It isn't a bad-looking yard in any case, but it does lack the "wow" factor of past years. I should have an absolute explosion of pink farewell-to-spring flowers (Clarkia amoena) right now, filling the entire north border of the property (check my post from this month last year to see what I mean). Instead I have . . . a few flowers here and there? Like the ones below. I mean, they're nice! But I only have about ten of these plants where last year I had a hundred of them. (They're annuals, so it's not that last year's crop died unexpectedly, but rather that this year's crop failed to germinate much.)
Apparently this spring just didn't merit as spectacular a farewell as past springs did.
In the side yard, where last year I had an explosion of pink farewell-to-spring, this year I have an explosion of white yarrow (Achillea millefolium). It does not look bad. But yarrow normally does this in July. What will I have here in July this year? Maybe California fuchsias, which normally do this in September? Then what will I have in September? Several extra months of winter-like dormancy?
It worries me. But for now, I have a nice bed of yarrow. With an occasional farewell-to-spring mixed in.
Here, have some closeups of yarrow. Yarrow is a perennial that is native to pretty much all of North America and much of the rest of the world as well.
It's a member of the aster/sunflower/daisy family.
But this month has had a few pleasant surprises. The plant I'm most excited about at the moment is one I didn't realize I had until yesterday: large-flowered mountain trumpet (Collomia grandiflora). This plant grows throughout California's foothills (I've seen it in the wild while camping) and is also (per the USDA website) native as far north as British Columbia and east to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona. I bought and scattered seeds of it last fall, but I didn't realize any of them had sprouted until I noticed the orange buds showing up on this one yesterday. None of them were open yet when I noticed it, and they still weren't open yet when I checked on it this morning. But this afternoon I checked again, and look! Flowers!
The other plant that's currently blooming for me for the first time ever is toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia). This shrub is a member of the rose family. Also known as Christmas holly, it is the plant that Hollywood is named after. It's native throughout most of California but nowhere outside of California.
Large-flowered mountain trumpet is a member of the phlox family, as is the blue globe gilia (Gilia capitata) shown below. This plant is one of the many that's been decidedly less numerous this year than last year - and not only less numerous, but each individual plant has been smaller and has produced fewer flowers. Still, at least I have a few here and there. This plant is native as far north as Washington State and as far east as Vermont.
Here are some California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), along with deergrass (Muehlenbergia rigens) and more white yarrow.
Here's some leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus), which, like yarrow, is a member of the aster family. It's native to California and Oregon.
The Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum), native to and named for California's central valley, is another member of the aster family.
My blue flax (Linum lewisii) continues to be sparser than last year, but it's still around and blooming. This plant is named for Meriwether Lewis and is native to much of North America (minus some of the East Coast, from which Meriwether Lewis traveled and "discovered" it).
My foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') has bloomed for more than a month, and some of these plants are hardly showing signs of winding down yet. This plant is endemic to California (it doesn't grow in the wild anywhere else).
One of my prettiest plants at the moment is Lewis' mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii 'Goose Creek'), shown here with deergrass, farewell-to-spring, and California poppies. This is another plant named for Meriwether Lewis. It's native from California to British Columbia and east to Alberta and Montana.
The 'Goose Creek' cultivar is a double-flowered form (it has twice as many petals per flower as the wild form). I actually kind of prefer the flowers on the wild form, and I have a plant of the wild form, which I planted at the same time I planted this one, in fall 2012, immediately after moving in and promptly digging out a bunch of lawn to install flower beds along the entire north border of the patio (which I have since expanded to the entire north border of the property). But the wild form still hasn't bloomed for me yet. The 'Goose Creek' form blooms more and more each year.
The mock orange is named for the fact that its flowers smell similar to orange blossoms. You have to get a bit closer to them to smell them than with orange blossoms, though.
In the picture below, in addition to the mock orange and farewell-to-spring, you can see in the distance the orange flowers of sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus 'Point Molate'). In front of the fence that doesn't quite match the color of the gate, because I repainted the gate last summer and bought paint that matched the color of the patio roof without realizing that the patio roof was a different color than the fence. I'm planning to repaint the fences adjacent to the gate this summer so they'll match, but this is where I left off the paint job last summer. (It needed repainting mainly because I painted other things near it and got some of the paint on the gate. Paint projects have a way of spreading and taking over everything.)
Here's a closer view of that same sticky monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus 'Point Molate'). It's native to California and Oregon. I have many different sticky monkeyflowers around the yard, but this one seems to be the happiest of them, and it's also the one that's probably receiving the most shade. Resolution: plant more sticky monkeyflowers in the shade.
Here's a different species of monkeyflower, the seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), which has a more widespread distribution throughout much of North America (especially the western half). I've yet to make any of these as happy as they were at the scary duplex I used to live in where the back yard was a swamp of stagnant water that never drained away all winter. This winter I purposely bought some flower pots without drainage holes in the hopes of making plants like this happy again. But even when planted in properly draining soil like this one, they still produce pretty flowers. Just not nearly so many as they produce when grown in a disgusting mud pit.
Another plant blooming in bright yellow right now is sulfur buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum 'Proliferum'). This is native from California north to British Columbia and Alberta and east to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona.
It's planted in the narrow expansion of flower bed that I dug out last fall. (The concrete in the middle of the flower bed marks the previous border of the bed. I tried to break up the concrete with a sledgehammer and remove it, but I had almost no success at all. I think I would need both to dig out more of the dirt surrounding the concrete and also probably to be stronger than I am. As a result, the concrete is likely to stay in the middle of the bed indefinitely. But I dug out a strip of lawn alongside it last fall and put in a dry-laid brick border (movable in case I decide to further expand the bed). Since the bed is less than a year old, it isn't very filled in yet, but it's making some progress.
In the back yard I have some plants blooming in the cluster of pots on my patio. The blue flowers in the large blue pot with the blueberry bush are Ithuriel's spears (Triteleia laxa), and the white flowers in the smaller blue pot in front are common thyme (Thymus vulgaris).
Here's a closer view of them. Another common name for these is Wally baskets. I always call them Ithuriel's spears, though, because really, why would you call your flowers Wally baskets when you could call them Ithuriel's spears? (Mythologically, the touch of the angel Ithuriel's spear was said to expose deceit and exposed Satan from his disguised forms. So I will just go around touching people with my flowers, and then I will find out who everyone really is.)
A plant that spills over the sides of some of these pots is turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). Which is also called lippia, but why would you call your flowers lippia when you could call them turkey-tangle fogfruit? The European honeybee on this flower was injured somehow; its wings looked fine to me, but it plainly couldn't fly. It was crawling slowly from each flower to the next within my pots. I watched it until it ran out of flowers, then gave it a grass stem to crawl onto and used the grass stem to transport it across the yard to a different group of flowers. It probably didn't survive the day; I don't see how it could possibly return to its hive anymore.
Here's a closeup of the common thyme, with Ithuriel's spears in the background. Thyme is not native to California, whereas everything up to this point in the post has been, so this marks the transition point to photos of nonnative plants.
Common thyme is one of the few nonnatives I've planted myself. Here's another: 'Blackbird' beardtongue (Penstemon 'Blackbird').
It was the last of the beardtongues to bloom this spring, but it was worth the wait. I had originally envisioned it combining with the hot pink desert beardtongue and the blue foothill beardtongue, but there wasn't much left of the desert beardtongue by the time this bloomed, and even the foothill beardtongue was a bit past its peak. Well, this extends the beardtongue season, at least.
That brings us to the nonnatives I did not plant myself. This Chinese peony (Paeonia lactiflora) came with the house, as did some overgrown Buddhist pines planted near it. I chopped down the Buddhist pines (they were jammed into narrow flower beds about six inches from the house) but left the Chinese peonies. This is another plant that has suffered noticeably from the drought, though; this one bloomed much less than last year, and another one, which has pink flowers, hasn't bloomed at all this year.
Near the white Chinese peony is a rhododendron that I think I've finally managed to identify: I think it's a king rhododendron (Rhododendron rex). It's looked miserable ever since I moved in and somehow managed to look even more miserable this year (this was the only flower it produced this spring), but somehow it doesn't die. I may actively put it out of its misery soon and plant something that will be happier in its spot.
This bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla) somehow doesn't seem to be suffering significantly from the drought. Sometimes plants behave surprisingly.
The garden geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) still seem as happy as ever.
Both the pink ones and the red one.
My southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is beginning to bloom as well. I have actually been watering this tree even while letting most of the rest of the yard largely fend for itself. It's a 60-year-old tree; I couldn't replace it in my remaining lifetime unless I live to be 98. And if I live to be 98, I probably won't live here anymore.
The Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is blooming profusely and not suffering at all.
Here's a closer view of it.
And I'll end with a weed. This is self-heal (Prunella vulgaris), a volunteer that I allow to stay because even though this is the non-native subspecies (Prunella vulgaris ssp. vulgaris), there's also a native subspecies (Prunella vulgaris ssp. lanceolata), and I don't tend to get picky about subspecies as long as the species is native. It's close enough to native to serve the same functions in the ecosystem that the native form serves; I see many butterflies and other pollinators visiting it regularly. I like the plant. And so I allow it to stay and bloom and spread wherever it likes.