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queerbychoice ([personal profile] queerbychoice) wrote2017-05-18 03:44 pm

May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at Two Houses . . . but Mostly at Barry's House

I'm several days late for May Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but here I am at last. Let's just say I was somewhat delayed by the fact that I set my boyfriend's front yard on fire . . . with hot pink flames made out of flowers. Specifically, mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) - a species known for putting on a big show in late spring, much like its cousins whose common name is farewell-to-spring.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)

But I will show you more of that later. Right now, three different versions of my gardening self are having an argument about their vastly different gardening skill levels. It is clear to all of them that the me who gardens in Barry's front yard is the most talented gardener, and the me who gardens in Barry's back yard is the least talented gardener, while the me who gardens at my own house is somewhere in between. But they are arguing over the finer details of that. They all have different advantages: Barry's Front Yard Me (BFYM) and Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) have an ever-so-slightly milder climate than My House Me (MHM) . . . not so much that you'd really notice, if you're a human, but if you're a plant who spends all day long and all year round outdoors, you might. The two houses are less than 40 miles apart as the crow flies, and they are both in the Sacramento Valley, and they both see similar levels of frost in winter and similar levels of heat in summer. But the summer heat cools off slightly more at nighttime at Barry's house. On the other hand, MHM generally has a somewhat shadier garden than BFYM or BBYM. And then there's the soil. BFYM has several inches of pure compost on top of the native soil and a couple of inches of storebought cedar woodchip mulch on top of that. MHM has basically no compost but an inch or so of fairly dense mulch in most areas, made from a mix of storebought cedar woodchips and the naturally occurring detritus of the garden plants. BBYM has basically no compost and also very little mulch - just a very thin scattering of some sort of black-dyed woodchips and some twigs dropped from nearby redwood trees.

So, now let's compare the results of these different garden conditions. We'll start by looking at my garden in Barry's back yard. Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) has not used adequate mulch and, partly as a result of that, has by far the worst weed problem of any of us. She has trouble achieving much biodiversity in her garden, finding only a few species that have readily spread over a large area. In desperation, because she was eager to establish anything at all other than the existing weeds, she even tossed into the garden a packet of non-native wildflower seeds that arrived free in the mail, unsolicited, from the Sierra Club. My other two gardening selves would never dream of planting unsolicited random mixes of non-native wildflower seeds; only BBYM would stoop to that level. Only one species from that packet of free seeds seems to have actually sprouted, though. The one that sprouted is corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas), seen here at lower right.

Papaver rhoeas (corn poppy) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


The corn poppies are only growing in one small corner of the yard, but they are growing in two colors. One of the colors is white.

Papaver rhoeas (corn poppy)

Papaver rhoeas (corn poppies)


The other color is pink.

Papaver rhoeas (corn poppies)


The pink and white corn poppies are growing right next to each other. Here you can see both colors, the pink in the foreground and the white behind them, and also the California golden poppies (Eschscholzia californica) elsewhere throughout the yard.

Papaver rhoeas (pink and white corn poppies) and Eschscholzia californica (California golden poppies)


Oh look, a bug! It's a katydid nymph on one of the corn poppies.

katydid nymph on Papaver rhoeas (corn poppy)


Mostly, Barry's back yard is looking better this month than last month. Here it is in late April, with the California poppies blooming mostly at the north end of the yard, some native sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) starting to come up along the back fence, and a seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) in full bloom under the garden hose.

back yard, late April


Here it is now. The sunflowers are shooting up at lightning speed, and the California poppies are now blooming across a larger portion of the yard. The seep monkeyflower is winding down just slightly but still has many flowers. The sacred thornapple (Datura wrightii) in the foreground (lower right of the picture above, lower center of the picture below) is starting to bud and should begin blooming soon.

My House Me (MHM) would like to point out to Barry's Back Yard Me (BBYM) that MHM has grown the same thornapple species before and never had a plant grow nearly so large as this one did last summer, so clearly BBYM must be doing something right. BBYM protests that this plant is being severely eaten by three-lined potato beetles (Lema daturaphila) this year and is more riddled with holes in its leaves than any plant of any species that MHM has ever grown. MHM protests that her thornapple plants have also been eaten by three-lined potato beetles in the past and that this year, MHM's only thornapple plant did not survive the winter, so BBYM is still clearly doing better than MHM at thornapple gardening. BBYM mostly concedes the point but still bemoans the badly eaten thornapple leaves.

back yard, mid-May 2017: Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


That thornapple plant produced a great many seeds last summer. It dumped all the seeds at the base of itself, but I deliberately spread them around the rest of the yard. Several of them have produced seedlings in other parts of the yard. Two of the seedlings are shown below (there is a tiny one to theleft of the main one). MHM is jealous because MHM has never gotten thornapple plants to sprout from seed. And look, BBYM managed it in this terribly cracked clay soil with no mulch on it!

Datura wrightii (sacred thornapple)


Not everything in the back yard has gotten better over the past month, though. A month ago, there were many Douglas' meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii) flowers among the California poppies, as you can see in the picture below. Those annuals have gone to seed now.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies) and Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas' meadowfoam)


Only one white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba) plant sprouted from the seeds I scattered here. It's shown below in full bloom a few weeks ago, but it's now gone to seed too, and over the weekend I scattered its seeds throughout the yard.

Limnanthes alba (white meadowfoam) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Still, the spread of the California poppy bloom across a larger area of the yard makes the yard look better overall. But California poppies are so much of what looks good now, and the California poppies will also be mostly gone in another month or two. What will be left then? Perhaps some yarrow? And what after that? There simply aren't enough different species covering large areas of the yard to keep the yard looking good for very much of the year yet. And too many of the few species that have spread throughout the yard are very short-lived.

back yard, late April 2017: Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Well, the sunflowers are a pleasant surprise, anyway. I had just one sunflower plant here last summer, one plant that did extremely well until eventually it fell over in an early fall storm and died. I tried to spread the seeds around the yard, but I wasn't sure whether I'd get any new flowers from them. It turns out I got many. And now you can watch them grow! Here they are at two or three feet tall in mid-April.

back yard, late April 2017: Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Here they are at about four feet tall.

back yard, mid-May 2017: Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And now some of them are getting taller than me!

back yard, mid-May 2017: Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


The first sunflower is starting to bud now. Every bud on the plant is crawling with Argentine ants (Linepithema humile). I don't remember any ants on the sunflower last summer. What are they doing, I wonder? Perhaps they're trying to start an aphid farm? I don't see any aphids yet, though.

MHM would like to interrupt again here to point out that MHM has also grown sunflowers in the past but, as with the thornapple, never got one to grow nearly as big as the one BBYM grew last summer, and never got any to sprout from the seeds of the previous year's.

Linepithema humile (Argentine ant) on Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower)


The yarrow (Achillea millefolium) sprouted pretty well from seed all over the back yard and is now beginning to bloom. Here's a clump of it next to a tall sunflower.

Achillea millefolium (yarrow) with Helianthus annuus (annual sunflower)


Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) has also sprouted reasonably well from seed and is now blooming. (BBYM is jealous, though, about the fact that it volunteers in MHM's garden, without ever having been intentionally seeded there at all. MHM retorts that BBYM has no business being jealous over that because California fuchsias volunteer in BBYM's garden, and MHM says California fuchsias are more exciting than self-heal.)

Prunella vulgaris (self-heal)


Another seed-grown plant that has done well in the back yard this year is the one below, saddled with the somewhat unwieldy common name of large false babystars (Linanthus grandiflorus). Apparently it resembles some other plant known as babystars. I'm sure it's not really attempting to deceive anyone into mistaking it for babystars, though.

Linanthus grandiflorus (large false babystars)


It is a nice plant. MHM had a great crop of it last year but didn't reseed it this year, in hopes that last year's plants had dropped enough seeds of their own to produce more. No such luck, though. This year, MHM has none, while BBYM has a good crop. Even in bare, cracked, clay soil!

Linanthus grandiflorus (large false babystars)

Linanthus grandiflorus (large false babystars)

Linanthus grandiflorus (large false babystars)


I also have a few tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa) mixed in among the California poppies, yarrow, and sunflowers.

Layia platyglossa (tidy-tips), Achillea millefolium (yarrow), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)

Layia platyglossa (tidy-tips) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


But most of the species I scattered seeds of in the back yard have produced only one plant, if any. For example, I got one red maids plant (Calandrinia ciliata).

Calandrinia ciliata (red maids)


And one five spot plant (Nemophila maculata). Hey, at least there's a bit of mulch on the ground here. Not much, but better than elsewhere.

Nemophila maculata (five spot)


And one California bluebell plant (Phacelia campanularia), also growing where there's a bit of mulch.

Phacelia campanularia (California bluebells)


And one farewell-to-spring (Clarkia amoena) plant. BBYM points out that MHM has sometimes had an entire side yard crammed full of these. (MHM says that only happened once. MHM doesn't have that many of these either this year. In fact, MHM hasn't had many red maids, five spot, or California bluebells this spring either.)

Clarkia amoena (farewell-to-spring)


Here's a plant that's sort of grown from seed: California brome grass (Bromus carinatus). Rather than scattering seeds on the soil, I bought balls of clay into which the seeds had been strategically embedded, and I embedded these clay seed balls in the soil. Nearly all of them sprouted, and several have survived. This one is now making new seeds. The flower head is about as tall as the flower buds of the corn poppies (one of which is out of focus in the background here). The grass itself, minus the flower head, is a clump about one foot around.

Bromus carinatus (California brome grass) with budding Papaver rhoeas (corn poppy)


And here's a bulb-grown plant: yellow mariposa lily (Calochortus luteus). I planted three of these bulbs in the back yard and only got one plant, but the one plant produced three flowers,
so I'm reasonably satisfied. MHM has grown this in the past and attempted to grow it this year but had no luck this year.

Calochortus luteus (yellow mariposa lily)


Here it is with Douglas' meadowfoam in the background. Both species have gone to seed now.

Calochortus luteus (yellow mariposa lily)


From seed- and bulb-grown plants, I'll move on to plants transplanted to Barry's back yard from my home garden. Here in front of the condensation drip I put a number of water-loving plants: seep monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus), Sacramento rosemallow (Hibiscus lasiocarpus), yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica), hairy waterclover (Marsilea vestita), and turkey-tangle fogfruit (Phyla nodiflora). Unfortunately, most of them are getting just enough water to keep them alive, not enough water to bloom properly. The seep monkeyflower is blooming a little, but obviously nothing like the other seep monkeyflower under the garden hose is blooming. And BBYM despairs because MHM's yerba mansa is blooming while BBYM's is not, and MHM's Sacramento rosemallow is much larger than this little thing. But the hairy waterclover and turkey-tangle fogfruit seem to be doing well here.

Mimulus guttatus (seep monkeyflower), Anemopsis californica (yerba mansa), and Marsilea vestita (hairy waterclover)


MHM interrupts here to show off this photo of the yerba mansa blooming in a pot at my house. I keep it in a pot that has no drainage holes, and I regularly fill the pot with water up to the brim, so you can hardly see the soil through the water sitting on top of the soil. Yerba mansa loves sitting in stagnant water. I go out of my way to buy pots with no drainage holes so I can grow plants like this.

Anemopsis californica (yerba mansa)


Back to Barry's back yard, though. Here's a California pearly everlasting (Pseudognaphalium californicum) that's blooming pretty well in Barry's side yard. (The flowers pretty much just remain looking like this, which is why they're described as "pearly," and they're supposedly "everlasting" when added to bouquets of cut flowers.)

Pseudognaphalium californicum (California pearly everlasting)


But MHM interrupts again, to boast that her California pearly everlasting plant is much bigger than BBYM's. Here it is, in front of some mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata), a plant that didn't sprout for BBYM at all. Note that MHM's garden is decently mulched, while BBYM's pearly everlasting is growing in bare, visibly cracked clay.

Pseudognaphalium californicum (California pearly everlasting) and Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland)


BBYM is in a huff now and angrily tosses the next picture out for inspection, announcing in advance, "Yes, I know it isn't blooming as well as yours is, MHM!" And she's right: it isn't. But it's alive, and it seems healthy, and that's something. This is foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'). MHM shuts up and refrains from sharing pictures of hers . . . for now.

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Or doesn't. MHM was really, really planning to shut up and keep this picture to herself for now, but at the last moment, she just can't help herself. She has to show off her own foothill beardtongue, the same cultivar and everything. This one is several years old, she points out, and tries to console BBYM with the idea that hers might also get this big in a few more years.

At this point, Barry's Front Yard Me (BFYM) bolts out of her seat to seize the photo and joins the conversation for the first time. The plant that catches her attention, though, is the plant in front of the foothill beardtongue: yerba santa (Eriodictyon californicum). "I planted one of those at the same time you did!" BFYM wails. "And mine died right away! What did you do to keep this one alive? Tell me the secret!"

MHM shrugs. "The first one I planted died right away too," she says. "I just bought another one as soon as I could and tried again, and for some reason this one has survived."

Eriodictyon californicum (yerba santa), Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue), and unidentified rose


MHM shows off a closer photo of the yerba santa while BFYM sighs enviously.

Eriodictyon californicum (yerba santa)


Meanwhile, BBYM continues to sigh enviously over MHM's foothill beardtongue. BBYM has not been allowed to try her hand at growing yerba santa. The other two always confiscate any of the more difficult plants if she so much as glances at them while they're in nursery pots and available for planting.

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue)


But BBYM, the least successful gardener overall, has a comeback: this Munro's globemallow (Sphaeralcea munroana). MHM has planted tons of them over the years and has killed most of them. Currently, MHM has two of them still alive that are the same age as this one but less than half the size. It is now MHM's turn to sign enviously.

Sphaeralcea munroana (Munro's globemallow)


BBYM has another coup: a showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa) beginning to bud. MHM has tried to grow this but never got it to bloom. BBYM is succeeding with it in visibly cracked clay.

Asclepias speciosa (showy milkweed)


BBYM tries to impress MHM again, this time with a rosilla (Helenium puberulum). But this time MHM is not impressed. "I had some of those too," MHM says, "but I intentionally stopped growing them because they reseeded a bit too prolifically for my taste."

Well, BBYM is not inclined to reject slightly weedy native plants that might help reclaim this yard from more severely weedy species. Rosillas are welcome here. (BBYM does draw the line, however, at Hooker's evening-primroses: those are very pretty, but they really do reseed too prolifically to be worth the risk, in her opinion.)

This rosilla has a turkey-tangle fogfruit plant at its feet, and some seep monkeyflower blossoms photobombing it in the lower right corner.

Helenium puberulum (rosilla)


Here is a closeup of the rosilla. It's a member of the aster family, but the ray "petals" are tucked underneath the composite flowerhead.

Helenium puberulum (rosilla)


BBYM tries again, offering up this hayfield tarweed (Hemizonia congesta ssp. lutescens) from the side yard. MHM is again unimpressed. MHM grew a different subspecies of this species once, many years ago, and was dismayed by how ugly it looked. She advised BBYM to plant it only in the side yard where no one will be likely to notice it much. BBYM planted it in the side yard, but right in front of the window that looks out on the side yard. I mean, what else was she supposed to do? The side yard was so bare, and at least this is a live plant. Surely it's better to look at than bare dirt.

Hemizonia congesta ssp. lutescens (hayfield tarweed)


The side yard is kind of a problem area. Here it is in late April. Along the left side is Douglas meadowfoam, an annual that sprouted from seeds I scattered. Along the right side, in the foreground, are California fuchsias, which were here before I ever saw the place, apparently as volunteers (MHM sighs enviously again over this). Farther back, along the right side, is the condensation drip with the little patch of water-loving plants under it that I transplanted from my house. Beyond that, the one slightly tall plant you can see in the distance is the California pearly everlasting.

side yard, April 2017: Limnanthes douglasii (Douglas' meadowfoam) and Epilobium canum (California fuchsia)


Here is the side yard again in mid-May. The Douglas meadowfoam has gone to seed, the California fuchsias have perked up a little, the California pearly everlasting has grown taller, I've planted a Fremont's bush mallow (Malacothamnus fremontii) across from the window, and . . . the little ball of dark green that has shown up a couple of feet from the window is the hayfield tarweed. I know, neither picture is particularly beautiful. Let's just say that I'm working on it.

Epilobium canum (California fuchsia)


"My garden is not a complete failure, though!" BBYM hastens to add. "Look, at least this dragonfly seemed to appreciate it!" This is a flame skimmer (Libellula saturata) on a California poppy.

Libellula saturata (flame skimmer) on Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


This cat also seems to appreciate the garden. This is a neighbor cat who's been hanging around a lot lately. The first time it showed up was after, earlier in the day, Barry had commented on the way his own cats congregated around me by comparing me to a Disney princess, because of how Disney princesses so regularly seem to attract and magically tame, by their mere presence, all the wild animals of the forest. After this remark, I went outside to garden. A little later, Barry stuck his head out his back door and exclaimed to me, "You really are a Disney princess!" When I looked around, confused, I saw that this cat was in the yard near me. I hadn't even noticed it until then. Since then, it's come back to spend time in the yard with me often, although it tends to stay just out of arm's reach. It has let me touch its face with the very tips of my fingers a couple of times, but it hasn't ever let me properly pet it so far.

I was referring to it for a while as "the Disney princess cat," but Barry kept replying, "No, you're the Disney princess!" so now I've named it Rajah, after Jasmine's tiger who meows like a housecat in Aladdin. (I did not see the movie Aladdin. I merely researched it.)

One plant that the cat might appreciate is catmint. I haven't actually seen the cat paying any attention to the catmint, though. The catmint is blooming right now, but I didn't take any pictures of it. I guess that means the garden can't be too bad, since there are flowers in it that I didn't even bother to photograph for Bloom Day.

Rajah, the Disney Princess cat



Now it is MHM's turn!

This is my front garden at my own house in late April. The white flowers are white meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba).

Limnanthes alba (white meadowfoam) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And here it is now. The white meadowfoam has gone to seed, but the yarrow has burst into bloom.

"I have yarrow too!" exclaims BBYM, in case you've already forgotten that picture.

BFYM is the only one who does not have yarrow. BFYM has been largely staying out of this conversation because BFYM has not tried to grow most of the plants that have been discussed so far.

Achillea millefolium (yarrow) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Here is MHM's front garden from another angle in late April.

frontpathlateApril.jpg


And here it is now, in mid-May. The tall flower spike silhouetted against the window is soap lily (Chlorogalum pomeridianum), still budding out, not quite beginning to bloom yet. The pink flower spikes under the window are Channel Islands coral bells (Heuchera maxima), and the pink flower spikes at the right edge of the picture are mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata).

With Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Acmispon glaber (deerweed), Chlorogalum pomeridianum (soap lily), Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Heuchera maxima (Channel Islands coral bells), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies).


"I love mountain garland!" interjects BFYM, showing off the photo below.

"We know," say MHM and BBYM.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


MHM has some more mountain garland on the other side of the driveway, but it's still no comparison with BFYM's hot pink explosion.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Buxus sp. (boxwood)


MHM did have a pretty great display of white meadowfoam a few weeks ago, though. She comforts herself with that. BFYM didn't have any white meadowfoam. Here is white meadowfoam with Channel Islands coral bells, California poppies, and a bit more mountain garland.

Limnanthes alba (white meadowfoam), Heuchera maxima (Channel Islands coral bells), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Here is white meadowfoam with bird's eye gilia and California poppies.

Limnanthes alba (white meadowfoam), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


But the white meadowfoam has gone to seed now. What does MHM have there now? California goldenrod (Solidago californica), woodland strawberry (Fragaria vesca 'Golden Alexandria'), and yarrow (Achillea millefolium).

"I have that!" exclaims BBYM. "I have that species of goldenrod! Mine hasn't bloomed yet, but it's growing well, so I bet it'll bloom eventually! And I have yarrow that's blooming! And I have woodland strawberries too! Not that particular cultivar, but I have them! I am not doing too terribly either!"

BBYM has some insecurities.

Solidago californica (California goldenrod)


In the same bed in front of my front door, MHM has some blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum 'North Coast').

"I have that too!" exclaims BBYM. "Mine isn't blooming yet, but I have it! I have two of them!"

Sisyrinchium bellum 'North Coast' (blue-eyed grass) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And here is some deerweed (Acmispon glaber) in the same bed.

"I tried to grow that!" says BBYM. "From clay seed balls. But none of them sprouted."

"Oh, I tried to grow them that way too," says MHM. "Those didn't sprout for me either. I bought this one in a pot from a nursery."

"I planted one in a pot from a nursery," says BFYM, speaking up again after a long silence. "But mine died."

Everyone envies MHM for her success with this single deerweed plant. It's not even actually all that pretty.

Acmispon glaber (deerweed) and Achillea millefolium (yarrow)


Let's move on to the other side of the driveway. Here is a native wind poppy (Papaver heterophyllum).

Papaver heterophyllum (wind poppy)


"I have that too!" exclaims BFYM, offering up the photo below.

"Is yours dead now too?" MHM asks.

"It's gone to seed now, is that what you mean?" BFYM asks.

"No . . ." MHM replies sadly. "Mine is dead. It died without going to seed. Yours did much better. What's the secret?"

"I really don't know," says BFYM. "Most plants just seem to do well for me. I don't know why. I guess I just have a green thumb."

MHM and BBYM sigh enviously.

Papaver heterophyllum (wind poppy)


Most of the stuff planted here is California poppies. But toward the left edge of the photo below is a Munro's globemallow that cannot begin to compare with BBYM's (seen earlier), and toward the right edge is a young foothill beardtongue that also does not much compare to BBYM's (seen earlier).

Sphaeralcea munroana (Munro's globemallow), Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), and Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs'


You can see the small clump of flowers on the foothill beardtongue (Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs') in the lower right corner of the picture below. In the upper right corner is a Palmer's beardtongue (Penstemon palmeri). The rest is California poppies.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (foothill beardtongue), and Penstemon palmeri (desert beardtongue)


Here's a closer view of the Palmer's beardtongue.

Penstemon palmeri (desert beardtongue)


And here is a corm-grown plant, white prettyface (Triteleia hyacinthina).

Triteleia hyacinthina (white prettyface)


Now let's go around the side of the house toward the back yard. In the side yard, here are coral bells (Heuchera 'Marmalade') and a recently planted coffee fern (Pellaea andromedifolia), along with an unidentified fern inherited from the previous homeowners.

Heuchera 'Marmalade' and Pellaea andromedifolia (coffee fern)


Also in the side yard is a yesterday-today-and-tomorrow tree (Brunfelsia pauciflora).

Brunfelsia sp. (yesterday, today, and tomorrow)


The flowers start out purple but turn white as they age, so each time the plant blooms, all the flowers are purple for the first day or two, and then there's a mix of colors, and then at the end of the blooms season, all the flowers turn white.

Brunfelsia sp. (yesterday, today, and tomorrow)


Here is a closer view.

Brunfelsia sp. (yesterday, today, and tomorrow)


This brings us to my back yard, where my two white Southern beauties are now blooming: Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora). Although they are white and Southern and, in one case, commonly named after the Confederacy, I'm reasonably certain that neither of these plants is racist. Southern magnolia is native to the American South, so it was associated with the indigenous people long before it was associated with the Confederacy. "Confederate" jasmine actually comes from China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, but it too was not invented by the Confederates. I inherited both of these plants when I bought my house.

Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine) and Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)


BBYM and BFYM both sigh with envy over the sheer amount of land that MHM has available to plant in. "Yes, it's wonderful!" MHM agrees. Though removing the lawn is proving to be quite a long-term project. But in the meantime, I can plant trees into the lawn, and it's wonderful to have space for planting potentially large trees.

Trachelospermum jasminoides (Confederate jasmine) and Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)


Here's the view up through the edge of the Southern magnolia's canopy.

Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia)


It's also wonderful to have two trees that already are huge. My pecan tree is in the background here, and in the foreground is one of my Lewis' mock orange shrubs (Philadelphus lewisii 'Goose Creek').

Philadelphus lewisii 'Goose Greek' (Lewis' mock orange) and Carya illinoiensis (pecan)


Nearby is the other Lewis' mock orange. This one is the straight species (Philadelphus lewisii), not the 'Goose Creek' cultivar. 'Goose Creek' has twice as many petals on each flower. Also, right now, for me, the species form is only blooming on this one branch that has drooped down to the ground. The rest of the shrub hasn't bloomed yet.

"I have a Lewis' mock orange too!" says BBYM. Yes, she does. But hers is a year old and still only two inches tall.

Philadelphus lewisii (Lewis' mock orange)


Finally, here is a recently planted Fremont's bush mallow (Malacothamnus fremontii).

"I have one of those too! In the side yard!" says BBYM. Yes, and they're both the same size, and blooming similarly, after being recently planted at the same time. The leaves on MHM's look healthier, though.

Malacothamnus fremontii (Fremont's bush mallow)


This concludes the tour of my garden at my own house. MHM leaves you with a final admiring glance at the white meadowfoam from when it peaked a couple of weeks ago.

Limnanthes alba (white meadowfoam), Heuchera maxima (Channel Islands coral bells), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And now it is BFYM's turn in the limelight. Or should I say pinklight? Because everything around here is looking very, very pink lately.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


I've known since around early December that a giant pink explosion would be arriving in May, because by early December I could see the mountain garland (Clarkia unguiculata) seedlings sprouting in massive numbers. I've grown them in densely packed masses before, but never in as large a densely packed mass as this. It's spectacular! Alas, it will not last. These are annuals and will be dead or gone to seed within a month. Barry called it a "proof of concept," meaning that even though these particular plants won't last, they demonstrate what the garden could look like when I can get more lasting plants to fill in. I suppose it sort of is, but not especially, since different plants look different, so a garden of perennials would not look like a garden of mountain garland. Mostly it's just a spring thrill. If it lasted all year long, eventually it would get boring and we would stop noticing it. Gardens are more exciting when they change regularly each month, so there are always new thrills to delight in.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Here is the "Native Plants live here!" sign in late April, with bird's eye gilia and California poppies, when the mountain garland was just beginning to bloom.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


And here it is in mid-May, with more mountain garland flowers and less of everything else.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


Here is a patch of tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa) with yellow bush lupine (Lupinus arboreus) and bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor) in late April.

Layia platyglossa (tidy-tips) and Lupinus arboreus (yellow bush lupine)


Here is the exact same patch of tidy-tips, from the same angle and everything, surrounded by mountain garland flowers in mid-May.

Layia platyglossa (tidy-tips) and Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland)


If I were reseeding right now for next year, I would try to leave a little more space between the mountain garland and the sidewalk. When the mountain garland plants were tall but not blooming yet, they blocked the view from the street of most of the other pretty flowers. Throughout April, the only flowers on this side of the driveway that could be seen from the street were the narrow strip of low-growing ones along the sidewalk.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Ideally, I would like a wider strip of low-growing flowers there. But it's difficult to control such things very precisely when sowing seeds. Seeds can move around a bit.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


The poppies and bird's eye gilia did make a lovely bouquet along the sidewalk, though. I just would have liked even more of them!

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


Well, one can't have everything. There's no sense in worrying much about exactly which flowers ended up where when you've got as many flowers as this, and the mountain garland will all be gone in a month anyway.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


A few of the other species are already gone now. Barry noticed recently that the baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) that bloomed so beautifully in his front yard in March and April have all died. This is a thing that happens. They are annuals; they die. Here is a picture from late April, when there were still baby blue eyes mixed in among the tidy-tips, bird's eye gilia, and California poppies.

Layia platyglossa (tidy-tips), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And here's one with the same mix of species, plus a chick lupine (Lupinus microcarpus) - a small white flower spike slightly below and to the right of center, below a white California poppy.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Lupinus microcarpus (chick lupine)


Here is a closeup of baby blue eyes with bird's eye gilia and red, white, and orange California poppies.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes), and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


It's hard to miss the baby blue eyes much right now, though, when there's still so much else to admire instead. Here is scarlet bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) with bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor), blue globe gilia (Gilia capitata), and California poppies.

MHM: "I've grown scarlet bugler, but mine never did much. Why is yours so spectacular? Why does everything grow better for you than for me?"

BFYM: "Not quite everything. Just most things. Remember, your yerba santa is still alive, but mine is dead."

Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


The scarlet bugler is kind of oddly named; it is distinctly not scarlet at all, but quite definitively hot pink. It color-coordinates with the mountain garland.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


It lives longer than the mountain garland, though (scarlet bugler is a perennial, while mountain garland is an annual), and it also blooms longer. Here you can see that the scarlet bugler was already in full bloom before the mountain glarland bloomed.

Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler), Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


Blue globe gilia (Gilia capitata) is a new blue annual that has started blooming in May, just when the baby blue eyes died off. It's sort of a replacement. Here it is with its cousin bird's eye gilia (Gilia tricolor)and some California poppies.

Gilia capitata (blue globe gilia), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And here's a closer view of it.

Gilia capitata (blue globe gilia)


Blue globe gilia is now popping up throughout the front yard. You can see it all over in the picture below, but maybe most noticeably in the lower right corner.

Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler), Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


The California poppies have been going strong for quite a while now. Here they are in lae April, before the mountain garland bloomed.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Pensemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler)


And here is the same view in mid-May, with the mountain garland blooming.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


The lilac vervain (Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina') is another perennial with a long bloom season. Here it is in late April.

Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' (lilac vervain) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


And here it is in mid-May. It's a bit less the star of the show now, but that's due far more to the rise of the mountain garland than to any decline in the lilac vervain.

BBYM: "I have some lilac vervain too! But none of mine is anywhere near as big or as bloomy as that. What's the secret?"

BFYM: "Mulch."

MHM: "I used to have lilac vervain, and I used mulch, but mine all just died off during winter without ever getting anywhere near a big or as bloomy as that."

BFYM: *shrugs* "I guess your climate is slightly harsher? Or something?"

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' (lilac vervain), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Have I mentioned the California poppies? We need to talk about California poppies. There are so many California poppies.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


The specially bred seed mixes with the unnatural variety of colors really add a lot to Barry's front yard garden. They are a significant part (though far from all) of the reason Barry's front yard garden looks so much more spectacular than Barry's back yard garden. There's much more color variety in the California poppies in the front yard than in the back yard. This is mainly because I used the specially bred seed mixes mainly in the front and regular seeds mainly in the back, because the back yard had such a weed problem that I wasn't confident that many seeds would sprout there.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Even the orange-colored poppies from the specially bred seed mixes often have unusual textures. The 'Ballerina' mix is big on flower petal texure. The 'Mission Bells' mix is more about color variety. I planted some of both.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


And then there are all the pink California poppies. Some are pale pink.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


Some are medium pink.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


Some are hot pink.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


Some are more contrasty than others, with bits of almost maroon blending to pure white.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


And then there are my favorites, the orangey pink-and-yellow ones.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


And then some nearly red ones.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


And some white ones.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


They are all great.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' (lilac vervain)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes), and Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler)


Before I conclude this month's tour of my various gardens, I should show you some other corners of the front yard. On the opposite side of the driveway from the mass of mountain garland, there's another nice display of California poppies and bird's eye gilia going on.

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


There are even a few little flowers in this tiny corner next to the front walkway.

front yard, May 2017: Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes) in foreground


I should also show you a few of my prized specimens. The two furry spikes of pinkish-purple and bluish-purple here are woolly blue curls (Trichostema lanatum), a plant that MHM and BBYM have never dared even try to grow, because it has such a reputation for being hard to keep alive. It seems to be doing fine for BFYM.

Trichostema lanatum (woolly blue curls), Penstemon centranthifolius (scarlet bugler), and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Nearby is a hybrid blue curls (Trichostema 'Midnight Magic'), marketed as being easier to keep alive than the woolly blue curls above. It's not really half as pretty as the woolly blue curls above, though.

Trichostema 'Midnight Magic' (blue curls) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppies)


Also nearby is a leafy fleabane (Erigeron foliosus). MHM says, "I've grown that too!" This plant is not difficult to grow. It is kind of difficult to find available for sale, though.

Erigeron foliosus (leafy fleabane)


Across Barry's driveway, under the redwood tree, is a hybrid false babystars plant (Leptosiphon androsaceus 'French Hybrids'), a cousin of the larger, white-flowering false babystars that have sprouted from seed in Barry's back yard. The 'French Hybrids' selection has to be started from a potted plant rather than from seeds. MHM tried to grow a 'French Hybrids' false babystars plant this year, but hers died. BFYM is just a better gardener than she is, I guess.

Leptosiphon androsaceus 'French Hybrids' (false babystars)


Back behind the redwood, a bee plant (Scrophularia californica) is blooming with tiny red flowers, right next to the gate to the back yard.

MHM: "I've grown that before. It wasn't difficult. I'd still have it if Boston hadn't dug mine up and killed it."

BBYM: "It's right next to my garden! Can I try growing this in my garden?"

The two more talented gardeners exchange looks. They try hard to keep any remotely difficult plants out of BBYM's hands because she has such a propensity to kill everything she touches. (Well, she does have some occasional, unexpected successes, like the sunflowers and the thornapple and the Munro's globemallow, but these have not been enough yet to earn her a reputation as a reliable plant caretaker.) But the bee plant may not be a bad candidate for her garden, if she can find a shady enough corner somewhere to put it in. Hesitantly, BFYM and MHM concede that it would probably be reasonable for BBYM to attempt to grow this.

Scrophularia californica (bee plant)


In conclusion . . . have I mentioned mountain garland?

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland) and Eschscholzia californica (California poppy)


And how much I like it?

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), and Gilia capitata (blue globe gilia)


And how much BFYM's mountain garland is the envy of MHM and BBYM?

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland)


Because I should definitely mention that some more. Have you had your fill of mountain garland yet?

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland)


Oh, and this other stuff too.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland), Eschscholzia californica (California poppies), and Gilia tricolor (bird's eyes)


But mostly the mountain garland. Take a final look at it while you can, because I'm unlikely to have anything nearly as spectacular as this giant pink explosion show off again next month, or anytime again until next year.

Clarkia unguiculata (mountain garland)

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