Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bright Yellow Flowers in Winter

It's hard to believe that while the east coast is digging out of several feet of snow, our winter along the California coast means flowers. 

The giant coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) in the front yard is blooming for the first time. This Dr. Seussian looking plant is unique to the California Channel Islands and coastal areas from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles. Each summer the thick gray stalks appear to be dead multi-armed creatures. Yet if our Mediterranean climate delivers a cool wet winter, then feathery green leaves start to emerge in January followed by big floppy daisy-type flowers in radiant yellow come February.

This yellow has a tinge of blue hovering like an aura. The vibrant color sings with ultraviolet attracting carpenter bees and skipper butterflies.
Why is the giant coreopsis blooming this year? I think it is finally big enough, both above and below ground. In other words the root system is now stable enough to absorb the amount of water needed to produce blooms.
Plus I think the frost we had a few weeks ago kind of goosed it. Frost followed by warm equals spring for California native plants.

It can be difficult to successfully grow a garden of natives. Gophers seem to regard my native Douglas iris as candy. A fungi in the ground has now killed both a small coast live oak and an island ironwood tree. Invasive fox squirrels have twice eaten the tops off two rare Santa Rosa pine seedlings. But the native plants attract a variety of native insects, spiders and birds

Our front hill slope continues to be a challenge but the giant coreopsis, sugarbush, Catalina cherry, toyon, San Nicolas Island buckwheat and chamise are all doing well. Native plants survive drought, heat and frost all while creating habitat. They are worth fighting off the gophers.