Tuesday, December 30, 2014


A lot of plants in my garden are now responding to the rains of the last month. Here's a sampling:

Mission Manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor). This shrub had a a lot of dead branches on it after this brutal summer. About 2 weeks ago I pruned off most of the dead stuff, and now it is rebounding with new leaf growth and flowers. The flowers are the typical upside-down urn of the Ericaceae family.

My Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' also suffered quite a bit this summer, and I had to prune away a lot of dead branches. Fortunately, it is also coming back strong. When these buds open up, the fragrance will be fantastic. The local pollinators will go nuts.

Verbena lilacina 'De la Mina'. A cultivar of a rare species from Cedros Island, Baja, this plant has become quite popular with many gardeners. It's an early bloomer and has a long blooming season. I don't know how it would do in inland gardens, but it's great in coastal gardens where you can create a microgeography to mimic the conditions it would have enjoyed in its place of origin.

 A plant I have mixed in with the Verbena is this member of the Asteraceae, Sea Dahlia (Leptosyne maritima). It is pretty much limited to the coastal strip of San Diego County, except for a couple of odd reported observations in LA County and on Santa Cruz Island. As a garden plant it has some drawbacks. When green, as at this time of year, it is rather weak stemmed, causing it to flop over or break easily. In the dry months, it sheds its leaves and the stem turns woody and dry, becoming stronger but less attractive. However, the flowers are great, and the dry stems pop back to life readily with Fall rains. It also seeds itself readily, which you may either like or hate. I like it because it is one of the plants that was probably on this site in pre-European times. In fact, I'm going to try something new here and inset a link to the Calflora interactive location map for this species:
 http://www.calflora.org/entry/dgrid.html?crn=10954. You'll have to zoom in to San Diego County to see the locations, and I think it helps to select "Show Individual Observation Points."

Above is Wart-stemmed Ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus), a somewhat rare shrub that is a member of the Southern Maritime Chaparral community. It grows near the coast in eroded sandstone soils from Pt. Loma through Carlsbad. In Encinitas it is found along El Camino Real. Here's the Calflora location map: http://www.calflora.org/entry/dgrid.html?crn=1837
Although Ceanothus verrucosus might not have been found growing on the site where my house is, I'm glad to see that it is happy here. It's about 3 years old and showed no sign of distress this past summer.

Winter Currant (Ribes indecorum) is also blooming like crazy right now. I guess that would explain the common name. Like other members of the Grossulariaceae (gooseberries) it will produce berries that are favored by birds.

This Lance-leaf Dudleya (Dudleya lanceolata) is doing really well in a container. I have a couple of others in the ground but none of them is doing as well as this one, which is starting to put up an inflorescence now. I find that D. lanceolata needs a bit more moisture and shade than some of the other Dudleyas, such as pulverulenta. By accident I seem to have put it in the perfect spot.

Another Dudleya that is putting up an inflorescence now is D. candida from the Coronados Islands, just a few miles below the border and just offshore from Tijuana. This is a really nice, compact Dudleya that is only available from Grigsby Cactus Nursery in Vista, and they don't have it all the time.

Moving slightly farther afield now, the Cliff Spurge (Euphorbia misera) has become fully leafed out and has produced a few flowers. The reason I say this is farther afield is because it is not clear whether this plant ever occurred in significant numbers north of the border. While it becomes quite common from Tijuana southward, there are only a handful of current locations in Pt. Loma, Torrey Pines, Otay Mesa, and scattered other spots. http://www.calflora.org/entry/dgrid.html?crn=3558
On the other hand, it is possible that it was previously more common on the coastal bluffs and around the lagoons. Like Coast Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus viridescens) it would have been considered worthless, and its removal by early farmers would have been scarcely noticed.

Another species that seems to barely cross the border is Small-leaved Rose (Rosa minutifolia). Known from only a handful of locations in the Otay area and threatened in Mexico by the rapid spread of agriculture into formerly unspoiled habitat, Rosa minutifolia has been propagated for the garden as a way of trying to preserve it. The simple pink flowers are clearly roses, and it blooms profusely in response to the rain. I think it works great in the Baja section of my garden.

Since I am on to Baja plants now, the Bursera hindsiana is putting out new growth. This surprises me somewhat because I did not expect it to respond to winter rain. I guess some of the Baja species are able to take advantage of rain at any season. Rebman and Roberts say it is found along almost the entire length of the peninsula, so that would mean the northern populations would be accustomed to receiving winter rain.

The last selection for this post is Burroughsia fastigiata (no common name). Another Baja plant, this one is rarely seen in gardens. It forms a shrub 4-6 ft, in height, relatively upright and narrow. The flowers look a bit like Lantana. I haven't noticed them attracting any particular butterflies, but it may be attracting smaller, less conspicuous pollinators that I just haven't been paying enough attention to see. Or it may be that the preferred pollinator is not around here. If anyone knows more about this plant, let me know.

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