from the desert to the coast

Sunday I went for a little plant walk out to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It’s been a good year for desert flowers, but it’s not one of those spectacular seasons when the ground pulsates purple with sand verbena or gold with brittlebush. Some of the ocotillo were in bloom, and the desert agaves like this one (Agave deserti) were sending up their pink and green stalks.

Lots else was in bloom. But as I review the photos from the trips I’m finding that I’m staring at a pile of images of plants I don’t know the names of. I’ll share more of the pictures than this first one once I get them a little better organized and the plants matched up with my list of names.

Since it’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day I’ll share with you some plants from my garden that I do know the names of. Some of these are old friends that have been blooming for a while, and I’ve been sharing over past Bloom Days. But a lot of these are just coming into bloom for the first time this year.

I thought the blooms on this carpenteria were finished a month ago, but the plant has surprised me with a robust bloom spurt, bigger than the first one.

Unlike the carpenteria, this old friend, the tree coreopsis, won't be blooming again for another nine or ten months.

Many of these plants survive in the garden with minimal added water. The climate in this area is dry in a coastal-influenced sort of way. I might water once or twice a month in the summer, but the frequent morning overcast and occasional fog helps keep the plants hydrated. Additionally the plants in the garden have enjoyed a slighter higher than average rainfall so thoughts of the dry summer ahead aren’t in the minds of these plants. Spring is here.

This Salvia Bee's Bliss has been in the ground for over two years, but only now is it starting to take off.

Black sage, Salvia mellifera.

The local annual chia, Salvia carduaceae, with the exotic Phlomis monocephala in the background. The chia is one of the coastal plants that also can get to be pretty common in parts of the desert.

Here's another combination of plants, the lavender pink of the stinging lupine with the strident gold of the crassula relative behind it. The contrast is pretty strident to my taste, but hey, spring isn't all about subtle plays of one color against another...

Last month I showed this orange mimulus seedling. That time I got it in focus.
From the same parents that lived in this bed comes this other monkeyflower, this one velvety red with almost black detailing.


And here's another velvety red mimulus seedling. You might confuse it for the previous one, but the flowers are subtly different.

Nuttall's milkvetch, looking full and flowery, close to its seasonal peak.

Verbena lilacina looks better for me with a little more added water than some of the plants around it. But it survives even when I forget.

The pale Verbena lilacina 'Paseo Rancho' was just starting to bloom last month. It's starting to wake up for the spring.

Some parts of the garden get treated to more frequent watering.

This California buttercup, Ranunculus california, comes up reliably every year in an area of the garden where lawn meets unwatered gravel.

Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum, appreciates a moister spot as well.

Geum Red Wings, a pretty, informal plant.
Hummingbird sage, Salvia spathacea, is a California plant from moister places than my garden. Even in semi-shade it looks best with water two or three times a month.


And these last two of these go about as far from desert plants as you can get without getting aquatic plants. Both of these grow in my bog gardens, with their feet in standing water most of the year.

Sarracenia flava var. maxima is one one of the first plants in the bog to put out flowers. The common description of the scent is 'cat piss,' but I think that's a little too harsh a description. The flowers are nice, but most people grow these for the pitcher-shaped leaves.

A couple more sarracenias, a different S. flava in the back, and a hybrid of S. flava and S. alata up front.

Head over to Carol’s blog, May Dreams Gardens, to check out all the other bloggers celebrating Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!


22 thoughts on “from the desert to the coast”

  1. You have lots of interesting flowers in bloom for GBBD, I liked your mimulus very much, they might grow well in my summer dry garden too, I’ll give them a try. Christina

  2. I’m with Christina, I love the mimulus, though not something that would be very happy in my garden I fear. I also love your carpenteria, but most of all I love the contrast between all those sun-loving good drainage-demanding salvias and verbenas with the wonderfully sinister sarracenias. A lovely collection of plants – I’d love to see some wider shots of your garden to see how you fit them all together?

  3. My blue-eyed grass is taking over around the pond. Your photo reminds me why I let it have its way.
    Who knew that the pitcher plants would produce such interesting flowers? I always seem to learn something here.

  4. I admire your courage in allowing the stinging lupine to grow in your garden. It doesn’t grow here, but if it did, I don’t think I would be able to put up with it.

    I think I lost my blue-eyed grass to drought. In the back yard! It’s really not kidding about needing water.

  5. Hi, i’ve just seen a desert only once in Dubai and have only seen one flowering plant. Now i am amazed at the so many beautiful flowers you have here. So the desert is really very rich if it is just given some loving care. I remember Noelle (ramblings from a desert garden), who also shows lots of desert flowers.

  6. Nice subtlety of monkey flowers. You have some favorites that should start blooming up here soon. I’ve never seen that pitcher plant flower. I think it’s great. The bloom and leaves and the fragrance make for one of the more interesting plants out there.

  7. This is a wonderful preview for me…I have to wait longer for my blooms at 3000′. I could use your selection of plants shown here as a shopping list down at my local native plant nursery. Hmmm. think I will!

  8. James, I loved the lupine-crassula combination. But I’m in Maine where all is white (it’s snowing today), so the stronger the colors the better as far as I’m concerned!

  9. What a lovely collection of early bloomers. I’m especially enchanted by the bog plants, maybe I’ll have to replace my wine barrel for a bog one of these days…

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