Plants of the Month List

California Native Garden
Plant of the Month 2016
June 2016 - Eriogonum grande var. rubescens-Red (or Scarlet) Buckwheat

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens-Red (or Scarlet) Buckwheat

PLANT OF THE MONTH – June, 2016
Eriogonum grande var. rubescens-Red (or Scarlet) Buckwheat

Type: Evergreen subshrub
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Good draining is best but can take fairly heavy soils if careful with watering.
Water: Drought tolerant to occasional watering

Red Buckwheat is native to the Northern Channel Islands and has flowers some say are red and I have seen some plants with red flowers but more often the color ranges from pale pink to rather intense cherry-pink. Color aside, it is a great late spring through summer bloomer-certainly a welcome feature to a native garden during times when spring’s bright season is ending. We have it growing within the Island Section in the north end of the Garden.

This attractive plant is quite different from the other buckwheat in form, leaf, and flower being more succulent with short, stocky stems. Although it can be a bit straggly, most of the forms sold in nurseries (there are even a couple cultivars) are tighter in form and often brighter in flower color, than random seedlings. It is generally compact and mounding, with small grey-green, spoon-shaped to oval leaves about 1 foot high to 3 feet wide, with flower stalks reaching another foot.  The plants react to drought in typical Buckwheat fashion, as the plant dries out, the leaves become less succulent and begin to roll under at the edges.  In a severe drought, plants may even lose most of their leaves.  So keep an eye on your Red Buckwheat, these signs of drought stress can be a good indicator that a bit of summer water is needed.

Red Buckwheat, although perfect for the smaller gardens or even in containers is a versatile garden citizen and is useful in borders, in rock gardens. It also is a nice understory plant, running nice and low between mid-sized shrubs and perennials. It tends to be short-lived (3-5 years) in garden situations so does lend itself to being used in this way, basically as a filler plant. It is a natural when used in combination with other natives like saffron buckwheat, purple sage, golden yarrow, monkeyflowers, low growing Ceanothus, seaside daisy, and Dudley’s. Red Buckwheat is very attractive to butterflies so be sure to include it in a butterfly garden.

Cut back the dead flowers to encourage more blooms and prune back one-third after flowering, season to encourage healthy compact growth the next spring. It will likely leave seed (unless your deadheading efforts are very effective) and you may end up with a few extra plants you can spread around your garden or give to friends who deserve such a great little plant!

Eriogonum grande var. rubescens-Red (or Scarlet) Buckwheat in a cactus

February 2016 - Salvia spathacea-Hummingbird Sage
Salvia spathacea-Hummingbird Sage

Plant of the Month – February, 2016
Salvia spathacea-Hummingbird Sage

Type: Semi-evergreen herbaceous perennial
Light: Likes dappled light best but can take full sun on coast
Soil: Good draining but can take fairly heavy soils too
Water: Drought tolerant to occasional waterings

For the past month, we have been keeping an eye on the seasonal growth of the hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) that is happily growing beneath the Rod Wallbank Oak Woodland (mostly comprised of his favorite, Engelmann Oak-Quercus engelmannii).  Already this patch of low-growing foliage is showing the beginning of their tall, magenta flower spikes that attract hummingbirds like moths to a flame. It is the only truly native red sage in California.

Hummingbird sage is commonly found growing on shady slopes in oak woodland, chaparral, and coastal sage scrub near the coast from Camp Pendleton on up to Napa Valley. There are even a few populations here in Orange County. It really flourishes in dappled sun under coast live oaks with foliage about a foot tall. Although it prefers some shade, it can be planted in the full sun right along the coast. This sage will tolerate all types of soil, from well draining to heavy clay. The aromatic leaves can reach 6” long and are slightly wrinkly on top and soft and fuzzy underneath.

Salvia spathacea blooms from late winter until July. It is one of the showiest blooms of our native sages, with 1-2 feet tall flower spikes that hold whorls full of 1” long ruby red flowers. The blooms are very attractive to hummingbirds and they will defend patches fiercely. Seed-eating birds also enjoy snacking from the dried flower heads. After most of the dried seeds are gone, I will deadhead the flower stalks to keep the patch looking tidy. You can also prune back to new growth in late winter and pinch prune year-round to keep the patch thick and lush.

Maintenance: Salvia spathacea is an extremely tough plant and, after the first year, can usually make it through summer without any irrigation by dropping their leaves in the dry season. If you water your hummingbird sage about once or twice a month, you can sometimes keep them green year-round. Hummingbird sage will also do well in containers. Pests and diseases are a minor concern with powdery mildew sometimes coating the leaves which can be either pruned back or simply left in place. This sage will tolerate all types of soil, from well draining to heavy clay. Salvia spathacea spreads by rhizomes or underground runners, forming dense mats of large arrow- shaped, bright green leaves that can eventually spread into patches up to 8’ wide. If it begins to encroach simply dig up the plants and move them to another spot in the garden or give them to a friend-They are easy to grow from these root cuttings, especially if a bit of soil is left clinging to the roots.

Edible: Hummingbird sage is in the Lamiaceae, or mint family, and is therefore edible, as are most members of this family. You might like to try this type of sage in a cookie or shortbread recipe like Susan Krzywicki’s California Native Sage Shortbread.  As Susan notes in the recipe, one can use any of our native sages but Salvia spathacea is sweeter and not as pungent as the other salvia species. A friend suggests baking these shortbreads low and slow, keeping her oven at only 300 degrees, and keeping a sharp eye out to make sure they do not over-brown. This cookie is not too sweet and is perfect with an afternoon cup of tea in the garden.

Speaking of tea, hummingbird sage makes a great herbal hot or iced tea. A recipe for this tea can be found on one of this native plant blog, Mother Nature’s Backyard (Making Tea From California Native Mint Leaves).
Easy to grow, nice and low, accepting of various soils, light, and watering styles- with its beauty, habitat value and culinary benefits you will delight in having some hummingbird sage in your garden. Enjoy!

Plant of the Month 2015
December 2015 - Agave Shawii - Shaw's Agave

Agave Shawii - Shaw's Agave

Plant of the Month
December 2015

Agave Shawii – Shaw’s Agave

Type: Evergreen succulent
Light: Likes full sun but can get by with light shade
Soil: Good draining but can take heavy soils too
Water: Drought tolerant

Commonly known as Shaw’s agave or Shaw’s Century Plant, is normally a 3 by 3 foot rosette-forming perennial with stiff, dark green leaves with toothed margins and one should say very pointed ends that can skewer you nicely should you think you can just brush by one while gardening. And don’t plant it where the kids will be running into it! The back of each leaf as it emerges carries the imprint (or embossure) of the teeth of the leaf behind it-Quite an attractive pattern.

Occurring primarily on the coast of southern and Baja California, Shaw’s agave forms colonies of smaller rosettes, eventually covering an area up to 8 feet across which is almost what it has done here at GWC Native Garden. After reaching maturity in 10 to 20 years, the plant sends up a flower stalk 3 to 12 feet tall, and the large blossoms are bright yellow. It blooms once and then dies back to suckers which form replacement plants. So, when it does bloom it’s quite an occasion! Use it as an accent in naturalistic desert plantings, in containers, rock gardens, dry slopes and borders. For small gardens, maintain only 3 to 5 additional rosettes.

While it prefers good draining soils it is doing very well in the clay soil on the berm above the astronomy pad in the south end of the Garden. It gets no water other than rainfall and seems to do very well with little water. In fact we are quite excited since it has sent up that gorgeous flower stalk which in other gardens might reach near the 20 foot mark and in our garden will likely reach 10-12 feet. The Yellow Flowers are there now. Visit while it is in bloom!

Note: Although it was discovered in San Bernardino in 1895 by S. B. Parish, and was probably once even located in Orange County, today it is found in San Diego County, with Torrey Pines State Reserve being a good spot to find them. In Baja California they are more common and can be found as part of the Maritime Scrub plant community as well as Coast Sage scrub plant communities.

Agave Shawii - Shaw's Agave close-up Agave Shawii - Shaw's Agave - closed

Plant of the Month 2013
February 2013 - Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’

Plant of the Month
February 2013

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’

What: Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’
Type: Evergreen Shrub
Light: Likes full sun but can take a touch of shade
Soil: Well drained (but adaptable to clay soils)
Water: Deep infrequent watering-after establishment.

This is a dependable selection originating from the central coast and is most happy when grown not too many miles from the soothing influences of the Pacific. It is a large Ceanothus with arching branches, glossy green leaves, and the profuse clusters of white flowers that appear in spring, creating a snowy effect. Flowers begin as early as January and can continue through April.

Fast growing and evergreen, this is normally a 10-12 foot high plant with an equal or even greater spread. But in ideal situations this shrub can reach up to 20 feet high with a 22 foot spread very quickly if allowed. Here at GWC Native Garden it reached over 25 feet as a tree after we “lifted” its lower branches to create a lovely multi-trunked tree. Its growth it can be trained when it is younger by pinching new growth to create a denser shorter shrub. This is the type of “pruning” Ceanothus receives in nature when deer browse on tender new growth. Surprisingly, I have even seen this plant in commercial landscapes, sheared several times a year at around 4 feet high and respond well, but of course repeated shearing means few flowers.

‘Snow Flurry’ is an ideal shrub for coastal locations and can be placed on a slope or used as a backdrop. As mentioned, if the lower branches are removed as it grows, it can be an endearing patio sized tree. For a quick growing large-scale screen of natives it can be combined with California Coffeeberry,   Western Mountain Mahogany, Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’, Toyon, Flannelbush species, and Hollyleaf Cherry.
Waterwise this can be a surprisingly garden tolerant plant, accepting of more water than some would think. But for those wishing to keep a low water bill, once the plant is established little or no supplemental water is required. In an inland location ‘Snow Flurry’ should be planted in partial shade. The hotter the inland area, the less likely this plant will grow successfully-Riverside? It will need a bit of shade in the afternoon and a bit more water that’s for sure-but even then I doubt it would be very happy.

Miscellaneous: Ceanothus ‘Snow Flurry’ is a horticultural selection of Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. thyrsiflorus collected along the Big Sur coast by Joseph Solomone and introduced 1977. Ceanothus has many ethnobotanical uses. Native Americans would mix the flowers with water to create a soapy detergent. (It works!) Roots and leaves have reputed medicinal properties, and the long, flexible stems of some species are used in basket-making. The common name for Ceanothus americanus, a species from the eastern United States, is New Jersey Tea, which refers to its use during the Revolutionary War as a substitute for traditional British tea.

NOTE: Several years ago our giant Ceanothus ‘Snow Flurry’ split and toppled during a heavy windstorm. The replacement was planted this last November and so don’t search the garden for the large specimen described above! Ours is a little fellow but is already trying to bloom.

Plant of the Month 2012
May 2012 - Encelia californica-Bush Sunflower

Encelia californica-Bush Sunflower

Plant of the Month
May 2012

Encelia californica-Bush Sunflower

Type: Evergreen sub-Shrub
Light: Sun (but can take a touch of shade in hot inland areas)
Soil: Likes good drainage but adapts well
Water: Infrequent to drought tolerant

This common plant of our nearby Coastal Sage Scrub habitat can be easily found in our local hills blooming through spring and often into summer. There is normally a consistent fall bloom as well. A fairly large plant, about 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide, it is a cheerful addition to many gardens that use natives, with its bright yellow daisy flower (like a miniature sunflower) with chocolate brown centers brightening the landscape. Like other sunflowers, bees, butterflies and insects are attracted to the plant’s blossoms which is certainly a plus to nature lovers.

Here at the Garden we have taken a clue from nature and use this plant of hillsides and slopes. Currently it has been replanted (after construction disturbance) on the south facing slope near the new Learning Resource Center where it will be a very effective as both a colorful display and holding the slope. It is a fast growing plant with tenacious roots and its dense cloak of evergreen leaves deflects the impact of even hard winter rains helping prevent erosion. I love it on slopes!

While great on hillsides it can also be used in conventional gardens as a background plant if given room. Limited to frost free areas, it does grow in all types of soil, will take heat and drought, and provides a long lasting bloom.

Note: It is also a good foil to many of the Grey and silver foliaged plants such as California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), Saint Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) and the many sage species like Salvia leucophylla ‘Point Sal’ (a spreading form or purple sage). Of course mixed with blue flowering California lilacs (Ceanothus sp.), or the purplish Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) it makes a stunning color combination.

Maintenance: No disease or pest issues known to me. A bit of water in the late spring and into early summer will often extend the blooming period if that is desired. Pruning? Deadheading the spent flowers a few times after blooming spurts in spring and fall helps the blooms keep coming but isn’t really necessary but light shearing in early winter (especially in the first few years) encourages a denser plant with more flowers in the spring. If (and when) it becomes woody after several years you may want to cut it all the way to the ground in the early winter to promote all new growth. In clay soils, after a decade or more of enjoyment your plant may die, if so simply allow one of its nearby seedlings to grow and fill in the space.

The genus name Encelia comes from Christoph Entzelt, a German clergyman and naturalist who lived in the 1500s and wrote about the medicinal uses of plants and animals.

PS: A cultivar form named ‘El Dorado’ has been released from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden which is said to have larger, more golden yellow flowers and may bloom a little earlier in the season.

Plant of the Month 2011
August 2011 - Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat

Plant of the Month
August 2011

Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat

What: Eriogonum fasciculatum, California Buckwheat
Type: Evergreen Shrub
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Likes good draining soils but is adaptable
Water: Drought tolerant

California buckwheat is our state’s most widespread buckwheat and is commonly found in chaparral and coastal sage plant communities. This low, evergreen shrub is seen covering our hillsides in its pale blooms for roughly half the year. It is a tough dependable plant with much going for it.

Before it blooms some say the plant reminds them of Rosemary, but once it flowers any resemblance is gone. The lovely and dense flower-heads develop in walnut-size balls at the ends of branching stems from April to November. Once bloomed they change colors from pale pink, to cream, and by fall these flowers remain on the plant in a drier, rusty-brown state which is often considered just as lovely as the paler blooms of spring. These flower clusters are extremely attractive to a very broad range of our native pollinators and are the larval host plant for some of our often overlooked smaller butterflies such as the Mormon metalmark, Gorgon copper, and many of the Hairstreaks.

Often the flower heads cover the plant such that one barely notices the foliage, which bears a resemblance to chamise. The leaves are evergreen, narrow, and leathery-less than an inch long, and are gathered in bunches along the stems which are up to 5 feet long. (The species name fasciculatum means “bundles”). The plants rarely exceed 4 feet in height but can spread to be 8 feet wide if allowed. Often these branches arch outward and down and where they touch the soil they root, making this one of our very best plants for hillsides.

Unfortunately, the commonness of Buckwheat in our local foothills may cause some to hesitate using it in our landscapes. But if you have the room, the abundance of long-blooming flowers, drought tolerance, and its attractiveness to native bees, butterflies, and other insects would make it a nice addition to any landscape.

If the somewhat large size of this versatile native is a deterrent to placing it in your landscape perhaps one of the cultivars would fit? They are denser, more compact and often smaller by half. They include: ‘Dana Point’, ‘Warriner Lytle’, ‘Theodore Payne’, and ‘Bruce Dickenson’.

Check your local California Native Plant Society website for dates of upcoming plant sales where this and other great native plants are for sale.

July 2011 - Dudleya pulverulenta -Chalk Live - Forever

Dudleya pulverulenta -Chalk Live-Forever

Plant of the Month
July 2011

Dudleya pulverulenta – Chalk Live-Forever

Type: Perennial succulent herb

Light: Can take full sun near coast, does better with a touch of shade

Soil: Good draining rocky soils preferred

Water: Can live with only rainfall but looks more presentable if watered sparingly into early summer.

Chalk live-forever’s foliage is probably the most recognizable part of the plant, consisting of a the basal rosette of fleshy, gray-green, strap-like leaves. The rosette can measure a foot and a half in diameter and about the same in height. What a beauty! Up close in sunlight the chalky powder coating on the leaves give it an almost white appearance, and this is particularly attractive in early morning or at night when it tends to glow. One lasting memory I have was on a field trip in the Santa Ana Mountains and our group seeing dozens of thes Dudleyas clinging to a steep canyon wall over 200 yards away. In the shaded canyon the large fleshy leaves give it the coloration of old coke bottles from a distance-a shimmering blue-gray-green.

Chalk live-forever needs good drainage and thus is most commonly found on the sides of sandy, rocky cliffs in nature and in your garden would ideally like a situation that mimics that situation-rock gardens, beds with sandy soils, tucked into a crevice in a rock wall, and containers are best. If you have clay soils simply dig out where you will be planting it and amend with generous amounts of sand, pea gravel, or decomposed granite. It is best to plant at an angle to allow water to drain off and avoid overhead irrigation. If you water at all in summer months water at the base, it may not need it but it can look better with careful watering below the foliage.

As I said the foliage is the real show but the lovely flowers and their stalks are also quite attractive. From May to July, one to several stout powdery white arching stalks extend out from the main plant by up to 3 feet topped by candelabra-like clusters of small, cherry-red bell shaped flowers loved by hummingbirds.  .

With the serious onset of summer, leaves dry out, turn reddish, then desiccating. The plant seems to disappear until the winter rains when the succulent leaves re-grow (seemingly overnight) prompting one of its familiar common names, Live-Forever.

It grows well near the coast (enjoying coastal moisture as succulents do) and also tolerates hotter inland areas provided it has a bit of afternoon shade. It is an attractive plant that can make a nice addition to almost any garden or landscape style here in southern California. Enjoy!

Note: Another good Live-Forever species for your garden is Dudleya brittonii. Although there is a green leaved form, this is also normally has chalky leaves and can be hard to tell from Dudleya pulverulenta. But when it flowers the difference is easily seen with the Dudleya brittonii possessing creamy yellow clusters of blossoms pointing more or less upward with lovely pink/red stems.

June 2011 - Eriogonum crocatum - Saffron Buckwheat

Eriogonum crocatum -Saffron Buckwheat

Plant of the Month
June 2011

Eriogonum crocatum – Saffron Buckwheat

Type: Evergreen subshrub
Light: Sun
Soil: Well drained preferred
Water: Infrequent

This plant is native to native to Ventura County where is grows along the Conejo Pass in the area where Highway 101 climbs south from the coastal plains of Camarillo; from this location comes the alternate common name, Conejo Buckwheat.

This is a compact mounding shrub to 1 1/2 feet tall by 2-3 feet wide with wooly silver white leaves that contrasts beautifully with its sulfur yellow to chartreuse-yellow flower heads that appear late spring through late summer and then turn a cinnamon brown color. Plant in full coastal sun (perhaps a touch of afternoon shade inland) in well drained soils with very little or no summer watering. If you have heavy clay like we do at the Garden amend with decomposed granite and plant a bit high. Then add another layer of “DG” around the plant. (This seems to work for us.) Hardy and evergreen to around 20 F but I am told it can re-sprout when top growth is frozen back.

As with other buckwheat, when the flowers lose their color they turn to an attractive cinnamon brown color before ending in a chocolate brown as seed heads develop in late summer.

Obviously a great accent plant in the garden or even as a potted specimen, this buckwheat has other uses too. It is low enough to be front and center in perennial beds, certainly one of the most attractive foliage to flower color combinations to find in that type of bed. It works well with the purple flowers of the native bulb, Tritelia laxa-Ithuriel’s Spear emerging behind and between clumps. Taking a cue from its natural location in the wild it is a stand out in rock gardens as well.

While weeding caution is needed since branches are very brittle, otherwise maintenance consists of simply removing spent flowers in late summer or fall and tipping back leggy branches. That will keep your Saffron Buckwheat dense and attractive for years.

May 2011 - Carpenteria californica-California Bush Anemone
Carpenteria californica-California Bush Anemone
Plant of the Month
May 2011
Carpenteria californica-California Bush AnemoneWhat: Carpenteria californica-California Bush Anemone
Type: Evergreen shrub
Light: Likes light to medium shade but can accept full sun in cooler areas.
Soil: Good draining soil preferred but can take heavier soils too
Water: Occasional to moderate water needsHow restful is the color green? This woodsy green well rounded shrub which can reach as tall as 10 feet is normally about 5-8 feet tall. The elliptical leaves are 4-6 inches long and quite shiny and fresh looking. The white flowers are lightly fragrant (some say like nutmeg) and are sometimes likened to a single rose with its boss of golden stamens. I think it also resembles a small white camellia blossom. These bright flowers can really liven up a dark area.Blooms are between 2-3 inches wide and appear around mid-April, and blooming continues for about 8 weeks. After that plants in dry soils may look a little spent, but clip off the spent flowers (and some dried-up leaves), and provide a bit of water. It will look more than respectable for the rest of the year with those nice green leaves. (Note: Moderate summer water helps the plant remain fresh and vibrant.)In our Garden here at GWC I have tried it in sun and shade. Those I planted in the sun did so poorly (even with extra water) that I moved them. Those planted in shade are the ones thriving and are covered in lovely blossoms right now.  After flowering, young plants should be pinched back to encourage a fuller form, while older plants can be more vigorously pruned by cutting back the old flowering stems by 1/3 of more. Again, this helps the plant be less upright and fuller with more leaf covered branches producing more flowers next year.Mixed with coffeeberry, spicebush, coral bells, and oak trees it can form part of a woodland themed garden.  But with its evergreen nature it can also play a part in more formal garden designs, or as a single specimen thoughtfully placed in a corner of dappled shade it can provide a focal point. Would you like to use Carpenteria along a walkway near a lightly shaded wall? That would look wonderful, but be careful if pruning to keep it flat. Such attention must be timed to allow flowering points to develop for the spring. Espaliered? Hmmmm…interesting!
April 2011 - Eschscholzia californica-California Poppy

Eschscholzia californica-California Poppy

Plant of the Month
April 2011

Eschscholzia californica-California Poppy

What: Eschscholzia californica-California Poppy
Type: Perennial Wildflower (often treated like annual)
Light: Likes full sun but can take partial shade inland
Soil: Well drained (but adaptable)
Water: Drought tolerant

Note: In honor of California Native Plant Week which is celebrated throughout the State the third week of this month (April 17-23) I offer our lovely and vigorous State flower as our plant of the month!

The California Poppy is the most well known flower in our state that even schoolchildren are taught to recognize. Its vivid golden-orange color once washed the hillsides and valleys throughout much of California. Remnants of those long ago flower bonanzas are still seen near Gorman and the various poppy preserves including the well known 1745 acre Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve in Los Angeles County. You can also visit them right now in your GWC Native Garden.

This plant has finely divided foliage of a blue green cast upon which stems bearing its signature flower rise 1-2 feet. The satiny 1-3 inch wide petals form a shallow cup-shaped flower, perfect for bees to tumble around while being covered in pollen. The early Spanish explorers would fittingly call California Poppies copa de oro meaning ‘cup of gold’.

In hot summer areas, the poppies will bloom through spring, with March, April and May normally their strongest bloom period. With summer heat the tops normally die back and the plants become dormant with the poppy surviving in the form of a fleshy taproot. No supplemental watering is required (unless the growing season is exceptionally dry). Some clever people have found that they can extend the blooming season into early summer by cutting plants to a few inches above ground height and watering after the main blooming period is nearing its finale. A second growth and bloom period follows.

Wherever you garden California poppies are easy to grow if you have a sunny spot, accepting various soils (yes, even clay). Sow the seeds shallowly (1/16-inch deep) in fall through early winter (or even later for us here in southern California). Seeds will germinate after the first fall rains. Caution is encouraged when seeding since every seed germinates! You can end up with far more plants than you ever dreamed, so closely packed together they struggle to grow. Also since the plants can easily grow to 24 inches across you do not want to crowd them.

Once planted there is usually no need for ever seeding the garden with poppies again. After the flowers fade, 1-3 inch long seed pods are formed, containing tiny brown to black seeds, which are scattered in all directions when the pods open with explosive force. In fact you are likely to find yourself removing “extra” poppies since these plants can definitely take over a garden. If you plan on growing other native annuals, use the Poppy sparingly since it can crowd out other species.

The best place to enjoy this plant is in either the Wild lands or in our gardens but the California Poppy also makes a good cut flower for indoor enjoyment. Although they do not last as long as many commercially grown flowers, I find flower that young flowers, picked in the cool of the morning, and placed in water immediately often last for several days. What a cheerful addition to a small bouquet! Remember, at night the flowers will curl closed and open in the day’s light, just like in the garden!

Enjoy our State Flower in your garden or visit it here at GWC Native Garden. It is a show stopper!

Additional Information:
State Flower: The California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) was selected as the State flower by the California State Floral Society, in December 1890.  Other native flowers under consideration at the time were the Mariposa Lily (Calochortus), and Matilija Poppy (Romneya).  The California Poppy though won the vote by a landslide.  Eventually, in 1903, the California state legislature officially declared Eschscholzia californicaas the State flower, and April 6th is designated as the official California Poppy Day.

Naming: Adelbert von Chamisso, naturalist aboard the Russian exploring ship “Rurick”, discovered and named the species. The Rurick visited Alaska and California in 1816 under the command of Lieutenant Otto von Kotzebue. Chamisso named the California poppy Eschscholzia californicain honor of J. F. Eschscholtz, the ship’s surgeon and entomologist (note that he accidentally left the “t” out of Eschscholtz’s name).

Invasive?: What is good here may not be welcome in all parts of the world! Although Eschscholzia californica is native to western North America, it has reportedly naturalized in many parts of the world becoming a weed of sorts, including India, Chile, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa, and is even considered an invasive plant in some parts of the United States outside of its home range. Ironically, it has been displaced in large areas of its original habitat, such as Southern California, by more invasive exotic species, such as mustard or annual grasses.

March 2011 - Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' -Lilac Verbena (Cedros Island Verbena)
Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina' -Lilac Verbena (Cedros Island Verbena)
Plant of the Month
March 2011
Verbena lilacina ‘De La Mina’ -Lilac Verbena (Cedros Island Verbena)Type: Evergreen Perennial
Light: Full to part sun
Soil: Adaptable
Water: AdaptableThis lovely plant is found on Cedros Island off the West coast of Baja California, so although it’s a Baja native it is part of the California Floristic Provence. This darker flowered form named ‘De La Mina’ was discovered by horticulturist Carol Bornstein during a trip with Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.This plant quickly forms a mound about 24 inches high (give or take) and 3-4 feet wide. With its delicately dissected green foliage and soft purple flowers blooming nearly year round, this is an eye-catching addition to any Southern California garden. And don’t be fooled by its delicate beauty-this is one tough and versatile garden performer, accepting a variety of soils without complaint, taking drought conditions, and is even somewhat resistant to deer nibbling. If that is not enough to recommend it to have a place in your garden, it also possesses a light spicy fragrance and the flowers attract numerous butterflies!But my favorite part about this enduring perennial is its long blooming period and ease of care. Plants can bloom most of the year with a peak in spring and summer and although it does best with well drained soil, it will take clay (like in the GWCNG) if not overwatered. A light shearing in winter is all that’s required to maintain its tight and tidy appearance.A good choice for mixed borders, a walkway border, as a bank cover, in decorative pots, even as an addition to a butterfly garden. It combines well with sages, mints and buckwheats and would be at home as a focal point in small to midsized gardens.Like to see it in bloom? In the GWC Native Garden It currently resides in the “wildflower corner” beneath our large coast live oak. Enjoy!
February 2011 - Blue Dicks (School bells, Wild Hyacinth) Dichelostemma capitatum (D. pulchellum)

Blue Dicks (School bells, Wild Hyacinth) Dichelostemma capitatum (D. pulchellum)

Plant of the Month
February 2011

Blue Dicks (School bells, Wild Hyacinth) Dichelostemma capitatum (D. pulchellum)

Type: Bulb Light: Sun to partial shade
Soil: Likes garden soil but can take clay
Water: Drought tolerant to infrequent watering

In their book “California Plants for the Garden” the trio of authors (Carol Bornstein, David Fross, and Bart O’Brien) state; “If annuals are the ‘laughter’ of a garden, then bulbs are its ‘magic and promise’.”  Laughter and promise, what a wonderful description of bulbs that sleep underground and are almost forgotten when seemingly overnight their leaves and flower structures push up through the soil surface reminding you of last year’s beauty! Blue Dicks are one of these wonderful plants that happens to be underused even in native gardens despite being easy to grow. You can find them in nurseries specializing in California native plants, at California Native Plant Society plant sales, and even from some mail order bulb catalogs!

Commonly found in Oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, and grassland plant communities in almost every county in our state, it’s bulb was food for many of the state’s native tribes, sometimes eaten raw but also roasted or boiled to make them taste sweeter. Being one of our most widespread bulbs it makes sense that it will also like growing in your garden! Alone, these lovely flowers can be overlooked from a moderate distance but in groups or “runs” their flowers stand out.  If you have a meadow or grassland component in your landscape this plant is outstanding there. Our new grassland area in the GWC Native Garden has Blue Dicks as one of the bulbs mixed in if you would like to see them in that style of landscape. Of course they are also good emerging next to small boulders, near pathways, or in containers (which can be moved to the side yard when the big show of late winter/early spring is over).

Usually this is the earliest bulb to flower in our Garden, often sending up tall flower stems as early as mid January. The flower is held somewhat erect on this 8 to 20 inch slender stem, which nods and moves in the slightest breeze and adds a note of grace to the garden. When looking at this flower up close you see it is a ball-shaped cluster of up to 20 individual flowers like a small hyacinth bloom, (which is one reason for another of its common names-Wild Hyacinth). Its tight clusters of blue-purple flowers similar to amethyst in their range and depth of color and are a nectar source for butterflies. The grasslike leaves appear only at the base.

Blue Dicks are pretty trouble free-just keep the snails and rabbits away and you can enjoy its lovely flower emerging year after year, announcing that winter is more than half gone and that spring is coming.

Note: Formerly listed in the Amaryllis family it is now in the Lily family due to recent genetic studies. In fact, the entire amaryllis family has been merged into the lily family, though older references still list Blue Dicks as Amaryllis.

January 2011 - Umbellularia californica- California bay laurel
Umbellularia californica- California bay laurel
Plant of the Month
January 2011
Umbellularia californica- California bay laurelType: Evergreen tree or large shrub.
Light: Likes full sun but can get by with light shade.
Soil: Good draining but enjoys soils that retain moisture.
Water: Enjoys water but once established it can tolerate drought conditions.A tree commonly found in much of California, it is also a native here in Orange County being found in the Santa Ana Mountains. A member of the Laurel family (Lauraceae), California bay laurel shares its family with Grecian laurel and avocado. In fact the small fruit remind me of tiny avocados and although they are reportedly edible-I have not yet tried them. Nor have I tried the nut (similar in shape to an avocado pit) which some people find good when roasted. The leaf is known as a very strong version of the European bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) and it can be used in cooking but at half strength or less.Hikers may smell the intense aromatic fragrance before they even see the tree itself. When rubbed or crushed, they emit a pungent odor reminiscent of the bay leaf of culinary fame  but typically with a much stronger scent. This odor is due to the oils present in the leaves, which contain up to 40% umbellulone, an aromatic ketone compound. The laurel leaves have been used for centuries by Native Americans to treat headaches and sinus congestion. Use too much however and you can increase instead of cure you headache-I have done it! It has yellow-green blossoms which are almost too small to be noticed but occur in fragrant clusters in late winter (and grow in stalked umbels – giving rise to the genus name Umbellularia, which means “little umbel”). In addition, with its green glossy leaves, and a nice multi trunked form the California bay is a beautiful tree.In the GWC Native Garden we have two of these trees, a thirty foot specimen is planted in the Mixed Evergreen Woodland and a smaller, younger tree in the Foothill Woodland. I am expecting them to eventually get up to around forty to fifty feet in the Garden, although in favorable locations in the wild they can reach 100 feet tall!  These trees are also known to produce a broad basal burl which resprouts after fire or other damage to the tree. Not too much bothers this plant although Laurel aphids often get on the leaves. They secrete a sugary honeydew which causes sooty mould to form on the leaves and almost anything beneath the tree. Washing the underside of the leaves (wear a raincoat) with a horticultural soap spray helps as does preventing the aphids ally ants, from climbing into the tree.Besides the obvious use as a lovely tree in garden situations, the bay can also be used as a tall screen or clipped hedge. This very adaptable plant (sun/shade, water/ drought, loam soil or clay, upright tree or clipped hedge) is a wonderful plant for your garden.
Plant of the Month 2010
November 2010 - Heteromeles arbutifolia-Toyon, Christmas berry

Heteromeles arbutifolia-Toyon, Christmas berry

Plant of the Month

November 2010

Heteromeles arbutifolia-Toyon, Christmas berry

Type: Evergreen shrub or small tree
Light: Likes full sun but can get by with light shade
Soil: Good draining but can take heavy soils too
Water: Once established, has low water needs

Here is one native so adored that I will almost fill this page with wonderful quotes singing its praises! Toyon, also called Christmas berry is an evergreen shrub and a member of the rose family. Toyon can grow in sun or partial shade, and are drought tolerant. Their natural habitat is chaparral and woodlands below 4000 feet and they seem fairly tolerant of most soils.
This plant is another versatile performer growing 8-15 feet tall and almost as wide, can be trimmed to reduce its size if needed (although the production of its lovely berries can suffer from excessive pruning) or when mature can be trained as a lovely patio sized tree.

Nevin Smith, in his book Native Treasures, sings an ode to Toyons in the chapter “Toyon on my mind”.

“In June and July each plant is decorated with many large, branched clusters of cream to white five-petaled flowers… followed by little green berries that expand throughout the summer and fall. As the nights cool, the berries begin to change color, finally taking on hues from crimson through vivid reds to an occasional orange or yellow. …the berries…have proven so popular for Christmas decorations that local ordinances have been passed to forbid their collection on public lands.”

Here’s what the authors of California Native Plants for the Garden have to say:

“Toyon is the only California native plant that continues to be known by a Native American name. It retains the name given to it by the Oholone, who along with other California tribes use parts of this plant for food and medicines and implements. Toyon’s resemblance to the European holly and its abundance in the hills of southern California were the genesis of the name ‘Hollywood’.”

Ralph D. Cornell, supervising landscape architect for UCLA from 1937 to 1972 thought very highly of Toyon stating:

“Any plant that encourages bird life, supplies the bees with an unexcelled source of honey, gives food to man, furnishes tannin from its bark, protects arid slopes from erosion, paints the landscape with vivid colors and carries joy into the home at Christmas time, when no other berries are available to most Californians, surely deserves the protection of man, whom it serves so well.”

 I can add nothing to these three sources except, find a suitable place in your garden and plant one!

Note: “Davis Gold” is a great cultivar of the yellow berried form (Heteromeles arbutifolia var cerina) that almost glow in early morning or dusk. Also i

October 2010 - Dendromecon harfordii, Island Bush Poppy

Dendromecon harfordii, Island Bush Poppy

Plant of the Month
October 2010

Dendromecon harfordii, Island Bush Poppy

Type: Evergreen Shrub

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Soil: Likes good draining soils but is adaptable

Water: Drought tolerant

There are two main varieties of our native Bush Poppy, the one from the mainland is Dendromecon rigida and its island cousin, the Island bush poppy, Dendromecon harfordii, is native to the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The island bush poppy is considered more ornamental in most cases, easier for us to grow, and has a longer blooming season. It is this species we have in our native Garden here at GWC.

A dense evergreen shrub with a great combination of beautiful bluish-green leaves and bright buttery yellow flowers, it grows quickly to 5-8′ tall and 6-10′ wide. Its heaviest bloom period is in the spring-April through July. It’s not surprising that there are some flowers on it even now in the Garden since near the coast it can bloom almost year-round if pruned occasionally. Regarding pruning, I like tipping the plant back lightly but if it gets too big it can be treated more harshly taking half or more of the plant off around November or December. It re-sprouts generously and if those branches are immediately tipped back again it forms a more dense and floriferous plant the next year. If is an old, senescing plant then it is a risky move to prune it hard since it may not recover.

I have seen it planted as a loose formed espalier on an east wall and as a foundation plant hiding the side of a stairway near a back patio but normally this is used as a good sized but stunning background plant. In smaller gardens it can anchor the garden visually as its main focal point. It is large enough to compete with the lovely but aggressive Matilija Poppy, and you can imagine what it looks like with any of our native California Lilacs, (Ceanothus sp.) with their beautiful blue flowers!

A few words of caution. While it really does best in coarse, well drained soils, it can and does take clay but the life span is sometimes shorter, often only lasting 6 to 10 years. Also, while not as touchy as Flannelbush about summer water it does not like it and if repeatedly given water during hot summers it can fold in just a few years. Be careful when planting since just like many of the true Poppies it can be difficult to establish due to an especially brittle root system that will not accept careless handling. Don’t disturb the fragile root ball when planting it and don’t overwater and it should be fine. Like many of our natives, fall to mid winter is the best time of year to plant though with this plant we have been successful even with spring plantings.

September 2010 - Rhamnus Californica-California Coffeeberry

Rhamnus Californica-California Coffeeberry

Plant of the Month
September 2010

Rhamnus Californica-California Coffeeberry

Type:  Evergreen Shrub

Light:  Sun to Shade

Soil:  Adaptable

Water: Drought tolerant but can take occasional water

Even in summer and fall we do have some color in the GWC Native Garden. The pastels of the Erigeron (beach aster), the bright yellows of the Solidago (goldenrod) and Grindelia (gum plant), the hot orange-red of the Epilobium (California fuchsia), and the exotic orchid like flowers of Chilopsis (desert willow) are reminders that summer is not a barren time.

But summer and fall are seasons of rest for much of the garden and genuine native plant lovers understand that their gardens “takes a breath” at this time. We do not expect a riot of color all year. It’s at times like these that the solid greens of plants like the coffeeberry stand out with a refreshing coolness, and really provide an anchor for a garden’s design.

And it is such a versatile and forgiving plant! It can be left untrimmed and provide a mound of lush green as a foil for lighter leaved plants, especially gray and silver leaved plants. Or, it can be trimmed into a hedge if needed. It can be used in sun along the coast or in dappled shade or fairly dense shade inland. Water in summer? It usually does not mind but can also take weeks with no water once mature. Clay soils? It can usually handle heavy soils without problems. It is this adaptability that makes this plant one of my all time favorites to use and to recommend.

Coffeeberry is not known for its flowers, which are almost unnoticeable. But the plant makes up for this with a stable reliable dark green all year long and lovely berries that resemble those of a coffee plant. Though these are NOT edible for humans, they are extremely attractive and adds a layer of color lying at or slightly below leaf level in summer/fall months. There is a desirable richness with this dark green leaf with ripening berries ranging from lime green through rose, red and finally burgundy and almost black.

Sizes for various coffeeberry cultivars range from around 2 feet-3 feet tall X 3-4 feet wide with the low growing ‘Seaview Improved’ and ‘Little Sur’ to the midsized ‘Mound San Bruno’ and ‘Leatherleaf’ to some of the taller forms like ‘Eve Case’ and ‘Bonita Linda’. ‘Bonita Linda’ has an open habit that makes it a great living trellis for Keckiella cordifolia (heart-leaved penstemon) to climb in. ‘Mound San Bruno’ is extremely dependable middle green, and ‘Leatherleaf’ is the darkest leaf of all. When the sun is about to set it actually looks black.

Whatever coffeeberry you chose to grow in your garden you will be I know you will be pleased.

August 2010 - Epilobium (Zauschneria) californicum 'Catalina'-California Fuchsia selection

Epilobium (Zauschneria) californicum 'Catalina'-California Fuchsia selection

Plant of the Month
August 2010

Epilobium (Zauschneria) californicum ‘Catalina’-California Fuchsia selection

Type:  Perennial (Somewhat herbaceous)

Light:  Sun

Soil:  Adaptable but prefers well drained soils

Water:  Drought tolerant

California Fuchsia’s are some of our state’s showiest plants when the time comes for them to bloom. Their colors are principally orange and orange-red although there are cultivars that include white and salmon. They are deservedly known to native gardeners throughout California for two things; blooming fiercely through summer and fall’s hottest and driest periods and for being a wonderful attractor and feeder of hummingbirds.

‘Catalina’ is a wonderful cultivar and just like many of the great Hummingbird Trumpets it has extraordinarily lovely flowers which are definitely attractive to hummers! ‘Catalina’ was selected by Mike Evans of Tree of Life Nursery from the Middle Ranch on Catalina in 1987 and was introduced by Tree of Life Nursery in 1990. San Marcos Growers says, “…for those that want a big California Fuchsia this one is the best!”

Unlike most California Fuchsias which spread out, ‘Catalina’ is an upright shrub to 3-4′ with nice silvery foliage and large, bright red flowers in late summer and fall. It is a densely branching sub shrub that blooms for an extended bloom period, is taller than all other California Fuchsia, and has soft gray foliage that adds a pastel note to the plant.

There is some disagreement about the genus name (It used to be known by that wonderful, mouth filling name Zauchsneria. What a ripe word to say!) Sadly, that was changed to Epilobium in 1992. Now there are issues with the species names as well. In this case the common name of California Fuchsia may be the most accurate, at least until the taxonomists figure things out!

Maintenance, like most California Fuchsias, is the normal cut to the ground in winter for a bushier plant (and more flowers) next year. In well drained soils it enjoys some deep watering in summer but still likes drying out between watering. Like most California Fuchsias it does not like soggy clay soils! So if your soil is like our Garden’s clay, let it go dry for most of the summer months.

July 2010 - Desert willow-Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow-Chilopsis linearis

Plant of the Month
July 2010

Desert willow-Chilopsis linearis

Plant Type: Large deciduous shrub to small tree

Light: Full sun (The hotter the better)

Soil: Adaptable

Water: Adaptable

A favorite in the garden all summer, this fast growing plant (12-30 feet) is the showiest blooming native tree California has. Nope, it’s not a real willow (Salix species) it just has long, narrow leaves like one but is actually related to the Catalpa trees. It is easily grown in many soils and it does best with just enough water to keep it blooming and healthily green through the warm months. Other than that its only requirement for sure success is sunshine and lots of it.

It has 1-3 inch flower clusters are displayed on branch ends. They range through white, pink, lavender, and burgundy. The typical flower of this species is funnel shaped and colored a light “orchid” pink with a creamy colored throat and yellow bands leading inward. The flowers put on a big show in late spring and early summer with waves of bloom often lasting through the fall. By October or so, the flowers are replaced by slender seedpods, 6–10 inches long. (It is in bloom in the Garden right now!)

Not much maintenance is needed although light pruning to direct growth when the plant is young helps and removing young water sprouts near the base. This tree’s natural structure is a low branching form that is graceful and even whimsical. Bert at Las Pilitos nursery says, “It can be pruned to make a weeping willow effect. (A weeping willow with 1-2 inch pink-purple catalpa-like flowers!)” Artful pruning may work but attempting to trim it into a standard upright or formal shape would likely fail and would certainly work against the plants natural strengths. Visit mature trees in gardens and learn how they grow-this will help you in deciding which branches stay or are removed..

Propagating this species is easy by using young vigorous growth to root. Rooted cuttings should be removed from the mist bed as quickly as roots are noticed. We have had success with softwood cuttings.

Besides the outstanding straight species of Desert Willow, many cultivars have been selected with varying flower colors, leaf sizes, and amounts of seed pods. A few of these are: ‘Bubba’ w/dark violet flowers; ‘Burgundy’ w/dark wine red flowers; ‘Lois Adams’ w/crepe textured violet flowers that produce few if any seedpods; ‘Art’s Seedless’ another w/o seedpods, ‘White Storm’ w/white flowers; ‘Warren Jones’ semi-evergreen w/ gray-green leaves and very pale pink flowers; ‘Regal’ Large bi-colored flowers that are pale lilac above and rich purple below.

June 2010 - Our Lord's Candle or Foothill Yucca Hesperoyucca whipplei (Yucca whipplei)
Our Lord's Candle or Foothill Yucca Hesperoyucca whipplei (Yucca whipplei)
Plant of the Month
June 2010

Our Lord’s Candle or Foothill Yucca Hesperoyucca whipplei (Yucca whipplei)Plant Type: Hmmm…A sub-shrub? A quadrennial? Typically this plant blooms once and then dies, although could be thought of as a perennial.

Light: Full sun to half sun

Soil: Can take clay but excels in good draining soils

Water: Adaptable but loves to go completely dry.

This striking plant does not usually bloom this late for us at the Garden but is such a wonderful plant I had to include as the June Plant of the Month. It is found in the Coastal Sage Scrub and Chaparral plant communities of southern California, and it’s 8-10 foot high flower stalk is easily visible from quite far away, (looking a bit like a creamy white flame in the distance).

In gardens its blue-gray foliage that stands out so beautifully against a wall, or between boulders, or contrasting with a dark green background like Coffeeberry. And if you are creating a “Moon Garden”, this is one of the plants you may wish to select with its radiant, light reflecting quality.

Although, its sharp foliage makes it an outstanding plant from an architectural point of view, we should be careful with Our Lord’s Candle’s dangerous spine tipped leaves. It should be placed carefully for safety, back away from paths or patios. If you find you have placed it too close for comfort, the very end of the spiny leaf tips can be pruned off to make them less deadly to children, pets, unsuspecting garden visitors (or clumsy gardeners).

Weeding under these sharp obstacles is a particular problem although there are ways around that. A heavy gravel mulch layer can help prevent weeds from sprouting, or carefully pruning off the lower leaves to create space for your weeding tool to fit beneath. If you don’t like the look of that, simply sliding a sharp edged shovel under the leaves will dislodge most weeds which may choose the protection of the plants leaves to grow beneath.

It is after several years of having this very decorative plant in your garden that it decides to bloom. A flower stalk pushes up from the plant like an asparagus spear on steroids-exciting! Slowly the astounding blooms open and puts on a show almost unrivaled in profusion and detail. Each cream colored flower, sometimes with intricate purple edging on the petals, is lovely enough to stare at, but when put together with hundreds of flowers on an tall flower stalk-it is breath taking. The bloom often persists for several weeks then the plant slowly dies. Even then there is a sort of vertical beauty and I leave the dead flower stalk as a bird perch.

Caution: Once your garden has had that large flower stalk blooming in springtime, you may be hooked on these impressive plants. If so, be sure you plant another one as soon as your current plant blooms or if you have the room, plant in successive years so you don’t have to be without its beauty for very long.

May 2010 - Matilija Poppy-Romneya coulteri
Matilija Poppy-Romneya coulteri
Plant of the Month
May 2010
Matilija Poppy-Romneya coulteriType: Perennial (Semi Evergreen, Herbaceous)
Light: Sun but can take dappled light and still flower
Soil: Likes well drained but will accept clay
Water: Can naturalize; be sure to lay off the water after late spring/early summer bloomWhat a sight! Crepe paper white petals 6 to 8 inches across and a glowing ball of golden stamens in its center, striking to say the least! It is one of the most appreciated natives when in bloom with an apricot scent that is almost perfect in its sweetness and a deeply cut foliage of blue/green/gray color. The flower may resemble something people have for breakfast but let’s not call it the “fried-egg plant”. After all it is our Queen of the California wildflowers and as royalty deserves to retain some dignity.Its dramatically flower-capped stems can easily reach 6 or even 8 feet high by the time it flowers in late spring. Then during the mid to late summer it declines and often looks less than presentable. Actually it pretty much dies back nearly to the ground by fall. About that time or even early winter is when you cut the plant back to 3 or 4 inch stalks. The plant looks more presentable and the attractive new growth which arrives with the rains is all new and fresh.I have often heard people moan about not being able to start these plants-it’s true they can be a trifle delicate to transplant from the container. I have also often heard very loud moans regarding the quick rate of growth and aggressive behavior in gardens when this plant does take off. It spreads by underground rhizomes and can pop up 5, 10, or 20 feet away from the original plant. I have tried it in a large container and it has worked fairly well for a few years, but the number of flowers is small compared to those planted in the ground. Root barriers may help control its growth for awhile but eventually it gets loose and the only thing to help rein it in is root pruning with a sharp shovel. Even after such warnings as this, people cannot resist growing this beauty and you can be forgiven if you too succumb to its charms.Obviously such a riotous plant cannot just be placed anywhere in a garden. Give it lots of space along dry edges of the garden or use it on slopes-as you can imagine it’s a great stabilizer of soils! Don’t plant small natives around it, since they will just be gobbled up. Instead plant large shrubs that can outcompete it for space and sun like large Ceanothus, Sugarbush, large Coffeeberry (like ‘Eve Case’), or Fremontodendron.Note: ‘White Cloud’ is also very nice and may be a hybrid of Romney coulteri and Romney trichoclalx. Although it looks very much like the normal Matilija Poppy, its growth is a bit more restrained and dense. Flowers are very similar in size.
April 2010 - Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana

Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana

Plant of the Month
April 2010

Douglas Iris, Iris douglasiana

Type: Evergreen perennial
Light: Sun to partial shade
Soil: Well drained preferred, but adaptable
Water: Infrequent

Native from Santa Barbara to Oregon, this Iris has narrow, dark-green leaves, one and half to two feet long. Flower stalks push slightly above foliage with the light purple, lilac, or even light blue to cream colored flowers.

In the GWC Native Garden you can currently see most of our Douglas Iris in the Mixed Evergreen Forest community (North-east side of Garden). Sometimes you will see them spotted singly in other areas providing a point of interest near a boulder or log. Although it’s lovely spring flowers are enough to recommend this plant it is also widely used because of its tolerance of varying conditions. It can take sun or partial shade, drought or occasional water, and soils ranging from light to fairly heavy.

You often see it used in woodland settings and as part of Oak understory plantings, as focal points in almost any style of landscape near patios or walkway intersections where its lovely foliage can be appreciated year round (and of course it’s springtime flowers), and along with native grasses and bulbs, as a part of a meadow landscape. It can be successfully combined with all of the plants listed for the Pink Flowering Currant (Plant of the Month, February, 2010) including Meadow Rue, Coffeeberry, Columbine, and Coral Bells. What a versatile garden performer.

Although drought tolerant it may like light watering in spring to extend blooming. Unlike some natives it can tolerate some summer water-but don’t overdo the water in heavy soils. It appreciates some light shade or dappled light unless planted very near the coast where it enjoys full sun.  Maintenance? Well, not much is required other than keeping the weeds (especially the grassy weeds like Veldt grass) out of it. Some people pick off the dead blooms but we leave ours on and allow them to go to seed and we then pot up the sprouting seedlings for our plant sales or for use in other parts of the Garden. It is fairly normal for the tips of the Iris foliage to discolor with age and they can be pruned (not pulled) off if objectionable.

Hybrids: Over the years many have been chosen and named but are often lumped under the label, Pacific Coast Hybrids (PCH). These hybrids are bred for larger more colorful and showy flowers but the plants themselves are often weak and don’t last long in the garden unless you have light loamy soils. We still use them occasionally for the short show of color and for our own desire to see what unexpected colors will emerge during the spring bloom. An exceptional hybrid both in garden durability (several years in t

March 2010 - Ceanothus species (California Lilac, Wild Lilac)

Ceanothus species (California Lilac, Wild Lilac)

Plant of the Month
March 2010

Ceanothus species (California Lilac, Wild Lilac)

Type: Evergreen shrub
Light: Full sun to partial shade
Soil: Well drained (but somewhat adaptable)
Water: Drought tolerant

If you are visiting the Garden this month you will notice a wonderful blue flowered plant-the Ceanothus! In California we have about 60 native species and varieties of Ceanothus (with many other cultivars to choose from).  What riches to choose from! The straight species are often used in restoring wildlands and the cultivars (those with names surrounded with half quotes like Ceanothus ‘Joyce Coulter’), are commonly used in gardens since they generally take garden conditions better.

Most enjoy full sun and prefer well-drained soil, though they do pretty good in our clay soil here at GWC Native Garden. On a hilly site, drainage is not so much a problem, in fact if you have flat area with relatively heavy soils, mounding the soils and planting on top can be good way to grow them. But don’t plant them in a low, flat area where water collects or they will rot away. They are easily satisfied by one or two deep waterings a month once established.

Though several Ceanothus have white flowers, their dominant flower color is blue-which is certainly a rare color in the garden. This fact alone is reason enough to plant our native Ceanothus. The blue is usually a truer blue than the common name, wild lilac, would suggest although one of the fun things about Ceanothus is that the flower colors range from a light frosted blue to almost cobalt (and yes there are a few lilac colored varieties). Some are nearly iridescent. The foliage ranges from glossy greens with smooth edges to duller green small with toothed margins.

Besides choosing what shade of blue, you can also select what size you would like since Ceanothus range from ground huggers to small trees. Choosing the right size is important since they do not like being severely cut back. Light tip pruning (like deer nibbling in the wild) is fine, but no hacking!

Some of the large tree-like Ceanothus include: C. arboreus,; C. thrysiflorus ‘Snow Flurry’, C. ‘Ray Hartman. Medium shrubs include: C. ‘Concha’, C. ‘Dark Star’, C. ‘Julia Phelps’, C. ‘Wheeler Canyon’, C. impressus, and C. ‘Joyce Coulter’. Lower Groundcovers include C. ‘Anchor Bay’, C. ‘Heart’s Desire, C. ‘Centennial’, C. ‘Yankee Point’ and C. maritimus.
These plants are also good habitat plants drawing several butterflies which use the flowers for nectar but also lay their eggs on them as larval host plants! And when the plants produce their small shiny seeds several of the seed eating birds stop by and feast.
In short if you want a blue flowering shrub, that attracts good wildlife, needs little care or water, and blooms its head off every spring-then choosing one of our native Ceanothus will make you happy.

Note: The book “Ceanothus” by David Fross and Dieter Wilken is THE book on these wonderful plants.

Feburary 2010 - Pink Flowering Currant- Ribes sanguineum var glutinosum ‘Claremont’

Pink Flowering Currant-Ribes sanguineum var glutinosum ‘Claremont’

Plant of the Month
February 2010

Pink Flowering Currant-Ribes sanguineum var glutinosum ‘Claremont’

Type: Deciduous Shrub
Light: Sun to Part Shade
Soil: Adapts well
Water: Infrequent to Moderate

This lovely, deciduous shrub is now starting to bloom with pendulous clusters of almost pure pink (just a touch of red). This to me is the beginning of the Garden’s season of color. Yes, Manzanita’s have already been doing there thing for a few weeks but in our garden’s clay soils they are not as floriferous as this dependable Currant.

The Pink Flowering Currant is a very clay tolerant plant and is perhaps the most dependable and showy of all the Currant selections we have tried here at the Garden.  It is a stunning shrub in winter and spring when it is covered in bright pink flower clusters often half a foot long. Its foliage also recommends it with lobed, maple like leaves of a soft green. Hummingbirds love the flowers, and songbirds (and some people) are attracted by the blue/black fruits that develop in the summer. It grows pretty quickly and ranges in size form 5-8 feet in height with a pleasant vase or rounded shape. It may look its best  used in a woodsy landscape design along with Coffeeberry, Giant Chain Fern, and Meadow Rue. Also, if planted near pink forms of Coral Bells like ‘Wendy’ their colors can echo each other since their bloom times overlap. In small gardens where a tree might be too dominant, it can it can serve as a focal point.

Although drought tolerant it grows faster with some summer water. That’s right- it can take summer water even in partial shade-but don’t overdo the water in heavy soils. It appreciates some light shade or dappled light unless planted very near the coast where it enjoys full sun.

If you wish to view it in the Garden it is in the north end of the Mixed Evergreen Forest on either side of the easily recognized Incense Cedar. It is just now beginning to push out its blooms, so no rush. But be sure to see one of our very best natives in action.