Posts Tagged ‘California poppies’

After the Deluge

April 6, 2017

This winter we Southern Californians were told to expect a La Niña season, something that usually brings drought conditions. Given that we were in the midst of a historic drought already, we were dreading it. But no …. It rained and rained and rained. And then it rained some more. Truly, the plants thought they had died and gone to heaven!

A few scenes from the garden, to illustrate the lush growth:

My White Sage (Salvia apiana) has grown HUGE and is encroaching on the chair. I have never pruned it, but will probably do so in the fall.

This Aeonium (not sure of the species), which was one of my first plants, and which has labored long in the shadow of the Cleveland Sage and the California Fuchsia that overhung it, has responded to the rain and the absence of the sage by growing gigantic, and, from what I have been reading, this configuration means it is close to flowering, for the first time:

New Plants

When last we spoke, Argentine ants had decimated several of my plants, including my two Cleveland Sages, two Ceanothuses, and my Pitcher Sage. Here’s what the damage looked like:

I reluctantly decided that the two Cleveland Sages would probably never recover to their full glory, and I had them removed. The Pitcher Sage and one of the Ceanothuses had already been removed – when I was not yet aware that it was the ants that had done them in. Because of the gaps left with these huge plants missing, I withdrew from the California Native Plant Society garden tour, in which I had planned on participating this April. I’m hoping to join the tour next year, if the replacement plants have grown back sufficiently.

So I decided to replace the Pitcher Sage with a Lilac Verbena (Verbana lilacina), with which I have had some success. I had a hard time finding another Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans), and anyway I felt it was too big for that spot. Now, the Verbena does also get to a large size, but it grows more slowly. And I love this plant — it flowers so beautifully.

I replaced one of the Cleveland Sages with another one:

And I replaced the other one with a Pozo Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’), which is a hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Purple Sage, but does not get quite as big as the Cleveland Sage (so they say!):

This is on the west side.

Some “hardware” changes: I moved the solar fountain from the west side to the east, as it was being overtaken by the Cleveland Sage (before I knew I was going to remove it!), and also because it was in the shade of the Pacific Wax Myrtles in the afternoon.

Likewise, I moved the potted succulents to the west side, because they were beginning to be overtaken by the Allen Chickering and Winifred Gilman Sages:

If there is one cautionary tale to be taken away from my garden it’s this: be more careful to space your plants carefully! I have continually underestimated the size to which many of these plants will grow, and my garden is actually more crowded than I would like. When you plant them, they are so small, and you want to fill in that space. Have patience! If the literature says they will grow to 4-5 feet, they probably will. Leave enough space!

The potted plants above are now in danger of being overtaken by the Lilac Verbena …. so I will probably have to trim it back next fall!

I also added several plants to the area near the Adirondack chair near where the fountain is now located. The first is a Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), with small yellow flowers which appear near the end of winter, and small fruits (edible, so I hear, though I haven’t experimented yet). I am told it adds nitrogen to the soil, instead of taking it out, and that this is a good thing.

Also new is Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis), behind and to the right of the fountain in the rear:

Coyote Brush will grow huge, and I will cut it back to fit the area. I wanted a green background for the new Saffron Buckwheats (Eriogonum crocatum) that I planted in front of the fountain, aiming to create a mass of them with their beautiful yellow flowers:

Finally, I replaced my Miniature Rose – which was one of the first plants a visitor would see, near the curb, but was not very attractive – with a slightly non-native sage (it’s one of those Mexican immigrants), “Hot Lips” Sage (Salvia gregii ‘Hot Lips’):

When this comes into full bloom, it will be gorgeous!

What’s in Bloom

Coral Bells (Heuchera):

The Bladderpod and some of my Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata):

The Clarkias have been late in blooming this spring – perhaps because of the rain? I don’t have many this year for some reason – possibly because I refreshed my mulch, and perhaps buried some seeds too deep.

The Hot Lips sage has a few blossoms:

The Lupines (Lupinus succulentus) are at their peak:

My Monkeyflowers (Diplacus), planted last fall to partially replace my diseased Asters, are big show-offs:

The Apricot Mallows (Sphaeralcea ambigua) are blooming (they never seem to stop!):

My wildly proliferating Evening Primroses (Oenothera californica) are showing a few blossoms (only in the late afternoon, of course – by morning they are withering away):

My Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) and Farewell to Spring Clarkias (Clarkia amoena) are starting to blossom:

A few blossoms have appeared on my Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana):

And, of course, the ubiquitous and delightful California poppy (Evening primroses in front):

Shortly: Changes and growth in the back yard, and some focus on succulents — which have really loved the rain!

Happy gardening!



Middle Spring 2016

March 24, 2016

Home Improvements

I have upgraded my house in several ways since I last posted. The most noticeable improvement is a new garage door:


(One of the side panels next to the door has already been repainted in a lighter color — the entire wood siding in the front will eventually be this color!)

Note how much the huge Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) has grown — it’s almost too big and sprawly, and next fall I will prune it nearly to the ground so it will come back more neatly. But I love the color this plant adds in the front before the sages start blooming. In fact, it continues blooming throughout the summer.

I’ve also added a new vinyl gate, low vinyl fence and block wall on the west side:


Note the fuchsias growing in front of the Cleveland sage on the right — the sage having been pruned back quite a bit and looking much tidier! I love the color contrast.

Early March Wildflowers

The first wildflowers started blooming in late February/early March. First to appear were the Lupines (Lupinus succulentus):



Then in short order came the Poppies:



And on the west side as well:


Note how the Lilac Verbana (Verbena lilacina) has grown. It looked a bit spent last year, with brown stems showing, and I thought I might have to take it out. But for some reason it rebounded and now looks better than it ever has!


Late March:

More wildflowers, such as these Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa):


And Bird’s-Eye Galia (Gilia tricolor):


And more Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata) along with the Lupines and Poppies:


I’ve made a real effort to limit the number of wildflowers this year. The “forest” effect that I had last year did not sit well with me. Limiting them meant pulling many of them — especially Lupines — before they went to seed. The wildflowers are more “scattered” this year, and yet the garden is still full of color.

Here’s a shot that shows just how much my front yard is filling in:


The small Buddha is surrounded by Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana) right behind it, with Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) behind that and Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans) to its left. On the right of the Buddha is Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum), and further right is the Apricot Mallow. On its left in front of the birdbath is Canyon Gray Artemisia (Artemisia californica ‘Canyon Gray’).

A few days ago the Douglas Iris bloomed briefly:



Usually we have sequential blooms for several weeks, but I don’t know if we will have any more this year — I don’t see any more buds.

A new plant in front of the Buddha, Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia) is already blooming, even though I only planted it a few weeks ago:


My Fragrant Pitcher Sage has grown enormous as I cut back the Cleveland Sage to its right — some of the sage’s branches had lost their leaves. It’s a gorgeous specimen, already in bloom:


My Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) — on the right — are starting to bloom; much more to come though. Behind them is a mature White Sage (Salvia apiana), and in front some Elegant Clarkias:


My Coral Bells (Heuchera) are starting to bloom:


Note how the Evergreen Currant (Ribes viburnifolium) on the right has nicely filled in that area!


On the side of the house, my Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea) has become a dense patch the way I was hoping:


(Behind it is my orange tree, the source of many juicy snacks during the summer!)

A final spring view:


There are also some big changes in the back yard. Next time!

Happy gardening!


Real Spring 2015

May 5, 2015

OK … by March we’ve gotten fully into the wildflower season. Forthwith, here are a plethora of images from March and early April, highlighting the annual “invasion of the wildflowers”:

I had a forest of Arroyo Luplines (Lupinus succulentus)

I had a forest of Arroyo Lupines (Lupinus succulentus)

Lupines and the first of the Elegant Clarkias

Lupines and the first of the Elegant Clarkias

I love the Lupines, but my goodness they do take over the garden! I will confine them more for next year.

I love the Lupines, but my goodness they do take over the garden! I will confine them more for next year.

A collection of  Bird's-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

A collection of Bird’s-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Toward the west through a forest of Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata)

Toward the west through a forest of Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata)

A sea of wildflowers (mostly Clarkias) along the path.

A sea of wildflowers (mostly Clarkias — the Lupines had mostly gone to seed by this time) along the path.

Clarkias galore!

Clarkias galore!

Clarkias in front of the Cleveland Sage, which has not bloomed yet.

Clarkias in front of the Cleveland Sage, which has not bloomed yet.

The start of the "Farewell to Spring" wildflower season  (Clarkia amoena)

The start of the “Farewell to Spring” wildflower season (Clarkia amoena)

All in all, I had fewer wildflowers than last season — which was by design. I felt they literally took over the yard last year, so I made a special effort to pull up many of the Clarkias before they went to seed. (I tried to do the same with the Lupines this year, lest they overwhelm the garden next spring.)

In other developments, I added a number of milkweed plants to my collection, which had been somewhat decimated by caterpillar activity last year:



In the back yard, the plants I added had grown somewhat, which was encouraging, since I’ve had so much trouble with the back hill. Here’s the overall look of the hill in March:


It still doesn’t look like much, but it’s made some progress since last year. Here are the additions from the fall, individually:

I added another Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (bottom) to match the larger one at the top. The larger one is about 3 feet across -- not as big as it's supposed to get, but at least it has survived!

I added another Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (bottom) to match the larger one at the top. The larger one is about 3 feet across — not as big as it’s supposed to get, but at least it has survived!

I also added a second Bee's Bliss sage below the existing one, since the top one has done much better than I expected.

I also added a second Bee’s Bliss sage below the existing one, since the top one has done much better than I expected.

Coast Sunflower  (Encelia californica). This is native to our Orange County area, so I thought it might do well. It has grown and even produced a couple of blossoms.

Coast Sunflower (Encelia californica). This is native to our Orange County area, so I thought it might do well. It has grown and even produced a couple of blossoms.

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) -- another Orange County native. It's growing quite nicely.

Lemonadeberry (Rhus integrifolia) — another Orange County native. It’s growing quite nicely.

Saint Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) -- a native of the Channel Islands. It should get huge, but it's not quite there yet!

Saint Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) — a native of the Channel Islands. It should get huge, but it’s not quite there yet!

My potted rushes (Juncus textilis), intended to hide the part of the back yard used as a litter box by my cat, are doing quite well:



Finally, my cactus (Opuntia mocrodasys) has been delivering some pretty blossoms:



Later spring update coming soon!

Early May Update — Post-Hurricane Edition

May 5, 2014

Well, OK, we didn’t have a hurricane. It just felt like it.

A week or so ago we had some very uncharacteristic “Santa Ana” winds — these are the hot, dry winds that come in mostly from the desert, and drive everyone around here nuts (humidity levels are under 10%). Usually we have them in the fall. And usually they blow maybe 25-30 mph, and go away after a couple of days.

Well, this time we had winds with gusts of over 80 mph, and they blew for four straight days! These winds were fierce. They broke branches off a couple of my plants, and they changed the shape, at least for the duration of the summer, probably, of several of my plants. They caused havoc for a couple of my caterpillars that had the misfortune to emerge from their chrysalises during this period.

But first things first … let’s look at some more of the wildflowers that have emerged since my last post.

I had a profusion of Bird’s-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor) — with two different types of flowers, sometimes on the same plant. Some of them were light blue, almost white:



Others were a dark blue:


Very odd! Maybe that’s why it’s named tricolor? If so, I’m missing the third one!

We also had some less common yellow poppies:


And the Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla) ended up being much more prevalent than last year, as I was hoping. Here’s one:



My Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) multiplied delightfully:




On the perennial side, my Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) bloomed, though the blossoms were not as spectacular as I’ve seen elsewhere. I think maybe its being surrounded by wildflowers was not helping!


The two Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) that I have near my east wall bloomed nicely. I had given up on Royal Penstemons in that location, pulling up a pair of the ratty-looking ones that were there. But I left two that I planted only last year, and they are looking gorgeous. But I fully expect that these will peter out in the next year or two the way the previous ones did. Everything is impermanence. Enjoy it while you can!


My west side looks nice, with smatterings of poppies:


And my “grasses” area is looking wonderful, with the spectacular spring come-back of the prostrate Select Mattole fuchsia (Epilobium septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’). This variety is the most reliable fuchsia I’ve grown. Every fall I cut it back nearly to the ground, and it comes back looking gorgeous. In a couple of months it will start to bloom. I’ve never had any problems with this fuchsia — give it a little water in the summer and prune it heavily when it starts to fade, and it rewards you with years of beauty. I highly recommend it! Here it is in front of the Purple Three-Awn grasses:



(Next to it, on the left, is the Deer Grass that I  pruned severely in the fall. It’s coming back slowly.)

The Coral Bells (Heuchera elegans) are in full bloom:


My Hummingbird sages (Salvia spathacea) on the side of the house are doing well. I plan to plant some more in this location in the fall.


I like this view of the northeast corner:


My Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia fragrans) was looking gorgeous up until last week (it’s to the left of the birdbath):


Alas, the Santa Anas broke off a central branch:



Now there’s a big hole in it:


Bummer! I also lost a branch on my huge Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii):


Though I don’t have a “before” picture, here’s the sage afterwards. The branch used to stick up at the top, giving the plant a pointy look — now it’s a more rounded shape. Maybe it’s better?


This is one huge plant! I would say it’s grown two feet at least since I pruned it last fall! Here it was last fall:

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia 'Bee's Bliss'

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’

It’s the one just to the right of the birdbath. Come to think of it, everything has grown immensely! The Pitcher Sage is hardly visible in this picture (after pruning), and the asters on the mound are about a third the size that they are now!

And look at the Winifred Gilman Sage (Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’):


Gorgeous lady! Here she was in the fall:


It’s when I look at these older pictures that I realize how much my garden is filling in!

My Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) have come into bloom:


I also got a new Adirondack chair. The old one was apt to turn over in the wind and just wasn’t very attractive. Here’s the new one — and note, also, the new table next to it, made from a log of the tree my neighbor cut down:


Looking at it from the path:


That’s an Allen Chickering Sage in front of the Winifred Gilman — blooming for the first time!

Here’s a view from the chair:


Those plants in the center are the California Asters (Aster chilensis ‘Purple Sage’) that have grown so profusely — look at them! They all have dozens of buds and should be blooming soon. I can’t wait!

I have some butterfly news too, but I’ll save that for my next post. Bye for now!



Wildflowers Gone Wild! … and more …

April 5, 2013

This is the most exciting time of the year for Southern California gardeners! Right now is about the height of the wildflower season  — let’s take a look. First, the incomparable and very aggressive Elegant Clarkias, whose proliferation is unrivaled by any other species. I have thinned the Clarkias by at least a third, and they still dominate the garden. To wit:









But there are a few other types creeping in here and there. My Chinese Houses (Colinsia heterophylla) had appeared to almost die out last year, so this year I sowed a few handfuls of seeds, and they have managed to compete with the Clarkias here and there:







There are still quite a few of these beauties that have not bloomed yet — stay tuned!

Then those plants that last month I was unsure of have proven themselves to be, indeed, Gilia tricolor — Bird’s Eye Gilia:





I hope to have even more of these next year.

And, finally, of course,  the poppies!

An unusual deep orange variety appeared in a single plant.

An unusual deep orange variety appeared in a single plant.


On the west side ...

On the west side …


A riot of color with poppies, clarkias, and penstemons.

A riot of color with poppies, clarkias, and penstemons.

The Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) have started to bloom:



Then we have my Coral Bells (Heuchera) that have gracefully unfolded:



My potted Red Monkeyflower (Diplacus puniceus) has decided to extrude a couple of blossoms:



My relatively new Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia fragrans) has been growing steadily since I planted it in the fall, just about doubling in size:



This should get quite large (perhaps 6 feet high) and I am hoping it will combine with the nearby Cleveland Sage to provide a mass of color in the area around the birdbath. I am not sure if it is going to bloom this year – we’ll see.

In other changes, I have moved the fountain and added a boulder on the west side:

The boulder, in addition to filling in a gap, provides a nice seat.

The boulder, in addition to filling in a gap, provides a nice seat.


I also added an Adirondack chair and some potted plants under the tree on the east side. I was undecided about what to do with this area, as nothing seems to want to grow under the tree. But I have longed for a place to sit in the shade, so here it is:



(1) Chaparral Current (Ribes malvaceum) (2) Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) (3) Lanceleaf Liveforever (Dudleya lanceolata)

(1) Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum) (2) Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) (3) Lanceleaf Liveforever (Dudleya lanceolata)

The Currant should get quite large if it survives in this location — at least 4 – 6 feet high.

(I hope to replace the plastic chair with a nicer version at some point!)

Of course, I can’t leave out my Douglas Iris, which just produced its first blossom!



I also have finished outlining the paths with small stones. First the bench area:


… and then the west side path:



Both these paths will eventually be extended to continue on the sides of the house … but that’s in the future! Right now, I’m at the point of sitting back and waiting for things to grow and bloom.


More Wildflowers

April 1, 2012

Here’s a pictorial update on the wildlfower situation. They are exploding in a riot of color! But the weird thing is, it’s only April 1. This kind of thing does not usually occur until later.

And I notice by looking at last year’s pictures that the Elegant Clarkias don’t look as full and fresh. Possible reasons: (1) it’s too early; (2) there are more of them (last year’s crop dropped many seeds), causing overcrowding, with some lower leaves not getting enough sun; (3) the weird weather — hot hot days in the middle of winter, followed by near-freezing; not enough rain, followed by occasional deluges. Who knows? At any rate, I think they look very nice.

I should mention that not all of these pictures are of wildflowers. The only wildflowers are the Clarkias, the Poppies, and the Farewell to Springs.