The Botany Photo of the Day page at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden site is always worth a visit. They post a photo, along with a brief discussion that points to a pile of references that you could follow around and keep yourself happy, interested and unproductive for much of a morning. Why go outside and pull weeds?
Their plant for May Day, Fritillaria affinis, is a native of Western North America, and a plant occasionally offered in bulb catalogs. Fritillarias come from dry-summer regions and require similar conditions to survive in gardens. This is one of the easier species, hardy from zone 6-9.
Photo by Jackie Chambers [ source ]
Dichelostemma capitatum, in bloom in the garden now:
My plants come from a native plant sale ten years ago, and they’ve multiplied in the front yard, through both division of the bulbs and self-sowing. In a wet year the flowering stems may rise up two feet, and little clusters of lavender blossoms for a couple of weeks. Though mostly stems, the plants in bloom are surprisingly striking. Out of bloom, there’s so little to the plants that they almost vanish out of sight.
I haven’t been out to the local canyons this season, but I’m sure the blue dicks (really, that’s what they call them!) are making their presence known. Even if you don’t devote your whole yard to natives, having some exemplary ones around connects you to your environment. You know that if something is blooming in your yard it’s blooming in the wild lands around you. You feel a part of something much larger than your own garden. On the other hand, with things like hybrid petunias or modern roses, well, they might look pretty, but they don’t root you in the same way. They don’t give you that same sense of place and belonging.
Here’s a picture of our cat Scooter, squinting:
Lovely, eh? She’s definitely great company in the house or when we’re outside gardening. But being a cat, she’ll be around one minute and off doing something else the next, only to reappear when you least expect it. Something like bulbs in the garden.
You plant the bulbs in the ground, add some water, and practically forget about them. Then when they’re ready, they emerge and bloom for a few days or a few weeks. Then they’re not there anymore, long before you get tired of them.
Most of the paperwhite narcissus in the garden have already bloomed. In San Diego they mark the start of the long bulb season, with its long successions of narcissus, cyclamen, freesia, dichelostemma, blommeria, oxalis, ornithogalum, ixia, ranunculus, homeria, calla, amaryllis, gladiolus, plus whatever else that you’d forgotten that you’d put into the ground. I never get tired of seeing them when they come decide to come around around. Something like the favorite cat…