Wildflower Frenzy

The heatwaves of June brought out masses of flowers in the garden. While I tend to side with the foliage aficionados over the flower floozies, I can't help but admire the many wildflowers in the garden now. They embody the youth of this garden in their wild exuberance. Many of them are annuals, self-sowing wherever open space presents itself. In this way, they help to fill the gaps between the young trees and shrubs that will take years to begin establishing the character of the mature garden to be.

A young Holodiscus discolor blooms at the base of a Douglas fir near the north side of the deer fence. I purchased several seedlings this spring and planted them in other similar areas around garden edges. I also attempted some lazy propagation by taking hardwood cuttings this winter and sticking them directly in the ground in places I wanted them to grow, after treating with rooting hormone, of course. Most of them failed, but a few appear to be rooted and growing. Someday I hope they'll make a wonderful display around the edges of the trees.

There are enough flowers now that you can actually see some of them in a wide shot. Lets take a closer look.

Those days in the 90s, and one over 100, brought the Mimulus cardinalis rushing into bloom. Here it is along the dry creek bed on one side of the hell garden, with a blue selection of Juncus effusus and Penstemon heterophyllus 'Electric Blue' in the background. None of these are strictly native to my area. The Juncus comes closest, but this particular selection is probably from California or elsewhere. Mimulus cardinalis ranges as far north as Lane County in Oregon, with a disjunct population in Yakima County, Washington, according to the USDA. Penstemon heterophyllus only comes as far north as Humboldt County, CA. Luckily, I'm not one of those sticklers for regional natives.

After all, with a combination like this, why would I be picky?

I'm not entirely happy with this stretch along the dry creek bed. It needs some refining in the plant palette, like removing the purple-leaved sage and a few other things and replacing with more California fuchsia, Juncus, or other natives. However, it does look pretty darn good from here. Glaucium flavum var. aurantiacum is blooming in the lower right corner, adding even more orange flower power.

New to the garden this year (or else I just didn't notice it last year), is this small-flowered epilobium. I wasn't sure what it was until it bloomed. It looked like a weedier, upright version of a Zauschneria (which is now Epilobium, according to some).

Several of them appeared in the garden this year. Even though they looked like weeds, my curiosity prevented me from pulling them until they bloomed. The tiny pink flowers allowed me to tentatively ID them as Epilobium torreyi. I'm generally not a fan of pink, and the flowers aren't much to look at, but this is indeed a native wildflower. However, I tend to welcome any increase in the diversity of native plants in the garden, so I'm willing to let these stick around. Hopefully native pollinators and other organisms will appreciate it.

This next photo is not of flowers, but was too surprising for me not to share. I have several Arctostaphylos hookeri 'Wayside' in the hell garden that were rescues in varying degrees of health. Some are recovering well, some are holding on by a twig, and one is most definitely dead. Luckily, right next to the dead one I found a surprise. This is a Ceanothus seedling! Perhaps the seed was in the Arctostaphylos pot. Hopefully it turns out to be a small one, as it's a bit close to the path for a very large shrub. Time will tell!

Moving on to the identity crisis bed, Collomia grandiflora has exploded with blooms, making this bed look quite full.

This has been one of my favorite wildflowers since I first saw it in the Columbia River Gorge. In some parts of the garden, it grows over 2 feet tall, much larger than in the thin, rocky soils along the gorge. In other parts of the garden, competition and conditions have resulted in this plant growing much smaller, like it does in the gorge.

Collomia grandiflora with Artemisia ludoviciana. The Artemisia was grown from seed and planted last year. It's beginning to spread in some places, helping to weave a wild tapestry of foliage and flowers.

The wildflower mix I purchased from Silverfalls Seed Company contained both Sidalcea virgata and Sidalcea campestris. Several sidalcea of one or both species came up the first year and it took me awhile to warm up to them. They were pink and leggy and the flowers were kind of small. But they did grow on me. Eventually I saw them as airy and charming. This year, I have one that I especially like with white flowers that are twice as big as the others.

 Last year, I also had one of these lupines appear, with upright, branching stems, as opposed to the Lupinus polyphyllus already occuring on the property with leaves arising from the base. I think this may be Lupinus rivularis, but I'm not sure. Originally, I thought this new lupine came in with the wildflower mix. This year, it's made an appearance in several areas where I didn't spread seed, which leads me to conclude that it came with the soil we ordered from Swanson's Bark and Wood Products in Longview. That may also be where the Epilobium torreyi came from. While I enjoy these new natives, I don't appreciate the Scotch broom seedlings or copious amounts of Lotus corniculatus germinating in the soil we ordered from them. The lotus especially has become one of my most hated weeds.

But back to this lovely lupine. They are just starting to bloom and will continue to grow, branch, and bloom through most of the summer. It's a really nice texture and effect in a wild garden.

Gilia capitata just started blooming a week or two ago in my garden. It's not quite as plentiful or imposing as it was last year, but most of the plants are still much larger than the ones I saw recently on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge. More on that hike later.

It's become another of my favorite wildflowers. I'm a sucker for blue, and so are the bees, apparently. You'll have to take my word for it, as I took these photos late in the evening when the pollinators were returning home for the night. Gilia is the second-most abundant native annual in the garden now, after the Collomia grandiflora. I was worried it wouldn't self-sow, as the seedlings were late in appearing this year. I hope they'll continue to self-sow for many years to come. I may have to remove some of the over-enthusiastic yarrow to help the gilia stick around.

The Mound, as I creatively refer to it, is absolutely covered in Collomia grandiflora. The bed in front of it is filling in nicely with a mix of mostly west coast natives.

I'm really enjoying the mix of Dasiphora fruticosa, California poppies, Artemisia ludoviciana, California fuchsias, and other native annuals and perennials. It's very much the "enhanced native" look I wanted for this bed.

The mass of Collomia on the Mound has swallowed several Ceanothus and Arctostaphylos for the summer. But that's ok. The Collomia is helping to shade the soil and give those young shrubs some shelter while they get established. Eventually, the shrubs will grow tall or dense enough to establish their own presence on the Mound.

Gilia capitata with Collomia grandiflora in the background.

Last week, the Prunella vulgaris was at the peak of its first bloom flush. Purple flowers sticking out of cone-like heads everywhere. I especially liked this one at the base of a young Fargesia rufa. Prunella vulgaris var. lanceolata is the form native to the Pacific Northwest. I confess I'm not sure if I have the native form or the very similar European form. Probably a bit of both, if they haven't completely hybridized into a single population.

I leave the prunella (almost) anywhere I find it in the garden. I love it poking up through the silver Carex comans. I'm not satisfied with this photo. I walked by this bed once without my camera and thought the combination looked amazing. The next day (or whenever I managed to get back around to it) when I took my camera out to photograph things, I just couldn't recreate what I had seen before.

This year, I've noticed a lot of crispy brown and wilted flower heads in the prunella around the garden. I think it may be a combination of heatwaves, old plants from last year (they are short-lived), and possibly disease from the cool, wet spring. Usually this is a very problem-free plant. This photo shows one of the crispy brown center of an older plant.  But if you aren't obsessive like me, you might not even notice it when looking around the garden.

Prunella and Magnolia globosa foliage.

I might have let the prunella in this bed get a little carried away. It does make a nice uniform filler of rich green leaves and purple flowers, but it does sort of swallow the smaller plants. There are clumps of Adiantum venustum in this bed, totally covered by prunella. The Adiantum is mostly evergreen, though, so I'm experimenting to see how the fern does shaded by the prunella during summer and becoming visible as the prunella dies back to basal leaves in winter. This patch of prunella has a lot of crispy brown or wilting stems scattered throughout, too, giving the whole thing a more tired look than it should have this time of year. After I took this photo, I cut back the worst-looking bits to freshen it up.

Mimulus cardinalis is a major floral feature in my garden this time of year, thus the numerous photos of it in this post. This is an especially large swath of it along the dry creek bed, glowing in the evening light, with Juncus patens in front of it.

Epipactis gigantea 'Serpentine Night' is an easy-to-grow native orchid. It just likes a moist spot in full sun to part shade. My patch went from two stems last year to six this year, and one of them bloomed! The flowers are admittedly more a curiosity than a showy display. My kind of flowers.

My lewisia patch in its second flush of blooms for the year. These are all Lewisia cotyledon hybrids from Cistus.

This pink one isn't my favorite color-wise, but I love the form of the flowers and they start out more orange before fading to pink.

This one has an iridescent orange glow over the pink that I have yet to figure out how to capture on camera.

Dark purplish pink.

This is most definitely my favorite. I want more this color.

In a previous post, I identified this annual as the native Zeltnera muehlenbergii. After obtaining a new field guide (Wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest by Mark Turner and Phyllis Gustafson) I'm not sure if this is the native Zeltnera muehlenbergii or the very similar non-native Centaurium erythraea. In fact, I'm leaning towards the latter. The native pollinators love it, regardless of which species is, but it does make me more hesitant to allow it to spread around the garden. In fact, I meant to get rid of it in this bed entirely, but for some reason I decided to leave the numerous seedlings that popped up here this spring.

It's pink. As I claimed earlier, I'm not generally a fan of pink, but this is another that I tolerate and almost enjoy.

More monkey flowers. I love when the hairy stems catch the late evening sun.

I love natives mingling with non-natives in the garden. It shows how deserving these plants are of being grown even in the most exotic-loving garden. Below, native Tiarella trifoliata creates a delicate, foamy contrast to the foliage of exotic Rubus lineatus.

I'll end this post with a current favorite combination of a young Woodwardia unigemmata frond arching over Prunella vulgaris.


  1. How long usually is the floral display of Mimulus? It looks great in large swathes like yours, also in combination with blue flowers.

    1. That's very strange. I know I replied, but now it's gone. Well, then. It usually blooms for about 2 months, maybe a little more, starting in late June and winding down toward the end of August. It might bloom even longer if I watered more and cut it back in the summer to remove seed heads.

  2. Your photo of the Gilia capitata with Collomia grandiflora in the background was my favorite, although the Rubus lineatus and Woodwardia unigemmata are pretty fabulous too. (foliage rules!)

    1. Foliage does rule! Most, if not all, of the trees and shrubs (and many perennials) that will make up the bulk of the garden as it matures were selected for form and foliage, first, and flowers second. Until they fill in, though, these flower floozy annuals and flashy perennials make a nice show.

  3. Your garden looks more mature with every viewing, Evan. I love the Gilia, which I've never grown but will put on my list to try next year. One can never have enough blue in the garden! I wish my Prunella vulgaris would do, well, something...The plants I put in last year aren't dead but they've neither spread nor bloomed. I'm trying to exercise more patience and give everything more time to develop to its potential but I fear the Prunella just finds it too dry here.

    1. The benefits of fast-growing annuals. The garden would look so pathetic without them.

  4. Oh, Evan..."holding on by a twig" definitely got my attention. Love the flowers of the Epipactus.

    1. Those Arctostaphylos were in rough shape when I got them. The fact that most are at least surviving is enough for me.

  5. Ooh, your fav lewisia would be mine too. Amazing what the heat has wrought in your garden!

    1. Making plants grow and bloom is the only reason I tolerate the heat.

  6. The orange and blue combination is glorious! So many stunning natives. It's okay that you're a flower floozie at heart. Your secret is safe with us. I'm loving the heat although we haven't been as warm here as y'all down south.

    1. There's room in my heart for flowers and foliage. Your temperatures look much more comfortable than what we've had.

  7. Amazed, as usual, at your knowledge of wild flowers and natives. I love the first photo, where the garden is transitioning into the wild territory. Gilia capitata is irresistible, and the Ceanothus seedling it the most fun surprise of all.


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