Wednesday, August 7, 2013

In Bloom Today: August 2, 2013

Larner Seeds Demonstration Garden

It's been a very long time since I've updated our Garden Journal on our website, but the remarkable late summer bloom has inspired me. In bloom today: August 2, 2013.

It's hard to believe how much is in bloom at the beginning of August in the coastal Larner Seeds Demonstration Garden, but here goes:
Annual wildflowers are heavy on the clarkias, including Clarkia rubicunda, Clarkia amoena 'The Real," Clarkia amoena 'The Unreal,' and Clarkia unguiculata. Also, Trifolium wormskioldii, springbank clover, is responding to a bit of extra moisture with a whole new round of flowers.
This interesting clover is one of the few native clovers that are perennial, its roots are an important rootfood in the northwest, and it lives up to its name of springbank clover by growing on banks with springs. We also have Trifolium gracilentum in bloom, one of the tastiest native clovers. This annual is available in 4" pots.

The perennial coastal form of the Ca poppy is colonizing bare areas created by a construction project. I love its look when young and flat against the ground, the beautiful contrast of the silver-gray foliage with the large, rich yellow blossoms. It provides six months of bloom at least. Harlequin lotus, which used to grow in our famous Bolinas sewer pond lands next to California oatgrass, is blooming in containers, and we have seed available again. We also have a magnificent container planting of the rare & endangered showy Indian clover, Trifolium amoenum.

The blue elderberry is blooming late this year, in full bloom right now, a few weeks later than usual. When I see its large and luscious blossoms, I can never resist burying my face in them, to be surrounded by their incredible addictive fragrance. Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' defies its usual twice a year bloom time and has barely been out of bloom for months. We still have both Gilias, bird's eye gilia and globe gilia lighting up the patio.

We took down a jay-planted oak this year to open up some area for a native prairie, which is now jam-packed with native grasses and wildflowers. In bloom now is hayfield tarweed, Hemizonia congesta ssp congesta, which, in the rich soil left by the oak, looks like its on steroids, as does the nearby elegant tarweed, Madia elegans, over six feet tall! I hope they'll calm down and be more normal next year. It's also a happy sight to see showy Indian clover blooming away in the prairie, thought once to be extinct. We have seed available and will have plants as well this fall.

We still have mountain phlox, Linanthus grandiflorus, next to the threatened clarkia called winecup, Clarkia purpurea var purpurea.

Also going to seed now is cobweb thistle, Cirsium occidentale. This showy silvery biennial with large red blossoms is beautiful for months, and I enjoy sending employees to collect the seed. Yes, suffering can be part of this wonderful work. With each seed packet comes some of our blood, pricked by the thistle thorns, bonus DNA.

My favorite edible plant, Kellogg's yampa, Perideridia kelloggii, is just starting to ripen seed. My intern, Ildiko Polony, and I, with support from Kat Anderson, are doing an informal Perideridia study group, and we are fascinated by all the different forms of edible root this plant produces, from twisted together crowns to elongated or pearl-like swellings all along the wiry stems. As well as edible leaves early in spring, edible shoots a bit later, and edible seeds to use as an anise-y seasoning. 

Sadly, these plants are not as common as they used to be, when California Indians reported digging them by the bucketful from fields where they grew thick as grass. We've collected tubers from near Paradise and also from near Willits in Mendocino County, and we'd be thrilled to have any interested Perideridia lovers swap tubers with us. We have a solid ID on the Perideridia kelloggii, and we'd love to try Perideridia pringlei, P. parishii, or any others.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Here Comes California’s Heavenly Season...... FAQs

seedling photosWildflower seedlings are now making good growth, having germinated with the fall and winter rains. Soon, they will be bursting into bloom. Tip: Rain in January and February is critical for a good spring bloom. Since it has been a record-breaking dry spell, provide irrigation now where and if you can.   
We've been asked if it's too late to sow in February and March. Not if you are willing to provide irrigation for early germination and to make good root growth. We sow wildflower seed in the ground as late as April.
We've frequently been asked to supply images of seed leaves (the first to emerge from the seed) and true leaves (the first to assume the shape of the plant's juvenile leaves) to facilitate weeding. We’re slowly building up a seedling photo library. So look for them in our online catalog and on our Facebook page.
They frequently make a fascinating contrast – idea for new board game! Matching seed leaves with the correct true leaves. Coming soon! Looking for a good name!
Horticultural Play with Wildflowers
We are hooked on growing wildflowers in 4” pots. We started doing it as a form of germination testing and as a way to help us and our clients to distinguish the “good” plants in a wildflower sowing from the weeds. Just 4-10 seeds per pot.
We use a cold greenhouse till they germinate, but it’s not really necessary. What is necessary, now that we’ve created such good habitat for the winged creatures, is that we protect the tender seedlings with bird netting, till they are a bit too tough to be appealing to the winged creatures.
These 4” pots can then be planted out, either in the ground or in containers. We keep sowing and then planting through the fall, winter, and early spring. The plants get confused enough that their bloom times are changed and extended. It’s a way of mixing things up, creating effects and combinations not seen in nature. Note in the image below, planted from 4” containers, that baby-blue –eyes is blooming with Monterey Clarkia, a beautiful combination for this entry garden. 
baby blue-eyes, with Monterey Clarkia
Another example is a planting of white baby blue eyes from last year. It started blooming in January, months ahead of its scheduled bloom time, and is just slowing down now. Planting through the fall and winter allows us to play with wildflowers. Some odd behavior results….and it’s fun.
We’ve noted that bird’s eye gilia, Gilia tricolor, hasn’t stopped blooming since last year, in containers that received consistent watering. Globe gilia, Gilia capitata, is almost as hardy and long-lived. Once Showy Farewell to Spring, Clarkia amoena, turned into the size of a small shrub and lived two years.
vine maple We offered shrub seeds again this fall and winter, and here are seed and true leaves of the beauteous shrub Vine Maple, Acer circinatum.  Just moved here from Vermont and missing fall color?  Try Vine Maple. Use it where you might have planted Japanese Maple. It’s about the same size, just as graceful, and the flowers, gorgeous when examined closely, are very edible.