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Scarlet Monkeys Like Greywater


Our garden is looking pretty sad these days. I’m not watering much, and a lot of the plants look drought stricken, struggling to hang on until the rumored El NiƱo arrives. Plus our dog has been marauding through the veggie garden chasing after a squirrel. One spot, where she repeatedly slams to a halt after missing the squirrel, looks like a shallow bomb crater. The happiest plants are the larger plants that she has to avoid or else safely in containers, out of the trample zone. Far and away the best thing in our garden right now is the Scarlet Monkey Flower, Mimulus cardinalis, in our greywater bed.


Above is what the greywater bed looked like in November when I rebuilt the bed and planted several divisions of the Monkey Flower. Below is a similar view only eight months later. Needless to say, the Mimulus has thrived with the greywater. We’ve had profuse blooms for nearly two months.


They make such a profusely blooming mass, I don’t always notice the form of the flowers, but up close I like the flowers quite a bit. Scarlet monkey flowers aren’t the most refined looking plant, they reseed a bit, and they do best with good amounts of water, but they’re a good plant. I don’t know a lot of flowering natives that thrive with greywater, so as that kind of planting becomes more common, maybe we’ll start to see them used more.


Happy Accident, Lomandra with Lobelia Flowers


One of my plantings has a Lobelia flowering in the center of one of the Lomandras. It happened by chance; it must have seeded in the middle of the grass back when it was at the nursery. I didn’t notice it when we planted, but out of the dozen or so Lomandras, it ended up in the most prominently located one in the planting. It doesn’t really go with the red flowers around it, but that’s okay. Two different people have asked me what it is and where they could buy one.


California Native Green Wall Revisited


It’s four years since Patrick Blanc installed the vertical garden at the Drew School. I’ve been curious how it was doing. I was hugely impressed when I saw it, even though it was late fall and the plants were getting cut back for the winter. I always intended to check back on it, see how it would endure over time. As you can see, it’s doing great. It’s lush and green; it’s not organized into as much of a tapestry as some of his other walls and it’s not particularly full of springtime flowers, but it’s still a dramatic, exuberant, awesome thing to see on the side of a building.


The planting has simplified over time, with fewer species. Lower sections are mostly covered by ferns, with patches of oxalis and heuchera. I couldn’t tell exactly what’s growing up top, except for an Island Bush Poppy in bloom, but some of the shrubs have grown quite large.


A couple of sections are patchy, with felt showing, but it doesn’t ruin the overall effect.


And so much of it is exuberantly lush and green. It’s great to see natives filling the side of a building.

March Blooms


Happy spring, happy equinox. These are a few of the plants that were in bloom on bloom day. The seed grown Sidalcea has been in full bloom for a couple of weeks, the groundcover selection is not blooming yet. The first California poppy opened in late February. Established ones are blooming, new ones are still too small to bloom.


The Sacred flower of the Incas has several nice bloom clusters.


The Babianas are in full bloom. I have these in my garden because a past client didn’t like the way the old leaves stay around after they go dormant. His loss, my garden’s gain. I like them.


Salvia sonomensis looks great right now. It’s my favorite of the native salvias, along with Bee’s Bliss, ahead of the more upright clevelandii types.

Check out bloom day at MayDreamsGardens to see what was blooming for other gardeners a few days ago. The full bloom list for our garden is below. (more…)

February Bloom Day


I’ve been meaning to get back on my bloom day horse this year. This month’s offering is pretty light, but better than last month when there was very little going on. We have a few bulbs in bloom, the species tulips (Tulipa saxatilis) probably being the highlight.


Ipheion uniflorum (Spring Star Flower) is also blooming. I’ve been happy with how they well they’ve come back each year. They’re a relative of our native Brodiea, another bulb that has done well in the garden.


Several Hellebores are blooming. This dark one is my favorite.


The Sidalcea grown from seed are starting to bloom. We also have a native cultivar of Sidalcea, but it hasn’t started budding yet.


There’s one Solanum umbelliferum ‘Indian’s Grey’ in the garden. It has more flowers than foliage at the moment. This is its second year in the garden, so I haven’t figured out if that is normal for it.


Our Ribes sanguineum used to be ‘White Icicle’ but it has fully reverted to the regular pinkish form. It’s also more upright than it used to be. It was a passalong plant, so I don’t mind. It’s the only ‘White Icicle’ that I’ve seen revert. This winter doesn’t seem to have been cold enough to knock the old leaves off the branches.

We have a few other things blooming. Salvia ‘Green Carpet’ has some flowers. Heuchera sanguineum and Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ are starting up. There are a couple of Freesias and a Daffodil in bloom. Woodland Strawberry, Galvezia, a couple of the Blueberries, and Arctostaphylos ‘Dr Hurd’ each have a few token flowers. The Ninebark is the first of the deciduous plants to begin leafing out; its new green leaves are always as pretty as a flower.

For more bloom day posts, check out May Dreams Gardens. Carol says this is the ninth year of bloom day. Really impressive. I’ve always felt that bloom day was the single best thing in the garden blog world. A salute to Carol, and my thanks for keeping it going so long.

Erigeron glaucus in December


One native plant I haven’t always appreciated is Erigeron glaucus. It’s a nice enough plant — tough, low-water, good habitat value, long bloom period, showy during peak bloom — but the odd yellow in its center clashes with the purer yellows I like — Coreopsis ‘Moonbeam’, Achillea ‘Moonshine’, daffodils — and I’ve also never been totally happy with how it combines with a lot of the purplish bloomers that I tend to use. I have a dozen of them in my garden, but I only have them because I bought them on impulse for a project and then decided they clashed with the other plants. I brought them home and eventually planted them because I didn’t have anywhere else to put them; they look okay but I’ve never been particularly excited about them.


I really like how they work in this planting, however. The cultivar is ‘Wayne Roderick’, which has more of a lavender tinge to the petals than the pinkish ‘Cape Sebastian’ in my garden. More than that, though, I like them because the planting around them is primarily grasses — Sesleria ‘Greenlee’s Hybrid’, Festuca idahoensis ‘Tomales Bay’, and Lomandra ‘Breeze’ — and a patch of Delosperma, so there aren’t a lot of other colors for the yellow to clash with. And even though there aren’t many other things to bloom in that part of the planting, they bloom heavily enough and continuously enough to carry the flower burden; it’s December and they haven’t been cut back once this year, but they still have flowers. The focus of the photo above is the Sesleria in front of them, but the flowers in the background do a lot to add interest and give it a meadowy look, and all those old stems waiting to be deadheaded speak to what they looked like earlier this year. Obviously I’ll be able to get a better photo in the spring, but this is pretty good for mid-December without any maintenance, and it’s nice to find myself coming around to a native plant I hadn’t previously embraced.

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