Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It's time for March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but the garden doesn't look like any March I've ever seen before. It doesn't look like any month at all that I've ever seen before. For one thing, there've been no baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) at all this year. For another thing, the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) is starting to bloom more than a month earlier than usual. I assume the strange garden behavior is due to the drought. Should I be concerned about the survival of baby blue eyes all across the state? Well, at least it's a species that gardeners have collected a lot of seeds from.

The plant I've been most excited about this month is glassy onion (Allium hyalinum). My degree of excitement about plants is generally closely related to how difficult it was for me to obtain and successfully grow the plant. Glassy onion is hard to find for sale. I did find it for sale once when I lived at the duplex, and I planted it in little plastic pots, and some tiny seedlings sprouted, and I transplanted them into the ground . . . whereupon they promptly died, as so many plants did when transplanted into the ground at the duplex where there was no drainage. Well, I finally found it for sale again last fall, and this time I planted it in a large ceramic pot on my patio where I decided to plant most of my native bulbs (and a few native non-bulbs) that can't handle any summer water. The pot keeps them away from the sprinklers, and they all seem happy enough to grow together. This is the first one to bloom.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

I've successfully grown all sorts of non-native onion relatives before (garlic, elephant garlic, leeks, chives, and onions) but this is the first native onion that has bloomed for me. It's not my first choice of species, though. The native onion I've been really wanting for years, because it's been documented growing wild in Marysville in the past, is narrowleaf onion (Allium amplectens). Unfortunately, I've never yet seen that available for sale.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

In the meantime, this one will do. It's reasonably likely to grow here in the wild as well.

Allium hyalinum (glassy onion)

Another plant that is currently blooming for me for the first time ever is bee plant (Scrophularia californica). I tried repeatedly to grow this at the duplex, but the lack of drainage always killed it within a week or two after I planted it. I planted it just once at my current house and it immediately took off and was happy. Now it's blooming!

(The blurry red thing in the background is a rock that Jessica and her children painted to look like a ladybug.)

Scrophularia calfornica (bee plant)

This is a closeup of the bee plant flowers. They are tiny, but it looks like there'll soon be enough of them that they may actually make some visual impact.

Scrophularia calfornica (bee plant)

And here's one more plant that has never bloomed for me before. This is Western buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis). I bought some seeds of this last summer and scattered them randomly on the ground in various garden beds last November. At least one of them sprouted! (And it comes complete with an aphid on one of the flower petals.)

Ranunculus occidentalis (Western buttercup)

Moving on to the plants that are not quite so new to me, I'll start out at my front door, where my potted Channel Islands alum root (Heuchera mexima) is blooming. This isn't native to northern California, but I discovered back when I lived at the duplex that it's the perfect plant for growing on front porches: it's fine under the eaves of a house where rain and sun hardly ever hit it, and it stays pretty all year round. At the duplex I grew it in the ground, but since moving here I've also discovered that it's the perfect plant for growing in a pot on the front porch. I absolutely never water it, ever, yet it remains healthy. Well, it's not so much under the eaves here as it was at the duplex, so it gets rain occasionally. But there hasn't been much of that this winter, and it's still fine! It's the perfect plant! It doesn't spread madly, but it's practically unkillable! In fact, in the back yard I've been trying out various plants under my 60-year-old pecan tree, which is strongly allelopathic, and it's been the only plant to survive there, other than some weeds that I wish would stop surviving there.

Heuchera maxima (island alum root)

If you stand on my front steps and look to the right, this is what you'll see. The pot contains non-native ruby grass (Melinus nerviglumis) as well as native scarlet monkeyflowers (Mimulus cardinalis) that are not visible from this angle and a native leopard lily (Lilium pardalinum) that is not visible from any angle and may or may not be dead. The flowers in front of the pot are obviously California poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and Melinus nerviglumis (ruby grass)

Here are the same poppies from another angle. The non-blooming plants are mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) in the left half of the picture and Sierra mint (Pycnanthemum californicum) in the right half. The Sierra mint smells like candy, quite strongly, and I've been encouraging it all around my front door for that reason.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Elsewhere in the same bed under my front window I also have native woodland strawberries (Fragaria vesca) filling in everywhere. This is a plant that I grew semi-successfully at the duplex, but it didn't do very much there. That is, it bloomed, it produced fruit, but it never spread at all, and every year in August it died off. I kept replacing it and hoping for better results, but I never got them. Well, at this house I got them! I planted it in this bed in the hope that it would spread and fill up the whole thing and spill over the edge as well, and that's exactly what it has done.

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

This is a closeup of the woodland strawberry.

Fragaria vesca (woodland strawberry)

And this is a closeup of a California poppy. This is in the back yard now. In the background is non-native sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) that came with the house.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Also in the back yard, here is yet another California poppy, along with some freakishly early-blooming mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata).

Clarkia elegans (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Here's some more mountain garland. I've seen it bloom in midsummer and midwinter before, but I've never seen it bloom in March before. And usually when it blooms out of season it stays smaller and produces only one or two flowers per plant, but right now I'm getting actual spikes with several flowers open and numerous flower buds waiting to open soon.

Clarkia elegans (mountain garland)

I also have bird's eye gilyflower (Gilia tricolor) blooming fairly abundantly right now. This one is blooming right on time and seems unaffected by the drought.

Gilia tricolor (bird's eye gilyflower)

The Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) has just started blooming within the past few days.

Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas' meadowfoam)

Last and also least (bloom-wise) of the natives, a few tiny miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata) plants are blooming in various places around the yard right now. These sprouted from scattered seed, and I'm hoping they'll scatter more seed this year and expand their population.

Claytonia perfoliata (miners' lettuce)

Among the non-natives that came with the house, the Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) is the one I've enjoyed most this month. Here it is with elephant ears (Bergenia cordifolia) blooming at its feet.

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

And here are some closeups of it.

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

Near the camellia is an azalea (Rhododendron × pulchrum) whose cultivar I haven't identified yet.

Rhododendron × pulchrum (azalea)

Rhododendron × pulchrum (azalea)

In the side yard there are calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica).

Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lily)

And violets of some sort.

Viola (violets)

And in the back yard there are roses of various sorts that I haven't managed to identify yet.

Rosa (rose)

White clover (Trifolium repens) is just a weed, but I've mostly been leaving it alone while focusing on the field madder (Sherardia arvensis) that is determined to eat my entire yard alive. The clover is a lot easier to get rid of when I want to get rid of it than the field madder is.

Trifolium repens (white clover)

Here's another interesting weed I dealt with this month. I've never encountered this one before. At first glance it looked a lot like a valley oak, but closer inspection revealed that it seemed to be a vine rather than a tree, and also its leaves didn't actually look like valley oak leaves. In fact, some of its leaves weren't actually lobed (notched like an oak leaf). This was a clue. It turns out that this plant's leaves do not normally look oaklike at all; its leaves only become oaklike when the plant grows particularly fast, which this one was doing because it was a recently sprouted seedling. This plant is Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). Upon identifying it, I promptly killed it. I have native pink honeysuckle vines (Lonicera hispidula); I don't need a weedy, non-native honeysuckle.

Lonicera japonica (Japanese honeysuckle)

Last, here's a bloom I borrowed from the neighbors: cherry plum tree (Prunus cerasifera). The entire garden bed under the pecan was just part of the lawn when I first moved in. But the pecan tree dumps all its leaves on the ground every winter and tends to smother whatever is underneath it, so I thought if I made the area into a garden bed I might be able to find plants to grow under it that would handle the smothering a bit better than the grass did. So far I haven't had much luck with that. But hey, at least there's a little less lawn to mow!

Carya illinoiensis (pecan) and Prunus cerasifera (cherry plum)

This is the view when I sit on the bench and look straight up.

Carya illinoiensis (pecan) and Prunus cerasifera (cherry plum)

And this is the view when I sit on the bench and face forward. It's Boston! And a newly mown lawn. I did not let the side effects of radiation treatment prevent me from mowing the front and back lawns today. It took several hours, and it'll need to be done all over again within two weeks, maybe less, but for now it's done. The front lawn is even edged! The back lawn, well, maybe tomorrow I'll get around to edging it. For today I was just glad to have finished the actual mowing.

Boston under the pecan tree
Tags: native plants, photographs
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