It’s difficult to believe that it was two years ago today that we started the Curbstone Valley Farm blog, and I can think of no better way to celebrate than with our bees and blooms in the gardens this month, many of which weren’t here two years ago.

Similar to last year, it still feels like we’re waiting for summer to arrive here along the coast.  Mornings are punctuated by low-hanging cool coastal fog, with mild afternoon temperatures and light coastal breezes.  Much more like June than August.  There’s no question the vegetable garden has been set back by the lack of warm weather, but the flowers don’t seem to be in the least bit perturbed by the unseasonably cool weather.

The bee hives were a new addition to the farm this spring

This morning in the herb garden the bees were busily working over the oregano blossoms for their nectar.

Honey bee working Oregano blooms in the herb garden

Early in the spring, the fennel in the herb garden was highly attractive to ladybugs, and numerous larvae were sighted among the foliage.  Now that it’s mid-summer, we’ve allowed some of the fennel to bloom for the bees and syrphid flies who are particularly attracted their flowers.

Honey bee on fennel flowers

Someone even has laid some eggs on the fennel flowers, I wonder who?

A small mass of grey eggs have been laid on these fennel flowers

We’ve also allowed some dill to bloom, so we can harvest seed in a few weeks.

Dill flowers

Like last year, the bee balm (Monarda lambada) is especially interesting to the native bumble bees.

This lavender pink bee balm is very tolerant of the dry conditions in the herb garden

Also in the herb garden, the hyssop is constantly humming with honey bees.

Honey bee on Hyssop

Most of the native flowers are past their prime for the season.  Our volunteer Clintonia andrewsiana finished flowering some time ago.  Last year we hoped it would set seed, but it didn’t.  This year though it looks as though I may have a chance to propagate at least a few.

Clintonia andrewsiana, also known as blue bead lily, is setting seed

I was surprised to still find some of our native honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) blooming in the orchard.

In August, the Lonicera hispidula should be setting fruit, not flowers

Most of the native honeysuckle is setting fruit, not flowers.

Lonicera hispidula fruits

Also in the orchard the native rosy buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) has been blooming for the past few weeks, and is only just now showing signs of winding down for the season.

Rosy buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. rubescens) has put on a stunning display this season

As summer transitions toward fall, the native asters (Symphyotrichum chilense) are slowly popping up across the slope.

Honey bee on native Aster chilensis

Occasionally the asters can be found intermingled among the buckwheat blooms.

Native asters and rosy buckwheat

This year our native Western Verbena (Verbena lasiostachys) is thriving, and blooming profusely, much to the delight of native and honey bees alike.

A small carpenter bee (Ceratina spp.) on Verbena lasiostachys

The cooler weather is probably responsible for the continued flush of penstemon blooms, both from the Penstemon heterophyllus ‘Margarita BOP’,

Penstemon heterophyllus 'Margarita BOP'

and from Penstemon spectabilis, both new additions this year.

Penstemon spectabilis

Although not quite as spectacular in bloom as I’d hoped, it is a young plant, and hopefully will fill in as it matures.

I went somewhat crazy with the native sages this year, planting numerous white sage plants (Salvia apiana), purple sage (Salvia leucophylla), and a few Cleveland sage hybrids too.  Most of the ‘Allan Chickering’ hybrids are almost done for the season, but this one on the orchard slope was ‘rescued’ from a snapped stem earlier this spring.

Salvia 'Allen Chickering'

A little rooting hormone, and some damp sand, and the stem quickly rooted, and has now grown to be about 2 feet tall and wide, and is currently amass with beautiful purple flowers.

Allan’s cranky cousin, ‘Winifred Gilman’, has proven to be somewhat more uppity in our gardens. So much so that I’ve succeeded in killing a few outright this year, but one robust specimen survived our strange winter snow, and rampant spring rainfall, and despite summer’s persistent fog she’s finally blooming again.

Salvia 'Winifred Gilman'

Now I remember why I planted her in the first place.  Although similar in appearance to Allan, Winifred’s flowers are a much more vibrant color.  That said however, I’m honestly not sure she’s worth the struggle to grow here.  I do expect we’ll see a lot more of Allan though.

The native coyote mint (Monardella villosa) has been attracting all sorts of butterflies, bees, and hoverflies, and we’re hoping that over the next couple of years these plants will also spread and fill in to provide a more impressive mass of blooms in future seasons.

Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa)

The sticky monkeyflowers and deerweed that have been blooming for weeks are finally sliding into their mid-summer dormancy…

Most of the sticky monkeyflowers and deerweed are winding down

but they are now being replaced with vibrant eye-catching reds of various Zauchnerias (Epilobum sp.).

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

Although these red flowers will not be of much interest to bees, our Anna’s hummingbirds will no doubt enjoy their presence through late summer and fall.  I’m particularly pleased with the low growing variety ‘Everett’s Choice’ with it’s gray-green foliage, and vibrant red flowers.

Epilobium canum 'Everett's Choice'

We’re occasionally reminded that our native Navarretia squarrosa is blooming around the edge of the orchard at the moment.  When stepped on, the aroma of the crushed stems leaves no question how this plant acquired its common name…’skunkweed’.

The tiny native carpenter bees don't seem bothered by the aroma of Skunkweed (Navarretia squarrosa)

The native cudweeds have had an impressive showing this year, with many plants growing more than twice the height they grew last year, perhaps a result of our late spring rains.

Pearly Everlasting (Gnaphalium californicum)

We still see an occasional native poppy in bloom, but most are now setting seeds for next year’s plants.

California Poppy

The goldenrods aren’t quite flowering yet, but are sending up their flower spikes, with the promise of some early fall splashes of yellow across the slope.


In the meantime, the bees are busy with some of the non-native flowers in the cultivated areas, including Lavandula intermedia ‘Provence’ which is in full bloom at the moment.  This is one of the best culinary lavenders, but also excellent for potpourri, soap and candlemaking.  Its scent is easily appreciated throughout the garden, especially while standing just upwind of a light breeze.

Lavender 'Provence' is one of the most aromatic lavenders

Another non-native, Coreopsis grandiflora ‘Early Sunrise’, is providing a welcome splash of golden yellow flowers around the edge of the vegetable garden.

Coreopsis grandiflora provides a welcome blaze of color now that many of our natives have faded

Mid to late summer of course is prime time for the sunflowers to show off.  Our Lemon Queen sunflowers were the first to bloom, and now provide an additional pollen source for the bees.

Heirloom sunflower 'Lemon Queen'

In the early morning they look just as beautiful when backlit from behind.

Lemon Queen Sunflower

The Autumn Beauty sunflowers are just coming into their own too.

Heirloom sunflower 'Autumn Beauty'

These are my personal favorite.

Autumn Beauty sunflower

Perhaps the most pervasive yellow blooms at the moment though are the dandelions.  Although many gardeners would gasp at the sight of a dandelion in flower, we allow ours to bloom.

The bees love the dandelions, so we leave them until they've finished blooming

The plants really aren’t particularly intrusive, they provide food for the bees, and I rather like the look of their little yellow heads dotting the meadow.

Speaking of weeds, as we’ve been otherwise distracted of late, I was remiss in pulling all of the invasive bull thistles again this year, but at least someone is enjoying my oversight.

Honey bees on Bull Thistle blooms, they absolutely LOVE them!

It’s difficult to believe that autumn will be upon us soon.  Although the spring and early summer native flowers have mostly faded, after experimenting with a number of new native annuals and perennials this season (and a few well behaved non-natives), we’re excited to start planning our fall plantings for this year.  Although we’ll avoid adding swathes of annual wildflowers, at least until the meadow voles are under control in the orchard, there’s no question that we’ll add more native sages, and sulfur and rosy buckwheats.  I think we’ll plant more Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP’ too.  The bees have been busy with all of them for most of the season, and we hope to add a few manzanitas this winter to provide a late season source of nectar.  Who knows what else we might find blooming this time next year!


(For a look back at our first year review, see here).