Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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It's Spring! (March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day)

It's officially spring! Not officially according to the calendar quite yet, but officially according to my flowers, which are more authoritative on this topic than the calendar is. My first California poppy bloomed yesterday. My first Douglas meadowfoam flowers bloomed a few days ago. It's definitely not high spring yet, but spring has officially begun. Just in time for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

My California lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter') is making me very happy. I've had several of these plants, starting at the hellhole duplex I used to live in, but the others never got as big as this. This one still isn't very big - it doesn't look much at all like what the plant is supposed to look like at maturity - but it's making progress; by next spring I think it might start looking significantly more like a small version of its adult form. I've planted it under my southern magnolia, which was a bit of a gamble, because the southern magnolia needs a lot of water and the California lilac needs to not be exposed to a lot of water, but my gamble was that the southern magnolia would drink up all the water and leave the California lilac dry. It seems to be working so far. Also, the California lilac needs some sun, but not as intense of sun as we get in the Sacramento Valley, so I planted it under the sunnier side of the southern magnolia, and that also seems to be working so far.

Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter'

This is what the plant looks like as a whole.

Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter'

And here's a closeup of its flowers.

Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter'

My pink currant (Ribes sanguineum 'Claremont') is also in bloom. Here's a closeup of an inflorescence.

Ribes sanguineum 'Claremont'

And here's a slightly broader view of, more or less, the whole plant. Eventually it should grow up to be a shrub.

Ribes sanguineum 'Claremont'

It's cousin the evergreen currant (Ribes viburnifolium) is also blooming. This plant is more of a groundcover rather than a shrub. It's a year older than the 'Claremont' and is starting to spread out under the shadier side of the southern magnolia.

Ribes viburnifolium (evergreen currant)

Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) is another species that I've grown before, starting at the hellhole duplex, but never as successfully as now. This plant seems to be starting to spread out and thrive.

Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage)

However, I can't say it looks terribly impressive. Both its flower stalks have flopped over horizontally, which makes them hardly noticeable. (The less visible one in this photo is toward the far right. Look for the dots of hot pink and you'll find it.) Still, it seems very healthy, so I can tolerate the slight aesthetic disappointment. It's not actually ugly, just not as showy as would be with upright flower stalks.

Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage)

My California figwort (Scrophularia californica) is blooming for its second year. This is not a showy plant at all, because its flowers are tiny. However, it's not ugly at all either, and it helps complete the ecosystem. Another of its common names is "bee plant," although I haven't actually noticed bees paying much attention to it.

Scrophularia californica (California figwort)

One of my island coral bells (Heuchera maxima) plants is in full bloom (shown in the foreground below). I have eight of these plants, but only this one, which gets more sun than any of the others, is in full bloom.

Heuchera maxima (island coral bells)

The others are just budding out. Here's a clump of flower buds on one of them.

Heuchera maxima (island coral bells)

I was very surprised to find red maids (Calandrinia ciliata) blooming in, of all places, the middle of my back lawn. I've bought and scattered seeds of this plant, but I've never had enough of the seeds to want to waste any of them in the middle of my lawn. Either the seeds I scattered were somehow transported by wind or wildlife to the middle of my lawn or else these just volunteered. But I haven't known red maids to volunteer in my garden before. Anyway, however they got here, these are the only red maids I seem to have at the moment.

Calandrinia ciliata (red maids)

I guess it's time to show you the officialy designated (by me) harbingers of spring. This was my very first Douglas meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) flower to open this year. It opened about a week ago.

Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas meadowfoam)

This is what the Douglas meadowfoam looks like today. There's a much larger patch that hasn't bloomed yet, so it will be more spectacular in a couple of weeks.

Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas meadowfoam)

And this is the first California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) of this year, blooming yesterday.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

All the flowers I've shown you so far in this post have been California natives; the natives definitely seem to be dominant this month. But there are a few non-natives too. Here's a diminutive grape hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum).

Muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinth)

And here are some calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica).

Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lilies)

Oh, and I also have birds! Including a new species. The cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) have shown up this month, all at once, in huge numbers. They congregate in trees in groups of 30 or 40. They eat fruit almost exclusively, and although I've tried putting out fruit for them (dried cranberries and oranges from my orange tree), they seem uninterested in anything I have to offer them. They do, however, congregate in my pecan tree, just as they do in most of the other large trees nearby. They're fairly spectacular if you get a good view of them, but they perch fairly high, so you're not likely to get a good view of them without binoculars or a camera with a good zoom lens. Also they're camera shy, so as soon as they notice me pointing my camera at them, they fly off.

Bombycilla cedrorum (cedar waxwings)

Here's a group of them in my pecan tree.

Bombycilla cedrorum (cedar waxwings)

My pecan tree is a popular hangout for all sorts of birds, both desirable and undesirable. There is a single European starling (Sturnus vulgaris) that is nearly always perched at the very top, all by itself. I don't know what it's doing there; starlings tend to congregate in very large flocks that cause problems due to their sheer numbers. But I only see one at a time, and it just stays there all day. It pays no attention to my bird feeders, which is a relief, since I don't like to feed invasive species.

In the picture below, the starling, on the left, is staring down a lesser goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria), on the right. The starling was there first. But the lesser goldfinch is native, so hey, its species was there first. I was surprised that the lesser goldfinch chose to land so close to the larger starling and held its ground, but lesser goldfinches seem to be fairly aggressive birds. They fight over the feeders a lot.

Sturnus vulgaris (European starling) and Carduelis psaltria (lesser goldfinch)

Here are seven lesser goldfinches at the nyjer thistle feeder.

Carduelis psaltria (lesser goldfinches)

And some house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) on the patio roof. Two males and one female.

Haemorhous mexicanus (house finches)

And a white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) on the patio roof.

Zonotrichia leucophrys (white-crowned sparrow)

That's all for now. Next month will be even better!
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