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Posts Tagged ‘Seasonal color’

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Romneya ‘White Cloud’ – Matilija Poppy

Matilija Poppy has been called the “Queen of California Flowers.” In the words of Mary Elizabeth Parsons, from The Wild Flowers of California, 1897: “The Matilija poppy (pronounced ma-til’li-ha) must be conceded the queen of all our flowers. It is not a plant for small gardens, but the fitting adornment of a large park, where it can have space and light to rear its imperial stems and shake out its diaphanous flowers. It is justly far-famed, and by English gardeners, who now grow it successfully, it is regarded a priceless treasure, and people go from many miles around to see it when it blooms. It is to be regretted that our flowers must go abroad to find their warmest admirers.”

Matilija Poppy, unique and distinct, is one of the most recognized and beloved of California’s native plants. The large white blooms are the size of a saucer.  The petals look like wrinkled crepe paper, the center is a bright yellow disk.  Some have likened the flower to the appearance of a fried egg.  A solitary bloom is a very fine thing, but a large stand of Matilija in full bloom is a sight to behold!  Hundreds of huge white flowers borne at eye-level on long straight stems, contrasted by attractive blue-green foliage… a real show stopper in late spring/early summer!

Matilija poppies are only found in a few locations in California.  Within their range, they prefer gravelly soil, sometimes on the sides of stream banks or alongside a road.  Their appearance always seems a surprise, as they are not common. They can be found in sunny chaparral and coastal sage scrub in coastal and inland regions of southern California.

ImageWhile easy to grow in the garden, in the nursery, the species (Romneya coulteri and R. trichocalyx) are difficult to propagate.  Seeds will not germinate unless they have experienced the flash heat of wild fire.  At Tree of Life Nursery, pine needles are ceremoniously burned across the tops of the freshly sown seed flats.  Germination usually begins within a few days. Seedlings are tiny and they are vulnerable to the elements.

The best garden variety is a supposed hybrid between the two species.  Theodore Payne first discovered it in a southern California nursery in 1940.  The selection he made had much larger blooms, attractive lush foliage and a slightly more compact habit than the species forms.  He introduced it as ‘White Cloud’ and first offered it for sale sometime before 1956; the exact details are now lost in history.

At one time the hybrid plant was all but lost in California horticulture.  In the early 1970’s, Art Tyree (who had worked with Theodore Payne in the 1960’s) knew of a stand of ‘White Cloud’ growing in a private garden in Pasadena. Tree of Life Nursery obtained permission to secure a few small root cuttings.  Since ‘White Cloud’ is a cultivar, it must be grown vegetatively. Seed would not be suitable and stem cuttings are practically impossible. From those few cuttings thirty years ago Tree of Life Nursery has planted and maintained large stands of mother plants, of the exact clone that Payne had selected almost seventy years ago.

ImageMatilija poppy is a clumping perennial with long, upright blue-green stems and foliage. Plants reach 5 to 8 feet tall and spread by underground stems to form large colonies. The plants can be difficult to establish in a garden, but once established will thrive. Don’t plant anywhere where the vigorous spreading from underground runners would not be welcome.

Transplant carefully in cool weather to avoid disturbing roots and provide monthly watering and well-drained soil. The plant is drought tolerant and will not survive continually wet roots, such as in the middle of lawn (yes, this has been attempted). Matilija Poppy looks beautiful in roadside and parkway plantings, along fencelines, on slopes, in large scale planters and borders, and as an accent for entrances.  Cut it back hard after flowering (September-October) to remove old stems and allow for new spring growth.

Article adapted by Laura Camp with permission from Tree of Life Nursery, californianativeplants.com

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Every year in my garden, and in the garden at Tree of Life Nursery where I work, and maybe in your garden, too, the earliest Manzanita to bloom is Arctostaphylos refugioensis.  Last year it had plentiful flowers at Christmas, but this year it’s quite early and in full bloom in time for Halloween.

Arctostaphylos refugioensis, Refugio Manzanita, late October

On Saturday, October 30th, I attended a talk by pollinator and native plant expert Bob Allen at the nursery, and in the course of a talk about gardening for butterflies he mentioned that manzanitas are good nectar plants for adult butterflies and moths. When I arrived home later that afternoon, lo and behold, two Monarch butterflies were fluttering high around my front yard, and further observation showed that their target was the profuse blooms of my Refugio manzanita. Guru Bob strikes again! (more…)

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You want to do the right thing for the environment by planting water-wise native plants in the garden, but you also want the garden to look appealing during the long, dry California summer. No matter the season, we humans like our gardens to look green. The color green evokes lushness, fecundity, life. Is it possible to have a California garden that stays green through the summer sustainably, without relying on an endless supply of water?

Yes, indeed, it is possible — through a careful selection of plants. Among California’s dizzying array of native plants, there are many that stay green through summer naturally. Here is a short list, covering the range from perennial to groundcover to subshrub, shrub, vine, and tree.

Think about introducing these to your garden and, once established, cutting back on the water. For contrast, combine them with blue-, gray-, silver-, and tan-colored plants to create an inviting display in the garden.

Plants With Summer-Green Foliage

Coastal gumplant

Coastal gumplant likes full sun and blooms in early summer

An early summer blooming perennial is the coastal gumplant (Grindelia stricta platyphylla). It grows 6” tall and 3’ wide, and is a good edging plant for full sun. Yellow daisies in June through August attract butterflies, skippers, and other insects. Contrasts well with large plants such as deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens). (more…)

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Update in July 2011:  Here is a photo of the Humboldt lily in my garden, taken on the 4th of July.  My niece called it the hot air balloon plant!

Now back to the original post:

For those of you who have been following my blog posts, I skipped April, May and June on my “seasonal color” theme.  Never fear – those are our best months for color, and you probably have flowers galore in your native garden without even trying. Perhaps I was intimidated by the sheer volume of choices.  We can catch up next year. (more…)

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Triteleia laxa

Ithuriel's Spear (Triteleia laxa) in a San Jose garden

Some of the most reliable plants in my garden are California native bulbs. They bring seasonal color and variety to the garden, and give it a sense of place (“This is California!”) and a sense of time: they are the markers of spring glory.

Native bulbs are especially appealing to lazy gardeners like me. They need minimal effort at planting time (no need to dig big holes) and no effort thereafter, ever! They come up with the winter rains, and flower in spring. They disappear during summer and return in winter, year after year. To me they are the ultimate in low maintenance gardening!

To succeed with California bulbs, follow these simple rules:

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Wildflowers are such a rewarding feature in a native garden.  Your neighbors and friends will be amazed by the color and variety.  If last year’s flowers were allowed to go to seed, and followed by good winter/spring rains, the flowers will delight us by coming out in great numbers and all corners of the garden.

Tidy tips and California poppy (Layia platyglossa and Eschscholtzia californica), Photo: Laura Camp

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On March 12, I had the pleasure of visiting the premier native botanic garden in the Los Angeles area, on a beautiful sunny day.  The nearby snow-capped peaks were framed by large trees and flowering shrubs.

Many gardening ideas jumped out from all corners of the garden.  The container garden exhibit included this great hybrid Monkeyflower spilling out of a very large pot.

Mimulus 'Ruby Silver' (Hybrid Monkeyflower), Photo by Laura Camp at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

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