Saturday, March 12, 2011

Go Native!

One of the joys of spring, okay we're not quite there yet weather-wise, is the abundance of California natives available for planting. This is especially true for native annuals. These are starting to show up in your local nursery and it's an excellent time to plant them as we still have some our wet season left to nourish them. The range in color and form of these natives is impressive. Start with the nemophilas, the best known of which is the sky blue-flowering Baby Blue Eyes. But there's a charming variety with white flowers with bright purple spots at the tips of each of the five petals (Baby 5 Spot), a pure white variety and one called Penny Black, with its deep maroon flowers edged in white.
Clarkias also offer a wide range of colors, from shell pink to darker pink; salmon, fuchsia even coral. They are floriferous plants and love the heat. For a splash of cheerful yellow, check out Tidy Tips (Layia) or Meadow Foam (Limnanthes). The former grows about 18" tall, producing 2" open-faced lemon yellow flowers that are fringed in white. Meadow Foam is a low growing plant with an abundance of green foliage on top of which one inch yellow flowers will eventually smother the plant.
Want blue? Phacelias (California bluebells) are a great choice. My favorite is P. viscida, with it's intricate nectary. Another favorite is the freely self-seeding Blue Thimble flower, Gilia capitata. It produces tons of 1-2" blue globes over a long spring period. It also has a species cousin, Gilia tricolor that features lavender and purple tones.
Have shade? Claytonia sibirica is another self seeding plant, a cousin of our west coast miner's lettuce, that has silky green leaves and cute white flowers streaked with pink.
Everyone knows the orange CA poppies but there are a host of other colors now available, everything from rose to purple to red. Even a white flowering variety. And look for a different species of Eschscholzia, E. caespitosa, otherwise known as Tufted poppy, with its ferny foliage and cute little yellow flowers.
Speaking of charming yellow flowers, check out Platystemon (Cream Cups), with its one inch cream and yellow flowers. It blooms so heavily you can barely see the foliage.

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