Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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June Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

I'm a little late for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day this month, but here I am - though slightly the worse for wear because of the heat, and the same can be said of my garden. Last week brought our first 100-degree weather of this spring: it reached 104° F (40° C) on Monday and 106° F (41° C) on Friday. Several of my plants transformed, over the course of one day, from looking perfectly alive and healthy to looking entirely dead. Some of them resumed looking alive, though somewhat less healthy, after I watered them. Others of them might actually be dead, but I'm not completely sure yet. Also, the suet in my suet bird feeder is melting! Suet is a mixture of birdseed (and sometimes nuts or fruit) and beef fat (to provide the kinds of nutrients that insect-eating birds need). The beef fat is melting out of my suet and creating a grease spot on my cement patio under the suet feeder. This is the first summer I've had a suet feeder, so I didn't know this was going to happen.

One does not spend one's life in the Sacramento Valley without learning a few tricks for coping with heat. Here are mine:
  1. Douse your head in water regularly. A lot of people think it's better to have as little hair as possible during a hot summer, but this is only true if you don't have the good sense to keep your hair wet. Long, thick hair is an excellent tool for holding water; it is very useful if treated as such. Also, there's never any need to worry about drying it off before going out in public, because on a 100° day, all you have to do is step outside the house for ten seconds and your hair will be instantly dry. (Also, if you have curly hair like mine, the constant dousing with water will have the bonus effect of making it more intensely curly than ever.)
  2. Buy some stretchy fabric headbands, preferably four or five inches wide. Stuff ice cubes under them regularly. Make sure the dye in them is colorfast, though, because otherwise you'll end up looking like you just murdered one of the alien species from Star Trek who have oddly colored blood. (I speak from experience. Experience with non-colorfast headbands, I mean; not experience murdering Star Trek aliens.)
  3. Carry an insulated thermos of icewater at all times; drink fifty gallons of icewater per day from this thermos. It must be insulated because otherwise the icewater will cease to be icewater in about ten seconds.
  4. Freeze any and all other beverages and consume them as popsicles.
  5. When gardening, always water yourself just as much as you water the plants.
But on to the plants. Spring ended earlier than usual in my garden this year, and now it looks like August. Ordinarily this would mean that September was just around the corner, which would be a good thing, since the weather generally cools off a bit in September, and the plants start to perk up a little. In this case, though, I'm pretty sure I'm in for at least two more months of August.

Buckwheats are best known for blooming in the fall. Here's Eastern Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) blooming in my side yard right now. The smaller white clumps are the buckwheat flowers; the larger white clumps are yarrow (Achillea millefolium), which generally blooms in July but is already winding down this year.

Eriogonum fasciculatum (Eastern Mojave buckwheat) with Achillea millefolium (yarrow)

Here's a different species of buckwheat blooming in my back yard: San Miguel Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande). This is supposed to be the red-flowered form of it, but the flowers tend not to be reddish at all for me.

Eriogonum grande (island buckwheat)

Behind the San Miguel Island buckwheat is the Channel Islands alum root (Heuchera maxima). Both of the island plants seem to really like the particular slant of light they get at this precise distance from my pecan tree; I've planted them both ten feet away in denser shade and gotten much less growth from them than I get from them here. The Channel Islands alum root (also called Channel Islands coral bells) bloomed in March, but the dried flowers are still clinging to the stalks and hardly look any different from when the plant was at the peak of its bloom.

Heuchera maxima (island coral bells)

Over on my backyard patio, here's some more yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

Achillea millefolium (yarrow)

And in the side yard, a non-native plant: tuberous catmint (Nepeta tuberosa). The local cats don't seem to pay much attention to it, and my own cat is indoor-only and doesn't encounter it, but it should have similar effects on cats to catnip. Behind it is more yarrow.

Nepeta tuberosa (tuberous catmint) with Achillea millefolium (yarrow)

Under my southern magnolia tree, the Great Valley gumplant (Grindelia camporum) is in full bloom. It's a bit straggly to be impressive by itself, but will make a nice component of a larger mix of flowers once I can get some others established here.

Grindelia camporum (Great Valley gumplant)

Its relative, the annual sunflower (Helianthus annuus 'Dwarf Sungold'), has sprouted from seed in a few places around my garden and burst into bloom as soon as the big heatwave hit. Despite being a sunflower (the very same species as much larger sunflowers), this is a diminutive plant, about one foot high, with flower heads about an inch in diameter.

Helianthus annuus 'Dwarf Sungold' (dwarf sunflower)

Here are some more of the 'Dwarf Sungold' sunflowers.

Helianthus annuus 'Dwarf Sungold' (dwarf sunflower)

Last month I was very excited about another native sprouting from seed: large-flowered mountain trumpet (Collomia grandiflora). Over the course of the past month, the first plant bloomed and went to seed, and then another plant bloomed and also went to seed. I spotted a third plant, but the third one never quite managed to bloom. They've all shriveled now, but here are the pictures I got of them while they lasted.

Collomia grandiflora (large-flowered mountain trumpet)

In the background are the last of my farewell-to-spring flowers (Clarkia amoena) and a few California poppies (Eschscholzia californica).

Collomia grandiflora (large-flowered mountain trumpet) and Clarkia amoena (farewell-to-spring)

Collomia grandiflora (large-flowered mountain trumpet) and Clarkia amoena (farewell-to-spring)

In my front yard, my coyote mints (Monardella villosa) are blooming under my front window. From the way they're spilling over the edge of their bed, I think they want a bit more sun than they're getting.

Monardella villosa (coyote mint)

Here's a closeup of a coyote mint flowerhead.

Monardella villosa (coyote mint)

In the heavily watered pots on my patio, a scarlet monkeyflower (Mimulus cardinalis) is blooming. Also visible in an adjacent round, red pot, if you look closely, are the small white flowers of turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora).

Mimulus cardinalis (scarlet monkeyflower)

This next picture doesn't have any flowers in it at all, but it's from that same clump of heavily watered pots, and it shows off some of the less common native plants I drove to Oakland to buy last month. In the square white pot, the straggly, partly brown plant at the left is narrowleaf lotus (Hosackia oblongifolia); it died back a lot from the stress of being transplanted into this pot, but it's starting to recover now. The larger-leaved plant in that same pot is field mint (Mentha arvensis). Both of these plants are new to me. Meanwhile, in the round, red pot, the plant spilling over the edges is turkey-tangle fogfruit, which is not new to me, but the plant that looks like clover is actually a fern called hairy pepperwort (Marsilea vestita), which is new to me. And the plants in the other pots above are two varieties of oregano (Origanum vulgare) that are not new to me.

Also two kinds of Origanum vulgare (oregano) and some Phyla nodiflora (turkey-tangle fogfruit).

That brings us to the end of this post. Here's the last of the flowers I have to show you this month. California fuchsias (Epilobium canum) generally start blooming in August, but this year several of mine have already started. This is the wild form of the species; I have some cultivars that are waiting longer to bloom. The wild form has such narrow leaves that it could almost pass for a conifer when not in bloom. Narrow leaves are an adaptation to intense heat and drought: less surface area means less water loss. This plant's pale, grayish leaves are also an adaptation to intense heat: pale leaves reflect more of the sun rather than absorbing it.

Epilobium canum (California fuchsia)

Here's another shot of the same plant. I expect to have more of these by next month. I'm not sure I'll have much of anything else in bloom next month, but I'm pretty sure I can count on the California fuchsias to put on a good show.

Epilobium canum (California fuchsia)
Tags: native plants, photographs
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