year. But it did just as well as ever in the drier front yard.

The huge black native carpenter bees love the mountain garland. I think I've seen more of these bees this year than last year. I'm still only seeing the females, however. The males are bright yellow, but the females are much more numerous, so I've never seen the males except in other people's photographs.

Here is the new species of farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). It waited a little longer than the mountain garlands to start blooming. Its flowers are very much larger and more individually beautiful than the mountain garland flowers (which you can see some of in the background here) but are all clustered at the very top of the stem, whereas the mountain garland flowers run all up and down the stems and form, well, garlands. It's nice to have both, so that I can have flowers distributed at different heights and also have extra-showy flowers at the top.

I wasn't sure this would grow successfully here, because it's not locally native. It grows from California north to British Columbia and skips the middle of the continent but shows up in Quebec. But although it's native along the California coast, it doesn't generally stray this far from the coast in the wild.

I also like the way that in both species, each individual plant produces flowers of a slightly different color than pretty much all the other individual plants. The mountain garland flowers range anywhere between white and an intense dark magenta-purple. The farewell-to-spring flowers range over the same spectrum but with the additional variation provided by having multiple colors on each flower petal. Some of these flowers are almost entirely white, with just a few small, pale pink markings, while others have huge, dark fuchsia markings with just a small border around the edge of a paler color, which can be anything from white to a fairly intense pink. These flower clusters are from two different plants, one with a white background and one with a pink background.

Now let's go back in time. Here is last week, when the mountain garland was going strong but the farewell-to-spring hadn't yet opened.

And here is the beginning of May, when even the mountain garland was barely getting started. Most of these other flowers are gone now.

The Oregon sunshine (Eriophyllum lanatum) and scarlet mallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana) are among the few remaining. They are the yellow and red flowers, respectively, in the photo below. The grey buds are also from the Oregon sunshine, which is native from California north to British Columbia and as far east as Wyoming. But the photo also shows pale purple bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor) and yellow-and-white tidytips (Layia platyglossa), both of which are mostly gone now, at least in the front yard.

The blue globe gilia (Gilia capitata) have hung on a little longer than their bird's eye gilia cousins, but they're also past their peak now. They were at their peak when I took the picture below, which shows them with bird's eye gilia, scarlet mallow, Chinese pagodas (Collinsia heterophylla), and goldfields (either Lasthenia californica or Lasthenia glabrata). I scattered the same number of globe gilia seeds this year as last year, but I got very few globe gilia plants last year and many more this year. I really like the little blue globe-shaped flower clusters, so I was delighted to have more this year.

The pale yellow chick lupine (Lupinus microcarpus) was a new plant for me this year. It's native from California north to British Columbia. It started blooming at about the same that the larger purple flower spikes of arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus) were replaced by seedpods. Now the chick lupine flower spikes have also transformed into seedpods.

In the lower left corner you can see the Oregon sunshine. Next to that are bird's eye gilia, scarlet mallow, and a few tidytips (Layia platyglossa). The top half of the photo shows Chinese pagodas and a few goldfields and tidytips. The tidytips and bird's eye gilia are half-closed because it was late evening when I took the picture. This is the case in many of my pictures, because I've been working ten-hour days since January and never get outside until after 6:00 p.m. except on weekends and a few minutes during my lunch breaks. (I telecommute.)

This photo is from earlier in the day and also a bit earlier in spring, in the latter half of April. I can tell it's from earlier because the chick lupine flower spikes have only opened their very lowest flowers and there's a lingering baby blue eye Nemophila menziesii) near the lower right. The baby blue eyes are long gone now.

I love the Chinese pagodas while they last, but the moment they stop blooming, they leave so many dry brown corpses behind that the garden instantly looks past its peak. I spent an hour or so one day pulling them all after this happened, because even bare dirt looks better than the dry brown corpses that remain standing after the plant has died.

Like last year, I got a few plain white Chinese pagodas along with the more common purple-and-white ones.

Back in time almost to last month's Bloom Day, here's the last gasp of March and early April flowers in late April: baby blue eyes and goldfields.

Here is a more typical mid-April bouquet: California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), tidy tips, bird's eye gilia, Chinese pagodas, goldfields, and scarlet mallow.

Here's the very end of April.

And another from the very end of April: chick lupine, Chinese pagodas, globe gilia, bird's eye gilia, scarlet mallow, a few goldfields, and a California poppy.

Kneel and say hi to Spider before we leave the sidewalk garden. This photo is also from April. Shortly after I took this, I discovered that Spider was going bald under his collar, so I took the collar off him. Now we are in the odd position of having an indoor-only cat with a bell around her neck and an indoor-outdoor cat without a bell.

I have a tiny California wild lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter') in the newish bed along the side of the front yard. It hasn't grown a bit since this time last year, but it did bloom both years. Is it just a naturally slow grower?

We're heading through the side yard now. We passed through this gate from the front yard. The sun on the gate is a new decoration that Susan received as a free prize at some sort of conference or workshop thing last month. The California poppies pick up its color nicely.

The first thing you're likely to notice when you approach the back yard right now is this lovely clump of globe gilia. Globe gilia is native from California north to Alaska and east to New Mexico, and it is also found in scattered places farther east, including Illinois, Ohio, New York, and Vermont.

Here it is from a different angle, with some goldfields behind it.

And here is a closeup of the flower clusters.

Here is a larger section of the yard: California poppies, mountain garland, globe gilia, tidy tips, common goldfields, hairy gumplant (Grindelia hirsutula), California aster (Symphyotrichum chilense), and the very latest plant to bloom, yellow seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) at the far right. The seep monkeyflower is new to me this year. Everything else blooming here was also blooming here a year ago (and this is where the mountain garland put on a far, far better show at this time last year).

Now let's go back in time. Here is the same area in late April. The mountain garland, tidy tips, and seep monkeyflower all hadn't bloomed yet, and the California aster had only produced one lone flower so far. Compared to the front yard, the back yard hasn't lost many flowers between then and now; in fact, it has probably gained more flower species than it has lost. However, the green plants do look a duller shade of green now than they did in late April.

Here are the plants along the house in late April. They look pretty much the same now, but with two mountain garland plants now blooming and most of the goldfields gone. Oh, and a few more flower spikes on the arroyo lupine - for some reason the arroyo lupine in the back yard didn't even start blooming until after all the arroyo lupine in the front yard had finished blooming. It's probably due to the difference in the water table.

Also, the clump of bird's eye gilia and goldfields partly visible in the right foreground of the picture above is gone now. The picture below shows it in its full April glory.

Here is a clump of just the goldfields.

Here is a ladybug on the goldfields. There are tons of ladybugs in the garden now, at all stages of life - larvae, pupae, and adult beetles like this one. I always have tons of ladybugs during the warmer months, probably because I leave all the aphids (which congregate primarily on the milkweed plant) alone so the ladybugs can eat them.

Here is a foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') with tidytips and goldfields.

And here it is again with just the goldfields. I have three foothill beardtongue plants, all the same cultivar, and they all have very different bloom times and bloom lengths. This is the one that blooms most often and for longest.

Here is a closer view of the same combination.

Near those plants is one of my newest but humblest flowers: bull clover (Trifolium fucatum), a locally native annual clover that I scattered seeds of last fall. I have never grown this plant before.

Springbank clover Trifolium wormskioldii) is a locally native perennial clover that I've had for longer. It's considerably more attractive than bull clover; its foliage is denser and its flowers are more colorful. Here it is with two flowers and numerous fluffy green buds. Springbank clover is native from California north to Alaska and east to Texas.

Here are some California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus) with the goldfields. These buttercups are native from California north to British Columbia. The two buttercup flowers in the lower left are both from the same plant, and the white spots on the upper one are not an artifact of odd lighting - the petals really looked as if someone had spattered bleach on them. Not only that, but approximately half the flowers on the plant had white spots like this on the petals, while the other half of the flowers were the normal solid yellow. I have no idea what caused this. The buttercup is done blooming now. I wonder whether it will have the same spots on its flowers next year.

These next two plants are recent acquisitions that I purchased after they were already in bloom: sticky cinquefoil (Potentilla glandulosa) and blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum). I had both plants before, but they had both died, so I picked up these new ones at the annual spring plant sale of the California Native Plant Society Redbud Chapter. It's hard to see the yellow cinquefoil flowers in this picture, but, well, they're there.

Another new plant I picked up at the sale is planted on the other side of the faucet where you can't see it at all: white prettyface (Triteleia hyacinthina). That one's not blooming at all yet, but I may be able to show it to you for next month's Bloom Day.

Although the far end of the wall doesn't look as spectacular as it did with hundreds of mountain garland plants blooming there last year, it does look reasonably attractive. Here it is in April with globe gilia and California poppies.

And here it is now, with mountain garland mixed in as well. There's also a Hooker's evening-primrose there, but none of my Hooker's evening-primroses have started blooming yet. Something to look forward to next month!

Here are the same plants, along with the hairy gumplant and California aster blooming in front of them.

Continuing clockwise around the yard, we arrive next at the seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), which is native from California north to Alaska and east to the Northwest Territories, North and South Dakota, and New Mexico, and also in scattered places farther east, such as Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, and New Brunswick. I bought two at a native plant sale last fall. One didn't grow as fast as the other, so I attempted to transplant it nearer to the other in hopes of making it happier. This turned out to be a bad idea; the stems and roots are succulent and very brittle, and I could hear them audibly breaking while I carried the plant from one spot to another and replanted it. That plant died. But this one, the one that was growing faster all along and never got transplanted, survived and thrived and is now blooming.

I had planted four of my five meadowfoam plants (Limnanthes douglasii) in a cluster near the seep monkeyflower, but I experimentally placed the fifth one in the shallow end of the ditch. I wasn't sure it would survive there, and in fact it died back almost to the ground several times when the water levels in the ditch changed abruptly - it was generally fine with sitting in standing water and equally fine with sitting in moist soil, but not so fine when the standing water dried up suddenly and rapidly. Anyway, the plant survived, and now I'm glad I placed it there, because it's the only meadowfoam plant still blooming to any significant degree! The ones on higher ground all collapsed at once as soon as we got a week of hot weather. They're not entirely dead, but they're pretty close. This one looks so much better.

This next plant was an obscure new find at the California Native Plant Society Redbud Chapter's annual spring plant sale: Hartweg's doll's lily (Odontostomum hartwegii). It was already blooming when I bought it. You can't really tell from this picture, but I built a new little berm this month and placed this plant on the berm. I also transplanted the osoberry shrub from the side yard and placed it on top of the berm. (I built the berm primarily for the osoberry.) I picked up a chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) at the plant sale and put that in the side yard where the osoberry had been. The berm is about three feet wide and only about eight inches high, so short that it's probably not even really worthy of being called a berm at all, but it's about five feet long. I think I will make it longer and wider during the next few months, but not taller. The ground here gets so liquid in winter that even if I built the berm eight feet high, I think it would end up eight inches high by this time next year. Better to aim low and reduce the need to replant everything when the ground settles.

This is a closeup of the doll's lily. I presume it's called that because the individual flowers are so tiny.

A little to the right of the berm, near the redbud tree, a golden prettyface (Triteleia ixioides) that had bloomed briefly last spring came back and bloomed a little longer this spring. It's gone now, though.

We've now made a full circle around the back yard and returned to the spot where the globe gilia greeted us as we entered the yard. On the other side of the same rock that the globe gilia clustered next to, a lone frying pan (Eschscholzia lobbii) sprouted from the seeds I scattered last fall. This is a native annual poppy that is closely related to California poppies but smaller and yellower. I seem to have only one of these plants, and the plant seems to produce only one flower at a time. It has produced two flowers total, though, with a week or so of being totally bare between one flower and the next.

Nearby is another native annual I grew from seed: red maids (Calandrinia ciliata). I have several of these plants, but only one has bloomed so far. Red maids are native from California north to British Columbia and east to New Mexico.

The tiniest flowers in my garden are these nearly microscopic yellow ones on the common desert parsley (Lomatium utriculatum), which is native from California north to British Columbia. The large leaves poking up through the plant are from tidytips seedlings; the tiny, needle-like leaves are the actual desert parsley. Its flowers are so tiny and so densely packed that they look almost like a bright a yellow fungus creeping over the plant.

Boston says you should come back next month for a very different crop of blooms. The spring annuals will all be gone by then, but we should have some brand new flowers to enjoy instead.

Tags: native plants, photographs
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