In the garden – flowers of North America

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A native garden in this part of the world must, of course, include the magnificent California poppy, Eschscholzia californica. Not only does it bloom reliably year after year, but it gradually increases its range as the seeds spread. (Photos: Left, February 2004. Right, May 2001)

The Island Tree Poppy, Dendromecon Harfordii, is native to the islands off southern California, including Santa Rosa and Santa Catalina Islands. We have had it growing on our back hill since 1996. It certainly is one of the more spectactular of the native plants in any garden. (Photos March 2004

Sunlite Mexican Tulip Poppy, Hunnemannia fumariifolia "Sunlite", is a well-known garden plant that I acquired fromthe annual plant sale at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in November 2003. It quickly produced plenty of these gorgeous yellow flowers. The parent species is a native of the desert highlands of Mexico. (Photo March 2004)

The California Fuchsia, Zauschneria californica, or Epilobium canum to give it's more recent name, is a native of the offshore islands of southern California, including Santa Catalina. It blooms in the peak of summer, continuing into the autumn. It grows in a thick clump. It spreads by underground runners, and thereby tends to invade its neighbors. (Photo October 2003)

The Lilac Verbena, Verbena lilacina, is a native of Baja California, which is the Mexican peninsula immediately to the south of California. Several of these have been in the garden since 1995, almost from the time when our native garden was started. Each year I cut them back severely, and they grow out again in the spring and bloom profusely. (Photos March 2004)

Arctostaphylos hookerii Franciscana is said to be extinct in its native location on the San Francisco peninsula because of the ever expanding residential suburbs. It is particularly attractive as a very small manzanita with deep red branches, good for border locations where there is not a lot of space.

Ceanothus "Yankee Point" is a beautiful hybrid ceanothus with bright, shiny leaves and dense, sweet-smelling, blue flowers. One of the challenges in our neighborhood is that the locally resident mule deer love eating garden plants. When we first started building a native garden, I obtained from the Theodore Payne Foundation in nearby Sunland a list of native California plants that deer avoid or prefer not to eat. It's proven to be a very effective list. Ceanothus "Yankee Point" is not one of the ceanothus that deer avoid, but I wanted to have it just the same. Yes, the deer have found it very tasty at times, but overall they do much less damage to it than they do to standard garden plants.

Sphaeralcea munroana, or Munro's Globe-Mallow, is one of my favorites. The flowers are almost luminescent, a soft brick pink as one web site describes it, about 2 cm across. They appear in great numbers over a relatively long period from spring through early summer. Although the stems are narrow and relatively soft, a bunch of these flowers makes a delightful indoor display, and keeps well. The plant is low-growing and spreading, effectively a ground cover. It is native to a wide area of western inland North America, from Canada to the southwestern deserts of the U.S. (Photos March 2004)

The Desert Mallow, Sphaeralcea munroana, is found in the desert areas of southern California. It is a many-stemmed plant that tends to spread out, with many orange flowers along the stems. It flowers for quite a long time, beginning around the end of March, and is a good cut flower. (Photo April 2004)

The Sticky Monkey-Flower, Mumulus aurantiacus, is self-sewn on the hill slope that constitues our back yard. No doubt it is a remnant of the native scrub known as Chaparrel that covered these hills before the coming of suburbia. It blooms prolifically from late spring into early summer. The leaves are truly sticky, but they shrivel up during the hot, dry summer months. Although the stems are crooked and brittle, the blooms are long-lived as cut flowers. (Photos June 2000)

Canterbury Bells, Phacelia minor, is another self-sewn plant. It is an annual that produces much seed, and comes up regularly year after year, mostly in areas that have been disturbed, and often where I'd prefer not to have it. Sometimes I just let it grow wherever it is, the flowers being a wonderful display and the bees loving it. (Photos March 2004)

Calylophus drummondii has various common names, including Sundrops, although that name is also used for other plants. C. Drummondii is a native of Texas. It is low-growing, ideal for smaller sunny areas in the garden. The yellow flowers are prolific. This is one of the few native plants that blooms all summer long. (October 2003)

Epipactus gigantea, the Stream Orchid, performs well in cultivation, producing numerious flowers on long racemes in spring to early summer. Like most terrestrial orchids, it retreats into its tuber for much of the remainder of the year. It is found in moist places throughout California, including near springs in Death Valley. A colleague reports masses of it in a mountainside seep area of the nearby San Gabriel Mountains. (Photo March 2004)

Penstamon spectabilis, the Showy Penstamon, is found in the mountains of southern California. It forms long racemes of multiple flowers up to around a meter high that spread from near the ground. It is a wonderful cut flower. This species produces a lot of seed that germinates readily. We first planted it in the mid 1990s, and continue to have seedlings sprouting up of their own accord. This ensures some nicely unplanned color in parts of the garden originally intended for other things.

On one occasion the store we visit each week to purchase groceries had packets of wildflower seeds at the checkout. So we bought a couple of packets. In these two pictures you see the result, a spectactular array of many kinds of North American native blooms. Many of them I did not recognize; perhaps those were not from southern California. Now, nearly ten years later, there are still at least three species resident in the garden, including a bright red penstamon and the ubiquitous California poppy, which continues to spread throughout the yard. (Photo Spring 1995)

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