My garden usually peaks in the second half of April. Occasionally the precise middle of April. Either way, we're not there yet, but we're getting there. In a lot of ways I like the month leading up to the peak better than the actual peak, because at the actual peak, everything starts going downhill.
This is my front yard this week. The whole area to the right of the path used to be lawn until last August. Also I chopped down a tree there in October. So everything here is new, but it's filling in nicely. In the past month I wrestled that big blue pot onto the tree stump where the tree used to be, and also wrestled a smalled blue pot onto a smaller tree stump (well, shrub stump) up against the house, near the left edge of the picture. I also sawed both stumps a bit to get them more level than they were. And filled both pots with soil. And then the fun part: planting them! They're now home to a combination of non-native strawberries and native ornamental shrubs.
The small, pale flowers you can hardly see in the foreground here are two California native annuals, baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five spot (Nemophila maculata). The big orange flowers are California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica), and the spikes of bluish flowers a little behind them are foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs').
This is the same corner that's in the foreground above, shown from the exact opposite angle.
And this is a closer view from still another angle.
Hooray for California golden poppies!
These are the baby blue eyes and the five spots. The five spots are of course the ones with five spots on their petals. The baby blue eyes are the ones that are baby blue.
The five spots don't usually bloom as well for me as the baby blue eyes, but this year I've got probably my biggest crop of five spots ever.
They are not large flowers, and they won't last very long, but they're adorable.
Here's the foothill beardtongue, along with more five spots. Toward the lower right corner, you can also see a tiny fruit on the native woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria'). The fruit is about the diameter of a fingernail and won't get any larger. It tastes great, but there's not much of it to eat.
My one disappointment with the foothill beardtongue has been that the 'Blue Springs' cultivar appears to be sterile. Recently, though, I got a wild strain of foothill beardtongue, so I hope I'll start getting some seedlings soon. This one in the picture is the cultivar, though.
In the background toward the left, you can see a native California lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter').
I also have several other species of beardtongue in the front yard. The foothill beardtongue is the most locally native, but the desert beardtongue (Penstemon pseudospectabilis) also seems especially happy here. It's from the Mojave desert. It's covered with little hot pink flower buds now.
This is a closeup of the California lilac. I planted one of these in the large blue pot as well as this one at the base of the large blue pot.
Here's another plant blooming at the base of the large blue pot: evergreen currant (Ribes viburnifolium). I have two more of these in the back yard, under the pecan tree and the Southern magnolia tree. They like shade. This plant is native to Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California.
Still in the same area by my front door, I also planted several sticky monkeyflowers (Mimulus 'Pamela'). This is a cultivar of a plant that's common in the local foothills.
Also in the same area, this is a native annual I didn't expect to see blooming so soon. It usually blooms in June. This is mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata). It's native mostly in the foothills all around California's central valley. But sometimes it wanders down into the valley, and it grows fine for me here.
And this one is a native annual I didn't expect to see at all! In fact, my main regret from last fall's planting season was that I never got around to buying any seeds of this and planting it. This is miners' lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata), and edible salad green named for the fact that it was eaten by the gold miners during the Gold Rush. I did buy and plant seeds of it a few years ago, but not here - this area was under the conifer that used to be here. Miners' lettuce seeds are spread by ants, though; the plant produces a delicious treat for ants and attaches its seeds to the treat, to induce the ants to carry the seeds back to their nest, thus spreading the plant to new locations. And when I dug out the lawn here last summer, I did indeed find an ants' nest in this area. So I have the ants to thank for this seedling.
Miners' lettuce is native right here where I live, and in nearly all of California. It grows wild at my parents' house, without ever having been intentionally planted there. And it has the distinction of being the only green vegetable I don't mind eating. Except that right now I do mind eating it, not because of the taste but because I don't have enough of it in my garden to feel able to spare any.
And yes, this plant is in bloom! There are extremely tiny white flowers on it.
Almost everything I planted in this area is native, but this next plant is a rare exception. This is a non-native hybrid larkspur (Delphinium belladonna 'Bellamosum'). I'm fairly impressed by the length of its bloom season.
Moving to other parts of the front yard now . . . the Channel Islands coral bells (Heuchera maxima) in the pot by my front door are starting to bloom. I have more of these all over the place, and they're nearly all starting to bloom. They're native only to the Channel Islands, so they're California natives but not native anywhere near me. I like them because they like shade and never need any watering at all. Even this one in a pot never needs any watering!
Continuing through my front yard, here's a Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) that came with the house. Brand new, pristine camellia flowers are amazing.
They age quickly, though. I don't often photograph the aged ones, but I suppose there's a different sort of beauty in watching flowers age.
Here's another plant that came with the house: candytuft (Iberis sempervirens). I actually tried to kill this one, intentionally. It came back. I'll probably let it live for a while now. It's not a bad plant. I just tried to kill it because I was redoing the entire bed it's in and thought it looks awkwardly out of place once all its former companions were gone. Now it has new companions and doesn't look out of place anymore.
The Gala apple tree (Malus pumila 'Gala') that I planted in my front yard is blooming. It's unlikely to make fruit, though, unless it's cross-pollinated by a different apple tree cultivar. My other apple tree cultivar died. I need to plant another or else graft a branch from another apple tree cultivar onto this tree.
Over at the front right corner of the garage, I had a few daffodils (Narcissus sp.) blooming that came with the house, and some sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) that also came with the house. The small white flowers behind the daffodil are sweet alyssum.
When the daffodils faded, a wind poppy (Papaver heterophyllum) bloomed at the same corner of the house. Wind poppies are a California native poppy species that, despite being orange, do not significantly resemble California golden poppies. They're much harder to find for sale than California golden poppies, so this is the first time I've ever grown them. I just have this one plant, mail-ordered last fall. Wind poppies don't often grow this far north, but it's not totally impossible that they might once have grown here natively.
And here's what they look like when bedraggled from sitting through a week of rainstorms. It's okay: there are many buds on this plant, and each new flower that opens looks fresh again.
Continuing around the side of the house, here's another native that I've never grown before. This is a fawn lily (Erythronium multiscapideum). I bought a single bulb of it last fall, and the bulb cost me something like $7. Most bulbs do not cost this much. It's a gorgeous plant though, and I even got two flowers from the single plant. They were already slightly bedraggled from rainstorms by the time I noticed them - the petal pointing to the top right corner of the frame is a bit shredded, and the leaves are either weatherbeaten or insect-eaten. What beautiful flowers, though! These are native pretty much right where I live.
In the same area as the fawn lily are some non-native wood violets that came with the house. belenen identified them as wood violets for me! There are several species of violets called wood violets, though, and I'm still not sure which of those species these belong to.
Now let's proceed into the back yard! Here's a very young golden currant (Ribes aureum), a native shrub I first learned to love because it has an extremely high tolerance for terrible drainage. It also makes pretty yellow flowers and delicious fruit. It takes quite a while to pick all the tiny little currant fruits from a large shrub, but the taste is worth it.
It's native mostly in the foothills, but it grows very well here in the valley also.
Here's a sunflower (Helianthus annuus). It's native here and in much of the United States. This one started blooming at the beginning of a week of almost continuous rainstorms, so by the time I got a chance to photograph it, its petals were a bit mud-splattered. That's okay, though. It's still a fine specimen of a sunflower.
In the pot on my back patio, the checker mallow (Sidalcea malviflora 'Purpetta') continues to impress me. This is native mostly in the foothills.
Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) is named for the fact that its hot pink, tube-shaped flowers are designed to be pollinated by hummingbirds. I have several hummingbird sage plants, but the one that is largest and is spreading and blooming more than the others keeps producing horizontal flower stalks rather than vertical ones. This makes for somewhat awkward flower photos, but here's a hummingbird sage flower stalk growing parallel to the ground. This species is native along the coast, not near here, but it seems happy in the shade here.
Around another corner into the remaining side yard, my annual field of native Douglas' meadowfoam is starting to bloom in the food garden. The seeds of these flowers are edible and are sometimes used to make a cooking oil. The meadowfoam family is closely related to the mustard family.
I'll end with a plant that's new to me. In the food garden with the Douglas' meadowfoam, another edible native annual is starting to bloom. It's called chia (Salvia columbariae). If you buy chia seeds at the store, they're probably not from the California native species, but they're from a closely related species, and this one can be used the same way. I've been trying to grow it from seed for several years, and this is the first time I've ever gotten it to sprout and bloom. This is the flower stalk before any actual flowers have emerged.
And here it is with its very first actual flowers! And with Douglas' meadowfoam in the background.