• Spring wildflowers: The blues

    by  • March 30, 2015 • CA natives, Sierra Foothills

    Driving the foothills: Stopping and turning around….

    We had to stop and turn around to photograph this field of Lupine, Vetch and Blue dicks under the oaks growing thickly in a patch. Iridescent blues just glowed here in a flowery show right next to the roadside not far from our home near Oakhurst.

    A field of blues

    A field of blues

    To encourage the wildflowers and ephemerals on your own Sierra Foothill property, you merely have to weed out the non-natives.  I had to learn which was which, but as I cataloged the seedling photos of both,…I memorized the look of each.

     

    Lupine, Vetch and Blue dicks under the oaks

    Lupine, Vetch and Blue dicks under the oaks

    Sliver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons

    Sliver Bush Lupine is a 3-5′ perennial and evergreen (silver) bush with 3-6 inch flowers iridescent blue spikes. It needs full sun, good drainage, will tolerate some water but best on the dry side. Bush lupine seems to be deer proof and attracts butterflies and is very showy and fragrant. It is native to California.

     

    Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons

    Silver Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons

     

    Blue Dicks, Brodiaea pulchella

    Blue Dicks grows from small corms or bulbs and blooms in Spring throughout California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona. If not crowded out with non-native weeds like filaree and grasses like Hedgehog Dogtail grass, Blue dicks will spread and multiply on well drained slopes. Blue Dicks tolerate clay soil and attract butterflies.

    Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum, in my garden

    Blue Dicks, Dichelostemma capitatum, in my garden

     

    Harvest or Elegant brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans
    This pretty native has the same umbrella-like umbrel tipped with bright blue or lavender-blue trumpets about 1 inch long. The six petals have little if any yellow in the center of each flower, but a paler shade of the same flower color, which can distinguish it from other brodiaeas. It grows  8-10 inches tall on sunny woodland slopes in great numbers, all through the California foothills and other areas of the West,…and in my garden!.

    Elegant Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans, in my garden

    Elegant Brodiaea, Brodiaea elegans, in my garden

     

    American vetch, Vicia americana

    Vicia americana is an annual twining vine that is  native to California. It blooms at the same time as lupine and Blue dicks.

    Long vine-like stems, with leaves with 12–18 leaflets, end in tendrils which sprawl or climb to 3 feet. Vetch appears most commonly in violet, purple, lavender, or white flowers in crowded tangled patches.  Vetch blooms in Spring and afterward forms pea-like seedpods.

     

    Winter vetch, Vicia villosa copy

    Winter vetch, Vicia villosa

    I’m not sure why, even in my own garden, the blues appear first,…the Wild lilac or Ceanothus, the Iris, Bugle weed or Ajuga and Swan River daisy,  Brachyscome are all blooming now in the last week of March*.  Apparently they do in this one field, above, as well.

    'Blue' Garden, Iris and Ajuga

    ‘Blue’ Garden, Iris, airy Brachyscome and in the foreground, Ajuga

    *This blue bloom in my garden,  is much earlier, almost a month earlier than other years due to drought. Amazingly, it’s been a green grass, and wildflower bonanza out there in the wild despite this!

    Weed and they will come

    March 2012 Weedy area along a path

    March 2012 Weedy area along a path

    This area was planned for a California native garden, planted with sprawling manzanita, creeping Sage ‘Dara’s Choice’ and Monkeyflower.  There’s a Cleveland sage and Spicebush, too, all edged in clumps of daffodil.

     

    March 2012 Same area, weeded and planted with California Natives

    March 2012 Same area, weeded and planted with California Natives

    I removed the grass and weeds, mostly filaree, by sitting down, slowly and methodically weeding out the baddies. Surprisingly, it took less time than I thought,…a shady afternoon for an area this size along the right side of the path to the tree. Very satisfying!

    2013-The next year, full of Elegant Brodiaea. Can you see the glow?

    2013-The next year, full of Elegant Brodiaea. Can you see the glow?

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.