Friday, September 5, 2008

Grindelia stricta
- Gumplant

What a year for gumplant, Grindelia stricta, this has been. It started blooming early August and is still going strong in September. The blossoms are large yellow daisies, easily 3” across, which make good cut flowers. They are frequented by masses of European honeybees (this is data, they’re still around as of August 2008) and many interesting though unnamed native pollinators. Butterflies love it.

I’m always surprised to see it growing around the lagoon, where it is lanky and scrawny compared to the magnificent plants that now appear in new places in our garden. Deep green leaves and stunning flowers, and we don’t help it out much, no water and no fertilizer. Seems to like wood chip mulch. Maybe it is our appreciation that makes it so healthy. Cut about four inches above the ground in late fall. Appreciate.

Scrophularia californica
- California Bee Plant

Today (September 4), we collected the fine black seed of California figwort, or California bee plant, Scrophularia californica. In the class of large perennials that go dormant in the late summer/early fall, California bee plant astounds me with its ability to rise up through the most trying circumstances, such as a smothering cover of cape ivy, that nasty vine considered the kudzu of the west, which easily eliminated shrubs and trees in the vacant lot next to our Demonstratiion Garden. The only other plant in sight was California bee plant.

When bee plant turned up in my courtyard garden, it was so attractive, with its large fresh green leaves and small but beautiful deep red flowers that I allowed a mass to flow around an old stump. I cut it to the ground every fall and enjoy its return with the winter rains. It spreads through underground rhizomes as well as seeds, but is easily contained by simply pulling unwanted plants straight out of the ground. They give up in a mannerly fashion.

The flowers backlit glow ruby-red, and though not usually considered for the native plant garden, it should be. Maybe the seeds are edible, as the seed of so many native species are. (I’ll let you know). Easy to grow, and the bees will thank you.”