One of my first gardening activities when we moved in last summer was to dig out the Bermuda grass lawn in the side yard to create a food garden. However, I was only able to finish digging out about two thirds of the area before the weather turned too wintery to facilitate killing Bermuda grass. Upon realizing that I would have to postpone the rest of the digging until next summer, I decided, more or less on the spur of the moment, to toss some native wildflower seeds into the undug area. Not having planned this ahead of time, I'd already used up my seeds of most of the native wildflower species, so I only had seeds of two species left: birds' eye gilyflower (Gilia tricolor) and Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). I tossed them both in the undug area, and for good measure, I also tossed some in the pathway down the middle of the dug area. Having always believed that native wildflower beds needed to be weeded to grow well, I did not anticipate nearly such dramatic results as I got.
The undug area is in the foreground below. The tall plant with pink flowers is a native mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) that somehow got mixed in. The food is planted in the back two thirds, but there's a stripe of meadowfoam down the middle where the path is. Silhouetted against the air conditioner is a lettuce plant that has bolted.
Leeks and bolting lettuces are on this side of the air conditioner, and carrots are on the far side of the air conditioner. The path down the middle is so buried in meadowfoam that it's totally unusable; I've taken to walking exclusively on the food beds rather than on the pathway, because the stepping stones in the pathway (yes, would you believe there are stepping stones under there somewhere?) are totally unreachable without squishing both flowers and honeybees. The buzzing of hundreds of honeybees all over the meadowfoam and gilyflower all day long is extremely loud.
Some of the gilyflowers are a variant form with petals that are entirely purple rather than white with lavender edges. I've never seen this form before, but I've also never had anywhere near this many gilyflowers before. There are also a few gilyflowers with plain white petals.
All in all, it's quite a meadow! With this many native wildflowers preparing to go to seed, I'm beginnig to wonder how I'll ever manage to reclaim the area for actual food plants at all.
I also have some additional meadowfoam in a different area, next to the patio, that I also dug out last summer. I planted a wider variety of species there, but the main ones that sprouted were meadowfoam and baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), along with some occasional birds' eye gilyflowers (you can see a few near the bottom center of this picture) and mountain garland.
I find it surprising to see meadowfoam, which is a vernal pool plant that tolerates extremely soggy soils like the ones we had at our old duplex, intermixing with dryland plants like baby blue eyes and birds' eye gilia. It does make a very pretty combination, though.
I seem to have only a single Chinese pagoda plant (Collinsia heterophylla) this year.
I planted a mix of all different colors of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), but I only got Central Valley orange, coastal orange-with-yellow-edges, and pale yellowish white. The reds and pinks just don't do well here.
Well, pale yellowish white is nice. I'm happy to have it. Next fall I think I'm just going to plant plain orange poppies, so we'll see whether any of the white strain survives. I'm going to try to collect some local wild seeds and see whether they're more vigorous than the storebought kinds. We have wild poppies all over the levees surrounding town, so it shouldn't be at all difficult to collect seeds if I remember to go look for them at the right time.
I've been relieved to see my Hartweg's dolls' lily (Odontostomum hartwegii) blooming. This plant is incredibly difficult to find for sale. I lost a great many other species to transplant stress during the move last summer, but it would have been especially terrible to lose this one because it would probably have taken me many years to replace it. I carefully dug out a couple of dozen bulbs, all of which had been growing in a single clump at our duplex, and separated them into a couple of dozen separate locations at our new house. I've been gratified to see a majority of them sprouting. Only a few actually bloomed, but that's all right; as long as they're alive, I'll have more blooming next spring.
I lost my California lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter') to transplant stress during the move, bought two replacements, and promptly lost one of those as well. But one survived. I plan to buy more of this, and probably some other cultivars as well.
Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) is a native food plant growing in my food garden. Although it's blooming, it's not doing terribly well; the wind keeps knocking it flat onto the ground, and I keep trying to prop it back up again. At least it's alive. At our duplex I could never keep this species alive. I had better luck with its cousin, creeping sage (Salvia sonomensis) at the duplex, but I lost that to transplant stress during the move, bought a replacement, and lost the replacement also.
Here's a non-native that I planted in the food garden: Chandler strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa 'Chandler'). I've grown native strawberries in the past, and I don't at all mind that the native wild form bears smaller fruit; however, I do mind that the natives don't tolerate heat much at all. I'm hoping for better luck getting the non-native to survive the summer.
The tiny lavender flowers are field madder, a non-native weed that is so pervasive at our new house that I've pretty much given up trying to fight it off. At least it's prostrate, which prevents it from doing all that much harm to most other plants.
This is chamomile (Matricaria recutita). It's not the sort of thing I'd choose to grow, except that I happened to receive free seeds of it somewhere. I stuck the seeds in the pot, and now I have flowers. Any day now, I'll harvest them so Susan can make tea with them - apparently you're supposed to harvest them while the flower centers are still cone-shaped. But unless Susan decides that she really, really likes the tea, I'm not likely to grow this plant ever again.
This is a non-native blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). There are California native blueberries, but they tend to grow very high in the mountains. I'm not at all sure whether the non-natives will do well here either, but I decided it was worth a try. We like blueberries, and look how pretty the plants are!
Our yard is such a battle between two gardening styles right now - my natives and the original owners' traditional gardening plants from the 1950s. Here's a rare glimpse of the two styles mingling slightly, with my birds' eye gilyflowers blooming beneath a hybrid tea rose planted by the original owners.
We definitely have no shortage of roses here. I've never planted a rose in my life and doubt that I ever will - I have a very low tolerance for thorny plants - but I've inherited incredible numbers of them.
And I don't know the names of any of them.
The ladybugs like them, and so do the aphids.
What other garden plants are as ubiquitous as roses? Perhaps geraniums (Pelargonium spp.). The original owners planted those too.
They also planted hydrangeas - both bigleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) and an oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). This is actually a neighbor's oakleaf hydrangea hanging over our fence. Our oakleaf hydrangea hasn't fully recovered from being hacked back almost to ground level when our new back fence was built.
They also planted tulips. The tulips are growing in front of the Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermun jasminoides) on our patio.
They also planted candytuft (Iberis sempervirens).
They also planted violets of some sort.
And a primrose of some sort (drowning in a shameful sea of sourgrass weeds).
And three-corner leek (Allium triquetrum), which turns out to be rather a weed itself.
They also planted Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica), and I actually bought another one of these so I can fill in a gap with a matching plant.
They also planted a . . . soap aloe (Aloe maculata), I think this is.
They also planted an orange tree (Citrus × sinensis), and I can't get enough of the smell of its flowers. Neither can the bees.
I'll end with two mystery plants that I need help narrowing down the identity of. I don't even know the genus of these yet.
The flowers on this one haven't even opened yet, but they're already fairly distinctive-looking. This plant died back to ground level all winter, and I thought it was dead. Now it's resprouted. What is it?
And this one here is gorgeously covered with white flowers. What is it?