People in more northern parts of the world may say their farewells to spring next month at the summer solstice, but around here, the farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) is at its peak right now. Boston has been enjoying the show in the back yard.
There's quite a show in the side yard as well.
My next-door neighbors who are selling their house are probably happy about the timing of this mass of pink bloom adjacent to their yard.
But let's go back in time a bit so I can tell the story of how the garden has progressed over the past month. In late April it looked like this.
The poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and blue flax (Linum lewisii) have toned down quite a bit since then, while other plants - most notably the farewell-to-spring - have ramped up. Remember the red poppies?
They were fantastic while they lasted, and they lasted all of April. Now, though, it's not April anymore. The red poppies are all gone.
Some more ordinary golden poppies remain, however. They're just quite outnumbered by the farewell-to-spring.
The bees are happy to have the poppies.
But then, the bees are also happy to have the farewell-to-spring.
And the other kinds of bees are happy, too. This is a male foothill carpenter bee (Xylocopa tabaniformis) on mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata). Unlike the European honeybees in the pictures above, which are not native anywhere in North or South America, the carpenter bees are native to California. You can tell this one is male because it's partly yellow. Females are solid black. (Males of the related valley carpenter bee species are solid yellow, but around here we seem to have a lot more foothill carpenter bees than valley carpenter bees, despite the fact that I definitely live in the valley.)
Here's another picture of mountain garland, minus the bee. The tiny white and pale purple flowers around the base of it are bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor).
And here's a different kind of probably native bee on blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum 'North Coast'). This is a mason bee or close relative of a mason bee, but I haven't been able to identify its species.
One of the main focuses of my interest all this spring has been that ceramic pot shown several pictures up from here, where I keep some hard-to-find native plants (mostly bulbs and corms) that need to stay absolutely dry in the summer. This is where, in April, I was showing off my checker mallow (Sidalcea malviflora).
Alas, the checker mallow is all done blooming now.
But several new plants have bloomed in that same pot this month. The first was roundtooth ookow (Dichelostemma multiflorum), also known as many-flowered snakelily.
This was kind of a disappointing plant, though. This species is named for its tendency to produce flowerheads containing as many as 35 flowers. My plant produced . . . uh, ten? And that was just ten flower buds; only about five flowers ever actually opened. I was so confused by this behavior that I started questioning what species this was and looked up information on how to identify it. But this is the right species; you can identify it by the fact that the flower tube is pinched inward just below the spot where the petals open outward. You can clearly see the resulting hourglass shape of the flowers in profile here.
I'm not sure why my plant produced so few flowers. Maybe just because it's young? I planted it over this past winter, rather later than I would have if I hadn't been distracted by, you know, wedding cancellations and cancer and stuff like that. I did notice, however, a trait of my plant that does not show up in any of the photographs I found of other specimens of this species. The stem of my plant is quite distinctly twisted around in a spiral shape for its entire length. Does this have anything to do with ill health? I have no idea.
The next bulb to bloom in that same spot was white prettyface (Triteleia hyacinthina), which I've had far more success with. In fact, it seems I don't need to continue growing any of it in the pot for special protection anymore, since I have some of it in the ground that's now bloomed in the ground for the second year in a row.
From the underside, you can see how different its profile is from the profile of the roundtooth ookow.
The outermost flowers open first, and then the inner ones.
This produced many more flowers than the "many-flowered" ookow did - and none of the buds on any of my white prettyface plants have ever shriveled and turned brown before opening like the ookow's buds did.
But the real star of the square brown ceramic pot this month has been a different species of prettyface, Bridges' prettyface (Triteleia bridgesii). This one holds its flowers a bit farther apart from one another, creating a larger flowerhead; also the individual flowers are larger. And for being "many-flowered," this species wins the prize in my yard! I counted 26 flowers on it. Here it is early on, with just a few of them open.
Here it is a few days later.
Even later. More and more flowers!
And here it is now. This year is the first time I've ever grown this species, and it wasn't a species that I had been particularly excited about before it bloomed, but now I want to plant hundreds more Bridges' prettyface plants.
Meanwhile, what's going on in my other ceramic pots? Well, on the other side of the patio, the amusingly named turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora) is starting to bloom.
This is a handy plant for placing underneath taller plants in pots. It covers up the dirt and spills attractively down the sides of the pot. If you group a bunch of pots together, though, it will spread from the taller pots into any shorter pots nearby. Which is fine, as long as you don't mind it there. It's also handy for growing in any location that has no drainage at all; I used to grow it at the horrid duplex for that reason.
In another pot in the same cluster, the common thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is blooming.
Seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) is blooming in yet another of the pots in this cluster on the patio, and also in a few spots in the ground. I've been disappointed in this plant since moving here, though. My seep monkeyflower at the duplex was spectacular, with probably a hundred flowers on a single plant. Here I've only ever gotten a tiny number of flowers per plant. What I need to do is acquire more pots with no drainage holes drilled in them. Pots with no drainage holes are totally useful for growing certain species. Right now I own only one pot with no drainage holes, but I have far more plants I want to put in such pots than will fit in just that one little pot.
In a pot in the front yard, native scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis) is blooming, along with non-native rubygrass (Melinus nerviglumis).
All the monkeyflowers are blooming now! I have sticky monkeyflowers (Mimulus aurantiacus) blooming in several colors around the yard, but the peach color that naturally occurs around here is the one I'm most pleased with. I've seen plants like this all around Lake Oroville.
This is a close-up of the same plant as above.
What else in the garden has been exciting to me this month? My double-flowered mock orange cultivar (Philadelphus lewisii 'Goose Creek') is blooming for the first time. I also have a regular mock orange that will have single flowers, but only the double-flowered cultivar is blooming. Both shrubs are the same age and size - I planted them both in the fall of 2012, and they both have a few branches about as tall as I am, while the majority of their branches still remain low to the ground.
Here are some close-ups of the double flowers. They do make quite a different impression from the single flowers of the species, but the single flowers have an appeal of their own, so I'm glad to have both. If only the single-flowered plant would bloom!
The mock orange flowers do, in fact, smell like orange blossoms! I can't smell them without actually sticking my nose into them, though, which I don't have to do with the orange blossoms. Maybe when the mock orange gets bigger and has more flowers at once, I'll be able to smell the flowers from a distance.
The pink flowers shown with it are mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata).
Another plant that's blooming for the first time ever for me is the unassumingly named leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus). I'm excited about this because I tried to grow this species years ago at the horrid duplex where there was no drainage, and it drowned. Now that I have a proper garden with actual drainage, it's doing fine. Well, it's only produced a rather small number of flowers, but I suspect it would produce more if it weren't surrounded by tall annuals that are blocking much of its light at the moment.
One of my longtime favorites, the foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'), is now in bloom all over both yards. This is a gorgeous plant; my only complaint about it is that it does not seem to reseed. I haven't been able to find a foothill beardtongue for sale that reseeds, and I want one!
I mean, look at it! Who wouldn't want more of this?
Wanted: viable foothill beardtongue seeds! Can't someone mail me some?
The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) is also in bloom now.
And I've been surprised and pleased to see how long the Pacific bleedingheart (Dicentra formosa) bloom lasts. It's still going strong.
It's getting a lot of shade from a Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora) growing right on top of it, but it seems happy with that arrangement.
These are the flowers of the Chinese peony.
The pink Chinese peony is the one growing with the pink Pacific bleedingheart.
But in the front yard there's a white Chinese peony as well.
Scent-wise, the non-natives in my garden tend to steal the show. I think the gardener who preceded me here, who gardened at this house for 57 years before I moved in, prioritized scent very highly in her plant selections, because there are nearly always delightful scents from her plants. In early April there was the scent of the orange tree. In late April, just as the orange-blossom scent was beginning to fade, the yesterday, today, and tomorrow tree (Brunsfelsia sp.) burst into fragrant bloom.
The tree is named for the fact that its flowers open dark purple, fade the next day to a paler lilac, then fade again on subsequent days to white. I took the picture above on the day it first burst into bloom, all at once, when none of the flowers had faded to white yet. The picture below is how it looks today. If you look closely you can also see some brownish, globe-shaped fruit still hanging on from last year. Most plants don't hold onto their fruit for as long as this. The tree could really be called "yesterday, today, tomorrow, and last year."
This is a fiery skipper (Hylephila phyleus) butterfly on the yesterday, today, and tomorrow tree.
Although that tree is still in full bloom, another fragrant plant is now in full bloom too: the Confederate jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) on my patio.
Here's a view from underneath it.
And here's a view from indoors. I love my view! If the light were better you'd also see a mass of pink farewell-to-spring all along the fence on the right, but of course the sun hit those plants at the precise angle to make them completely invisible in this picture.
And of course, in any discussion of fragrant plants, we can't forget the roses.
We also shouldn't forget the fragrance of the gigantic southern magnolia tree, but I haven't gotten any good pictures of the magnolia flowers yet this spring. I did get this picture of a bird's nest in the magnolia tree. It's an old nest, so I'm not sure what type of bird built it. The nest was already here when I moved in.
As long as I've wandered onto the topic of non-native plants, I may as well show you the rest of them now too, even the ones that have no scent as far as I can tell. Here is heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) with berries from last year and flowers from this year.
Here's a typical hydrid geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) such as you might find in the garden of any 90-something-year-old lady (and it's only here in my garden because it was planted by the 90-something-year-old lady who gardened here before me).
Here are some non-native irises, probably yellow flag irises (Iris pseudacorus).
Here's an unidentified rhododendron.
Here's a non-native that I planted myself: highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum 'Elliott'). This is one of four different blueberry cultivars I've planted. (You might conclude from my having planted so many that I must really love blueberries, but actually it's more a matter of having a lot of space, not minding blueberries, and not being able to decide between all the different cultivars. This one blooms a lot later in the season than the others, which is helpful for extending the length of the season.)
And another non-native that I planted myself. These are chives (Allium schoenoprasum).
If you look closely at the picture above, you may notice a honeybee on a flower at the far right. I took the two pictures below to get a better view of the bee.
Turning my attention back to natives . . . oh look, Boston is posing with some blue globe gilia (Gilia capitata).
Here's a close-up of the blue globe gilia. One globe just starting to bloom, and one at the peak of its bloom.
And here's its cousin, bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), along with some mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena).
A bit of yarrow (Achillea millefolium) has started blooming next to the faucet. Most of my yarrow hasn't bloomed yet, though.
Some of my yarrow would have bloomed if it didn't get mowed. I discovered that my backyard lawn turns into a wildflower meadow if I go two weeks between mowings. Well, a very weedy wildflower meadow, but still. In this picture I see California poppy, yarrow, Douglas' meadowfoam, bird's eye gilia, and some weedier natives, autumn willowherb and horseweed, along with non-native field madder, white clover, Bermuda grass, and other grasses I can't identify. It's almost a shame to mow it. (Except for the Bermuda grass. Bermuda grass is my mortal enemy.)
I don't see this one in the picture, but it's a native volunteer that has always constituted a large portion of the lawn in shadier areas: selfheal (Prunella vulgaris). It's in full bloom right now.
Although it isn't exactly colorful, I feel I'd be remiss in not mentioning the species whose flowers are completely dominating the entire back yard right now: the pecan (Carya illinoiensis). These flowers are everywhere right now, comprising a solid carpet covering most of the lawn, and they adhere to Boston's fur like Velcro, so I have to spend five minutes peeling them off Boston each time I let her in the house. I've also taken to mowing the lawn more often for the purpose of shredding the fallen pecan flowers.
Some people are allergic to pecan flowers. Luckily, I don't think I am. I'm allergic to something in the yard right now, but being near the pecan tree doesn't seem to set off my allergies; being in the food garden is what sets them off. Particularly pulling weeds in the food garden. I suspect the field madder (Sherardia arvensis) is the weed that I'm allergic to.
I found an interesting bit of wildlife in the pecan tree a few days ago - or rather, on the birdhouse in the pecan tree. It's an ashy gray ladybug (Olla v-nigrum). I would have called it tan rather than ashy gray, myself, but either way, it's definitely not the usual color for a ladybug. I was amused to be able to photograph it with the wrought-iron ladybug decoration. Apparently this species lives exclusively in trees, so you won't find it if you look on roses or other lower-growing plants. You have to look up above your head to notice it.
And I made an effort to photograph the Pacific tree frogs and Western toads that emerge everywhere in my garden at dusk each day. The Pacific tree frogs didn't cooperate with my efforts, but I got this photograph of a Western toad (Anaxyrus boreas) next to the garden hose.
With that, I leave you with a great big bunch of farewell-to-spring, in every possible color variant.
Boston says to come back next month for a probably smaller but still interesting display of summer flowers.