Friday, April 16, 2010

Blue Flowering Sage with Fiery Skipper Butterfly

This week I have photos of my sage herbs in flower. Not only does it taste great in my sauces and stews, it really looks beautiful in the garden. This Mediterranean native plant has been established for a few years and now lives on rainfall alone. It has tall spikes of blue flowers loved by bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Technically you should pick your herbs right before they flower, but I usually don’t. I just run out whenever I need a little sage and use it fresh.

This is a great herb to sneak into your garden beds just for the flower show in spring. Nobody will suspect you are mixing your 'food plants' with your flowers. Sage grows three to four feet tall so if you have bulbs dying back they make a great cover to hide that brown foliage too.

Not only am I lucky enough to have fresh sage, I was also lucky enough to catch a Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) on one of the flowers. These are tiny butterflies with large eyes. They are also known as Lawn Skippers because they feed on grasses, especially Bermuda grass. They are just over an inch long and have a range from California towards the Atlantic and down into Baja and northern Mexico. They are yellowish orange brown with black markings. There was also a bee in there but I'm saving my bee exploits for another post.

For southern Californians it looks like another great weekend to get out and plant some veggies or native plants in your garden. And if it really does rain next week your new transplants will thank you. Happy gardening!

Friday, April 2, 2010

What's Blooming In Southern California This April

Wondering what to plant now that will bloom next spring? Here are a few drought tolerant ideas for you. All of these plants in my garden are growing on rainfall alone. OK, when it was 120 degrees last year I may have done a little watering, but that was it, really.

I am impressed with the results. Take this as proof that a drought tolerant garden doesn't have to be all cactus or succulents. The key is either using California or western native plants or plants who come from places with similar climates.

Rock Rose: These Mediterranean natives are also called Cistus are hardy to about 15 degrees. They have beautiful big pink flowers of 5 petals with dark pink dots in the center of each petal. Colors range from white to dark purplish pink. The petals can look crinkly like crepe paper. These stay around two feet tall in my garden and need a bit of trimming to keep them from getting to rangy. They take full sun to part shade and are drought tolerant. The New Western Garden Book reports that they are good for erosion control on slopes.

Freesia Flowers: I picked up a bag of bulbs from the dollar store and was hooked! The purple batch is flowering now. Later there will be yellow and white ones. They smell too good to be left outside! These bulbs are native to South Africa; another match to my climate. They take full sun to part shade and are hardy to bout 20 degrees. When they are first sprouting they look a lot like a clump of grass; be careful not to trim them. These come in a myriad of colors. If you want the best fragrance steer away from the hybrids.

Daphne: This small, slow growing shrub is best suited to areas with part shade. In my garden it gets some shade and probably less water than it would prefer. Yet every year it is covered in beautiful pink blossoms after we get some rain. These are also trimmed into hedges, but I like mine wild and full of flowers better.

Mexican Sage: Another member of the salvia family and native to Mexico, this is salvia leucantha. They grow to about three feet tall in my garden, but can reach five or six feet. They are hardy to about 30 degrees. The back of the leaves are silvery and furry. I love the long spikes of purple flowers. They look best when they are trimmed back after flowering.

Now is a perfect time to get your spring planting started so get out there and let the rains help your plants get established. Good luck and happy gardening!


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