The Poppies Are Back! As of the end of February, the Livermore Valley had actually received about two inches less rain this year than last year. Nonetheless, the unusually warm weather this winter, plus other climatic factors, have resulted in a lush growth of both natives and non-native weeds compared to earlier years. (You may click the photos to enlarge them.)
So what would justify a visit to the Granada Native Garden at this time this year? There are always the California poppies, which threaten to overwhelm GNG every year and actually do have to be restrained before they smother other notable members of the Garden. They are just now starting to bloom. Equally striking are the island bush poppy (Dendromecon harfordi), which is actually a member of the same botanical family (Papaveraceae) as the California poppy, in spite of its different appearance, and the early-blooming golden currant (Ribes aureum gracillimum). Both have bright yellow flowers, and you can’t miss them. (Click the photos to enlarge them.)
The map at the right will help you locate some of the natives that are blooming this month at the Granada Native Garden. You can click on it to enlarge it, and maybe print it out to take with you on a trip to the GNG.
Some Grassland Wildflowers The previous issue of this newsletter featured fiddleneck, the earliest bloomer at the Garden. To read more about it, click the link in the “Recent Posts” column on the right at the beginning of this article. Take a stroll alongside the grassland section of the GNG (the yellow part), and look for a few of the spring wildflowers that are characteristic of the California grassland environment. If you are there with a young child, he or she can help you spot them. Here are some that are appearing now. Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii) and five-spot (Nemophila maculata) are related — both members of the same genus. Can you guess why they are so named!
Similar to the above two is the bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor). Can you describe the similarities and differences between this one and the others? (Don’t ask me how it got its common name (not to mention where “tricolor” comes from)!
I once heard that California’s reputation as the Golden State was due not to the legendary California poppies, but to the vast fields of goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata) that the first settlers encountered. Bert Wilson of Las Pilitas Nursery noted that, in the San Joaquin Valley, goldfields makes massive displays of bright yellow in areas that are still intact. Another grassland wildflower with a cute name, for obvious reasons, is tidy tips (Layia platyglossa). And arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus), mostly absent from the GNG a couple of years ago, has been spreading to several different parts of the Garden more recently. (To read more about lupine, click Lupine in the Index.)
Strolling Down Lilac Lane … … otherwise known as the chaparral section (G1-4), you can find five varieties of California lilac (genus Ceanothus), all in stunning full color now. One white variety, named ‘Snow Flurry’ (C. thyrsiflorus) dominates the far north end of the GNG, but there is a smaller one half-way down, right along the path. They were covered with busy bees gathering nectar when I took this picture! It’s hard to miss the dark blue ‘Dark Star’, even from a distance. A bit farther down the path is the younger (planted just this Fall) but precocious ‘Julia Phelps’ in its protective cage.
Farther still is the dusty blue ‘Yankee Point’. And you might probably miss the ‘Owlswood Blue’, which is also is a youngster and is planted at a high point on the berm, off the path.
This is also the time of the year when the sages (Salvia spp.) begin to burst forth. The first two include the lavender-hued S. leucophylla ‘Amethyst Bluff’ variety and Brandegeei sage. Two other varieties, black sage (S. mellifera) and the hybrid ‘Pozo Blue’, have not yet flowered. All are located in the chaparral section of the GNG.
An extensive article about the sages will appear in a future edition of this Newsletter, so watch for it. If you are a Follower of this Newsletter, you will be informed by email when it appears. If your aren’t already a Follower, just click the “FOLLOW” button that usually can be found at the lower-right corner of your screen (sometimes it doesn’t appear, or it shows up late) and enter your email address. No extra charge!
Other Seasonal Attractions There are three redbuds in different places in the Garden, of different sizes and in different stages of blooming. Wander around the Garden and try to find all three (I cheated – the one in the photo is in my front yard!) The bladderpods are interesting because the leaves have an aroma (so to speak) resembling sauteed onions and peppers (in my opinion). Gently massage a cluster of leaves, sniff your fingers, and see if you agree!
The columbines are hiding among other vegetation in the Woodland section near the table area, under the sycamore. The yarrows are in different places along the paths, but also in the table area.
Roundup Strikes Again! Every year, the Granada Native Garden lives in fear of being sprayed with Roundup, always by mistake, but unfortunate nonetheless. This year it was worse than in the past, probably due to inadequate instructions to the crew sent out on the mission, or lack of knowledgeable supervision. The crew sprayed a long strip of the Oak Woodland-Riparian section (D2,3) containing our gumplant colony, many young lupines and poppies, and several other special plants, while ignoring the opposite side of the bike trail which was (and still is) full of a luxurious growth of weeds! We are trying to figure out how to prevent this in the future.
Quote du Jour “Gardeners enjoy their hobby for many reasons: A love of plants and nature. The satisfaction that comes from beautifying home and community. The pleasures of creative effort. The healthful benefits of exercise and outdoor air. … (And) there is pleasure in just watching plants grow!” Adapted from Douglas Tallamy’s book, Bringing Nature Home, page 11.