Category Archives: gardening

Front-yard wildflower culture

Last fall I scattered annual wildflower seeds here and there, in my first attempt to raise California natives from seed. It’s gone much better than I expected.

The planter box in front of my bedroom window, which used to be dominated by a massive, ungainly old star-jasmine vine, is now dominated by a massive, ungainly new stand of Clarkia unguiculata, a California endemic:

Clarkia unguiculata in bloom, massed in an outdoor planter box

The common name is “elegant” Clarkia, which seems a little odd. Maybe someone had the individual flowers in mind, not the whole plant.

It does seem a bit more true to its name in a vase:

Cut stems of Clarkia unguiculata and Salvia greggii, in bloom, in a cylindrical ceramic vase in a window-sill

(The yellow blooms were cut from an autumn sage in the back: Salvia greggii, which is native to Texas, not California, but oh well.)

At any rate, those Clarkia seeds, elegant or not, came from Theodore Payne’s “Shady Mix”. Four bucks plus nominal shipping for the packet. I cleared the soil, mixed the seeds with a little sterile sand in an old dog-food bowl, and scattered. Then I let my 3-year-old “walk them in” to the soil, which was great fun for him.

Reflections on “Shady Mix”

The next time I plant “Shady Mix” it won’t be in such a confined spot. There were four other species in the packet (including the baby blue-eyes in this blog’s title photo), and in that planter box they’ve all been completely overwhelmed by the elegant Clarkia.

I did scatter a few of the seeds on more open ground; there, the purple Chinese houses (Collinsia heterophylla) are looking great:

Several Collinsia heterophylla specimens in bloom, shot close from ground-level

One or two baby blue-eyes (Nemophila menziesii) are still in bloom there as well. See if you can find them:

Collinsia heterophylla and Nemophila menziesii in bloom, shot from above

The seed packet also featured five-spot (Nemophila maculata), which I saw once or twice for about a week, and Clarkia amoena, which some call farewell-to-spring, and others call herald-of-summer (guess it depends on your point of view). Either way, it hasn’t bloomed yet. I’ll post photos when it does, if it looks any good.

Heart of a champion

Last shot of the post: the lone sky lupine (Lupinus nanus) that’s survived since I planted a packet’s worth in the fall. This tough little specimen, which stands about 2 inches high, has been trampled by a puppy and small children for months, and isn’t exactly sited in a friendly spot. At least three other seeds germinated there but didn’t make it to bloom time. This one’s clearly got the heart of a champion:

Close-up shot, from ground level, of a single specimen of Lupinus nanus.

Technical note: I’m figuring out WordPress as I go, and in this post you can finally click on any image above for a more detailed view.