When we think of native California wildflowers, we usually envision wide swaths of gold or blue blossoms draped over the state’s open spaces. The state’s hundreds of annual wildflowers are great treasures of nature, whether in open fields or private gardens, but our delight with the annuals should extend to California’s perennial wildflowers. Many of these are excellent candidates for the residential garden.
Both the annual and perennial wildflowers offer all the benefits of native plants: having evolved to thrive in our dry-summer climate and native soil, they are both easy to grow and eagerly enjoyed by the native fauna for food and shelter.
Many native perennial wildflowers are valuable assets for the home garden. Here are a few of the most popular:
- Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus) and Bush Monkey-flower (Mimulus spp.) grow well in both full sun and partial shade.
- Pacific Coast Irises, smaller than the tall bearded irises, include the best-known Douglas Iris (I. douglasiana) and ten other species. These plants hybridize easily in the wild, so they are usually referred to by their group name. Both species plants and natural hybrids are reliable bloomers, as are the many cultivated hybrids. Pacific Coast Irises are difficult to transplant successfully, so are usually propagated in the fall by divisions or seeds.
- Alumroot (Heuchera spp.), a small, easily grown plant for the shade garden, occurs in sixteen native California species, including H. maxima, H. sanguinea, and H. micrantha. Growers have developed many hybrids with a variety of leaf colors. The flowers are attractive but not the primary attraction.
- Hummingbird Sage (Salvia spathacea), which prefers moist and shady conditions, produces large triangular leaves and carmine red flowers on stems that rise up to three feet.
Visit ongardening.com for sources of information on many more California native perennial wildflowers.
The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show opens on Wednesday, March 20th, and continues through Sunday, March 24th at the San Mateo Event Center. One of the nation’s largest and best events for home gardeners, this year’s Show offers 20 gorgeous international display gardens and the 30 small space gardens, 13 seminars each day by gardening experts, and a Marketplace with several hundred vendors offering plants and garden products.
A highlight will be the world’s largest rotating succulent globe, designed and created by Robin Stockwell, in Monterey County. I saw this unique globe in development and I’m confident it will amaze all who see it.
The SF Flower and Garden Show is a must-see event for learning about many aspects of gardening and landscaping, bringing home desirable new plants and garden accessories, and simply enjoying time in the company of other avid gardeners.
For more info, see the feature article in today’s Herald and visit http://www.sfgardenshow.com/.
Enjoy your garden!