by Jane Callier
As a child, my grandmother would continuously admonish me to respect the value of everything. “Just wait until you live through a depression” she would wag her finger at me. Her influence still steers my thinking in many ways, including my approach to gardening. If I can sow seeds instead of buying starts from a nursery, I'll try to grow seeds. I'm starting my plans to grow flowers now, in mid-February.
A beautiful, easy to grow California native flower is Clarkia amoena. This clarkia is also known as “Farewell to Spring”, “Mountain Garland”, and “Godetia”.
For Napa County, starting to grow seeds in mid-to-late February is probably not too early. Good advice is to try not to plant too early to avoid problems like tall, gangly seedlings trying to reach the sun. Once you have established some plants, you probably will not have to sow seed again because the plant readily reseeds. My problem is that I am too eager to plant. If you can wait, you can also sow the seed directly in your flower bed when the soil can be worked in spring.
It's hard to find anything to criticize about clarkia plants. They are annuals, but the seed grows so reliably that it isn't anything to worry about. Growing about two feet tall, it branches with abundant pink blooms that last until summer is well underway. Their beauty might be enough reason to grow clarkias, but their value as a pollinator forage source for bees, butterflies, and hummingbird visits seals the deal. Plus, as a California native plant, it is resistant to deer and rabbits, and is drought tolerant. Clarkias will grow in all types of soil and need to be watered only once a month.
Napa Master Gardeners are available to answer garden questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. or phone at 707-253-4143. Volunteers will get back to you after they research answers to your questions.
Visit our website: napamg.ucanr.edu to find answers to all of your horticultural questions.
Photo credits: CC BY 2.0