Tag Archives: spring

almost spring

The view from the front sidewalk, with yellow deerweed, violet gilia, pink arctotis, red aloe.
The view from the front sidewalk, with yellow deerweed, violet gilia, pink arctotis, red aloe.

With several days above 80 degrees this week, it’s feeling like spring. And surveying the garden, it’s looking like spring too.

With rain come the weeds. Everywhere.
With rain come the weeds. Everywhere.
Lest any of you in the lands of blizzards and crazy snowfall think I’m gloating, let me show you one of the many weed patches around the garden. Yes we have lots of spring flowers already. But we also have lots of zones around that look like this. But enough of this unpleasantness. On to some flowers!

Agave attenuata bloom spike that landed on the aloe
Agave attenuata bloom spike that landed on the aloe

The first things anyone walking up to the house will notice are the two ginormous flowering spikes of the Agave attenuata. They’re a pretty common plant around town, but their seven or eight foot flowering spikes from November to February or March cannot fail to impress. If the blooms were coral pink or violet you almost might call the plant gaudy, but they’re a quiet icy greenish-white. Gaudy, but in a subtle way.

Closer view of the end of one of the agave bloom spikes.
Closer view of the end of one of the agave bloom spikes.

An apricot-gold selection of chuparosa, a plant that's usually scarlet red
An apricot-gold selection of chuparosa, a plant that’s usually scarlet red
The number of California native plants in the garden keeps growing. Their two most common spring flower colors seem to be bright yellow and lavender, a combination that can stand my teeth on edge, so I tried to tone down the clashes with some plants with in-between shades of bloom. Apricot is a great peace-maker color, and I’ve used a golden chuparosa, Justicia californica ‘Tecate Gold’ and apricot mallow, Abutilon palmeri.
Mellow apricot-yellow tones of desert mallow  coexist with lavender-flowered plants, like Salvia 'Bee's Bliss' here in the background
Mellow apricot-yellow tones of desert mallow coexist with lavender-flowered plants, like Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’ here in the background

But still, there’s lots of yellow around: Bladderpod (Peritoma/Isomeris/Cleome arborea), our local coastal coreopsis (Leptosyne maritima), plus aeoniums from the Azores or Africa.

Leptosyne (Coreopsis) maritima
Leptosyne (Coreopsis) maritima
Peritoma arborea
Peritoma arborea
Aeonium from the Azores, also representing yellow
Aeonium from the eastern Atlantic, also representing yellow

And there’s plenty in the lavender category: the very first (and really early) flower of Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’, the prolific prostrate black sage (Salvia mellifera repens), “blue” dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum) and blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum) that reseeds itself at the edge of the veggie garden.

First blooms on Salvia winifred Gilman
First blooms on Salvia winifred Gilman
The rambunctious black sage
The rambunctious black sage
Blue dicks, looking pretty lavender to me
Blue dicks, looking pretty lavender to me
Blue-eyed grass, really more lavender than blue in this form, looking great next to chard
Blue-eyed grass, really more lavender than blue in this form, looking great next to chard

And a few others:

Carpenteria californica
Carpenteria californica

The flowers of miner's lettuce
The flowers of miner’s lettuce

Ceanothus 'South Coast Blue'
Ceanothus ‘South Coast Blue’

Baja fairy duster
Baja fairy duster

Hummingbird sage
Hummingbird sage
Crassula multicava, from somewhere other than California
Crassula multicava, from somewhere other than California

Galvezia juncea 'Gran Canon' from Baja
Galvezia juncea ‘Gran Canon’ from Baja

Galvezia speciosa 'Firecracker', from California's Channel Islands
Galvezia speciosa ‘Firecracker’, from California’s Channel Islands

Monkey flower (mimulus)
Monkey flower (mimulus)

Flowering, but it's a weed, buttonweed, Cotula australis
Flowering, but it’s a weed, buttonweed, Cotula australis–you can’t escape them this time of year!

This is my first contribution in many many months to the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day meme hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Thanks for hosting, Carol. Check out what’s flowering around the garden blog world [here] !

blue and orange (gbbd)

The color combination of blue and orange reminds me of noisy kiddie toys, of hard molded plastic waiting room chairs, of harshly lit 1970s fast-food restaurants trying unsuccessfully to look modern and friendly, or of jerseys for some high school football team. With two colors screaming at each other from opposite sides of a color wheel, it’s not a combination that brings me a lot of joy or peace.

But spring is here, and part of the far back yard has been blooming away. Its main colors are–you guessed it–blue and orange, mainly hot orange California poppies and sky blue flowers of nemophilia, baby blue eyes.

As much as I generally don’t love these colors together, it’s hard for me not to like this little zone of perky chaos.

Even the blue flowers against the brick hardscape reinforces the blue and orange (or blue and orange-red) colors.

But in a garden you hardly every have two strong flower colors alone. The varieties of leaf green serve as peacemakers, separating the warring colors and injecting their own shades into the garden color palette. Other secondary leaf or flower colors help the enrich the palette and keep the peace.

From some angles a softer blue-gray provides a background to the hot orange flowers. Here the foliage is the now-common chalk fingers, Senecio mandraliscae. It’s still a blue and orange theme, but the blue is less emphatic and the orange is permitted to dominate.

Little pockets of cool-colored plants provide areas of visual rest. Here’s baby blue eyes and chalk fingers with a dark purple-black aeonium. Pretend I cut back the dying narcissus foliage…

Some viewpoints let the cool colors predominate, with just a few punctuation marks of poppy orange. New into this photo are whitish-violet flowered black sage (Salvia mellifera), magenta freeway daisy (Osteospermum), with a softer orange-red desert mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) in the upper left corner.

I’ll have to rethink what the combination of blue and orange means to me, at least in the garden. These flowers may be gone in a couple of months. Maybe this a combination that I should embrace and associate with “spring.”

Spring is bringing lots of other colors combinations and other flowers to gardens around the world. Check them out at May Dreams Gardens, where Carol is hosting yet another Garden Boggers Bloom Day. Thank you, Carol!

high spring (gbbd)

This is it. High spring in San Diego. There are probably more things blooming now in the garden than there will be at any other time of year.

I start with the current state of the agave that I’ve been showing for the last few months. It’s bloomed its way from the base of the flower stalk to very near the very end. The plant will soon die and you won’t see any more photos of it. Fortunately the plant has several other growths to keep it going into the future.

The spike has arced up and come back to the ground, where its final blooms are resting.

I’ve provided a few captions, but there are too many flowers to comment on in detail. For the rest of the photos, hover your mouse to view the names or click to enlarge.

Leaves of the unknown Gasteria.

An unknown gasteria. The flowers are nice, but I grow it mainly for the foliage.

The weird double blooms of this pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophyll 'Tarnok,' shown with the first pitchers of the season.
The bloom of another carnivorous pitcher plant.
Geum and blue-eyed grass.
Salvia lyrata 'Purple Volcano.' It's rather weedy according to Robin Middleton, but it does have its nice garden moments.

The not-quite black flowers of Salvia discolor.

Flowers on the grapefruit. They smell great. And they bode well for a good crop next year.

Thank you thank you thank you to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Stuff is beginning to bloom everywhere. [ Check it out all the blooming gardens! ]

looking like spring again

November plum blossoms

I was confused the other day. Walking by the young plum tree, I noticed this. Flowers? In November? Apparently the plum was confused too.

After the long summer doldrums a lot in the garden is finally showing signs of waking up from its long nap. Some plants are showing new growth, others are blooming–even blooming when you don’t expect them to.

November narcissus

These paperwhite narcissus are a reliable indicator of the cooling days and nights ahead.

November Protea Pink Ice

Protea ‘Pink Ice’ coexists with the most xeric plants in the garden and stays a resilient green all year. Beginning in the fall this big shrub begins its flowers. This will go on all winter and into the spring.

November Salvia clevelandii

Salvia clevelandii‘s main flowering happens in the spring. But given the right conditions–a little supplemental water doesn’t seem to hurt–it can throw a few more flowers in the fall.

November Salvia spathacea

Ditto for Salvia spathacea. Sometimes a lot is made of the repeat-flowering abilities of some of the natives. With these two, the spring flowerings are always way more stunning, and you’ll never confuse spring for fall. But as reminders of the late winter and spring flowers ahead, they’re terrific.

November ceanothus

Another seasonally confused plant is this groundcover ceanothus. I’m only slowly now coming around to this genus. Groundcover versions like you see in the Burger King parking lot (think C. griseus ‘Yankee Point’) were all I saw for decades, but I’ve been trying to pay more attention to what other ceanothus have to offer. This one, unfortunately, is one of the Burger King-type varieties: low, flat, green all year on a low-to-moderate amount of water. It’s so inert and emphatically green it reminds me of plastic. I may never come to love this type, but fortunately there are other plants in the genus that do very different things.

November dendromecon

My campus is incorporating more natives into the landscaping, and all these photos of natives, from the salvias, down, come from an afternoon walk yesterday afternoon. Here a young plant of one of the dendromecons (either D. rigida or D. harfordii) provides an airy cloud of yellow.

November Heuchera

…and nearby one of the heucheras celebrates its spot in half-sun with occasional irrigation.

A few flowers, for sure. But it’s not really spring. We’ll need the rains to begin for that to happen.

from spring into summer

The spring orgy of flowers is winding down. Some spring bulbs flashed for just a few days and were gone. But it didn’t really matter because they were replaced by something else interesting.

Summer’s flowers seem to come at a more measured pace. But for me it’s a different sort of pleasure, letting me focus on more subtle things like plant forms, leaf colors and textures.

Here’s some of what’s still blooming from spring, along with the beginnings of plants that will accompany me through the summer months.

The flowers above, left to right, top to bottom:

1: Blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella).
2: Lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus–I have to look up the spelling of this species every time).
3: Deerweed (Lotus scoparius) You might confuse this California native for one of the invasive brooms. It’ll drop most of its leaves to survive the summer drought, but the delicate wands of branches stay attractive–at least to my eyes.
4. St. Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum)–a buckwheat from the California Channel Islands and coastal regions. This is a young plant, but its umbels are already huge–the largest in this photo is two feet across.
5. Santa Cruz Island buckwheat (Eriogonum arborescens)–another California buckwheat.
6. This is a Crinum that came with the house. It might be C. powellii.
7. Verbena bonariensis–a flower that’s exactly the same color as the verbena in the final picture in this post, though their plant and flower forms are totally different.
8. Clarkia williamsonii.
9. Same as 6.
10. Brodiaea species, one that I lost my records for–maybe B. elegans (anybody know this one?).
11. Butterfly bush (Clerodendrum myricoides ‘Ugandense’)–In the same family as mints and sages, this has square stems and a delicate scent to the leaves and stems. It enjoys water but doesn’t get much of it and still looks presentable.
12. Verbena lilacina, a tough species from the Isla de Cedros, off the coast of Baja. At first glance it looks like the lavender lantana many people around here grow, but the leaves are totally different. Here it’s planted alongside some succulents with red and blue-gray leaves.

Thanks again to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Garden Bloggers Bloom Day!


Sunday I went down to San Diego’s annual Artwalk streetfair down by the cool waterfront in the Little Italy neighborhood.

This has been a seriously bipolar spring, alternating chilly periods with intensely hot ones. This weekend was one of the hot ones, and people were milling about slowly, checking out the stalls of art. But almost everyone seemed to be more interested in the stands offering cold drinks.

I talked to one of my photographer friends down there who had a double booth and has been pretty successful there in years past. “People are mostly looking this time,” she said.

I guess I was one of the lookers too, for the most part. After getting my fill of the art, the one sight that really caught my eye was this jacaranda tree in bloom over an orange backhoe near where I’d parked my scooter:

jacaranda in bloom over backhoe

I don’t see eye-to-eye with Jerry Sanders, the mayor of San Diego, but this is one thing we agree on. It’s his favorite tree, and one of mine. It’s Jacaranda mimosifolia, a South American native that’s well adapted to areas without much in the way of frost. The leaves are ferny and delicate and the plant’s pretty well behaved in the U.S. (It’s considered an invasive pest, however, in South Africa and Queensland, Australia.) In the spring it turns into this, an explosion of purple flowers that rain down on cars and sidewalks below. Messy as all get out but a pretty exultant mess! Yet another plant that’s too big for my yard…

into the wild

A couple posts ago I mentioned dichelostemma blooming in the garden and I was thinking that they were probably also blooming wild in the natural spaces around me. I took a lunchtime walk through one of the semi-wild areas on the north part of the campus of the University of California, San Diego. The area has been set aside as a natural preserve, although “natural” in this case is actually a canyon of native plants mixed in with some earlier 20th century plantings of eucalyptus. Fake as it may be as a genuine Southern California chaparral ecosystem, the edges where the grove meets the scrub starts to take on more native flavors.

There had been heavy rains this past January, followed by occasional wet periods, so the ground was still moist in spots. The weather was now turning warm, sunny and spring-like. Grasses were growing exuberantly. It wasn’t long before I started to notice occasional flowers in the understory. Although the spaces under the eucalyptus prove hostile to most flowering plants other than the occasional also-imported black mustard, the blue dicks were pretty content to be there, a single plant here, big rafts of them there.

A flowering head of Dichelostemma capitatum, mixed in with the grasses and eucalyptus

A larger stand of them, with their little flower heads raised up two feet or more in the dappled shade

I was tuned in to what I was seeing, but in the back of my mind I was aware that back in my garden the same species of plants was also blooming. Back home the blue dicks are part of a long continuum of “springtime” flowers that begin with the first narcissus in October and continue into a number of plants that have yet to bloom. But in the wild areas of Southern California this is it. Spring is short and–in a wet year like this one–intense, orgiastic. As the weather warms the rains will stop. The grasses will die out and the flowers will fade out. Soon the long brown season will begin. But in the fictionalized natural world of my garden, spring will be here for several more months. I’ll enjoy it for sure. But somehow it seems a little wrong.