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For our 200th blog post we’re celebrating by focusing on the bounty of native spring flowers in bloom in the garden.

To see so many different native plants in bloom here this spring makes us feel as if all the hours spent weeding, and clearing debris, are really beginning to pay off.  Keeping the weedy blackberry vines in check has allowed this Clintonia andrewsiana to bloom for a second year in a row.

Clintonia andrewsiana

Some of the natives have only been planted in recent months, but a number of them are endemic to the property.  This is not a formal landscape by any degree.  Instead, as we selectively remove the less desirable non-native species, we’re making room for more of the native plants that are already here to fill in.  They grow where they will.  There’s no order, no rhyme, no reason.  It’s a wild garden, with a casual aesthetic, and we’re simply filling in the gaps between plants with other native annuals and perennials as we go.

Our endemic honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula), no longer set back by browsing deer, it starting to take over some parts of the orchard and gardens, but we love it, and the bumble bees relish its flowers.

California Honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula)

The endemic sticky monkeyflowers (Diplacus aurantiacus ssp. aurantiacus) are starting to put on their annual display of apricot-colored flowers on the drier slopes of the property.

Sticky Monkeyflower

These monkeyflowers are members of the Scrophulariaceae family, and like other Scrophularias they have bi-lobed stigmas that close in response to touch by a pollinator (or curious photographer).

The bilobed stigma is open (left), until it rapidly closes after being touched (right)

Interestingly, the white globe lilies (Calochortus albus) are continuing to produce flowers quite late this spring.  Those inside the deer fence have filled in tremendously this year, and are producing many more flowers per plant than last year.

Calochortus albus is growing much better where it is now protected from roaming deer

The recently planted Salvia ‘Dara’s Choice’ seems to be very popular with the syrphid flies.

Salvia 'Dara's Choice'

Encelia californica, one of our native sunflowers, is just beginning to bloom, and should continue to produce flowers at least through mid-summer.  That is if the hoards of beetles attracted to it stop nibbling on the flower petals.

Encelia california 'El Dorado'

Ceanothus ‘Skylark’ may be the last of our Ceanothus to bloom this spring, but it’s providing a rich splash of blue in the border.

Ceanothus 'Skylark'

The native hedge nettles (Stachys bullata), which grow wild all over the property, are almost in peak bloom.  We’ve been weeding around them since last year, and they’re filling in well.

California Hedge Nettle (Stachys bullata)

In our last post I mentioned that the fennel in the herb garden was very popular with the lady beetles, but this morning I found more than a dozen of them on the flowers, buds, and leaves of Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor’ too.

Lady Beetle on the leaf of Fremontodendron 'Ken Taylor'

The bell-shaped flowers of Fremontodendron 'Ken Taylor'

Lady beetle on the flower bud of Fremontodendron 'Ken Taylor'

The sulfur buckwheats (Eriogonum umbellatum polyanthum) are blooming far beyond our expectations.  At least so far this buckwheat seems to be hardier than the pink-flowering buckwheat growing here.

Lemon yellow pillows of bloom on Eriogonum umbellatum polyanthum 'Shasta Sulfur'

Their yellow blossoms attract a wide range of pollinators, including beetles, butterflies, and of course our honey bees.

Honey bee on sulfur buckwheat

Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium ‘E.K. Balls’) is producing masses of small purple flowers that open each morning, and close again before the sun sets.

Sisyrinchium 'E.K. Balls'

Newly planted Verbena lilacina ‘de la Mina’ is just starting to bloom.

Verbena lilacina 'de la Mina'

Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’ is performing far better than our Salvia ‘Winnifred Gilman’, which struggled to survive through this last winter, and is at risk of being replaced with this cultivar instead.  This sage is doing remarkably well on the dry bank just below the bee hives. 

Our new favorite sage, Salvia 'Allen Chickering'

Flowers in the Asteraceae family result in honey that crystallizes rapidly, however it was difficult to resist planting these native hairy goldenasters, Heterotheca villosa ‘San Bruno Mountain’, which are providing a vibrant splash of color on one of the dry steep slopes above the orchard, near ‘Allen Chickering’ above.  This time of year with so many other flowers in bloom, these few blossoms are unlikely to adversely affect the quality of the honey though.

Heterotheca villosa 'San Bruno Mountain'

The flowers on our the endemic creeping snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis) are starting to wind down for the season…

Creeping Snowberry (Symphoricarpos mollis)

…as are the Western Star Flowers (Trientalis latifolia), which have filled in well this spring in the areas protected from the deer and rabbits.  We’ll see them again next spring.

Western Starflower (Trientalis latifolia)

The woodland madia (Anisocarpus madioides) is beginning its profusion bloom somewhat earlier than last year.

Woodland Madia (Anisocarpus madioides)

It’s somewhat weedy in habit, and small drifts are now dotted around the orchard, but the native bees and various beetles seem especially attracted to it.

Woodland Madia

Most of the baby blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are almost done for the spring, after blooming for the last six weeks.

Baby Blue-Eyes (Nemophila menziesii)

The goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata) are winding down too.

Goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata)

A surprise in the garden this morning was a four foot tall Scrophularia californica that somehow we’d managed to overlook.  In fact I almost walked right through it before I noticed it.  After planting a single plant last year, a few rogue volunteers have appeared, but this is by far the tallest specimen we’ve seen.  Honestly I had no idea it grew that tall!

A tiny native bee peers over the edge of a Scrophularia californica flower

Although not particularly spectacular in bloom, it has produced numerous tiny flowers, smaller than my pinkie finger nail, which are very popular with the tiny native bees, including the small carpenter bees (Ceratina sp.).

Last year after the Scrophularia bloomed, it was systemically mowed all the way down to the ground by Variable Checkerspot butterfly larva like this one…

Scrophularia california is one of the host plants for Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona) larva

…so it will be interesting to see if this plant suffers the same fate.

Careful weeding in the wooded area at the edge of the orchard and garden has allowed the endemic Pacific Pea (Lathyrus vestitus) to fill in as a spring ground cover.

Pacific Pea (Lathyrus vestitus)

I’d much rather see this than the thuggish invasive hairy vetch that seems to show up all over the property.  Once the blooms have faded, the foliage will die back again until the fall and winter rains return.

It’s exciting this spring to finally see so many plants in bloom, breaking up the expanse of green foliage here.  Some of the plants are still quite small, but hopefully over the next few years, as these plants grow, and more are planted, we’ll have all this and more to look forward to each spring.

Wild Wood Rose (Rosa gymnocarpa)

We won’t win any awards for garden design, as the landscape looks rather wild and natural, but we do seem to be winning the favor of various birds, bees, and other pollinating insects, and that is by far reward enough for us.