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A Bit of Super Bloom

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Anita and I have been in Baja for the last month. On our way back we swung through Death Valley to see the ‘super bloom.’ It had waned by the time we got there — apparently a combination of hot weather followed by high winds had finished the thickest patches, and quite a few of the plants had spent flower heads mixed in with the fresh blooms — but there were still some impressive areas.

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Desert Gold was the most prolific. It made bands of color in the distance but up close it was politely spaced so we could wander around without stepping on any flowers. An impressive number of other species were mixed in with it. My personal count came to over 20 different species inside the park, including a number of flowers I’d never seen before.

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The yellow Camissonia was my favorite of the wildflowers. Such a clear, crisp yellow. Gravel Ghost was another favorite, with the white flowers high over a ground-hugging rosette.

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I’ll have some posts about Baja, the main focus of our trip. There is more wildflower photo bling at this Death Valley Wildflower Report.

Wildflowering L.A.

Video about a great project, Wildflowering L.A., by Fritz Haeg. 50 sites throughout the Los Angeles area were seeded with native wildflowers. The sites were also given signage inspired by forest service and park service aesthetics to announce the project and communicate to people that the ‘wild’ look of the wildflowers was deliberate. It would be nice to see something similar done in the Bay Area.

There’s a timelapse of one of the sites here.

Lukens Lake Shooting Stars

Lukens Lake Meadow

I just got back from my first Yosemite/Tuolumne trip of the year, including a hike to Lukens Lake to see the wildflowers. This is late June, rather than the late July of my visit last year, so most of the wildflowers were not in bloom yet. But it was still great. Instead of the multitude of species I found last year, this year I found multitudes of a single species, Shooting Stars, the most I’ve ever seen. They followed the flow of water through the meadow in a graceful drift that gathered into a pool of flowers near the lake, really beautiful.

Shooting Stars and Corn Lily

Lukens Lake Wildflowers

I’ve mostly been hiking with a sketchbook lately, but I did take my camera on one hike, to Lukens Lake in Yosemite. It was a drizzly overcast day and I really just picked Lukens Lake because it’s only a mile from the road and I’d never hiked to it before, but it turned out to be a great destination (surprise, surprise, a great spot in Yosemite NP, right?), with some of the best wildflowers patches I’ve ever seen. I counted two dozen different species blooming in about a one hundred yard radius.

The mix is similar what I saw at Agnew Meadows a couple of years ago. Both spots are upper montane forest at similar elevations (8,100 feet for Agnew Meadows, 8,200 feet for Lukens Lake) and they might be less than a hundred miles apart as the crow flies, though Lukens Lake is on the west slope of the Sierras, Agnew Meadows on the east. Agnew Meadows has the bigger Lily, L. kelleyanum, compared to Small Tiger Lily, L. parvum, at Lukens, but otherwise many of the plants were the same.

Small Tiger Lily is, like the name says, one of the smaller lilies out there, but there’s still something about these flowers that always stops me in my tracks. They’re not much bigger or showier than Western Columbine, but they make the whole space feel like a garden.

Though Columbines are also pretty great.

Corn Lily was the dominant plant visually. I’m really starting to appreciate them, for the flowers but also the way the other wildflowers are set off against their leaves.

Lots of purple from Lupine but also Monk’s Hood (above) and Larkspur mixed in with the Indian Paintbrush (below).

And quite a few other flowers, including tons of this Aster, which I’ve never identified despite the fact that it’s so widespread. Kind of like LBB and LGB (Little Gray Bird, Little Brown Bird) and the horticultural equivalent DYC (Damned Yellow Composite) which I learned from Town Mouse, I just think of these as SKA — Some Kind of Aster. I also saw a pink flower that I don’t know; it might have been a version of Owl’s Clover. Other flowers included Meadow Rue, Monkey Flower, Viola, Angelica, Senecio, Mariposa Lily just outside of the meadows, and more. A great place to see wildflowers in July.

Carlson Wildflowers

For the past few weeks, Anita and I have been enjoying a wildflower planting in the new medians on Carlson Ave near our house. For years Carlson was an oddly humped road that had such a steep cross-slope near the sidewalk that the car door would hit the curb before it opened all the way and bicycling felt treacherous. To fix that, the city had to lower the street more than two feet to bring it down below the sidewalk, and in the process they also had to lower all of the utilities. The entire project took more than two years, involved all kinds of blocking of cross-streets and traffic, and was hugely inconvenient. But all is now forgiven, as far as I’m concerned, because the city added a median to the street and filled it with twelve blocks worth of wildflowers, many of them native. I’m happy to have my roads blocked if it means I get to drive and bicycle past wildflowers.

So far, I’ve seen California Poppies, Bachelor Buttons, Tidy Tips, Baby Blue Eyes, Alyssum, Lupine, and a few Snapdragons blooming, and there is a lot of Clarkia waiting for next month.

Hmmm…. Be careful what you praise on the internet. The same day that I put this post up, the city weedwacked all of the wildflowers. I’m guessing the planting grew too tall and was blocking visibility, but the city might also be ready to plant trees now. Farewell (to Spring), Clarkia, we never saw you bloom.

— Coda — Apparently an elderly driver got into an accident because of the reduced visibility caused by the wildflowers. Unfortunate for him, and for the wildflowers.

The Lowes Parking Lot Wildflower Meadow?

Wow

Wow

To my complete astonishment, the highlight of my day yesterday was the Lowes parking lot in Concord. It has the biggest, bloomingest, most successful wildflower meadow I’ve ever seen. I have some cynical thoughts about it — it was probably done to appease environmentalists or the planning commission, it was probably amended with all the damaged bags of Miracle Grow, Monsanto probably supplied the seed mix — but it was impressive nevertheless. Not something I expected to see at a big box store.

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa

Tidy Tips predominated in the bio-swale, Chinese Houses on the berms.

Swale on the right, Berm on the Left

A lot of Tidy Tips and other wildflowers

I had never been to Lowes before and it turned out to be even more like Home Depot than I expected, but my hat’s off to whoever is responsible for that meadow. It’s pretty incredible.

Tidy Tips, Baby Blue Eyes, Alyssum, and African Daisy

Tidy Tips, Baby Blue Eyes, Alyssum, and African Daisy

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