Wildflower Season Passes

Download PDF

Each year the wildflowers are spectacular. In mid-May they are still blooming in many parts of the state, but in my southern California garden most are past their peak. The poppies (Eschscholzia californica), tidy tips (Layia platyglossa), and gilias (Gilia tricolor, G. capitata) are now going to seed, but earlier they put on quite a show!

California poppy cultivar (Eschscholzia californica)

From Wild Suburbia

I feel a surprising melancholy as I look over the matted gray plants, tawny stems, and silvery seed heads. The question is whether to tidy up now, removing the fading annuals, or to leave them go for awhile. The flitter of sparrows and finches in the brush convinces me to eschew the suburban obsession for a manicured yard and leave the seeds for the birds. Rather than filling a bird feeder, I can pull up a chair, pour myself some lemonade, and watch the birds as they feast on a variety of healthy, nutritious seeds.

Arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus)

From Wild Suburbia

In fact, as I look over the garden, I begin to appreciate its seasonality. The garden is transitioning from the exuberance of spring to the quiet of our long, hot, and dry summer. The orange poppies (Eschscholzia californica), yellow and purple lupines (Lupinus spp.), and blue phacelias (Phacelia tanacetifolia, P. minor) will give way to the ecru of cool season grasses (Nassella spp., Melica californica) and the grays of sages (Salvia spp.) and sagebrushes (Artemisia californica). Even as the spectacular blue flowers of the Frosty Blue wild lilac (Ceanothus ‘Frosty Blue’) fade, its shiny, dark green leaves provide a refreshing contrast in my subdued, summer garden.

baby-blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii )

From Wild Suburbia

Three months ago the anticipation of this year’s colorful display was almost unbearable. As it comes to an end I contemplate how I will extend it next year. I will sow seeds over a longer period of time, from October through February. I will include more annuals that bloom into late spring and early summer. Although the deep and soft pinks of the clarkias (Clarkia amoena, C. unguiculata) are still adorning my garden in May and June, next year I will plant more of them and add madias (Madia elegans), tarweeds (Hemizonia spp.) and sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) to provide cheerful yellow flowers late in the season.

penstemon Margarita BOP (Penstemon heterophylla ‘Margarita BOP’)

From Wild Suburbia

And the poppies (Eschscholzia californica) I cut back now will return for a second or third bloom, brightening my summer garden with their brash orange flowers. As the season progresses I will selectively remove and cut back the wildflowers, leaving some seed for the birds, and collecting some for next year.

bird’s eye gilia (Gilia tricolor)

From Wild Suburbia

Looking over my garden, it feels like autumn in the East. Just as I used to look forward to winter as a time of subdued color and reduced outdoor activity, I now take a long, deep breath in anticipation of a slower season. When I first arrived in California I had a hard time distinguishing seasons. Now I find that they are as obvious as the autumn foliage and winter snows of the east coast.

8 thoughts on “Wildflower Season Passes

  1. l

    Beautiful photos, Barbara. It’s a bittersweet time of year. To read other blogs, everyone else is just getting into the swing of spring flowering season. Yet here we are, the California gardeners, who are undergoing a different dynamic altogether. Maybe we should sync up with people in non-mediterranean regions in the southern hemisphere for moral support…

  2. ooops… I forgot to sign my comment above. <br />Sorry, <br />James

  3. Nice to know there is someone out there who is feeling this too. Non-native gardens keep going all year, but wildflower season here in So. Cal. is winding down. Guess we could make a trip to higher elevations or further north for more wildflowers. As I recall the flannelbush will be blooming soon in Wrightwood.

  4. I love when gardeners explain what the (nontraditional) seasons are like in their gardens. So many people start out reading magazines and books about gardening in the NE and get a wholly unrealistic picture of the natural rhythms of the seasons in their own region. <br /><br />Many Austin gardeners I know get a SAD-like melancholy as our unbearably hot summer approaches, and then rejoice as fall

  5. This are wonderful pictures Barbara ! … I’m a bit confused about the seasons out there .. are you on the same schedule as Australia for seasonal change ? .. I didn’t know that ! .. is it more subtle than Australia ? .. so that is why we closer to the east don’t know that ? .. <br />We are just gearing up for our garden season .. after a very long dragged out winter .. and we are still a bit

  6. Thanks for the compliments on my photos. Here in Southern Calif. we have rain only in winter. After spring it just heats up and stays dry for up to 6 months. The wildflowers are finishing up now and many plants go dormant for the long hot summer. Once it cools down and the rains come in Nov and Dec, things green up. Flowering starts in Dec. with manzanitas and continues until the height of the

  7. What beautiful wildflowers! I agree; I like letting my garden go to seed, too. The finches love coneflowers, especially.

  8. disa

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Comments are closed.