Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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March Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses

It's time again for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I haven't participated for nearly a full year . . . the last time I managed a Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post was in April 2016. After that, posting about the beautiful new boyfriend I acquired early that April took precedence over posting about the plants I was acquiring. But the plants have also been beautiful, and I've planted about half of them at the beautiful new boyfriend's house, so today I bring you Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day from both our houses.

I have a backlog of garden from the past 11 months that I haven't posted yet, and in the past, whenever I've missed a few months of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I've included my backlogged photos in the new month's post. This time, though, I've missed more consecutive months than ever before, and I simply can't possibly catch up with the backlog. Instead, for now I'm just going to try to keep up with the current blooms. Maybe when the current bloom season winds down, I might have time to go through the backlog and post some 2016 photos in the appropriate months of 2017 (June photos in June, July photos in July, and so on).

I will post about Barry's house first. And for this first picture, I do have a couple of comparisons from earlier in the year!

Here is my beautiful boyfriend's front yard, as of a few days ago. In the lower right, you can see the "Native Plants live here!" sign I received during the Fall 2016 California Native Plant Society sales. They were selling these signs but also giving them away to people who spent a certain minimum amount of money on plants. I always spend a lot of money on plants at these sales, so I got a free sign. I may get another one this spring or next fall for my own house. I gave the first one to Barry because his front yard is more nearly pure native than mine. It is all California native, and almost all locally native, except for two crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) and a Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis), which were the only plants in the front yard when I first went to Barry's house. The crepe myrtles (located on either side of the driveway, not visible from this angle) were planted by previous homeowners, coppiced (chopped down to ground level) before Barry bought the house, and covered with lawn. They resprouted after Barry bought the house and are now chest-high shrubs. I might try to kill them in the future. The Chinese pistache tree (visible below, currently leafless) was chosen by Barry and planted before he met me, and I plan to leave it alone, because it is a reasonably well-behaved and ornamental tree that is plausibly more marketable than a lot of the native options - and besides, if I tried to replace it now, it would take some years for a replacement to achieve comparable size (not that this tree is very big yet, but it is not fresh out of a pot, either) - so leaving it there could be a meaningful selling point for the house.

The plants currently blooming in Barry's yard are baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii), the only flowers you can see in this picture; Cedros Island vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'), behind the Chinese pistache; cream cups (Platystemon californicus), on the other side of the driveway; and California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus), in the back yard. Well, and the deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens) in the foreground of this picture. Also present in abundance, but not blooming yet, are Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii), white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), California poppies (Eschscholzia californica), bird's eyes (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilyflower (Gilia capitata), mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), and farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena). There's also plenty of other stuff that's less abundant, but those species are the ones I expect to make the biggest showing in the next few months. The Douglas' meadowfoam and California poppies at my house have already started blooming, but the ones at Barry's house were seeded later in the season because I was trying to beat back the weeds to make room for them, so their bloom season is being delayed due to their delayed planting time. Otherwise, they should start blooming sooner at Barry's house, because it is (as the crow flies) nearly 35 miles south of mine, and bloom season moves progressively northward over the course of the spring. None of the baby blue eyes at my own house have started blooming yet, but the ones at Barry's house are at peak bloom now.

Barry's house, March 2017

This is a similar view of Barry's front yard a little under one month ago, in mid- to late February. As you can see, the seedlings have been growing fast!

front yard, February 2017

And this is Barry's front yard in February, around the time I was scattering the seeds, before any of them had sprouted yet. This is the earliest picture I took from this angle, but this is after I had spent six months planting plants here already. As I mentioned, the front yard was lawn when Barry bought the house. Barry lasagna mulched the lawn to kill it (layering cardboard over it, followed by compost, followed by wood chips). So when I first saw it last March and planted 29 plants at Barry's house almost a month before my first date with Barry, the front yard was all wood chips with no plants except for the Chinese pistache tree, the two crepe myrtle shrubs (one of which is partly visible at the far left here), and the large coast redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens) visible at the far left behind the house here (planted by the builder of the house). The back yard was similarly bare, but without any lasagna mulching - no mulch to suppress the weeds. In October, though, when I took this picture, you can see deergrass, canyon liveforever (Dudleya cymosa), and California fuchsia (Epilobium canum) in the foreground; yellow bush lupines (Lupinus arboreus), a silver bush lupine (Lupinus albifrons), and some California asters (Symphyotrichum chilense) a little farther back; and Mojave buckwheat (Eriogonum fasiculatum) and woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum) near the house. There were other plants too, by this point, but those are just the ones I can pick out in this picture.

front yard, October 2016

Anyway, enough with the history - let's get on with this month's Bloom Day! Here's Barry's front yard a few days ago again, from another angle this time. In the foreground is Cedros Island vervain; in the background are baby blue eyes.

Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' (Cedros Island vervain) and Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

Here's a slightly closer look at the Cedros Island vervain. This plant is endemic to (native only to) Cedros Island, which is just off the coast of Baja California. It's native to the California Floristic Province (which consists of most of the state of California except the parts east of the Sierra Nevadas, plus small parts of Oregon and Baja California that have similar climate conditions and thus much of the same plant life) but not to the state of California. It's a member of the vervain family, which belongs to the order Lamiales, an order that also contains families such as the mint family, the olive family, the broomrape family, the lopseed family, the plantain family, and the figwort family.

Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' (Cedros Island vervain) and Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

But the baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are the real stars of Barry's yard right now, so let's talk about those. They are endemic to western North America. They are members of the borage family, which is not currently placed in any order.

Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes)

Borage is often used as a companion plant for strawberries, tomatoes, cabbage, and squash; other plants in the borage family, such as baby blue eyes, may serve the same purpose. Perhaps I should add some baby blue eyes to Barry's culinary planter boxes next year? I've got purple tree collards (Brassica oleracea 'Richmond's Pride') in here, which are very closely related to cabbage - actually a different form of the same species - and also a strawberry plant (not visible in the picture). The first of the planter boxes is filling in very well at the moment. The second one, planted only a few weeks later, is still in the "barely sprouted" stage.

west planter box with radishes, spinach, a tree collard, and a leek

But those food plants aren't blooming, so let's return to blooms. Cream cups (Platystemon californicus) area native annual I've occasionally grown in Marysville before, but this one at Barry's house in Woodland has put all my previous efforts to shame. Previous efforts produced a small handful of flowers; this effort is at least six times as large as any previous efforts. In fact, I originally planted it with a tufted poppy (Eschscholzia caespitosa) with the expectation that they'd both grow to about the same size and have plenty of space between them. That tufted poppy can be seen (not blooming) in the lower left corner of this picture, being slowly flattened as the cream cups explode right over the top of it.

Platystemon californicus (cream cups)

Cream cups are also a member of the poppy family. The poppy family belongs to the order Ranunculales, which also contains such families as the buttercup family and the barberry family. Cream cups are endemic to western North America. They have yellow dots on their petals and small hairs on their leaves.

Platystemon californicus (cream cups)

Platystemon californicus (cream cups)

California buttercups (Ranunculus californicus) are also blooming at Barry's house, but I took this particular photo of them at my own house. They're the only plant that's currently blooming at both our houses. They belongs to the buttercup family and therefore, like cream cups, to the order Ranunculales. They are also endemic to western North America.

Ranunculus californicus (California buttercup)

Here's a shot of my California buttercups in their larger context. They are not big, attention-getting flowers, but they are easy to grow and can help light up a space during the winter when nothing else is blooming yet. Mine have been blooming for much of the winter already. (The other plants you see here are mostly coral bells, meadowfoam, California poppies, California goldenrod, yarrow, and farewell-to-spring.)

Ranunculus californicus (California buttercup)

Yes, we're officially done with Barry's house on this month's garden tour and have moved on to my own house. Here's a vignette I'm particularly happy with at the moment: Western yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria') in the foreground, with the blue flowers of creeping mountain lilac (Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter'), the yellow flowers and bright red foliage of Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium), and the orange-and-yellow flowers of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) in the background.

Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), and Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape)

Here's a closer view of the 'Joyce Coulter' creeping mountain lilac and the Oregon grape. I chose the Oregon grape for this prominent location at the front of my house specifically because it has a lot of color all year round, and I juxtaposed it with the blue pot (and the creeping mountain lilac that picks up the blue color of the pot) to increase the visual impact. The flowers won't last forever, but the leaf color will. And the plant will get bigger and make a bigger visual impact.

Oregon grape is a member of the barberry family and thus the order Ranunculales, like buttercups. It is endemic to western North America.

Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape)

'Joyce Coulter' creeping mountain lilac is a domesticated hybrid of two species that are both endemic to (native only to) California itself. It is a member of the buckthorn family and thus the order Rosales, which also contains such families as the rose family.

It has pinkish flower buds that open up into clusters of tiny blue flowers.

Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter' 

After all the flowers in the clump have opened, no more pinkish color remains.

Ceanothus 'Joyce Coulter'

This is the coastal form of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica). The coastal form has yellow edges and an orange center. This is the form I have next to the blue pot in front of the house, and in some other parts of the front yard.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Around the side of the house, I have the Central Valley form, which is solid orange. I also have some more unusual colors, but they haven't properly opened yet. There is a very red-orange one budding in the front yard now that I haven't photographed yet.

California poppies are endemic to western North America. The poppy family belongs to the order Ranunculales, along with the buttercup family and the barberry family.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)e

Here's a cute little edible native plant that I have in that same front garden bed, near the blue pot. This is miner's lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Its species epithet, perfoliata, refers to its leaf shape: the leaves start out hemispherical, as shown here at upper left, but as they mature, they widen and join to form full circles, which are "perforated" by the flowers that emerge from the center of the leaf. This plant is an edible salad green, eaten by gold miners and Native Californians. It has an interesting method of reproduction: its seeds are attached to elaiosomes ("fleshy structures . . . rich in lipids and proteins," according to Wikipedia) designed to attract ants. The ants take the elaiosome, with seeds attached, back to their nest, where the seeds sprout. The plant benefits because ants' nests are an ideal location for these seeds to sprout, being well-composted with ant droppings and dead ants.

Miners' lettuce is endemic to western North America. It's a member of the miner's lettuce family, and thus of the order Caryophyllales, which also contains such families as the carnation family, the amaranth family, the cactus family, the sundew (and Venus fly-trap) family, the four o'clock family, the knotweed (and buckwheat) family, and the purslane family.

Claytonia perfoliata (miners' lettuce)

Claytonia perfoliata (miners' lettuce)

Rounding out that particular bed in my front yard, here's a plant that just started blooming today, taking me by surprise because it's a couple of months earlier than usual. This is farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena), known for blooming in late May or early June, when it's time to say farewell to spring. I did not expect to see one when spring hasn't even officially arrived yet . . . but here it is. The out-of-focus yellow flowers behind it are California buttercups.

Farewell-to-spring is endemic to western North America. It's a member of the evening-primrose family, and thus of the order Myrtales, which also contains such families as the loosestrife family and the myrtle family.

Clarkia amoena (farewell-to-spring)

Still in the front yard, but on the other side of the driveway, a ribbed fringepod (Thysanocarpus radians) is about done blooming. This plant is not grown for its flowers, though; its flowers are tiny white dots that you're unlikely to ever notice. The plant's ornamental value - to the extent that it has any (it's not especially eye-catching, and is mostly just grown by native-plant enthusiasts) comes from its seedpods, which are what you see below. They are the shape and size of dimes or pennies and have pink edges with lines radiating out from a green center.

Ribbed fringepod is endemic to western North America. It is a member of the mustard family and thus of the order Brassicales, which also contains such families as the meadowfoam family.

Thysanocarpus radians (ribbed fringepod)

Speaking of the meadowfoam family . . . here's Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii). There's a large amount of this stuff growing at Barry's house, but none of it has bloomed there yet. The field of it in my side yard is just beginning to bloom. This is one of my favorite species. Like so much else that I grow, it's endemic to western North America.

Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas' meadowfoam)

Now let's move on to my back yard. Here's my Santa Catalina Island evergreen currant (Ribes viburnifolium) in bloom. It's actually about done blooming now; I took this picture a couple of weeks ago.

Ribes viburnifolium (Santa Catalina Island evergreen currant)

This is the currant from more of a distance. It's the biggest that a Santa Catalina Island evergreen currant has ever gotten for me. Although it's definitely lower-growing than other native currants, some of its branches are waist-high. It seems to enjoy the seasonal cover of my winter-deciduous pecan tree. The species didn't do so well when I tried it under my evergreen Southern magnolia tree.

Santa Catalina Island evergreen currant is native only to a few spots along the immediate coast of southern California and Baja California, and a few islands just off that coast. It is a member of the gooseberry family and thus of the order Saxifragales, which also contains such families as the stonecrop family, the peony family, and the saxifrage family.

Ribes viburnifolium (Santa Catalina Island evergreen currant)

Protruding into the lower right corner of the picture above is a meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri), which you can get a better view of in the picture below. I planted three of these in close proximity and surrounded them with large rocks to try to protect them from my dog, Boston, but the ground squirrels who adore my pecan tree seem to have managed to kill off one of them. The other two live on, now over a year old and bigger than ever. And, helpfully, the two survivors have turned out to be different sexes. The male plant is taller and more noticeable, but there's a shorter upright stem to the left that belongs to the female plant.

Thalictrum fendleri (meadow rue)

This is how the male plant's flower buds looked when they first emerged.

Thalictrum fendleri (meadow rue)

And this is how it looks now, in full flower. Its flowers are not brightly colored or spectacular, but the plant has a certain presence. It's a shade plant, and similar to ferns in the way the sight of it seems to intensify one's awareness of how shady its surroundings are.

I haven't gotten good pictures of the female plant's flowers yet. I'll have to work on that.

Meadow rue belongs to the buttercup family and thus to the order Ranunculales. It is endemic to western North America.

Thalictrum fendleri (meadow rue)

That's all the California native plants I have for you this month, but I still have some non-natives left to show you. First, here are some daffodils (Narcissus sp.) that bloomed in my front yard a couple of weeks ago. Now they're all dried up and done blooming, but luckily, I already took pictures of them a couple of weeks ago.

Daffodils belong to the naked-lady lily family, in the order Asparagales.

Narcissus sp. (daffodils)

Narcissus sp. (daffodils)

In my back yard, under the pecan tree, here's a Japanese flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica). This picture is also from a couple of weeks ago; the plant has now largely moved on from blooming to fruiting.

Quince belongs to the rose family, in the order Rosales.

Chaenomeles japonica (Japanese flowering quince)

Near the quince is a little clump of Confederate violets (Viola soraria) that is clearly being eaten by something or other.

Violets belong to the violet family, in the order Malpighiales.

Viola sororia (Confederate violet)

Back out in the front yard, the Japanese camellia (Camellia japonica) is blooming.

Camellias belong to the camellia family, in the order Ericales.

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia)

Directly under the camellia, these elephant ears (Bergenia cordifolia) are also blooming.

Elephant ears belong to the saxifrage family, in the order Saxifragales.

Bergenia cordifolia (Siberian tea/elephant ears) 

Over in my food garden, the upright rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue') is blooming. Of all the non-native plants in this post, this one is the only one I planted myself. I planted it because it is food.

Rosemary belongs to the mint family, in the order Lamiales.

Rosmarinus officinalis 'Tuscan Blue'

This last flower is one I'm actually in the process of trying to remove. Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) are not considered a threat to native ecosystems here in the Sacramento Valley as they are on the California coast; however, they still don't play as well with others as I would like. Mine (which I inherited when I bought my house) are very well contained within a single narrow bed in deep shade along the south side of my house. They would not survive in full sun. In deep shade, where they are, they're very pretty in the springtime, but they retreat underground for much of the year, when the climate is less to their liking. Normally I deal with plants like this by simply planting something else in the same spot that will look good during the other portions of the year. Unfortunately, calla lilies grow so high and so densely that they tend to kill off anything else that I try to plant among them. This is why I've started trying to kill them. They seem at first to be eminently killable: you simply grab on and pull, and the bulb comes easily out of the ground along with the rest of the plant. Alas, it is not really that simple! Many more bulbs are left behind in the ground with no plants attached to them - enough so that the population of calla lilies is not actually reduced noticeably at all, once the new plants sprout from the remaining bulbs. It will require a serious investment of time to remove them all. I haven't gotten to it yet.

Calla lilies belong to the Solomon's lily family, in the order Alismatales.

Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lily)

In closing, here's a shot of the gardener, with garden clogs and gardening gloves, pausing while pulling weeds in Barry's side yard, and dreaming of new flowers to come.

me weeding at Barry's house, March 2017
Tags: barry, native plants, photographs
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